In 1982, my marriage of one year failed and I hit bottom.  I was abruptly severed from the things that imparted a sense of security– my husband, our home, my job, and last but never least, alcohol.  So many things went out the window at once that I spent several months running– driving from one friend’s to another’s trying to feel safe.  I could not.  I had rolling panic attacks and absolutely no confidence that I could cope.

On a dark day I checked into a motel room with a half-gallon of wine and a bottle of vallium.  I sat there for some time, arguing with myself.  Sitting alone in that room, I got in touch with a small measure of belief that life– my life– was precious and significant.  I left.

I went to treatment high in the Colorado Rockies but was unable to feel safe and landed back in the psychiatric unit.  No one knew how to help me until finally two therapists came up with a life-saving plan for me:  they developed a graph for me to use:  for every ten minutes that I took action and took care of myself, I got a gold star.  This incredibly simple exercise put me back in touch with the strong and true me.  I began a ragged recovery– ups and downs, slidings back, fallings short.

I just read up on Attachment Theory.  It was no surprise to me to have re-confirmed that any adult’s sense of security and psychological safety depends on the consistency and constancy of the mother–her total availability– between the ages of six months to the age of two–especially as one begins to feel internally safe and secure in venturing out into the world.  As noted in yesterday’s post, that’s when I was in the body cast,  when rather than individuating, beginning to experience myself as separate from my mother, I was forced into greater dependency.

Understanding these dynamics is really important to me.  I hope in sharing them that they impart something to the reader.  I need to share them; pain shared is pain divided.  I also blogged yesterday about the sense of living in physical peril– fear of reinjury– around mobility loss.  But in my case there is also the fact that my “carer”– my mother– underwent lengthy stays in mental hospitals resulting in insecure attachment and tremendous chronic uncertainty about what is true of me.

A doubly, trebly stacked deck, but not impossible. Of course I’ve had every sort of therapy in the book, but there is essential work that only the individual can do if he or she is to live anything like an independent life.  One must be brave enough to detach from unhealthy relationships and associations and take responsibility for one’s life and one’s happiness, fighting through fear and despair to do it, getting help as needed. Personal empowerment is key.

Daily I find out what is true–that I am emphatically not my mother, that curling up and giving up is not my destiny– by doing, by connecting to my work.   This validation and connection with my few and wonderful readers– other women writers plus my companion– gives me the courage to look at things that I woud rather not see.

I was working on my manuscript of poetry yesterday to see if I really do have a collection I want to submit to contests and independent publishers.  All over my writing quite obviously are the sagas and songs of loss, grief, fear– sprinkled with resolution, growth.  I live in some degree of anxiety over imposing my own darkness on a given reader– but then I remember that the dark writers have been read by millions, and that mine to date is the story of a trauma survivor, not a victim, that a book that moves through and names human suffering but keeps returning to the light is of intrinsic worth. A number of my poems constitute evidence that trauma is survivable.

It is been so wonderful these past months to have my ability validated.  It is so incredibly important to feel supported and loved. As they impart a sense that one is capable and whole, these things literally keep a person alive.

In appreciation, I post the only rhymed/metered poem I’ve written in 45 years:

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Winter Will

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Winter wants it all,

Loves both flesh and stone

Loves best, with ice

In twilit mist

To encase a praying

Climber’s hands

To gently bind

Her thinnest bones.

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Winter loves the renegade

Who with flying hair ascends

Everest against all behest

Of fear itself,

All enjoining friends:

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In spring they’ll find the mountain’s Christs

The martyrs of failed will

Who were compelled to climb,

Fell, were buried

And kissed to death by snow.

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Here prairie birds cloister

In tallest trees,

Dark grace notes on a parchment score

Storm warnings on the screen—

Katie bar the door

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While you drink arctic air

The dogs nose their flanks

In storm-loving sleep—

Bed them down

with all due care

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Prepare yourself a home

Within the breaking cage

Of your mortal bones

Where you may see how quickly

White cells divide

In the red blood’s tide

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For winter loves it all,

Writes an endless poem

And robs you blind

In the ice-cast estuaries

Of your dreams.

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Jenne’ R. Andrews

Written sometime in the past ten years…

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