The dark place Tw

There is a dark place. A dark space. It is where I go when something triggers a memory of the abuse I had to live through. I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to ever feel those feelings again. The dark place lies in a frozen state between now and long ago. It used to be a place of survival. I froze to survive. It first happened when I was a child being molested by an old man, and then his friend, and then his friend. It was a space of deep fear and survival instincts. A place of pain and loss. After a childhood of this place, I never thought I would experience it again until a number of years ago when I was sexually assaulted as an adult.
As a child I was so conditioned and programmed, and it happened so regularly that my brain and body knew how to shut down. I was on autopilot. I minimized the gravity of what had been done to me because it was all through a child’s eyes. When the same thing happened to me as an adult, every event I had blocked out as a child came flooding back. I thought I knew most of it but it was a mere fraction of the truth of my past. There were many that played a part in the destruction of my childhood and teenage years. It is a story of secrets and lies and abuse by too may to count, all at the cost of me.
As an adult the assault took me back to the place I had created as a child. I believe that is what saved my life. It benefited me at that moment but it is not benefiting me now.

I did not fight. I did not scream. I was frozen. I could not feel my arms or my legs. The sound of his voice was droning in my ears but fading in and out as I focused on things like the door knob and the telephone and the way he was pacing like an animal in a cage. It is a place in the mind that later feels like a weakness and a shameful behavior. It is hard to redefine those times of abuse as “survivor” or “warrior” when it really just was horror that still gives me nightmares every night of my life.
What I learned as a child was to never speak. Stay quiet. Be a good girl. Be still. And that is what I did as an adult which made him furious at first but also, most likely saved me. My head was spinning and I could not hear the words coming out of my mouth but when I did, I was begging. “Please just let me go.”
I do not choose to feel these feelings again but PTSD is a diagnosis that explains why trauma resurfaces sometimes daily.
PTSD is the dark place.
I want to stand up for myself. I want to say what I’m feeling in the moment. I want to be able to walk away (or drive away in my wheelchair) but I go to the dark place.
The smell of certain colognes and aftershaves take me there. Certain songs. Having a man come in my house to fix something that is broken that I don’t know. Not being able to get a smell off me. Dark place.

The baby owl story:
Last week I was out for a walk in my wheelchair and I was told of two baby barred owls in a nest. Being an animal lover and photographer I headed in that direction. I saw one baby in the nest and heard the distinctive cry of the owl. I also heard another cry on the ground. There were other people passing by and stopping and going and asking me questions but they did not really exist at that moment to me. I had to find the baby. There was a hawk that was flying near. The baby was crying. So I got out of my wheelchair and I crawled and crawled until I got the baby and wrapped her in a towel. When I got back in my chair I could not think. I knew I had hurt my hip and I was starting to shake. The mother owl landed at my feet. She looked at me. The baby looked at me. (Barred owl mothers cannot put their babies back into the nest)
I had opened an umbrella to try to keep the hawk away. People were asking me questions and I was ignoring them. My brain kept saying “ you have to save the baby, you have to save the baby” over and over again. ( I later apologized to those people and said I was really in another world at the moment). The mother was calling and I kept thinking what she must feeling not being able to save her baby and wanting to. I also kept thinking why did my mother or father or brother ever save me! They pretended like nothing ever happened to me. Anyway…I called the wild life rehab and everyone I knew. It took a few hours to get to someone and have them come meet me. I started to cry. I rocked the baby bird. I sang to the baby bird Amazing Grace and she fell asleep. Then I cried more. No one ever saved me. No one ever held me. No one ever sang to me and told me it would be ok as a child when I had clearly fallen out of the nest and into a den of vicious men. I went to the dark place.
When the rehabber got there she took the baby and I knew the baby would be in perfect hands. She was. The baby was fed and gained weight and was returned to the nest a few days later after a bad storm had passed.
I don’t remember getting all the way home. I just remember that I poured lemon juice all over my body, then alcohol, and I scrubbed my skin raw like I did as a child to try and remove the pain. I did not sleep for 3 nights. Thinking about the mother wondering where her baby was felt like it was destroying me. The mother owl, that night, flew with me as I went home. She landed in trees next to me.
When the owl was put back in the nest I went down to see her. I took photographs and planned to monitor the baby who I had named Melody until she was stronger, incase the rehabber had to come and get her again. Melody and her sibling who I named Lyric immediately snuggled and preened. I went down daily and for a few days Melody looked very weak. I lay in bed thinking would she have to be taken away from her mother forever? Would that be for the best? I mean should she starve or be saved and never see her family again? Would she be able to ever learn to hunt if she had to go back to rehab? She had to be safe and that was all that mattered and I declared I would make sure that she was. I prayed round the clock. I’ve always been this way about animals. Connected on a deep level. But this was different.
Due to the place that Melody fell from the tree, many neighbors gathered to look at the owls every day. They are beautiful. I went down every day and wrote extensive notes on Melody’s movements and if she was flapping her wings, all to note for the rehabber if she was getting stronger.
I realized soon after all of this that I had refractured the same hip that I fractured twice last year. Due to the bone disease and muscle disease I always know it is a possibility. This makes me feel weak. Feeling weak takes me to the dark place.
I had felt these feelings before this disease but I could always go for a run, punch a punching bag, or lift weights to ward them off. In place of that, since these diseases, I have taken up photography instead. It brings me joy.
My therapist and psychiatrist ( there is no shame in admitting I get help for PTSD even if someone later uses it against me by calling me crazy, and they have, I get treatment for the trauma) told me to try and rewire my brain and fill it so full of good that it will overpower the bad. So I take a thousand photos a day to create and experience 1000 good moments. Most of the time it works and will outdo the PTSD moments. But not this week. A few little angels were placed before me not even knowing how important they were in grounding me in the now.
This week a few women have taken it upon themselves to treat me poorly. That is putting it lightly. They have gossiped about me. They use the premise of just being “concerned” about my safety when telling me to GO HOME when I am photographing the owl baby. There will be 20 people but I am the only one told to lower my voice, turn my wheelchair light off as it is disruptive (as if all the car lights and streetlights are not worse), and it goes on and on. Wheelchairs should not be in the road…even though we have no sidewalks and people bike and push strollers daily! And I have used this chair for 14 years! All of a sudden I’m put under a microscope on where I park, how I close the gate, etc and etc. I’m yelled at from doorways to “make sure you are being careful” in the MOST NOT actually care about me tone you could imagine. More bullying tactics that catch me off guard and startle me.
It’s not the women that upset me though. It’s ME that upsets me. They are pathetic, cowardly, passive aggressive, narcissistic bitches. I know that. But when they speak down to me or berate or embarrass me, I shut down. I cannot speak. I cannot say what I want to say. I am even nice. It’s sickening.
When I was locked in the garage with the man who was sexually assaulting me with his gun leaning against the door, I was nice.
These women are not that man.
These women are not the men who raped me as a young girl.
But they make me go back to the dark place.
They trigger PTSD.

Here I am with a bone disease, a muscle disease, a fractured hip, just trying to watch out for the baby I saved and somehow I am a target.

I get that. I have been a target before. The wheelchair puts me as a target. Being a little girl left alone with men, with parents who did not watch over me, made me a target. Being abused as a child and groomed to be silent makes me a target.

But I am kind. I am generous. I am loving. I don’t deserve to be a target but I cannot control other people. I also cannot control the PTSD. My nature is to love and that is why I helped with wildlife rehab for 10 years and was a hospice chaplain.

Out of all of the beauty I have experienced this week, the birds that I tell you God put there in front of me because He knew I was in need. Birds I have been looking for for years just appeared in front of me. It has been an incredible week of neighbors reaching out and being kind and understanding, being helpful and accommodating. Yet all it takes is one person to freeze my body and take me back to when I was 11 years old feeling the weight of a 60 year old man on my back and listening to the clock ticking not being able to breathe.

This week has been one of the darkest in a long time. Everyone thought saving that baby bird must have been wonderful. It was excruciating. Holding her as she was crying was excruciating. It reminded me of how alone PTSD makes me. It reminded me of how many times I was never saved. It reminded me that my worth to so many people who have abused me, to include my own parents, is nothing. I did not just have one trauma. I had thousands. And no one did anything. No one’s lives changed. But mine. So holding that baby owl was like holding me. I was holding myself. Giving that baby away was like giving away my own safety. I felt alone again in the dark place of PTSD.

I decided about five years ago to speak my truth and only my truth. I cannot always do it in the moment but I can do it after the fact. That is what I am doing now. I am being transparent and honest. Many nights this week I went to bed hoping that I would never woke up again. My therapist is on speed dial. Then I wake up and start fresh. I look for beauty in nature, in people, in wildlife and I hope that the good will outweigh the bad.

I am
In a dark place
Hoping for light
Knowing when I go to sleep the nightmares will come
Like they always do.
I am fighting battles that only someone who has gone through it could possibly understand. Rape victims and trauma survivors are often very lonely…because of the dark place.

I am not ashamed to speak of what was done to me.

There is a stigma against mental illness, PTSD, anxiety, violence against women, and I will stand up to it all by speaking my truth..when I can. I hope to educate others about what we go through so that maybe you can bring a little bit of light to the dark place.

The rehabber took this photo of Melody and me before she took Melody to be cared for.
Melody and Lyric back in the nest
Melody
Two days ago, mama watching as Melody was learning to leave the nest

My thoughts on animal cruelty

Did you know a horse can feel a fly land on his back? A tiny little fly can be felt through all of that hair on the back of a horse. Do you know how I know this? Because I have sat and watched horses swat those flies off with their tails. I’ve seen a bug land on a horse’s leg and the horse bend down and nudge it off with his nose.

Did you know that one deer knows when another deer has an injury? I know this because I have watched a deer with an injured eye, groomed by another deer. The baby deer licked the mama deer’s eye repeatedly trying to help her mama.

Did you know that a dog has the ability to see for the blind, alert it’s owner/parent to seizures, comfort an individual at the exact time they are having PTSD triggers, and guide another human being to an injured person? I’ve seen all of these things.

I did not train my dog to be a seizure alert dog. His love and brilliance did. I did not communicate in any way to my dog that I had a biopsy of my leg and could not walk. Yet, before the biopsy he had never laid on my floor next to my bed, and after the biopsy he did not leave my side until it was healed.

Did you know that pigs and rabbits can be taught to use liter boxes?

Did you know that elephants and many other mammals mourn the loss of a family member much like humans do?

If a horse can feel a fly and react, why do humans whip them with whips and dig spurs into their sides?

If a pig is smart enough to use a liter box, why are they raised in cages so small they cannot even stand?

If a rabbit is smart enough to use a liter box, why do humans think it is ok to torture them with chemicals in their eyes for cosmetics and think the rabbit feels no pain?

If my dog was smart enough to know I was having a seizure, why is the University breeding that same kind of dog with a genetic muscle disease, like mine, to test on them? To watch them suffer like I am suffering, but in a cage.

How is it ok to stab an elephant, to make them do tricks for humans to make money when they are capable of the same compassion as a human being?

How is it ok to put a bird with the ability to fly in a prison/cage just so we can have a bird?

How is it ok to put a bear in a tiny enclosure at a zoo so family day will bring in more money when that bear was not put here for a HUMAN TO MAKE MONEY.

Yet our society thinks it is perfectly normal to keep a greyhound in a pen, never allowing his feet to touch anything but a race track and concrete so that humans can gamble with no conscience about the life being harmed to make or lose a buck.

We have laws against human cruelty. We have laws against animal cruelty. But it is up for debate on what and who deems what cruel. Apparently putting poison in a rabbit’s eye is not cruel or against the law. Apparently, breeding an animal with a horrific disease just to test new drugs is not cruel. Obviously, taking an elephant from the wild and forcing him to do tricks at a zoo or circus is applauded by all the fans who watch and padding the pockets of many.

Everyone has their own opinions. When is a human a human. Is it when a cell divides. Is it when a heart beats. Is it ok to freeze and embryo or an egg. Should there be the death penalty. Should there be abortion. We could discuss opinions until the cows come home on politics and social security and the homeless and disability rights and who does and does not like Trump.

I don’t mind different opinions. I listen to different opinions with an open mind. I don’t like suffering or cruelty or intentional cruelty in any way shape or form.

It disheartens me to know that animals suffer because humans dominate them and have the power to make them suffer if they choose. Most often for their own benefit or a profit.

How can a person think that one animal’s life is worth it and one is not. Their Pomeranian who sleeps with them is worth the groomer and 2 walks a day and sleeping in a fluffy bed, yet, another dog can be kept on a concrete pad to run a race and be gambled on.

We fostered a dog who had only known concrete. We had to teach her how to walk on the floor, on the grass. Even with her horrid life before us she still licked our faces and loved us.

A few months ago I learned that dogs were being bred and tested on at UF for muscle diseases. I saw photos of these dogs. I stayed awake night after night thinking about these dogs. Basically, bred for me! But I don’t want a cure if it comes from the suffering of a dog. Suffering that could have been prevented! If suffering can be prevented it should be!

I could say it is because I have PTSD, am sensitive to suffering, have a gentle heart, that I do not want another creature on this earth that is innocent to suffer. But it is not because of my PTSD or my own suffering or even my own heart that I think animal cruelty for human entertainment and profit is wrong. It is with all of my being that I KNOW it is wrong. Just because man has the power to do the wrong thing does not mean he should. The stronger should not use that strength to abuse.

I’ve helped many an animal while I volunteered at the Jungle Friends primate sanctuary, Mill Creek retirement home for horses, and wildlife rehab, but that is not enough. I have bought cruelty free products, but that is not enough. Just because we CAN does not mean we SHOULD. I look at the horses racing on the tracks all hyped up on drugs and being whipped with the crowds cheering and a tear runs down my face. I know that with these race animals, these animal testing facilities, these meat factories, these cosmetic testing, most people just don’t want to know. Some know and don’t care. It is because of the suffering I endured as a child and the lack of justice that makes me wonder when will what SHOULD matter actually matter.

Maybe I will be able to sleep now that I have written this and gotten it off my chest. My neighbor keeps her dogs locked in her hot Florida garage every day. Animal control is called repeatedly but because they have shelter and water and food then it is ok to have them literally baking in that garage. I sat in my garage one afternoon at the same time her dogs were in their garage. I was drenched in sweat and nauseous in 20 minutes. And I think I will end my blog post right there.

Holly

I met Holly when I saw a PETA ad and that she was working on helping abused animals and animal rehab. She basically saved everything…whales, horses, tortoises, chickens. Anything that needed to be saved she saved. She introduced me to a retirement home for horses where she volunteered. I volunteered there for years helping care for abused horses that were rescued. That connected me to a primate sanctuary where I worked to help rehab capuchin monkeys that were abused. 

I remember when I first met her she told me how she got her chickens. A chicken factory and gone bankrupt and they just up and left the chickens to die. Holly went and loaded as many chickens as she could in her car! She brought them home. Every day those chickens had THE LIFE. The dug holes like dogs! They were given their fill of every food you can give a chicken. My daughter and I would swing in the hammock with the chickens in her side yard. That is how we met. 
At least 3 days a week I went to Holly’s house and helped her hand feed baby squirrels and baby birds, flying squirrels, and everything in between. She made her home mine. She gave me a key. At the time I was working on my ministerial license but had no computer. I spent hours at her house every day using her computer and printer doing my studies and work. She treated me like a daughter and a friend. 
My daughter was 2 when we met Holly. Holly had no children of her own. She loved my daughter like her own. The endless questions my daughter asked, Holly answered. Holly grew her own organic food, had an orchard and fruit bushes.She has 10 acres of farm. At the time she had a horse Jessie and Hotshot. It was pretty much a paradise for my daughter and me. She cooked for us vegetarian food. We rode her horses for hours. My daughter grew up picking blackberries, feeding horses, riding horses, and laying in the grass. We spent most of our time with Holly for almost 10 years. My daughter’s second grade teacher still remembers me picking her up from school early for an “appointment” that she later learned after reading my blog that the appointment was just to go ride horses!

Holly taught me how to superglue a tortoise shell back together. She taught me which bird needs meal worms and which needs ground hamburger and egg. She taught my daughter how to ride a horse. She taught my daughter how to fed a baby bird and when it was time to set them free. She let me daughter hold the bird and open her hand so the bird would fly away free. Holly gave us experiences that grew our hearts and filled our souls. 

The prairie I love. She lives on the other side of it. We used to gallop  her horses through that prairie together. She loved everything I loved. She gave us everything she had. She loved animals and nature and the earth just as we do. 

She collected feathers and stones just like I do. I truly loved her. 

Her sister had 10 acres too. We often visited her sister’s farm. There my daughter and I got to hang out all afternoon with bunnies, a turkey, a pig, horses, emus, dogs. Holly would take Riley riding horses for hours. As my muscle disease started getting worse Holly would help take care of Riley cooking for her and taking her riding while I rested. 

She even took in a foster child that needed to be loved. She loved him like I have never seen a mother love a child. She devoted everything to him and healing him. That love was such a gift to witness. 

She could not have children of her own but it was always obvious to me that the earth, the animals, and my daughter and me, were her children. She loved. Deeply loved. 
That relationship changed when her husband attacked me in their garage and she made a condition of our friendship to forgive him and continue on like nothing ever happened. 

I hated her for that. I hated that she stayed with him. I hated that because of his choice, then her choice, that we lost her. We lost the farm. We lost the animals. We lost so much because of that man. 
Up until now, today, I have never forgiven anyone that has hurt me. That word, forgiveness, is not a word that I use. I have “released them” I have “let them go” but never forgiven. 

Tonight, I was on the prairie with my husband. I was remembering galloping horses across that prairie with absolute joy in my heart. I remembered Holly. I remembered her. Not what she chose to do after what her husband did. Just her. At that moment I forgave her. I don’t know why she chose her husband and I never will. But she gave me a lot. She gave me so much love. She gave my child love. So much love in those 10 years. I won’t forget that. 
I saw her a few days ago. She drove away when she saw it was me. I wish nothing more than to embrace her and send her the love she gave me all those years ago. We obviously cannot be friends but that doesn’t mean we can’t still love right? So I send her love. I send her forgiveness. My first forgiveness to date. A momentous occasion. To important not to share. I forgive you Holly for choosing him and not us because for a long time you did choose us. I haven’t forgotten that. I never will.