Category Archives: triggers

Focus 52: Shadows

I love make up.

I am a girly girl who lives and dies for the sparkle, the shimmer, the gloss, the gleam, the bling, the shiny and all things that are wonderfully and magically feminine.

Lately, I haven’t been feeling so girly.

Since my hysterectomy, it has been hard for me to jump back on the “Sparkle Wagon” as I call it and make myself fabulous.  It’s been a real struggle. A chore for me.  Even showering is a process.  Bending over to shave my legs is a true production as I can feel the incisions in my abdomen tugging hard to the point where they feel like they are going to snap.  Showering usually exhausts me to the point where I don’t feel like going out any longer.

The other day, in the mail, one of my dear friends, a fellow blogger who shares my love of all things make up, sent me a pallet of eye shadows, cheek tints and a nude lip gloss.  Just something to brighten my day and make me feel “gorg” (as she put it) after all the shit I have been through as of late.  Well, I played with those eye shadows in a gazillion different color combinations on my arm til it looked like one big long bruise.

You know, when a bruise is healing?  All those crazy colors; purples, yellows, greens, blues, blacks.

And when I realized that, I scrubbed my arm clean.  It brought me back to a time in my life where I had to rely on cover up, thick, copious amounts of cover up, to cover up bruises that were given to me by someone who claimed they loved me.  As I was washing off my arm, still staring at these glorious eye shadows, I wondered why…why would I be thinking about something so terrible out of nowhere when just five minutes earlier, I was in girly girl heaven?

Then, I realized.  20 years.  This November will be 20 years since someone tried to end my existence on this planet.  20 years since someone beat me into a coma with a baseball bat in front of my 4 year old daughter.  20 years since doctors told my parents that I may not come back from this and if I do, I will probably have severe brain damage for the rest of my life.  The “anniversary”, if you will, of one of the worst moments of my entire life.  I suppose it had been brewing just under the surface in me for awhile.  The night before receiving this wonderful present from my friend, I had had a very restless sleep.  At one point, my husband had to wake me, because not only had my sleep been fitful, but apparently at one point, I ended up flailing about, punching him violently and screaming for whomever I was dreaming about to “leave me alone, leave me alone…stop!”  My husband shook me awake.  “It’s me, baby…it’s me,” he said as he slowly brought me out of my tortured slumber and back into reality.  I stared at him for a minute, still confused and somewhat dazed.

“It’s me,” he said again, softly.

“Okay,” I nodded, understanding that he was reassuring me that I was safe.  “Okay.”

I curled back up on his chest and went back to sleep.

It’s peculiar to me that even 20 years later, the silliest of things can trigger me.  A certain scent.  The sound of a man’s voice when it is particularly gruff and laden heavily with a thick, italian accent.  There are specific sounds that make me jittery, like the sounds of footsteps on a wooden floor, especially if that wood floor creaks.  There are certain actors I can’t watch on TV or in the movies who remind me of my abuser and even if the movie is supposedly “sooooooooooo good,” I will still avoid it like the plague.

The day after I got my friends gift, I went back into my bathroom, and played in front of my mirror again, combining golds with peacock blues and and lush, rich purple shadows.  And it became fun again.  The joy was restored because those other shadows, the kind that hover over you and wake you from restful slumber…the kind that haunt your thoughts and dreams, the kinds that are long, tall and ominous?  They eventually go away.  And they are replaced by 16 pots of beautiful eye shadows sent with love from a gret friend.  A silly soap opera palette called “The Balm and the Beautiful”…with names like “The Other Woman”, “The Drama Queen” and my personal favorite, “The Perfect Man.”

However, I think I will steer clear of the one called “The Coma Patient” for a little while.

Hits a little too close to home.  😉

Long time gone…

I haven’t written in here since May. I said I was going to take June, July and August away from writing. I’ve missed it and while I have had a lot to say, the words were escaping me. It seems my inner voice has been a bit battered as of late. I wanted to write on September 11th, the way I always do. I couldn’t. I couldn’t even bring myself to honor the people lost on that day because I have been utterly swallowed by my depression lately.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had reasons to laugh in the past three months. Lots of reasons. There were a lot of fantastic things that happened over the summer. There were also horrible things, like my trip to Israel. There was pain, rejection, loss of connection and the annual celebration of the day I was torn via C-section from Esther’s pristine uterus.

44 years old. Happy birthday to me. Another day closer to death. The way I figure it, I am probably halfway to dead by now. If the average woman lives until 88 years of age, I am dangling on the halfway point this year. I did a quick assessment to see if I am anywhere near where I wanted to be at this age. The answer was a resounding…perhaps.

I’m a grandmother to two beautiful babies. I am married to the most amazing man to roam the earth since Christ himself…if you believe in that shit. My children are thriving in their lives. My daughter is happily married and a fantastic mother to those to babies I mentioned. My son just started his first year of high school at a brand new school and loves it. I am on decent terms with Esther. My dad is well, not healthy, but well enough for now. So those things are amazing and incredible and perfect.

But where am I? I’m not really any where. I am clean of my drug addiction for well over a year now. I gave up my nursing license and now, in retrospect, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I realized how miserable nursing made me and how it contributed to my depression. Whoever tells you that nurses get to help and heal patients, well, they obviously never worked in long term care. You don’t get to do any of those things. You get to shove pills into their incoherent slack-jawed mouths and then onto the next. There is no comfort. There is no care. There is no time to sit at a bedside holding a hand. All that bullshit you see on soap operas…it’s a fantasy. A fairytale that surrounds the beautiful myth of the nurse. At least it is in that setting.

So, back to school I went. Off to get my degree in Social Work. I decided I want to go for my Masters in Social Work and Human Services. Why? Because I need to hold that hand. I need to bring that comfort. I need to smile into pained and troubled faces. It does them good. Selfishly, it does me good. I decided that I am going to be an interventionist and work with addicts. Does it scare me? Definitely. I am scared shit to be around those who are using actively again…but now that I have been there and by the blessing of my Higher Power, found my way back…I feel this is the path I am destined to walk.

I love being in school because it is something I am good at. I am an “A” student, a perfect 4.0 GPA. The professors love me, they always embrace the returning adult students more than the new, fresh out of high school kids. They know we care a lot more and are a bit more hard pressed for time. There is no room for us to fail. We don’t have the opportunity to fail because we don’t have the time. The money. The lack of desire. Our grown up hearts are on fire to do something, anything relevant with the time we have left, however much that might be.

The way I figure it, I will walk out with my degree in 2 more years from now. 46 years old. Still enough time to begin a life, still enough time to put in about 30 years worth of employment.

I ain’t quite dead yet.

But in the interim, I am suffering. I have stopped taking all my psych meds. I just don’t want anything to do with them any more. And, it has its good moments and bad ones. I don’t feel fucked in the head any more. I have my memory back. My sense of humor has returned and it is whip cracking sharp the way it used to be. On the flip side, I cry at the drop of a hat. I fall into depressions very easily. And, my old friend insomnia has returned to fight me nightly. And while the bottles of Cymbalta, Lamictal, Buspar, Xanax, Geodon, Ativan, Klonopin and Trazodone all look tempting…I mainly find myself having staring contests with them. They dare me to open them and to indulge. And the temptation is always there. But, I don’t. I could. Nothing wrong with taking one now and again when needed, but I feel like one will be death of me. Just one pill will open up a can of worms for me. I can’t revisit the days of bottle dependency.

I keep them all over the house. Some on my desk. A few in my purse. More on my bedroom dresser. They stare at me and say, c’mon CP, let us take the edge off. And me, I scoff and say “no, let me empower myself, dammit”. “But you have a disease,” they retort. “You need us.” And that may very well be, but I want to try to go this alone. I want to feel like myself at every possible moment I can, however fleeting it might be. For those few hours, life is so perfect.

Then, the depression comes back, wraps me up in its itchy wool blanket and says, “No, no Dear. You don’t get to make the decisions around here. We do. Me…me and all your pills. Come down the rabbit hole, CP. It’s not that long of a drop.”

But it is. I’ve taken the trip before. For the five minutes I jump into the deep end, it requires a lot of swimming to get out of the murky waters again and I simply don’t have the energy to do it over and over again.

I’ll probably be writing more frequently now, but not daily. Just when I need to…like in the beginning. And tonight, I needed this to be here, like an old friend with open arms letting me fall into them and just cry. Let it all out, rubbing my hair til I fall mercifully asleep.

I need this.

And then came Jessica.

Let me preface this post by saying the following:

I understand the disease of addiction. I know it makes you say and do things you would not normally do. I understand that it grabs you and refuses to let go, even when you will it to. It is a disease that has no “cure”. It is an affliction you live with for the rest of your life. I get it. I understand it. And, of course, I empathize with it, not just as a nurse but someone in active recovery.

That said, all empathy went out the proverbial window tonight when I met Jessica.

I’ve seen Jessica before. She’s been to my outpatient therapy classes a few times. Everytime she was there, I would watch her. She would nod out. She would roll her eyes. She would scratch her skin incessantly; something that opiate addicts do when their drug levels are pretty high. I knew she was an addict. I mean, everyone there is at varying stages of recovery.

Jessica is there voluntarily. She was not court appointed. She was not mandated to go there by her job or anything like that. Rather, Jessica was there on the advice of her attorney. Jessica was busted by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) for trafficking drugs. She was caught with approximately $20,000 worth of opiates in her home. They had been taping her and her boyfriend for months, under their ever watchful scrutiny, just waiting for her to fuck up. And, as all addicts, fuck up she did. She sold some opiates to an agent who was wearing a wire. In an instant, a swarm of undercover agents busted open her door and infested her house. They tore the place apart finding her entire stash, guns and a shitload of cash. Everything was confiscated and Jessica, along with her boyfriend, were taken to jail.

She was released to the custody of her grandparents with a bond of $125,000 dollars.

Jessica is looking at approximately 9-20 years in prison. She is 21 years old and basically, she has thrown her entire life away. Her story broke my heart. She is only a couple of years younger than my own daughter. She’s in a huge amount of trouble. Huge.

Tonight, Jessica came into group, high again and proceeded to tell us how much she “misses the lifestyle” that her drug dealing afforded her.

“I had a Jaguar with only one payment left on it,” she said. “I had my own home. I never had to work a day in my life.”

Slowly, I felt my empathy wasting away. I took a few deep, cleansing breaths to try to calm down my contempt. Okay. She misses the money. Alright. Fine. Not for me to judge. I opted to stay silent and let her finish talking.

“I really don’t HAVE to be here,” she continued, “it will just look good to the judge if I show him that I am getting help.”

10…9…8…

“I’m really only here because I sold drugs. I’m not an addict.”

7…6…5…another cleansing breath…

“You all are here because you have to be. I don’t have to be here. My lawyer said I should come.”

4…3…2…BREATH, CP, BREATH.

“I’m in the middle of school, getting my Associates Degree right now. I’m graduating in December.”

And inside, I had reached DEFCOM ONE.

“Jessica,” I said, pointedly, “May I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Did your drug money pay for school?”

“No,” she said with the slightest smirk on her face. “I got financial aid.”

HOUSTON…WE HAVE LIFT OFF!

“So, you are telling me that you could afford a Jaguar, your own home, didn’t have to work a day in your life, but you applied and received financial aid?”

“Yep.”

Now, I am fuming. If you’re an addict, you’re an addict. You want to kill yourself in the process with the drugs, by all means, kill yourself with the drugs. It’s your choice what to do with your own body, your own life. But I am listening to this CHILD tell me how she made nearly a hundred thousand dollars by dealing to others. Then, on top of this, she steals the financial aid out of the pockets of kids who are earnestly trying to make something out of themselves.

“Didn’t you make enough money to pay your tuition?”

“Yes, but why should I pay for it if I could get financial aid?”

This is about the time that CP lost her fucking mind.

“What’s the matter, CP,” my counselor inquires. He knows damn fucking well what’s the matter with me. He is just encouraging me to blow up on this kid. He wants her to get it both barrels, not just from me, but from every member of the group.

“What’s the matter with me? The matter with me is that I broke my fucking ass to get my child her college education. I worked double shifts at the hospital. My husband took an extra job to supplement us. She didn’t qualify for financial aid because, on paper, it looked like my husband made too much money. We scrimped and saved for her to be able to go…and this…this…ARGH!”

I couldn’t even get the words out of my mouth. For the first time in a very long time, I flipped out. Lost my patience. And then, I turned inward. I had no business yelling at her. But, in that moment, I hated her. I absolutely hated this girl because she represented every single thing that I can’t stand. People that suck the system dry. People who callously abuse the privilege of financial aid…taking from the “have nots”. I detest that.

But, I shut up. I stopped talking.

Thankfully, the rest of the group felt exactly the same way I did. They took turns admonishing her for various things. Her abuse of the financial aid system. The fact that she was coming to counseling for the show of it all. The fact that she came in there completely fucked up on drugs…because she could.

To see her there swaying back and forth, scratching her arms and legs, her eyes rolling back in her head? Huge trigger factor for many in the group. Not a good thing for a room full of addicts to be privy to. It’s unfair to the rest of us to have to sit there, actively trying to recover, while this little one comes in because it looks good to the court.

Our counselor asked us if this was upsetting us, seeing her like this, listening to what she was saying. We all agreed that it did. It bothered us all immensely for various reasons. We have all been there. We all know what it is like to fall asleep in the middle of whatever we were doing. No judgment there. But in this situation, there are people who are struggling to stay clean. They are submitting to drug testing. They are in danger of dying if they don’t do everything they can to get well. And these people should be the top priority.

I left the office feeling very angry, hurt and confused. There was no regret in her voice. She isn’t taking responsibility for anything. She’s not interested in getting clean. She’s interested in not doing 9-20 years for trafficking. She’s interested in getting felony probation. She’s interested in getting the hell out of our class so she can go home and keep using.

And, unfortunately and much to my dismay, she left me feeling the same way.

I won’t pick up. I won’t use. My life and sobriety is too important to me. I have come way too far to allow this to shake me, to bring me to my knees. But, she put it in the back of my mind, my addicted mind and I don’t like the way it feels. It’s uncomfortable to sit with this feeling in my chest and in my mind. I haven’t been triggered to want to use in a long time.

Then came Jessica.

And I hate her for leaving me alone with this monster.