Poetry

His body

It held me

It protected me

I listen to the heart beat

Under his chest

It soothes me

It grounds me

His body

Has never hurt me

I watched his body

Lifting fallen tree limbs

And thought

How many times

He has lifted me

I never thought I’d love a man’s body

I never thought I could

But inside THAT body

Is love

And compassion

And empathy

Unwavering.

His body

His heart

His soul

Saved me.

PTSD insight

I had a very interesting revelation about PTSD triggers yesterday. I know what the common triggers are for me. Some make absolutely no sense. I have wondered why strong smells are triggers. Sometimes the worst triggers. I completely get why men’s cologne is a bad one. I get why it upsets me if my husband comes home from work smelling like the tons of men’s cologne he has been around that have absorbed into his clothes. That’s pretty common sense right? I don’t want my husband who is my “safe” person to be a triggering person of men’s cologne. Thankfully he knows the drill and tosses his clothes directly in the wash and showers so I get MY husband and not the smells of other triggering men. Pretty cut and dry solution.

Last week something burned up in the house. We think it was my daughter’s TV. The entire house smelled of burned. I couldn’t sleep. I stayed awake all night. I felt trapped with this smell. I couldn’t escape it. I understood why this would be triggering. I don’t like to feel trapped with something I cannot get away from that I don’t like.

So what I am trying to say here is that I have some pretty understandable triggers to the PTSD that comes from a childhood of abuse.

BUT, some of the triggers I have not been able to understand until now. And I don’t completely understand it, I just recognize it and am aware of it. Those two things are the starting point of me understating myself better: recognize and awareness.

This happened after I had severe cramping in my legs and my husband rubbed my legs with lotion. After he rubbed the cramping out my legs were covered in tons of lotion and so I did not get it in the bed I put my PJ’s back on and got into bed. My legs then felt sticky. I got hot and started to sweat and they felt slimy. THEN….SAME triggering PTSD feeling as the smell feeling. Same reaction. 1. GET IT OFF 2. MAKE SURE IT GETS ON NOTHING ELSE 3. CLEAN IT OFF 4. SCRUB. This happens with all smells followed by my washing the clothing that it could be on or just all out throwing the clothes away (which is what I did to my PJS).

The common feeling was not the smell after all. The lotion had no smell. It was this FEELING that came over me. It comes over me with men’s cologne and other strong smells. I have to get away from it. I cannot be trapped by it. But the lotion. It had no smell. Yet the same reaction. I got in the shower and scrubbed my skin unhealthily raw. The towel i used to dry off with I threw away. I was SURE it still may be on me so the next morning the moment I opened my eyes I washed the sheets.

I started thinking about the feeling I get with smells OTHER than cologne that are triggering smells. And the predominant thought is GET IT OFF, GET IT AWAY, KEEP IT OFF OF ME, and then I think WHAT IF IT IS ON ME, HOW WILL I GET IT OFF ME, WHAT IF IT GETS ON OTHER THINGS AND I AM STUCK WITH IT. These same thoughts.

So it is not just cologne. It is not just strong smells. It is not just the idea of a man coming in my house that has cologne on or a strong smell. It is the FEELING it gives me that triggers the PTSD.

Here is the question though…what do I want off of me? What do I want to get away from? Is it as specific person, or event of abuse? I don’t know.

Last night I dreamed that I went back to the lake I grew up at where all of the abuse happened. I walked into the water of snakes like every other time I dream of this place. Then the boat with child molester pulled up to get me like he always did. But this time a wolf came out of the water and a walrus. I crouched down and put my hands over my ears and closed my eyes. I felt unsafe. I knew all the bad was coming. I knew I was not safe and would not be protected. I would be vulnerable and trapped….hmm so much like PTSD triggers. But the wolf and the walrus came both with sharp fangs and tusks and snarling and ferocious and the walked next to me and leaned next to me so hard that I was tucked away protected as they foamed at the mouth protecting me.

I woke up this morning and realized how I just NEED to feel safe and PTSD does NOT feel safe at all. Nothing about it.

I then went to an appointment and on the way we stopped to get a prescription and I see a man. This man in the parking lot was an integral part of the cycle of abuse that happened to me. I stared him down. Looked him in the eyes as he looked at me. We parked and my husband took my prescription in and I almost threw up.

Because PTSD is AWFUL and a new trigger is around every corner all because some men chose to sexually abuse me. And I find that incredibly sad but I also find myself incredibly resilient. I focused on the shell that I had in my pocked that I took with me to my appointment. One of my coping skills to vulnerability is to put something in my hand and memorize it. I held that shell instead of thinking of the man in the parking lot and refocused on it.

I’m learning still at 46 years old.

I will not always understand they why, because so much happened to me growing up that took so much of me. But I can be aware and recognize and try, just keep trying to, when I have the ability, remember the wolf standing next to me and realize…

I am safe now.

RED FLAGS

Social media is a breeding ground for predators. Social media is a breeding ground for manipulators and stalkers.

A person will slowly make their way into your life and before you know it you have told them your deepest darkest secrets and only known them for 2 weeks.

These people are most often men. These men are not only doing this to you, they have 20 other girls and women they are doing it to. They will continue this behavior until someone responds and gives the green light. Then, they pounce. They know what works. If one tactic worked on one girl, they will try it on another.

These men have common themes, common factors, common manipulations. I have seen them first hand. If I were to be looking at this person in the eye it would be much easier. Body language i a huge cue to deception. If someone is behind a computer screen then they have taken time to hone their skill.

I have written some common red flags that will hopefully open your eyes to manipulative tactics.

Unfortunately, these all come from my own personal experiences over the years. I hope in sharing them it will open your eyes to possible danger. If you are experiencing any of this GET OUT. You owe this person no explanation. You owe this person no excuses. Block them. Do not respond to them. If you respond to their 20th message then you have just taught them that it takes 20 times to get to you! Don’t respond.

Some of these examples you may think, ” My friend does this all the time!” And a good friend may, but not someone who has just come into your life out of nowhere. Keep focused on the time frame, the how, and the why.

Some common red flags:

1. Is this man helping you, being there for you, listening to you, supporting you, out of the blue? At a time of vulnerability? Is he all of a sudden present in your life when you are at your lowest? Why has this person suddenly appeared and what is their intention? Do you know their intention? Ask yourself this:

Example A. “What precipitated this person coming into my life?”

Example B. “Have they stated their intention on why they have come into my life?”

Example C. “Have I recently put on social media ANYTHING that can be perceived as me feeling lonely or depressed.”

2. Are you currently ill, or helpless, when this man comes of the woodwork to be there for you? Perfect timing for a knight in shining armor?

Example A. “ I know it’s been 20 years since we have talked but I just have had you on my mind lately and heard you were having some hard times and wanted to let you know if you need anything I am here for you.”

Example B. “ I saw someone wrote something awful about you on facebook and I just wanted to let you know that even though we don’t really know each other I will NOT let anyone talk to you like that.”

3. Have you just had a falling out with a family member, been sexually abused, broken up with your boyfriend, lost your job, had a death in the family, and all of a sudden this man swoops in to make it all better?

4. Is this man over connecting? Are they making their life examples so similar to yours that you feel a connection where there is none?

Example A. “I’ve had a dog die too. I know how hard that can be.”

Example B. “I know how it feels to have health problems and be isolated, I have health problems too.”

Example C. “ My family no longer speaks to me either. Maybe we can make our own family. I will be like a big brother.”

Example D. “ I am lonely too. I know what being alone” feels like. I will be here if you need a friend to listen to you.”

Example E. “ I’ve been through what you’ve been through.”

Example F. “ I had a sister who had that happen and I am devastated for you.”

5. Is this man acting like he is willing to fight for you? Have your back? Is he using your need for safety against you by promising to be your savior when you didn’t ask for one? Example: A. “ I will kill him if I ever see him.”

Example B. “ If anyone is mean to you or hurts you from now on they will have to deal with me.”

Example C. “Just send them my way and I will take care of them for you. No one messes with you from now on!”

6. Is this man making you a “we” team now?

Example: A. “We can take care of this together.”

Example B. “We can fight this battle together. You are not alone in this.” WE. You are a team now.

7. Is this man trying to make you feel like you are special? Is he trying to make you feel like you are different and worthy of his time because you are just so important?

Example: A. “ I hate most people but you are different.”

Example B.” There is just something about you that stands out to me and makes me drawn to you.”

Example C. “ I think we were meant to find each other because I don’t even like women your age but you are just special.”

Example D. “ I feel like we are soul mates.”

Example E. “ If you were my sister/wife/ mother/ child, I would feel like the luckiest man on earth.”

Example F. “ I only trust you with this information.”

Example G. “ I wouldn’t tell this to anyone else but I know that you are different/special/ someone that I knew I could rely on to keep this secret.”

8. Is he using techniques such as being overly angry for you, pitting you and him against the world? Giving too much personal information so you feel you aren’t the only one who is sharing? Is he repeatedly asking you personal questions? Is he prefacing his questions with”

Example A. “ Hey can I ask you a question?”

Example B. “Would it be ok if I asked you a personal question? I mean if you are uncomfortable with it then I won’t.”

9. Is he trying to overly convince you that he is a nice guy?

Example A. “ You won’t find a guy nicer than me.”

Example B. “Everyone has screwed me over and I am like the nicest guy you will ever meet.”

10. Is he telling you how wonderful he is? Is he claiming to work with the elderly, work with abused animals, abused women, abused children, a wounded veteran? Is he being fake noble? A man with such integrity and values that you could not possibly turn him away or YOU would be the bad person? Is he such a “nice guy” that he is saying you would be crazy to not have him in your life?

11. Is he asking you to be alone with him? Is he putting you in a position that you would need to be alone with him unnecessarily?

12. Is he in a position of power that is intimidating? Does he make you feel like even if you say no that you are still consenting?

13. Have you had a “bad feeling” when you are around him that you are ignoring or shrugging off or minimizing because he has overcompensated for how willing he is to help you “through this hard time”? Ask yourself this:

Example A. “Has he ever made me feel uneasy?”

Example B. “Has he ever made me feel like MAYBE he isn’t being completely honest.”

Example C. “Has he ever crossed the line into too personal, too intimate, too inappropriate.”

Example D. “Has he told an inappropriate sexual joke then immediately taken it back, said he was just kidding when he saw my reaction.”

Example E. “What does my intuition tell me?”

Example F. “ Have I shrugged even one thing off that I never would have let my best friend get away with saying?”

14. Do his messages and stories and information he is giving you not add up? Have you already caught him in a lie but are trying to convince yourself that you are wrong?

Social media and texting combined can paint a liar into a corner and they don’t even know it.

15. Has he given you a nickname?

“Puppet, you know you are one of a kind girl!”

“Beth, I really don’t know what I’d do without you.” (NO ONE CALLS ME BETH BUT MY OLD CHILDHOOD FRIEND SHEA> PERIOD)

“B, I need to tell you something I just can’t tell anyone else.” “Only ONE person has ever called me B and that is my old highschool buddy TJ PERIOD! We’ve been friends for 3o years!”

That little nickname from a manipulator makes you feel there is a connection/trust/you are special enough for that person to give you a nickname.

16. When you tell this person you no longer feel comfortable talking to them do they go through the cycle of manipulation?

Example A. “ What did I do wrong to make you not trust me.”

Example B. “ I would never lie to you I swear.”

Example C. “ Swear to God like I cannot live without you. We need to stay friends. I can’t lose you.”

Then turning nasty:

Example D. “ I cannot believe you are doing this to me when I needed you and thought we had something.”

Example E. “ Listen, I don’t know what you THINK I did but you are way off.”

Escalating to:

Example F. “ I should have listened when other people told me you were a bitch.”

Example G. “ You need therapy. There is obviously something really wrong with you.

And then back to pathetic:

Example H. “ I’m in a deep depression now. I hope you know how much you have upset me.”

-Any phrase that has begun with “I swear” or “I promise” or “God’s honest truth” IS A LIE.

17. Do you notice them around on social media when you never did before? Friends with your friends now? Commenting where you are commenting? Creating conversations where there were none?

18. Is he trying to connect to a nostalgic feeling? I “remember when” life was really good when right now life is not really good at all?

19. Is he overly complimentary?

20. When you talk to him do you feel like he is making you feel like you are the only person in the world he is talking to?

21. Does he have a sob story? A story you did not ask to hear? A story that is too soon in your friendship for you to even need to feel the weight of? Are you feeling the weight already?

Example A. “My wife left me and I have no idea why.”

Example B. “I’ve been battling addiction and alcoholism and demons my whole life.”

Example C. “I’ve been through hell and could be even dying and my own family doesn’t care.”

22. Have you taken on a role of “I am going to save this person?”

23. Is he overly offended if you don’t shower him with empathy, understanding, and validation? Remember you owe this person nothing!

Let me conclude with this:

We all want to be loved. We want to be complimented. We want to have someone have our back, be there for us, be our confidant, be our savior, be our secret keeper. We want someone that makes us feel safe and loved. It is a desire and a natural want to have in our lives someone who makes us feel heard. That is ok! Where we make mistakes is who we get this from and who we let into our lives because of those needs. I am the PERFECT example. I have a muscle disease. My daughter is sick. I have PTSD. I was abused. I write about my life publicly. I could easily be a target for a manipulator that wants to come in with his save me tactics. Fortunately, for me, I have a wonderful husband and friends that I CAN confide in. I don’t need nor did I ask for a man to come into my life and do any of the listed above behaviors. In someone you do not know intimately, safely, with established boundaries, all of these behaviors above are unacceptable, unsafe, and red flags that you are in a situation that will not end well.

I wrote this to protect other women, other girls. I wrote this so they could share it with their friends and their daughters. I want one less person negatively affected by a manipulator.

It took me years to come up with this list. It was a long time coming due to having my own intuition stripped away due to chronic long term childhood sexual abuse.

I am hoping that many can learn the red flags so quickly that all it takes is ONE to have you say “NOPE! I do NOT need this!” Then walk away.

Valentine

When my daughter was very young I got her Valentine, a stuffed animal elephant, for Valentine’s day. Valentine soon became the, ” Here, I think you need Valentine” animal. Whenever I was upset about anything, having a bad day, you name it, she would hand me Valentine. Apparently, Valentine had magical powers to make things better. If my daughter was having a bad day she would be given Valentine. “Here, I think you need Valentine back.” Valentine is velvety soft with pink ears. It has been a good 15 years since Valentine has been around and she is still handed to the person having a bad day. When I felt the other night that I was going to have a seizure I had Valentine put right next to my face. Valentine is just…Valentine. I don’t know why but she does make things better. I don’t know if it is how she is given in love when one person knows the other person is struggling or that she represents so many years of comfort. Valentine is just a comforting little Valentine. 

I am sharing Valentine’s story with you because I have noticed that other girls and women and older adults sometimes feel embarrassed by what comforts them. I don’t think anyone should feel shame or embarrassment over what gives them comfort. Whether it is their favorite blanket or quilt, a soft stuffed animal, a favorite pillow. You name it, if it is comforting, it does not really matter what it is. I find it comforting sometimes to lock my bedroom door. Sometimes I like to sleep on the futon next to our bed because it is close to the floor and for some reason that comforts me. It’s small and not like our king size bed and I feel more safe. My husband bought me a soldier to sit on my end table so that when I sleep he can protect me. It was part of therapy and imagery and he bought me a statue that represented that. I have a dream catcher that my friend that is a Cree Native American Indian made me that comforts me. Sometimes I sleep with my bible, that comforts me. Sometimes being alone makes me feel safe, sometimes sleeping on my husband’s chest comforts me. Sometimes I have to have a pillow against my back. And sometimes I may just need Valentine.  

We all need to feel safe. We need comfort. We need love. That can come in many different forms, shapes, sizes, objects, etc. No one needs to be judged for where they find comfort. Whether it is your partner, your dog, cat, a stuffed animal, a picture of a loved one, if it gives you comfort, it is okay. Don’t worry about what other people think. Sometimes I need the closet light on. I never know what fears and PTSD the night may bring. I have not one care int he world for what someone else were to think about what helps me to be able to sleep safely at night. They aren’t laying next to me at night while I am trying to sleep so what do I care what they think! I don’t. You shouldn’t either. If you have twinkle lights good for you, stuffed animals that cover your bed, good for you, a night light! So be it! If you do have someone sleeping next to you, and you need extra comforts, hopefully they will encourage you to incorporate, if need be, a Valentine. 

The girl and the boat man. 

The girl was so hot. Sleeping in her car was safe. Sleeping in her car was hot. She had to cover herself so no one knew she was there. Florida, in July, under covers in a car is stifling. Fortunately, she could shower at work before her shift started. The boat man saw her getting out of her car one morning in the parking lot. It was a back lot, grassy, no tree covering. Her car sat there alone all night. He got there in the morning and saw her climbing out in last night’s clothes. He asked her if she needed a place to stay. She did. But she knew he would want something. The boat man had to want something in return. So she waited for the price.He made the couch up for the girl. She couldn’t sleep. He slept with his bedroom door closed and she was afraid. After a number of nights she asked if she could sleep on the floor in his bedroom. He put a mattress on the floor for the girl. She waited. She felt safer in there. She just wondered when she would pay for a place to stay. He would come for her. They always did. 

The days at work were long and hot. It was so nice for her to have an air conditioned place to sleep. She had nightmares screaming often. He rarely woke up. When he did she asked if she could sleep next to him. He had a girlfriend and she hoped the girl friend would never find out. 

The girl climbed into bed with the boat man. He rolled over and went to sleep. His girlfriend came by the next morning and was not at all surprised to find the girl sleeping in bed with the boat man. In fact, she invited the girl to have a cookout with her and the boat man at her house that weekend. 

The boat man never touched the girl. He never treated her differently at work. He taught her new things to further her career every day. 

One day the girl was very ill. She climbed the steps to his apartment and fainted. He lifted her into his arms and put her into her car. He drove the car so quickly to the emergency room that the car started smoking. He burned up the catalytic converter the girl was later told. The girl looked at him as he carried her so gently in his arms and saw fear. He was scared for her. He cared for her. The boat man sat and waited until she had scans and found out she had a concussion from a previous fall at her job. 

The girl was cared for by the boat man and his girlfriend. She slept in his bed with him until she was better. The boat man was a father. His girlfriend was a mother. She’d never slept with her mother and father and felt that kind of safety. They must have discussed her, decided she needed to be saved. 

She quit the job shortly after that and moved back home. She didn’t stay long. That world was the one she was running from. The next man was not so kind as the boat man. Not many are. 

But the boat man gave the girl faith that a man could love without hurt. A man could take care of her without asking for anything in return. A man could choose to not take from her, or touch her. 

Her life has been sprinkled with saviors. Her life has been blessed by short spurts of light that got her through the darkness. The boat man was a ray of sunshine in a world of darkness that had surrounded the girl for a very long time. 

Thank you boat man. Wherever you are. Thank you for loving the girl. Thank you for being the one of the sprinkles of light that touched the girl’s heart and gave her reason to keep on going.