Bears don’t sneak up on people?

“Is this the color that you wanted?” The words sludged towards me loud and slow with exaggerated lip movements. A small plastic case, the size of an iPhone screen slid across the wooden desk; inside were the two new Oticon Alta 2 hearing aids that I had ordered weeks prior. I didn’t waste any time opening the box and pulling out a hearing aid: it was about two inches long with the top hook a golden-brown shade that was supposed to blend in with my hair realistically though it was a shiny beige. The hook connected to a clear flexible tube just wide enough that you could shove a pencil tip into the top of it, and it vanished into the ear mold that I had spent hours considering my options on. The molds were mostly clear with some bright green swirls mixed in and took over the entire ear except for the top curve that you can stick your thumb in and drag down to your ear lobe. There is a small vent hole under the tube, a single button on the back of the hearing aid hook, and at the bottom, a door that you can pry open with a fingernail that swings out to hold a battery. “Yes” I agreed.

I deftly stuck the mold into my ear and flipped the hook up and back to rest on the top of my ear where some people hoard pens or the sides of their glasses. The hard plastic clogged my ears diminishing background sounds and making my ears feel stuffy and warm. The rarely touched skin behind the crease of my ear protested the weight with threat of a blister. I squeezed the battery door closed and heard the hearing aid powering up in scales “ding ding ding” with the pitches rising, “ding” a few notes lower, followed by “ding ding” rising back up in pitch before sounds clicked on. I ran my finger along the top to see if it was on and heard a white noise almost like chapped hands rubbing together before sound rushed in and flooded my head until I was in sensory overload. The previously silent room was filled with the buzzing of the lights, a computer hum, footsteps outside the door and both of our breathing. The audiologist nodded her head, content with how I put in the hearing aids, attached wires to them that dropped over my shoulders laid across the desk connecting to her computer; they were programmed for two settings and I was sent on my way.

Outfitted with my new ears I decided to go to my favorite place. I grew up at the Zoo– I went to camps there every summer, became a teen volunteer, worked there, became an intern then volunteered another 100 hours with the birds of prey program. I was relaxed and content when I walked through the gate passing the mountain goats on my left and curving with the path to the black bear exhibit. There is access to the inside area designed to look like dens on the left and the path is above overlooking it. To the right you can see the steep slope containing a swimming hole, lots of trees (some with metal guards wrapped around the trunk to keep bears from climbing close enough to get onto the path), a heated den on one side with full glass windows, and somewhere in there, 3 bears. I leaned on the railing with the best view of the water taking deep breaths: I could smell the bear poop, fur and pine trees, there were birds chattering, and then something that I’d never heard before…a loud crack, snapping branches, leaves rustling, and the sound was moving. A wave of excitement ran through my body, I rose up onto the balls of my toes to get a better look below me and a smile blossomed across my mouth. I could hear the bear moving around! I’d heard about people listening for bears when they went hiking, but I didn’t comprehend how they’d know what to listen for or how they would know it was a bear and not a squirrel. Bears are heavy, and they don’t move silently. I realized that maybe if I use technology and really listen, I might find that bears don’t really sneak up on people.

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Emotional Abandonment

“You did respond–your response was the worst kind–you did nothing” -Balancing Acts: Chalet Girls

I work at a title 1 school, meaning that there is federal funding due to 40% or more of the student population living below the poverty level. Many of the students are refugees, the majority of them are bi or tri-lingual and English is not spoken at home. Trauma is a recurring theme in our students; many of them have broken families, they live in a neighborhood that sees lots of violence, and they don’t have access to a many resources.

One thing that our district is excelling at is using The Zones of Regulation and mindfulness. The kids get to learn about social-emotional awareness and improve their self expression and can tell you what is bothering them and even sometimes, what they are needing.

Over the past few years, there have been a few students who have been clingy, attention seeking, or self deprecating. It was annoying. After getting to know each other I often found that the behavior was caused by their home life. Mom works two jobs, and the kids only see her a few hours a day. Parents turn on the TV and tell the kids to be quiet, there are 3 generations living together and all fighting to be heard over the dinner table; the reasons are extensive and unique to each family. The uniting factor for all of these kids is that they aren’t receiving the attention that they are craving and they can’t move up the hierarchy of needs. The kids are (hopefully) physically safe, but they may need some help from school friends and adult support in order to move on and feel confident about themselves.

maslow-5

As an adult, I try to remember that every behavior has a reason. A child doesn’t throw a chair at a window just because they’re bored. They don’t scream and bite because you asked them to do their work–something triggered them and they’re reacting to make sure that they are physically and emotionally safe. The child might be protecting themselves from getting attached to you because they’re afraid of being abandoned again, they could attack you because at some point something bad happened when they were touched on the arm…every behavior is caused by something in your past.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel

Giving people attention is hard work–it’s an emotional investment. When you love someone give parts of yourself to them. Hate is another strong emotion that involves thinking about someone else, and actively putting energy towards them. Strong emotions lead to actions.

The worst thing you can do for someone who needs help is to not strongly care about the issue. Anything less than hate or love is not enough.

Indifference, or not caring is worse than showing that you give a crap about what the child just did. They figure out that it’s better to be yelled at and have someone actually see you then to be ignored and feel like nothing you do matters.

“I’m glad you’re here, I want you to be safe, and you matter to me” is a message that I try to give the kids whenever we interact.

 

Failing Myself

“I tried to go to seep for real, not because I felt tired, but because I felt sad. Failing other people, I could just say “sorry”, but it hadn’t occurred to me that I was failing myself. I didn’t want to fail myself. I wouldn’t know how to apologize for it.” -Sahara Special  by Esme Raji Codell

I’m not great at apologizing; it’s only recently that I learned the format of how it should be properly done. I grew up learning that if someone is unhappy you turn to them and say “sorry”. Sorry is an empty word– by itself it doesn’t mean anything, especially with how often and thoughtless it is used in our society. A real apology has 3 parts, and I learned what they were when I was really hurt by a friend, and was talking to someone about what I needed in order to move on and keep that friendship that I so desperately want.  An apology is not just a single word, it’s not something that has a defense or a “but”, and it is something that you actively acknowledge that you can do something differently next time that the situation comes up.

The three steps to an apology are:

  • stating what was wrong,
  • taking responsibility/letting the other person know that they understand why you’re upset
  • stating how they will work to improve it next time.

A proper apology makes the person feel better; it’s fixing hurt feelings and repairing friendships, not grumbling a word and forgetting about what happened so that you don’t feel guilty when it happens again. “sorry” in my experience just leads to resentment.

When you fail someone else, you can give them a sincere apology and move on with life. You may not feel great for a while if you truly understand how the person felt, or if they shoved all the guilt down your throat, but you do move on. It’s much harder when you fail yourself; you can’t go through the routine and fix everything.

Failing yourself is easy: get depressed and dig yourself into a hole that doesn’t allow for any self care, make decisions that you regret later, use avoidance as your stress management, find out that others really love you and that you don’t feel the same way. We all have our own individual ways to feel like we failed, no matter what it is, we are flooded with anger, guilt, sadness, anxiety, and telling ourselves that we were wrong doesn’t help.

My self failures mostly have to do with avoidance. If I get stressed out that something bad will come in the mail, or I don’t want to deal with an email that I know is coming, or will continue to come, I avoid everything that may be near it. I’ve kept unopened bills for months because I knew that I couldn’t pay them. I opened new email accounts, or stopped emailing when I knew that there would be emails that said “there’s a problem with your account” or emails that are asking me if I’m still participating in things that I ended up getting depressed and stopped doing. Eventually it all catches up with me and I have a lot of adult-ing that I’m not happy to be doing. It always catches up to me, and when it does, I deal with it because I have no other choice. I know that it’s my fault, I know how to fix it and how to not have it happen again, and I pay the bills. Even after everything’s done, I feel like shit.

I feel guilty that I let it happen, I feel bad that I have to scramble to catch up, I feel useless as a wife because I disappointed my husband, and I still worry that it will happen again, because it has, and sometimes I just can’t.  Sometimes I don’t have the money, sometimes my anxiety is to high for me to function well enough to call and work out plans, and sometimes I’m so depressed that I haven’t showered in a week and sleep more than I’m awake.

I don’t know how to apologize to myself for failing. I do know that having a friend and a sister who understand my fucked up chemical imbalances are great places to turn– they’ll listen and give me enough weed or booze that I can sleep or at least stop soothing self harming behaviors. I know that I can take extra self care routines, and I can talk to my psychologist to discuss adjusting my medication for whatever issue made me unable to deal.

Failing myself is disappointing the person who matters most in my life, and it has the side effect of hurting the people that I care most about. It’s hard because I see myself as a passionate person who CAN get things done. It hurts because I know that it’s myself holding me back, and it’s hard to fight yourself.

If you ever feel like you’re failing yourself, know that you’re not alone. You have friend, family and strangers who will help fight for you. Take care of yourself, and once you can forgive whatever you did, come back and let us know what works! You are strong, and you can do anything, including forgiving yourself.

 

Fire Whipping

I spent a magical, fantastic weekend at an (adult) immersive pirate and gypsy festival. I flew in on an airship, and got to experience the hodge-podge of of cultures that come together to play. There were a few highlights of this particular trip, one of which was wearing a corset for three days (yay back support, and weightless titties!). I am a messy eater, and dropped part of a cookie I was eating down my corset. It landed too far down between my boobs to pick it out, so the friend who always “takes my breath away” lacing me up reached up from the bottom of my corset to try and fish it out for me. I lost it. I was in a fit of giggles as soon as his hand touched my stomach. I was laughing which trapped his hand. It was a funny mess that you probably had to witness to be amused by.

I attempted to be smart about traveling with my medications on a summer camping trip. I learned what not to do though. I figured it was going to be hot, and I didn’t want them to melt together, so I put my weekends worth of meds together in a pill box and stuck it in the cooler. It sorta worked– my pills didn’t meld together in the heat like some peoples did, but rather, found a watery grave as the ice melted. A weekend without pills. GREAT.

Thank god I had my pooper-dog with me. He routinely does DPT and self-harm interruption (I don’t notice when I’m scratching at my fingers until they’re wet from blood). I also was fortunate that Pirates are a generous bunch, and would kindly refill your empty cup when you asked permission to board their ship. After spending some time on the green machine, and drinking my fill, I was able to wander the dark without panicking that I was being followed, or that doom was looming overhead. I still wasn’t in the mood to deal with crowds, dancing, or anything that wasn’t wonderfully structured, but I was coping and able to walk around to see what quieter activities were happening.

While most people were at a masquerade ball, I had glimpsed a ball of swirling fire from a few campsites deep from where I was and was determined to find it. The gate was guarded by a cute girl with pierced nipples, and a metallic archway. From the entrance, I could see that it was fireplay– there was a naked man laying on the ground with torches brushing his body before being patted away. I asked if this was a private camp event, or if I could have permission to board their ship.

As far back as I can remember (5th/6th grade erotica books) I’ve been fascinated by the BDSM community, watched from the sidelines, and fantasied. I came in and was immediately covered in a sense of awe and peace. The naked man lay completely relaxed, then rolled over and let the fire pulse over his chest, thighs, and penis. He never once tensed up, or grimaced, and you could just see the quiet power/skill/full attention that the man with the fire exerted.  The circle of people around the fire were all quiet, some talking among each other, but all held captive by the show, and all respectful. We were gathered in various stages of dress, some in full pirate garb, some in fetish wear, and some nude, all with a calm feeling of peace and safety surrounding us.

The show moved on to floggers, paddles and a single tail. There was a safety person, holding onto the person who was going to be whipped, a gloved hand protecting their neck/head. She seemed to enjoy her job, holding onto the squirming, moaning participants. The crowd cheered each time the person said they’d had enough, and we saw the group of people surround the person giving after care and making sure that they were ok, bandaging any open wounds (only saw two which were easily covered with a band aid) soothing the skin and whispering reassuring words.  At one point, the man swirled the whip in the air after a louder moan and made sure that it was a happy sound, not a request to hold off. The layered safety measures, and the peace that all seemed to get from it was cathartic.

I came home at the end of the weekend to discuss with my hubby; I have permission to try it out should I happen upon this again. I understand the release that I can get from pain, and that makes it tempting, but even more so, was the sense of safety and community that I witnessed.

Tip of the iceburg

A service dog is not for everyone. Some days my anxiety is heightened because I have the dog with me. People do stupid shit, and it makes me worry that my fully trained dog might mess up…completely unfounded fear, but a nagging one regardless. People like to stare, talk  to the dog instead of me, rush up and touch, and tell me all about their dead dog who is kinda like mine in the fact that they’re both dogs. Ugh.

Treat the service dog like a boob.
I’m serious. That’s it. That’s all you have to remember.

There are certain things that no person should or would (hopefully) ever do in regards to boobs. The following is a list of things that if you ever said or did any of them, you would earn yourself a well deserved slap.

“AAAAHHH!!!! BOOBS!!!!! “GET THOSE BOOBS AWAY FROM ME!!!!!”
“Look at that girl’s boobs! *points* Hey, everybody! That girl has boobs!”
“Am I allowed to sit next to you? I don’t want your boobs to bite me or anything. Maybe I should just sit on the other side of the room…”

“Can I touch your boobies!?”

“Why do you have to have those boobs with you? I’m just not so sure they’re necessary.”
“BOOBIES!! *grabs without permission*”
“Are your boobs aggressive? Do they bite?”
“I just don’t know how I feel about letting someone with boobs in here. It’s just unsanitary, you know? You understand, right?”

“Hi, little boobies! I’ve got a treat for you! You want a treat, little boobies?”

“Are you sure your boobs are real? You aren’t blind or in a wheelchair. How do I know you don’t have fake boobs? Do you have paperwork proving that they’re real boobs?”
“Are your boobs going to behave themselves? I don’t want any disruptions.”
“Look, honey! That girl has boobies! Go pet her boobies! What? What do you mean my kid can’t pet your boobs? That’s so rude of you!”
“Are your boobs going to be able to handle this situation? They aren’t going to get scared and freak out, are they?”
“How dare you have boobs when there’s nothing wrong with you! There is a disabled veteran out there that served our country that actually deserves to have those boobs, and needs those boobs, and you took those boobs away from them! You should be ashamed of yourself!”
“I know it’s none of my business, but why do you have boobs?”
“Why is that girl allowed to have boobs in here! I want boobs too!”
As humorous as all of this is, it is actually a genuine problem for people like me who have a legitimate service dog for an invisible illness. Replace the words “boobs” and “boobies” with “dog,” “service dog,” and “puppy,” and you will have a list of actual comments people have made to me- most of them by complete strangers who have never seen me before in their lives, and who began their conversation with me this way.  –Service Dogs and Boobs– A complete guide

You — I am Worthy. Hear me Roar.

One of the most terrifying things that I’ve been through is visual hallucinations. Most of the time they’re paranoid glances caught in the corner of my eye as I turn around, or focus on something else. They put me on edge like nothing else can, seeing shadows that are always people shaped, but have no details.

When I’m highly anxious and driving I see things on the side of the road– a kid on a bike, a hitch hiker holding onto a bag, someone stepping into the road… they’re not necessarily scary sights, but they put you on edge– you don’t want to run anyone over. You also have to live with wondering if you really saw someone on the corner, or if you weren’t paying good enough attention. You sit up straighter, lean towards the steering wheel and become afraid to blink….what if you miss something and that person is actually there? What are they going to do? If they run into your car, its still your fault, right? Driving is stressful, but it still offers the protection of being in an enclosed car that you can speed off in if that shadow starts to chase.

I was discussing “shadow people” and how uncanny and hard to describe it is, when I was introduced to a poem that really worked for me. It’s vague, just like the hallucinations I see, and simultaneously horrifying. This is the reality that we have to live with.

Here’s an excerpt from a blog that deeply resonates with me.:

 

(Living with Hallucinations) I see you Hiding in the shaded corner of the closet You delight in evading my glances I see you Shifting right in front of me You’re too quick to capture I see you Peering through the broken blinds You pretend the wall divides us I hear you […]

via You — I am Worthy. Hear me Roar.

Right after I finished reading that, I glanced up from the phone and saw the vague shadow of a person crossing the mostly closed blinds of the window. I freaked. Thankfully, I was able to see the tiniest detail- a color, as the shadow crossed. My hallucinations are never in color, always shades of black/grey. I was also not alone, and was able to be reminded that it was dinner time and people were just getting home. We laughed it off, wondered how the hell we would explain this to someone who didn’t know the challenges that we face, and finished closing the blinds.

My normal paranoid, anxious, or even manic hallucinations all follow one basic guideline; you don’t get details. It’s a flash of movement, you know that you saw something, but it leaves you frustrated, wondering where it went or what exactly it was. Our brain is hardwired to see faces in things, but I don’t get to see their face, and that may be part of why it’s so scary. I see faceless people. There’s nothing to relate to with my demons other than that they have a head, and body, something similar to what I have, and I know that my body can be dangerous–theirs must be too.

Baseline Mornings

via Daily Prompt: Savor

A few weeks ago, I was actually at baseline, and it felt fantastic. I was working a graveyard and I paused to think about the things that bring me joy. I found that it’s the simple things in life that I find most rewarding.

Joy is found in the mornings when you sleep in and wake up content, slightly cold, but relaxed and able to turn over to cuddle with hubby’s body heat until he wraps you in a full body hug and doesn’t let go until you fall back asleep. It’s waking up again to the dog splayed on his back crammed between the legs of his people, waiting for the expected morning belly rubs before he jumps up to give all of the kisses and bring you shoes so you can take him outside.

The perfect morning continues with walking down the stairs, one hand balanced on the dog’s back as he keeps pace, pausing at each step. It’s smelling the freshly cut citrus fruit and listening to water boil as you grab a blanket and head out to the porch with a book. Joy is when you have tea in your hand and you test the temperature of the morning with bare toes before settling in with puppy acting as slippers, tea balanced between the tomatoes and the peppers while you stare off in contemplation, enjoying feeling like yourself. You don’t know when that will happen again, but for now, you’re productive, stable, and capable of acknowledging the joy of a perfect morning.