trauma bunnies

We can work it out, the song says. But no, maybe not, not always.

Trauma bunnies together. Walking. Why would you walk with me, I am so down? Oh, you are a trauma bunny too. Walking on the beach, slowing down, looking at rocks. The walks get longer and longer. You bring FOOD and tell me I have food insecurity. I laugh. But it is true.

Comparing notes about childhood. You say yours was worse. Yours was terrifying. You ran away over and over and over, but came home. Small children need food and shelter. You get older. A neighbor says if you run away now, you will never stop running. You do not run away permanently. But you still run.

My childhood has no bruises to the skin. But the bruises to the heart are a nightmare. You finally say that I win, my childhood was worse. But I was not trying to win, I want to say. I was just telling you as you’ve told me.

We have both survived damage and coped. I have the resource of a grandmother with money who paid for medical school. I apply without telling my parents, after my mother says, “You don’t want to be a doctor. It’s too much work.” I am a poet, a writer, being a doctor so I can study people and have children and be certain there is food. Job security. And food security, true. With a husband or without.

You fight school all the way, but when you are told that you will be a failure or in jail, you decide that you will prove them wrong. You are still proving it. You won’t tell how you make your money, not to the locals, but the new car every two years tells them you have money. And it’s the wrong kind of car: a liberal car for a professed conservative. It stands out.

We start playing trauma bunnies after six months. You want me to come to dinner and I turn New Yorker and direct: is this a date? You are surprised. I set the boundaries and you think about it. And say yes.

But trauma bunnies is not as much fun as the beach. We get close and intimate and then you run. When you run, I run too: the other way. I don’t chase you. You haven’t experienced that before. You keep coming back. Why aren’t I chasing you? Because I too am a trauma bunny, remember?

Back and forth: close and far, together and apart. All holidays become times when you run, so that I will not be part of the family. I announce that I am now your mistress and you can’t be with my family either. Back and forth. Closer and then you refuse to come to my son’s wedding. Far again.

You say the summer will be very busy. You say your focus is music. You say we can go to one beach. One beach? For the whole summer? I run to europe and you are surprised. I ask, are you too busy to have me around? No, you say. But when I return, you have a friend staying with you. Intimacy disappears.

I am tired of it. My daughter is here.

At last I bring up sex: are we done with that?

No, you say. We have visitors.

Wouldn’t stop me, I say.

You say, sex is still on the table. Then you hem and haw. You say sex is not important, you can take or leave it. The friendship is more important. Well, the friendship is most important, but sex IS important to me and hello, it’s damn insulting of you to say you can take or leave it. Leave. This is all triggered by your yearly family get together. You need me at a distance so you won’t be tempted to invite me. You don’t want me there so I am distanced again.

And I am done, done, done. I dream of a small child, a wild woman, a woman doctor and someone new: a quiet woman. I think about the quiet woman and I ask the other three. Yes, they say.

The quiet woman is the adult. Not the mask of the professional, not the wild defense fighter, not the small child. The small child has healed. She is the connection to the Beloved, to the source of the poems. She blesses the others. The quiet woman takes over.

The quiet woman takes over. She says goodbye, farewell, Beloved keep you and bless you, you may contact me any time.

You are in your cave alone and do not answer.

You may end up there, alone, alone, alone. You want freedom most of all, you say. Another song: freedom is another word.

Yes it is. People can change and grow. But some want to and some don’t and sometimes we don’t grow at the same time.

Yes, says the quiet woman. Sometimes we don’t grow at the same time.

Fade to quiet.

______________________________

I took the photograph from a canoe at Lake Matinenda in Ontario, Canada.

Chronic pain #I forget

The CDC has a new set of recommendations for chronic pain.

I will write about them. I have to read them first. Hurts too much, right now, the election, and all the pandemic fighting. Stress people and you see what they are really like.

My church has melted down into a huge fight. I was in a chorus singing instead of being in a meeting. Apparently there is a group that says brown people have “taken over” the national organization of the church. Um. Hello. That is discrimination. Does the color of the skin matter if it is a good leader? Why are people insane? I filled out a county survey on drug use today. I know we have methamphetamines and heroin in our high schools because patients have told me. But then I get to the race question. What race am I? I checked OTHER and wrote HUMAN. The race bullcrap is NOT SCIENCE. I haven’t done any genetics testing. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT RACE I AM THOUGH I LOOK WHITE.

It is important for medicine in that there is proven discrimination with less screen health services offered to “brown” people, whatever the heck “brown” people means. I wish the heavens would turn us all the same color over night. Or perhaps blind us. That is not nice of me and I do not care.

I am glad that this horror came out in my church. Because now the discrimination is out in the open. And the committee has sent out a message saying NO. We WILL stay part of the national organization. We WILL not give in to this discrimination. AND I SAY HOORAY AND BLESSINGS ON THEM.

Here is the new CDC set of recommendations for chronic pain: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/rr/rr7103a1.htm . You can read them yourself.

I read to this sentence so far: “Approximately one in five U.S. adults had chronic pain in 2019 and approximately one in 14 adults experienced “high-impact” chronic pain, defined as having pain on most days or every day during the past 3 months that limited life or work activities (5).”

Part of me is horrified and part of me is calm. Because pain is a part of life. Pain, love, joy, fear, it’s all part of our emotional evolved systems to survive, right? If God is love, God is also pain and fear. It is not a split. It is both.

This song is a love song. But to me, it’s a love song from heroin to a woman. One lovely day, a place where there is no pain. There will be pain on the return, the withdrawal. I have patients say, “You need to get me pain free.” My reply was “I will not get you pain free. Pain free is dead. Or at least, they can no longer tell me if the next form hurts.” In this song, “she won’t let on, that the feelings have got so strong.” Addiction, opioid overuse.

I took the photograph of Elwha yesterday. He is my relaxation mentor.

gently

I try to be so gentle with you
trauma drama boy

I know just what it’s like
though mine is not the same as yours

you run away, though
again and again

saying that you would never try
to hurt me ever

that is a shut down
really

since you disavow all intention of hurting
you do whatever you want

your attitude is that if I am hurt or sad
it’s my own fault

you take no responsibility for failures
as a friend

trauma drama boy, you run away
once more

and this time
I’ve had enough

This time
I let you go

Beloved bless you and keep you
for the days you have left

sending love
goodbye

Arty’s warning

Trigger warning: non graphic mention of child abuse.

_____________________________

I don’t notice that things are frozen at first, because the cats aren’t frozen. I do notice the light. Also I notice the change in sounds. The car outside in the street is not moving nor making sound. Uh-oh.

I go to the front door. Might as well if everything is frozen. I just finished putting on make up, which always means a dangerous mood.

She lands first, on a white flying horse. Who smiles at me, showing fangs. Smoke is coming out of the Pegavamp’s nostrils. Eeeee.

Arty herself is in silver and black today. Silver cloth with black embroidery that seems to be writing a little.

“Good morning, Goddess.” I say, bowing. The other horses and dragons and flying motorcycles and pterodactyls are landing as well. Sol Duc is in the window. Elwha has gone to hide, quite sensibly, I think.

Arty stomps her staff on the ground. “I am really pissed.” she says.

“They named a rocket after you.”

“That penis toy? That is supposed to please me while they are killing virgins who refuse to tent their heads?”

“Sorry.” I hang my head.

“And do you know how much the smoke is going to shorten the lives of my birds and stags?”

“A lot, I think.”

“Do you all want to starve in the dark?’

I look up at her then. “No. I want grandchildren and a healthy earth.”

“Work harder.” she snarls. The rest of the dangerous crowd is muttering and snarling and the local cats have come out. They are sitting very respectfully at a distance. Rooftops. The ridge above my house three blocks up. The tree tops are frozen too.

“Do you need prescriptions again?” I ask. “I see that there have been a lot more rapists jailed. Thank you, Goddess.”

She looks tired for a moment. “We are hunting them everywhere: cities, countryside, hovels, palaces, movie sets, where ever.”

“You don’t turn them into stags any more?”

“Yes, sometimes. My hounds love to tear them apart. But sometimes prison is slower and crueler and a better punishment.”

I kneel. “What service can I do, Goddess?”

She touches me with the staff. I feel a hard bright shock, pain that roars through me and is gone.

“Write this. Write my warning. If this continues, it is death in the cold dark of nuclear winter and we will begin again.”

“Is that the only choice?”

“Oh, no, we are all being very creative. One suggestion has been the sperm banks. There is nothing that says they can’t be used to make one gender only. The one that rapes less and doesn’t kill young girls for what they wear.”

“Thank you for your warning.”

“Stand up.” she says. “You and every abused child, male or female, are under my protection. Yet the cycle must be broken and the abused must not become abusers. Write this.”

The Pegavamp drops one knee and she steps up easily. The other riders start to roar and shout and howl. Her winged creature jumps in the air and the whole group follows. There is a snap and they are gone.

The car in the street is moving and the treetops as well. The cats stand and move away.

I keep writing.

___________________

October 22, 2022

Embodying a dream

I wrote about the two dreams I had one night, with seven people. Two babies, a boy and a girl. Two professionals, a woman physician and a male policeman. Two rebels, a woman and a man, the man lying or at least misleading the rebel woman. The rebel woman trying to do something that she suddenly realizes is not important and is, in fact, foolish and dangerous. And a quiet woman.

I have been thinking about the quiet woman ever since. My Meyers-Briggs type in medical school came out INTJ, but we are not one thing or another. We have preferences, but we all have to use all the skills. I can be extroverted. I had to work on feeling, that was the really difficult one for me after a frightening childhood. I can pay attention to facts though I sweep them into the intuition very quickly. Medical school is facts and facts and facts, except then there are parts that turn out to change as science changes.

The eighth person is a quiet man. He is not present in the dream. I am thinking about him. I wonder if I will have another dream when I am ready.

I am attending some workshops on line for treating trauma. It is quite fascinating. They talk about working with clients who have aspects like my dream: a small child with trauma. A “fake adult”, aka “adaptive child”, with the tools that the child develops to survive in their childhood. Helping the “fake adult” recognize that some of coping tools may not be helpful or necessary any longer. First, they thank the “fake adult”, for protecting the traumatized child and for surviving at all and for not giving up. I think this is so important, to acknowledge that we have to thank that part of ourselves that did what it had to, that did what it could, to survive. And this can include things that we are ashamed of or fear that others would hate us for if found out. We had a temporary doctor at the hospital who described being a boat person escaping Vietnam at age 8. They were picked up by pirates. “We were glad to see the pirates, because we had run out of water. If the pirates had not picked us up, we would have died.” So there is perspective: death by dehydration or pirates? And she went from a refugee camp and then through medical school and became a physician. Survival and success and I hope that she is thriving.

I like it when a dream has such recognizable symbols. My now retired Unitarian Universalist minister says that we can sit with dreams for a time. What do the symbols mean to me? What is the dream telling me? My dream is in part telling me that I do not need to have the rebel woman lead: she can rest and let the quiet woman take over. And that I am very tired of rebel men who mislead me or run away. I woke up and thought, oh, yes, I see! I am tired of that and ready for change.

Change and transformation can happen throughout our lives, at any age. I welcome it.

Blessings and peace you.

___________________

The photograph is Sol Duc and Elwha enjoying doll bunkbeds. And acting like siblings do sometimes. And then they curl up together.

Arty scores some ludes

Trigger warning: non graphic mentions of date rape, child abuse. A dark story for the Halloween season.

_______________________________

Mr. Smith is telling me about his daughter’s addiction to meth when the commotion starts.

He doesn’t seem to notice. I ignore sirens because the fire house is 6 blocks up the street, but I hear hooves. And people in the waiting room. Loud.

And Mr. Smith…. appears to be frozen mid-sentence. Uh-oh.

I am not frozen. I open the exam room door.

Artemis is there. Breastplate, feather headdress, inlaid turkish recurve bow, and she is not wearing a lady like toga. She is wearing armour. She is grinning at me.

There are lots of people milling around the exam room. Horses outside. I suspect 200. Or more.

“Quaaludes.” says Artemis.

“Ok.” I say. “Um.” I am thinking about the DEA. I get my paper prescription pad. Controlled substance, of course.

“We’re going to do a little pillaging.” says Artemis. “Kind of like date rape. Only in reverse.”

“Happy to help.” I say. “Uh, Bill?”

Artemis grins. “Well, he’s not the only one. You’d… well, you probably wouldn’t be surprised, would you.”

“No,” I say grimly. There are men in the waiting room too. That’s a bit of a surprise. I know two of them. Attended their funerals. Aids.

“I need enough for all 200 to…. well, discourage date rape and Cosbying.”

“So 600? Or 1000?” The DEA will throw me in jail. I write the prescription. Artemis touches it and it blooms in her hand, to 200 prescriptions.

“Don’t worry. The pharmacy is in Hades. The earthly DEA won’t have a problem.”

My receptionist is frozen too. I nod towards Artemis’s band. “I thought it was virgins?”

“We were all virgins once,” says Artemis, fierce. I can’t argue with that. She smiles again. “Thank you. We are going to have some fun. Sweet sweet revenge.”

I don’t really want details. My imagination is way too active. “Blessings.” I say.

“You too.” She turns, holding up the prescriptions. “Mount up!” Two women are riding velociraptors. Some of the horses have wings and other have horns. Three glow red and breathe fire. Some people are riding stags. They all have bows.

“You do need a bow.” says Artemis, looking back at me. “You’re a good shot.”

“Ok,” I say. I watch them leave in the air. The air starts looking a little thick and I go back in the room with Mr. Smith. I return to my position as best I can remember and then…

Mr. Smith is talking again.

__________________________

First posted elsewhere 2015.

My mom loved me

I struggled after my mother died of ovarian cancer in 2000. She was 61 and our love was complicated. Two years after she died I hit an emotional wall and had to go find help. My marriage was showing cracks too. I have written about Adverse Childhood Experiences, but there can be love too, even in a difficult household. I wrote this poem during that time.

My mom loved me

It’s herself she didn’t love
She didn’t love her anger
She didn’t love her fear
She didn’t love her sorrow
She didn’t love her shadows

She packed all her troubles in her saddlebags
and rode forth singing

When I was angry
she felt her anger
When I was scared
she felt her fear
When I was sad
she felt her sorrow
When I felt my shadows
she felt hers
I hid my shadows

I hid my shadows for many years
and then my saddlebags were full
They called me

I dove in the sea
I rescued my anger
I rescued my fear
I rescued my sorrows
I rescued my shadows

At first I couldn’t love them
My mom didn’t; how could I?

But I loved my mom
I loved all of her
Her anger
Her fear
Her sorrow
Her shadows
Her singing and courage

I thought if I could love her shadows
I could love my own

It was hard
It took months
I looked in the mirror at my own face
And slowly I was able to have
Compassion for myself

I am sad that my mom is not
where I can touch her warmth
and tell her I love all of her

I tell her anyway

I’m finding many things as I surface from my dive
Sometimes I feel the presence of angels
I was looking for something else
I found a valentine
that she made me
No date
Many hearts cut out and glued
to red paper

I am so surprised

My mom loves me
shadows and all
now and forever.

__________________________

My mother used to quote “Pack all your troubles in your saddlebags and ride forth singing.” Does anyone know where this if from? I have not found the source. It could be her mother or her mother’s parents.

The photograph is my father, the year my sister died of cancer, 2012. He died in 2013.

Practicing Conflict

An essay from my church talks about the writer avoiding conflict, fearing conflict and disliking conflict. This interests me, because I do not avoid conflict, I don’t fear conflict and actually, I like it. Our emeritus minister once did a sermon in which he said that when you are thinking about two conflicting things at once, that is grace. I have thought about his words many times, especially when I am not in agreement about something.

Does this interest in conflict mean I fight all the time? Well, sort of, but not in the way you think. I don’t fight with other people much. I fight myself.

What? No, really. Most topics have multiple sides. Not one, not two, but many. Like a dodecahedron or a cut gem. Hold it up to the light, twelve sides, each different. I argue the different sides with myself.

I learned this from my parents. My parents would disagree about something, they would discuss or argue about it, and then they would bet. Sometimes they bet a penny, sometimes a quarter, sometimes one million dollars. Then one of them would get up and get the Oxford English Dictionary, or the World Atlas, or some other reference and look it up. This was pre-internet, ok? 1970s and 1980s.

Sometimes my parents would even pay each other. The penny or quarter. My father spoke terrible French and my mother had lived in Paris for a year after high school, so he could get her going by insisting that his French was correct. It wasn’t. Ever.

There were other arguments in the middle of the night that were not friendly and involved yelling, but the daytime disagreements were funny and they would both laugh.

Once my sister is visiting after my mother has died. My father is present. My father, sister and I get in a three way disagreement about physics. I’m a physician, my sister was a Landscape Architect and my father was a mathematician/engineer, so we are all three talking through our hats. However, we happily argue our positions. Afterwards, my gentleman friend says, “That was weird.” “What?” I ask. “That was competitive and you were all arguing.” “It was a discussion and we disagreed.” “I won’t compete.” “We let my dad win, because it makes him happy.” “That was weird.” “Ok, whatever.”

My gentleman friend is also shocked when my teen son challenges me at dinner. My son says, “I am researching marijuana and driving for school and there isn’t much evidence that it impairs driving.”  I reply, “Well, there is not as easy a test as an alcohol test and it was illegal, so it has not been studied.” We were off and having a discussion.

Afterwards my gentleman friend says, “I am amazed by your son bringing that up. We weren’t allowed to discuss anything like that at dinner.” I say, “We pretty much discuss anything at dinner and both my kids are allowed to try to change my mind. About going to a party or whatever.” He shakes his head. “That is really different.” “Ok,” I say.

This habit of challenging authority, including adults, did not go over well when my son was an exchange student to Thailand. It did not occur to me to talk to him about it. He figured it out pretty quickly.

Back to my internal arguments. If I take a position, I almost immediately challenge it. I think of it as the old cartoons, with the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. The devil will make fun of things and suggest revenges and generally behave really badly. The angel will rouse and say, “Hey, you aren’t being nice.” Then they fight. The internal battle very quickly becomes comic with the two of them trading insults and bringing up past fights and fighting unfairly. When it makes me laugh inside, I can also be over the driver who cut me off, or someone who spoke nastily, or whatever. My devil is very very creative about suggested revenges. When the angel says, “You are meaner than the person who cut you off!” I am over it.

When I was little and disagreeing with my family, my sister could tell. “You have your stone face on!” That meant I was attempting to hide a feeling, especially fear or anger or grief. Siblings and family are the most difficult because they can read us and see through us like glass. My physician training also teaches control of feelings. I have sometimes wanted to grab a patient and scream “Why are you doing this to yourself?” but that really is not part of the doctor persona. I am doing it inside, but I can put it aside until later. Then the devil goes to town! And the angel tries to calm the devil down.

Maybe we all need more of this skill. Pick a mildly controversial topic. Argue one side of it. Then switch positions and argue the other side. Go back and forth until it gets ridiculous. Let each side get unreasonable and inflammatory and annoying. This can play in your head and not on your face. Once you can do a mild topic, move on to something a bit more difficult. If you only know the arguments on your side, read. You can find the other side, the internet is huge. Start gently.

A friend says, “You always argue about things.” I say, “I prefer to think of it as a discussion.” “You always take the other side.” “Well, it interests me. And if there is no one to discuss something with, I discuss it with myself!” “Weirdo,” says the friend. I think he’s jealous, really I do. Don’t you?

Defiance

Ok, this is a beautiful and romantic song, and yeah, George Strait is pretty.

And then there’s the Offspring. Singing Self Esteem. Guess which I like better.

The Offspring: defiance and singing about all sorts of things that we don’t talk about: “The more we suffer the more we really care!” Some of my patients needed to listen to this song. Often the mom, with a spouse and three children, who was taking care of all of them but not herself. “Who takes care of YOU?” I would ask. “No one,” some moms would say. “Look. There are FIVE people in your family. You are one of them. You deserve the same level of care that the rest of them are getting. I want you to include yourself in the people you take care of.” “BUT” “NO BUTS. If you don’t, then you are setting expectations for your children: the boys that a wife will take care of them and the girls to be walked on. Is that what you want?” “NO.” “Change it.” They often would, slowly but surely.

And The Offspring are further my heroes because of this song: Opioid Diaries. Ok, a punk band telling opioid overuse people to get help. MY HEROES! Thank you Offspring!!! It’s not easy to watch but wait until the ending and what if offers. I treated opioid overuse for the last 12 years in my small family practice clinic along with everything else: diabetes, hypertension, whatever. I never felt threatened or frightened, but some of that is because I grew up in an alcohol family. I recognize addiction. Reminding my of my parents is not a good sign. And I had to learn boundaries at home first. This is an uncomfortable video to watch but to me it is beautiful, because it offers hope.