happy families

I was given this picture prompt back in December and let my brain wander to dark pastures.

Evil Snowman

 

happy families

childhood’s fingers claw at
my brain
taking hold of that part of me which
survived
dragging my thoughts into winter

the screams
brittle as ice
that battled inside of me
force their way
into the air
they slash and scratch
at my face and arms

a loop of festive tunes
plays like a dirge
snowmen snarl and hiss
child catchers in action

breaking this
little girl
taking this
little girl
killing this
little girl

winter
for all your false beauty
i know the depth of your
evil
i’ve witnessed it
tasted its bitterness
recoiled at the
rotting stench of
happy families
and i need you no more

the shade in which i live
is bearable
and there are moments
i feel the sun
warming my shoulders
touching my skin with
fresh beginnings
and in those moments my
barren dreamscapes
become fruitful and
full of life

PTSD Essay

ptsd-symptoms

 

This is a short essay I wrote yesterday about PTSD. I’ve tried to keep my own experiences out of it for now, although I do draw on them a little toward the end. I figured, I’ll share my stuff at another time.

 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been around for a long time. In World War I, it was called ‘Shell Shock.’ World War II referred to it as ‘War Neurosis.’ In the 1980s, it became more widely known as PTSD.

The simplest way to describe PTSD is as a memory processing disorder. We all experience multiple situations every day, and for most of those experiences, our brain processes them as they occur, filing them away as memories. However, when we experience a traumatic event, our body automatically suspends normal operations, shutting down our usual bodily functions, like memory processing. The reason this happens goes back to the old ‘Fight or Flight’ response. The body experiences whatever danger is happening and uses all its energy to prepare our legs for flight, or our arms for fight. Adrenalin floods our bodies, increasing our heart rate, and every part of our body is focussed on survival.

Which leaves the trauma floating around in our brains. But, the trauma isn’t categorised as a memory, so whenever it comes to the front of our brain, we experience it as though it’s happening right now. Smells, sounds, tastes, music; so many things that are associated (albeit, subconsciously, at first) with the trauma can trigger flashbacks and dissociations. We continually re-experience the trauma, as the brain is completely unable to recognise it as a memory.

I read a couple of articles before writing this. Did you know that 1 in 2 people experience trauma at some time in their lives? Traumatic events include: violent assaults, military combat, motor accidents, natural disasters, miscarriage, bereavement, being told you have a life threatening illness, terrorism, traumatic childbirth, plus many more.

Of the people who experience trauma, around 20% go on to experience PTSD. Some of the symptoms are: flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, hyper vigilance, intense emotions, outbursts of anger, exhaustion, amnesia, dissociation, relationship difficulties, fear, withdrawal from others. It doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? The worst thing is having no control over when your brain will decide to subject you to the horrors. At least, little control. You can work on your triggers, but it usually requires professional help.

About four years ago, I reached the point where I had no choice but to seek help. I saw a therapist for my allotted ten sessions (NHS: say no more). She worked with me on finding grounding techniques to help return myself to the here and now when I’m re-experiencing the trauma. I use these techniques every day, and they are a big help. The therapist also recommended I undergo an odd-sounding therapy called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing). I researched it a lot and agreed to be assessed for it.

Firstly, let me try to explain the theory behind it and what it entails. As I mentioned above, PTSD is caused by traumatic events that haven’t been processed properly as memories. So, EMDR evokes eye movements similar to REM sleep. This is achieved by the therapist holding their finger in front of the patient and moving it from side to side. The patient follows it with their eyes, whilst talking about a specific incident of the trauma. This is thought to help the trauma to be processed. It all sounds a little kooky, but I read the success rate is over 70%.

I never had the EMDR. The assessing psychologist said I have complex PTSD (meaning I experienced lots of traumatic incidents over a long period of time, going back to when I was really young), and so she didn’t think EMDR would help. What I read today, though, doesn’t state that as true. So I don’t know.

In conclusion, there are psychological therapies, most of them involving grounding techniques, and they can help you to feel better. I won’t say recover because I don’t believe it’s possible to ever be free from this illness. I work every day to fight flashbacks, and I have nightmares every night. I dissociate in the middle of conversations and—sometimes—want nothing more than to die. But, I am better than I was when I first got the diagnosis. PTSD is manageable. Never be too ashamed to ask for help.

Courage Tableau

My prompt for today is to write a tableau poem. I’d never heard of this form before, so it certainly presented a challenge. However, when I read the rules and thought about it, it kind of wrote itself. I’m not sure it’s a strictly traditional tableau, but I don’t mind. It feels like an important poem, for me.

courage-dear-heart-c-s-lewis-quote

 

Courage Tableau

Beaten down from hate,

the weight of judgement

hunches her shoulders;

lowered head and eyes . . .

Ball of fire inside

screams the words, “Me too!”

 

If you’re interested, this is the criteria I found for writing a tableau: “The Tableau, a poetry form created by Emily Romano in October of 2008, consists of one or more verses, each having six lines. Each line should have five beats. There is no set rhyme scheme, although rhyme may be present. The title should contain the word tableau.

Since the dictionary states the word tableau means picture or representation, the poem should reflect this. A picture should come to mind as the poem is read.”

This Time

survivor_domestic_violence_bumper_stickers-rf5909cffbe6f4f1cb4325d2f39bc3166_v9wht_8byvr_324

This is a poem I wrote last year, but I haven’t been brave enough to share it.  My prompt was to write a poem that contains the words: time, wasteland, shelter, deceit, unforgiving, and Sandman. It’s one of those poems that, the moment I read the prompt, the poem kind of wrote itself in my head. Anyway, here it is:

 

This Time

It appears you don’t know
this time there’s no going back.
So many years spent
trudging through the
wasteland of our
marriage;
you knocking the life out of
anything that stood in your path
which somehow—every time—was
me.
Disconnected memories
f l o a t
around the surface of my mind;
bobbing, going under, resurfacing,
always in turmoil,
and this is the life I’ve known with you.
It hasn’t always been this way,
there was a time when you were my
shelter,
with the storms that crashed my rocks
not so easy to withstand,
but you were there,
with your sandbags full of love, and your
joy for life that
made me believe you were my hero . . .
but you weren’t,
instead, you were a new
punisher,
using your knowledge of all my
skeletons
to your advantage,
and your deceit
sent me flying across the room.
It’s funny how
unforgiving
a fist in the face
can be, and
no matter how
repulsed
you were the next day,
my respite never lasted for long.

Something inside me has shifted this time,
our tectonic plates too smashed
to stick back together with superglue,
so I won’t even try,
I no longer think we’re worth
fighting for
I have to give you up,
like a drug that’s slowly killing me,
and when I sleep tonight,
it may be fitful at first,
but the Sandman will come and
sprinkle his magic over me;
healing my body and mind,
and my dreams will have hope—
not fear—
and for the first time
in my life,
I will not be afraid.

i want

My headspace has not been good this last week or so. I mean, it’s rarely great, but right now, it’s crippling me. I decided to try to write it out, as this sometimes help. It made me cry, which I hate. So, I’m sharing it with you guys because I know there are a lot of you who understand ~ Rachel.

       i want

a-mothers-hug-shaz-aslam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

i want my Mum
(spoken from a middle-aged waste-of-space),
someone to hold me,
say it’s okay,
a moment of feeling
i am enough—
no matter what
(even when i know i’m not)

lavender hugs,
able to stabilise the most f r a c t u r e d
of hearts . . .
i want her arms,
no matter how out-of-shape,
tears sting my
cheeks,
blasting trails through the dirt and
p a i n,
my branding lays me   b a  r  e,
and i wait to be flogged for my sins

fear swallows me,
snuffing the lights that
have been keeping me
from letting go,
i don’t know what to do,
nails broken, faith stolen,
his voice
his voice

so sick of fighting
when here is where my destiny lies,
he took me then, and
he takes me now

i hate the dark

 

 

Healthy Shakes

This is my first attempt at writing a slam poem. It sounds better when heard, than when read, but I thought I would share it with you anyway.

 

Healthy Shakes

I remember the time we stayed in
London,
the moonlight carriage ride through
streets spewing over with happy people,
and we laughed and you fed me
strawberries dipped in chocolate.
Your arms were always so strong
(to think I found that reassuring at first)
and when you placed them gently on my shoulders
on that warm and hazy summer night,
I felt loved I felt protected
I felt I’d met the love of my life
and I would finally be free from
the ties of a childhood misused
abused
so confused
it’s no surprise I clung to the first man
to tell me he loved me without saying,
“Or at least I would,
if only you could lose twenty pounds.”

It didn’t take long for your all-consuming love
to strangle and suffocate every one of
my bones,
though at first, it felt safe,
before long your eyes grew blacker and your mouth became vicious
and your fists they got
heavier,
and I retreated to the corner of the room,
a cowering dog, terrorised by her owner,
waiting for each fresh punishment to fall.
This way we lived, for ten long years—
seven of them spent in matrimonial bliss
with our game of cat and mouse,
both sticking to our roles so well:
you the hunter, me your prey,
until one day,
when I got away
your stranglehold on me frayed
and I ran and I ran
and I didn’t look back
I got help, patched me up
stitched my seams back together

and now you’re a dot
in the distance, a blot
on my landscape, a mess
I don’t need any more,
no longer my life-drug;
I have healthy shakes and relationships
with people—so gentle—
and you, you have nothing,
not even freedom,
so goodbye, my love,
I am done.