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.

Review of The Cracked Mirror, Reflections of an Appalachian Son, by Billy Ray Chitwood

Hello again! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on here but with the kids home for summer holidays and all the activities that come with that, my time has been limited. I also apologize for not keeping up with my reading of other blogs. I did, however, manage to write a guest post for a talented author and fellow member of Rave Reviews Book Club,  D.L. Finn.

But this blog is not about me, and I wish to move on with a review that is a well-deserved five stars. The synopsis is written just below, followed by my thoughts on the book.

 

Cracked Mirror

Synopsis:

When Prentice Paul Hiller enters the senior care facility he brings with him not only a hip surgery gone wrong, but a mirror of his past, cracked with the stress of all his memories: a family broken apart by their Appalachian circumstances and the ‘great depression’; a childhood tainted by a father’s abusive nature; an impetuous marriage and a sorrowful divorce; a subsequent search of ‘isms’ and for love and meaning in California bars; a tableau of horrible events, including a senseless murder and a desert survival.

THE CRACKED MIRROR, Reflections of an Appalachian Son, is a search for some semblance of legacy by PP Hiller as he feels the weight of aging and a perceived inconsequental life, In an Arizona senior care facility he bonds with Greta Fogel, herself a patient and a former clinical psychologist. Encouraged by Greta, PP writes of his life, his heritage, his mistakes, the events that have shaped him, and the demon within that he cannot dispel. He gives his passionate views on criminal justice, love, politics, religion, war, and his favorite writers. Greta gives her insight and support, telling some of her own life’s secrets. There is pain in the writing of his memoir, but there is also closure and a guarded inner peace. This short stay in the care facility brings more clarity to PP’s life and yet another memory to store away… to take with him to the ‘Sea of Cortez’.

“In the end my story must be like so many others, the story of a simple kid who grew up eating some emotional soup and spending a lifetime trying to digest it.”

My Review:

Prentice Paul Hiller is a deep thinker who has a strong opinion about everything. Aging and suffering from a hip injury, the man is forced to spend time recovering in a senior nursing complex. At first, he judges the staff he dubs, ‘the greenies,’ with a cynical mindset. He is plagued by painful memories and guilt over past mistakes, his view of life is pretty dim.

That all begins to change after he meets Greta, a temporary resident and former clinical psychologist who encourages Prentice to talk and write about them. The story runs in a dual narrative style, each chapter alternates between the distant past and his current life in the nursing home. I appreciated this style, as it linked his life experiences as the possible cause for his mental and emotional anguish. An abusive father, the murder of a beloved uncle, a failed marriage, and a child who developes a drug addiction, are only a few of the ghosts that haunt this poor man.

The reader cannot help but be drawn into the drama, joy, trauma, mischief, and heartbreak that makes up the life of Prentice. The personal growth and healing that takes place during his stay at the home is encouraging, and character growth is what makes a story great! He comes to an undertsanding, not only about himself, but others, as well. His abusive father had his own demons, and there is both dark and light in almost everyone and everyplace. He learns to forgive those who have trespassed against him, including himself. He sees the world with new eyes, including those meanie ‘greenies.’

The only issue, and it might be just a personal pet peeve, is the frequent use of parenthesis in the writing. It’s just not my thing, so others may not be as opposed.

Despite this one quirk, I highly recommend this book. If you are into interesting life stories where the main character comes to personal growth and understanding, this is a must-read.

To purchase your copy, you can do so at Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome To The WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA With Bernard Foong.

Watch Write Showcase Tour

bernard-foong

Welcome to the final day of this blog tour. The journey began on July 1, and there’s been plenty of great reading along the way. Today, I have the priviliege of hosting Bernard Foong. If you like what you see here, you can click on the link at the bottom of the page to find out more about him.

Vignettes Parisian

Vignettes Parisian is a collection of four short stories about the Author’s past and present experiences in the French City of Love and Romance, commonly known as Paris.

Christian Dior Couturier Du Reve

It is impossible not to have a close encounter with fashion when I am in Paris. Even if I had to wait in the freezing cold for an hour and a half to enter the Christian Dior Couturier Du Reve (Christian Dior Couturier of Dreams) exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts). My husband, Walter, and I were the lucky few who arrived early before the museum opened its doors. The late arrivals were banished to the back of the queue for a five hours wait before admission was granted.

This spectacular exhibition was worth the wait. Not only were the lives, times, and accomplishments of Christian Dior, one of the great French couturier and his successors well documented, the exquisite fashions and well-thought-out displays were equally impressive.

Since my first visit in 1966 to the French capital of romance, luxury, and fashion, my love for Paris has never waned. Before I left sunny Maui, I had designed and made a haute couture gold, silver, and black embossed velvet fleur-de-lis patterned coat to wear during my recent holiday in France. It was at this exhibition that I received compliments for my one-of-a-kind creation.   

A stranger approached me at the exhibition to buy the coat off my back because he loved what I wore. Perhaps I should be the next designer to take over the reins for this resplendent Maison – The House of Dior. After all, I am a knowledgeable and seasoned fashion designer who knows every aspect of the international fashion industry. 

Shopping In Paris (Then & Now)

I am one of those blessed individuals with a pair of discerning eyes and can detect items I wish to purchase in cramped spaces on my crazy shopping sprees. It was in such a circumstance that Walter and I found ourselves in the middle of the crowded shopping Avenue, des Champs Elysées.

A sole of my shoe had divorced itself from the body of my long-lasting suedes and left me to hobble around Paris like a circus clown with flapping feet. I had to take immediate action to remedy this unanticipated situation before the remainder of my footwear disintegrated onto the wet and soggy ground, while my beloved, sniggered at my fashion malfunction. 

I remembered an amusing incident that happened in 1969 at this boulevard. Back then, I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed fashion student. Accompanying Moi was Count Mario, an accomplished Vogue fashion photographer, Andy, my model-looking lover and Valet, and Sammy, a flamboyant young fashionista. The four of us were shopping at the avenue, that drizzly day.

To elongate his petite stature beneath his wide bell-bottom jeans, Sammy wore a pair of eight inches high platform shoes. He also donned a fitted denim jacket over a sassy body-hugging bodysuit. To complete his eccentric ensemble, his dyed cornflower yellow, emerald, and turquoise hair flowed behind him like an exotic mane as our quartet floated down the street. 

Eyes turned in our direction as we trotted around Paris in style. Before I realized what had transpired, Sammy was flat on the pavement. Colorful socks bounced around him like raptured pom-poms. The lad had stuffed pairs of rolled-up socks inside his footwear so he could fit his tiny feet into the platforms. He had stumbled on the wet and slippery sidewalk.

Mario, wasted no time whipping out his camera to capture this unanticipated fashion faux pas, while Andy and I looked on in shock.

As if modeling for a Vogue fashion shoot, the quick-witted Sam posed this way and that on the wet thoroughfare while the photographer clicked away at the gaffe. A pedestrian circle had formed in the middle of Avenue des Champs Elysées to witness this “fashion happening.” Advertently, our friend had transformed an embarrassing situation into a photo-opt as the applauding crowd showered the boy with accolades. By the time Sammy got on his feet, he had saved his face with poise and grace.

The Magical Power of The Written Word

“Why are there beds located at different corners of the bookstore?” I asked Monsieur Mercier, an assistant at the Shakespeare & Company bookshop.

“The beds are available for writers to stay a night in Paris for free,” the man responded before he resumed, “ Are you a writer? Do you intend to stay the night?”

Surprised by the man’s inquiries, I evinced, “I am a writer. But no thank you to the lodging offer.”

“What genre of books do you write, Monsieur?” Mercier queried.

“I’m an autobiographer,” I replied. “Because of its controversial and provocative contents, my books are often classified under the Erotica genre.”

The bookseller questioned, “What are the titles of your books, and what is the author’s name?”

A HAREM BOY’S SAGA; A MEMOIR BY YOUNG. It’s a five-book series,” I declared.

“I believe we have your books in the store. Are the titles: INITIATION, UNBRIDLED, DEBAUCHERY, TURPITUDE, and METANOIA?” he promulgated. 

I nodded, delighted by his information. 

The Frenchman led me through a series of narrow pathways covered with volumes and pamphlets of the written word. When he finally extracted five volumes of my autobiography from a shelf, my heart nearly leaped out of my chest. 

“I read the series. What a compelling teenage life you’ve led. I wish my school had a secret fraternity program like yours,” the teller quipped smilingly.

He recommenced, “Our store is a focal point of English literature in Paris. Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and Richard Wright are frequent visitors. We also host literary activities, like poetry readings, writers’ meetings, book readings, writing festivals, literature festivals, photography workshops, writing groups, and Sunday tea.

“Ms. Sylvia Whitman, the owner, might invite you for a book reading at our store.”

“That will be splendid. Unfortunately, my husband and I are in Paris for a short period. Maybe we can arrange a book reading and signing session when we are in Paris again,” I proposed.

Monsieur Mercier and I had exchanged contact information before I left the Shakespeare & Company bookshop. Hopefully, during my next visit to Paree, I will get to meet Madam Sylvia Whitman with a book reading and signing gig in place. 

S.O.W. and R.E.A.P.

Over the years, I have been asked by many, “Why do you love Paris so much?” My reply is always the same – S.O.W.

Although the Parisian cityscape has changed over the years, these three alphabets continue to shadow my existence whenever I am in or out of Paris. S.O.W. is also a reason Walter and I chose France as our home away from home.

In the autumn of 1966, when the Simorgh (one of my Arab patriarch’s private jet) touched down in Charles de Gaulle airport, I had contracted the romance bug. Back then, the ebullient Moi, an inquisitive teenager with a quest for adventure, was whisked to the Paris Ritz Carlton in a luxurious Bentley by my host, Prince P. I had fallen head-over-heels in love and in awe with both the prince, Andy, my then chaperone and Valet, and Paris, the city of romance. That was before our entourage visited the haute couture fashion Houses of Chanel, Dior, Ungaro, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Patou, and the fancy eateries, such as Café de Flore, La Belle Époque, Maxim’s, and last but by no means least, Le Folies Bergers. Back then, these infamous Parisian establishments were places to go, to see and be seen. Nowadays, they are tourist attractions.

  Through the subsequent years, I had accompanied many princes, princesses, sheiks, sheikas, and their aristocratic Arabian entourages to the French capital. Most significantly, this city of love and romance had taught me the art of Seduction (S), Originality (O), and Wit (W). Some may say that wittiness is a congenital trait, but I purport it as a learned art of human relationships. Whatever definition one chooses to use, I had returned to this electrifying metropolis of S.O.W.; where I had sown many a wild oat. Now, with my beloved husband in tow, I’m here to R.E.A.P. its rewards.

“What the hell is R.E.A.P.?” you ask.

I will explain:

RRomance continues to exist in this alluring Capital of Love; even amid an influx of foreign refugees and political upheavals. Another series of stories, I will narrate another time.  

EElegance in this sordid city of high culture is a trait Walter and I find irresistibly seductive. 

AAuthenticity is historicity in this Center of Romance. And I am not referring to the faux reproduction of the Las Vegas ‘Paris’ in Nevada, United States of America.

PParis equals Sophistication, Originality, Wit, Romance, Elegance, and Authenticity. But last and by no means least, this French capital is where Perfection reigns supreme. 

PARIS – Mon Paree!

Bernard Foong (aka Young)

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: Bernard Foong