Head Above Water

I keep meaning to write this week and finish Trigger Warnings Part II, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do the research for the links I need to complete a more factual look at Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

This week has been super busy for me. Pagan Pride Day in Athens happened and I found myself doing a 12-hour day volunteering and manning the booth for my Coven. The next day I taught a class for Fort Benning and my coven. I have also cleaned out my closet of clothes I can’t fit into anymore because menopause has struck hard.

Of course, I continue to do my studies for the Minister in Training Program with Circle Sanctuary. Run my coven. Continue to train Cas – a job that is never done. Feed my family. Keep up with laundry and squeeze in time to rest and recuperate. Keep up with the doctor’s appointments. All while the holidays, my twentieth anniversary, and another conference at my “real” job are looming.

Honestly though, writing about my trauma is very taxing. It is physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. It is stressful. I know it is more stressful than I think when I find Cas hovering around me when I write.

So I am going to give myself the week off of writing and keep my head above water.


Trigger Warnings

Trigger Warning: Discussion of things that can trip triggers.


It was a great party. I was young, not a mother, and had very little experience with parties but this one seemed good. People were dancing in place to 70s rock, beer and alcohol were abundant, a group was passing around weed, people were socializing, and the food was good.

I was standing by the food table when a couple came over and started talking to me. I shoot a look at my current boyfriend and reading my discomfort he heads my way. He makes it around the crowded room to come up behind me. In one easily practiced move, he starts to put his arm around me and all I consciously see is a backhand coming toward me.

I black out.

The next thing I know, Doug, is lifting the curtain made by the table clothe and asking if I was okay?
Stiffly I take stock. I am under the food table, which is an old 8-foot table someone had used plywood to make. The floor was hardwood. I was in a small fetal position sitting on my bottom rocking back and forth.

Then the embarrassment starts.

I force my body to move and climb out from under the table nodding. I couldn’t speak. The couple who had been so friendly looked really freaked out now and they just drift away, slowly, watching me try to right my dress and stand on my own.

I know it is a lost cause but then realize that everyone is watching. The music is blaring 70s rock but no one is dancing in place, no one is drinking, and a fat one is hanging between two people mid-pass. All eyes are on me.

My boyfriend looks embarrassed and confused. I am so young and I haven’t had therapy, so I just whisper, “Can we go?”

“Yeah, sure! I’ll take you home and then come back.”

He drives me to my biological parents’ place drops me off on the porch and hightails it back to his friends.


Last year I went to Pagan Spirit Gathering, I had been once before when I was still very ill and spent the entire time fighting off heat exhaustion. So I don’t remember much about it.

This time, I went to PSG with Cas, my service dog, my husband, my meta, and my coven brothers and sisters. The weather is hot but not unbelievably so. And I am having a good time.

I am sitting next to an older woman to my right and Cas is between us. We are in a workshop about ethics with a lively conversation going on when it sounds like a large round of ammunition goes off.

I am startled by the sound and turn instinctively toward Cas, as my neighbor also startles and her hand comes flying to my face. I am much older and have had a ton of cognitive behavioral therapy so I don’t black out. I force myself not to drop to my knees and cling to Cas…barely.

Slowly through the tsunami of panic, I am awash in I hear a confident, calm, in command voice talking in a steady stream of words so I tune into it.

“We are by a live round ammunition range. You are safe here in this pavilion shaded by the sun. No one here is going to hurt you. Feel the chair you are sitting in, and look around you at the structure. It is brown. The floor is concrete…we are by a live round ammunition range..”[ I am supposing this is what she said, as my C-PTSD keeps me from remembering exactly what she said. This is, however, things that should be said to someone in the midst of a full-blown C-PTSD episode caused by any trigger.]

I grasp Cas’ neck and bunch his familiar course hair in my grip. I completely tune into the calming words being spoken by our presenter.

In one part of my mind, I was very impressed that she knew exactly what to do to keep me from spiraling out of control.

In another, I am aware that the woman next to me must be a Veteran and the round had more significance to her than to me. That means that the presenter would realize I had a C-PTSD [Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] response but probably was confused as to why. The embarrassment slowly overtakes the panic.

I brazen through the event and the Vet jumps from her seat to wander in the vicinity to get the adrenalin out of her system. I absently pet Cas.


I am at work with my back to the door of our workroom, facing the copier. I am copying pages and scanning some things to my computer in the next room.

“Lydia?” my boss inquires.

I jump what feels like three feet off the ground throwing papers in the air while giving off a panicked short scream. I land and turn to face the intruder to find my boss mortified that she has scared me…again.

“Shoot! I know better than to sneak up on you, I am sorry,” she says gathering up the thrown paperwork.

“No, no, no,” I jump in, helping, “It isn’t you. It’s an exaggerated startle response caused by Chronic Post Traumatic Stress. I can’t help it and you couldn’t have either.”

She still looks distressed so I asked what she needed to steer the moment away from what felt like a blazing spotlight shining just on me. She obliges, just as uncomfortable as I am and we dig into the familiar, safe work issue.


My partner and I are being intimate and enjoying a little playful slapping as we do so. He is above me and my eyes have been closed.

“Open your eyes,” he says.

I do so eager to see the lust-filled haze in my lover’s eyes. He has picked up a crop with a triangle leather head that we have used before.

He swings it in a sharp slap toward my breasts and I start screaming bloody murder. The croplands on my forearms as I defend myself from some past attack from my bio father.

My father is flinging the bed and swinging a belt wildly hitting everything. Then he grabs my arm and pulls me back to his front. I continue to try to fend him off. He is whispering in my ear now telling me what he is going to do to me.

No that isn’t right. He isn’t telling me what he is going to do? He is apologizing? So I tune into the voice and quickly realize that I am not in my bedroom at my bio parents’ house.

“I am so sorry, Dia, come back to me. I shouldn’t have done that. I just got caught up in the moment and completely forgot. Come back to me. I am so so sorry. Please forgive me.”

The sound of my lover’s voice soothes me and I shutter back into full awareness of the present place and time.

After he becomes aware that I am back, we talk through exactly what triggered me, watching the toy begin to swing down ward toward my body, and what we can do to mitigate that in the future.
We agree on how we are going to proceed and then move right on to finding our mutual pleasure again. I am so grateful to have a lover that doesn’t see this incident as an interlude ending, as my passion chases out the fear.


My son is a teenager and he has brought his first bottle of cologne. I do not know this. As he is getting ready for a date, a smell begins to permeate the house. I start gagging and panicking. Tony isn’t sure what’s going on but understands that I have been triggered.

Sam comes into the room and I ask, “Is that Old Spice?”

“Yes,” he says.

“Okay, you can’t wear that. Tomorrow I’ll take you to the mall and we will find you a good scent to wear.”

“I like Old Spice..”

I swallow reflexively, “Samuel, I will buy you a nice expensive cologne to wear. The Old Spice has to go.”

Tony walks to our son and drops his voice and talks to him. I have seen this happen a few times. My husband and priest explained to my son that I am damaged and certain things just can’t happen. Old Spice is one of them.

Sam finally says, “Yea, okay. I won’t wear it again.”

I feel a little weak-kneed, “That’s great. Tomorrow we will go to the mall.”


Some might not notice but I rub my first finger on my upper lip and past my nose breathing deeply when stressed. It is self-soothing from my childhood and a habit I haven’t been able to break.

Words, Words, Words

In this TikTok world, some words that used to be known only to a “lucky” few have become commonly used in mainstream media and society’s vernacular.

Triggers, Triggering, and Triggered is on the top of that list.

A trigger, the noun, is a series of physical, auditory, visual, oratory, or gustatory experiences that mentally teleport the person experiencing it to a distressing moment in the past where they viscerally experience the moment again. They disconnect from the reality they are in and connect completely to the past traumatic event. Time becomes skewed. (See my article for a larger discussion about time distortion for C-PTSD victims.)

Trigger, the verb, describes the complete external stimuli and corresponding response in a C-PTSD victim. Triggered is the past tense of trigger when it is a verb.

Triggering (an adverb) describes the experience alone that triggers (verb) the C-PTSD survivor.

I would add to this exaggerated startle response. This is when a common event, like someone coming up behind you, causes you to jump through the roof instead of just being mildly alarmed. Most people would just turn toward the voice. Persons’ who have spent a life where a back that isn’t protected is the back that is hurt are deeply affected by this. But it goes further than just that situation.

I have lived a life where a slamming door meant an incoming beating. Where a loud backfiring car was the sound of my abuser returning home. Where when my name was called, I was in trouble that frequently led to physical violence and always leads to yelling, and emotional abuse. This was so true for me, I legally changed my name from what my biological family called me. When that didn’t help because the name I kept was my first given name, a joke that led to me being called “Dia” by some friends, led me to keep the name because it has no association with being mentally or emotionally abused.

In my Pagan Spirit Gathering experience above, the triggering event is the live round explosion at the nearby military base’s live ammunition range. I have an exaggerated startle response, to the noise, but the real trigger was the women’s hands flinging in my direction during her response and the woman’s trigger was the sound of the live mortar round. I would argue that she didn’t have an exaggerated startle response because she was responding to the real sound of live ammunition firing a sound she already associated with trauma.

If these seem way more complicated than a few minutes of TikTok, you would be correct. Triggers can be all kinds of experiences, smells, and visual cues. It can be the feel of a certain fabric or the sound of heavy footsteps. They can evoke negative or soothing experiences. And sometimes you have to work hard to connect the dots between a triggering event and your response. These events can happen after any traumatic event and the severity of the event is irrelevant. All triggers are valid and I am grateful to live in a world where people are empowered to discuss their triggering events with their partners, work buddies, lovers, and friends.

To Be Continued

Night Terrors

Trigger Warning: Irrational Dreams

My mother had gone to all my college courses and sat through them. She was distraught and crying. I was outraged when I found out. She had been doing this for some time. She knew I had had Samuel out of wedlock and was determined to discover if I was turning out right on her own. For a moment I thought that I was unable to have another baby with my beloved, Tony, and the sense of loss, an old wound, washed over me in waves.

Then I saw my mother as she went to my classes, talked to my professors, and met my friends. Judging me, and testing my acceptability as a human begin.

In between classes were heated exchanges about my success in college and in life. Whispered in angry words that ran together. Part of this argument was a horrible realization that I was still in my dysfunctional marriage to Eric and my mother and I argued vehemently about whether or not I would divorce him. She, of course, didn’t approve.

I wanted to show her my greatest achievements and remembered that my greatest achievement had been writing in this blog. That I didn’t want her to know because then HE would know. I directed her to look at some of my older work and kept her away from this blog.

After attending all my classes where my professors praised me everywhere I went, my mother turned and said, “You can come home then. I guess I owe you some kind of apology but because I don’t know how to say it, I am not going to.”
She took me home. I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t want to go back there to the scene of so many crimes against me. Nothing had changed. My father sat on the edge of his recliner, hands loosely clasped between his legs, and his attention focused on my mother who was standing giving a report in front of him.

I stood silently by my mother who told my father this, “She is well-liked by her professors and peers. Yes, she has had a child out of wedlock, but she has somehow become a good mother anyway. Is she going to grow up to be the kind of woman we wanted…”

Under my breath, I whispered, “NO!”

“…? Yes! She is.”

My heart sinks in defeat. I didn’t want to be what they think is good.

My mother drags me to my sister’s room. My sister tries to hug me, but I don’t want to hug her back.

My sister said, “That’s okay. If you want affection you can get it from them,” she points to strangers sitting on a couch in our room.

My mother then says, “We have to get you better modest clothes and your sister has decided to give you some of hers.”

“Right! Just don’t take anything that is pretty or flattering,” my sister informs me, “But outside of that, you can borrow anything.”

“There,” my mother says lovingly petting my sister’s face, “See how generous she is!”

I look around and start to panic.

“Where’s Alice?!?” I demand.

My mother looks contrite and my sister shakes her head and quickly leaves.

“WHERE IS ALICE?!?” I yell at my mother.

“She gave her away as soon as you left,” my sister breezes past and says to me.

I am inconsolable. I start crying and my heart breaks into a thousand pieces. I have been forced back into living with my biological family? And now I have to face them without Alice? On my knees, I begin to beg my mother.

“Please call whoever you gave her to. She has learned so much and is such a great service dog. Tell me it hasn’t been too long ago that you did this and they haven’t had a chance to bond with her. You HAVE TO get her back!”

Tears are streaming down my face and my anguish is spirit-crushing. I don’t want to be in this house, but if I have to be facing it without Alice is unbearable.

“She wasn’t a real service dog,” she says with vitriol. “You trained her.”

The obviously you suck at training was left unsaid.

“Besides it has been too long the family I gave her to won’t give her back.”

I cling to my mother’s unwavering form crying and begging her to bring back Alice. I might live through this forced hell if Alice is with me.

“No,” my mother says, “You can’t have her back.”


I jolt awake trying to orient myself. Alice, where is Alice!?! Right, she died in 2020 of cancer, it set on quick and took her quicker. So my mother’ can’t get her back.

Wait a minute. My mother is dead.

Right, I am in my own bed. In my house with Tony. My new service dog, Cas is on the floor beside my bed. I can see his outline.

I debate waking up Tony by calling Cas onto the bed but just can’t. He would want to comfort me and I would rather assure myself that Cas isn’t some continuation of my dream.

I sit up and debate what to do next to rid myself of the thunderstorm of emotions swirling around.
The violation of being back in that house forced me to be in his presence. Having to pretend I didn’t loathe my biological siblings and mother for rejecting me at my most vulnerable and weak. The disgust I feel with myself for wanting my family’s approval even now. The fear that this blog would be revealed to them and I would be punished for telling the truth and shaming the family by putting our secrets out for the world to see. Alice’s loss like it happened yesterday.

It all seems more real at this moment than the actual bed I am sitting on the edge of, in the actual room light years away from all that shame and pain. Cas comes over and leans on me. His weight helped to ground me back into reality.

I am determined to write more on this blog. I fetch my husband’s bathrobe, and my glasses and plod back to the kitchen with Cas at my side. We make coffee together and I bend over and scrub under his chin like he likes.

“I am so glad you are here,” I croon, “You are such a good boy and I love you very much.”

The coffee pot sputters its last bit of elixir and I grab the cup and trot down to my desk. Where I pound out the dream for you.

Night terrors are common for persons suffering from Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or CPTSD. These hyperrealistic dreams make determining what is real and what is not difficult. The emotions of the dream are ferociously experienced. They often feel more intense in dreams than in the waking world.
Alice had died long ago but yesterday in a ritual, to ancestors, I saluted my first service dog.

In my dream, finding she has gone beyond my reach was the same level of terror and loss I felt when she had first died. A sense of loneliness and having to navigate my illness and CPTSD alone.

In fact, these dreams are often filled with every doubt I have ever had and every feeling of abandonment I have ever felt from my biological family.

The relief from waking is never greater than the pain and emotional roller coaster that these dreams induce.

Making getting away from the bed, sleep, and dreams, to my computer oasis the only option in the early hours of a Monday morning.

Laughter in Tragedy

Trigger Warning: Possible homicide of small critters.

We moved into the suburb of Tucker, Georgia up Hwy 78. It was a very large home with a mother-in-law suite in the hopes my father’s mother, Me-me would move in with us and live downstairs. At the time it was just four of us. Me-me never moved in choosing to live in cramped spaces with one of her daughters, my aunts. Although her story is not for today.

This story is about squirrels.

My mother and grandmother, Mama Bridges, both loved birds. When I was a girl visiting Mama Bridges, I would be sat in the swing, wrapped in a handmade quilt with a big book of birds and set to identifying as many as I could find in the very early mornings of a working farm in Union Point, Georgia.

So my mom’s love of birds was brought about honestly. When we moved into Tucker, it had a large kitchen window that looked out into the backyard. Early on, my father tore up the backyard to install a workshop for woodworking and general tinkering. There was a back patio that as nothing more than a concrete slab, an area of red clay that had pallets laid down that led to his workshop with a wood-burning stove so he could tinker in winter comfortably. He loved This Old House and The Woodwright’s Shop. Watching those shows with him were some of the most peaceful of my young life and even today I am sucker for any home improvement or how to make something show.

Behind the workshop were lots of trees. A grove of them and behind them a green space where my dad set up beekeeping. My dad was undiagnosed bipolar with severe manic and depressive episodes. During manic times, he was charismatic, almost loving, and full of laughter and charm. And he would throw himself into a hobby with little reflection of the amount of money these hobbies cost or how that would upset the family’s budget. A lot of my mom’s stress was around money – usually the lack of money caused by my dad’s manic spending. But that story is for another day.

This story is about squirrels.

My mom did dishes by hand most days not really trust or use the dishwasher. She had never had one before and ultimately she used it as a way disinfect dishes not wash them. The dishes were thoroughly clean before they saw the inside of the dishwasher.

Some of my most visceral memories of my mother at peace were her looking out the window above the sink, her hands in soapy water, and a house dress covering her work clothes as she picked up after dinner. She was only 5’4’’ and had short cropped salt and pepper hair, it never went silver like mine did. She was plump and really reminds me of what a southern mother must look like in the minds of people outside the south. I have a myriad of mental images of her making biscuits in that kitchen, cooking dinner, and looking out that window as she did so.

When the squirrels came into the picture my brother was old enough to have complete sentences with me. But as time is eternally altered in my mind, I have no clue how old he or I was. The kitchen was open to the family or TV room which had a large brick fireplace in it with an old fashion rope rug on the linoleum floor. Often my siblings and I would lounge on the floor watching TV an easy distance from my mother working in that kitchen.

Often the back door to that concrete patio was open and an old fashion broom was behind the back door while a true screen door that would slam shut whenever opened and often made soft shutting noises because the wind would allow the breeze outside to flow into the kitchen and family den.

One day, my father, at my mother’s request bought her a large bird feeder to put into the area outside her kitchen window. She was thrilled. This large bird feeder was quickly hung by rope in an area easily seen by her while she worked in the kitchen and filled with birdseed.

Thus, the Battle of the Squirrels began.

Shortly after it was hung, birds of all sizes and types started flocking to this bird paradise in my backyard while my mother would call out what birds she saw that were unique or different. Then one day, the siblings and I lounging in front of the television, heard our mom’s exclamation!

“OH NO! Stop that! Get out of there! That isn’t for you!” all while moving swiftly to the screen door where she flipped the hook from its resting place, pushed open the door, and let it slam shut as she hurried outside.

My brother and I quickly ran to see what the commotion was about. Through the screen door, we could see our mother scolding a very fat squirrel who had perched itself on the roof of the bird feeder evidence of its thieving ways dribbling from its mouth, marking its hands, and peppering its fat belly.

Eventually, my mom stomped back into the house while my bro and I resumed our places in front of Saturday Morning cartoons quietly giggling. What we couldn’t foresee where the battle lines that the squirrel had drawn and how it would end for all of us.

The next thing I knew, my dad was causing a ruckus in the workshop shed and could be heard muttering with my mom. Finally, after several days of testing theories and the ability to pull them off, the family was watching TV together when my mother jumped from her couch and said, “Hi-test fishing line!”

Only my father seemed to understand because he quickly ran outside and pulled down the bird feeder. Soon, the large feeder was anchored by four eye hooks on its four corners and strung to hang in front of the kitchen window carefully anchored to the house and the workshop. My mother had to get a free-standing ladder to reach it and fill it up, but as a family, we were impressed with her idea and dad’s ability to execute it.

Life went back to its predictable rhythms. mom making pancakes from Saturday breakfast or preparing a roast in the Crockpot for Sunday dinner after church while cataloging birds that came back in droves for the feast she provided them.

“SHOOOOOT!” my mother’s exclamation reached my ears over the piano I was practicing in the other room. My fingers lingered on the keys in an uncomposed pause, as from my mom’s ongoing exclamations I quickly ascertained the issue.

The day before I had been reading and hiding in the trees beyond the workshop. My dad’s mood had changed and shouts were heard muffled by brick and mortar, so I snuck out a book and blanket and took cover in the trees. The back patio was easy to see and I could hear my dad’s souped-up wood-paneled station wagon leave when the Nascar-worthy engine turned over. That would signal the all-clear to come back inside.

My eye was caught by movement near the back porch screen door. Above it I noticed a squirrel testing the fishing line. In awe and a small amount of amusement, I watched the squirrel perform a Mission Impossible-worthy high wire act toward the easy bounty of the bird feeder. Halfway to it’s goal, I watched as it slipped from the thin wire and used its tail like a rotating rudder to nimbly land on all fours in the red clay beneath the feeder. It was as if it was a part cat and not just a wild suburban squirrel.

I thought nothing more of the high-wired squirrel until my mother’s commotion as I played piano. She scolded that squirrel and it chattered back at her. Clearly, it had perfected its performance and taken the bird’s feed as its due.

About a week later, book and blanket in hand, I stopped short just outside of the screen door. As it slammed back announcing my departure, I was puzzled over the new location of the bird feeder. It now sat on the smallest metal pole I had ever seen. The pole had been screwed into the very center of the feeder and driven into the ground beside the edge of the concrete patio. Obviously, this was the latest attempt at thwarting squirrels out of the bird feeder. I went out and read until dark forced me to return.

As I approached the patio in the twilight, I watched a squirrel clinging to the small pole do the most incredible back flip and grab of the edge of the bird feeder with one paw. With the strength of a long-denied gymnast, it grabbed onto the edge of that feeder with its other paw and pulled itself into the feeder properly.

Shaking my head, I continued my walk to the patio scaring off the thief, and noticed my brother standing inside the screen door.

“Are you going to tell her?” he asked me.

“Oh no!” I vehemently replied, “Are you?”

“I am not stupid,” he said.

A few days later, my mother’s hand threw suds around as she started off to the back door screaming, “Shoo! Shoo! Get down from there!”

No one in the T.V. room flinched. Clearly, we had already all witnessed the bird feeder thief’s exploits before this moment of my mom’s realization.

Suds still dripping off her hands, she defeatedly wandered into the TV area and said, “Don, what is the slickest substance we own?”

“Axel grease,” he absently replied, eyes glued to the latest cabinet exploits of The Wood Wright’s Shop.

“Can I have some and an old paint brush?” she asked.

“It is in the workshop,” he said hands waving toward the backdoor, patio, scene of the crime, and workshop.

Quietly as everyone else watched T.V., I snuck over to the open back door and peered through the mesh of the screen door. On her knees in the fading southern light, my mother had a can of axle grease in one hand and the scuzziest paintbrush in the other. With great care as if she was painting a masterpiece, she applied the grease to the small metal pool and the sturdy underside of the bird feeder. Moving back to my place at the end of the couch to watch TV, I silently prayed it would work.

That next weekend while mom slept in, my bro and I watched Saturday Morning cartoons. The back door was open letting in the spring morning breeze. My brother got up to get some cereal and gasped as he passed the back door. His arm began to wave frantically in my direction and I jumped up. He slowed me down with hand jesters while he carefully squatted on the floor. Curiously I slowed down and got low and moved so I could once again peer out through the screen mesh.

At first, nothing seemed unusual to me, the concrete patio still had the greased bird feeder next to it and the red Georgia clay stirred up by the installation of the Workshop still lay in small mounds from the leveling required before it was installed. My dad had always said he would clean it up and never did.
Soon, however, I noticed something rolling around in that dry red clay. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing until the red clay-covered entity darted toward the skinny bird feeder pole. Without slowing down the clay-covered mammal threw itself at the pole, vaulting as high up as it could, grasping the pole with all four paws and even wrapping the prehensile tail around it. Sliding down the pole the gray axle grease quickly covered every surface of the squirrel’s front, paws, and tail leaving only the back a normal squirrel brown color.

Once their little bottom hit the concrete patio, the squirrel ran to a mound of discarded red clay and began to bathe itself with the cleansing earth. Soon its front, paws, and tail were a mottled gray and red combination of grease and Georgia Clay. Bath accomplished they darted at full speed again launching like a pole vaulter onto the bird feeder’s pole and starting his sliding trip down to the red dirt. We watched this process while the squirrel’s distance to its goal was clear in the streaked gray and red concoction left behind its sliding wake.

My bro closed the back door shutting out the horrendous setup from my mom’s next freak out. Shooting me a wary look, he shrugged. I shrugged back and we made our way to cereal and Saturday Morning cartoons.

The morning was beautiful, the sun shining with a cool breeze as my mother came in her house dress of 70’s flowers and snap front covering her “real clothes.” She went to the kitchen to clean. She passed the back door, opening it on her way passed, seeming to be in a relatively good mood. My bro and I split our attention from the cartoons to the far more interesting drama about to unfold.

Her screeching wail, though predictable was still startling. A noise of indignant frustration continued without form as she reached behind the back door for her old fashion corn broom and slung open the screen door with a battle cry upon her lips.

We ran to the back door and through the mesh watched my mother charge the bird feeder, broom raised above her head ready to squash the ratty-looking squirrel living large off of the feed for the birds.
“THAT IS NOT FOR YOU!” she screamed threatening annihilation with her broom. “THAT IS FOR THE BIRDS!!!!”

The Squirrel had the decency to look startled and a bit impressed. However, screeching and running at the bird feeder was somewhat passe now. It wasn’t until she didn’t stop and the broom started a long arc from my mother’s back toward the feeder, that the startled look morphed into terror. Without thought, the squirrel jumped from the tall feeder arms and legs splayed to catch whatever breeze might slow their descent his greased and red tail whirling. His descent was abruptly halted by the concrete patio. Its little body doing an impressive imitation of a belly flop without water.

The breeze died and my mother, broom over her head, stood still. Her face morphed from anger to concern, and horror quickly as her nemesis lay knocked out cold on the back patio. The broom dropped and she started to reach and bend toward the fallen burglary suspect. My mother’s body began to shake as she took her hand back without making contact. Suspended at that moment, my mother’s tears began to stream down her face, the only movement of that mild spring morning. She turned toward the screen door and my brother and I quickly made for our bowls and the television.

She entered the house not allowing the screen door to slam it’s happy “someone’s just come in” song. Standing with tears streaming down her face we turned back to her and she broke out into uncontrollable sobs and tore through the house, down the hall, and into her bedroom. We could clearly hear her wailing about the squirrel with her running commentary that had started when the squirrel first swanned dives without a net.

“I didn’t want to kill it! I just wanted to watch the birds feed in it. I miss that about back home. All the birds eating, I just wanted birds and not stupid ugly squirrels..”

My brother and I slide along the floor to sit in front of the mesh door. The squirrel had still not moved.

“Go and see if it’s dead,” he said to me.

“I am not touching that squirrel.”

“Fine, use the broom and poke it.”

“Dean, I am not poking a dead squirrel.”

“We can’t leave it out there. If mom sees it is really dead, she will lose it. We have to get rid of it!”

“How do you propose we do that?”

“We could get a shovel..”

“And do what bury it in the backyard?”

“Crap, Look!”

Distracted from burial arrangements, we watched in fascinated horror as the squirrel got up and began to drunkenly walk toward the trees. It was the first time I understood what drunk must look like. Weaving and stumbling, it crawled into the undergrowth by the workshop and we breathe a large sigh of relief.

“Well, we don’t have to bury it,” I say to Dean.

“Do you think it is going to live?” he asked.

“Not a chance,” I reply

Drama over, we move back to soggy cereal and Saturday television. Several hours later, our mother would emerge dressed for going out. She walked to the back door and peered through the mesh.

“Did you bury it?” she asks us.

“Oh no!” I say with false cheer and bravado. “It just got up and walked away.”

“REALLY!?! I didn’t kill it?” she asked hopefully.

“Nahh,” my brother says, “It was just stunned.”

“That’s good,” my subdued mother says, “That’s really good. Time to do your chores. Turn that off now. I am running to the store.”

She leaves and I start dusting and vacuuming and cleaning my bathroom. I hear her return and then the slamming of the screen door. I look out the window and my mother has the step ladder next to the scene of the recent murder and the lid off the bird feeder. She scoops the seed out and scatters it on the ground. Then fills it with fancy nuts in the shell: walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, and peanuts.
I am staring at the back door when she comes in with the empty bags from the nuts she has just put out.

“What?” she says. “It was time to fill up the squirrel feeder.”


Trigger Warning: Talk of Rape, Incest, Abuse, and description of physical assault.


I dreamed this week about the Piscataway Nation, a Native American Tribe whose traditional homelands are in the areas of Charles County, Prince George’s County, and St. Mary’s County; all in Maryland and where its people now mostly live in these three southern Maryland counties and in the two nearby major metropolitan areas, Baltimore and Washington, D.C[ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piscataway_Indian_Nation_and_Tayac_Territory%5D.

I am familiar with this tribe because of Circle Sanctuary (circlesanctuary.org). It is not common knowledge that I have been in the Circle Sanctuary Minister in Training Program (MTP) for three years now.[ Since the Fall of 2020, I believe, see my article on Time.] When we have classes or events via Zoom it is customary to introduce yourself like this:

“I am Dia. I prefer she/her pronouns. I am coming to you from Georgia the traditional homes of the Apalachee, Catawaba, Creek, Sioux, and Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee East) tribes.”

It is a way to acknowledge that we are sitting on tribal lands that were stolen by European colonists. One of the main directors of the MTP Program lives in the Maryland, Baltimore, and Washington DC area. I can literally hear his intro as he indicates that he is coming to us from the traditional lands of the Piscataway Nation.

Back to my dream, I dreamed the Piscataway Nation sent a warrior from the past to the future. I met him at a Metallica concert (I have no idea!). He had with him a book of illustrations about the way of life of the Piscataway and some rough explanation of the language. He was telling me that the language was failing in modern times and he had been sent to honor Metallica for keeping it alive (again, I have no clue why Metallica).

However, this dream isn’t about Metallica it is about the book the warrior brought with him from the past. He was showing me this book, talking about the tribe and I began to feel an overwhelming sense of loss that I began to cry. I was cradling the book and thinking of the knowledge, wisdom, and herbal lore that has been lost because of colonization. In my dream, I was devastated. I woke and sat on the side of my bed contemplating the dream.

Quickly I understood that lingering sadness that persisted in my soul. The dream feelings, echoed real feelings I have, deep feelings of being misplaced, deserted, and rejected.

It is a well-known fact that I do not speak to my biological family. In the ritual ceremony, I divorced my biological family. Long before I took spiritual action, I had confronted my biological family about my biological father’s crimes of rape and assault, I was uniformly told by both siblings I was lying, exaggerating, being overly dramatic, or simply crazy. I confronted my siblings because of my fear that my nieces or nephews would fall victim to my biological father’s sexual attentions.

What my siblings don’t know is that I confronted my biological mother and she told me she knew my father had done “bad things” but that he was on Prozac now and a completely different person so I should just get over it. My biological mother died in 2015. I am not aware if my biological father is dead or alive.

However, it is not just my immediate biological family that has rejected my truth and experiences. My bio father’s sister saw me in a BBQ restaurant and told me that my mother was dying and I should go and see her. I told her no, I would not. She implored me to reconsider and then asked me directly why I wouldn’t go see her.

“Because,” I snarled, “She refuses to acknowledge that my biological father was a rapist and abuser.”
I stood stiff waiting for retaliation. She simply drifted away back into line to order her dinner to go.

Years later, my best friend from elementary school would locate me and befriend me through social media. I was thrilled as I had cared for her very much. She invited me and my then-husband to dinner. After dinner, she asked to speak to me privately.

“Your father raped me and I hold you responsible because you didn’t tell me he was a rapist,” she launches our discussion.

“I was a child, like you were,” I defend, “I was an adult before I was able to speak the things he had done to me.”

“It doesn’t matter. My therapist agrees with me and I just wanted to confront you and hold you responsible,” she parts and never speaks to me again.

Even in high school, after a particularly bad episode with my father, I turned to my best friend who was upset about her boyfriend’s drama.

“My father beats and rapes me,” I say to her. She continues to rant about her boyfriend’s drama.

“Did you hear what I said?” I ask.

“Yes, but you are Lydia and you can’t have any problems bigger than mine. [This friend would find me nearly twenty years later to apologize. The only person from my past to do so.]”

After distancing myself from my immediate biological family, I sought acceptance from my bio mom’s brother, my uncle. How I ended up at their home and how the topic of my abuse came up, I am not clear. But I do remember my uncle getting angry and saying, “I don’t believe you.”

The first time I was believed was after a three-day fugue. This was during a time when I was between eighteen and twenty-one and left alone in my bio family’s house with my father, I showed up at the battered women’s intake facility in our local county where my bio father was either deputy sheriff or worked in the county jail as a jailer. I knew this facility because my father had pointed it out to me one day as we had driven through the small town together.

I remember distinctly looking up and realizing where I had come. I walked into the building and sat in the middle of the floor. I had bruises on my body: my arms, legs, and thighs. I don’t know how long it took for the woman who ran the facility to get me to acknowledge their presence but once I did I was whisked into a back room.

It is odd I can remember that there was some eighties wallpaper in that waiting area and everything was a cream color. I can clearly remember sitting in front of a large desk that seemed to have been rescued to be put into this woman’s office and behind her were large shelves with pictures of people on them. Adults with children, and her and man with adults and children of various ages. I can clearly remember the feel of the plush chair I sat on.

I told her my story. I can’t remember when the abuse started but I had been beaten with belts, backhanded, slapped, and raped. I can remember it was the first time I had told anyone I knew I had been raped and had watched my sister and others get raped. She asked me what had happened. I asked her what day it was.

“It’s Monday,” she said, “Did you spend your weekend with your abuser?”

“I am not sure. I can remember wanting to leave and my dad telling me to wash the windows before I could go. I had already made breakfast or dinner for him and served him in his lounge chair where he always sits. He had taken his tea and told me I was going to make a great wife to someone. I was disgusted and I just wanted to leave. I slammed the doors of the cabinet, got the Windex and paper towels, and started washing the large picture window at the back of the house. Suddenly, I was ripped off my knees by my hair and thrown across the room. The last thing I clearly remember was laying on the blue carpet looking up as he stormed in my direction. That was Friday night or Saturday morning. I don’t remember anything else from the weekend. Are you sure it is Monday?”

She nodded absently. “Well, you obviously can’t live there anymore.”

“I can’t?”

“NO! And you don’t have to!”

“I don’t have to? I don’t have to live with him anymore?”

“Absolutely not! I will help you find a place to go if you have nowhere else.”

I can remember the relief and grief I felt at that moment. A euphoria that I can’t describe came over me as I realized someone believed me and was going to help me. While simultaneously grief caused by a tsunami of loss hit me.

I was doing the unforgivable. I was talking to the state about my family and I would never be forgiven. If I left and let this woman help me I would no longer have a family in the way everyone else has. My mother would never forgive me.

“Now, I know this is hard,” she said, “but I have to know who your father is.”

“Donald Hughes,” I quickly reply still giddy with the realization someone believed me. “He works for the sheriff.”

I can remember cold fear washing over me as she stopped writing on the intake form. “Donald Hughes who is in the Freemason’s here in town?” she asked.

I swallowed the sudden lump in my throat and nodded.

She turned with my papers in her hand and started the shredder behind her and unceremoniously dumped my paperwork in it. The grinding and shredding took my euphoria and turned it into cold dread. When she turned back around, she said, “I know him and your situation is harder than I thought it might be.”

I started to cry. My bio father’s charisma and charm he has always had in spades and discounted the truth to even my first ally.

“No, no, no,” she says quietly, “I believe you and if I keep you on the books, he has access to resources, friends on the force, guns, and could find out where you go. Victims are most vulnerable when the abuser’s sins first come to light. Don’t worry, though, I have resources too. Here is what we are going to do…..”

The next stages of my first disconnection from my family is a tale for another day. Needless to say, money was found, a small efficiency apartment in an out of the way small privately owned bed and breakfast was purchased for three months for my use, and I was soon living in another county, in an apartment rented under someone else’s name, with the things I had risked my life to go and get back from my family home while my parents were at work after a three-day fugue.

I was encouraged to reach out to people I could trust who would have the resources to help me. I remembered my best friend when I lived in Tucker before my parents fled to the mountains. Her parents were wealthy and friends with the Bushs and Regans (yes, those Bushs and Regans). Their house had plenty of room for someone else and I had always felt loved and accepted there. More importantly, they had money and could really help me find a way into college and give me a home life free of violence and rape.

I called my teenage best friend, Sharon, and asked for her mother, Anne’s number. I then called and asked Anne to see me. She drove into the mountains of North Georgia and walked the three flights of rickety stairs to my hovel. I provided water and two chairs. I can remember being ashamed of my crappy free apartment, scared for my future when I had no education and nowhere else to turn to. I had worn my best clothes with a long-sleeved shirt to hide the bruising. I used to wear long-sleeved shirts all the time. Now in the middle of winter, you will find me short or no-sleeved tops.

I give Anne my story about incest, rape, fugue, and intake at the battered women’s shelter. I explain about my dad being in law enforcement now and how the system was keeping me off the books with the help of local Mason’s. Once I was talked out, silence descended into the room.

On an antiquated television with rabbit ears, an old wind-up clock sat ticking the moments it took for Anne to assess all I had said and come to a decision. With her first croaked out, “No.” I knew I would struggle to find my way on my own with no help from the Bush’s friends.

“No. I don’t believe it. I have met your parents. Your mother is so lovely and your dad… I just… You would have said something before now. You would have let us know. You KNEW we would have taken you in and protected you. No. None of that happened, it couldn’t have happened because you would have told us before now. If you are looking for our help, you aren’t going to get it.”

The euphoria of belief I had been surfing for the past week, crashed into the shore of reality and the air was knocked from my lungs. We sat in silence as the clock ticked its dirge and I struggled to breathe. Part of me wanted to lift my sleeves and show my bruises, and part of me was still a scared horribly abused girl who had been threatened with a wish for death if she told.

“You don’t have to die to wish you were dead,” I could hear in my hollow head still ringing from blows, “Don’t you ever tell anyone.” A breeze would blow across my heated and pained skin as he leaves swiftly. Flashes of my mother inspecting my sleeves and long dresses to hide the sins of my father go through my mind.

Back in my free apartment, I just sat there staring at Anne. I couldn’t find my voice. I was thinking, “Tell her before now! I had to go into a fugue state to get scared enough for my life that I sought shelter. Tell her before now?” I was literally incapable.

Yet, I said nothing.

Anne picked up her purse and started to leave. My manners kicked in and I walked her to the door.

Opening it for her and helping her with a coat.

“Goodbye,” Anne says. I shut the door without comment.

Today I am in my early fifty’s. Anne’s rejection, my uncle’s, my aunt’s, and my friend’s rejections did more than set up some temporary pain that I eventually moved past. Abusers win by isolating and painting their victims as crazy. They like to systematically destroy any stable support system they may have. When good people refused to believe the lone voice of a trauma survivor, they empower deeper harm than they can conceive.

I have spent my life trying to replace the unconditional love my mother and father should have given me. I have tried to find loyal people who would stand by me and be my “ride or die” people. Christmas, Thanksgiving, my birthday, Mother’s day, Father’s Day. These days would come and go as constant reminders that I am missing a tribe. There was no Thanksgiving celebration unless I coordinated it with strangers. Christmas was not about an extended family reconnecting because I did not have an extended family.

This feeling of loss, a dream about the loss of language and culture evokes in me, is a deep wound that runs through all my interactions.

That is not to say, I don’t have a tribe. The birth of my son was my first concrete and solid tribal connection. After that I was divorced, stumbling through life, and trying to find someplace to belong. I met Tony. We dated for six months and he asked me to handfast him, a pagan ritual of coupling that limits the contract to one year and a day and is often undertaken before a legal marriage in the pagan culture.

After our year a day, and days before our legal wedding, Tony would solidify his unspoken and spoken oaths to be my tribe when I asked him.

“Don’t you want to know about why I don’t talk or call or take you to meet my biological family?”

“If you don’t speak to them, then they must have done truly horrific things to you,” he responded. “Your a good person. They must not be.”

Tony’s powerful statement of ultimate trust and confidence in me changed me that day and really marked my search for people to add to my tribe. It has been very difficult. I have made some horrible placement of my trust usually in other people who have wounds that reflect mine. Not all who are deeply wounded can navigate life successfully. Many I have chosen have fallen away not yet ready for what healthy relationships require. Not sure how to make or accept boundaries. Unclear what loyalty looks like. Not clear how to act in a tribe now that the tribe they should have belonged to has rejected them.

And even though I have found a tribe of people to love me, accept me, and shelter me, the gaping wound the loss of my biological tribe, and other early tribal connections left can still fill with puss and pulse as only deep wounds can. Those deep wounds that wake me in the night to shed silent tears of grief for my lost tribes.

Time is a Bubble

Trigger Warning: Physical Assault

If you feel like this blog started in the middle of my story, you are correct. This blog is a book I have written at least four times and have never completed largely because my memories aren’t linear. Trying to organize my memories and experiences linearly has caused me so many problems, that I have abandoned the attempts. Choosing a medium (blogging) that doesn’t have to be linear, I hope will actually play to the unique way a traumatic brain function.

Consider a life-altering experience, a car accident perhaps. As popular media has demonstrated these events happen in nanoseconds and are experienced as an interminable amount of time where minute details crystallize and are frozen suspended and experienced in slow motion by the person the trauma is happening to. Why? Well, back in the day when a nanosecond could be the difference between life and death, our brains learned to extend time perception, drawing it out and giving out bodies a chance to find some lightning sharp reaction that might save us.[ Slower Time Estimation in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; Carmelo M. Vicario and Kim L. Felmingham: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5762810/%5D

Living with my abusers I took to spending as much time outside as possible. Like many abusers, my biological father moved us to a rural secluded part of the North Georgia Mountains. I spent my time outside, hiking trails, and deer runs, losing myself in nature as far from my abuser as possible. One day, walking down a new deer trail, I started to step down but something in my periphery caught my eye causing me to pause my stride and note that a large snake was making its way across the trail I was on. I managed to hop and jump over the large reptilian slithering along its average day and then registered with a nervous giggle that it was just a large black racer or black rat snake. Perfectly harmless, still I was glad to have not stepped upon it. This extended time experience, allowed me to see danger, acknowledge the danger, avoid danger, and then dismiss danger in likely less than two seconds. But my experience of this event is a slow-motion movie I can easily call back to my mind in great detail from the knowledge that this was fall with a slight breeze and the smell of the first fires of the season on the wind. I was wearing a light jacket and discovered that black racers are actually black, brown, and iridescent I was even able to acknowledge that the racer’s last meal hadn’t been digested yet and was outlined in its cavernous belly, a mole most likely.

When I remember this event, I can smell the smoke of the burning leaves in the wind. Feel the wind caressing my skin, re-experience the shiver of fright and the euphoria of relief that it wasn’t a rattlesnake looking to warm itself in sunlight on the trail.

And this phenomenon is precisely what abuse survivors experience regarding their abuse. In my last blog, I stated that I sucked my thumb throughout childhood and into my middle school years. In stressed states, even today, I will rest my thumb along my jaw and self-soothe by blowing gently on my knuckles.
Before I had completely altered my habit of thumb-sucking, my family was piling in my biological father’s suped-up wood panel station wagon. The three of us, my biological brother (eight years my junior) and my biological sister (eight years my senior)were crammed into the backseat where I was positioned in the middle. My parents were arguing and it was summer. The car was stifling and my thighs had wielded with the vinyl seat. The argument in the front seat continued to escalate and I got more and more nervous. Cramped as I was between my biological siblings, I unconsciously started to self-soothe by sucking my thumb. Movement from the front seat caught my attention and with a type of morbid curiosity, I watched as the fist of my biological father came with unerring accuracy and hit me in my nose, breaking it. My mother grabbed tissues from the glove box and shoved them at me as the yelling in the front seat increased. The pain was excruciating and the sudden violence caused waves of cold dread to flood my body as I suddenly started shivering despite the intense southern heat. As a discussion started about what to do with my gushing nose while my biological father bellowed that I deserved it, the scene fades to black in my memory.

I know the nose wasn’t fixed until years later when I had it fixed after not being able to live without having a sinus infection. But the rest of that day, where we were going, if we ended up going, all of that is gone… the threshold of my ability to cope with the increasing stress was reached and my mind “blacked out.”
This too is common for trauma survivors. Unable to escape the abuse, there is a point in time when the mind just checks out completely leaving these gaping black holes in my memory. I have nothing but context clues to help me position this incident in the linear line of my life. I don’t know how old I was, but sometime before I was in 9th grade. I know the house where we were, it was the house before we moved to the mountains. We lived there for over ten years and where in those tens years this happened, I couldn’t tell you. I have no clue how old my siblings were. This leaves me with memories that are suspended in time and not tied to a timeline. I am fascinated by people who can tell stories about their childhood and give an approximate age or fixed time markers like the year in school they were. This seems like some magical ability that my life of trauma has disconnected me from.

I really cannot emphasize enough how the memories of my abuse are hung in time like someone has been blowing bubbles in the vast expanse of time. In the bubbles are memories and I am a smaller bubble floating ungrounded to any real sense of time as it holds meaning for those around me. Occasionally my small bubble self is overtaken by memory and within that bigger bubble, I experience the entire abuse again in vivid detail. Sometimes, I can disengage and be safe again.

A single bulblet unattached to harmful memories and unattached to happy memories or present events. Sometimes those that love me can ground me into happier memories that do exists on this linear timeline that is my actual life, but usually, the conditioned response that safety is a bulblet unattached to anything is too powerful to overcome and I float off into time, dissociating and blissfully unaware of the stress and pressure surrounding me.

This is the lasting effects of trauma, a person secluded in space and time, ungrounded. Learning to be grounded and not hyper-vigilant is a process that takes discipline and practice to reverse. Often in a world that is uneducated and intolerant of the physical, mental, and emotional effort required to stay grounded and present. What for you is just a day for me is like I am facing a bubble machine mercilessly spitting out memories that I am dodging and avoiding while staying engaged in a work meeting or listening during a class or fully engaged in a conversation. And this helps to attract a level of exhaustion that isn’t “normal” or even “acceptable.” So survivors plow through.

Today, I called in sick. And I am. Going about my life while the bubble machine blows directly onto my face was simply too much. My brain and my heart needed a break – a time out where I immersed myself back into that place where time isn’t counted and my safety is assured. The place in my bulblet that allowed for the emotional and mental rest my everyday life rarely allows for. After talking to my sister yesterday and tuning out half of her conversation, I realized I needed to stop the constant demands for my complete presence and give my emotion, mind, and body a chance to exist without stress or strain. I spent my morning sleeping until my body said to wake. I walked Cas [Dia’s Goldendoodle service dog.] and trained with him on a new skill. I crocheted on a project I wanted to crochet on. I plan to go sit with my best friend, Brook or sit in the presence of my husband with Cas at my feet. Someplace safe and emotionally, mentally quiet after eating a lunch of comfort food.

The problem is most work environments would not interpret my lack of presence at work for this purpose as “legitimate.” I mean it is hard to get a doctor’s note for what amounts to a mental health day. I am so fortunate that my boss is forward thinking and if she should read this would not penalize me for what I have done. She knows I will work an extra day to make up for this one or work extra hours. Ultimately I wouldn’t let my work tasks go undone. She also believes that I will come back to a more productive person at work. This is absolutely true.

This is a problem in America where having mental health issues is seen as a defect. How many others would work semi-regularly if only the work environment would support their mental health? The taboo of trauma survivors and the health, physical and mental, challenges are so underrepresented and underexplained that it seems like a pipe dream to think there is a future where workplaces take mental health issues as seriously as other chronic diseases and are willing to work with sufferers knowing they will end up with devoted and hard-working employees in the end.

My boss has my devotion, gratitude, and loyalty. If you can get that from a trauma survivor you have earned it and that devotion, gratitude, and loyalty will be unwavering.

Tired – Malaise of Abuse

With this new blog, I am committed to writing regularly again. Carving out time away from all my many obligations and writing about my journey to a life of thriving after significant and prolonged abuse. I am struggling today. I don’t want to write.

I want to go lay down.

Tired isn’t really descriptive regarding what I am feeling. Weary comes closer but really the term malaise is more accurate. I am literally so tired that the very thought of doing anything else is soul shattering. And yet, this morning, I have done dishes, cleaned up from ritual last night, prepared for a class that was held this morning, sorted laundry, said good bye to a good friend who stayed over last night, finished a crochet project, and led an hour-long class on energetics.

This is what thriving requires. I gave in to this soul crushing exhaustion once and ended up in a mental hospital in Atlanta after literally being in bed for six weeks. The more I “rested” the more fatigue crept into my life the more I stayed in bed and the more I binged True Blood. I was escaping from the world that had become overwhelming to me.

I had been diagnosed with a disorder I couldn’t see or control, Mast Cell Activation Disorder with Neurocardiogenic Syncope. I continued to battle Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my childhood and I was completely lost. Cut off without a community and set adrift in a sea of emotions that threatened to drown me.

The fatigue is partially a real bodily fatigue from my various medical conditions, but the feelings that accompany this fatigue says, “I can’t handle one more thing going wrong,” or “If anyone is mean to me I will cry,” or “I want to curl up with Cas[ Castiel, call name Cas, is Dia’s service animal.] and pretend the world doesn’t exist.”

It is as if I have gone passed the place where the things I have seen, been forced to do, and had to experience are pouring out of my pores like a sickly sweet smelling sweat. I am drenched in the feeling, sticky with it. The smell is pungent in my nose and there is no escape from the insistence that even a shower wouldn’t rid myself of these overwhelming feelings of violation, hurt, and devastation.
The secret truth of trauma survivors is this…. we feel like this every day. Today isn’t some special exception to my life. This is a mind numbing normal that I cannot escape even with years of cognitive behavioral therapy – years…as in I was 18 when I started and I am 52 now.

Overtime, you learn to present your indomitable spirit as the mask others see first, refusing to be beaten by the trauma of your past and the chronic illness that past created. It becomes this second skin that simply suppresses the vile and vitriol the trauma creates in your emotions and mind. You learn to mimic the smiles and mannerisms of those who can’t smell the stench upon you. You learn to keep your disassociation to a minimum least it take over and ruin the house or cards you precariously balance upon the trauma ruins your life began with.

Some later time, I will do some research and explore more effectively the biological changes made in children who suffer severe trauma at young ages. Today, I am tired and I will stick to what I know.
Disassociation is a way that the mind copes with trauma and stress. We all will disassociate some: on days we binge, “Murder in the Building,” or read an entire book or lose ourselves in a world of crafts, video games, or watching sports. Some take this disassociation to horrible places by drinking too much, taking drugs, or doing other destructive and harmful things.

Disassociation for trauma survivors is not just a way to cope with stress it is a conditioned response to stress. As a child as stress and tension rose in our homes, we looked for escape which was reading, being outside and away from the abusers, going to other people’s houses, playing pretend, or literally disassociating from the current real moment by simply drifting off into the ether world where nothing was or is and certainly nothing is raping the mind as the pedophilia rapes the body.

The problem as a adults is that stress to the body is the same biological response as it was when we were being raped. Our body doesn’t understand that today’s stress is my overflowing basket of papers to electronically scan and file and not an active rape. To my body it is just stress. And disassociating is how my body has learned to handle stress.

When I do not comply and check out of my current environment.. my office and desk of cluttered papers in need of filing, my body fights back. It says to me, “Sleep. Your tired. You have earned it. Just close your eyes and sleep.”

I suddenly want to finish a book I am reading or there is some crocheting I could do or I could just give in and take a nap.

There are consequences though to giving in. Laundry doesn’t get done. The kitchen doesn’t get cleaned. My filing continues to pile up. My writing goes unwritten.

Which, when I am not disassociating, exponentially raises my stress level, which cause my body’s need to disassociate to grow which makes it hard to be motivated to get things done, which causes my stress to grow….

A cyclical return of never ending stress and the pressure our past puts upon us to do nothing but emotionally, intellectually, physically hide.

Food helps. But food is, in and over itself another coping mechanism that I can use to fight the stress and need to disassociate. Being addicted to caffeine when your heart is physically fragile isn’t such a great way to cope with the fatigue need of disassociation.

Exercise helps but who wants to exercise and be even more physically exhausted.
In fact my sister[ Any sibling or family member I refer to is a chosen one and not biological unless specifically indicated as biological.] has educated me on the term “self soothing.” A series of behaviors people do to try to alleviate anxiety and physical stress. I knew immediately what she was talking about because I knew exactly what I did regularly to try to alleviate my stress and anxiety levels. My biological mother did it too.

My biological father had been on a tear. I could hear him raging through the house knocking things around and screaming at my mother. The side door slammed and the loud rumble of his suped up wood paneled station shattered the hot, humid southern afternoon. It trundled down the road gaining moment with the increasing sound of his retreat, signaling the all clear to the children who had scattered and hidden when his rage had begun.

I walked into the piano room in the house and my mother was all huddled on the patten leather green chair that had somehow survived the 1970’s to live in my childhood home. It was hideous and my mother, for some unknown reason, loved it. I walked in and she was sucking her thumb and completely disassociated from the world I was currently walking in. I called her name softly, “Mama?”
She started and ripped her thumb from her mouth and then with venom said, “Don’t you tell anyone,” jumped out of the green monster and left the room.

I understood. I sucked my thumb until well past middle school and my biological parents spent lots of money trying to make sure I didn’t go through my life with horrible horse teeth caused my the “voracious” thumb sucking, one orthodontist quantified it.

But it was soothing and required nothing but my own body to help ease the ache of trauma all around me. I wouldn’t and didn’t judge my biological mother for thumb sucking something I caught her doing multiple times. I understood it and longed to be able to do it myself.

When my sister told me about self soothing, I was on the phone with her. My right hand thumb was laid along my right jaw line. My first two fingers of the same hand were curled up under my nose where I could feel the soft breath from my nostrils move the hair on my hands. With sudden clarity I saw myself and realized my was still sucking my thumb it just wasn’t in my mouth.

My hand jerked to my lap after that jolt of understanding hit me. I felt exposed and vulnerable and shamed. Like my biological mother I suddenly realized that this habit exposed some truths about me and my past and present, even when I thought my mask was firmly covering the stench of my tiredness.
Now I live a battle to not “suck my thumb” in public or when people are around. I catch myself doing it daily. Invariably I can’t help but feel some kindred with my biological mother over the similarities of our coping strategies.

For now, I am tired and will finally allow myself lunch and the hope of not wasting my day asleep hiding from the stress of my life.

Fragile Heart, Indomitable Spirit

Domestic Violence appears simple. People live together. One party beats, violates, or mentally abuses another party they live with and that equals Domestic Violence. With this simplistic view, persons’ who have never experienced beating, violation, or mental abuse come to believe that the solution is simple too. The person who is beating, belittling, or violating others should stop. The person getting beaten, belittled, or violated should leave. And that kind of thinking opens a world of blame for abuser AND victim. If the victim doesn’t leave or tell then there is something wrong with them. If the abuser doesn’t stop, then there is something wrong with them or there is some secret justification for what they do. In either case, the answer is simple, stop or leave and tell.

Here is a piece of truth. Any persons involved in domestic violence have something wrong with them. How “wrong” they are depends on the extent and length of time they are abused. I don’t like to say that victims, survivors, and thrivers of abuse are broken. I would say that their operating system has been corrupted by the virus of abuse. There are glitches in their abilities to executive function, emotionally connect, carry out the mundane functions of life, sleep, eat, have sex…the glitches will depend on how they processed and are processing the abuse they suffered. They can find alternative pathways to function. This means that how they have learned to function is forever altered – different from the parts of society not touched by abuse.

I am intimately familiar with domestic violence. My father was (is?) an explosive abusive and pedophile. My life was measured by moments of terror interrupted by moments of bizarre behavior, strange coping skills, and a broken family dynamic. Even my own memories of my abuse and childhood are a little suspect given that much of my abuse lives in a clouded space in my brain that my mind’s eye cannot penetrate. I am left with context clues, my body’s own reaction to stimuli, other people’s witnesses of my abuse, other peoples’ violation at my father’s hand, and the assurance of the many counselors I have had over the years that I am a thriver of sexual, physical, mental, and emotional abuse. This also leaves me feeling less than .. Unsure .. feeling a little crazy. As crazy as my biological family claims I have always been.

I have started and stopped this book throughout the years unclear where it was going to go or how it was going to get my story out there. I recently had a waking vision that my sister brought me a book to sign for her and said she was sorry, then walked away. When you have been abused, you long for love from those who didn’t give it, those who have denied the abuse and its devastating effects upon you. You want them to acknowledge your truths and then offer some consolation prize of sorrow at their disbelief and the actions they made because of their disbelief.

I would like to say that at nearly fifty-two years my desire for that type of acknowledgment from my biological family is gone. It is not. I have been cut off from my biological family on both my biological mother’s and biological father’s sides of the family. An uncle on my mother’s side told me point blank he didn’t believe me. An Aunt on my father’s side simply walked away in silence after I told her I wouldn’t attend my dying mother because she was complicit in the abuse I suffered. Goddess bless, I long so deeply, to have someone of my blood turn to me and say, “I believe you….I believe you.” I am not holding my breath. It would cost my biological family too much to believe me.

My biological father was (is?) a charismatic man. Loud booming laughter often preceded him wherever he went. Good-looking in his youth, he didn’t age well but still, people were drawn to him. My biological mother would later confirm something I had suspected since my college days, my biological father was afflicted with bipolar manic and depressive episodes and spent most of his life unmedicated. I will never forget her telling me.

“You can come back around now. He is so much better since he went on Prozac. Turns out he was bipolar or something all this time.”

Because in my deeply rooted southern family the current status quo was all that mattered. Nothing from the past should be permitted to touch the present. My father was better at this time and had a good excuse for his violent and violative behavior. Suck it up. Get over it. Move past it. Let it go! Just like a cartoon. Terrible things happen and upheaval is everywhere but no one suffers mentally for it. They just, “Let it go!” while singing about it all.

It is how my biological family still lives with blinders. It is culpability. If they could be friendly with this man for all these years and like him, then there is no way he was raping preteen girls, feeling those same girls up, or beating his family. Maybe some knew he beat the children with a belt during his blackout fits of rage, but we, my sister, my brother, and I had broken rules, lied, or done wrong. Maybe the way they “disciplined” back then was misguided but it was no more or less than anyone else of that time or before. Parents beat their children and children just got over it and maybe chose to parent differently. I am intimately familiar with the excuses given for abuse and the ways people around abuse dress that abuse up or try to diminish the impact abuse has or, ultimately, blame the victim.

Even still, I am cut off from my biological family because they would have to let go of a reality that for them is comfortable and friendly, even. They would need to face their own abuse suffered at my grandparent’s hand because make no mistake, this story of domestic violence doesn’t start with me, although, I pray often that none of my cousins or nieces and nephews suffered as I did and continued the violence passed their generation.

And that brings me back to this blog. Originally a long-worked on book entitled, “Fragile Heart, Indomitable Spirit.” A nod to the genetic condition I have had my whole life and the physical changes, literal changes to the DNA of my body, that my excruciating abuse caused. It also is a nod to the triumph I occasionally feel. I survived. I didn’t buckle to the beseeching and cajoling and threatening and ostracization meted out because I would not back down from my truth..the truth…the reality that I was repeatedly raped, physically abused, mentally gaslit, and emotionally crippled by my biological family.
I want to write down this reality and simultaneously reach out to other survivors with this story.
I want to say, “I believe you,” but do more.

I want to help shed light on what many clinical self-help books teach. They explain clinically how severely abused people act as an adult and why they act that way. What I have are the stories to fill in the gaps and truly demonstrate what that looks like. I want to help those who do love the horribly mistreated better understand us, support us, and love us.

But I realized today that my book in total may never be written. I am a busy minister in training, currently undertaking an Ordination track that requires class projects, class time, homework, and pre-work. I serve as a Distinguished Religious Group Leader at a base two hours from my home. I am disabled but work three days a week for a not-for-profit and spend my other time in ministry. I have a service animal that will always need refresher training.

So maybe I need to go about this differently. This blog will be my book. Put together over time. Come along with me and laugh, cry, be outraged, be comforted, moreover, come along and learn to help those whose childhoods were far from situations that anyone can easily let go of.

Praying the Morrigan Rosary

To Make the Rosary

Dia’s Morrigan Rosary

1 large Triskele Charm

4 beads for the directions

1 spacer bead (total of 5, this is also called the medal and starts the ‘Y’ of the necklace)

9 beads for each decade (total of  45)

1 spacer bead

9 beads for each decade

1 spacer bead

9 beads for each decade

1 spacer bead

9 beads for each decade

1 spacer bead

9 beads for each decade

(Connects back to the medal or 1st spacer bead)


You came to me on raven’s wings

Embraced and empowered me

Waited patiently for me

There is no aspect of life you do not guard or grant access to

There is no aspect of death that you are not the gatekeeper of

Through this my prayer

Accept this worship and praise

And I humbly ask you to guide and guard my days[i]

Four Directional Beads



The Morrigan[ii]




Queen (repeat two more times)

On the Medal & Every Spacer

Blessed Be oh Highest and Holiest of Ladies

My Beloved Ladies of the Morrigan

To you I honor and worship in the Old Ways

When woman was the Center,

Woman was the Creatrix of the World

Your Temples of worship well laid.[iii]

1st Decade

The Morrigan

Seven Ravens you have sent to me

Lessons of sovereignty, queenship, and battle-hardened strength you have given me

I am yours, my heart is in the Raven’s claw

Accept this worship

Let this prayer be a sacrifice that is well laid

Bringing joy to your heart

As you bring joy to mine.


Blessed Be oh Highest and Holiest of Ladies

My Beloved Ladies of the Morrigan….

2nd Decade

Macha, sunlight upon my face

Fertile soil beneath my feet

Passion of my life

Horse and crow yours to call

Goddess, Warrior Queen, Faery Woman

Blessed Macha

Strengthen my bones, my spirit, my mind, my soul

All Hail Macha


Blessed Be oh Highest and Holiest of Ladies

My Beloved Ladies of the Morrigan….

3rd Decade

Badb, death’s blow and midwife of the soul

White Lady with the red mouth of death

The Wolf and hooded crow yours to call

Washer at the Ford, Holy Badb

Fair Maiden, Judgemental Crone

Wash away my negative habits

Make my emotions clean

Guard me as I commune with the dead

Holy Badb, make me worthy in life and death

All Hail Badb


Blessed Be oh Highest and Holiest of Ladies

My Beloved Ladies of the Morrigan….

4th Decade

Anu, mother that is the Earth

Whose body is the mountains, valleys, running waters, deep oceans

Holy Anu deeply rooted One

Great Mother of gods and humans

From you all life and riches flow

Prosperity and growth are your domain

Ground me

Allow me to feel your love, care, and prosperity

Blessed Anu, let me feel your presence here

All Hail Anu


Blessed Be oh Highest and Holiest of Ladies

My Beloved Ladies of the Morrigan….

5th Decade

The Morrigan

Seven Ravens you have sent to me

Lessons of sovereignty, queenship, and battle-hardened strength you have given me

I am yours, my heart is in the Raven’s claw

Accept this worship

Let this prayer be a sacrifice that is well laid

Bringing joy to your heart

As you bring joy to mine.

Spacer or Medal

Blessed Be oh Highest and Holiest of Ladies

My Beloved Ladies of the Morrigan….

Four Elemental Beads







The Morrigan (repeat again)


You came to me on raven’s wings

Embraced and empowered me

Waited patiently for me

There is no aspect of life you do not guard or grant access to

There is no aspect of death that you are not the gatekeeper of

Through this my prayer

Accept this worship and praise

And I humbly ask you to guide and guard my days

[i] Some of the references are about my personal relationship with The Morrigan and may make no sense to someone else. I encourage any worshipper of the Morrigan to change the main charm to your own words.

[ii] Stephanie Woodfield from Celtic Lore & Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess was a great inspiration for this rosary and some of these words are hers.

[iii] This is taken directly from Tirgereh at Sacred Grove but the prayer has been removed. I did alter it for my purposes.

Writer not Writing

I haven’t written anything in a long time. I lost someone very close to me a few years ago and to say that it devastated me is an understatement.

I have also been busy with Willow Dragonstone Community & Coven.

Then I joined the ordination program with Circle Sanctuary, something I have been pursuing for about a year and a half. I did this, not because I feel invalidated as a High Priestess. I joined because I wanted to make a difference, have different opportunities, and learn. All of these things are being accomplished.

Then Alice The Pagan Service Dog died and I got Castiel Crabtree my new service dog.

Honestly, though, my drive to write hasn’t been around. I want to finish my autobiography, Fragile Heart, Indomitable Spirit, and yet I have been having a horrible time trying to finish it and have scrapped it and re-written it several times. I have also worked on a Pagan Sex Book and a Leadership Book both of which are in stasis at this time. I am not going to push it. I have a new important clergy role in the world that is requiring me to become very familiar with the Nordic Traditions and I am going to continue to focus on that. I just wanted to jump on and give a bit of an update.