Gee, Elinor, I think you’re swell!

Recently I lost my littlest brother. It was shocking because he was so young and had no known health issues, grew a garden and lived a pretty ordinary life of hard work and spending time with friends and loved ones.

Two and a half weeks after losing him, in the first week of November I lost my older sister. By today’s standards she was not old either, still in her sixties. The shock of both of these losses has completely numbed me. I feel as if I am living in a bad movie and hope soon I will wake up.

I wrote my brother a poem I published here and would write one for my sister but her poetry (which I have as well as her letters and cards to me over the years) outshines mine in my opinion.

When this song (see link below) was released, I thought it was about my sister and really, for me, it still is. I have much to say about what I have learned about how cruel, abusive and self centered human beings can be in the face of such devastating losses. There is also much good to say about those who “get it” and how no matter the few words they say, it is very comforting to my fractured heart. That will all be in another post. Just not up to writing it at the moment. More about my dear sister will be published here, too, but again just not up for it at the moment either.

Sorry for my absence here, will be back more as soon as I am up to it. For now, enjoy this song about my dear sister up in heaven. She really was swell.

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50 Word Stories

Some of you may have read some of these previously so I hope you will enjoy a second read. These little stories test me so ūüėČ And I apologize for the formatting, I just cannot figure out how to fix it.

  • BIRD ON A WIRE
  • Wooden clothes pegs in mouth, cold-reddened hands pinning laundry on the line. A meagre sun seeps between frustrated clouds. ¬†She carries the stiffened clothing gloveless, her tiny¬†frost-bitten feet shoeing deep Ontario snow back into the house, the incisive eye of one lonesome bird on a wire her undoing.
  • DON’T EAT THAT
  • Don’t eat that, Joe said. ¬†Danny swiped melon juice off his chin with one sleeve.¬†Do you know humans eat two pounds of dirt before they die?¬†Joe glanced from Danny to the watermelon, flicked off the ants and bit in.
  • |RECURRING DREAMS ¬†
  • ¬†People race to safety of churches on hills. All I can do is say there is nothing we can do but wait. They look for comfort and direction when I have none myself. I reassure them all will be well. But I’m not really sure.|

 

  • I MOVE ON ¬†¬†
  • Trust me, I know how to navigate troops through broken eggshells. I move on tenterhooks slightly suspended over the realities until the penny drops. I can move on a dime if I have to.¬†Address unknown.

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  • WAKE UP ¬†¬†
  • My older brother‚Äôs eyes were wide open and my little brother watched us both as I wiped the warm blood from my upper lip with the hem of my white T-shirt. Wake up, I said again. What the hell is going on, he demanded, finally. He always woke up swinging.

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PLAY BALL 

Blindsided by lob:  20+ year close friend chasing my separated ex while feigning friendship for months, siphoning off me like thief to gas, bolstering her position. Ball hit me so hard, I need a match.|

  • GOLD¬†
  • ¬†Your smile¬†shivered me above all the rest.¬† At last. I found¬†a genuine, soulful man who wanted only a genuine soulful woman. Then I saw you in my car with her¬†and¬†knew it was not the gold in you but the cold.

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  • ALL THE WAY¬†
  • ¬†You asked if I was certain, I asked you the same. You said yes and put the gun to your head. With your life in pieces around me, all I wanted to scream was¬†I lied, I wasn’t certain, please come back to me.

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  • THE SECOND TIME AROUND¬†
  • ¬†I forgive you before you even call. Every single time. It doesn’t matter why you stopped talking to me again, deleted me from your Facebook. It doesn’t matter what you do or say. I love you.¬†You are my sister.

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  • I HOPE¬†
  • The pillow was dented¬†where her head should be. Teddy was gone, too. The front door was wide open, rain pelting in. I hope, oh, three years of this – I don’t know what I hope. There Mother was, fast asleep cuddling bear, the porch swing stilled by their weight.

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Tonight I made a Cup of Tea

Tonight I made a cup of tea

Then called someone dear to me

The time passed swiftly, I listened close

A gentle ear was what she needed most

Life grabs us by the throat with incredible hold

Sometimes listening cures as words are told

The tea grew so cold, no rescue for that cup

But I’m glad my two ears lifted someone up

Tomorrow night I might make another cup of tea

And then make another call to another dear to me

(c) Janni Styles

Clean Laundry

taking in the sheets today the fresh air held me fast

I was in kitchens of my childood my mother standing there

her cold reddenened hands at work hanging and folding

our laundry from the line in cold Ontario air

 

for just a few minutes tonight I forgot where I was

pressing my face into fresh washed sheets

all I could think of was my mother

and precious fresh sheets sleeps

 

as I unraveled the tangled laundry

and hung the damp bedding up to dry

I had a little visit with my mother

and did my best not to cry

 

(it didn’t work)

(c) Janni Styles

How I help YOU cope with my PTSD

Right after I was physically assaulted years ago I lost my coping skills. I repeat, I lost my coping skills, not my intelligence. You do not suddenly lose your intelligence but you do suddenly lose your coping skills with PTSD. This means it may be harder to access your intellect because your brain is so highly reactive in PTSD mode as I have experienced many, many times since that physical assault.

Once when I arrived at the bank to find funds missing, I was so jolted by it, I could hardly think straight let alone figure out how or why I was short of the money I needed to pay my rent. It took quite some doing and nearly an hour after trying to listen to the young clerk who spoke in that “uber-speed-fast-food-window” lingo. I could not understand a thing she said. The bank manager and security were called when I raised my voice to ask her to stop speaking so fast and burst into tears at the same time. The matter was resolved, the missing money was located and refunded and all was well in the end. But at the time I felt like my brain was banging inside my skull and instead of being treated kindly, I felt like they were all deeming me at fault in spite of the error being theirs in the first place.

What I did to prevent this happening to me again was ask to have a note placed on my file so that any future teller or clerk would be able to read that first before dealing with me. I even wrote out the note for them and the clerk did type it into my file.

The note was simple: “I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), please speak slowly and clearly and please don’t rush me.”

This has worked very well and even resulted in an older lady asking me about how I cope because her niece has PTSD from a bad car accident. Recently I was putting my bank card away and a sharp pain struck me as I was fighting a sinus infection. I cried “OH!” surprising myself and the kind man who had just served me at the bank. He asked me asked me if he could get me a glass of water. That alone was music to my ears and calmed me because even though I was not in a triggered PTSD episode, he knew what to do and how to help any one who might be.

At every opportunity I try to educate and inform others who may be misjudging a situation where PTSD is evident. Other things I do to reduce the incidence of triggers is go out with a “safe” or “anchor” person, check my surroundings constantly to try to avoid shocks or surprises, get second opinions from my “safe anchor” people to ensure I am not misjudging a situation, try to anticipate as much as possible, always have a plan A, B or C for crowd or large group situations so I can sit where it feels “safest” to me and exit quickly if need be, tell someone safe I need help or to leave and I even hold back tears if I am triggered right out of a building because I try to create the least possible upset to others.

A couple of years ago a friend who also has PTSD suggested I hand out flyers on trauma to people who do not understand it so they can learn instead of compound the situation. This friend educates people whenever she can about trauma because, she said, it is her best coping skill. Today I created my fifth poster on PTSD which follows this piece.

Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday and since she only died a few years ago, the possibility exists that I may be “triggered” into a PTSD episode because of the high emotional levels around these special occasions. ¬†I am hoping not and plan to be with “safe” people the whole day but you just never know. A fragrance, an aroma, a visual or a rack of “Mother” birthday cards could trigger me, it is not always possible to know what a trigger may be. This fifth poster is to help people understand and cope with my PTSD and that of others who are also still surviving with it. First, here is one of the last pictures ever taken of my mom as I prepare myself to try and not cry too much tomorrow:

mom-alone-cropped

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Mom.

 

ptsd-poster5