Category Archives: Living with PTSD and Chronic Fatigue

Journal entries, exposes and research summaries

Finding Balance in a Hectic World

“Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,
And looking up I noticed I was late.
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke,
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream.”

These are some of the lyrics to A Day in the Life by The Beatles and written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon in 1967. Even back then the essence of a life on fast forward was established. If that was fast forward, today we are in hyper-speed. People are burning out, relationships and families suffering and our best friend is sometimes Facebook.

People often ask me how to balance all the crazy movement in their lives. They have too many responsibilities for too many things or too many places to be, without enough time to get there. Perhaps, not enough time to finish projects either at home or at work. The list could go on. Any crisis or transition in life upsets the apple cart and chaos happens.

My answer, altered a bit per person, is basically the same. Easy to tell you, yes I know, but developing these with practice into your way of thinking will ease your troubled mind and fatigued body.

Here is what I tell them:

 

Pay ATTENTION, be AWARE, have ACCEPTANCE
Pay attention to you. What are you doing and why? What is driving you to have the schedule or responsibilities you have? Are you a person who can’t say no to something? Are you trying to impress anyone, a parent, a boss, a significant other? Are you afraid of the consequences if you slow down? Are you over compensating for something else or trying to give your kids things you never had and believe they must have? Are you caught up in the idea of more means better? What drives you? What behaviors are you doing because of that drive? Is it realistic and healthy or is it killing you?

Be aware. Notice the behaviors you do over and over and get negative results. You stay up too late and can’t get motivated in the morning for example. Are you a creative, right brained person trying to fit into a left brained system without tools to help you compensate? Do you always get a double espresso and curse yourself for feeling jittery and snapping at people? Do you sign the kids up for too many activities and fine you live in your car and everyone is always exhausted? Do you believe you have a crystal ball or can mind read and try to base your decisions on faulty logic? We all have mindless behaviors. Behaviors we do all the time that cause us more harm than good. Be aware of them. Take a few moments every day (doesn’t have to be long) and mindfully explore a different, better way of doing something. Also, be aware that everything you think, feel and do are because of you and not someone else. Take total responsibility for your actions.

Have acceptance. Accept this is who you currently are and this is your life. It is yours of your making. Even if things have happened to you that have shaped your life, it is still yours. Accept what you can’t change and strategize a way to make the best of what you have. Harping, complaining, griping and gossiping are all maladaptive, often harmful behaviors. They typically accomplish nothing but more negativity and skewed realities. Remember the Salem witch trials?

Stop judging yourself or others for mistakes, thoughts of should have, ought to, must, have to, bad, good, stupid, idiot are all judgment words with lots of power. You don’t need them. They don’t help you or anyone else. All they do is add negativity and weight to your already haired life. You have a problem, accept it and be proactive in solving it to the best of your ability with what you have at this moment. This moment is all you have. The next moment may not be here. It’s now or never. You don’t like what someone else is doing, let it go. Getting angry and yelling at the driver ahead of you for going slow is your problem not theirs. Yelling at them won’t correct the fact that your behavior made time so tight an incident will flip your apple cart.

In essence, what I try to teach is to be mindful not mindless. Celebrate each moment. Find something good in everything even if on the surface, even if it’s not evident. If concentration camp survivors and prisoners of war can find enough positive thoughts to keep them sane, so can you.

Take five minutes today and sit someplace quiet, preferably with nature. Observe with your eyes, ears, nose and skin. Really pay attention to the stillness in the storm of our current society. Believe it or not, it is possible to have degrees if not complete stillness in our culture. You have to want it, look for it within you by becoming aware of who you are and what you want. Deciding what is really important to you. Be aware of the conflict between what you really want and what you are doing. Accept this is who you are and what your life is like now and start to strategize to make mindful decisions about it.

It’s your life and your responsibility. Own it, live it. Life is short and no one can take it with them.

ATTENTION, AWARENESS, ACCEPTANCE, BE MINDFUL NOT MINDLESS, LET IT GO

Death I Grapple at Thee, Trauma I Stab at Thee…

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Murder candy at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, muse for Stephen Kings, The Shinning.

I have heard it said the death begets death.  Put another way, when you’re grieving or helping someone who is grieving; passed deaths, funerals and aftermaths come flooding forward.

This is also the case for severe trauma.  Experiences with other’s traumas provoke strong memories and features of one’s own trauma.  For this reason, I often tell my clients who are dealing with severe traumas, to avoid news broadcasts and closely monitor television shows and movies before watching (if possible). This helps prevent suddenly finding themselves in a virtual situation similar enough to what they experienced to cause problems.  

Until you know what your trauma triggers are this is shaky ground. It would be easy to say, I experienced child abuse; therefore, I won’t watch things that show or discus this topic.  Since the mind is like a 4-D movie camera recording during a traumatic event, the obvious might not be so obvious.

For example: The well groomed newscaster presented three horrific events; the remains of 11 dead bodies found in Ohio killed by a serial killer; a Toyota’s accelerator got stuck and the car accelerated to 100 miles an hour, killing the driver when it hit a tree; a woman was thrown from a roller coaster at Six Flags Amusement Park in Texas and died on impact.

In which of these stories would a person with severe trauma experience the most triggers? It’s a person by person answer. It may not be the most heinous which grabs the person. It will be the one that elicits the most triggers from that 4-D movie reel in their head.

In my own case, as I have PTSD, the story that grabbed me was the story at the amusement park. I’ve never been thrown from a roller coaster, in fact I love coasters.  So why would this story grab me?

In my case, it had to do with something I and many people with PTDS develop. It’s the fear or guilt of having a good time. In my case, it is fear.  My life experiences have taught my brain that as soon as life calms down and starts to look normal, something horrific is coming around the corner. It’s something I’ve had to actively evaluate and be aware of for many years.

So, who in those news stories was having the most fun when something horrible happened? Yep, it was the woman, vacationing with her family and then ejected from the coaster to her death. What made this situation worse, the news reporter stated when the coaster pulled out of the platform the woman realized her lap bar wasn’t closed properly and there was nothing anyone did or could do once the coaster left the platform to help her.

This brings about three more common traits of people with PTSD. These are the feelings of helplessness, inability to escape and sudden realization of impending serious harm or death. The other two news stories probably contained these elements as well; however, this third story compounded all three elements. If the woman had been my age, that might add a fourth component. If instead of on a coaster, she was in a situation similar to what I experienced, that would add another component. The more components are involved than the stronger the reaction tends to be.

So you see it’s complicated when you or a loved one is learning to live with PTSD.  Part of this learning is in understanding how the brain processes trauma and what triggers are hard wired to respond. As the person and their family learn these, the next steps are learning to compensate for reactions, lesson reactions and know your limitations.  Most of all never stop exploring and never give up.

If you do get triggered, this protocol will be useful.

  1. Ground yourself.        Do a mental check. Where are you? Who is with you? Are you safe? Your brain needs some external impute from you to circumvent the need to protect you from the danger it perceives you are currently under or about to experience.  Telling yourself things like, I’m in my living room, there are green curtains on the window, I’m drinking Lemon Zinger tea may seem silly, but they tell your brain you are not in that place where trauma originally occurred.
  2. It’s okay to be triggered.        Being triggered is a horrendous feeling, especially if it leads to physical, emotional or visual flashbacks. Once you have calmed your mind and body down. Do not, I repeat, do not chastise yourself for having been triggered in the first place. What you experienced was strong enough to provoke the same response in you everyone experiences when they try to put their hand in fire. The brain knows how to keep you safe. Triggers are the mechanisms the brain uses to screen for fires.
  3.    Be an investigative reporter.         Logging down what you were doing or watching when you were triggered, any information about how you reacted feelings after the fact are invaluable.  Over time, you will see patterns. Perhaps, it’s anything that sounds like explosions or the smell of curry. Even if you and another person experienced the exact same trauma at the same time, your log will be as unique to you as your finger print.  Don’t be afraid of finding the patterns.
  4.     Bring your information to someone who can help you.         It is typically best to work with someone knowledgeable about trauma reactions when processing and learning to live with triggering events and information. Take your log and your insight with you. You know you and your traumatic event(s) better than anyone. No counselor or therapist is a savior. They are only another human being with training that is there to help. Find someone you trust and become partners in your quest to living healthily with PTSD.

 

When Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick wrote the lines:  To the last, I grapple with thee; from the hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee, he was writing about a man’s obsessive pursuit to concur an internal demon triggered by an external sea monster.  Is living with PTSD any different? 

PTSD Strikes Again

ImageI have chronic post traumatic stress disorder which means I’ve experienced multiple times in my life where my life was threatened to the point of perceived death or I witnessed someone else experiencing the same. In my case, I have experience both several times in my life.

I can go several days in a row and sometimes as far as two weeks before being reminded that PTSD DOES NOT GO AWAY! This week was a PTSD week and I’m pissed.

The combination of having PTSD and also Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has left me almost completely housebound for approximately five years now. For a while I had work I could do at home, only to find the stress of the work exacerbated both conditions to the point of not functioning and my body shut down. I literally lost forty pounds in four months, was bed ridden and had to be treated at the ER for dehydration. That was a little over a year and a half ago. The contract on that job terminated about a year ago and the healing began. I was doing well and started a small private practice in my home and then last week hit.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly I can go from being pulled together and almost medication free to being thrust back into emotional, visual and physical flashbacks, constant state of panic, nightmares, jumping and screaming at sudden sounds and feeling completely unhinged, waiting to fend off an attacker, logically knowing it is not there.

I have found that the more secluded from stress I am and regimented in my routine I have, the healthier and happier I feel. Life actually feels worth living and I can contribute to the community and help others heal. Every once in a while I forget my limitations or attempt to rise above them (take your pick).

Several months ago I attempted this. I did it by the book: go slow, carefully watch the people involved so I’m safe, monitor my reactions and self talk, make sure I have an escape route if I’m too threatened and above all – appear normal.

I have a shaky trust in my ability to read people in my life. Even people I’ve known and loved forever sometimes startle me into a fear reaction. For people who are acquaintances or who I’m just starting to know, this fear is tenfold.

All it takes is for a person to react or act emotionally or physically different from what I expect and confusion sets in. Confusion equals fear and fear causes flairs of PTSD. These changes in behavior can consist of raising their voice, yelling, puffing themselves up, twisting my words or intent, flailing their arms around, pounding on things or behaving in ways contrary of what they say they are doing. One or all of these things sets my automatic brain in motion.

What is triggered in me, I call neuro-synaptic frying. It is very physically painful. My brain floods my nervous system with chemicals so I can survive a life threatening event, even if one does not literally exist.  It feels like my entire body has been stuffed inside an open electrical socket. It hurts for hours and because I also have Fibromyalgia contracts my muscles and scrambles the pain signals to the brain. So the pain, sometimes debilitating, lasts for days and I have to take special neurological medications to calm the signals down.

This happened this week. I’ve almost worked past the, it’s okay you’re not in danger, stage of PTSD. My nightmares are still there, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, second guessing my decisions and desires to run and hide diminishing. They were an eight on a scale to ten and now are a three or four.

I did some reality checking with family to try to get a sense on how much I over reacted, the real threat ratio (knowing me and my PTSD history) and where to go from here (knowing my physical and emotional health and situation).  I went out with people I know and trust. A best friend who loves me so unconditionally it never ceases to amaze. There is the church family with no agenda other than to share love and companionship and of course the love, support and companionship of my own family.  Not to forget the humor, encouragement and camaraderie of Facebook friends.

Even with all that positivism surrounding me, PTSD still slammed its ugly head. It wouldn’t be so bad if I could just say, I have reservations about or I see inconsistencies I don’t know if I want to be involved in or I need to watch closer.  No, all that is colored by the lenses of PTSD making the ability to make any of those above stated comments almost impossible at this point. I can’t even say, gee I wonder what is going on with that person that things occurred the way they did. That, I hope will come later, but not now.

I am glad I originally pushed myself, tested the waters because I learned some new things and met new people.  I have to ask myself where is the line between putting oneself out there knowing the limitations and accepting the risk verses, staying safe, healthy and happy?

I’ve meditated, prayed and contemplated to no avail at this point. Perhaps what I did wrong was move too fast even though I thought I was going slow and trusting too quickly. Or maybe it has more to do with not honoring my limitations and working within those parameters.

I can say I’m damaged, but I tell my clients you’re not damaged you are unique.  I say, you have witnessed things other people can never imagine or they go to the cinema to experience. That wisdom and knowledge of the fragility of life may make it so you are more like a piece of fine china and not a plastic cup. You don’t throw fine china in the sink or dishwasher and you don’t put it with the plastic cups in the cupboard. Does that make the fine china damaged? No, it makes it precious. I need to learn that I am precious and treat myself accordingly.

Houston, We have a Problem!

ImageThe oh sh-t moment when life goes from wonderful to dread and we have to act fast. We all have them. Sometimes we handle the situation well and other times, well, we ponder for decades what we could have done differently. Can a person truly be prepared for those problematic moments?

We are all basically hard wired the same way. Note the word basically. It is rare in life when things are one-hundred percent. There are four things we are programmed to do in emergencies. They are flee, fight, freeze or flop. Pretty easy to understand. To flee is to run away from the situation. To fight is to attack the situation head-on. To freeze is to become paralyzed and not able to do much of anything. To flop is to faint.

Which of these tactics a person picks may be the same in all emergencies or can change depending on the circumstances. A woman who suddenly has the strength to lift a car off her child (to fight), might not attack an intruder inside her home. Can we know in advance which behavior we will chose?

Hard to say. The military trains our troops by using repetition. Instilling into them, this is what you do in the following situation. The lives of these people depend upon it. Firefighters, police officers and all other careers where lives are at stake do the same thing. But even then not everyone is able to follow that programming when needed. Why not?

It comes back to all our past experiences. Those experiences become chemical memories in our brains. When a situation occurs similar to a past situation, the brain compares it and acts based on what worked before. No matter how much training a person has, there are times the old experiences will over-ride the current situation. Why? Because, training that your life is in danger is very different from it truly being in danger.

Having said that, there are times, sometimes humorously, when our reactions are way off the mark. Like the picture above where the caveman is using a club to put out a fire. The fire extinguisher is right beside him. This is where feelings step in. Fear, panic and anxiety all play a role in how effective we will behave in an emergency.

Stress produces the same type of reaction. The brain thinks there is a problem. It is either a possible emergency or real emergency and tells us to react. As a result our reactions maybe over the top for the situation. Think about the person who gets road rage because he/she is running late and the person in front is going the speed limit.

Next time you know you are feeling stressed and you find yourself over-reacting (flee, fight, freeze or flop), try to pull yourself together and regroup before reacting. Good questions would be, why am I reacting this way? Is the danger real? How realistic is my thinking? The one I like the best comes from my husband. He says to me, “I think you are reacting to things not in evidence.” Meaning, I’ve either got the cart before the horse or I believe I know what is going to happen without having a crystal ball.

None of us have true knowledge of the future but some of us think we do and base much of our choices and behaviors on this illusion. It can’t be done.

Here’s hoping you have a reaction appropriate day.

“Slow down,” said the Turtle. Over and Over Again..

    Image    “Have you ever watched a turtle?” An Oneida woman asked me from behind the counter of the at Shako:wi Cultural Center, Oneida, New York.

     “Not really,” I tell her. The subject of turtles has been a recurring theme lately. I tell her this.

     She smiles and nods. “Turtles are slow, steady and strong.” She gives me a tour of the center, showing me wonderful pieces of Oneida history and craft work. My gracious host tells me she is Turtle Clan. “Is there something you were looking for?”

     “I am looking for a book on the teachings of Deganawidah and Hiawatha” (a Haudenosaunee prophet and his companion I admired from a book called, Travels in a Stone Canoe by Harvey Arden and Steve Wall). The center has what I am looking for.

     I’m interested and I pick up a book on this and one on the Oneida creation story.

     “It’s the turtle that grows and becomes the island of North America,” she says.

       I tell her I have been reading and rereading a book by the humanitarian, wisdom-keeper Oren Lyons called, The Art of Being Human.

      She smiles and we talk about the Onondaga man (he is also Turtle Clan) and his influences before I say my goodbyes.                                              

Image   Stained glass window in Shako:wi Cultural Center

     Several months later, I am a guest at a Lenape Inter-tribal Winter Solstice gathering at the Eicher Indian Museum in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. We are in a large stone and log cabin that sits next to a meandering stream. It’s three in the morning, half way through singing the nearly six hour Walam Olum ( the Lenape creation story, which takes about six hours to sing in alternating verses of Lenape and English).

     I am sitting against a wall surrounded by a sea of sleeping bags, pillows and people. The drum has been loud and consistent for the past three hours, reverberating off the walls drowning everything but the loud singing. I am told that the drum unifies us, brings all our heart beats together as one. As I look around the lake of people I believe this. We all move the same.

       A paper is handed to me with the English translation to the story. I read and stop when a see the words, and the turtle became the foundation of the earth.

      Turtles again! I stop singing and get up. I need to go outside and get some fresh air.

      I work my way to the door and outside to the roaring fire used earlier for part of a blessing/forgiveness ceremony. It’s freezing; there is frost on the grass. I am not wearing a coat and my tee-shirt is wet with sweat from the heat of the building and excitement of the night. I’m standing next to the three foot flames shivering violently. I can’t go back inside yet. I really need to think about why turtles are prominent in my current life.

     A tall, dark skinned man wrapped in a wool blanket walks over to my side. He unwraps his blanket and without asking throws it around me. “My name is Walking Bear.” He tells me and pauses a moment watching me.  “You looked a little cold. Drum too loud?”

     “I just needed a break,” I tell him. “Thank you for the blanket.” He nods.

     “What do you know about turtles?” He asks me.

     I turn and look into the flames, listening to it crackle and spit almost in rhythm of the drum inside.  “Not a lot, why?”

     “I saw you inside. Sometimes you reminded me of a turtle. Other times, this evening, you seem to have forgotten how to be a turtle.”

     Remembering my conversation with the Oneida woman at the cultural center, I reply. “Turtles are slow, steady and strong.”

     “Ah,” he responds. Turtles are very important in many native cultures for their ties to the creator and for being the foundations of mankind. If it weren’t for the courage of the turtle, you could say, we wouldn’t exist. What is your name?”

     This all feels like an odd dream. “Deborah.” I keep looking into the flames.

     “Ah,” he says again. “That’s Hebrew for the Busy Bee. You know a person can be too busy?”

     I don’t agree. Since my near death experience I have spent almost every waking hour trying to show my return from the brink was worthy. I was given a second chance at life and I wasn’t going to waste a moment. I was told during my near death experience that once I was healed I would be engaged in a mission to help others.

     For the past decade, I have been working extremely hard to force that healing. Terrified, I’d die again, only to find out it was all a mistake. They should have sent back someone else. This man does not know any of this. I keep quiet.

      “I think you should seriously consider turtles.” He continues. “They can carry the horrors of the world on their backs and remain strong, attached to the creator who made them. You appear to have the turtle shell.  As we stand here by the fire I can see it. I saw it off and on inside the gathering.” He pauses and I turn to look at him. I still don’t know what to say, so I say nothing.

     “ You’ve seen the creator, haven’t you?” He doesn’t know me, my near death experience, my work with trauma victims and my own hellish nightmares.

       Someone calls him. He nods again at me and walks back toward the building.   

      I don’t see him the remainder of the event. I leave the blanket on a table inside the cabin when I leave after breakfast.

     I start looking up turtle totems, turtle animal behaviors, turtle legends and drive my friends crazy. They keep telling me I have to slow down. I can’t, I think too much is at stake.

     I don’t learn anything new. If anything I am the anti-turtle. I find the idea of becoming a turtle a waste of precious time. I thought there was some secret message from God in these events but I don’t see it.

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                                          Eicher Indian Museum, Ephrata, PA

      I’m in Oriskany, New York on vacation with hubby in our RV. A large turtle walks onto the street in front of us and stops, looking up at us. It’s a turtle – RV standoff.

        “That turtle has something to tell me!” I excitedly tell hubby. I grab my camera and jump out of the RV.  I immediately lay out on the road in front of the RV eye to eye with the turtle. I don’t know if it’s a terrapin or a turtle and I don’t think it matters (I find out later, terrapin is an Indian word for little turtle).

     I beg in a whisper. “Turtle, please help me. Everywhere I go people talk to me about turtles. I’m seeing turtles everywhere. My college mascot was a turtle!  What’s going on?”

      Of course he didn’t answer. I shot a couple pictures. I watch and wait for a long time (in my opinion) while he watches me. I don’t know what I think will happen.

     The turtle finally, turns around and walks off, continuing his journey across the street each step deliberately placed and slow. I keep watching to make sure he was safe. It was a bit anti-climatic.

 

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      It’s now the end of the summer and I’m in Corning, New York to give a presentation on the choices we make in our daily lives. I have a dear friend, another presenter with me sharing a room at the hotel.

     This is the first time I’ve been in front of an audience in over twenty five years. I used to be a performer. For nearly fifteen years my life revolved around countless hours of practices, rehearsals and performances. Trying to be perfect on a consistent basis was paramount for my performances, keeping haunted memories at bay and the illusion that everything was grand.

     This presentation has no rehearsals. I have minimal ideas how to say what I need to say. I’m freaking in the hotel room. I’m talking fast and non-stop, moving quickly, bumping into furniture, waving my arms around like a fool and feel like I’m going to die of a panic attack.

     My friend turns to me and demands. “Holy crap! Go run a warm wash cloth over your face to calm down. You’re driving me crazy!”

     I’m mortified and crushed. Obediently, I go into the bathroom and pick up a wash cloth from the sink counter. A little turtle charm falls out.

     I stare in awe at this silver charm with tears in my eyes. It’s a miracle. It’s exactly the reminder I need. Slow down!

     I rush back to the bedroom waving the charm by the little ringlet at the turtle’s nose. “Do you see this?” I ask. “How in the world did the cleaning staff know I needed a turtle? How did the turtle find its way into the wash cloth? I know what I have to do, I have to slow down!” I exclaim and throw myself on the bed. “I can’t believe the creator sent me a turtle!”

     My friend comes over, picks up a pillow and smacks me upside the head. “Did it ever occur to you that I put the turtle in the wash cloth?” I look up at her.  No, it hadn’t  “Did it ever occur to you that I knew what you needed and I was the one performing the miracle? No, you didn’t   No, you think it’s the cleaning lady, it’s the creator, its Tony the Tiger! Who would better know your needs then me and I have news for you, I’m not wearing gossamer wings.”  She moves around the room flapping her arms as wings but still looking exasperated.

     She’s angry, I’m calm, the turtle went in my pocket and the presentation went off without a hitch. After I’m finished, I look over at her and smile, pleased with myself. She looks back, flaps her arms and sticks her neck out like a chicken pecking. I blush.

    Had I been moving too quickly, I would have missed that. What a disaster that would have been.

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                                “Slow down and pay attention,” says the turtle.  Yes sir.

      Months later, I’m at work and long ago forgotten about my turtles. I’m exhausted, can’t sleep, drinking multiple, massive cups of coffee and chasing them down with energy drinks to keep going. I’m taking on more projects and responsibilities and attempting to do all of it to the max humanly possible. I’m forgetting important dates and how to scramble eggs. I’m sick all the time and my nerves are shot.  I no longer think there is a God. 

     It hits me; I can’t do this work anymore. I start interviewing people for my replacement. An ex-Roman Catholic priest who came out of the closet, left the priesthood to help others is my replacement. He doesn’t need the money. He saw the ad in the paper and was called to be here.

        The last two weeks of my employment I’m supposed to train him. Instead he trains me. He gives me a crash course on spirituality, self-care, and making positive changes.  He taught me volumes and I taught him pages.

     On my last day, he shows up with two gifts. One is a self-made cross stitch picture, which says; To help another person is to touch the heart of God. The other is an Oneida creation story print of….. the turtle as the backbone of the earth.

      We’ve never talked about turtles to my recollection.

     “You have a turtle shell, kiddo,” he says. “ You’ve heard the rest. You need to make it yours. Find your inner turtle. You really don’t have a choice. I can’t stress that enough.”

     We say our goodbyes. I leave. He leaves about two weeks later saying he no longer needs to be there.

 

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      It takes me four more years to understand that I am the anti-turtle, always speeding about, taking on the world.

     I’m an over-achiever, dedicated, altruistic and determined. I’ve been this way my whole life.  What’s the problem?

     The problem is the human body is not designed to handle all the adrenaline it takes to do those things. The ex-priest was right. Despite all the turtle coaxing from the universe, I kept going until there was no choice. Forced to slow down from chronic exhaustion and an immunological disorder, I wait like a turtle in doctor’s offices, hospitals and pharmacy lines.

     I often wonder, had I listened to the message of the turtle years ago, where would I be? I can’t go backward. Slowing down has allowed me to hear the natural rhythms of life and spirit. There is so much of the human experience I was missing in my hurried behaviors.

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             “Slow down and be like a turtle,” the man said.  Something we all should do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Show Must Go On – The Birth of an Adrenaline Junkie

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Loosen up; she says with a chuckle, you’re wrapped way too tight

With a grin, I know this but can’t stop

With extreme highs and lows I eat and sleep this

Loosen up, she says, and I hear her wisdom though she does not know

With regret and remorse my body won’t let me rest

 

Sisters laughing and pretending to be the fab four

A Hard Day’s Night left us screaming in the aisle

A hard day’s life when she suddenly died

Sisters at a cemetery, one of them reposed in the ground

A hard day’s night becomes a hard day’s life

 

Blonde on a kid’s show freezing in front of the camera

Sets that fall down and costumes that rip

Sets bright with large splashes of blinding light

Blonde kid so shy she hides in a dark world of her design

Sets up a place for an insidious void that convolutes

 

Universal horror monsters alive on TV late Saturday night

My first role, the fat witch on a flying machine

My attempts to memorize lines and moves

Universal applause and laughter when I fall off the stage

My parents smiling, happy, it’s all for my sis

 

Twirling a baton, I’m the youngest in the group

Talent and determination turns heads

Talent keeps everyone too busy to think

Twirling, is life’s temporary amnesia from blood and death

Talent, cursed or blessed, we still have Sundays at the cemetery

 

Learning to skate, meet Peggy Fleming, I’ve decided my path

Bruises, practice, auditions, rehearsals

Bruises, sprains, get up and do it again

Learning to tough it out, I’m the youngest in the show

Bruises, box dinners, homework and life in the car

 

Costume calls, pins and needles, hat is too big

Dress rehearsal is very boring

Dress is too tight, it’s the wrong size

Costume seamstress yells at me for getting taller

Dressed and made up by strangers

 

Homework on the run, another rehearsal, another dinner in a bag

Quick costume change, pushed out on stage

Quick roar of the crowd, flashes of light

Homework, remember how to stop skates from catching costume

Quick thinking prevents Ziegfeld Follies’ hat from toppling

 

Another day, another show, skate broke, costume ripped

Lead male skater is so dreamy

Lead female skater is such a bitch

Another dress rehearsal three hours too long, tempers flair

Lead me home, too achy and tired to think

 

End of the show, time to return back to the baton

Start at five and practice till school

Start homework on bus, practice till bed

End another day with drums pounding rhythms against my skull

Start tomorrow drum line pounding, choreography to learn

 

Stand before the directors, while they choose this outfit not that

Coaches for percussion, music and dance

Coaches for choreography, military baring and baton

Stand before the manager showing the upcoming schedule

Coaches not buses to carry all our crap

 

Run around and date actors, dancers, musicians and performers

Practice till my fingers blister and bleed

Practice till I can physically practice no more

Run around and find the most outrageous things to do to feel alive

Practice equals louder applause which equals perceived love

 

Awards come in a landslide of marble, gold and ribbons to many to count

Audiences bigger and applause profound, I want more

Audiences demanding greater feats, I’m willing to give

Awards for outstanding entertainer, how much higher can I go

Audiences are a fickle lover, self centered and giving

 

More, the press says, can we have your picture, please

Little one wants to grow up to be like me

Little one wants a hug; a group photo would be nice

More insanity, I love this but I need to find a release

Little pieces of me fly off into space, spirit catches giving me grace

 

Harder practices, demanding routines and radical ways to cope

Applause now an addiction, I can’t stop even if I wanted

Applause is drowning water, no longer quenching my thirst

Harder demands on my body, mind and soul, but I can give more

Applause has become the only way I feel alive and loved

 

Left, right, left, your positioning is not quite right, do it again

Redo the entire concepts of acceptance, love and peace

Redo the bandages on my bleeding blisters and take another pill

Left lying on the cold practice floor to fall asleep, nirvana

Redo the muscle rub while remembering the death that started it all

 

What do you mean you lost your step in stanza four

You call that making love to the audience

You call that a top notch performance

What’s wrong with you, we all have something at stake

You need some kind of help, something’s not right

 

Judges pass bribes, try to mess me up and get into my pants

Friends listen to my suicidal rants on the phone

Friends say I’m arrogant and need to pull in my ego

Judges demand more of me because I’ve been around

Friends back away, some say goodbye, they can’t relate

 

Dreams in dark music, applause, self hatred and death

Survival says be one with the stoned guy on the bus

Survival says join him and never look back

Dreams full of rage and remorse; I’m not good enough to last

Survival is swimming out to sea and never coming back

 

Ambulances are always ready at the end of my performances

Pain, strain and exhaustion, I collapse

Pain and hospitalizations, weekly events

Ambulance drivers joke, here she comes again, poor kid

Pain is having blown veins from too many IV pushes

 

Cemetery where my sister rests is inviting, I love to sleep there

Terror fills my soul, soon the applause will end

Terror is a free fall with no one there with a net

Cemeteries are great places to recover when in withdrawal

Terror is raging out of control and no one knows why

 

Rage is what I felt destroying my bedroom, leaving trophies in the wall

Traveling to Africa gave me new purpose in life

Traveling taught my internal camera how to see

Rage is what I felt about human suffering in the world

Traveling made empty audiences transform into humans in need

 

Begin college studying radio, television and film production

Fall into the world of anthropology and social work

Fall into finding paranormal ways to get my rush

Begin filming documentaries and stills for museums

Fall in love and make passion the new addiction

 

Digging in the dirt as an archaeologist assistant and living in a tent

Filming documentaries and stills is not enough

Filming and showing bizarre personal creations stirs my soul

Digging round for any evidence of my sister, the paranormal

Filming detaches me from my pain and shows others its gore

 

Deadlines for films, photo shows, exhibits and pass the popcorn

Give us just one more set by tomorrow

Give us a rough draft, get it right

Deadlines take the place of coaches and managers

Give me an audience to entertain, some caffeine, a pill

 

Drunk driver eviscerates my life, decapitates my friend

Medical torture, no time for anesthesia, you’re going to die

Medical surgery not going well, I see the monitor flat line

Drunk driver gives me a Near Death Experience and new birthday

Medical trauma fuels my rage and an addiction nothing will quench

 

My experience teaches me much including the delicate nature of time

Flashes of performing memories past embrace me

Flashes of my past performing show me a universal stage

My uptight nature gets in the way of spiritual awakening and growth

Flashes of my mangled body assault me and I rage again

 

Now I embrace, explore my surreal reality and help others find theirs

Education, degrees and life aid my helping those in emotional pain

Education, writing, photography and outreach in constant production

Now If I can only loosen up and not be so wrapped tight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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