Archives for posts with tag: PTSD

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!

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!

Jennifer, hit the ground running. She adored her big brother, Carl, at their first meeting in the hospital when she was born. Carl watched his baby sister raise up on her two palms and turned her head from side to side as if telling everyone to turn off the bright lights! He was so tickled by this that he ran into the recovery room to report to me. His eyes gleamed as he told all about what she looked like as if I hadn’t seen the baby at all!

Carl loved to fish better than anything and Ava loved her brother more. Here's Carl with his prized catfish.
Carl loved to fish better than anything and Ava loved her brother more. Here’s Carl with his prized catfish.

Carl and Jennifer laughed and screamed and played like two puppies…joyful as if to have found each other again during their first eighteen months as siblings. Everything started to unravel the day Carl’s step-father attended a meeting at the school. Carl was not the cookie cutter kid. He didn’t fit a mold for many reasons and the DeKalb County school system wanted to test him every year he was in their system but couldn’t find anything “wrong” with him.

In the seventh grade, a very “special” county worker tested Carl and reported to me that Carl just didn’t fit in at school. She reported he dressed too nicely, had his hair cut too short and was known as “preacher” because he carried his Bible to school.

My blue eyed baby...Carl around age 8.
My blue-eyed baby…Carl around age 8.

Outraged by the audacity of this county employee, I shared this report with Carl’s step-father. He went berserk and demanded a meeting with the Principal. Fool that I was, I thought he was finally being supportive and acting like the father he should have been these last two years and a half years.

After their meeting that fateful Thursday, Carl’s step-father decided Carl should go to military school on Sunday in the spring of his twelfth year. His step-father totally failed to understand Carl’s sensitivity and artistic brilliance.

Carl about the time his step-father decided he needed military school.
Carl about the time his step-father decided he needed military school.

I had dated boys who had attended military school and thought the disciplinary training might be good for Carl even though my heart was broken over this outrageous unilateral decision.  And, although I was known to be a strong, independent woman, I felt powerless to stop him. I’d never lived with a man other than my father and older brothers and didn’t have a clue on how to usurp my own authority over a man much less a husband. All I knew to do was pray the Lord would slam the doors shut to prevent my determined husband’s decision, confident he could never come up with the money necessary to carry out his plan. Even years of  therapy didn’t give me the tools I needed for this nightmare. So, on the third day, Carl and his step father flew to the Florida winter camp of the military school designated to train and mold him for the next three months and twenty days.

Carl called me often…crying from the terrible hazing and unfairness of the system. As soon as the boys relocated to Georgia, Jennifer and I would drive to spend every visitors day with Carl trying to encourage him to learn from the experience and be his cheerleader assuring him he would be back home. It was after one of those visits that I came back home knowing things were getting ready to change. I had my spine back and wasn’t going to be bullied by her husband any more.

But, it was too late for Carl. He came home an angry, bitter thirteen year old. Sadly, military school had taught Carl about hazing, abandonment, drinking and drugs. Not a single therapy session gave me the tools to handle this conundrum. I ended the ruse of a marriage to save my children but Carl’s psychological damage was done and Jennifer’s was just beginning to show at a whole new level.

In those days, there were no resources readily available like today. Everything learned was done by hundreds of hours spent on the phone begging strangers for help, resources and/or funds. My fight for the mental health Carl needed over the next six years included therapists, psychiatrists, counselors, attorneys, psychological testing, law suits against local School Board, numerous unproductive meetings and red knees from praying but every single time I thought I had the answer, a tragedy would strike from outer space and topple all the hard work into ashes. Hope was hard to come by but it was all I had. Carl’s drug exploration continued until the day he disappeared when he was just two months past his eighteenth birthday in 1984 when there were no resources for missing young adults.

Jennifer was six years old the last time she saw Carl. He was celebrating his eighteenth birthday at their grandmother’s house. He was getting his driver’s license, a car and his freedom. There was a big fight and he got into his car.

Jennifer ran outside to tell him she loved him but hesitated. He drove off not knowing he was leaving the six-year-old forever blaming herself for his disappearance sure that if she had told him how much she loved him as she intended to do, he would have stayed and been safe. No amount of words, therapy or assurances ever convinced her otherwise.

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.

The only thing consistent about Jennifer’s father was his absence…emotional and physical. Jennifer’s losses were coupled with challenges she had from birth.  Days old, she began displaying severe separation anxiety. When I tried to take a shower or do anything without Jennifer glued to my hip, she would cry so hard she would hyperventilate. This little one was presenting challenges the pediatricians would categorize as spoiling her. They didn’t know anything about mental health…only physical.

Washing her hair was like pure torture to her. She screamed so loudly the first time I washed her hair that the neighbors came running to see what was wrong with her. They saw me holding her closely while she was on the kitchen counter next to the sink, my hand gently messaging her head while the water trickled. I was as stunned as they were. I didn’t know until after her death that this is one of the symptoms of Asperger Syndrome in children!

Dropping Jennifer off at pre-K was always a traumatic experience to her. She would stand at the windows watching as I drove off as if it was going to be the last time she ever going to see me.

Out of compassion and understanding of this child’s challenges, I spent all my non-working time with her trying to give her the love and support she needed. But, Jennifer’s need for love was insatiable. There was no way I could fill the void Jennifer’s father and brother left behind but I sure tried to give her lots of love and stability because I discovered early on that her brain didn’t process like most and I didn’t know anything else to do.

From past experience, I knew the public school system didn’t know how to deal with an intelligent child who couldn’t “fit” into a box so I moved back into Mom’s so Jennifer could attend the private Christian school affiliated with our church. I kept waiting for Jennifer to settle into the school but even these teachers weren’t trained to know how to deal with a child who didn’t fit into the mold.

The therapist Jennifer had been seeing since age ten was seeing wasn’t any help either. I withdrew her before the seventh grade and home schooled this hormonal hellcat for the next year. As Jennifer progressed through puberty, she resented her body changes…willing it not to happen. She told me she didn’t want to be a woman. It was during those pre-teen years that she started talking about suicide. Jennifer’s psychiatrist didn’t know what to do with her either never giving a hint of treatment or diagnosis.

In the hope of getting Jennifer outside of herself, I had kept her enrolled in many activities from modeling, modern dance to ballet to competitive ice skating since she was two years old. It was one of Jennifer’s older friends at the ice skating rink when Jennifer was eleven years old who mentioned to me that she, herself, had a chemical imbalance and that it might just be what was wrong with Jennifer. I didn’t know what that meant and, in 1990, there wasn’t much available about it…no internet or resources at the public library about this brain malfunction. What I did learn was it was possible for the brain to fail to produce the right chemicals for the brain to process information properly. That sure sounded like it might be the answer but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just drugging Jennifer as none of her therapists ever mentioned this disorder. Drugging my daughter for everyone else’s convenience wasn’t going to happen. I wanted to make sure that Jennifer’s demanding, narcissistic, clingy tendencies weren’t due to me needing to be more or do more.

The summer of 1991 was tragic. Jennifer was involved with an unitarian youth group who allowed the thirteen-year-old Jennifer to associate with an eighteen-year-old pedophile. After the pedophile raped her, Jennifer dissociated for the first time. She became more outwardly angry at me and more inward in her behavior until she attempted  suicide just six days before my father died. Knowing how much Jennifer hated doctors and needles, I was sure the Emergency Room visit would surely jerk her out of her strange behavior. Strangely, it fed the monster which always needed more and more attention. I now know that she was exhibiting symptoms of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

It was time. Medication was in order. First the doctors tried Prozac but to no avail; they doubled and tripled it but nothing helped her chronic, severe depression. They tried every anti-depressant available but nothing worked. In fact, her depression got worse.

It was 1992 when I purchased our first home (with no job, no money or reliable income) through an elderly gentleman who owned hundreds of rental houses. I  did all the paperwork for a seller finance and presented it to him; I could because I had been in the real estate legal business for many years. The owner was very happy to help us realize our dream. However, being in this house would mean  Jennifer would have to attend public school. The good news, as I told her, was she could start off with a clean slate. No one knew she’d been raped or knew any of her past. It would be up to her to share what she wanted. She could just be fourteen years old and try out for team sports at the new high school while the doctors played with her meds.

Public school proved to be a disaster for Jennifer as it was for Carl. During the summer of 1992, Jennifer started acting strangely aggressive and defensive. I asked her to sit down and talk with me about what she was going through. We realized she was steeling herself for going back to the public school. I couldn’t put her through it. I searched our new community for a private school to put her in and there was one. All I needed was six thousand dollars. It might as well have been six million as I was still self-employed. Somehow, I made it happen and everything rocked along for the next school year and summer until the wheels started falling off the wagon again.

I registered her for the private school again because I had no direction from any of her therapists, the school or my counselors. Plus, I needed to find work. I couldn’t keep this up no matter how much I wanted to be home for her. In March, 1993, I went back to work full-time. In May, Jennifer called me to say she was going to kill someone at school and then herself.  I walked out of work without even telling anyone what had happened.

When I got home, she was sitting in her room holding a knife totally dissociated. I couldn’t reach her at all. I cried and phoned everyone I knew to call…therapists, doctors, family, school. Finally, my only choice was to call the police. Here I was again but, this time with my daughter. I hadn’t had any good experiences with getting help from the police before so I didn’t have any good expectations with this scene either.

I hadn’t had any good experiences with getting help from the police before so I didn’t have any good expectations with this scene either. She was on large doses of Zoloft. She was now sixteen years old. The most amazing thing happened when the police came. They were wonderful! They spent hours talking with her, helping her reconnect with reality. We dodged another bullet but not for long.

By the time she was seventeen, I had gone as far as I could go without having another nervous breakdown. I was drowning. I had to keep my own head above water if I wanted to help this strong-willed, independent, recalcitrant, self-destructive, narcissistic, chronically depressed, drop out teen. She thought she had all the answers and, by now, was wanting emancipation. I felt I had done all I could do and the world would have to finish raising her.

Every weekend for six weeks, I sold everything in our home. I rented the house out and moved in with a friend. She asked what she was supposed to do and I told her to call her father because I didn’t have any more answers to her questions. For the first time in her life, her father was there for her even if it was for selfish reasons. His mother had recently died and he needed someone to pack up her belongings and label the boxes. She could move into her other grandmother’s house if she was willing to do the work. Jennifer moved in and turned that quiet neighborhood on it’s ears with her tattooed friends and late night partying. After a respite, I could give her a helping hand up as long as she was helping herself.

It was late 1994 when I heard her sing opera aria for the first time as we packed her up to move. I couldn’t believe my ears. She was blessed! She needed to be learning music. It had always been her passion from birth. It was the only thing that would calm her down as a fretful baby or as a disturbed teen. She delved herself into all kinds of music. She never discriminated…heavy metal bands, hair bands of the 80’s, Mozart, big band sounds, opera, jazz, blues…everything. It was then that I told her I would provide for her living expenses (except for gas, car insurance and spending cash) as long as she obtained her GED and registered for a full schedule at the community college toward a degree…any degree. She now had a dream and her private lessons started immediately as she obtained her GED and moved forward with her college goals.

The next ten years were wrought with psychiatrists sleeping through sessions, group therapy, medications, breakdowns, suicide attempts, failed treatments, successes, failures, highs, lows, research into what was wrong with her and, finally, marriage.

It was a therapist who finally diagnosed Ava right before her marriage as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). She has a diary full of documented moods, thoughts and fears. She was very fearful…of everything and nothing. It is one of the most prevalent common denominator of this brain malfunction. When she was diagnosed, there wasn’t much research about this condition.

In the meantime, her psychiatrist was treating her for Bipolar Disorder with antidepressants and not even addressing her prior diagnosis at all. I have several family members in the mental health care industry in a range of jobs from admissions to certified therapists to college professors. They all say the same thing. Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis is one that has no chemical treatment and, until recently, little therapy treatments with any substantial result. The “professionals” appear to all have the attitude there is absolutely nothing which can be done to help people with this disorder.

There is hope, however, due to an ever-increasing diagnosis of this brain malfunction. There is a treatment called “Dialectical Treatment” which helps. It doesn’t have to end the way Ava chose to.

Ava was an opera singer in Las Vegas (an unforgiving town) married to the wrong person. She was bullied at work by her co-workers and at home by her estranged husband. She was exhausted from a grueling two year, accelerated college schedule trying to finish her degree in vocal performance so she could have financial freedom and all that would mean for her future.

She chose, however, to take advantage of the perfect storm. All her closest support members were in the Emergency Room dealing with life threatening issues. Friends in Vegas were oblivious of her despair or intentions as is customary with BPD.

Ava took her life on the night of March 23, 2012. Since then, I’ve been caught up in a tsunami of grief and work.

It was during my drive back to Vegas just a few short weeks after her death to attend to Ava’s final affairs that I was “told” to create a website to help others. Not having any experience in such matters caused me great confusion about the directive. I argued and negotiated. I was “told” to “just ask.” So I did. I asked all her friends in Vegas and they immediately responded “YES!”

At that time, I didn’t know that the suicide rate in Las Vegas was fifty percent higher than the national average.

With the help of Ava’s closest friends I now call my chirrens and through nothing short of many miracles, AvasCorner.org (AvasCorner.net and AvasCorner.com) was kicked off on December 2, 2012, just in time for the holidays…the month that has the highest suicide rate of the year.

I designed it and professional volunteers put the vision into action. Ava’s Corner, Inc. is a Georgia corporation with 501(c)3 non-profit public charity status with the IRS. We are a grassroots project to change lives giving them new ways of thinking about therapy through Art, Music, Yoga, Massage and more. We want to help our visitors find hope. The mental health industry may have given up on our loved ones with brain malfunctions, but AvasCorner.org (.net & .com)  hasn’t. We’re here for them.

http://www.avascorner.org/

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.

*****

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.

*****

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.