Strong

Strength comes from within.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” —Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been broken. I’ve been devastated and destroyed. Repeatedly.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked someone what he saw when he looked at me. He said , “victim”. I was taken aback. That is never something I wanted people to see about me. It’s not something I believe I am. While I have been victimized, I chose to rise above the situations that could have resulted in my death. I asked him to elaborate. His explanation wasn’t one to cause any kind of detriment to who I am but he pointed out that there are different types of victims. He said I wasn’t one to live as a victim but that overcame the trauma [paraphrased].

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” – Frederich Nietzsche

Some days, I don’t feel very strong. Lately, I’ve had a lot of those days. Days where I’m torn between living in darkness and the desire to surround myself with people. Tonight, I don’t want to be alone. But, I am extremely picky about who I bring into my darkness.

It takes a strong person. A very strong person to handle me. Not physically handle me but one who can understand when I retreat inside my head. Someone who allows me to have time and space to sort out the mess enough to communicate the jumble into sense. Sometimes, I just need to cry and then my world is crystal clear. Sometimes I need to punch a wall.

There are times I want to just jump off a cliff into the ocean. I don’t really care what’s below either. I don’t want sympathy but the mental anguish I experience from time to time is part of who I am. I won’t deny its existence. Yes, there are triggers that cause the darkness. The triggers can cause one of two reactions – I can retreat and live in the darkness for a spell, or I can struggle to feel whatever love someone is offering. No, not sex. When I am trapped in my dark moments, I was to feel loved and cared about. I want to be touched, hugged, something, anything that tells me I will be okay. That the movement in my world is natural.

I’ve never really wanted to be touched or held. It’s been a craving for the last year or so for me. Me, Elsa the Ice Queen, has brought down walls and allowed others into my life and to be touched. I’ve been reaching out more lately. It has been torturous for me but I’m doing it. I’ve left the safety of my comfort zone to connect with someone special on a level I’ve never attempted.

Right now, at this very moment. I don’t have the strength to continue. It’s conflicting as I do know what I want. I just don’t know if I’m strong enough to make it happen…

The Darkness of PTSD

PTSD, short for post traumatic stress disorder, comes into a person’s life in a variety of forms. Every person on the planet has encountered someone with PTSD. Perhaps they have it themselves. It is very commonly associated with military, men and women alike. I cannot speak for others, I find myself getting annoyed with those who claim to understand what the military but have never served time in any of the branches of the military. Not many of us civilians have seen what our servicemen and women have seen, so what gives us the right to “understand” what they have experienced? I digress.

I can only speak of what has traumatized me in the short duration of my life and how I’ve learned to cope. I won’t even try to relate to those who have seen the fine art of war, the macabre of death, or the exclusiveness is killing. I simply cannot relate. In all situations, it’s a horror that defies description. Cannot. Be. Explained.

I have been abused. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically. I am NOT a victim of those circumstances nor will I allow myself to be victimized again. However, the trauma I experienced has helped me grow as a person. Each situation was different. Each situation left an impression that is unique and distinctive. They allow me to empathize with other women who have been through similar experiences. I chose to take my trauma and learn from it. It was an opportunity to grow and become stronger. Women are strong and resilient.

Every day, I struggle. You can’t see it. You can’t fathom what I’m thinking. You cannot understand the darkness I live in from time to time unless you have personally experienced it for yourself. Today’s struggle has me in darkness.

No, I’m not suicidal. Suicidal people don’t make future plans. Especially not with people they care about and love. I also do not have a plan for that shit.

It’s just a weird dark place where I can’t communicate what’s in my head. I just want to be held. No talking. No words. Someone just wrap their arms around me and let me be. I might cry. I might be stone-still in your arms. Please don’t tell me to suck it up. I’d never say that to you.

Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Right now, I’m taking a short trip through that dark valley. I’m not reliving my past but rather, I’m feeling crowded by the darkness swirling in my brain. PTSD, for me, comes with residual darkness. It’s a jumble of negative emotions that rise to the surface of my being. The positivity I try to express on a daily basis can overwhelm me. I cannot be happy-go-lucky all the time. When the darkness emerges, I struggle to contain it. It’s not who I am. It’s not the real me.

Can I cry right now? Will you hold me while I cry? Please don’t tell me that it will be okay. Just be understanding and know that this happens on occasion. All I want to do is cry. Crying helps me. It’s very cleansing for me. Once I’ve shed tears, life resumes some semblance of normalcy. I can be me again.

Wait. I’ve never had anyone hold me while I’ve cried. Strange but true. Not even at a funeral. Sad but true. I wonder if my darkness would be less frequent and shorter-lived if someone did wrap their arms around me. I’ve had others cry on my shoulders. Yet, I’ve never done the same. Perhaps it’s part of my struggle in my darkness.

A Simple Bit of Tolerance

My tolerance level for bullshit, drama, and lies has reached an all-time low. I gave up playing games a long time ago. Now the only games I enjoy are board games, like Cards Against Humanity and Clue. I will hop on the Wii everyone once in a while and playing Guitar Hero with my young friend Justin. That kid can play the plastic guitar all night!

However, there seem to be people in my life who thrive on f***ing with others. I know I can be evil. There is evil in all of us. It’s what we cultivate our energy into that can change the source of that evilness. What am I capable of? Well, if you go back to one of my first posts on here, you will see that I had been so evil that I sunk to an all-time low. So low that I checked into a mental facility that same night. Yes, that bad. I never want to get to that point again.

There are times when I feel I should go to the hospital. Mainly it’s because I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown and people keep standing on the one nerve I have left. I’ve been off meds since January and my doctors have said that I don’t needs them anymore. That could very well be true. I felt foggy on them sometimes. Perhaps, in hindsight, they did help for a short while. I’ve just been so agitated lately. I definitely have lost my filter. I’ve been very snappy and short with everyone. I want to be narcissistic and blame it on everyone else but that just isn’t my style anymore. Being narcissistic in my twenties was all fine and dandy but I’ve grown up a lot since then.

My insecurities haven’t changed though. I’ve just gotten better at hiding them from others. I will show you what I think you need to see when I chose to show you. Call it whatever you want. Call me a liar if it makes you feel better then. Do whatever you need to do in order to feel like you’re a decent human being. Just don’t expect me to actually lie simply because you’ve made it seem that way. I have zero tolerance for the deception. Just because you have been given a 1000 piece puzzle with 400 pieces missing does not make me a liar. It makes you a nosy punk who thinks they are entitled to have their head up my ass. It also means that you are not privileged enough in my life to know the details of my life.

I don’t trust very many people. I learned a long time ago a that there are a select free that can be branded as trustworthy.

The Doll and The Magic Man

I’m a Barbie girl in a Barbie world, made of plastic. Dress me up, dress me down. Dolls have no heart. No feelings. Completely devoid of emotion. Dolls are perfectly postulated to be everything we want to be encased in an artificial shell. Pinocchio was made of wood. He wanted to be a “real” boy. Did Barbie ever want to be a real woman?

We all wear masks. Some of us are just better at blending the hairlines. The world we live in today has become a life of blurred lines. It moves so fast that I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Why am I here? How did I get here? Did I create this life? This world in which I simply exist and not thrive?

Sitting at the oversized table, I stare out the kitchen window. The sun was coming up and I hadn’t slept in days. I stretch my arms out in front of me, resting my chin on the warm wood. I can feel the well-worn spots on the table from the placement of various pots, pans, and dishes of family meals. I forgot to take the leaf out of the table, I thought to myself. The table without the leaf easily sits four people but with it, there is plenty of room for eight or ten.

I retract my arms and place my hands in my lap. Pressing my ear to the table, I stare out the window again. The sky was changing hues, as the sun danced its warmth on the irises blooming outside. How I longed to feel its warm rays! Instead, I retreat inside my head, basking in the cold, dark silence of my plastic shell.

The cacophony of darkness is deafening but I find comfort in it. With the sun now staring at me full in the face, I close my eyes with a sigh, knowing I have to leave my safe haven and find my place in the real world. I push the chair back and stand, stretching every ligament in my stiff body. I walk down the hall to the bathroom. Shit, shit, shit, I whisper to myself. I look like shit but it’s my own damned fault. Honestly, I let myself go after my last breakup. I had dark Louis Vuitton bags under my eyes and I had lost so much weight that even the last notch on my belt couldn’t hold up my pants. I continued to assess myself in the mirror. My best features were my perky boobs and round ass. I couldn’t lose those if I tried. I guess it wasn’t bad for a woman in her 40’s but it was simply a hollow shell. I progressed into my morning routine, dreading the day ahead of endless meetings about protocols, mergers, acquisitions, and deadlines. I wanted to scream but I knew no one would hear me. Only the voices in my head, as they laughed at me.

I carefully apply the last bit of makeup that I needed to cover up my lack of sleep and stare into the mirror. Part of me wanted to chant the Lizzie Borden nursery rhyme while the other part was questioning who was that woman in the mirror.

Way Too Long

So long since I’ve written that I’ve probably lost my readership. Should I give up my writer’s card too?

I should probably bring you up to speed.

I’ve moved yet again. That’s roughly 3 times within the year. Moving to Indiana was not a mistake. The person I was with was. I was too blind to see the manipulative maneuvers that were taking place. It was a stepping stone in my life and catapulted me to something better. While I should have seen the signs, I knew it was what I needed to do in the meantime.

Yes, I’m being vague. There are parts of my life that I don’t feel need to be revisited. I don’t live in the past. I am present, here and now.

I have a lot on my mind, in my heart, and on my plate.

For the moment, I’m enjoying my life and the happiness I’ve found.

NaNoWriMo

Okay, folks!  It’s that time of year again where I indulge in self-torment, high quantities of caffeine, demonstrate my ability to not forage for food, and agonize over all the crap that has to be done before I can even sit down to write.

This is your warning.  Your only warning.

I may or may not be blogging at all for the wonderful month of November.  I’m pretty sure my stress levels will be determined by how I have failed to do laundry or dishes or clean the house.  Hopefully my boyfriend will get the hint.  Or not.  I can anticipate him providing me with provisions though, as Adele (or Queen) mourn their tales of woe through my iPhone while the clacking of the keyboard mounts a tempestuous tale of its own. Maybe I’ll include some BlackBriar, Sara Barielles, Ellie Goulding, or Eminem to proffer as the muse for my novel.

Sylvia Plath and Hemingway simply will not do as an audible.  But, by the end of November, I may find myself at the end of a rope.  Not to hang myself with but more as a cliffhanger in anticipation of my next novel.  The line is dangling and the fish are already biting.  I’ve had a few read the first few rough drafts of my current novel.  They are begging for more.  One of them even slapped me on the arm, wanting to know where the rest of it is.  I simply tapped my temple and said, “In here. Locked safely away until next time”.  She was mad at me.  Until I promised her the first signed copy.

She will be getting the very first signed copy.

I’m on the hunt for an editor.  Someone majoring in English Lit at a local college will suffice as long as there is the understanding that I can only pay in coffee or use of my culinary skills.

Yes, I have skills.  Guys like girls with skills.

The Life of a Retail Worker

As the holidays approach, do you think about the people who assist you in retail stores or even scan your items for purchase?  Working retail is a very thankless job.  It’s one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever worked.  There is no gratitude in it. When is the last time you said “thank you” and meant it to someone who helped you?

Although not everyone can be pleased, there are a handful who are satisfied with the service they’ve received.  At many stores and restaurants, have you noticed the website and code on your receipt?  It’s a survey. If you’ve ever had good service at an establishment, by all means, PLEASE fill that survey out!! Many jobs rely on providing wonderful customer service and by letting the company know about the service you’ve received can determine how the company can grow.

As much as I have protested against pronouncing my profession, I am a pharmacy technician.  I do my best to assist my patients (I prefer to call the people I help rather than customers) with excellent customer service.  I work at a very high volume establishment and often deal with cranky, albeit polite, patients.  I am the friendly voice that you hear on the phone.  I am the smile you see at the window or cash register.

I understand that you’re tired.  You may not be feeling well either.  I empathize with that.  I’ve had days where I’ve worked with one of the most intense migraines or perhaps a vicious bout of insomnia.  However, I don’t let that deter from my service.  I have no reason to treat anyone poorly.  I do no like making any patient wait for their medicine.  I may be having a horrible day but I want you to feel important.  You are important to me.  Why?  Because without you, I would not be able to feed my family or have a roof over my head.

I have encountered some of the most awful retail workers around.  I was polite but determined to change how the cashier treated me.  I’ve had many examples but what impacts me the most is how I can make a difference in someone else’s life.  I want you, as a customer, as a patient, to remember me when you come into my pharmacy.  I want to be the one who changes your day and makes it better.  It does not matter to me what kind of day I’m having.  Your day is just as important to me as mine is.

A couple of weeks ago, I was working the drop-off window and had to answer the phone.  My greeting is always the same:  “Thank you for calling your pharmacy, this is Mia.  How can I assist you today?”  On this particular day, a woman was on the other end.  Her first statement to me was, “Wow!  You are so friendly and I really like that.”  She then proceeded to tell me how her experience with my pharmacy has been so bad during this past year that she really didn’t want to get her medicine from us.  I was apologetic and asked how I could make her experience better.  Then, she said if my coworkers could be as kind as I am, then she would continue to come to my pharmacy.  I then proceeded to take her refill request and gave her a time to pick it up.  Unfortunately, I was at lunch when she picked up her medicine but she told the cashier that she enjoyed talking to me and hoped to see me next time.  What the woman didn’t know, was that I was stressed to the point that taking my medicine was useless.  I was so stressed, that I spent my breaks and lunch crying in my car.  She never knew that.  None of the patients I was waiting on knew what kind of day I was having.  Their day was much more important and if I can make them smile, it makes my day.

On the opposite scale, last week I received a phone call from a customer (she didn’t have any medicine to be ordered) who was looking for a particular OTC (over-the-counter) product.  I had a patient at the window and a few others in line.  I asked the woman to hold for a moment as I had to finish with the person in front of me, then I could go to the floor.  I finished with Mr. Smith, then informed the next patient that I would be right with them.  I went to the floor to find the product the customer wanted and memorized the pricing.  I resumed the phone call with the information the customer requested, let her know that there were a variety in stock along with the request that she come in to find which exact item she wanted.  She then told me that I wasted her time and I was totally worthless as a person.  I politely thanked her and told her to have a nice day.  Honestly, there is no point in being mean or rude, despite the desire to bite back when a customer is nasty.  The next patient at the window more than made up for what the mean lady said.  Yeah, she was a mean lady and I’m grateful that I don’t have to deal with her.

I did tell my manager that a customer said I was totally worthless.  I was laughing as was she.

It’s not every day that I get thanked for what I do.  At least not by patients or customers.  Think about it for a moment…  The cashier who is ringing up your purchases says nothing.  Not a single word.  Not to the customer before you (as you witnessed the transaction while you waited in line).  Not to the customer after you.  Not to you.  The cashier has their head down as they scan your items.  No eye contact.  No smile.  Just a simple “thank you” as they hand you your receipt.  I’m willing to bet it does not make you feel very good as a customer.  You most likely won’t return or keep your business to a minimum (if it’s the only store in town).

That cashier feels defeated.  At some point during his/her shift, a customer was mean, rude, and downright nasty to them.  The customer most likely complained about the products or services.  It is situations like this that make retail workers feel like they don’t matter.  We do matter.  We are just as valuable as you are.  It is the customers who make us feel like we are doing something worthwhile.  It is so simple, to make someone who works hard for what little they make, for them to feel as important as the customer.

Over the many years I’ve worked retail (in all capacities – cashier, manager, etc.), I have performed a social experiment.  While I’ve not kept track on paper of my study on humanity, I have come up with some helpful tips.  These tips or ideas if you prefer, will help you survive the upcoming holidays as you shop along with any other time you shop at a retail establishment.

  1.  Greet your cashier/assistant by their name.  It’s on their badge.  If the badge is flipped or missing, ask them their name. Saying their name makes them feel human, like a person.  Like more than just a retail worker.
  2. Ask them how their day is going.  They are will ask if you’ve found everything you needed but beat them to the punch and ask them about their day. They may respond with something as simple as “fine” or “good” or “busy”.
  3. Smile at them.  Even if you are struggling to find your smile after a long day at your job or your child is in the cart screaming because he/she didn’t get that toy they saw.  The cashier often will understand and provide you with sympathy about your day. (You will get the cashier that doesn’t understand what you have dealt with during their day but don’t let that stop you from coming back – you never know when I’ll be providing excellent customer service to you.)
  4. Thank them for their assistance.  A THANK YOU can change everything for a retail worker.  It sounds easy but sincerity in your “thank you” is the kindest thing you can give a retail worker.
  5. Do not hesitate to fill out a survey or tell a manager about the service you received, especially if your cashier/assistant was helpful.  Also, if they were not cordial, a manager that is not aware of the issue cannot rectify the situation.

Retail companies depend upon shoppers to stay in business.  I enjoy my job.  Particularly because I believe that something so small as a genuine smile can make a person feel better than any other type of medicine.

The holidays are coming, so please be kind to the person assisting you with your purchases!

Edit: Today, when I helped a patient in the drive-thru (there were two), I received this note when she returned the carrier:

This made my day (as the other patient yelled at me). I really appreciate this note.