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Gift From Within
PTSD Resources for Survivors and Caregivers
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gaits stride
hung stately at futures door
swing either way
toward next year
nebulous gray cast
overshadowed blue sky
away from pasts iron clasp
sin cemented pastures

guard indecision
squeaks impinge the future's ear
if left to blowing winds
or swung too many times
a misdirection

lacking oil or latches firm
long suffering
weak wills

on a bar overhead
a sign hangs

always require
passing from then through now

we back in
through the gait

we just
swing on it


Is it created?
A symphony

cast in approximation

timed tempo
to be stepped up

slowed down
according to

how much wind blows
reality's predilection.

Can the tone
be orchestrated

managed by
energy invested

instrument selected
harmony predisposed

as mystic musicians
sit in destiny's

first chair
overseeing our direction.

I want to clash
the cymbals

over and over and over
then once more.

Not just once.
Why only one time?

decided that?


Bricks of Past
clay covered
hurt corroded stuffed down
long stretches
of same "ol "would -have -but"
stripped bare
yesterdays wanna be
sand paper's sweep
leaves collected
left at futures door



Already Terrified
suffer differently
than everyone else.

close themselves in -
instead of reaching out
secreting their pain, alone.

is a single handed fall
back into old emptiness, unlike
our worlds reaching out to ease
the globes community of pain.

result is an inability
to be intimate
with those we love
and/or everyone else.

is no way to smile or feel,
that comes from what terror
has already taken away.

is an overwhelming need to run.

is nowhere to process new pain, which feels ever so much more so than the old.

exaggerated feelings
of helplessness
immobilized - those ?already
done in by terror? can?t think
of what to do next.

question - Why can?t they accept
love the way everyone else does?

answer - A measure of survivor?s guilt, mixed in with a peculiar sense:

should have done something
to prevent.

is no rational thinking in these
primitive parts.

well known reaction,
to roll up like a snail into a shell
of feigned safety, interiors
screaming like the sea.

roar reported is heard by others, our bombshell puts to the ear
echoes of old and new terror.

is how the Already Terrified
are affected
by twin towers.

9/21/01 Karen
Thirteen Stabs at the thing

It's hard to remember it's not real
the pain circles in your chest
clutching at everything,
crushing in its weight
unrelenting nothing: a figment, a fear

nothing comes out. the sphinx sits
at the end of your tail, closed mouth-
its smile. after hours of sitting
a rabbits "tinkered toy" drops
small and solitary
distended abdomen
rebound tenderness
endless cramps
all the while

sudden rush
sweat collects on wrinkled brow
goose bumps while stuck in traffic
nowhere to go
you can't hold it
there's a towel in your car
better to go in something
than nothing at all

fighting the need
the compulsion
to be alone
a separate

think hard is every thought
their journey into understanding
is delayed
through convoluted passage
pretend a lot. keep it to yourself

the breath you can not find
is there all the time
you can't catch it
under all that fear

they laugh
when you jump
there's nothing but a small sound
or image,
a feeling
cataclysmal strangling ever present need
to get out of the way

out of the routine
of a day
doing just fine -
the sight
or sound
of the thing
brings memory -
then projectile
removing of its pain

feeling even the smallest thing
in exaggerated proportions
makes a tiredness
that comes from nothing
as far as anyone else
can see

crying comes easily
you get to the point
you can cry
over the thing

removed from yourself
by the fact
can't be helped
you always
have to live
with it

when it doesn't
matter so much
victim status

getting over the thing
never happens

getting past it
is the next best hope
for living

7/19/01 Karen
Out of a questioning generation
offspring lost to patriotism

A leveling of misbegotten horror
raises a hair
our aspiring to do more

Seeing colors livid
sift through clouds
remembers the dead
lifts our sorrows

flying over us
a newfound hope

looks to live better
spares us
not caring so much

all because
the robes of terror attacked us

10/11/01 karen


Tuttle speaks
to my ear on the phone,
his message
certainly misled me.

Told me long and cryptically
how far he'd gone,
no longer
could he stand to be.

His money, maleness
sense of worth,
all ceased

...that's me!
No longer able to provide-
"What's left for me
to survive with pride?"

he asks so calm,
yet desperately.
Family falling
trampled prey

by dribble down
I cited all the platitudes
sent down

from higher authority.
Securely ensconsed
they were,
insulated quite nicely
away from society.
It only made my client retch
then upchuck disgustedly.
"Fruitless solace

your remedies so lacking."
"Can't you offer
something better?"
In resignation he chimes in:

"I've gone as far as I'm going
on this claim."
In the end
he meant to communicate.

He simply sent a message
with resounding resonate.
Next day he poses

in front of a window
he thinks I'm at,
then blows his head off

with one clean shot.
How's this sound
for an epitaph?
Tuttle speaks to me

from afar,
head is
ever so slightly

Breaking From Reality

from reality,
how does it sound?

to mentally unsound.

to worlds unknown.

It makes no
at all.

it separates,

to face
the terror,
lurking all around.

April 2000
Breaking From Reality

Portrait Of A Break

Breaking from reality doesn't make a sound. Snaking along the gnarled paths of life, intact integrity gives way to mentally unsound. Convoluted and short, this trip within state government. Huge granite buildings with walkways winding this way and that, turn at odd angles without purpose or plan. It's like a secret corridor to your lifeline hidden beyond view in the palm of your hand, all connected, leading in circles, going no where then everywhere at once. Unsightly images complicate, always at odd times and seemingly unrelated to the work life.

Cindy Dittz-Harmony ran District C with an iron will, expecting to rise as high as the top job on the backs of weary examiners. Deciding disability claims for Social Security is a roller coaster of political upheaval. Right decisions come about from exceptional work, requiring great efforts and depending entirely too much on the administrative eye for them to materialize and not enough on the laws that constitute disability. Rewards fall immediately to swift unfeeling executions with a denial 's orientation. Right or wrong case actions are of no consequence in Michigan, as long as the numbers are there. Make Cindy look good whatever you do in District C.

Full time work weighed heavily on me. Twelve years ago I began job sharing, working forty per cent of a full time schedule, rejoicing in the freedom it gave me to work and play. Now it has been taken away. How could it have slipped away so easily? The last thing I did as Chief Spokesperson for the union was to negotiate the job share program. The new program allowed two people to share one full time job and was granted according to seniority principals. I am the most senior person left job sharing and the only woman. How could the union have fallen so far in twelve short years? What happened to seniority and fair or equal treatment? How am I going to get through this and work every day? Why am I so tired?

The electrician is coming to my house tomorrow at 8 a.m. to design the electrical outlets for my new kitchen. It sure was easier getting sixteen hours worked a week. If Cindy had left the overtime slip for me today I could have told her in person I might be late. Instead, I will have to leave a note. She doesn't talk to me since I filed the grievance. Just as well not to feel her eyes upon my face, one glance makes me shiver. Shaking the feeling isn't worth conversation's effort.

Hurrying in the next day around 9:30, I passed people on their early break as I got on the elevator. Not bad arriving this early, I expected it to take longer. At my desk was a note from Cindy. "See me right away! This has to stop immediately." I stood there for the longest time, finally remembering to breathe, acutely reminded to inhale by the pain in my chest. A quiet buzz surrounded my head, enveloping it with an eerie numbness. I wrote my time of arrival on the leave slip and left a note for Cindy in her office, "I am at my desk, when you return from your break." I sank into my polyp of a cubicle, concentrating intently on each and every breath.

I heard feet trouncing the floor well before their carrier arrived. All efforts to breathe receded up to a sliver thin wainscot ledge, edging the far reaches of where ever it was that I went. "Come to my office this instant." Her voice careened through a misted fog, now completely surrounding me. I felt disoriented in the echo of her footsteps. My vision blurred. The ability to move had suddenly escaped me.

A fuzzy scene appears, high up in my mind. A woman with knees wobbling was trying to walk. She might have been doing a "slap-stick" country dance with crossed arms and knees slapping in rhythm to cymbals clashing. But there was no sound of music behind all the movement, just a separation of mind and body everywhere, all at once. Silence screamed no sanctions as a shift off to the sliver thin perch beckoned me. A magician's hand couldn't produce a rabbit with more stealth. The need to laugh rises, is trapped somewhere between my mind and throat as I look down on all the commotion. I began to make my way down the mazes toward her aisle, my steps tracing an L in the sand swallowing up my feet.

Putting The Woman In Her Place

The sunlight glared off the glass panels, stealing what little vision was left. Jerky eye movements besieged my face as I turned to enter Cindy's effulgent office. Seated at her desk, back ramrod straight with fingers steeple woven in front of her, she poised ready to inflict her message so nefariously urgent. I was not there. An alternate visage met her eyes, felt the sting of her words with every muscle frozen in fear and ready to flee. I watched. Some files lay under her thin tapered fingers. Each nail precisely manicured to a delicate oval shape and muted color, protecting the contents of what surely must be the ruse bringing an encounter such as this. I waited.

My name dripped off her lips and suddenly, I despised it. "You certainly know the time and attendance procedures." Time sauntered on as these words infiltrated openings unexpectedly left exposed in the witless woman. As the sounds floated up, pieces of words in no order rested on my ears and confusion flooded the hallways of my thoughts.

As Chief Spokesperson, in my union days, I helped write the original Primary's. What was Cindy talking about? I am late today but only a half hour and I left a Writ-o-gram in case I was late. "If an employee does not arrive as scheduled to work, the employee is to notify their supervisor in advance of the absence and receive permission to be absent. You certainly know this." I have been putting everything I do in writing ever since I was Chief Spokesperson, an unshakable habit born in the heat of unionization. What is she saying to that woman? Written notification of possible absence or tardiness is wrong? Is she doing Informal Counseling? Is that a request for improvement in the stepped formula of Progressive Discipline?

"Lower your voice right now." Cindy spewed her demand at the woman. I fell back when she stumbled, her hair flailing in the sudden movement as arms and legs splayed out in directions not usually intended for limbs to go.

Stifling a laugh the enormities of which defy description, I listened to the woman's reply. "I can't take this anymore. You can approve my leave or not, I don't care. I'm leaving." The woman backed away from Cindy, into walls bumping papers off their piles. The fall did not faze her. Cindy reddened, crimson splotches climbing up her neck spreading to her hair. The paper scatter marred the woman's path, icing her retreat precariously. Still she managed to spin back from where she came. Inside her cubicle there began a strange dance. As a dog chases their tail, the woman spun around looking for keys and purse, unable to find either. People appeared out of nowhere blocking her attempted escape with lips moving speaking words she did not hear and could not understand. What a spectacle I viewed air born serenely above this theater in the round.


Getting Back To Work

Driving to work after so many days isolated at home felt strange, as if someone else was driving and it wasn't me going to the job I'd done since 1977. Squirreled up in my bedroom as workmen tore my house apart these past few days was a relief from the fiasco of work I'd run away from last week. Still in the driveway and I miss the alone and protected sensations emanating from my bedroom walls. Piles of old tiles and a mass of broken splintered wood lay outside my house as if thrown up by the picture window to the cement below. The construction crew became my centurions, protecting any value inherent in me, or my house. I felt the heap each day as it grew in proportion to the skeleton kitchen core developing beneath the ditched old kitchen, now paralleling my other life misplaced silently in me.

Every ounce of reserve met the challenge of preparing for work. A long bubble bath began the day. After hands and toes were wrinkled clean from too much soaking, a dripping relapse to the bed for air drying became the only action available as I contemplated returning to the floor of Disability Determination Service. Thoughts of pleasant things were used to fool the fractured woman now barricaded haphazardly inside of me. She floated in and I got dressed. The hysterical woman and I went out the door with just enough time to make the nine a.m. arrival deadline.

My work was gone. The office was stripped of my new cases, intake assigned under the new examiner number. Their disappearance was not explained with a note. There wasn't even a case card left, telling of next actions. Nothing stared at me. My desk was bare, as if a magic wand waved off all traces of me here. Maybe I never was, so slick the attempt to make me disappear. My job share partner had taken our caseload with her when she returned to full time work in December of last year. We had shared the job of adjudicating claimants applications for Social Security disability since 1985. Building my backlog of cases was deferred to the time I began working full time, last week to be exact.

I called the union rep to tell her my work was gone. What should I do? Glenda said I should go ask Cindy for my work. I shuddered my reply, "I can't do that. It's too much for me." Glenda had taken me to my husband last week when I broke down at the office, she did not push me on this point.

As we spoke, our phone call was interrupted by the Area Administrator's secretary. Laurel wanted to see me in her office right then. I told Glenda I had to go and why. We hung up and I followed the secretary obediently. I was not upset. Laurel is a genteel leader fashionably dressed, always rushing to a meeting or out the door to represent Disability Determination Service at some government function or other. I was curious. I admired her black stately beauty. She did not always appear totally organized in her work, but who was when there is an abundance of needy work to do. Sympathetic in nature, Laurel could possibly explain where my work had gone. A welcome alternative, going to Cindy and asking for my work brings a vile substance into my throat, choking me as it passes the windpipe.


Circling The Wounded

The atmospheric change took my breath away. An elbow conference table sat at a perpendicular juncture with Laurel's desk creating a meeting room and desk area all in one. Cindy sat at the end of the Administrator's conference table, in much the same manner as I recalled last seeing her. The woman took a swivel seat across from Laurel, selecting her back to face Cindy. I gazed into Laurel's eyes, seeing nothing of the person I was expecting to meet with. The woman sank down into her seat, buttocks pushing hard to steel herself, as if her backside was vulnerable somehow.

Concentration misplaced, the woman heard Laurel's voice. "Last week it was reported to me that you have been acting like a claimant, creating a disturbance in the workplace. We cannot tolerate this kind of behavior. Your actions have reduced morale to an all time low. We cannot have it. We need some assurances from you that this kind of thing will never happen again." Silence filled the room. Unbelieving her ears transmission, the woman stared at Laurel. Minutes dragged on, how many strung together in the silence I do not know. Cindy may have said something, my back unable to read her lips and my mind not receiving input amid the Laurel words spreading its fire red message along the swollen passages in my thoughts.

I began to cry. I tried not to. Tears streamed down my face. Soon my nose began to run. The inside of my mouth was dry somehow. An enigma amid all those fluids flowing out the front of my face. The distraught woman wiped the snot away with the sleeve of her shirt as absentmindedly as a child of three not knowing any better. There was an instinctual need to get it off her face and away from her mouth, a necessary preparation for speech if it were to ever come. I was dumb founded in my elevator heading for a far away corner, a vast room with a view nowhere near Laurel's office.

The woman responded, "I don't know what you're asking of me." Laurel rephrased her words, saying the same things. She blamed me for everyone's condition. The managers had enough to do without me reducing morale this low. "What did I have to say for myself?" the woman heard Laurel ask. They wanted her to say something. She had better answer, but what? She didn't understand so she told them that. "I don't know what you want from me," the woman sighed. This went on for hours, a circle of sorts revealing no way out. At one point Cindy demanded, "Look at me. I am your friend. We visit about our children and gambling in Las Vegas, remember."

The woman was growing weary. Red faced from crying, often unable to speak crying had become sobs. I asked if Dr. Anderson could join us. He is a psychiatrist on staff assisting in adjudicating psychiatric claims and a physician I trust. He advised me to see a Social Worker in his private practice and he prescribed antidepressants for me a few weeks ago. He told me I could not fix this problem alone. It was bigger than my union background prepared me for, and much more involved. I needed him to get me out of Laurel's den this day, and he did.

Dr. Anderson didn't know what was happening exactly. He could see my distress and many people had spoken to him about my breakdown last week. He saw the questionable inquisition tactics, two against one and began to speak. He applied to the management team an antidote. He spoke laughingly about his supervisor barging into his office while he was speaking on the phone, and lectured to him like he was a child, about a case. This anecdote of mistreatment and lack of respect for a physician by management did the trick. The woman got permission to take sick time for what's left of my first day back.

As I walked out, no one saw me leave hollowed to the core, ungrounded in every aspect of living. Empty and alone, a dry parched reed, lacking stem connected to intact integrity blew out the door.

So much less of life
reached up to touch me
from that day ever after.


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Last updated by on 23 February 2019