shame-based trauma

elephant man …… 3 decades later

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John Merrick: There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you for some time now. Dr. Frederick Treves: What’s that? John Merrick: Can you cure me? Dr. Frederick Treves: No. We can care for you, but we can’t cure you. John Merrick: [matter-of-factly] No. I thought not.
John Merrick: There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you for some time now.
Dr. Frederick Treves: What’s that?
John Merrick: Can you cure me?
Dr. Frederick Treves: No. We can care for you, but we can’t cure you.
John Merrick: [matter-of-factly] No. I thought not.
i was working at medusa’s in chicago and my life was moving quickly. there was a sense of awe and inspiration permeating the after hours scene and the troubadours i spent my time with pulsed my chakras in technicolor and jettisoned me to a higher plane.

one day in october, i was in an aerobics class just as i did many other days just like this one. the standout on this day we me fainting. i completely blacked out and found myself on my backside at the studio feeling as if the wind had just left the building. it spooked me. and i decided to go to the doctor for the 1st time in years.

i went to see dr. bernie blough and i remember him taking blood and cataloging  my visit in some sort of secret sanskrit without actually documenting my visit. this was specifically in fear of reprisal towards the infected. so he made a little red plus sign next to my name after the results came back. i had tested positive for the virus that causes aids. i was going to die.

i think i was frozen for a full month before there some sort of thaw. i had been through completely overwhelming year watching my best friend waste away into nothing while i snorted and slurped as much as i could to keep any mental images in blur.

the next month was a trap door which when opened dropped me into a part of my life from which i never expected to return. i wrote about that month after diagnosis at my first blog here.

i had been running since i was 16, but october 1985 sent me into a sprint. i never thought i was a distance runner at all. i never thought many nice thoughts about myself at all. until i got into recovery that is. that part of my life has opened up a brand new world to me. my challenges, my shortcomings, my failure (of which there have always been overstock) became gifts and insights that i could share.

i went to see david bowie perform in “the elephant man” in chicago in the late 70’s. i remember relating to the john merrick character early after my diagnosis. i felt like a separate being among my tribe.  and after losing so many so quickly i became less and less willing to get close to anybody because it usually led to pain and loss.

the category of “long-term survivor” never crossed my mind.  and although the nomenclature does connect with my path, i continue to question my authenticity. i wasn’t angry in the streets in the late 80’s chicago. i couldn’t pull it together to take care of myself by facing my fears. i bawled up. i hid. i drunk-dialed resentment and stayed on the line way too long.

Despite a living in constant physical and emotional pain, The Elephant Man possessed an indomitable spirit. He quickly became the subject of much public sympathy and something of a celebrity in Victorian high society. Alexandra, then Princess of Wales and later Queen Consort, demonstrated a kindly interest in Merrick, leading other members of the upper class to embrace him. He eventually became a favourite of Queen Victoria. However, Treves later commented that Merrick always wanted, even after living at the hospital, to go to a hospital for the blind where he might find a woman who would not be repelled by his appearance and love him. In his later years, he found some solace in writing, composing remarkable heartfelt prose and poetry.

here i am waltzing through another october. i have certainly shaken free from the bonds of shame. but trauma comes and goes like a blue moon might, raising its profile in the sky now and then to remind me that i really don’t know much of anything, but leaving me certain that i am fortunate to still be here. and not in a million little pieces either.

house of flying daggers

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“There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.”  ― Gautama Buddha
“There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.”
― Gautama Buddha

today i am reposting something from my 1st blog first published in 2007. this time was instrumental in shaping the direction of my interest in emotional sobriety. as i lived in recovery for my 3rd year, suppressed feelings and memories began to emerge and sometimes i was completely overwhelmed. my life and the step work were unravelling what i had been unable to do for myself. if you encounter this happening in your life or someone close to you – try not to panic. you are not failing sobriety. you are awakening. your life and your heart are inviting you to let go of baggage that is no longer necessary to carry. it requires work. it is not easy. but it is worth all the bullshit to move forward in a healthier frame of mind.  Happy Holidays !!!!

i am expressing something personal today. i certainly hope will bear with me.

god does not create junk.

my sponsor has been having me write this as well as say this repeatedly since we started working together. and now i realize that he has helped me develop an amazing coping mechanism for my life. this is important because that phrase addresses the perspective i find myself returning to with regularity. in my life, i have become so accustomed to believing that i am without worth, or that someone is going to take advantage of me, that even in sobriety i find myself returning to that pattern. i am not sure if it because of the trauma i lived through growing up,( repeated sexual abuse followed by ridicule and shame from many of the male peers in my life), or because i am missing some main ingredient that is handed out when creation happens. i would imagine the former has something to do with my own brand of insanity.

dennis cooper wrote a book titled “the tenderness of the wolves” and i think that accurately applies to me at times. i am vicious to myself, almost to the point of chewing my own foot to free myself from a trap. this is because i have been trapped and i have memories of and recoil into this only too vividly on occasions when it is not necessarily appropriate or beneficial. but there’s memory of fear and so i react to it. and then i bite, and scratch, and tear at myself with these junk thoughts almost savagely at times. i think the clinical term is post-traumatic stress disorder. i call it hell.

this is one reason why i am required to reiterate often, that god does not create junk and that whatever shortcomings i may perceive myself to possess do indeed have a purpose and a meaning in the scheme of my life. and no matter how much i try to separate myself from the rest of the world because of these shortcomings or differences, i am not separate. i am included. i am needed. i am required. i belong.

those thoughts are not my first line of thought about my life, however. and first and foremost, i needed to stop self-medicating through these “junk” feelings as i had been doing most of my adult life. that is why i needed the 12 steps and a program to help me navigate my heart, mind, and soul. i don’t think i would have gotten to a higher source of power without them.

12 step may have some relief for you, too, even though your situation may not be so dramatic. (any readers who doubt it i can identify-i never thought it could or would help me. but help me it has.) i do not have to stay stuck in those thoughts i have about myself anymore. this is one of the greatest gifts i have known. and i have hope that there is a break in this cycle. and i have hope that something wonderful will happen. i am shaking loose this secret sadness.

and here is laymen’s interpretation of those steps.

1) Drugs/Alcohol will kill me.
2) There’s a power that wants me to live.
3) Do I want to live or die? (if you want to die, stop here)
4) Write about how I got to where I am.
5) tell another person all about me. (let God listen)
6) Want to change
7) Ask a power greater than me to help me change.
8) Write down who I’ve hurt.
9) Fix what I can without hurting anyone else.
10)Accept that I’m human and will screw up. fix it immediately.
11)Ask a power greater than me to show me how to live.
12)Keep doing 1 through 11 and pass it on.

i felt like a change with my posts today (obviously, i hope)
i am a huge fan of kathleen battle’s voice, so i thought i’d share a bit today. and just to be sure, inside of me is sometimes like a house of flying daggers.

There was a field in my old town
Where we always played hand in hand
The wind was gently touching the grass
We were so young, so fearless

Then I dreamt o’er and over
Of you holding me tight under the stars
I made a promise to my dear lord
I will love you forever

Time has passed
So much has changed
But the field remains in my heart
Oh, where are you?
I need to tell you I still love you
So I reach out for you
You fly around me like a butterfly
Your voice still echoes in my heart
You are my true love

There was a field in my old town
Where in spring all flowers blossomed wide
We were chasing butterflies
Hand in hand ’til close of day
Your voice still echoes in my heart