Monday, August 16, 2010

craziness, doctors, medication and humility

    Just before the cork fell out of the bottom, I remember thinking, "How am I supposed to keep 80 nails trimmed?!"  Am I the only mother adding up the fingers and toes of her children? Oh, how it overwhelmed me! I should have known something was wrong.  Like the time I realized I had a problem of forgetting my daughter.  I'd walk into the room and there she'd be, a  little tiny bunddle, and I would think, "Oh yeah, there you are!"  I  had the sense to be sure to always put her somewhere she could be safe for any length of time.  It wasn't so much, "Where's Maile!Where, oh where, did I put her?"   More like, "Ohhh. . . yeah, there you are!" . . .  like my brain just forgot to think of her!!
Isn't that crazy? I don't see how my psychiatrist let me leave her office with out a prescription!
    She was the strangest psychiatrist (slight exaggeration), though I didn't know it.  She prescribed a book (a very good book, Feeling Good) and then we did some "talk therapy".   But she was a doctor, a psychiatrist, not a psychologist, not a very good one I'm sure. She failed to diagnose me.
I told her I felt scared but I wasn't.  I told her if I had to stand on a busy street corner all day, it would kill me.  I told her I'm not afraid of the elevator; I just don't like being in it!  So we did some cognitive-behavioral-therapy.  I could rid myself of negative feelings using the method described in Feeling Good.  But no matter what I did, I could not convince my body of the fact that I was not scared and alone. 
    I told her lots and lots of other stuff too. I think I even used the word "shell-shock".  And I know I mentioned my accident twice!  Somehow she failed to sift through all the thoughts in my crazy head and see PTSD.  I really needed a doctor, but she was acting more like a friend or counselor.  What was going on in my body?  Why couldn't I be in my own skin?  It was nearly impossible for me to stay present. I was developing all sorts of ways to withdrawl. I was so skiddish, you could have hurt me with your breath!  About this time my mother conferred with my doctor, who called my psych and said "We want her on something."  So began my the search for the right medication.
    I'm a granola eating health-nut.  I love vitamins and cooking with the freshest foods.  But at this point, I was bound to find something somewhere if I did not get the legal stuff from my doctor.   I was completely humbled.  All of a sudden I was not "too good" for all the things this world turns to for solace. All of the sudden I understood addiction.  I understood running away to a life on the streets.  "Oh, this is what happened to all those desperate souls, living crazy dangerous lives far from the ones who love them, on the streets of  EVERY major city in America."
    Why did empathy and compassion have to come at such a high price?
Eventually we left Hawaii.  I found a new psych.  The first time I met him I knew, "He understands!"  He knows what I know . . . about how impossible life can really be.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


There are some things I can never recover.  Foremost, the life of a schoolmate of mine, the friend of many,  a beloved daughter.  Also my innocence, my tender adolescent years, my free feeling college years.   Guilt took me pinch by pinch until I was left with no right to BE.  It wasn't until there was nothing left, 'cept life itself, that I even perceived this theft.

Guilt had done a number on me!  I welcomed him under many guises.  But when I had nothing left . . . and he still wanted more. . . that is when I knew.  I shut the door in his face, rested safely behind it and tried to catch my breath.  How could I have been so blind? (I do have a few ideas!) but you're not going to like them!  devotion, discipline, sacrificial love, the cause of Christ, a mother's  love, moral perfection, the desire to please.  Doesn't that make you mad?  Guilt wore many masks.  In fact, I think guilt and shame were hiding behind many thing in my life.  So when he asked for it all, the very last of me, I saw him for what he was:  an evil force of darkness and despair. I was left in a room of darkness. Then the LIGHT came on and I saw Guilt.   Just guilt . . . so I told him where to go!

There came a time,
    Guilt was at my door,
Demanding more,
    than I ever paid before,
My hands were empty,
   my soul bereft,
Store rooms barren,
   no crumb was left,
I stood my ground,
   made bold and said,
You'll take nothing more,
   until I 'm dead,
And when I die,
    I'll be at Christ's side,
You'll not be there,
   nor Grief, nor Shame,
So today I dare,
   to send you back from where you came.

I made this poem on a long walk.  A long walk that made so many things so clear that day.  It just came out, rhymes and all, as I tramped up the Hawaiian mmountainside behind my home.  And when I finished it, I realized for the first time: I'd been had!  I stamped my foot and said out loud "Damn you. . .  damn you to hell! I have a right to BE!!!"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Neural Integration

I wanted to introduce to you some "brainy" ideas from Dr. Daniel Segal.  Most informative! : )

Neuro scientists now suspect that trauma impairs the orbitofrontal region of the brain.  This is the part responsible for the integration of the information received from the other three parts of the brain.  The orbitofrontal cortex integrates all the material and comes up with various options for responding.
  • "If  this region is impaired in some way or temporarily shut down, the individual my experience a sense of disconnection from others, and a break-down in the reflected sense of self, while exhibiting knee-jerk responses rather than flexibility of response."
Key word: Response
Do you find that your responses are not so very fitting?  My responses are often delayed. I'm stumped!  I just can't come up with an appropriate response, so I just go "huh?" inside my head while trying to figure out what my face is supposed to be saying.

Key word: Flexibility
Have you ever noticed you are a stick in the mud? Unable to change plans, shift from one emotion to another? Trauma interferes with the integration of information, which means we are often unable to get a sense of the overall situation or sense the need to change plans.

Key word: Integration
Do you sense a disconnection from others and even from yourself?  The orbitofrontal cortex plays a major role in human emotion and emotionally attuned interpersonal communication.
Does your "biography" make any sense to you at all? Integration is what holds it all together! and I mean ALL. Thoughts, feelings, experiences, sense of self, view of the world, pieces of history, perceptions, emotions, motivation, the sense of family and community. It holds us together inside our own beings.  In our brains it is the process of seeing the big picture.

When I speak of neural integration, I am speaking of brain functions having to do with the processing of certain stimuli, experiences and information.  Essentially, the sending of info from one place in the brain to the other where it can be worked on and assimilated into your REALITY, your biography.  Trauma seems to get stuck in the lower portion of our brains. This is what causes knee-jerk responses.  Integration is the work of moving that info from there to the orbitofrontal cortex.  As this info/experience is integrated, the pieces of my biography have began to make more sense.   My responses to recent stimuli have become less "knee-jerk".

 Most importantly, my physical symptoms are beginning to subside. Physical symptoms? Generally my symptoms can be explained as an "emotional flash-back."  This categorization has proved immensely helpful to me.  Before I knew what to call it, I thought it was just plain craziness.  A general feeling of fear, shakiness, the feeling of having been through war.  I knew I was safe now, but I couldn't make my body believe it.   Anxiety would come over anything really, but especially over something too exciting and fun!   If I'd had too much fun(even good clean fun), may brain would just kind of freeze up. Some days, lots of days, it was all I could do to pour a bowl of cereal for my child.  Wow! those days were dark! I have learned to have much compassion on myself. . . the frightened guilt ridden teenager.  But now when I look back on the zombie mommy I was just two years ago, I want to weep for her even more. .  there was just nothing but mush upstairs!    And there were so many needs to be met. Life became very simple.  Eat -sleep -wash. And we made it through, missing so many details!  But here we are!  And we all still love each other!  And that is truly what matters.

Back to neural integration. . .it is both the problem and the answer!  Integration has been found fundamental to emotional recovery from traumatic events.  But trauma has been found to impare the orbitofrontal cortex's ability to integrate. Does this appear to you a bleak state of affairs? The thing I most need for recovery from trauma, has been impaired by trauma.  The article from which I am getting my info. .  "The Brain in the Palm of your Hand," by Dr. Daniel Siegle, published in Psychotherapy Networker, Sept.2002,  . . .the article stops short.  That's it.  Point made!  Well, it was written for psychotherapists, not your run -of- the-mill trauma patient!

I have read more of Dr. Siegle's writings and the thing I find most amazing, and encouraging, is the discovery that, in fact, we can use our minds to change our brains!  Finding help to do such a thing is crucial.    And really,  it is all about integration. It is both obstacle and goal.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I've been thinking about this blog, and about the kind of privacy I 'd like to have in my life. Many circumstances oppose my need for solitude, my husband's career, the # of children I have, the nature of my family.  And most of all, my fatal mistake. I hate how everyone in my world has peaked interest in me. I know people don't have hours to spend thinking about me. Thank goodness!
Still i feel angry and irritated to think of the privacy which I recently realized was so needed during the years I was 16, 17,18,19. I was not maturing in a safe cocoon (who does?) preparing to emerge as a butterfly.  Feels like I was poked and prodded, studied and fussed over.  So clueless, so clueless of what was really taking place and what it meant to the rest of my life. Clueless of how abnormal my development had become.
Oh, I have so much pity and compassion on myself when I look back to see the terribly frightened tender sixteen year old. . . and then I see what all the fussing was about, even the peaked interest.  In fact, my own interest is peaked!
So. Can this blog be for my own interest and exploration of myself and my experiences? Are there any precautions I can take to keep judgment and nosy people and critics out?  Do I have to give up privacy in order to get in touch with others who have been affected the way I  have.  Affected by trauma, fatality, guilt, bad press, ineffective doctors, well-meaning busy bodies, highly concerned loved ones, and confused friends . . . too much attention all together!!!
We'll just have to see. Blog by blog, day by day.  I can always shut up tight again later, right?
It took just a few moments for me to realize: No! I can't just shut up tight again, hide in my shell of shock. I'm finding my way forward and that's the way I want to go. I want to grow up. . . move past 17, 18, 19, and 20, past 25 and 30!
I may have to fight my way out, but I am going to emerge a mature, extraordinary, beautiful butterfly and then . . .  I'm going to test my wings!

Friday, August 6, 2010


I killed someone, accidentally. That is how I say it. . . how it comes out.  I killed someone! I can't believe those three little words sit together in a cozy little sentence about my life!  I'd like to squeeze "accidentally" somewhere in the middle there. Though it's true, it doesn't fit.  There it is: subject/verb/object. . . and I add the qualifier.  With or without it, how can this be? I can barely believe it. And after all these years, why does it hurt so badly?
You know what is really hard? No one is only someone.  Everyone is John . . . is Nicole . . . is Leah.
I killed Nicoletta . . . strong, beautifully blossoming Nicoletta, and I did it accidentally.