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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Please don't call me special

I've been called a lot of things through the years, but by far the most hurtful has been "special."

I know that sounds insane. Reverse humility, attention seeking... No, it's really not.

The fact is, hearing that I'm "special" because I survived the trauma that led to my PTSD is like a knife to the gut. If I'm "special" for surviving, what does that make the other victims who did not? Less special? Less deserving? Those ideas send survivor's guilt into a spiral.

I'm not special because I survived. I'm not special because I pieced myself back together, hid the entire thing from my family, and tried to get on with my life. None of it makes me special, or conversely, less deserving.

Hiding was a form of survival.

What happened was not an object lesson. It was not God carrying out some mysterious purpose. It was not a sound bite, a media clip, or a podcast topic. It was horrible, tragic, terrifying, and awful. It was loss. It was hate. It was anger and terror and the stuff nightmares were made of. It was not "special," and it did not make me a better person.

The idea that God "has a purpose for everything" is ingrained in much of Christian culture. Some take comfort in the idea that, in an out of control world, God is in control always. And (I believe) he is. However:

We live in a fallen world. That means that God's vision of perfection- humanity working in harmony with one another and with the Earth, was derailed. We got too much knowledge too soon as a species, and, like kids exposed to something we weren't ready for too young, we're still acting out the consequences.

As a friend is fond of saying "Death, loss and separation were never in God's plan for us.
We were not meant for death. Eden was the plan. We were made for Eden."

We are fallen human beings. God is sovereign. He is omnipotent- that is, he is capable of controlling everything. But does he? No, and for a very good reason- Free will. If God controls every human action, what would be the point of Creation? The entire experiment becomes completely pointless if He controls everything. Free will was the entire point of creation- we are created as autonomous creatures. That means that sometimes, we do truly awful things to one another. Out of our brokenness. Out of our own hurts, failures, and fundamental flaws, we sometimes do the worst things human imaginations can produce. The idea that God controls everything, and has a "purpose" for everything, is fundamentally mistaken.

Bottom line? Not every event has "meaning." Sometimes, incredibly shitty things happen to people who don't deserve it. The trick to finding peace, at least for me, is to learn to be OK with that, to find peace in the center of a storm of chaos. Not being "special," but rather, acknowledging being caught up in the swirling insanity that was unleashed when that fatal first bite was taken.

Please don't call me "special" because of what I've suffered.
Being myself is quite enough.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Her name was Rachel

I'm sharing this in honor of the brave folks of the Twitterverse, who participate each week in the #PTSDChat hashtag conversation on Wednesday nights.

Sometime I may tell more of her story, but for now, this is as far as I can go. 

The rain is falling outside and I’m not thinking of anything really. Just watching the drops come down, splattering on the grass and road and window, when you come to my mind, uninvited, rushing in as always all bright eyes and out of control curls, grabbing my hand and pulling me from my reverie.
Come dance! It’s raining! Come dance with me!

Giggling, tugging, skipping, you lead and I follow, pulled by an unstoppable force, unadulterated joy in its purest form. We dance… You dance, and I watch as you spin and twirl and run and stumble and move through the rain, letting it splash over you, letting it wet your hair, which makes it even more unmanageable, letting it wet your face and your teeth as you smile into the sky, laughing all the time.

Dance safe my beautiful sweet girl. Let the rain fall and splatter on the grass under your brown bare feet. Let it soak into that wild hair and make it even more wild. Spin around and laugh and laugh. Let heaven ring with your laughter. Let it embrace that joy and keep it safe. Someday, maybe, I’ll be able to dance with you again. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sticky Fingers Rant

Dear Jerkwad-

Yes, we're on first-name terms now. I hope you don't mind. I figure that cleaning up after your little "prank" this afternoon has earned me the right to call you by your given name.

Did you think it was clever, opening five separate beverages, drinking about half of each, and leaving them behind the shampoo on the shelf for me to discover when I recovered my store tonight? Normally, recovery consists of making the shelves neat and pretty again after a long day of being shopped. Shoppers are notorious for making a mess of the shelves as they peruse the product lineup. This is normal and expected.

Open bottles of pop on the shelf, stashed behind the shampoo? Not so much.

Coke creates a sticky mess on a retail shelf.

So, dear Jerkwad, I hope you'll understand if I am less than amused by your shenanigans, and if I happen to catch you leaving your ill-gotten (stolen!) beverages behind, I will surely rain down the terrors that only a provoked Mama Bear, who has spent far too many hours scrubbing, cleaning, and straightening over the years of raising her own offspring, and more recently earning minimum wage and cleaning up after thoughtless customers (which is surprisingly similar to cleaning up after children,) can unleash.

You don't want to make me angry.
You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. :-p

There may be bloodshed. Or, at very least, a call to the local constabulary. At any case, be warned. Your days of pop pilfering and vandalism are limited. Next time you come shop(lift)ing at my store, I'll be waiting.

The Fed Up Cashier at Your Local Shop

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How Not to be a Jerk to a PTSD Survivor

Never read the comments section. It's my mantra. I know better. I truly do... but sometimes I click, and sometimes I read, and sometimes some idiot will write "triggered" when what s/he meant to type is "butthurt," and my bloodpressure starts to rise.

Sometimes my family or someone I love will say something that hits me like a clothesline to the knees. Sometimes I can catch my balance and stop myself from pitching head-first, but not always. Sometimes I have a bad week, and all the ignorance and well intentioned but misguided words add up, and the result is a rant. So, guys, I apologize in advance, but this is most definitely a rant.

I hope it's a rant that will educate and edify you, if you happen to love someone with PTSD. Or, if you know someone who lives with it, like me. If you're reading this because you want to understand, thank you.

Things to never say to a PTSD survivor:

1) You've got to let it go.
2) It's in the past.
3) Why can't you just get over it?
4) Why does it still bother you? That was years ago.
5) I don't know... it just seems like you want attention.

Let's break these down just a little, shall we?

1) If I could "let it go" it wouldn't be called a DISORDER.

Stop and think for just one minute. Break it down. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

2) It's in the past. Yes, I know. That's what Post means- it happened in the past, yes. My condition is a result of something I experienced in the past.

3) Getting over Traumatic Stress?- What happened was an extreme trauma. It left me deeply wounded. Do you tell a car accident survivor who's left a paraplegic that they should "just get over it," or "you know, you could walk if you tried hard enough?"

Of course not. That would be unsympathetic, to say the least. A denial of the physical reality of their injuries. Asinine.

So, why do people say things like that to PTSD survivors? It's ignorance, plain and simple- they don't understand what PTSD is, or that the damage, although there's not always a visible physical component- has left scars.

4) It was years ago. Yes, it was. And yet, I re-live some moments as if they're happening right now. Confused? Look back at #2.

5) Attention seeking, seriously? Do you think that's what this is about?

Think about the word, Disorder. That, my friends, is the kicker. PTSD is a disorder.
Granted, it's a disorder of the mind and emotions, rather than the fragile nerves that make up the spinal column, but the damage is equally deep, permanent, and disabling.

The point of this brief rant? It's not to shame or lash out. It's to educate. If you love someone with PTSD, it will be difficult to understand them at times. You may not understand their emotional out bursts, their moodiness, their withdrawal, nightmares, or other symptoms. You might not understand why they can't "just let go" of something from their past. Why they keep mentally revisiting such a dark place. Trust me, we don't do it purposefully.

Have you ever seen someone put themselves into a wheelchair "to get attention?"
Of course not, because although a wheelchair is an incredibly useful tool for someone who needs one, and can be fun to play with for those who don't, it's an inconvenient way to live. No one who has the ability to walk normally will put themselves through the inconvenience of using a chair all the time.

The anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of PTSD are inconvenient, too. We don't use our coping skills because they're fun. They are our lifelines, necessary to our ongoing mental health.

What can you do to help your loved one with PTSD? Just listen. Be there. Learn to recognize the bad moments, and what helps your person, whether it means giving them some space or just being there with them. Educate yourself. Learn about the disorder. Trust the survivor to know what works for him or her. Respect their need to make their own decisions. Respect their self-knowledge. Most of all, just think. Develop empathy. Educate yourself, and remember that the disorder is not the person. It's a part of their lives, but it's not who they are.

A PTSD survivor

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Thinking Out Loud

When your legs don't work like they used to before

And I can't sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks?

Just a couple of crazy kids. :) 

Dear readers... So much has changed in these past few weeks. So much has changed, and yet so much remains the same. I feel as if I've walked through the door, into Narnia, and the world is so much bigger and brighter and more real than I ever could have imagined. 

How did Lucy feel, I wonder, when she passed back through the wardrobe after her tea with Mr. Tumnus, trying to convey to her sister and brothers all that she had seen and experienced? It might be something close to what I'm feeling now, trying to find words to tell you how weird and wonderful, scary and joyous it is to be falling in love again at my age. 

I can tell you the facts- His name is Mike. He has a daughter, Heather. They both love animals and babies and are fanatics for an author I never heard of before, Christine Freehan. I am learning so much in a short time... how to live with severe food allergies (Heather's,) and how he likes his coffee. I'm learning to live with the fact that he's a Green Bay fan. It's not easy, dear readers, for a diehard Giants fan, but I'm learning. 

He's a brave man...

There is one more thing, something that seems like a small obstacle to me, but one that does present its own unique challenges, and something I have had to consider as I fall, headlong, into a relationship I never dreamed I'd find.

Mike was born with cerebral palsy. 

I didn't know much about CP before I met him. I vaguely knew it existed but not much beyond that. I've learned a lot since then. After the first date, a coffee meeting that started at 10:30AM and ended up stretching until 9 at night, I came home and hit up Google, because that's what I do. When I'm feeling overwhelmed and as if my life is spinning out of my control, I anchor myself with facts. I learn. I search out the information I need to make decisions. I tried to grab on to what I'd need to know- because I already knew that it was hopeless. Even if CP turned out to be an insurmountable challenge, it was too late. I was already in love with Mike and there was no turning back from the course life has set us upon. I was reading, not to discover whether I could handle loving a man who lives with CP, but how I would live with a man who lives with CP. 

I am still learning, my friends. The process is exhilarating and terrifying and joyous. It is like learning to ride a bike again- wobbly, and with some bumps and falls along the way, but that glorious feeling of flying... there's nothing like it. 

I'm thinking how people fall in love in mysterious waysMaybe just the touch of a handWell, me I fall in love with you every single dayAnd I just wanna tell you I am 

There is so much to learn. So much to know. So much to discover. If you'd have told me a few months ago that I'd be planning a wedding for sometime next summer, I'd have laughed. Today, we picked out rings and talked about dates. 

Could this be any more perfect?
Life. Peace. Love. <3

When two hearts that have been wounded by past losses come together, the fireworks are spectacular. 

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I'm thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are

I will keep you informed, dear readers. For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, and for those who have joined later in the journey, thank you, so much. Your support and kindness has meant so much, and I want to share this joy with you all.

God bless!


Lyrics quoted are from "Thinking Out Loud," by Ed Sheeran, courtesy of MetroLyrics.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Second Chance Living

So, I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time.

I've been thinking about the events that led to my dealing with PTSD. I've been thinking about how much I would share, and what I would not say. I'm still thinking.

There are stories, friends, that are better left untold. There are things that happen in real life that make the scenes from books that keep you awake at night seem like shadows under the bed, easily dismissed by a flashlight and a mother's kiss. There are real-life monsters, and they walk around in human skin. I don't like horror stories. I don't read them, and I don't write them.
I have decided that I do not want to talk about the past. I don't live there anymore, though my mind occasionally conspires to drag me back. I live in today, in the present, with my kids and my friends and my family. This is where I choose to take my stand. This is where I will stay, and this is what I want to write about.

Sometimes the only way to move forward is to take a stand.

Life is weird sometimes, when you're living on your second chance. Some of us made bad choices as teens and young adults. For some, those bad choices led to endings, of freedom, or of life itself. I have mourned friends whose choices led them away, along paths where I could not follow. I have learned from their mistakes, but have, to my continual amazement, been spared. I am a living second chance. I often feel that I owe it to those who were not given that gift, to make the most of it.

Living on a second chance means that I don't take anything for granted. It also means that I don't have the same perspective as many of my friends and family. I don't see opportunities in the same ways they do, and sometimes that causes frustration. Why wouldn't I want to go for the management position in the company I work for? I could do the work easily enough, and the pay is reasonable. But it would mean giving up too much of the precious time I have remaining with my kids- while they're still young and living at home. I can't make that sacrifice- the money's just not worth it.

My heart. My loves. My life. 

Why do I "waste" my time on writing fan fiction and making silly Youtube videos, playing a children's game and hanging out with people who do the same things with their spare time?
Because, friends, there simply is not enough joy in this sometimes-dark world. There aren't enough smiles to go around. There are shadowy places in minds that are too often left unexplored and unlit. If my goofing around in a Minecraft world, or my writing stories that bring heroes to life brings even one person a bit of joy, a glimmer of hope, and gives them the nudge they need to feed their own creative spark, I will gladly labor for as many hours as it takes to make that happen.

The further I get into Youtube, the more fun I have.

I am one of the lucky ones. I fell into a pit, and was trapped there, by the subsequent depression and anxiety related to trauma. But I have a pretty amazing family. We're not perfect- who is? And parents who, while they made mistakes, loved me and wanted the best for me, always. Those are powerful weapons in the fight against depression, and I consider myself most fortunate.

The purpose of this entry, and of this blog, is to light candles. To reach out to those who are living in that dark place. To let you know, you are not alone. You can fight back. You can find joy. You are worthy. You are loved. You are wanted. I've been where you are, and I've found my way out again. You can do it. I believe in you.

"What if I fall??"
"Yes, but what if you FLY?"

Remember that life is an adventure. Live it. Learn from it. Never stop believing. There is power in faith, and in hope, and in love. Light always wins over darkness. Always.

Safe travels, friends.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Attack of the WHAT???

Dear readers, I am, at this very moment, having an emotional meltdown. Over a video game. With real tears trickling. It's not pretty. It's an ugly cry, and it comes from down deep, because this is more than "just a game." This is the full circle. This is the infinity snake catching up with itself. The mobius strip making the connection... It's just a game, to be sure, but to me... it's more.

Some of you, if you know me in real life, have heard me talk about Minecraft. About the connection forged between myself and my troubled tween. My son has been playing Minecraft almost from the beginning. He played the truly early stages- the first releases of the game. He would get SO excited when updates were released. He, quite frankly, drove me half mad with his chatter about creepers and endermen and zombies and mobs and mods and downloads.

Redstone was a complete mystery to me. It still is to some extent. I didn't understand the appeal of this blocky, weird game, until one day, seeing the disappointment in his face when he caught me rolling my eyes at just one more rendition of "Me and Brody got cornered by these zombies but his wolf was fighting for us and then this creeper came along and..."

For an instant, I caught sight of just how deeply my little boy, whose father had just walked out of all our lives, was hurting. I decided to appease him in the only way I knew how- I asked him to teach me Minecraft.

It was the beginning of an era. With a lot of frustration and some swearing (mostly me) and some "Geez, Mom, you're REALLY bad at this!" eyerolling comments, he introduced me to the game. And then, in an effort to understand it better, I did what I do best - research. Research took  me to Youtube, to explore the gaming channels... and that's when I discovered a whole other dimension of minecraft- Mods.

The very first modded Minecraft "lets play" Youtubers I watched were Generik B, Chimney Swift, and BDoubleOO, playing "Attack of the B-Team." Their commentary was engaging. The gameplay was intriguing. Chimney, in particular, caught my attention with his infectious enthusiasm and his mischievous approach to multiplayer gameplay. Soon, my son started playing B-Team, too, and got me to play it. I eventually upgraded my computer to better handle the modpack. Together, my son and I discovered this world. We explored it. We built things together. We laughed. We shouted. We got frustrated. We created and destroyed. We argued and collaborated. We learned... and we grew.

These days, my son doesn't really play with me. For a while, we played servers together and built incredible things. He showed me his creative world in which he built some insane redstone projects. Even now, when he has a girlfriend and a life that is slowly carrying him away from the childish pursuits of Minecraft and further toward the interests of an older teen, he can still be drawn back in. We still watch Etho, another Let's Player, together. We discuss his builds and talk about how crazy his "sand worm" project is, and how cool. Even as my son is growing away from his early interest in Minecraft, I am building a small hobby channel and immersing myself in the community that nurtured that early interest.

And now, a new era is opening up. Attack of the C-Team will be a sequel to the early Attack of the B-Team series. Many of the same Youtubers who participated the first time around will be involved in this remake. To call my reaction "excited" is like comparing Mt. Vesuvius to a sparkler.

This new game is about more than Minecraft. It's just a game, after all. There may be mods in this pack that I don't care for. The changes with the update may not appeal to me. I might not be as excited to play once I see what's been added and what's been taken away. Knowing all of that doesn't dim my excitement one bit.

These past few years have been... difficult.
My kids and I have navigated some rough waters. Not only has the divorce caused enormous emotional upheaval, we subsequently lost my best friend and my sister. Both deaths were sudden and unexpected. The devastation was deep and is lasting. For the past year or more, I've been knocked off my feet with grief, just keeping my head above water. It's only been in recent weeks that I've begun to feel as if life might have a chance of returning to some semblance of normalcy, and that the gaps left by the losses might close enough so that the feeling of continuously falling into them will end and our feet might once again touch the ground.

While no game, no exciting news, and no new adventure can possibly begin to touch the depth of the losses we've suffered, there is a moment, after one has been walking through darkness for so long, that a flicker of light can be seen. There is a moment when you realize that the tunnel you've been walking through isn't endless after all, that you will step out of it. The sun will once again warm your face, and you will feel the breeze against your fingertips. Spring will come, even after the longest winter. What is lost to the past can never be recovered, but there will be new experiences and new joys and new chances to laugh and live and breathe together. There is healing, and that, my friends, is something worth celebrating.

My kids have both expressed interest in exploring this new modpack together. The idea of playing together again, and discovering the ways in which we've changed, as players and in our relationships, is exciting beyond words. The fact that they still want to play with me... It's a balm to the soul.
So, forgive me if I dance just a little too exuberantly at this announcement. If I get a little carried away, and get just a little too excited. It's been a long, cold, dark night. I'm ready for the sun.

Bring it on.