Archives for posts with tag: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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!

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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!

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How many of you know someone who served in the military during World War II? How many of you heard them tell stories of sacrifice, pain (lice, foot rot, empty bellies), injury (medal plates in the head), death, poor upper level planning (D-Day landing nightmares), no equipment (WWI issue guns w/little or no ammunition), POW stories (Bataan Death March), adventures and misadventures?

Ed Friend leader of WWII Vet organization 10-1945

My Dad (middle) helped organize WWII Vet group!

 

Well, I have and am proud to say my Uncle Bruce survived D-Day and has talked about the horrors of it everyday since. How they were taken to the wrong drop off point and were told to get into water too deep with 40 pound backpacks on causing so many to drown. How they were so horribly mowed down by German machine guns on the beaches and so many other stories. My father’s flying escapades as confidential courier and goods/troop transport. My Uncle-in-law’s survival of the Bataan Death March and how 10,000 Japanese contained 40,000 Americans because we had no ammunition or rifles that worked and how General McArthur abandoned his men there.

Bruce Friend-1944 photo and story of his D-Day experiences!

Uncle Bruce Friend and the article about how his D-Day turned out!

How many of you have heard personal accounts of the Cuban Missile Crisis? How close we were to WWIII because of Russia sending missile installations to Cuba? I remember it well as I had a brother in the Navy who was on the front line of it. His stories are incredible.

This is a time, as is everyday, to pay our respects for ALL service persons, of yesteryear and today, and to do all we can to assist them in proper healthcare, emotional support and help them re-integrate with their families, friends and loved ones. I know I could never have survived the rigors of boot camp not because I couldn’t have physically performed but because it would have killed too much of my soul. Creative people are like that.

I just finished watching two movies out of my love of WWII history as well as the characters leading this country’s men during that most awful two-front war. “Patton” was a remarkable, revealing depiction of an extraordinary visionary and leader/warrior. He was so passionate about what he was supposed to do with his life that nothing else mattered. I then watched “The Last Days of Patton” which revealed the irony of this larger-than-life man’s last days and how it conflicted with everything he had envisioned for himself.

We, at Ava’s Corner, Inc., understand and appreciate those who make these sacrifices and their challenges upon returning. Please go to http://www.avascorner.org and find our “Military” tab under “Resource Center.” We try to keep up with all the wonderful non-profit programs available but if you know of one we need to add, please contact us!

It takes great leaders willing to sacrifice much to create a safe country. I’m ready for that again, aren’t you? Be sure to vote in all upcoming elections to ensure such a day in our future and that of our loved ones.

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!

I was startled when my therapist used that diagnosis for what I have been feeling these last sixteen months…startled enough to evaluate and re-think it all.

When I think of people with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), I think of our brave men and women who have faced the battlefield or the people injured in horrific acts of violence like 9/11 or the Boston bombings. I have never thought of my life, but I guess I should have and maybe so should you if you feel like I have and do.

After my daughter’s suicide, I was “told” by my Reliable Third Party to design and build a website to help others. Through the hand of my Reliable Third Party and the love and support of Ava’s friends, AvasCorner.org exists. So, I naturally went to my own resources to find out more about this condition. I share two and you can go to AvasCorner.org for more informational websites on this condition.

Acute stress reaction – Hypervigilance – Category:Posttraumatic stress …

NIMH · Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic…ptsd/index.shtml

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) A booklet on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) that explains what it is, treatment options, and how to get help.

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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/post-traumatic-stress-disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental condition which is a lasting consequence of traumatic events.

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After re-reading these articles, I went back in time to evaluate my own symptoms. My first questions were: “When and how did it start?” The only answer I could muster was: “The minute I heard she had killed herself.”

I thought hearing of my son’s murder was surely the most horrific event a parent could face, and it was, but it came after he had been missing fifteen years. I knew he had to be dead because, at a minimum, he wasn’t asking for money! That sounds cynical but every eighteen-year-old needs money from their parents, don’t they? Also, my pain from Carl’s disappearance was often distracted in the measurement of   seconds during those fifteen years with helping Ava find hope to stay alive and functional. She was my mission, the love of my life, my joy and my greatest pain.

However, “that” minute…”that” phone call will be forever engrained, frozen, carved, jolted into my bloodstream as the most horrific trauma a human could face. Ava’s estranged husband…sobbing…hysterical…barely audible…telling me this disgusting, revolting, unbelievable truth. I spent the whole day throwing up and hearing deep soul-sounds come from my vocal cords which had originated from my core. My sister said I was also on the computer emailing Ava’s friends and answering their questions on Facebook. I don’t remember that part but I’m glad I did and could.

Thanks to my sister’s careful planning and execution, I was whisked away like royalty. I don’t remember getting to Vegas but I do remember seeing Eric and Cheryl who hosted our stay. They were dear friends of Ava’s…and still are. The five days I was in Vegas was truly an “out-of-body” experience because only moments of memory have stayed with me, the return trip with her ashes, her burial and my return to my cabin, which is when “it” hit.

My first recollection is having to go to Wal-Mart to pick up necessities. It was all I could do to muster up enough energy to run that gauntlet. I was walking rapidly through the store trying to hurry through my task when I found myself wanting to SCREAM as loudly as I could to the other customers, “How can you walk around so normally? DON’T YOU KNOW SHE’S DEAD?” It was such a task to suppress this urge that I walked out without buying a single thing.

I was reminded of that moment just a couple of weeks ago when Alicia and her sweet autistic son were visiting me from Ohio. We went to the local outdoor flea market.  The little guy had a melt down because there were too many people in the area we were approaching. I “got” it. Ava had been that way as a child as well (but not as severely) and I certainly had been that way most of last year. Too many strangers around freaked me out.

In trying to describe to my therapist, friends and family why my innate outgoing personality had disappeared, all I could say is that my skin had been ripped off that day leaving me raw, filterless and extremely vulnerable…which prohibited loud noises or fast moves until after noon and even then, they had best be for legitimate reasons. Knowing “they” couldn’t understand even with the graphic explanations was understandable because it’s one of those things you just have to live to grasp and I don’t wish it on any one…which makes me tolerate their ignorance with love.

Weeks went by without my being able to even go outside my own doors. Paranoia creeped in that I was constantly being watched by Ava. When I got like that, I couldn’t “speak” to her star without succumbing to terrible pain from her deep inside  my soul. It was all just too much to feel and stay alive, so I stopped going outside after dark…stopped talking to her through “her star…” unconsciously holding my breath until it returned naturally.

As a writer, quick thinker and even faster talker, words have been critical to my existence, self-esteem and an extension of my soul. That day, sixteen months ago, stripped my brain of most of the words I have been used to having at the tip of my brain. For this last year, I’ve felt as if I had had a stroke…struggling daily to retrieve those words always available to me but now some distant, vague memory. I’ve worked hard reviving them…reading dictionaries, watching foreign films to not only block my horrific messages but to feed my ADD and desire to bring languages back to my brain. Seems to be working but I’m still feeling a bit retarded in the word department. The most important part of this lesson is that I can SEE improvement…even if it is microscopic…much like when I had my nervous breakdowns…microscopic improvement is valuable.

It was more than a miracle that I lived through July, 2012. Montana, the grace of God, the love of my friends and family kept me going. If it hadn’t been for taking care of Montana and taking her outside, I wouldn’t have ever left the house. If I hadn’t trained her from the day she found me to be my “service dog” without understanding the why behind that drive, I wouldn’t have survived the year. Ava’s pull to have me with her was strong and extremely painful.

I’m sharing this with you because you who have suffered similarly, do as I say do and not as I did. I recognize trauma in others but not in myself. I did listen to my instincts as I have always done, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around this condition being mine…but it is.

It surely is and it helps me having a name for what’s going on because I know it will leave with the right therapy, hard work and treatments.

It gives me hope. The hope that others who are suffering will reach out to AvasCorner.org for answers, directions and understanding. I just didn’t apply my own resources to myself.

I’m just sayin’…

Happy Trails (or trials).

The last picture taken of the three of us in March, 1984. Twenty-eight years later, Ava was gone too in that same month.

The last picture taken of the three of us in March, 1984. Twenty-eight years later, Ava was gone too in that same month.