Rape, Trauma, Money: The Economics of my Mental Illness

www.bettysbattleground.com-I will not be silenced anymore.

How surviving rape and developing PTSD has kept me poor-bettysbattleground.com

Even if I don’t exactly remember the day, my mother has told the story enough times to imprint what looks like a memory into my mind. We’re at my elementary school playground. It’s a mild, overcast day, because it’s Seattle, and yet everything seems to glow, as if drenched in sunlight, because it’s a memory of my childhood. I am seven…no: eight years old. My hair is still blonde, my eyes a grey-blue that will turn hazel brown within a year or two. In my story-memory, I am wearing a frilly white dress; pleated skirt, pink and yellow tulips stitched across my chest. In reality, I was probably wearing something more like pink sweat pants and a green sweatshirt with some kind of smiling cartoonish animal printed across it.

I run over to my mom from the playground, cheeks ruddy from play, eyes glittering. I have something to tell her, something important. I wait a moment, pause to catch my breath, then lean toward her, voice low and conspiratorial, and confess, “Mom, I think I’m going to be famous.”

Kids are notorious wild fantasizers. Hearing a child declare her future fame is not uncommon or particularly noteworthy, but when I said it, I really meant it. I believed in my future fame. It wasn’t completely unfounded. I had my first poem published when I was eight, in The Sow’s Ear Poetry Reviewa magazine to which established poets aspire for publication. I made my first $100 off writing that same year, and for several years I was the chronic first place winner at the Mercer Island Books youth poetry contest. I’m not telling you all this just to brag. I’m telling you this because I was not born a failure. I had every reason to believe that I would grow to be, if not actually famous, a successful writer. Or at the very least, not poor.

My mother, who once loved to recollect the story of my self-predicted fame, has stopped telling it. Last week, I missed therapy because I had to go to the Department of Human and Health Services to apply for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. Otherwise known as Food Stamps. I hold two writing degrees, and still receive compliments and offers for publication, but I am also unemployed, my credit is an abyss I will never crawl out of in this lifetime, and I struggle to maintain tenancy in a roach-infested rundown apartment owned by Seattle’s most notorious slumlord.

Why? Why does someone who once held so much promise, whose claims to future fame were believed not only by herself but everyone else too, who could incite middle school kids to forgo recess to rehearse in the plays she had written; why is she living chronically poor on the brink of homelessness?

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Sober After Trauma: 10 Simple Ways To Prevent Relapse When Triggered

The Trauma-Mama Guide To Staying Sober During Triggering Times-www.bettysbattleground.com

Life is hard.

PTSD is hard.

Staying sober is hard.

When you have PTSD, and an addiction history, and your life suddenly weaponizes against you, staying sober becomes a monumental feat.

Right now, my life is a landmine of triggers. I lost someone I considered a good friend, who I cared about and was unbelievably hurt to learn didn’t care so much about me. If you have been following my blog at all, you know that losing these long-time friends is a deep fear of mine. Then, I had to attend a Family Court Services interview in which I was asked to disclose the intimate details of my worst abuses to a stranger; I haven’t even disclosed a lot of this stuff to my therapist yet. And, that was only the first half of the interview. I have to go back next week. In a couple of days, I have to actually see my abuser. I’ll be in the safety of a court room with my big, BBJ trained husband by my side, but still…I have PTSD. It’s not cool.

Needless to say, it’s been a tough couple weeks.

Once upon a time, I would be high out of my mind right now and approaching an overdose.

But I’m not. I’m sober. And not by chance. I have worked really, really hard to have a clear head right now. So today I am going to share with you some of the tricks I have used to keep myself from relapsing despite being assaulted by triggers for two weeks straight.

I should tell you guys that I do not adopt the 12-step mentality, which commands that once you’ve had a problem with a substance, you can never get intoxicated again. I do smoke weed (I live in a state where it’s legal) and drink alcohol occasionally.  I am able to control myself, and I do my best not to use these things in a self-medicating context as that is a dangerous action which could lead me back into an addiction. I’m not smoking or drinking now, for example. But I just thought I should tell you, for the purposes of full disclosure, that every once in a while I’ll kick back and have a couple tokes or drinks after the kiddos have gone to bed.

That being said, these tools can help you stay sober in whatever form of sobriety you choose. They can help you stay 100% abstinent from all mind-altering chemicals (okay that’s a lie; oxygen is a mind-altering chemical and I can’t help you with that…but you know what I mean) or they can just help you avoid the substances that cause you problems. I respect whatever form of sobriety you have chosen for yourself. Recovery is hard. Judgment does not help (hear that Anonymous folks??)

Without further ado…

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Fiction Fridays: Highway Drive

Fiction Fridays by Elizabeth Brico-www.bettysbattleground.com

I am adding a new segment to my blog: Fiction Fridays!

I enjoy blogging. It has been very healing for me; it has helped me connect with others who live with PTSD, and to educate those who don’t. I am still really hoping to be able to make some money doing it, because I very much need to. But my first true love is and always will be creative writing.

Keeping up with blog posts, promoting my blog, and reading other blogs takes up a LOT of time! That’s not including all the time that goes into parenting (oh yeah, that other thing I do), and unwinding, which I have realized is a REQUIREMENT if I am going to be a good mom. I used to read a book a week; it’s taken me like three to finish one, and it’s a book I like. Just because I have had to spend so much of my free time blogging.

But what has suffered even more than my pleasure reading is my fiction writing. And it’s important to me. It’s what I went to school for, first of all. It’s the reason I am even able to write many of the posts on this blog; if I hadn’t spent the past nine years exploring my abuse through fiction, there’s no way I would be able to write any of the memoir pieces which have received the most genuine responses here.  Fiction has gotten me through some of the worst times of my life. It has allowed me to escape, to explore, and to understand my experiences, as well as those of others. Because of my ability to write fiction, I don’t have to experience first-hand every terrible thing this world has to offer in order to empathize with others who have. Fiction is limitless. Fiction makes me free.

So, to give myself an excuse (and a demand) to write fiction, I have created “Fiction Fridays.” Every Friday I will post a new work of fiction. Except today, because I just created it, so I am posting an older work of fiction which I love but has never been published. Next week whatever I post will be much less polished, but also more current. This week, I’ll introduce you to my fiction with something which has been edited a bit. As always, I appreciate any comments or shares. And don’t forget to subscribe so that you never miss a post or story: Just enter your info in the box that says “Join Betty’s Army.” It’s on the sidebar!

Without further ado….I give you ‘Highway Drive.’

Highway Drive by Elizabeth Brico-www.bettysbattleground.com
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