+CHAPTER 3, BOOK 2 OF “THE DARK SIDE OF MILDRED’S MOUNTAIN” (‘Angel’)

The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 3

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3.  Hesitant Story

What story lurks inside of me that I find myself so afraid, so hesitant, so unsure of how to begin to tell it?  Do I stand at the magical gate of my own secret garden holding in my palm the skeleton key that I know will open this lock to let me inside?  Am I approaching one of the gates of hell (I assume there are many)?  Do I stand in some dark-walled somber court room about to lay my right hand upon the cover of a Bible to repeat an oath that what I am about to write “is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God?”

I want to run away yet find myself glued here, poised to let words come into my mind and then out the ends of my fingertips to write a story I am so aware of not being able to fully remember.  No one is forcing me to move from this point forward.  I am at that balance point between ordering myself to write at the same time I respect myself enough to ask for permission to cross a threshold of memory to retrieve what I can know about myself in my life beginning one month before my sixth birthday as I crossed the threshold into the log house in Eagle River, Alaska on July 31, 1957.

Pausing here I note my own rule:  Every word that appears to me as I write belongs in my story.  Once placed it cannot be removed.  To refuse a word’s existence within this story is to separate myself from the gift of my story as I follow the scent of it, the feel of it, the shape and form of it as if the story exists already.  My job is to find it and express it.  My challenge is to let it come forth one word at a time no matter what.

No matter my own doubts, my own unfaithfulness to my truth, my own fear of failing, my own intimidations of myself.  In spite of my own self-imposed critic.  In spite of my mind that will often wish to wander away, to find something in my adult present so much more pleasant to think about, pay attention to and do.  In spite of my discouraging self, my discounting self, my unbelieving self I will give credence to my own words and to that which they humbly try to communicate.  I need not make any claim of perfection.

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Any thoughts about why I write take me back to myself sometime in my early teens.  I am sitting on a knoll in one of our homestead fields below our house on a summer day.  The hill is well established with a plant I grew up to believe was called Dogwood.  I know now that was not its real name although Dogwood is what I always call it in my heart of hearts.  This is its proper nomenclature:

Cornus canadensis COCA13

bunchberry Cornaceae

HABIT: 2–8 inches.

KEY CHARACTERS: Leaves 4–6 in a terminal whorl with 1–2 pairs much smaller, opposite stem leaves below.  Flower bracts white, petal-like.  Fruit clustered red berries.

HABITAT: Spruce and birch forests, muskegs.

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These thriving short plants were thick beneath me where I sat, so I know several years had to have passed since Father had first torn up this land to plant crops of Timothy grass as required by the government’s homesteading proving up requirements.  There was no sign of tall grass on this hill.   Rather this lush carpet of green was half full of white flowers and half full of red clustered berries at their fruition time of summer.

I was at a similar stage of transition from young to older childhood, yet I had no more sense of my own history than did the wilderness I was a part of that measured nothing about itself in nanoseconds or millennia.  Small grasshoppers popped up and down around me as I disturbed them by lightly brushing my palms in wide sweeps over leaves, flowers and berries around me.  Rushing glacial river water far below me on the valley floor surrounded me with muted roaring.  I was anything but alone.

It seems I have two simultaneous lives at this moment.   I am here writing at the same time I can return to my body on that sun graced knoll experiencing a state of perfect peace.  There I am met with bird songs drifting past me in an untroubled warm breeze.  Here I feel tension in the muscles of my torso as if they are preparing to lift a great load.

Every time I consider writing my whole childhood story I see myself there on that blue-sky day on that mountain suspended in my memory as if that part of me has refused to leave that spot.  I feel brewing tears as I write these words.  I cannot exactly say why I want to throw a line of words back through time to myself sitting there.   I had such an untold story to tell even then. 

I would trade these tears for that joy, but I don’t think that is what my writing is meant to accomplish.  Is this more than poignant melancholy?  Is this story a scratching, gnawing, clawing thing twisting and insisting on being formed and getting loose?  Will it no longer sit still within me?  It demands words.  Only then will it leave me as it takes to the sky beak, talons and all – finally setting me free.

Or so it seems….

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Plant information is from:  Forest Plant Identification Guide Chugach National Forest, R10-MB-421, by Robert L. DeVelice, Susan L. Boudreau, Charles Wertheim, Connie J. Hubbard, Chrystal Czarnecki

May 2001

USDA Forest Service

Chugach National Forest

3301 C Street, Suite 300

Anchorage, Alaska 99503–3998

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+NO WORDS, NO VOICE

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Perhaps it will help me clarify my thoughts, feelings, perspectives, hopes and intentions this morning if I give words to something that has been bothering me in regard to a long-standing friendship for over seven years.  My friend lives on the other side of the country from me, and as far as I know will arrive for a short visit – again – within the week.  I have something I need to voice to her, something I need to talk to her about — important to me — only I don’t know how.

Having been raised and formed within an insanely abusive early home for the first 18 years of my life I was forced to adapt myself to three conditions that are appearing to me today in these words:  (1) terrorism, (2) tyranny, and (3) another person’s pervasive and damaging sense of entitlement.

I had no way to ever fight back against any of these “conditions” of my life.

I often wonder how much of who-how I am in the world would have been ME even without the abuse and trauma.  Would I have been a retiring, quiet, shy, unassertive person anyway?  Would I have had the troubles that I have in defining my own needs and desires, as well as being able to articulate my reactions to people’s actions if I had not been forced to survive in Mother’s hell?

Would I still have had trouble sticking up for myself, stating my perspective, telling people how I feel in reaction to things that transpire in relationships?  Would I still have had trouble in doing something other than enduring and watching while I say absolutely NOTHING about what bothers me?  Would I be able to believe that how I feel and what matters to me has value, enough so that I could risk (dare) to speak up when it best suits me?

Would I still have been a watcher?

I notice things.  I notice something that happened all those years ago when my friend and her daughter and partner came to stay at my house for a few days back then.  I had a part-time minimum wage job.  I HINTED – meaning I thought I had made myself clear enough – that I needed to work while these people were staying with me.  The hints did not seem to be (a) heard or (b) respected and honored. 

I dared not leave the house while they were visiting because it seemed to me they WANTED me to remain with them — why?

I spoke with my boss on each of these days, a woman who gave me flexibility to not come into work, although I lost my meager income for these days.   My problem is that I could not speak about my own reality in the face of somebody else’s!

I suppose I did not wish to upset them, to risk making a mess of this friendship.  My pattern is to let things happen, let them go on, not interfere, make my own adjustments to other people’s patterns, with the hopes that “in time” things will naturally take care of themselves.

That’s how I got through the first 18 years of my life.

Time did go on, and two years ago my friend came back for a short day visit.  We went to lunch in town, sitting to eat outside on a warm day on the cafe’s plaza.  A woman my friend had known many years ago while they both lived in a nearby city walked by.  My friend struck up a conversation over the low fence that separated the tables from the street with this woman — and talked for 45 minutes.

Not once was my presence acknowledged.  I sat there eating in silence – alone – as I usually am – and said nothing.  I felt awkward, disappointed, and screwed up all of my own courage not to feel hurt or angry.

Here it is, time again for my friend to return for a short visit.  Meanwhile?

All the questions that go with my patterns are implied here instead of listed in detail.  On the one hand I understand why at my advancing age I am completely unskilled in negotiating situations like these.  On the other hand I don’t want a repeat of this, nor do I want to know on the inside of me there’s a pile of unresolved feelings that I am paralyzed to give words to in order to tell my friend about any of this!

I just want “things” to be fine – always fine – and in my universe that means never speaking up for myself it doing so “might” upset someone else – so that they “get mad” at me.

This is a big deal to me or I would have forgotten about all of this long ago.  I am stuck between my social awkwardness and my fear.  I put in a call to my friend this morning who was busy and will call me back this afternoon.  I am not looking forward to trying to address these concerns of mine.  I don’t know how.

What peace do I think I am trying to keep?  At what price?  Do I have my friend on a pedestal?  Do I not feel I am her equal in every way?  Nobody is going to do this for me, this work that I detest!  This is not a perfect world and nobody is perfect in it.  This is not about fault or shame or blame.  It is not about accusations or apologies.

In fact, I don’t really have a CLUE what this IS about!!!  Not really.  Well, perhaps today when my friend and I speak something about this mess will straighten itself out, no matter how scared I am.  I guess I will soon find out.

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+LINKS TO SOME INFO

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Ron Finley: A guerilla gardener in South Central LA

Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”

Ron Finley tells his story in an engaging TedTalk presentation. Watch for when he talks about the impact of gardening on the kids and about turning the kids away from gangs into becoming “ecolutionaries” and “gangster gardeners.”

Ron Finley grows a nourishing food culture in South Central L.A.’s food desert by planting the seeds and tools for healthy eating. Full bio »

Filmed Feb 2013 • Posted Mar 2013 • TED2013

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February 20, 2013, 9:00 am 125 Comments

Is there a science to parenting?

For all the current discussion in the United States about gun violence and mental illness, there has been little attention paid to root causes. Any effort aiming to reduce gun violence — or child abuse, intimate partner violence, suicide or sexual abuse — must include a serious discussion about how society can improve the quality of parenting.

Read more here:

The Benefits of Positive Parenting

By DAVID BORNSTEIN

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Holey Brains
March 4, 2013

What will you do today that will matter tomorrow?
-Ralph Marston

“Children who have had almost non-stop stress — from abandonment, threat, violence, neglect, or abuse — have huge holes in their higher brain structures,” observes Pennie Brownlee in Dance with Me in the Heart. [not available at the moment] “They don’t have the hardware to run the software of peace and partnership. Instead, they have highly developed defensive brains for fight and flight. Highly developed defense-department-brains don’t grow healthy partnerships; they lead to baby-battlers, violence, and war. Scans of violent adults reveal the holes are still there — they don’t repair themselves. It is the first three years that the growth is laid down, or not….

“Babies who have been peacefully nurtured throughout their growing are very different. Their brains have huge prefrontal cortices. Researcher Paul MacLean termed that part of the brain the angel lobes because they are associated with the highest human qualities. These children are perfectly set up for their divine birthright; the happiness that comes from loving and being loved…. If your baby could tell you what she would really like from you, she wouldn’t ask you for toys and things. She would tell you that she wanted to feel safe and loved, and now you can see why it is so important for her. Her future rests on it.”

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+CHAPTER 2, BOOK 2 OF “THE DARK SIDE OF MILDRED’S MOUNTAIN” (‘Angel’)

The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 2

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2.  Inner Landscape

If I were to begin writing the story of my childhood from this point forward without having Mother’s letters to work from and within, I cannot imagine how I would proceed.  But I don’t have to imagine and I don’t have to write without them.  Mother could give me nothing I needed while she lived.  After her death she provided a great deal of what I need to heal my story.  For this I am grateful. 

Children are supposed to be lovingly guided through childhood by their parents.  Most of how I was treated by mine was criminal.  Yet I was not without benefit.  I partook of a child’s life simply by the accident of being a child.  I had a child’s body, a child’s brain, a child’s imagination, endurance, creativity, flexibility, adaptivity, simplicity, curiosity, sensitivity, and an innate sense of hope that came from having no other way to live.

Nobody could take my being a child away from me.  I was naturally eager, interested and open to ongoing life.  I was a native to innocence.  I did not question what had no answer, nor did I look for reason.  I expected nothing other than what was given to me, good or bad, nor could I ask for anything different.

I make a distinction between being a child and being able to experience childhood itself.  Abuse removes safety by definition.  My experience of being a child experiencing childhood was always brutally interrupted at some point.  At those times I was not a child having a childhood.  I was a child surviving abuse.

The patterns of being interrupted by abuse in my childhood were more damaging to me than was the abuse itself.  Physical injuries heal.  Changes made in the developing body-brain-nervous system from abuse during early years of life do not.  These patterns had been present since my birth (see Story Without Words and book 1 of this series).  They built dissociation – alternative physiological patterns of connecting self and experience together – into me and long before the time we reached Alaska I had already suffered greatly from the abuse Mother in her psychosis had done to me. 

Only in a world of hell would I consider dissociation to be of useful benefit to a child as it was to me.  I could not have survived if my own reality could not have been separated from Mother’s periodically.  The physical reactions of the powerful emotions related to living under continual duress alone would probably have made me sick and/or destroyed me if there had been no way to shut them down, turn them off and make them go away whenever possible.

None of these patterns were anything I could think about.  I was too young to do so when the trauma began in my life.  Being hated, blamed, shamed and abused was my only reality.  I knew nothing else, and I had no way of ever knowing there could have been a different life for me.  How could I have?

After I have finished writing my way through the Alaska years of my childhood I plan to return to the start of my life to track myself through the California years.  Preserved among Mildred’s papers were a collection of her diary entries that cover part of those earlier years of mine and my siblings’ lives.  It is extremely difficult for me to face and write about the abuse that Mother did to me when I was so very, very small.  I have discovered that when I get close enough in my writing to those experiences my body reacts with its own overwhelming memories.  It would also be difficult for readers to face that level of abuse to one so young, as well.

As I move forward through the next years of my childhood in Alaska it is easier to imagine that I could have had some clear inner resources to draw from to survive Mother.  I did.  But it is important to realize even by age five I had not developed in the same ways that ordinary non-traumatized well-loved and cared for children do.

I had no language for feelings.  Any part of me that existed as my own had been instinctively hard fought for at great cost to me in ways I had no way to comprehend.  I had been told I was different from my siblings in extremely negative ways since I was born.  I had been terrorized and battered in ways few can imagine during those California years.  My personal self-space had been continually aggressively and violently invaded so that I had been forced into narrow and confined inner spaces at a time in my development when my self-space and my mind needed to expand rather than contract.

There had been almost no play (an essential component of childhood) allowed to me either with my siblings or with other children.  I had suffered wild uncontrolled verbal and physical attacks by Mother for things that made no possible sense to me for so long before we moved to Alaska that it was impossible for me to consistently form any concept of my own self in the world I lived within other than the one Mildred had beaten into me from my birth.

Sooner or later every segment of my own experience of myself in my childhood had been interrupted by a psychotic eruption within Mother that shocked me out of my life and into hers.  I could not prevent, predict, avoid or escape any of these attacks no matter what I did or did not do. 

I was fair game to Mother.  I was her prey.  I was the target for the terrible sickness in her mind.  Her insanity ruled and ran my life and had done so forever as I knew life.  There was no reprieve.  There was no salvation.  There was nowhere to hide and nobody to help or to save me.  Through all of this I had done the only thing anyone could have done:  I lived. 

It was not the negative patterns of my life that changed once we moved to Alaska.  It was the positive ones.  Alaska itself sustained me.  The benefits of living there far outweighed the harm mentally ill psychotic mean Mother could do to me.  I was no longer a veritable orphan under attack, surviving hell alone.  I had been called home, and I didn’t need to die for that to happen.  Instead I was given the abundance I needed to go on living.

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+CHAPTER ONE, BOOK 2 OF “THE DARK SIDE OF MILDRED’S MOUNTAIN” (‘Angel’)

The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 1

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1.  Whole Rainbow

While this is the tenth book of the unfolding Lloyd family saga, it is the first one in which I face myself in the story of my own childhood.  As I begin this book I find myself wishing I was about to tell somebody else’s story.  There would be no personal risk or emotional investment then.  No howling raging banshee Mother to lie in wait to attack me.  I would not struggle to both carry defenses against and to remain open to whatever I might discover next.

All of my writing in books preceding this one has been in reaction to my mother Mildred’s descriptions of herself in her life.  That she was unable to separate herself from me, her first born daughter, the second of her six children, has created for me the unique challenge of having to separate overlapping edges of our shared story to find my own.  I was the devil’s child figment of Mother’s imagination.  I was not a child in my own right in her mind.

Because Mother never let go of me as the all-bad projection of her I lived as an exile in my own life.  Any time I was not under direct attack from her I was a refugee as an outcast from our family.  While all of Mildred’s children were her possessions being no more than toy dolls who were trapped as prisoners in her Borderline Personality Disorder mind, I served the master of her psychosis that had removed the threat of the devil coming to get her from Mildred’s life until I left home a month after my 18th birthday.

As I have written in Story Without Words it was sometime during her difficult birthing of breech-baby me that Mother’s psychotic break happened as it caused her to believe that the devil had sent me to kill her.  At this time an irrevocable split was created in her mind that divided her reality into two worlds.  She could live in her “upper” all-good world because I existed as the replacement for her all-bad self in her “lower” world of hell.

I found only one faint glimpse of the pervasive underlying light-dark split in Mother’s mind within her writings.  On March 29, 1960, while on our mountain homestead, Mildred wrote of her recent dream:

“The whole family was out walking and suddenly we looked up to see a dark rainbow appear – then it got bright and behind it a skyline appeared outlining massive dormed buildings such as I’ve never seen and skyscraper buildings – then it all disappeared and a big wind came.

We realized it was a hurricane.  We could hardly stand up against the wind. We saw big apartment buildings on the sides of the streets but the entrances faced another street and we were on the wrong side.  The wind grew stronger – finally a door appeared and we went in the building and the person asked us what was wrong?  We told her of the great wind but as we pointed outside – all was silent and the wind was gone … and I awoke.”

The upward brilliant arch of a rainbow is matched by its invisible arc that completes its circle below ground.  If Mildred could have equally buried me underground she would have.  She could not do that because she needed me to be the living all-bad “invisible” counterpart of her all-good “visible” self.  Her ongoing life demanded this of me.  Yet it was only my body that Mildred could allow to live.  No part of me that was a person separate from her version of who her psychosis demanded me to be could exist.

There is nothing about my child abuse story that is not about Mother’s Borderline Personality Disorder psychosis.  At the same time, however, I do have another story of myself in my childhood to tell.  I remained alive as a person separate from Mother’s pervasive, invasive psychosis about me.  No matter what she ever thought, felt, or said about me, nothing she ever did to me could change the fact that I experienced the 18 years of my childhood – my way.

No other alternative was ever given to me.  Nobody ever helped me once we moved to Alaska and left my grandmother behind in Los Angeles.  If I had ever taken any route other than the one I did through those years I would have either died or lost my own mind as Mother had lost hers.  Yet my capacity to endure and withstand suffering seems even to me to be beyond comprehension.

There is evidently a force of life itself that both pushes and pulls a person through the unendurable at the same time it provides protection against destruction.  Life itself sustains life itself.  Not only did I live to tell my story – I will tell it now.  My task does not appear so insurmountable to me if I think about finding only one word at a time with which to tell it.  Even so the next word that comes to mind is this one:  Scary.

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+(ROUGH) INTRO FOR BOOK 2 OF “THE DARK SIDE OF MILDRED’S MOUNTAIN” (‘Angel’)

The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters

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INTRODUCTION

August 1957.  I was a month away from my 6th birthday when I first met the forest surrounding the log house in Eagle River, Alaska.  It was deep with lacey green ferns taller than I was.  Fronds, light as air, swayed over my head brushing my hair, my cheeks.  Fragile.  So soft, the moist ground under layers of aging fallen leaves.  I made no sound walking slowly around the yard among white papered trees with dark little spots and curling frail torn bark edges.  Blue sky and shadow.  Immediately I was a part of this land.

Quiet.  No pavement.  No traffic.  We had left Los Angeles behind.

Splashing over stones and rotting branches, the creek down below at the bottom of the bank.  Together our family walked the black earth gentle path down there.  Climbing on fallen trees.  Searching for berries round and red.   Sour highbush cranberries.  All of them the same.  Shiny.  Bunches easy to pick without stickers.  Handfuls plucked with small fingertips, tumbling into my pail.

I would part with all I own to return there to that land if I could.  Just to walk where I did when I was a child.  To see and smell what I did then.  To have my heart open again to all I knew.  To find pussy willows soft and gray peeking out of their red winter wrappings.  Fuzzy.  Hopes of coming spring.

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My oldest brother John left a week ago after his early March 2013 week’s visit with me.  I had hoped that because of the current stage of my writings he and I could talk about our childhood.  John so detests Mother that he refers to her as “the one who shall not be named” and has no desire to think or talk about his childhood.  He has since told me that he is willing to help me verify the reality of our shared childhood in hell if I send him very specific questions that he can answer on paper over time. 

I hate to further trouble him with my “project” about the “miserable childhood that was had by all.”  I took the following notes during the very short discussion we had while we were together as I asked him if he remembered anything about the log house.  John had turned seven six weeks before we arrived in Alaska:

I have forgotten and repressed my childhood so deep that I really don’t even like to think about it.  I have very few memories at all. 

The log house was on this little bluff right over the creek.  I used to fish for trout in the little creek, threw a lot back in that probably didn’t make it.  Sometimes I used cranberries instead of salmon eggs.  I’m sure the fish knew the difference. 

There was a well there in the laundry room off of the kitchen.  In the floor, opened up a trap door with two hinges and there was a dark hole down there – a hand dug well.  I’m sure right next to the creek it was water that filtered over from the creek.  Hope it wasn’t the well we used, downstream from Vanover’s hog farm – all their dead hogs.  They left them lying around.”

I have no conscious memory of the hole in the floor.  I wish all six of us Lloyd children were free to share with one another our childhood memories good or bad.  I crave the healing of our story as if a kind of redemption of the purity of our young innocence could be pulled out from the horrors we experienced, as if we can free ourselves from the rubble trauma heaped upon our lives. 

Although I remember abuse, one of my prime motivations for writing my story is to locate my own experience of myself as a beautiful child living my life separate from Mother’s madness and the abuse I suffered from her.  Traumatized children not only have great parts of their childhood stolen from them during ongoing trauma, but also often cannot freely return to their own memories of the goodness that was in us and in our own experience of our early life.  If we are barred from remembering our own goodness as children we suffer from a perpetual theft of what is truly ours – and not our abusers’.

It was very difficult for me to watch my brother struggle with painful memories of his childhood.  I know his agony.  Yet his description of trout fishing in Meadow Creek by the log house is exactly the kind of wonderful memory that belongs to him.  If we can’t return in memory to the joy and loves of our childhood because the trauma is still too overwhelming we are left only with the awareness of hardships we lived through without the grace of goodness present in our childhoods.

I asked my brother one more question, and that was the end of our conversation: 

How do you feel about Mildred?

“Oh, God.  I’ve already reached a point where my brain has started to freeze up.  I couldn’t stand her.  She was probably the most dislikable person I have ever known.” 

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Although Mother’s writings run “unmolested” with minimum commentary from me in the seven books of the Mildred’s Mountain series, I now set myself free to describe what I know of her mental illness and of its impact on me and my siblings.  Because Mother’s Borderline Personality Disorder and its abusive psychosis continued to powerfully shape me throughout my childhood in Alaska until I left home at 18, I will insert my commentary about how I see patterns of her sickness appearing in her letters in this second book of The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series.  I emphasize parts of her letters using bold type, delete sections of her writings that are irrelevant to me and paraphrase her words where they provide important details related to my story.

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+ADULT REACTIVE ATTACHMENT DISORDER: LIVING WITH IT

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It has been a week now since my brother left from his visit here.  My reactivity is finally starting to calm and settle down.  But what a ride and what a lot of work (and agony) it has taken to get to this point.  It feels like such a terrible waste of time, such a waste of my life when I could be doing OTHER living, to so often be triggered into the disruptions of a “traumastate” from events that have no present-day threat or trauma in them whatsoever.  I HATE this!

But this Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is real.  It is how my body was made and I was never offered an alternative.  Nor do I have one now.

I have various descriptive images popping into my mind this morning about what being triggered feels like to me:  Being a balloon filled with air — end untied — let loose I zip zoom spin twist and inevitably fall.  Being thrown upon the back of a powerful bucking horse for the duration of the ride.  Having a burn that even a few drops of water will hurt.  Experiencing a unique kind of limbic right brain kindling that brings “emotional seizures.”  Stepping over a threshold to find a floor that WAS there — GONE — and falling.  Walking a shaking high tightrope wire in a hurricane with no safety net.  Busy at a job and the ladder falls out from under.

Yet all the time I am aware that this is happening to me and I cannot easily stop it.  (I believe my mother’s brain changed with her mental illness to keep her from being able to be aware of her own “traumastates.”)

I am called to locate every piece of information I have ever found, every tool, to work as hard as I can to settle myself down, to sooth and ground myself, searching for a glimmer of calm and following that feeling in any way that I can.

But these reactive states steal away the time of my own life that SHOULD be going on instead.

Repeated horrific early traumas and chronic threat and terror built me this way.  As small and simple as my life is (much to my regret), I cannot avoid every trigger.  How can I live that carefully and have any overall quality of life or well-being?

When the “traumastate” is triggered I am in a state of emergency.  All my priorities have to shift and give way to just one:  Make this reactivity STOP!

Was there any other word I needed to scream for the first 18 years of my life other than — STOP?

Just as my own experience of myself in my ongoing life was repeatedly interrupted by trauma in my childhood, my ongoing self-life continues to be interrupted every time I am triggered now.  The sound of a door slamming, the shrill yap or loud bark of a neighbor’s dog, even the visit of my brother — nearly ANY disruption can create an anxious reaction that can so easily take off on a reactive diversionary track that shakes and spins me away from myself in my ongoing life.

How to get back to my SELF?  I will never stop learning how to do this because there is too much “trouble” built into me.  Living this way is a fulltime job — and no matter what good sports we survivors are, the truth is that what happened to us was a tragedy that causes a continuing tragedy for us and for those who love us for our entire lives.

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+BREAK THROUGHS AND BREAK DOWNS

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My oldest daughter (age 42) shared her recent insight with me the other day:  Break throughs are so closely connected to break downs that it can be difficult to tell which one is happening at any given time.  The trick is to clarify the margin of confusion between the two so that the break downs can be eliminated.

I know what she means. 

After my last post I took a hard look at my fear.  I reminded myself that insights are only useful if I use them.  As I consider how I see anger, fear and sadness as each of them can be activated in response to a stress response, I think about how my fear is telling me that I need to find other ways to change my life other than dumping myself into chaos.

I know how to survive through chaos and trauma.  What I have the hardest time learning is how to live peacefully, calmly and wisely.

Either-or thinking and reacting cannot help but stimulate trauma drama.  There must be other options to solving the problems my recent posts have discussed.  I can develop other tactics for living other than trauma-based survival ones.  I can learn how to use these tactics.

Is there a way I can travel up north, spend time with my grandsons which will free up time for my daughter to edit the books waiting to be published?  Why tear my life to shreds to chase up north being nearly financially destitute if we are this close to possibly generating adequate income from the books to end those kinds of traumas?

That seems like a possible solution.  THEN we could see what happens next.

WHEW!

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+INNER QUAKING: MY LIFE FEELS SO MUCH BIGGER THAN I AM RIGHT NOW

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I can hear what I call a patient, measured very thoughtful approach in the responses readers post in their comments to this blog.  Patient and measured.

An image comes to mind from several years ago when I was visiting a friend who lives in northern Minnesota.  One day we meant to have the leisurely enjoyment of paddling kayaks down a meandering shallow river among sprawling forest and shallow soggy grasslands.  While I did not consider our day fun I do look back at myself that day and know that my frustrations were funny.

My guess is that a full third of the beavers in that region knew I was coming.  They got together and made plans for my arrival.  Then they went to work with that special determination, focus and energy for which beavers are famous. 

Perhaps I exaggerate when I say there were 50 beaver dams stretching across that river, all especially constructed to force me to stop at each one in utter ill-humor.  Not one of them could be smoothly glided over or around.  Oh, no!  No beaver fun in that!

Reaching each dam I had to grab onto some broken or skillfully chomped stick of wood poke into (handily) the mass of logs and branches my foes had left behind them so I could extricate myself from my floating coffin.  Into the water up to my waist I stepped as I awkwardly scrambled over and over again over dams dragging my vessel with me.  Reaching the other side yet again I found a way to get my tipsy-turvy craft balanced again as I inserted myself back into my wayward little boat.

Off I glided peacefully (finally) down the next stretch of river, startling snapping turtles off their sunlit perches into the water among water lilies.  By the time I caught up with my friend hours later I was an irritated hissing whining sputtering fool!  My assessment, as I clearly communicated it to my friend, was that while kayaking that river might be some people’s idea of fun it sure wasn’t mine.

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This memory leads me directly to another one.  Several years earlier when I lived in that area myself I had driven my old car along an abandoned logging road into a forest one gloriously warm and sunny spring day.  I reached a point where the high dirt of the old trail had once been passable.  Not any more.  Beavers had built a dam to flood the low land of the forest and I could drive no more.

Now HERE was an opportunity for play!  Out of the car.  Off with my shoes.  Up rolled my jeans.  Into the water I stepped as I went to work.  I spent half of the afternoon dismantling that dam, yanking and twisting logs and branches out of their places one by one until still water on the high side let loose to race off in a gurgling hurry to who knew where.

Then I had the bright idea that what a furry beaver could do I, as a human being, should be able to do better.  I spent the remainder of the day trying to put the dam back together again.

Yeah.  Right.

As the tall trees began to take the light of the day away around me I gave up having made not one log stick back into the foundation of that dam.  I left the forest feeling a great deal humbler with a much higher respect for the wizardry of beavers.  Of course this appreciation did not accompany me on my kayaking adventure several years later.

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I think about the upcoming move I will make sometime in the not very distant future (exact time of departure as yet undesignated).  Down the stream of my life I have been gliding until last Sunday I rounded a curve to find — change.  Damn change.  Big change.  Demanding change.  A foreshadowed future ahead I cannot begin to name with much certainty at all.  There are too many unforseen variables to contemplate.

I gaze around my desert garden I have worked so hard to build — alone.  I can see around me a warm, sun-filled world surrounded by the morning shadowed sculptures in the distance of silent brown stone mountains.  I turn to see the Mexican-American border fence running along the back edge of my yard.

What future awaits the plants in this garden when I turn my back on them and drive away that final time?  Each stone I have carefully placed around these flower beds lining my adobe walkways, all washed clean by our frequent winter rains — will another human being appear to notice, appreciate, tend and care about this small place on earth?

Which native plants will thrive here on their own no matter what because they are designed that way?

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I cannot build a beaver dam.  I am not a beaver.  I cannot sink the newest tips of my roots deep into this amended desert soil.  I am not a plant.  I am a two-legged wander pacing the distance and time in my mind between what I see around me at this Mexican border as I notice how I also feel about my loved ones who live so near the Canadian border so far north from here.

What life is this I lead that yet again I remember that in spite of the 13+ years I have felt comfortably and gratefully settled here I will soon wander again?  I choose to trade away my love tied to my southern friends and the natural world here for a life that will soon include shared love between people who are not free to join me here.

I will clamor over and around my own obstacles.  If I can’t do that I will tear them down.  If I had the money I would find a way to keep this home while I went north to make yet another one.  (I have no respect for the popular, often-mouthed idea that “money can’t buy you happiness.”)

I am one soul breathing among billions.  Even if it doesn’t seem real in present moments, in retrospect all any of us do is measure our lives as we patiently move forward in time.  Once I leave this area I have walked upon with welcome growing familiarity over these years of my life I will carry with me only what is uniquely mine in memory.

What will that be?

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I would prefer to blink my eyes as I clicked the heels of mythological ruby slippers so that I could skip this entire “leaving” process entirely.  Now here!  Now there!  Would suit me perfectly.  I have moved too many times in my life to enjoy ANYTHING about the process. 

Nobody has made this decision for me.  My choice is entirely based on love for my daughters and grandsons and my desire to share my life with them as they share their life with me.  Yet I make this “safe and secure attachment” decision being completely familiar with the horrors of the Siberian climate I am returning to.  Nothing but the deepest love and my longing for its ongoing expression in my and my loved ones’ life could motivate me to make this move.  I am not sure that any previous move in my life had to rely on my faith in the essential goodness of life as this one will.

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A clear memory just returned to me of one of the moments of purest joy in my life.  On the autumnal equinox in September 1974 I stood alone with my feet apart in a wide open northern field at sunset.  My arms reached straight out, palms down, as I faced due south.  I looked to the east where a rising full moon rested at my left fingertips.  I looked to the west where the blazing orb of the setting sun rested at my right fingertips.

I am probably standing in that state of perfect balance right now.  I just don’t feel that way.  I hope my current trepidation will be replaced with assurance.  I deeply feel confusion right now.  This move has nothing to do with left brain logic.  How scary is THAT?

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+ADULT REACTIVE ATTACHMENT DISORDER AND CHOICES OF THE SOUL

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Life can initiate huge changes in people’s lives without giving as much warning as the earth gets before a lightning bolt slams into it bringing life-sustaining nitrogen to the soil.  While it would be traumatic for a human to be so bolted, the earth never winces.  I have had the equivalent of a lightning bolt hit me in my life and I never saw it coming.

Or did I?

I find myself increasingly using the term Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) to describe HOW I am in my body in the world.  Because so few “professionals” even recognize this disorder passing through childhood and into and through adulthood for survivors of severe early abuse, neglect and trauma I find myself tempted to throw “insecure” into the mix making this term as it applies to me into Reactive Insecure Attachment Disorder or RIAD.  But for my purposes today I will stick simply to RAD.

I did not anticipate that when my older brother came to visit me on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 and left on Tuesday, March 5th that my life would blow up in my face.  Now I know all the signs and clues were in place within me for this internal storm I am now in the midst of to hit me in exactly the way that they did.  Someone more astute than I have been would have predicted that what did happen would have happened. 

If I didn’t suffer from RAD nothing about me in my life would be as things are.  That other ME would have read the tea leaves in the cup of personal significance and meaning and would have been proactively prepared rather than reactively triggered by recent events as they have tumbled over me.  But, no.  Here I am in the center of my own reactive storm whose resolution is going to tax every possible inner and outer resource available to me — and then a whole lot more.

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I first arrived in Fargo, North Dakota in December 1971 to visit a friend who had returned home.  I had met her in San Diego in September 1970 right after my 19th birthday.  It would take several riotous, complicated chapters of a book yet to be written to describe all I had lived through between those two dates I just mentioned.  Oh, what a troubled life I had lived already by the time I reached the flat shores of the long gone Ice Age Lake Agassiz that bosoms Fargo.

I had experienced nothing in my life up until that point that had not been an ongoing reaction to trauma from the moment I was born.  In June 1972 I moved with my 18-month-old daughter to Fargo and began yet another long series of trauma-based reactivity patterns that should have left me broken into millions of incomprehensible pieces of a human being.

But, no.  I endure, survived and reacted through a divorce, more relocations, another marriage, birth of two more children, another divorce and move after move after move as one rotten boat I climbed into with my children after another fell apart and sunk leaving me (and my children) paddling for the next available shore.

In this nutshell movie-trailer account of RAD-me in my life I arrived down here with my 8th grader son in the gorgeous high desert area of southeastern Arizona in November 1999.  I still had upheavals and difficult changes to make it through.  In March 2004 my youngest left home for the Air Force leaving me alone at 52 for the first time since I was pregnant at 18.

It is this ALONE part that loops around and plugs itself into my brother’s recent visit and what has happened to me since his leaving.  At 7:00 pm last Saturday I snubbed out my cigarette intending that it be my last.  After 20 smokeless hours I began to cry.  When that kind of pain is triggered in me, by RAD takes over and my crying does not stop.  I know myself well enough not to fool myself into thinking those kinds of tears are temporary or passing.  By 4:00 pm yesterday I was smoking again.

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I have lived continuously in this area — content — and in this house — content — for the longest span of time in my entire 62-year life.  Yesterday the grand shock hit me that in the terrible sadness of my terrible lonely aloneness I am no doubt going to have to leave here and return yet again to Forsaken Fargo. (Oh do “natives” arise in defense at those words!)

My two daughters and my two grandbabies are there.  I am here, 1700 miles away.  They are not moving no matter how hard the frigid winter winds blow.

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If the building blocks (as I see things) of a non-trauma built person’s life get knocked down, if such an ordinary person’s dominoes begin to tumble, they could say, “Oh, no!”  True, everyone’s life has tough spots — for some, unbelievably tough spots!

If this happens to a RAD person something additional happens.  In our reactivity the falling blocks and dominoes are likely to disappear.  By definition we (I) do not have an internal safe and secure response system that reacts to stress, distress and trauma in ordinary ways that might allow for hope of a smooth ability to put the pieces of life back together again.  Repairing ourselves and our lives can be a most difficult process.

If I say to an ordinary person, “Sometimes life can be hard,” everyone agrees.  But having a body-brain-mind-self built and changed by responses to severe early trauma exposure gives survivors additional levels of difficulty in coping with tough changes that non-trauma-built people will (fortunately for them) never begin to comprehend.

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I have made a true home for myself here not only for the first time in my life — but significantly for the ONLY time in my life.  I mesh perfectly with the geography, with the climate and with the peaceful quiet tone and pace of this place.  I have found and built upon a niche. 

But the cold, hard, harsh truth is I cannot endure here being this ALONE.  If there was any possible resolution for this problem I would have found it.  I would NEVER choose to leave here if I didn’t personally have to.  I am a person with a most critical unmet need for ongoing quality relationship based on deep love that cannot be fulfilled in this location.

In all fairness I own the fact that I hate and detest Fargo.  I reserve that word hate only for use where it applies for me in powerful ways.  I hate the Siberian winters.  I hate cold and frigid darkness.  I am a mountain woman.  I hate flat land.  REALLY flat land!  I hate cities and city living.  I hate being confined within buildings, trapped in a cage.

I have reached the point of being nearly crushed in my unsolvable paradox.  Mine is a dilemma literally built of love and hate.  I have no delusions that anything more minor is at play or at work inside of me at this moment.

Having my brother come and go smashed into oblivion any more hope that I can find or create any solution to meet the deepest needs of my heart while living here.  I have known for a long time that if grandbabies appeared in my family that something drastic would change for me in my life.  My oldest grandson is turning 3 today.  I am not there to share that party in any way.

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I have pondered for years what call of destiny would have transported an Alaskan mountain wilderness girl to the barren-beyond-words (from my perspective) region of the northern prairie.  Divine wisdom?  Punishment?

There must be a point where reactivity transforms into equitable adjustment to the changes of life, or we could not survive with any quality of life or experience of well-being, let alone of joy.  We can call this “making peace” with something (or someone).  This process can be difficult.  It often is.

Returning to the place of Fargo will send me walking in alien ways upon the shadowy footprints of my so-troubled younger self 40 years ago.  There is a level (an opportunity?) for me to make peace with myself in my return to that place.  I have to dive into the deepest regions of my soul to follow into the future what feels like a blessed and a cursed decision.  I cannot imagine leaving here and not grieving with a homesickness very similar to what I still feel for Alaska.

I have never grieved for Fargo!  I do grieve for my loved ones.

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I do not live in an immortal body.  My soul knows better than to invest my true attachments to material aspects of my existence — and that includes mountains and warm climate.  The tests for my soul are meant to grow my spiritual qualities.  I wish I could say, “Oh Great!”  And mean it!

Perhaps it is exactly this text of my soul that is so narrowing my options.  To be a close part of my daughters’ and of my grandsons’ lives is a matter of spiritual significance to me.  I am related to and connected with my family through our souls for eternity.

Sooner or later I am destined to leave heat and cold, sunshine and darkness, flat land and rugged terrain behind me.  Sooner or later I will leave all this material existence including my body to then live in a world where only those assets of my character as I have chosen pathways and actions that positively impact the growth of my soul will come with me.  I cannot alter these forces.

Where my soul calls I will go.  I know that.  I am scared! 

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