There comes a time when something breaks inside and neither the individual nor the world is the same.
Dad was a bastard, using me to cope with his own demons. So I erected the most impenetrable defenses I could. Mom didn’t protect me. Dad was dangerous. Clearly, I had to protect myself. Over the years I continued to hone and refine my defenses to an impermeable degree. Long after dad died. Long after danger had passed. Long after there was any need. Long after I wanted them. Long after I forgot any other way to live. Long after those imposing defenses served any purpose other than isolating me.
I had some close calls. When I tried to tell my first shrink about when our neighbor and dad’s buddy, Bill, raped me. (I babysat their children many times.) I was 19, a college freshman, he was a 45-year-old farmer. I told about his wife pushing me to go with him to get pizza. About how he brutalized me in the backseat. I was managing, then I came to the word “penis.”
I couldn’t say it. I was truly terrified that I would cry. If I cried I knew I would disintegrate. I’d simply crumble to dust in a mound on the floor. There would be nothing left of me.
I became stone. All my attention focused on my face. I monitored each twitch of the smallest muscle fiber. If any bit of my face began to collapse into tears, I’d be done for.
So every iota of my focus was on my face, like a microscopic detective hurrying across my cheeks, around my mouth, over my chin, and past my forehead, alert for even the most minute weakness. Every sense was on the highest alert. Every muscle was tensely poised. When I felt any vulnerability, all my senses, all my thought, all my energy lasered there, using all my will to force that muscle to relax. It didn’t matter how long it took. I refused to allow myself that vulnerability. It was too terrifying.
I survived. I did not cry. I remained safe.
In the 25 years since then I have discovered that tears are survivable, that there are people with whom vulnerability is safe and even desirable. But it wasn’t easy.
In 2007 I was in a residential facility receiving treatment for an eating disorder. I’d been there since October, 2006, and was learning a great deal. I had chosen to be there because I wanted a better life. I paid attention, was honest, and believed what my therapists, nurses, doctors told me. And I wasn’t quite getting where I wanted to and needed to be.
I knew that I wanted to give everything I had, and I couldn’t quite get there. It was frustrating. What was the barrier, what was the problem?!
One Saturday night I went to a movie, a comedy. The audience was roaring with laughter. I wasn’t even smiling. Suddenly tears began to fall. They soundlessly poured down my face for 90 minutes. The hilarity around me had no effect. I still don’t recall the name of the movie or any part of it.
Something inside me had broken and nothing was the same.
At the end of the movie I walked out, trying to hide my tears from the other patrons. I fell into my car and sobbed uncontrollably, big, shuddering, tearing sobs. I wailed until my stomach was sore and my face hurt. I didn’t slow down until I was so weak I had to stop.
Something in me had broken and nothing was the same, not the world and not me.
I had an oversize, very soft, square blue pillow. I carried it clutched in front of me throughout the following day. I felt bewildered, frightened and entirely vulnerable. Tears slid from my eyes as I dressed, walked the halls, sat in groups, ate meals, and watched television in the evening. It wasn’t till late that night that my tears eased and I slept like an exhausted child.
My well-crafted and excessively strong defenses had crumbled all the way down to the foundation. I survived it. Tears were not my demise. Everyone was not a menacing threat.
Those Breaking Times are very frightening and extremely difficult. It seems, for me at least, that they are also a necessity. Wish it wasn’t so.Wish there was an easier way. There isn’t. So I’ll continue to have Breaking Times and pay attention to them, adding those insights to my arsenal.
Superballs were very big toys in the 60s. They were golf ball size, but even bouncier. Regardless of how beat up they might be, how misshapen, how scarred – they always bounced like crazy! They were absolutely indestructible. They did bounce oddly if there was a chunk out of them.
So I am a Superball. I am a fucking superball. It’s news to me, but I must be. (I do indeed bounce very oddly sometimes.)
Truly, completely fucking insane, brutal, sadistic father.
Raped by dad’s buddy at age 19.
Rejected and blamed by family.
Posttraumatic stress disorder.
Dissociative identity disorder.
And other assorted shit.
But I’m still here, and I won’t stop. It came to me in the past month. I had a major dissociative episode, my pet hamster died, and my shrink of 7 years decided I needed a different psychologist.
That list of 8 traumas above led me to feel worthless and strongly consider suicide.
The struggles of the past month have resulted in an even greater determination to devise ways to cope. So now I feel fierce. I feel indomitable. I feel like a fucking SUPERBALL!!!!
Damn. I may have become a whole and real person. Really? I’m hurt by my recent losses. I know that I’m going to allow myself to continue to feel the pain for as long as it takes. I know that a time will come when gratitude for all I’ve gained will sweeten the pain into a fond remembrance. I know that I will continue to be brave and trust in myself that I can take risks and profit from the experience.
I am a damn SUPERBALL!!
I really am strong, resilient, smart, creative, kind, compassionate . . . simply a damn good person.
Wow. Who knew?
Once upon a time that quick line was a well-known punch line. Not so much for me now. I have Dissociative Disorder.
On rare occasions I have trouble being present. When I was younger, living in near proximity to my abuser/torturer, I had these experiences with greater frequency and intensity. I didn’t know what they were then. I just knew I ‘went away,’ away from the nightmare I lived, thanks to dear old dad. Kept me from going screaming crazy! Thank god.
Those episodes have become rare. I had one in 2011. I was driving alone on a Minneapolis street in very slow rush hour traffic. I realized I didn’t know where I was. I was sure I should be able to read the street signs, but I just couldn’t quite decipher them. I felt very small, like a little girl peeking over the car’s window sill at the big and strange world. I looked around me. Cars, traffic signs, landmarks, people. It seemed to me that I ought to be able to make sense of the tumult, but I simply could not sort it out. “Who are all these people? What are they doing here? Where are they going? Do I know any of them?”
I called a friend, a name I found in my phone. She quickly understood that I was in trouble and called an ambulance. I pulled over to wait for it to take me to the hospital. I couldn’t remember my name by then.
They suspected a stroke. After some tests, and several hours in the hospital, all results were negative. I felt a little more “back to myself”, and got a ride home.
To make certain that it wasn’t a stroke, I underwent several different brain tests over the next couple of weeks. They found nothing. (Joke intended.) There were no physical aftereffects.
I talked with my shrink about the experience extensively. It was frightening for me. It took some time for me to feel comfortable and safe again.
Yesterday I had another episode. This one, beginning about six in the evening, was shorter and less intense. I was able to remember my name. I knew where I was and the way home. I couldn’t remember my address, but I knew how to find it. (Thankfully I was very near home when the episode intensified.)
I spoke my name aloud. There were other words I wanted to use, but I was unable to say them. I didn’t take time to worry about that. I knew what was happening and that it had happened before. I needed to concentrate solely on the information I did have – My Name and the Way Home.
I made it. I was not well-grounded in any sense. I felt overwhelmed and confused, unsure of what I ought to do next. I ate something, then laid down on my bed. I was exhausted and shaky. I slept for an hour, regaining some of my strength. I knew I was home, knew what had occurred, that it was past, and not likely to return soon.
As it got later I recognized that there had been significant differences from the previous dissociative episode. I knew who I was, what was happening, how to respond and get home safely. That is very good news.
I think it would be best for me to recognize that these episodes may be an irregular and rare facet of my life. My goal is to improve my coping skills, both mental and emotional.
This experience has been nearly as exhausting as the first. I was lacking resilient energy yet today. I was unable to work. I’ve spent a very modest day. I am confident, however, that I will feel stronger tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, until I am back to my baseline.
I will discuss this dissociative episode with my highly skilled shrink again, gain more understanding, and greater skills to manage the next one.
I can do this.
I am doing this.
I have a good life.
When mom arrived home from town she always had a trunk load of groceries. It was 20 miles to town and we didn’t go every day, so when we did, it was a stock up opportunity.
Mom pulled up into the yard and little sis Jill and I carried in bags and boxes, piling them on the kitchen table. From the table to the grocery cupboards was about seven feet. Jill threw and I caught.
What I mean is that Jill stood at the table, taking various items out of the bag. She tossed them to me at the cupboard. Canned vegetables and fruits, pasta, sugar, flour. Then we branched into breakables.
The first time we threw the mayonnaise in its glass jar, mom panicked. “Don’t throw . . . it’s expensive . . . it’ll break!!!” We laughed and kept going. “I have to leave . . . can’t watch this . . “
We thought it was hilarious. Mom never watched us stow groceries again.
As we became more confident we threw everything, cartons of milk, jars of olives, eggs – whoa! – We never threw eggs, except in the carton. Really! We did!!
We never broke one single item. Not one.
Then Jill and I watched “The Muppet Show” and sang along with everything, laughing uproariously!
Little things make fond memories.
As a pastor, and before that as nursing home staff, I may have more experience with death than most. I’ve seen dozens of people choose death, welcome death. I’ve watched them die. It’s not necessarily a bad thing and the fact of my own death doesn’t scare me.
Let me be clear: I’m not talking about accidental death, tragic death; not death under great duress or through desperation. This is about death as a reasoned, deliberate choice.
For example, residents of nursing homes choose to die on a regular basis. They stop eating and drinking, withdraw from all interaction, and die within a month. My Gramma made such a choice. She always said she would never live in a nursing home. She hated them. Yet, when she was nearly 91 years old, her 3 children were too afraid that Gramma was not safe in her assisted living apartment. They transferred her to full-care nursing home. Gramma was dead at age 92. I’m surprised she stuck it out that long. Physically Gramma was in great shape for a 92 year old. Great heart, all senses, no meds. But she was true to herself and stuck by her choice. After a year there, Gramm quit eating and drinking, resigned from the world, and Died as She Chose.
Three sisters – Irene, Linda and Sally. All three died of cancer while I was their pastor. I’d only been there about a month when Irene died. I never met her. She was around 85 years old.
A year or so later Linda got sick. She was 79 years old. I knew her and had great respect for her. Linda had endured the entire treatment program for breast cancer some years before, and it was back. She decided she didn’t want to go through it again. Her children were on board with her decision, and so was I. I had the great honor and privilege to go through her dying process with her and her family. The last time I saw her was the day before she died. She was extraordinarily peaceful.
Sister Sally developed pancreatic cancer a couple years later. She was in the mid-70s. Sally did all the treatments, but it wasn’t enough to stop the cancer. When it was apparent to her that she was not going to recover, Sally made the decision to halt all treatment except palliative. She was a heroic woman too.
Those sisters and their extended families are remarkable people whom I deeply respect. There were drinkers, goof offs, etc. But they had great respect for and trust in those three matriarchs. So do I.
I want the opportunity to make similar decisions about my own life.
If I received a cancer diagnosis, for instance, I want take my time, consider, gather information, talk with loved ones, then make a decision about whether or not to treat. And if I do choose to treat, which therapies am I willing to undergo?
I believe age, experiences and relationships probably do make a difference. I’m 60, have had a very difficult life, and no children or close blood relationships.
That is entirely reasonable to me. Now, the new information I have about chemo-brain adds to my knowledge.
All this being said, the likelihood of me having cancer is fairly slim. Doesn’t run in the genes. I’ll probably die in an accident!
I feel broken-hearted because I’ve lost her. She has lost herself too, and none of that was voluntary.
Colleen had breast cancer, was treated with chemotherapy, and has been cancer free for nearly a year. And she has chemo-brain. That is the tragedy.
Colleen was a witty smart ass. Quick on the draw, devastatingly sarcastic, and hilariously funny. We have been friends since we met in 1976 as first year teachers in a small town school.
We used to get together for Wednesday evening dinner. If I went to her apartment, I also bought two six packs of beer and she provided the meal. We alternated locations and responsibilities weekly. We were both poor. Colleen invariably served spaghetti while my offering was mac & cheese.
We ate, drank, and often went scouting. We were drunk and driving on little township roads in South Dakota where we rarely encountered traffic. We drove randomly, laughing hysterically at the goofy things we were saying, and read mailboxes. Most people put their names on the mailboxes. That’s the scouting part. We were searching for student’s and colleague’s homes. We cursed and complained about blank boxes and laughed again.
Colleen and I built upon a language I had developed with my little sister. ‘Cereal’ for ‘serious, egg salad for excellent,’ and ‘repressed, depressed, compressed,’ all used interchangeably for ‘impressed.’ Thus innocent bystanders heard, “Wow! I’m so compressed!” or, “I like that. Egg salad.” There were many, many more.
Now a that is gone for Colleen and for me. Chemo-brain is like a brain injury. Colleen’s brain doesn’t work like it used to. She can’t remember stuff. Her thinking is slow. The wit, the cleverness, the sarcasm – they’re gone.
I haven’t seen Colleen since the chemo. Our friendship is such that we’ve always been able to take up where we left off, even if years have passed. She remembers me and our friendship, and she is fully aware of her mental losses.
I got an email from Colleen yesterday. She described her struggles, frequently followed by “I hate it.” She said she’s not funny, witty, forgets names she knows, etc. And she hates it. I would too.
So my heart feels broken, both for Colleen and for me. And I’m scared. That’s the most terrifying thing that could happen to me.
I’m going to visit Colleen as soon as I can. It won’t happen till December or January. I’m having a total shoulder replacement next week and doubt I’ll be able to drive the 4 hours until then. I need to see her for myself. Colleen has never been an optimistic person, and her condition must be devastating for her.
I need to ask Colleen if she’s feeling suicidal. I visited her in 2009, after I’d been through a terribly harrowing time. I’d been severely depressed and had made a suicide plan. I felt significantly better by the time I saw her, but I did want to talk about what it had been like.
I spent time with three friends on that trip. I talked about how terribly depressed I’d been and how difficult it was. Colleen was the only one brave enough to ask me if I’d considered suicide. I think the other two didn’t want to know. I understand that, and I needed to tell someone who loved me how bad it was.
Now I need to ask Colleen. Dear, dear, Colleen. My heart is breaking.
I’ve been thinking about economic distinctions more due to the ever-growing and terrible disparity in the USA. It wasn’t until today, when I talked with a wise friend, that I realized that is what I am living in. Let me explain:
Born in 1953, I grew up poor on a farm in the middle of South Dakota. Hand-me-down clothes from my big sister and brother, home grown food, mom’s home sewn clothing, no dining out, no movies, old cars and farm machinery. That was us.
That was our neighbors too, so none of us felt distinctly poor. It was simply how we lived. Remember, it was the 1950s. No internet, local phone calls only, weekly county newspaper, a daily paper from the ‘big town’ (which we received in the postal mail a day late), and letters and cards that usually reached their destination within a week. We were very isolated on our farm.
I didn’t learn about income inequalities until our one room school house closed and I began attending the town school. We were mostly all rural kids on the leaner levels of the income spectrum, but for the first time I saw a few parents pick up their children after school. The adults I was used to couldn’t afford the luxury of leaving work, leaving work unfinished, to get their children. There was a perfectly acceptable school bus to bring the children home. It was transportation that didn’t cost anything extra.
So I became aware of children who wore new clothes from a store! There were moms and dads who drove new cars and didn’t have to work so hard! Class distinctions, income inequality, unfairness.
We worked for everything and learned to take very good care of what we had. It needed to last because it would be a long time, if ever, that it was replaced. Even when an item was replaced, some other need had to be delayed.
We never went without – one of the biggest advantages of growing one’s own vegetables, protein, grains, fats – everything we needed.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that my parents were able to spend money on entertainment without struggle. By then only one of their six children was still at home.
I have learned from my lean times and my comfortable times. Now I am in a lean time. I did have ample income until I became ill and unable to work. Unfortunately that coincided with the Great Recession. Pension, savings, life insurance, wages. They are all gone and I survive on disability insurance and part-time work. My medical bills forced me into bankruptcy. I am no longer able to work full-time at my profession.
I am grateful for the income I do have and for all that I learned about value and frugality as I grew up.
Now, my current living situation and economic disparities:
I rent two rooms in a house occupied by the owner and a longtime renter and close friend of the landlord. Both of the two women are around 60 years old and do not work. A semi-exception: the renter occasionally pet sits. Neither seems to have any financial difficulties. In fact, the owner spends a great deal of money frivolously. It is my assumption, and that of my wise friend, that the owner has never known a shortage of money.
The owner recklessly and needlessly uses electricity. Her bill could easily be cut in half with no sacrifices. She purchases unneeded items daily, spending hundreds of dollars uselessly. Every nook and cranny of the house is stuffed with items. Some were very lightly used, others never touched.
The renter squanders equally, though she spends a little less.
Both of them are hoarders. The renter is unable to sleep in her bed because it is overlaid with piles of things. There is only a narrow navigable path in her bedroom. Neither of them are willing to part with any of their accumulated detritus, even though I have volunteered to help them sort and take items to Goodwill, which is only a few blocks away.
They are very supportive of my vegetable garden in the backyard. For each of the 3 years I have lived with them, I have invited them to enjoy anything growing there. I have explained to them how to cut lettuce, pick tomatoes, pull radishes. They never have, not one time. The garden is only six feet from their seats on the patio. However, if I cut, pick, or pull, they happily eat the delicious, fresh food.
I don’t understand their thinking. I am unable to find a place in my head to comprehend their way of being in the world. Their values are so diametrically opposed to mine. In fact, I think their shared value is their own comfort and well-being. I don’t think they possess the level of empathy or understanding for those who can see outside themselves.
One of the things I am pondering is the level of self-delusion necessary to inhabit the space they do. Isn’t such emotional and psychic blindness fed by self-delusion and minimal other awareness?
I keep thinking of Mitt Romney. I have no respect for him, but I did learn something very important from him. Many, or even most of the very wealthy, like him, really are immensely ignorant of what the lives of others are like. At a campaign stop Romney was questioned about college loans. He was asked what an aspiring student ought to do if he did not have enough money and Romney’s economic plan denied him a federal education loan. Romney replied, with a level of incredulousness, “Well borrow it from your parents!” It truly did not occur to him that the parents didn’t have the money either. I was shocked, and a little frightened.
There are wealthy exceptions, individuals who have struggled for survival. Melinda and Bill Gates come quickly to mind. They did not grow up wealthy and now they consciously expose themselves to people in dire need and commit a great deal of money to assisting them.
What I’m thinking is that wealth trumps all other values for those in the upper economic classes. I find that terribly disquieting.
There is no WNBA vs. NBA! Women’s basketball and men’s basketball are different games. They are about as different as American football and rugby.
The Women’s National Basketball Association began play in 1997. Women were first ‘allowed’ to compete in Olympic marathons in 1984. Schools were forced to provide full opportunities for girls and women in 1972.
Even more important:
Women and man have distinct physical differences. Women have estrogen. Men don’t, except for very small amounts. Women have wide hips, men don’t. Women’s gluteal muscles are the strongest in their bodies; not necessarily for men.
Women aren’t men, and best serve themselves and their progeny when they don’t try to be. I’m not talking about lesbians or bisexual women. Nor is this in reference to women who are welders or CEOs or any other way of living. I’m talking only about comparing women and men. Specifically here, I’m thinking of sports; even more specifically, professional basketball.
Throughout my history in sports, beginning in the 1950s, the male athlete was the gold standard on any level. In elementary school at recess time, I was chosen before some of the boys for softball games. That legitimized me as a good player.
It’s 2013, and that HASN’T CHANGED!!!! What is wrong with you people!?!?! By people, I mean women as well as any others who make similar comparisons. I mean the WNBA.
For pete’s sake, WNBA, why are you so focused on closely emulating the NBA? The NBA’s popularity is dropping like a rock. There is a reason for that.
The NBA has become much less skill, defense and team focused. Instead it relies on a higher and higher level of violence. If you can find a video of any pre-1980 game, you will see when basketball was truly a non-contact sport. Defense required a great deal of skill, offensive plays involved at least 3 players.
The quality of play in the NBA has greatly diminished. Pay close attention to a game. Watch the play away from the ball. Look at all the pushing and shoving, tripping, grabbing, etc. Dunks, dunks, and more dunks. It’s the shot that requires a bare minimum of skill and athleticism. Anyone who can jump high enough can do it. Muscular strength is a prerequisite for any player.
All that while revenue, ratings and even television options dry up. Clearly, something is very wrong with that model. Why would the NBA and male play continue to inform the WNBA?
The WNBA can bring a much needed renewal to professional basketball. Women’s gifts to basketball include better aptitude for team play, mutual support, focus on a mutual goal.
Basketball is at its core a team game. Let team play shine! Change to a 30-40 second shot clock so the offense has time to run plays and defense strengthens. Go with international rules that put some limits on the advantages of the very tallest players. Celebrate sportsmanship and diminish allowable physical contact. Call more fouls so the beautifully skilled don’t have to fight through body blows to exhibit their grace. Limit time outs to 2, and none in the final 2 minutes of a half.
If you watch basketball in the 1960s and ’70s, you’ll see beautiful play, great skills, critical team chemistry and highly motivated players. You’ll see greats such as Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Julius Erving, Bill Bradley, Jerry West, and other highly skilled basketball sportsmen. Even in the 1980s there were simply outstanding team players like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
You’ll see a much better game requiring more skill and less muscle bulk.
That is the type of game the WNBA ought to emulate. Women’s bodies and psyches are best suited to a game of skill and grace and team. Don’t try to play like and be like men. Use your strengths and you will be the basketball of the future. That means, right now.
I don’t know what the problem is, but these are my observations:
I’m umpiring adult city league softball this summer in St. Paul and Minneapolis. I’ve called coed, women’s and men’s games.
Sometimes players get upset about calls. That’s part of the game and I don’t mind. They complain, groan, throw their hands up in the air, roll their eyes . . . and they are done.
Except for a few men on men’s teams. Not men on coed teams. Not women on any team. Just men on all male teams.
Easily 95% of the men are nice, decent gentlemen. But that 5% – - – - –
They go crazy!
The catcher seemed nice enough. We had chatted a little throughout the game. The last play was an out on his team so they lost.
He began yelling and screaming, telling me I was a “terrible” umpire, that I had ruined the game, etc., etc. He was as loud and intimidating as he could be. 2-3 of his teammates behaved similarly. Even more were clearly embarrassed and apologetic.
For pete’s sake. It was only a D League summer softball game. Get some perspective!
Just last Wednesday a very similar behavior occurred. There have been other times of lesser insanity, but still awfully extreme.
So why is it only men who do that? I know that my sample for this conclusion is very small, yet it is a good summary for this urban, fairly liberal population. And it’s been Only Men who have exhibited this notable lack of impulse control. Why?
Socialization? Probably in part. Gender roles? Yeah. But the number of men misbehaving in this way is a very small portion of the population involved. And the men on coed teams don’t do it.
One of the things that I’ve considered is testosterone poisoning. Do those few men have higher testosterone levels than most? It’s very easy to purchase a variety of testosterone ‘enhancements.’ Do those men take something like that?
How do those men behave in other situations? Do they struggle with anger issues in other circumstances too? How do they behave at home? Are they different with a male umpire? Do they have gender issues?
I really don’t know the answers to any of my questions. I’m wondering aloud, and hoping you’ll join me with your thoughts. Help?!