Wrong door, Right Place

The following is a possible trigger for C-PTSD, major depressive disorder with recurrent severe w/o psychotic features, generalized anxiety with panic attacks, which also happens to be my diagnosis.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-8255 Available 24 hours everyday

Due to a lack of a psychiatrist, I was switched off one anti-depressant which kept me stable to another one at the lowest dose. Within a week of the switch, a couple months ago, my world came to a crashing halt.

I noticed that I wasn’t calling my friends as frequently but didn’t realize that isolation is one of my first go to’s. Then I stopped painting or writing and what I did write was short, tidy, and not up to my particular liking, but oh well, publish it anyway. I started wondering why I felt so sad all the time, but still, my alarm bells never rang.

By the time I was sleeping 16-18 hours a day, I realized I was in over my head. I felt like a complete failure to not have understood how far down I was going. It wasn’t very long when I started thinking, “What is the purpose of being alive? We’re going to die and within a couple years, nobody will remember me like they don’t my best friend Bean after she died a couple years back (in my house an hour after she told me she loved me and asked to sleep for one more hour that cost her life.)

I’d chat on the phone with whomever I needed to, but I couldn’t form the words asking for help. Strong women don’t do that, only weak women and I’m definitely NOT that. I had tears pouring out of my face washing oceans across my lap. And yet, as my vision faded to black, my therapist suggested I go to an outpatient program at a hospital because it would be more intensive than she could help me with. She saved my life.

I showed up first thing in the morning and parked in front of the main doors to the hospital. I started to cry. I was so raw, the gaze of the lady at the counter seared my muscle, sinew, and bones. I wanted to throw myself on the floor and beg for help, but instead, I choked back the sobbing wail and asked the receptionist to register for the day program. She asked me to have a seat.

A pleasant looking woman offered me a chair in the assessment room. I thought, “Oh great, quizzes about where I am on a scale of 1-10.” She asked why I was there to which I became suspicious of her question.

“I came to register for the day program because my therapist said it was a good idea.” I offered.

She asked me questions about my state of mind. This is going to sound obvious, but do not tell the lady in the assessment room: “Why are we even here? What’s the point in living? I wish I was dead.” You get the picture. It was gruesome in my head, but once I started I kept going.

She said something about thanks for being honest. She left the room for a bit. I started crying again, or maybe I hadn’t stopped. I don’t remember. I already had a two tissue deep finger cast I kept dabbing my eyes with as needed (frequently).

When she returned she sat down across from me and leaned over the desk. “I don’t think you’re safe right now. You have threatened your own life. We’re going to keep you for a few days so you can get back on your feet again.” I sobbed heavily.

I wanted to hate her. I wanted to blame her for my darkness because knowing my brain was attacking me, realizing that she was right and hating myself for my weakness, I signed a ream of paperwork. She allowed me to make a couple calls while she processed the paperwork.

I called my mom and my husband and told them what was happening. I arranged for my mom to get the car to Ben. I continued sobbing. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like a crumpled piece of fish soaked newspaper. She asked me to remove my jewelry. I begged to keep the necklace with Bean’s ashes in it to which they relented.

With just the clothes on my back, I started following the first person who said “Follow me.”

Locked door, hallway, locked door, hallway, etc.

The path unclear, I dragged behind as the realization of anxiety dripped through my body, causing me to flush sweat. I started sensory soothing by rubbing my fingertips together and lengthening my breath to settle my shoulders.

Locked door, hallway, locked door, hallway, etc.

There were people there dressed in shorts, bathrobes, jeans and t-shirts, while the staff seemed human, I was screaming weakly in my over-crowded brain. There were men and women sitting randomly on the floor having various volumes of phone conversations that I couldn’t understand as I tried to keep up with the quick walking leader.

Locked door, hallway, locked door, hallway, locked door.

As she opened the door she started explaining stuff about rules of my new temporary home. I couldn’t pay attention long enough to get half of what she said. My panic level kept rising as we approached the nurses station.

Over the course of the next few hours, I was poked, prodded, gauged, tagged, and hung upside down by my rear feet. That’s not true about the tagging and rear feet. I got all processed, given a room with a fresh made bed where I struggled to sleep against the every 15 minute life-check. At bedtime, I took whatever they gave me, and slept fitfully.

The schedule is rigid and filled with groups to help give tools to be used when we got released. The age span was varied across generations. The rise and fall of their humming with sparkles of laughter seemed alien. It had been so long since I wanted to smile.

Fast forward to Saturday when I “woke up”, looked around and wondered what the hell I did this time. Some things from the fog began arriving at light-speed with the resounding shuddering groan of burdened heart. I was feeling physically better with a sidekick of humor.

The people stationed with me in the prison of lost souls finding their way home again were unbelievably kind, introspective, wise, giving, and genuinely looking out for each other. We exchanged our journey through the mental health system like trading cards spread out in an emotional three-card monte.

It wasn’t as morbid as you may think. It was soothing to know that other people have experienced horrors like mine. They made me feel “normal” again. They helped me believe in the amputations that we endured in our psyches that couldn’t touch who we were really are. They gave me hope even when they didn’t have it themselves. I needed those battle-worn veterans mingling their stories with mine, conjuring solutions through our newly refreshed communication skills.

I got released on Tuesday afternoon on the condition that I’d arrive Wednesday morning at 8AM for Outpatient Therapy classes to which I agreed. My mom came to get me and bring me home. I made her a card in art class which she loved. She brought me a hot cup of coffee with hazelnut creamer in it. I practically chugged it down. “Ah, nectar of the Gods.” (Bless you Bapa). I felt relief, excitement, loving, and most of all I felt and feel grateful to be alive.

Wednesday morning arrives and I return to the same door I went in the last time. I ask the receptionist where I could find the day program.

“You go back out the doors you came in and drive down the side of the building where you’ll see the door to get in.” She directed. I thanked her while thinking thoughts of wonder.

Sure as tooting, I drove around, parking in the back lot where the door actually was. As I parked, my favorite Bible verse: Isaiah 43:1: “…Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” appeared in my mind’s eye. It brings me deep comfort because I imagine LOVE saying that to me. It fills me to the brim.

I am very blessed to have walked into that main door instead of the Day Program I was supposed to find. I AM strong. I am not my diagnosis. It is an issue with my chemistry being out of whack. I do believe I am a miracle. I’m feeling a thousand times better than I did a week ago when dying seemed like a great idea. It wasn’t. It isn’t. Call

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-8255 Available 24 hours everyday

Winter Mile

There are roads to travel that go on for quite a while

but there are none that go on for quite as long as that

of a Winter Mile

When the light has wrung the last drop from dark beguiled,

there are none quite as somber bespoke as that

of a Winter Mile

Warmest sleep of children deep in coverlet dreaming wild

no safer haven of a lover’s wish be true than that

of a Winter Mile

Ghost Town of the Last Bouquet

of the lost bouquet

of the lost bouquet

It all happened so fast. Shortly before I died, a friend of mine said, “Why don’t you have a wake to see what it would be like when you’re gone?” I thought about it sincerely. I was only inspired to ask the question because several people I knew had passed from the breathing life. It’s not like I was inviting death to visit or anything. I was just curious as I watched people of all walks come to give honor to the deceased.

I’d considered mortality before when I look at the life I lead without children, without anyone to which I could pass my traditions and stories into the future. It took me several weeks before I concluded that I didn’t want to know what people thought of me. I officially opted out because nobody really wants to know how much they’ll be missed unless they didn’t plan on coming back, right?

A week later, I got sick. I went to sleep for a while. I’m not even sure what happened. I was, then I wasn’t. I tried to communicate with my husband but he couldn’t hear me. I didn’t understand. I spoke. I screamed. I tried to write to him. I watched as my friends showed up on my doorstep. I knew some of my beloveds were upset, but they buckled down to work as if their own lives depended on it.When I woke up, people I loved dearly were milling about my house. Many of them were packing up my personal belongings. Some of them were picking through my things, selecting items as mementos, while I stood in the middle of each room spinning in circles crying with grief.

There were times of visitation with my friends whom spoke tender words of compassion to my surviving spouse while hovering behind weeping eyes and choked words. I wanted to take away their pain. I wanted to wrap them into my arms, to offer them comfort as they’d done for me so often. But I couldn’t reach far enough out of myself. I was trapped in a place between planes.

While I witnessed the parade, I saw that people brought gifts, food, donations of all different kinds. I watched the place I lived become an empty shell. No decorations, no dinners cooking, no shower gel scenting the entire upstairs. I slept on the floor of my studio curled up in a small blanket-less cold ball on a smelly carpet. I tried to get comfortable, but there is no way when my life rejected me.

The next day all I could feel were spirits moving near me, but I paid them only enough notice to acknowledge they were there. I could hear the hushed tones of neighbors outside my window. I looked but I couldn’t see them. Everything took on a gray light as if gauze were filtering everything into uncomfortable dullness. I felt the press of others but I resisted their call. I wasn’t ready to leave. I wanted to make sure my beloved was well.

People I didn’t know walked into my house and started commenting about the bare walls. They expressed how they were going to change everything around to suit their taste. It was then I realized my beloved was no longer there.

With a tug that dropped me back from the window, I turned to face a tall man that looked familiar to me. He reached out his fingers beckoning me to follow. He smiled reassuringly but I held on to the breathing life. I looked out the window once more, turned back to the tall man, with a burst of courage, I took his hand. Then I wasn’t.

Dark Moon Reflections

Night time is a go

Night time is a go

The midnight air is clamorous as crinkling cellophane.
The cranky crickets tick-tock in the grass with leggy chants.
The zz-zzt of the cicadas clamor boldly in jumbling rants.
The nearby expressway donates the rumble of trucks in lanes
trumpeting progress of deliveries unmet.
A flash of light shifts the shadows in the next room
as a car passes like a shooting star at the crossroad.
I open the door to feel the whispering kisses of the cooling air,
opened the windows to let in the songs of what’s out there.
The scent-dripping lilies stain the night

with mortuary perfume visited too often eons ago.

The click-clack of puppy toes traipsing laminate floor in the tone of wood
reinvent the solo of a long-hauler’s jake-brake slowing progress’ brood.
Barely audible, the neighbor’s open windows
bail laughter out in rapid chortles blended with giggles.
I smile as the humidity of their family
adds to the breath of life I’m inhaling with my senses.

17,167.4 days

That’s a lot of days to walk around the sun. 47 years for the math challenged (Dude, really, I used Google instead of using a damn calculator!) As I read through the Facebook reminders about my trip, I see many kind words and good wishes. I really love that. It reminds me that I made it around again trying to outshine the stars.

What I’ve come to love the most is when I get feedback from the people I frequently deal with that shows me how I am perceived by others. I know it sounds flippant to say it doesn’t matter, it does but it doesn’t. However, it does give me a valid self check about what I’m doing that not only feeds my spirit but helps others along the way. I truly feel blessed.

Inspiring

When I think of my personal definition of inspiring, I think of the people who teach me more things about the kind of person I want to keep working towards becoming. I wrote several times yesterday that I was inspired by the greatness of my Grandfather, aka Bapa, either directly or indirectly through his children, my aunts and uncles. When I apply the word to myself, I’m not really sure how that works. I do things to make the world a better place because I was taught that. I stand up and defend those who can’t because I was taught that. I love with all I have because I was taught that. Nearly all of that came from the Coleman side of the family. The rest I had to learn on my own.

To think of inspiring others from my life, I think of all the horrors I’ve seen. I think of all the struggles I’ve met and overcome. I ponder the battles I’ve had to fight in order to make it as far as I’ve come and I can see where that would shine the light for others too. I’m blessed to still be here. I’m blessed to know you too.

Laughter

If there is one thing without a doubt that could be said about me is that I love to laugh. I love to laugh so much that I commonly laugh at my own jokes or the absurdities that I come into with each new adventure. I love puns. I think farts are amusing. I love spoonerisms, knock knock jokes, high and low brow humor. George Carlin was one of my very favorites because he was a thinking man (Nothing sexier in my book). I love Ellen DeGeneres because she’s brave and incredibly witty. Robin Williams was a man I identified with so deeply, I seriously, all jokes aside, mourned for weeks. I knew when his light went out.

I’d rather be the butt of a joke than to let an opportunity slip by that held the potential to make my sides ache, my eyes leak, and snorts to come flying out of my nose. I love to tell funny stories because when I can make people laugh, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing I touched them in such a primitive way because I know for a fact we all laugh in the same language.

Being You

This one rather tugs at me a bit. I asked several people what exactly this means. I hear, “Mare, just keep being you.” “I love that you’re so you.” “You keep doing what you’re doing.” And there I am screaming at them with a blank look on my face, “Who the fuck else would I be other than maybe a wealthier version of me. I could handle that.” I tried for years to be someone else. I WANTED to be anyone else but me. One day, I woke up and said, “I’m going to chuck it in the fuck it bucket.”

I say what I want as politely as is necessary, sometimes to the point of being brutally honest, but I won’t lie to you. I try love and compassion first because those work best in nearly every situation. But, I also will not allow anyone to walk on me. Four of my favorite quotes are, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.” Eleanor Roosevelt; “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi; “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde; and “Be pilgrims for justice and fools for love.” Rev. Jake Morrill’s Sunday service closing.

Hugs

Hugs. Hugs! Hugs? Human contact is so crucial to our survival that babies who are not touched, hugged, or cuddled enough are commonly considered infants with a failure to thrive. It’s the cruelest form of neglect I can think of when it’s one of the easiest things to give. A simple hug to reassure another human or creature that they are not alone in this world. I warm, compassionate, loving moment that gives them a place of safe haven if only for the time of the hug. It’s a transcendent feeling for me when I am allowed access into someone’s personal bubble to give them love. It makes my eyes well up with tears to think of the beauty I find when I’m granted that permission. I love hugs. We should hug more often.

Light

I’m told that I bring light. When I was born my mother knew something I didn’t. My birth name is sealed away but I will confess to you that name out of reasonable disclosure. My name was Helen Elaine. I was named for two very important people in my mother’s life that brought her light. Both names have the same meaning of Light. I kid you not.

I changed my name legally in 1996, after my Gram passed away, to Marilyn. Nobody ever calls me that. I’ve always been called Mare since I disclosed my desire. My birth name always felt like someone else’s shoes. It didn’t fit me. It was an unruly unfashionable clunker of a name that hid far more darkness than a name should. I didn’t change it out of spite. I changed it out of self-preservation.

With the advent of Mare Martell (Martell is my birth name and although I abhor the man who handed it down, he will not win. I will honor COLEMAN under the banner), I was given rare opportunity to reinvent myself. Only, it’s not rare. Anyone can choose to bring the light. Anyone can shine but most choose not to. They let people like me do it and I’m okay with that. I’ll bring my light from my darkness. Mare, yes I’m speaking third person, can be anyone I need her to be. THAT is my light. She’s a brilliant chameleon and I love her dearly.

And that is my summation of my 17, 167.4 days around the sun. Thank you for making it through. Love, Light, Blessings of Peace,

Mare Martell

TRIGGER WARNING! How long will you stay? DV/SA

The story I’m about to share with you is intense in emotion, digs into some really dark corners that many keep locked and heavily guarded. I am not opening the door with the spotlight shining in to require pity, request comfort, nor to have anyone claim, “Bless her heart.” I am shining the light into my darkness so that, hopefully, my flashlight can reach someone who feels betrayed, solitary in their suffering, shameful, or guilt-ridden. I end this first paragraph with this:

IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. I BELIEVE YOU.

The month of April is Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence awareness month. For those of us who have survived through these violent crimes, it’s an important month to help educate others about the necessary resources to protect ones physical, mental, and emotional self, commonly without financial ability to pay due to the clandestine fleeing that can be crucial to becoming a survivor and not a victim.

I’m not going to spout statistics, or at least not a lot of them, because those are just numbers. I want to share with you my face.

meage6This is a picture of me at around age six. By the time this picture was taken, I was already quite skilled in how to be the twisted version of the good daughter. I had secrets I couldn’t tell to anyone or my mom and my brother would be killed. I already understood that I was good for one thing. I was so carefully bred to be a victim, I never associated (even up until about six weeks ago) myself with that word or with the fact that things that happened were violent crimes against my person. I just felt like I’d survived, my mom and brother were still alive, life was good.

When I’d reached age 21, I was in full blown PTSD (non-combat trauma). When I read off the symptoms back then I sincerely believed that someone had been following me around writing my every move. It was terrifying to realize that other people had gone through the same thing. It was even more petrifying to realize that it happened to me. Denial is a vicious place to live.

After intensive in-patient treatment, several years of intensive outpatient, and then several MORE years of follow up (as needed) therapy, I feel comfortable and confident in saying that I’m on the other side of PTSD with minimal triggers. It took me 40 years of hard work (30 years actively) to get through the shame, the guilt, the depression, the feelings of being unworthy that were planted from the time I was very young.

The way that I identified myself changing from a total sexual being into a loving human being took devotion, courage, strength, guidance, and determination. It was a life or death battle that left me weary, broken, bloody, and sometimes hanging on by a thread of the Fates. But, as my matriarchs taught me, whether by grace or design, to thrive is the best testament to victory over that which demanded submission.

I ask you this question:

How long does it take before you say enough of a bad relationship? How far will you allow the violence against you to continue before you fight back? How much will have to be stripped of your personal dignity before you look around and say, “I can do better. WE can do better.”

I say, the time is now. Tomorrow may be too late to save one more girl from rape. Tomorrow may be too late to rescue one more child from starvation. Today. This is what we have. Join me, humans, in rescuing ourselves from one of the greatest tragedies and the source of our joint suffering, the lack of equality between genders in the name of LOVE, for the purpose of LOVE, with the intent of LOVE brought into action.

If we do not stand together as the majority population and demand equality, then we fail our sisters, our mothers, our grandmothers, our daughters, our children, our humanity. Men that wish equality are those we should cherish, nurture, encourage to defend, but never to rescue us. You can’t expect those who wish to keep us under their heel in the name of religious or political beliefs to release us from slavery (as the article this was inspired by) stated. That’s like allowing a wolf to watch ones sheep or a (JOKE ALERT) police officer to guard a doughnut.

Maya Angelou kept rising despite the anchors that attempted to drown her. So shall I rise whether anyone follows or everyone shies away from the truths. We must move for unity and equality, but for the right reasons, because it’s the right thing to do.