Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Vagaries of Modern Technology

Specifically the GPS.

 It used to be - in the old days when dinosaurs roamed the land - that when you wanted to travel by car from point A to point B, you opened up an extremely large piece of paper called a map.  From there, you figured out where you were starting from, where you were going and how to get there.  Sometimes, you picked a good route, sometimes not.  Sometimes you'd get together with someone who'd been that way before, compare notes and problem solve a different, hopefully better, way to go.

Then there were trip tiks courtesy of AAA or CAA - which, although bulky and cumbersome, had their purpose.  With the advent of the World Wide Web came sites like MapQuest which were even handier to use.  No going in advance to AAA and ordering the trip tik to pick up.  The information could be printed off in the comfort of your own home and used like the trip tik, only much less cumbersome, with the additional bonus that while the trip tik only got you to the city you wanted to go to while sites like MapQuest directed you door-to-door.  No fuss.  No mess.  Of course, MapQuest has it's own vagaries like the time we were trying to get to my cousin's condo and ended up in the development beside hers with the directions indicating that we were to go off road, through a pond, up an embankment, through a barrier and onto her parking lot.  Somehow, we didn't think that the owners of either property would approve.

GPS's have their vagaries too.  As we found out on a recent trip.  The first trip with our new GPS.  The initial part of the trip resembled a honeymoon phase as we got used to each other mostly by trial and error.  I found that Maggie, as we came to call her, had a few quirks that our previous system did not have.  We could not change her voice.  But she was able to tell her nice things like elevation, speed, miles left and time left.  We could even program which one of the four we wanted.  We could even have her calculate in metric or miles.  Bonus since we live in Canada and often travel in the U.S.

She got us to our first two destinations just like she knew where she was going.  No routes through ponds, up roadless hills or through barriers.  I was liking her more each time we used her.

Oh, she did mess up once or twice, but that wasn't really her fault, there was road construction and exits weren't there that were supposed to be.  She corrected herself quickly, and quietly, getting on with the program, pretending that she hadn't messed up.  Since she was being so civil, we decided not to blame her.

Then we reached a slowdown and a snowstorm at approximately the same time.  Maggie courteously let us know that there was a delay and suggested we take a detour.  We figured she knew what she was doing, so we said "yes".  Big mistake.  Never trust a GPS when it suggests a detour.  The delay was supposed to be approximately 20 minutes.  The detour, bumper to bumper, up hill and down (did I mention that we were in the mountains of West Virginia at the time and the map in the Atlas we no help?), going no more than 15-30 mph at the best of times took over an hour.  Since we were in totally unfamiliar territory, we were at her mercy.  We had no choice but to follow her as we took the royal tour of Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania (wherever that is) - block by miserable, snow-filled block.  I was never so glad to see an interstate in my life when we finally joined back up with the road we detoured from.

I have vowed never again to make that mistake.

Maggie, I'm sorry.  I love you - but I definitely don't trust you completely.

Modern technology may be great - but it is definitely flawed.

Who - or What - Is a Survivor?

What is a survivor?

How do we define what makes one person considered a survivor - while another is not.

My guess is that there will be as many definitions as there are people queried - or people who are reading this blog.

To one person, a survivor will be someone who has survived an event in which others have perished such as 9/11, an earthquake, a fire, a tsunami, a horrendous car accident or an airplane crash.  Especially a catastrophic event.  Something that has made the 6 o'clock news.  Trauma.  Big time.  Life threatening.

To others, the definition gets broadened to be those who have (or are) surviving life-threatening diseases such as cancer (probably the most well known and understood).

To people like me who suffer from psychological trauma inflicted by verbal abuse, bullying (both school and workplace) and other non-physical, life-threatening traumas, and those who walk with people like me, the definition gets further broadened to be those who have or are currently suffering from psychological trauma:  impacted by life events such as verbal abuse, bullying, etc. which have put them emotionally down for the count but have somehow survived and continue to not only survive the tremendous onslaught of verbal and psychological abuse they suffered but, at the end of the day, are still alive and breathing.  Maybe severely impacted or damaged.  But alive and breathing.  Usually treading the precarious, serpentine, never ending road to recovery.

To me, the paragraph above profiles a true survivor.  One who bears invisible scars that no one can see.  One who works towards recovery from something few people understand.  I've even had one person get very angry at me saying, "After all, you don't have cancer."

After all, I don't have cancer.  If I did, I would have tons of support available.

As it is ... I've had to create - and, for the most part, train - my own support network.  One person here, another there.

Oddly enough, during this period of my walk, I've been walking with a friend going through the cancer walk.  While the causes of our affects are very different - hers from cancer; mine from trauma - we both bear remarkable similarities.  Extreme fatigue for one.

I think that there is a misperception about what - or who - a survivor is.  To me, in its basest definition, a survivor is one who has survived.  One who, at the end of the day, is still alive.  One who, by virtue of being alive, is able to wake up the next morning, breathing, feeling, thinking.  Still alive.  Maybe barely.  Maybe with a lot of disabilities.  Life forever altered.  But, nonetheless.  Still alive.

That, to me, is a survivor.

Some might say I'm being pretty dramatic.  I myself would have to agree IF I wasn't going through this  facing head on the tsunami of feelings of worthlessness, shattered self-esteem, valuelessness, voicelessness, facelessness, etc. crash over me, dragging me under in their wake.  Feeling helpless and defenceless in their wake.

This blog is about my life.  My story.  It's about me.  My recovery.

Recovery is hard.  Even now.  It doesn't come with instructions.  It's not a flat, cultivated path as in the picture above.

There are unexpected pitfalls along the way.

Emotions.  Fatigue.  Depression.  Listlessness.  Weakness.  Severe itching.  Recurring nightmares.  Hypervigilience. And the list goes on.

Each day is new.  Complete with challenges, but also with victories.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


As I sit at the computer thinking about restarting this blog after a six (or longer) month absence in which many things have happened, mostly challenging, my mind keeps going in tangents:  what to say?  where do I want to start? Do I go back and cover some of the incidents which occurred in the last six months?  Do I start fresh as though the last six months didn't exist - or take a toll on me?  Do people even want to know about my broken wrist? about my mother's death?  about the physical toll everything has taken on me?  and that because of that I've been virtually housebound for months?  So people want to hear about a house with only a Charlie Brown Christmas tree for decoration?  Or do people want only the positive?  The fluff?  The superficial?


Threads going in all different directions across the landscape of my mind, of my life.  Like rabbit burrows trailing off in all directions.  Which should I follow at this time?

Oh ... the choices.

Before life got me down so badly, I was starting the thread of what turned out to be one of my last visits to my mother in her seniors' residence.  Should I follow that?  If I do, where will it lead?  To the present or back to the past?

Then there's always the ongoing thread of recovery from complex PTSD.  Which since recovery is an ongoing, 7/24 process, no days off, no holidays or vacations (depending on whether you speak - and read - Canadian English or American English).  Ongoing.  Ever changing.  Fluid.  Like a river.  Sometimes moving slowly, lazily downstream; sometimes with a strong current which sweeps everything in its path.  And then there are the times it enters into white water, where if the navigator is not careful, the boat will be capsized, everything lost. Hopefully, the occupant(s) having put on life preservers first.  But then there are no life preservers in real life.  Everyday life.

Ah, the choices.  And this is where I will stop for this, my first, posting in the new year of 2013.