I was diagnosed with PTSD years ago, just when it had become a mental health buzzword. I was grateful that I was not stuck with the titles of Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder, Clinical Depression or just downright crazy. But the question was, how do we treat this?
So I endured several years of psychiatric hospitalizations, boilerplate trauma programs, I even got admitted to a sex addicts group (yeah, got out of that within the first few hours).
I knew I had suffered multiple traumas in my life, but I want to nail down the one incident that injured me. That was not going to happen. After a series of unfortunate events, I landed in a trauma treatment center in Arizona.
I was actually relieved that I to get some good R&R, skip the daily stresses of paying bills and working for a company that hated me. I had no idea how this treatment was going to unfold and how it led me to start Traumallama.com.
So I mentioned in the title that I “spiraled” into trauma. Without going into the entire 55. .. um 56 years (as of last weekend) of traumatic events, I will give you the Reader’s Digest version.
I was fat, not just a few pounds overweight. Like fat, enough to make my knees hurt and be embarrassed in public. To make things worse, I had an identical twin sister who was thin. The comments we heard … “She’s your twin? Why is she so much bigger than you?” I’ll spare you (or me) the rest of the nasty comments. My sister turned to me one day and said, “I swear if one more person says that, I’m going to bitch slap them.”
I mean … that was nice and all, but it didn’t make me feel any better. So, I did what I always do, turn to Google. There had to be some reason why I was fatter than my identical twin sister.
We visited doctor after doctor and they all said basically the same thing, “she’s thinner than you.” Wow, thanks! You spent how many years in medical school to figure this out?
Ok, long story short. I decided to have bariatric surgery. Not just a balloon in my stomach. The full on re-attaching my intestines/staple my stomach into the size of an almond. It worked! I didn’t look just like my sister, I was thinner!
That’s when the insidious dark shadow of trauma crept in. First, I had to re-write my story. I was not getting promoted or not getting praised because I was fat. I was using my weight as my excuse. No problem. I’m a workhorse. So, I worked extra hard, showed them all what a good girl I was, thin body and all.
But I was sick. My stomach hurt all the time and I was living on Vicodin. That is when I had my first trip to the ER. After spending the night in an uncomfortable gurney, with bright lights and crazy people screaming in the hallway, some intelligent doctor figured out that my intestines were in a knot and cutting off all blood flow to my body. After starving me for 24 hours they performed surgery and I was well again.
Not for long. That was one of five surgeries. My addiction to pain pills, on top of my new favorite diet food, wine, landed me in the hospital over and over again until the day I almost died.
By this time I had quit the crappy company, sued them for trying to make me lie about promotions, spent a summer taking care of a dying cancer patient and adopting a new puppy.
My puppy, Matilda, she was going to be my therapy dog and the love of my life. But my constant companion, and old warrior dog, Max, was not happy about it.
We survived several triggering terror events (all on TV of course). The attacks in Paris, and then the attacks closer to home, San Bernadino. I got through the all day/all night television coverage by having a couple glasses of wine and fawning over my new puppy.
I had no idea that the next attack would be in my own backyard. It was a beautiful summer day. I was weeding and raking up leaves. Max was playing with Matilda. And then I heard this horrible yelp. I ran to the backyard and Max had locked his jaw around Matilda’s neck. He was shaking her violently.
I tried everything I had learned to get him off her and nothing work. Finally, when he dropped to the ground, I leapt on top of him, grabbed his ears, and bit one of them. I think I learned this from some old Indian horse trainer. It worked, and he released her.
Somewhere in that fog of trauma, I had enough sense to wrap her up in a towel and drive with her (on my lap) to the emergency vet. They operated on her and she survived but her relationship with Max never did.
For weeks I sat in my house, alone, in an obstacle course of locked gates and doors. I would let one dog out, the other dog in, the other dog out, lock the gate, re-lock the gate, test the door handle. In short, I was losing my mind. My amazing son stepped in to save me and took Max to his house, permanently, with his buddy, and little doggy girlfriend Coco.
I thought the trauma was over until I woke up one morning completely exhausted. I just laid in bed most of the day with Matilda. About 3 PM in the afternoon, I felt like I wanted to barf. I got up, but my legs were wobbly. I laid on the floor and puked pure blood. Terrified, I tried to crawl to the bathroom only to have the same shit come out of my butt (literally). There was blood everywhere and I was starting to loose consciousness. Dear Matilda was not going to let me do that. She frantically licked my face until I was able to find my iPad and Facetimed, my sister. 911 was all I could write.
She called me immediately and I told her to call an ambulance. Of course (side story here) I had a room full of hot fireman and I looked like hell.
I was rushed into emergency surgery for a bleeding ulcer. While I was in the hospital recovering my brother and sister called and offered to send me into treatment. They were more concerned about my alcohol abuse.
I went into treatment on my 55th birthday, one year ago. I was diagnosed with Complex Developmental Trauma. And my drinking …I tested for alcoholism and the test came back negative. “Trauma medicating” is what they called it. Not that is any better than alcoholism, but you remove the trauma, you remove the drinking.
Stay tuned … I’ll tell you more about Complex Developmental Trauma.
MTL (Mama Trauma Llama) xo