The “Ghosts” in my Darkness

This is not an easy blog for me to write, but I’m feeling called to expose my secret for the sake of those who may be suffering in silence.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that has been linked to my career as a Correctional Officer. Think of me as you will, I am no longer concerned with stigmas and shaming. Believe me, this condition is as real as any physical disorder and just as devastating.

No, I’m not looking for sympathy. I want to reach out to those who are ‘there’ and feel that they have nowhere to turn. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m yelling the words below, however, these are from personal experience and cannot be stressed enough.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

YOU ARE NOT WEAK.

YOU ARE NOT A BURDEN TO YOUR FAMILY OR ANYONE ELSE.

PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE AND GET HELP.

IF YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE FOOLING THOSE WHO KNOW YOU BEST INTO BELIEVING NOTHING IS WRONG, YOU ARE ONLY FOOLING YOURSELF. THEY NOTICE, TRUST ME.

YOUR LOVED ONES MAY NOT ‘GET YOU’ BUT THEY WANT TO HELP.

YOUR FAMILY MAY NEED TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP AS WELL, BECAUSE PTSD IS TRAUMATIZING TO THOSE WHO LOVE YOU. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT THAT YOU HAVE PTSD, BUT IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SEEK HELP AND WORK AT RECOVERING.

SUICIDE OR NUMBING WITH DRUGS, ALCOHOL, OR WHATEVER POISONOUS “COPING” MECHANISM YOU MAY CHOOSE, IS NOT THE ANSWER.

My pride got in the way and I waited too long. In fact, if you want to talk, I am available at markbierman3@gmail.com. I promise confidentiality and lay no claim to being a professional counsellor, but I will do my best to give support and listen. I want you to know that you are not being intrusive if you email me to talk. I have friends who are dealing with PTSD and it is therapeutic to share with others who ‘get it’.

I’ll spare you the gruesome details of how I came to this point, that’s not what this blog is about. I’m currently off on disability for my condition and receiving professional help. I will say one fact that came as a surprise to me. In spite of all the violence, death, and life-threatening situations that I have endured, the biggest contributor was the feeling of betrayal at the hands of those who were supposed to protect me and my coworkers. They were negligent. There is a geographical and bureaucratic detachment, combined with ignorance of the realities of our job. In addition, there is also, what seems to me, an apparent lack of concern because we are deemed unimportant. I will stop there, because I become angry just thinking about it.

PTSD can be caused by a single traumatic event, or, in my case, cumulative events. It is not just an issue for first responders, anyone can be afflicted.

No one has the right to tell you to, “Suck it up, it’s all in your head.

That’s complete bulls**t!

I’ve lost six coworkers to suicide over the years and there are more that I did not know personally. I have also seen too many drink themselves to death, all to numb the pain. If that is what “sucking it” up means, count me out!

If you need immediate help because of suicidal thoughts, please contact a help line or the police. You can get better, there is hope and help in the darkness.

Here is a poem I wrote sometime ago that sheds a bit of light on what living with this issue can feel like. I composed this at my worst. I am glad to say that I no longer feel this way most of the time.

What Haunts Me.

Morning light through window shines, but I wish for darkness to remain,

For with the light, come the demands of life, far too much

“Take your meds!” they preach. “They will help to reduce the pain.”

I swallow them down to banish the ghosts, yet never escape their clutch

What happened to the man I used to be? Full of life and no dark stain,

He’s but gone, a phantom from another time, never to return again.

We are all different, and I know we have different values, beliefs and situations, but here are a few things that have helped me on the road to recovery.

My belief in God.

My wonderful and supportive friends and family.

Prescribed and monitored medication.

Professional counselling.

Leaving the situation (work).

An attitude of gratitude, yes, concentrating and giving thanks for the blessings in my life.

Regular physical exercise.

Volunteering as much as I can in these strange days of COVID.

Good nutrition and sleep (not always easy but it will come with time).

Being outdoors, especially enjoying nature.

Pets.

Avoiding the news and social media, at times.

Your thoughts control your emotions, so I’ve been taught to practice a technique called CATCH, CHECK, CHANGE: If you have a bad thought capture it, check the rationale behind it, change it to something positive. This one takes some work.

This list is not exhaustive, and you will discover your own path to healing.

Just one more thing before I close. I want you to know, especially the wonderful friends I’ve made at Rave Reviews Book Club , that if I don’t respond to comments in a proper time frame, participate in supportive activities, blog, or retweet, I’m probably having a rough day and cannot focus. It’s nothing personal. It’s taking me forever to write my second book because of this.

I’m on the mend and fighting back, and someday I’ll finish that book. 🙂

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. You deserve a great life and there is always hope.

A Few Inspirational Quotes

Good morning, afternoon, evening, or midnight . . . or whatever time you are reading this. As I post this, it’s 9:30am an Tuesday, June 9. May blew past like smoke in a hurricane!

The kiddos will soon  finish Quaranschool, and are getting antsy. I have to keep an eye on them so they stay focused and away Minecraft. I honestly can’t say I blame them. 🙂

Today, I’ve decided to share a few of my instagram posts that I’ve written.  They contain, well, you decide. Have a great day, evening, night!

Everyone has their story.

bridgesmall

The sign reads. “Tamworth has it!” We should put that to the test.

Dr.suess

Choose your perspective.

darklightchoose

What most authors/bloggers hope for.

Story

Remain grateful.

Soar

Have some fun!

color

 

Review of Emerging From Shadows, Poetry by Balroop Singh

The Blurb:

From darkness into light, from despair onto the wider ways of hope…life oscillates between sunshine and shadows. Emerging from shadows is a choice, which lies dormant, which can be gently inspired by self-talk. Each poem in this book banks on the hope of emerging stronger, saner, positive and resilient. Each poem in this book would talk to you, revealing layers of enclosed emotions. Each poem would divulge a secret path that could lead you into the world of poise and serenity.

When turbulences hit, when shadows of life darken, when they come like unseen robbers, with muffled exterior, when they threaten to shatter your dreams, it is better to break free rather than get sucked by the vortex of emotions.

My Thoughts:

In all honesty, for most of my life, I have not read much poetry, having preferred novels and short stories. This has changed since I’ve joined Rave Reviews Book Club and discovered the many talented poets who are part of this writing family. I include Balroop Singh to be among them.

This was the first, and it won’t be the last, book of poetry that I have devoured by this talented author. Each poem follows a similar theme of choosing to make those first, and sometimes painful, steps from inner darkness and pessimism to hope and optimism.

Poetry can often deliver a greater emotional impact using vivid imagery and flowery language, in a far more efficient manner than novels. I believe this is due to the liberty from the requirements of developing in-depth backgrounds for mutiple characters that must hustle through a plotline, while avoiding a backlog of too much detail. Poetry is truly a time-warp back to the Victorian-style of writing, and is a treat!

I highly recommend this book and give it a five star rating!

About the Author:

Balroop Singh, an educationalist, a poet and an author always had a passion for writing. She would jot down her reflections on a piece of paper and forget about them till each drawer of her home started overflowing with poetic reminders, popping out at will! The world of her imagination has a queer connection with realism. She could envision the images of her own poetry while teaching the poems. Her dreams saw the light of the day when she published her first poetry book: ‘Sublime Shadows Of Life.’ She has always lived through her heart. She is a great nature lover; she loves to watch birds flying home. The sunsets allure her with their varied hues that they lend to the sky. She can spend endless hours listening to the rustling of leaves and the sound of waterfalls. She lives in San Ramon California.

If you wish to purchase a copy of this book, or another written by Singh, you can do so by clicking on this link: Emerging From Shadows, Poetry by Balroop Singh

 

Welcome To The WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Day 6.

Watch Write Showcase Tour

Linda Mims

Welcome to yet another great day on the RWISA blog tour! Today I have the privilege of hosting RWISA Author Linda Mims. If you enjoy this piece, please click on the link at the bottom of this page to find out more about Linda.

 

Solace

by Linda Mims

Eighteen precocious kindergartners stared as Carly walked into the colorfully decorated classroom. Carly hoped her smile was more reassuring than she felt. Was this a mistake? She spotted two six-year-olds who’d been in her charge on the first field trip she’d chaperoned. They gave her a friendly wave, and a true smile parted Carly’s pursed lips and lightened her heart.

Ms. Jones, the principal, asked all of the children to file around and shake hands with Carly, but some of them hugged her around the waist and Carly bent to embrace them. The huggers stared up at her and quickly turned away unsure how to behave.

After Carly shook hands and hugged them, she asked their new teacher’s permission to lead them to the circle in the back of the room. She’d read that schools were frowning on seating students on the floor, but their former teacher, Miss Mason, had valued the practice.

Miss Mason sat smack dab in the middle of “her kids” and shared her own childhood or read to them from her favorite stories.

So, hovering above the painted line, Carly squatted until she dropped. Sitting crossed-legged wasn’t as comfortable or as easy for Carly as the children made it appear. She smiled as they sank to the floor on legs like rubber bands.

The children sat on the painted circle touching their neighbors with legs, arms, or elbows. There was no jostling or whining from anyone about invasion of space. They needed to connect in this strange time, so it was okay for someone to sit too close.

Two little ones, seated across from Carly, couldn’t stop sniffling, so she held out her arms, and they came over. She pulled them down on either side of her and nuzzled them there. She wanted to join in. Be as free and uninhibited as they, but she held her feelings in check.

The children bowed their heads, but a few raised their eyes to cast envious glances at the two burrowed beneath Carly’s arms. She smiled around the room, looking for the ones Miss Mason had told her about. Johnnie, who was the biggest discipline challenge. Grown-ish Jenny of the fresh mouth and Einstein mind.

Carly recognized little unkempt Anna who caused Miss Mason enough anxiety to refer her family to DCFS. Diana Mason loved these children, and they loved her. The students spent more time with Carly’s daughter than with their own parents.

“Listen and I’ll tell you about the day little Ms. Mason broke the rules and made cookies for herself and her little sister,” Carly said.  “When her father and I were away from home, she wasn’t supposed to fool with the stove, but you guys know how feisty Ms. Mason can be.”

“She was a mischievous little girl,” Carly said with exaggerated feeling.

One of the little ones giggled and hurriedly stifled it when the others swiveled their heads to stare at her, disapprovingly.

“Children,” Carly said. “Ms. Mason would want you guys to smile as you remember her. She’d want you to remember the stories I’m about to tell you and think of her with love.”


Joe Mason waited outside the old brick building where, four years ago, his daughter and some of her colleagues had started their own small school. His wife was inside visiting his daughter’s kindergarten class, but Joe remained in the car.

He hadn’t agreed with Carly that this was a good idea. His family had spent a crushing two days grieving Diana’s sudden death and just when—maybe—the weight was easing, his wife sprung up.

“Oh God, Joe! Her kids.”

“I’m sure someone has told them,” he assured her, but Carly wouldn’t be comforted.

“They’re five and six years old, Joe. They don’t understand death. Can you imagine the confusion and anguish for those children? I have to go,” Carly said.

“They need to hear from me and know that it will be all right.”

She had made up her mind and Joe didn’t try to talk her out of it. Perhaps she needed this, too. He, on the other hand, couldn’t bring himself to think about Diana without feeling guilty. There was no peace for him as he shouldered the weight of his daughter’s death.

The night Diana died alone in her room, Joe had convinced himself that he’d heard her knocking for help. He’d been dreaming and in the dream, Diana had knocked on the front door. He was upstairs, and he wondered why Carly didn’t go to the door and let their daughter in.

She knocked in random succession maybe three times, but when Joe woke, he heard nothing. He lay there for a long while listening and wondering if someone had been knocking on the door for real.

It was 1:45 a.m. and outside, the sounds of jazz music told him his neighbor Jimmy was in his parked van, again.

Jimmy did that after a spat with his wife, Vanessa. That’s what the knocking had been. A radio commercial. Satisfied, Joe turned over and went back to sleep. It never occurred to him to wake Carly or to go check on Diana. If he had, his daughter could have gotten help, and she’d still be alive.

Joe couldn’t tell anyone. Carly and Diana were more than mother and daughter. They were best friends. Carly would never forgive him for, if nothing else, letting her remain asleep. God! The pain of losing Diana, compounded by his guilt, was eating Joe alive.

Inside, Carly carried her own guilt. Diana had been working herself to the bone raising money to keep the school afloat. More than just exist, Diana and her colleagues wanted the school to make a huge impact on the lives of their students and their families.

Diana wasn’t sleeping. She was losing weight, and more than a few times, Carly argued with her about taking care of herself.

“If you don’t take care of your own health, you won’t be any damned good to your students!”

“Mom, relax! What am I going to do? Die?”

“Your heart, Diana. Please remember your heart.”

“I do, mom. I think about my heart all the time. School is the only thing that prevents me from thinking about my heart. Can you give me a break? And don’t go to Dad with your suspicions.”

So, Carly gave her a break and she didn’t tell Joe that she suspected Carly was sicker than she was letting on.


“You smell like her,” said a little one who’d scooted over and was hugging Carly from behind.

“Let me smell,” said another, peeling his classmate’s arms from around Carly and nudging the child over to squeeze in.

“I wanna smell,” cried a young girl who had stopped twirling her hair around her finger and now stood.

Soon they clustered around Carly, talking and gesturing. Their little voices serious as they shared stories of the times Ms. Mason had been kind, or funny, or very, very stern. Their beautiful faces weren’t so sad now and they made Carly laugh. An hour passed and the pall over the room lifted.

Outside, the breeze blew leaves from the young trees Diana had planted across the grounds. Joe trained his eye on a leaf that floated across his windshield on the gentle breeze. Instead of drifting along, the green leaf frolicked and rolled on the air in front of him.

He’d never paid attention to leaves, and he wondered that this one seemed determined to hang right there, tumbling and playing in front of him. While Joe watched, the leaf floated down and lay on the hood as though spent. Then, to Joe’s amusement, it blew flat against his window and stuck there for a few moments.

The leaf stood on its stem and Joe bent to see it flutter across the car and brush Carly’s face just as she opened the passenger door. Carly started, then laughed and touched her face. Smiling, without even knowing why, they watched the little leaf fly off over the building and out of sight.

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author: Linda Mims