Archives for category: Mental Health

For the whole year of 1982, my 16-year-old son, 5-year-old daughter and I underwent the divorce process. An ugly, painful, gut wrenching, damaging divorce from a person who I thought was my “soul” mate.

In the divorce, I got all the bills, the kids, the sewing machine (a Christmas present) and a 1963 Ford Falcon Futura Convertible which looked more like something waiting for a crusher than for refurbishment.

1963 Ford Falcon Futura-11963 Ford Falcon Futura Convertible – looks pretty good in this photo!

The car had been abandoned near Underground Atlanta in the mid-1970′s and my then husband bought it for $25.00. My mom thought he’d overpaid until she saw first hand what I needed it for.  I moved me, kids and car into Mom’s. I put the car up on cinder blocks and pulled off all the tires and chrome. It was when I started beating the dents out with a 2″x2″ board and sledge-hammer instead of killing my husband when Mom “saw the light”.

Yep. I did all the body work with a 2″x2″ and a sledge-hammer. It did wonders for my soul. I played “What’s love got to do with it” by Tina Turner on the boombox full blast singing along with every WHAM of the sledge-hammer. I kept getting more and more empowered with every strike at the SOB… my ex… n0t the car!

Next, I took Naval Jelly to remove the rust and primer to prevent more. I removed the seats, door panels fixing 25 year old problems. I spent every morning before work at the junkyard with Liquid Wrench, screwdriver, hammer and pliers in-hand pulling scuff plates and anything else I needed off the 1963 Ford Falcon Futura pickup truck there. Only problem was my vehicle not only was a convertible but a 1963-1/2 model which made most of the parts unusable and certainly not returnable. I couldn’t afford to buy new ones from J.C. Whitney Catalog and had to make do. It was more fun. I know… that sounds sick.
I joined a Falcon club to talk shop with other Futura owners and to glean some insider information about where to get parts not found in junkyards. Ava and I  proudly drove our topless “in-progress” vehicle to these meetings. Turned out the top I purchased from the catalog wouldn’t fit! Oh well, I still needed to finish the body work, paint job, rebuilding the rear floorboard and whole interior so a topless convertible just felt right.

My dear friend, Bunnie Seignious,  from high school used to ride around Sandy Springs with me to garage sales while the Falcon was in this condition, topless and all. It was on one of these excursions that a huge nest of some kind  (probably squirrel) fell out from under the dash onto her feet! She and I experienced simulcast, spontaneous screaming laughter! Ya’ see, Bunnie was used to riding around in my crazy cars. In the mid-60′s to late, I used to give her a ride to work every morning  in my 1960 Karman Ghia Convertible (“George”). It was on those cold, dark early winter mornings on a curvy road to the Interstate where first, the glovebox door would fall open. About that time, we’d be in full bore right turn mode when her car door would fly open! Every morning was an adventure!      Those cars didn’t have heat unless the engine was warm and moving forward. When you stopped, you had outside air inside. Gosh. I miss her. She went too soon.

So, once finished, who do you think got the first ride? Bunnie. She couldn’t believe the transformation any more than my mom.

1963 Ford Falcon Futura-2

1963 Ford Falcon Futura-3
My friends complained that I spent too much time on the car as did my young daughter. It was a necessity. It was therapy.

It was after the car “turned” on me that I became eager to sell it. Yep. It turned on me. Ava and I would be on a nice Sunday drive when it would just come to a dead S-T-O-P, and refuse to crank. I’d push the darn car over to the side of the road when it would then promptly crank. It was “Christine” before Stephen King ever dreamt it up. Actually, maybe it was him who witnessed this event and decided to make millions off my misery. Wish I’d thought of it first!

After all was said and done, I got out of it less than I had in it, monetarily speaking, but I certainly gained some level of sanity over the experience.

HAPPY TAILS!
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My life changed forever the minute my son, Carl, disappeared and my then six year old daughter (Ava) told me she thought she was at fault for his disappearance and began talking of suicide. Fifteen years after his disappearance, my son came to me in a dream which lead me to find him. He had been murdered at the time of his disappearance by a Dispatcher for the Sheriff’s Department who investigated the murder! Ava’s suicidal tendencies became more frequent…especially after we found out what had happened to Carl.

Ava was successful in her final attempt, as promised, after her estranged husband told her he had a girlfriend and, even after her pleas for him to help her through the transition and warnings that she was suicidal, he chose to ignore the warnings from me and others.

The night Ava died, I was with my mother in the emergency room with my mom…she was dying…too. I was always the closest one to her (and her to me) so I was the only one to take care of both of them. Ava was 2500 miles away. Mom was 100 miles away. I was awakened at 6:00 A.M. to my new horrible truth. Ava was dead. Mom was sick. I was alone in it all.

When I spoke with my therapist about how I felt, I was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD. Some of the symptoms were: I felt like I’d had a stroke and couldn’t remember words; I disassociated; I felt as if  my skin had been removed from my body; I couldn’t leave the house for any reason; and when I did, all I wanted to do was scream out, “DON’T YOU PEOPLE KNOW SHE’S DEAD?”

Montana became my lifeline. Literally. She and I are inseparable. She has traveled with me about 90,000 miles over her eight plus years and has been welcomed in hundreds of facilities since her Service Dog status. I’ve only had slight hick-ups but once told of her status, never refused.

I’m on this trip four years after Ava’s death in the hope that I can move another baby step forward with reconnecting with loved ones who live in the West and to see the places Ava and I had visited together as well as find new ones to hold dear with her in my heart. Plus, driving back roads has always been a healing exercise.

Why do I tell you all this? The groundwork for yesterday’s crescendo.

We went to Venice Beach. I hadn’t been there for at least eight years and I wouldn’t have gone had I known how nasty it had gotten. I wouldn’t have put myself, Montana nor my sweet daughter-by-another mother through it.

So many filthy, doped-up homeless people; crowds; confusion; more filth; a thousand bicycles & skateboards aggressively darting to and fro around us tormenting us all but especially Montana; coupled with great re-b0nding, understanding and love.

To end my visit in LA we decided to visit a middle eastern restaurant…Lebanese to be specific. We all walk in…my daugher-by-another mother, her husband, Montana and me. We were told at the door that they would not serve us because of Montana. I quickly corrected their mistake and a learned waiter seated us. The greeter called the owner (I knew that’s what she was doing) and approached us again as she spoke with the owner telling us  we were not welcome in their establishment even though they understood the ramifications of their actions.

When she told us to leave, I refused and said I wanted to speak directly with the owner at which point she handed me the phone. The woman on the other end of the line immediately started shouting in broken English that she did not have to abide by the laws of this country and other things I couldn’t understand. She rattled on incessantly not allowing me to speak and continued to speak.

The owner came to the restaurant and continued in this manner. I finally really lost it when she said, “This is California and I don’t have to let you stay here. I don’t have to abide by this law!”

I replied over her continued rant, “I don’t know what country you’re from but you’re living in the United States and California was made a state in 1850. This is a FEDERAL law you’re violating. I’ll be lodging a complaint which could result in a $10,000 fine against you.”

The owner’s parting words to me were, “You don’t have a disability! Get out!”

I was so shaken that I couldn’t eat. I was nauseous and horribly upset. All I wanted to do is be in my own home…3000 miles away. I knew this could happen because having PTSD is triggered by several very personal things. Could be loud noises, confusion, arguing, and many other triggers. Thank goodness I’d been proactive regarding the possibility of being confronted by this kind of stupidity and booked myself  to stay in a lovely and friendly AirBnB apartment by the PCH or else I wouldn’t have made it back before collapsing in tears for the whole remainder of the night.

It’s only now, over 24 hours after the fact that I can even write about it. I’m not proofing…just writing…puking, actually…the story because, for some reason, I’ve been chosen to TEACH people that just because you don’t SEE the mental imbalance, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist! DO YOU ALWAYS SEE CANCER? NO!

NONE OF AVA’S FRIENDS KNEW SHE WAS SUICIDAL SO DID THAT MAKE IT UNTRUE? IS SHE REALLY ALIVE SOMEWHERE? OR IS SHE DEAD?

If you want to help support our website avascorner.org  [Ava’s Corner, Inc., a non-profit public charity & 501(c)3] which I stared after Ava’s death to provide one-stop-shopping for education on mental imbalances and creative coping skills, please share this post so others will benefit from this horrific exercise I experienced. I never chose this path. Quite the reverse…I was chosen. But, if it were my choice…I’d chose to have my daughter back.

Email me if you want the name of the restaurant.

TODAY? I shared some of my story with my new friend…the lady who owned the AirBnB apartment where I stayed. Thanks for listening. You and my closest and dearest helped me get okay so I could drive to Vegas Baby today…swollen eyes, headache, broken heart and all.

These pictures are AFTER the LA cluster expressway nightmares and finally got on I-15 North. Temps from 87 all the way up to 113 degrees!

2016-6-4CA22016-6-4CA32016-6-4CA52016-6-4CA72016-6-4CA92016-6-4CA112016-6-4CA122016-6-4CA132016-6-4CA142016-6-4CA152016-6-4CA16

The good news? I’m staying with another wonderful daughter-by-another mother! I’m safe with her. She made sure of it before I left by telling me she had my room all ready for me and Montana.

Now I can look forward to seeing more of Ava’s friends and my other Chirrens.

HAPPY TAILS!

I hereby proclaim this Zombie Christmas! It’s amazing! Every person coming in the store or meet in other stores, banks, etc. have NO Christmas spirit this year! NONE…especially me.
I expected that knowing it was my first Christmas ever without Mom…and I’m not just talking about her being alive all my life…but present. Mom, Carl, Ava and I always had Christmas together even those rare times that Abe and I went out of town. We celebrated Christmas Day with Mom and then left knowing another family member would be with her while we were gone.
Now that all three of my closest loved ones are gone, the “spirit” of it all feels empty, shallow and hard for me to connect. The traditions which once were so very important…family, advent wreath, scripture readings, snuggling while watching old movies, making that special gift for special persons, sharing the love…gone with the passing of that wonderful woman.
I’m not being morose…just honest. I’m not more depressed than I have been for the last 4 years or so but this year is more empty without Mom. It’s normal to feel this level of grief during these holidays and I’m embracing this tsunami as I tell others to do. I’m not wallowing in it; I’m waxing my surfboard to find my life after…after Carl…after Ava…now, after Mom.
I’m trying to dream of buying a small RV and traveling again. I often push myself toward that end…sometimes harder than others…sometimes…not at all but that’s all a part of my normal.
That’s what I preach to those who will listen about our mission at Ava’s Corner…define YOUR normal and create ways to maintain it when life kicks you upside the head. That’s all I’m doing right now and it’s all I have energy to do.
To my friends who celebrate the reason for the season, I wish you all much love, joy, peace and happiness during this most sacred time to celebrate the birth of our faith (regardless of the subsequent “pagan” influence) and to take hope in the future of the New Year (regardless of the current & upcoming most “pagan” world issues).

MeAvaSanta1994

Every DAY is Mental Health Awareness DAY here at Ava’s Corner…as we try to help those of us who are challenged with our brains’ alternate states to define “normal” one person at a time…and often one minute at a time.
YOUR best normal is what you should strive for (not someone else’s definition of that) and, when life throws you a curve ball, find that new normal for you to try to maintain.
My normal before Ava Kauffman’s death was being on the phone with her any time of the day or night helping her stay focused on completing her degree and encouraging her to think past the moment of depression into a positive future. However, my life after that horrific phone call at 6:00 AM on March 23rd changed my “normal” forever. I now struggle with PTSD as a result of 40 years of cumulative angst, pain, anxiety and struggle to help my son help himself to stay alive (he was murdered), help Ava stay alive (she killed herself) and, finally, help my 90+ year old Mom stay alive in her last years.

Carl, Ava and me April 1984

Carl, Ava and me April 1984

 

Yeah!

Mom watching fireworks from my deck in 2011…before the world stopped spinning. 

The difference? As a mother, you ALWAYS have HOPE that prayers, hard work in helping your children, etc. will help them see a brighter tomorrow. When ALL fails and the most important people in your life are all gone…critical support team, best friends, loved ones…some of us struggle.

People who don’t really “know” me think I’m strong and dumber ones have asked me if Montana was one of those “fake” service dogs. That’s about the time they might just find out exactly why I have her! Word of caution! Don’t ask that!

Remember, you don’t always “see” who we are but that doesn’t make us whole! It makes us in a constant state of healing. The trick is finding YOUR very own way of creative coping and healing!

 

Montana doggie park 10-10 taken by Maya

Montana is MY creative coping mechanism. I could leave the house without her!