I have long been a believer that our mind is the most important part of our health. In some ways, the brain is a slave to our mind. That may seem like a stretch, but when the brain is functioning, and commanding legs walk, hands move, eyes turn left, one would assume all is well with the brain. But when our mind becomes clouded with heartache, or bombarded and frozen with traumatic memories, it’s entirely possible the brain is not working right at all. Especially for homes drowning in health chaos stress, functioning in a perpetual auto drive state, may actually detach and disconnect how the brain interacts with thought. Homes not impacted by disability may know stress and exhaustion, but compound it with the extra strain, the picture is far more complicated. Taking in the view from a hospital bedside and holding images in your head of your sick kids is draining. It becomes easy for the signals to get confused and I personally feel a regular urgency to frame that mayhem correctly for both myself and others.
The type of continual mayhem that comes in boatloads within disabled homes has tons of bulk material to thrash about. 10 tons of medication refills, 1000 HIPPA forms to sign, 200 appointments to schedule, drive to this Dr, go to that, bring the items needed for one child’s handicap or the others cognitive deficit and don’t forget your leg braces, and oh my goodness be sure the teacher knows an extra wheelchair is needed today, did I remember to get gas? I have fallen asleep without brushing my teeth from pure exhaustion after helping my oldest bathe, clipping his nails and cutting and washing his hair, before moving on to wipe the other child whose been waiting in the restroom for 15 minutes because his hands are too numb that day. You drop hard with a cluttered mind and never-ending checklist half completed. Mental mayhem ensues with nothing to interrupt its grip. Having lived in that terrible state once, what I now hold valuable is very different than my pre-disability, pre-medically fragile children life.
If there is one thing I have learned to respect more than any other facet of my current life, is the power of mental fortitude. I don’t mean being strong-willed, or mentally strong so-to-speak, as those both are a bit more passive and baseline of life. I speak of the type of intentional mental focus and direction while under extreme duress, where the temptation of fatigue and traumatic stress drain the pool of perspective and intelligence.
Another way to describe it, would be the ability to remain in control and guide emotions in a direction best suited to make definite sustained progression when no resources to support that progress exist nor are accessible during that time of need.
Managing the mental mayhem of constant crisis in the home, whether medical, mental health or both is the foundation of functionality. Let the mayhem reign unchecked and the entire ecosystem of the mind and home collapse.
There was a time, quite a few years ago in which that management of my own mind was not in place. A quick progression of intensified illness, loss of organization, distractions, lapses in coordinating parts of my home, and a serious burnout that threatened my personal life.
Set aside my boys needs, I speak of my own. I was in failing health, suffering within my weary mind and a broken sense of objective fortitude, quickly crushed when the extras showed up. Other families, I have met, were less fortunate to find that mental health help and for a few ended in homelessness, addictions, abandonment and even death for one Mom, she passed from heart failure. I had felt those fears and panics myself and honestly worried my kids would come in my room to find I had died of a heart attack or complication from medications I had forgotten to take, too tired from caring for them.
It is a must to find a way to make the mind stay focused, objective and frankly happy to some extent. And no offense, I was a pastors wife for about 20 years. So the whole trust God, He will make a way out of no way, became infuriatingly cold. No, I have not lost faith in God. In fact, I have the most enlightened powerful relationship with God now, more than ever was possible under the rule of an abusive Pastor husband. But it is worth noting, faith alone is great, needful component, but you have to add to that with other attributes. I rarely lack trust in God. But when there is a disconnection of what the actual needs are, its easy to let the mind get swallowed into a sea, lost and unchartable by any others.
We have all seen the news reports where someone is highlighted as having survived something remarkable and given praise for staying calm. The mass shooting in Las Vegas comes to mind. It was sickening, and heart-shattering for so many and I remain grateful any survived at all. There is real esteem for those who do, and I share that manner of feeling and gratefulness.
What does not make the news, get covered in local journalism or get featured on Good Morning America, are the thousands of parents, caregivers and children arising to some of the most highly charged, split-second dangers and loss of life threats, every hour of every day, with no support, relief or recognition and praise. I feel invisible even today as I write.
I am grateful for every reader. I cherish each of you and if you are reading this line, yup you too, honestly, no joke. It’s part of what reminds me I exist outside of my hardship. Its positive and wow feels great. That is not the same as being recognized in the way I should, and others should, who honestly endure and survive odds greater than being lost on the mountain during a blizzard with no provisions, while a group of thieves well-stocked track you down for the joyful slaughter. Really, I mean it, just that intense and hard.
These are those who fight to keep loved ones alive, functional and individual pushing to not cave under pressure. Yet to say this and not expand I consider a great offense to the intricacies of what it takes to not merely survive, but also find a place of growth and recovery. To be more than a family living with, and become a family living in spite of.
I never have, nor except my current status of just managing and getting by. I refuse to succumb to a mentality that all I need to do is hold on. Although such ideas are good ones and may be necessary for some moments. If I do nothing more than those, I sacrifice every ounce of opportunity to seize my potential, my children’s bright future, and eventual victory. A victory where former battlefields have melted into a utopia by comparison.
To withstand living in a disabled body, disabled household, and endure the constant medical crisis of fragile children, finding other ways to cope is urgency. When your daily, or in our case, hourly lives depend on clarity for decisions, failing is no option. What I have successfully utilized along the way is to accept the need to scale down what I recognize as a win, a loss, a milestone, burst forward, or even a lapse behind.
I have learned that it is okay to have an area of defeat if close inspection and great objectivity uncovers it is an insignificant one. Seriously, sometimes just saying its okay to lose is fantastic and emancipating. Every part of what most consider perfectly normal I have completely abandoned to capitalize on every microscopic opportunity to prosper in equally unconventional ways.
When you rarely hear good news, have endless extra hardships to add to already existing ones, and then get tackled by an NFL caliber linemen of medical crisis, normal melts into a sea of confusion. You can quickly lose sight of the safety of the sideline, and no goal posts are there to even direct you to a possible victory. The entire game of life gets spun, and the pieces get entirely thrown off the board.
Reaching that peak of pain, when I was watching my whole life meltdown, and in agony, I started to cave. It all crashed with each medical diagnosis I received for my boys, mental illness based behavior crisis of my youngest, and physical injuries sustained supporting them with my injured spinal cord. Never getting any relief or breaks to recover and decompress I found my mind caught up in a gut-wrenching emotional crash.
It was an emotional nuclear fallout, and the daily dark news matched the dark cloud hovering and showering negativity down. I was knee-deep in the ash left behind my rivers of tears. I literally ended up in the ophthalmologist office with eyes that had swollen shut and tear ducks that had ruptured. When you get to that point, you must respond with action that can help you move. Not merely move but move forward in the right direction.
Up to that point, I had been standing firm. I had already endured what many said to me would have already overwhelmed them. I got compliments on not complaining, being upbeat and finding ways to acknowledge God as the lifter of my spiritual drain. Even then I was quick to reply I never claimed my strength to be my own. Afterall, the truth was my strength had ended long ago. And to this day, if you meet me, I will state the very same. My power is His strength endowed, plain and simple. Without such, no one would be able to endure what I face, and my children face each day.
However, I needed something more than just “getting by on faith.” More intentional healing with direction, not heavy-handed, short-sightedness predefined by what someone else said. Just encountering people who have not experienced such hardship blankly felt I should expect God to shower immediate mystical answers. Yes, that is possible, God can do such things, but I would have learned nothing that way. And would not have anything of substance to share with you now.
Maybe at some point, I can express those spiritual lessons, but I promise you, to see mental health and spiritual health separately is woefully inaccurate. I do acknowledge and recognize others have differing beliefs. Yet, I spoke to what I have experienced and seen to yield incredible, inspiring results. Its absolutely proven my truth and honoring that has promoted a personal wholeness of health, in my home and emotionally, previously not possessed.
To manage the exploding mental mayhem in my life and begin mending. I had to go backward. It pushed me to strip back all my walls to get the intensive psychological health guidance needed. To manage the crisis, I had to dig back, deep into an abused childhood and history of domestic marital abuse.
Choosing to undergo a lengthy intense trauma-based therapy was unbelievably hard during a time my kids were endlessly in the hospital. My mother was failing with breast cancer for the 5th time in 21 years, I was going partially blind in my left eye from untreated iritis. I was racked with infections from injuries carrying my youngest and pushing his wheelchair, and facing a fight with the local school system denying my kid’s legal education needs with an attorney, provided by Council for Children’s Rights.
It was brutally busy and then found out I would need to start having infusions in Levine Cancer Institute to treat anemia. There were and continue to be more than a dozen other, just as dangerous, medical issues kicking around. Back then I was overwhelmed in every sense of the word and neglecting my own needs. Not that I get all my needs now, but nowhere near the level of personal neglect I had then. Current day, I can say much of it…”it’s handled.” Why? I have found a way to be stable in the midst of what others call chaos.
I still get infuriated when others from the outside look in and want to strap me with limits. As if we are not already battling limits. I would boast I am more capable of sustaining and caring for all those I am responsible for than a home with no issues, lots of money and two parents around. Some educated people lack true enlightened education. As a minority woman, I have also learned racial bias, can wink familiarity with disabilities and disabled homes. People with such bias are insane with judgment and sickened with narrow-mindedness and lack of awareness. If you have been one of those people in my life, shame on you. Come sit and be taught so you can help build up others. I will be far less judgmental than what was dished out. My point is, real good can come from being in a place to help others and help them come to a better knowledge of a world they have no intimate experience with. It becomes a win-win when people drop the ego and use some humility. It’s okay to make mistakes, just fix them and be accountable. Okay, soapbox put aside. Geeze. Hey, I warned readers, in the beginning, I have a weakness for occasional randomness. Tangents are my thing. (Huge goofy smile).
But something marvelous happened when I chose to do that hard work of recovery and face the things draining me in the background processes of my mind. I just was not perceiving the correct source of the drain, pulling my mind down into fear and hopelessness. You know that power-intensive notification you get on your devices? I had the same alarming warning yelling at me emotionally. Those lengthy traumas were far too power-intensive, and it was time to forcefully close the applications of strain. I have shared before how sacred my energy resources are, and anything that preserves, lengthen and enhance precious resources are a must-have in mending the mayhem.
I was so blessed that at that time, my boy’s clinical therapist was qualified to treat patients whose trauma has radically rewritten their personality. Trauma that creates its own set parameters of how to think, feel and react. It was a mini-miracle I remained as functional as I was. But that was not the same as being in control, focused and productive along the way. Being only able to react to crisis, past and present were snuffing me out in more than just a physical way.
It took some convincing, to buy into the extent of work to be done. As if I wasn’t drained already, some overly confident dude was going to tell me, hey, you’re a messed up Mom whose husband tortured her emotionally, used physical intimidation short of complete beatdowns, threats of abandonment and humiliation via the pulpit, and one who lies as smoothly as silk and has entire congregations fooled as if he was the victim.
The same Pastor, husband, and father who abusively bathed our sons, and terrorized the home. And by the way, let’s stop off at that Grandmother of yours from childhood that would bash your head and painfully pull fingers backward for fun during the nights she babysat drunk and violent, and visit the emotions surrounding parents in denial and too much shock to stop it.
Wow thanks, clinical therapy dude guy, awesome good time. Do we really have to visit all of that? Maybe skip the whole domestic violence thing? I hated that therapist so much at first until the results flooded in with the breath of life.
His parting and my graduating instructions were to help develop domestic violence curriculum for educational systems to utilize during classes, finish my book, continue all facets of recovery to lead my children back into a life of hope and independence and be the bridge between medical, mental health providers and patients so real healings happen.
Nothing too hard, pretty standard post clinical therapy achievements, right? Shout out to Zaide Davis, we will forever love you and remain grateful for the vessel of healing you are. Such clinical therapists are rare so if you find one, do all you can to grow under their guidance. Giving back is my life’s goal, that’s it, give and love my children back to health in all ways possible.
Under such skilled, competent care, I was challenged. No lie there were days I stormed in and out, liberal cursings, during moments of facing the darker more painful memories. I had this mindset, I didn’t have time to be that messed up Mom. My time was already split up too much. But over time, through a lengthy process of reset, repeat, reset again, revisit, redefine, revamp, reject, and do it all over again so that how I interacted with all those feelings, I emerged not just strengthen but fortified.
I no longer built up walls to protect me. Building walls do not nearly provide the protection assumed all the time. For me, those more accurately boxed me in and isolated me from true freedom of thought.
Hum, Trump might benefit a few hundred thousand therapy visits from a clinical psychologist whose goal is to heal a nation. Wait, where was I? Oh yeah, tearing down hurtful walls, refusing to rebuild them in favor of healthy boundaries. Boundaries capable of flexing and changing as needed to respond objectively to the world around me.
I learned walls don’t move, that’s why we build them right? But what happens if you need to run? How do you make walls mobile, so protection remains intact? You can’t, so knowing how and being able to strictly follow healthy boundaries, I was free to explore, go further and continue increasing the distance away from a horrid past.
It also means I am the supreme commander of my reactive traumatized nature. But the prize, the beauty of the work came is seeing my confidence in self-love, my abilities, my objectivity, learning my true value not tied to abuse. Best of all, my ease in trusting myself has fostered emotional comfort in my kids. They get better as I get better and as they recover I rejoiced a bit more each step. The endless cycle of pain has been replaced by an enlightening period of growth. That spinning wheel no longer only presents sadness over and over but has merged with spaces to prosper, grow and excel.
The process continues, the need to revisit, reset, repeat, replace, release and more, is something an abuse victim turned survivor must be open too often doing. Parts of my life still need tending to for sure. But the mayhem, that emotional madness that threatened the home has been neutralized to a place no threat remains.
It remains difficult to process through new pains that surface, and frankly, just as unpleasant to do. But the payoff, the strength and life lessons to pass on making it worth it. In some sense, it does get easier because you know it works and yields something glorious. I am able to commit very fluidly, and the only true challenge to that process is finances and time. You know, insurance giants are killing this great nation, one rejected diagnosis at a time. Unless you have incredible financial stability, anyone really sick will have an economic strain or worse. But I do commit anytime its needed with no hesitation but joyful anticipation, even if pissed off once in awhile.
I stay involved in mental health, I must if my children are ever to recover and heal from suffering trauma poured onto them by an abusive father. One whom remains gratefully estranged and not permitted contact by a line of medical providers ready at the draw. I consider him one of those defeats that don’t matter. An insignificant person whose victory is having escaped the penalty of the abuse he has willing dealt out. I relax in that defeat. I know what is left over is unavoidable payment to be collected by others. This is a deliberate action, an intentional mindset and what I mean by mending mental mayhem.
Mending the rips and tears exposing us to harm and reinforcing the previous wounds creates potent healing. Amazing things spring forth when you nurture something with that much love. Nurture mental, emotional neglect, you will indeed watch it prosper above what would otherwise be healthy. So I encourage you, if it relatable to you, to nurture only what breathes life, harmony, and peace. I have intentional mindfulness that practice does not make you perfect, not at all. However, practice makes you better, so be careful what you practice. This is what can be perfected, to attend to the right things.
Even with my recovery, and the joy of being free from a trauma controlled personality, there are negatives and hardships around to wrangle. My youngest continues to be dwarfed by classmates whose chronological age and mental-emotional age match, while he sees the world as a 3-year-old. Forever frozen in the trauma moments of the past, and a birth injured brain strapped with challenges in its infancy. I get no younger, no less spinal cord damaged and a body required to push beyond safe limits to spare and protect my kids.
But what I value most in life, what matters more than my comfort, preconceptions of normal, desires for money and materials, more than the extras providing respite and vacations to entertainment destinations is my mental joy, fortitude and ability to mentor my own children. It is worth every sacrifice, sore muscles, and sharp pains, more than my drained body, and taped up car. I am in love with how a healed mind functions and functionality is a giver of life. It has no equal mentionable.
If I can successfully nurture that one quality and skill in my boys, it will be the most significant achievement of my life. There is a lot to say about an honorable spirit flourished beyond once envisioned dreams. For all the fragility in my life and home, my mental fortitude, our family bond, and trust, ability to be confident with each other and embrace all the tender happiness hidden in the cracks, missed by others, is priceless. My former self is downright jealous of the current version of me. Kinda kick-ass awesome I think.
There are some standard things you can do, to make progress yourself at home. Not everything requires time in a clinical therapist office. Mindfulness is obtainable if your mind is already clear. You would be surprised how organizational guides for disabled homes can ease anxiety and the power of sharing in groups who “get” you. Although nothing can take the place of the professional mental health guidance and support, changing some daily activities and tweaking expectations to match the unique challenges in medically fragile homes can build ladders over walls, and limbs to carry more at one time.
So if you have read this and are saying, “man, I can relate,” I am here for you. If you just want to know more, I mean, please come back often and be sure to follow the blog for more. This blog is important to me, and every like, share, repost, and link to help reach others in need. It really is not all about me, although the support is really needed to and helpful.
If you have questions, or comments I welcome you to use the comment sections or drop me a note at info@AngelsofOurOctober.com- thanks for reading.
(post updated 4/24/2018)