Yep, that title is somewhat leading. Perhaps you were keyed up to read that an Albuquerque Police officer shot another peer. Soz, that’s not what this blurb explores. This expedition is a brief synopsis of building trust and how readily trust is sacrificed in the deepened shade of PTSD.
I’ve already detailed, both in blog and in Stand Up To Stigma podcast, how Paula Burton attacked me at a public MHRAC (Mental Health Response Advisory Committee) meeting, how her choice to attack me provoked my PTSD symptoms, how APD personnel were in attendance, how Robert Salazar (NAMI Albuquerque board member) all but said “Steve had it coming”, how in the midst of a severe PTSD episode David Ley of New Mexico Solutions (a non-New Mexico company) saw fit to publicly call me “despicable”, how Nancy Koeneberg of Disability Rights New Mexico said “With all due respect, this is your problem and not MHRAC’s”, how Danny Whatley of The Rock at Noonday lied and told me “We voted to remove you from MHRAC several months ago and used the bylaws to do so”, how complete inaction by the committee exacerbated my PTSD symptoms, and how my choice to protect MHRAC over my own needs led me to the place where I was very close to killing myself.
Yes, I already detailed this, so it was important to encapsulate a synopsis just to see if I’ll finish this article. I’m happy sharing that while my stomach is camping out in my throat and my heart is racing like a little bunny on caffeine-coated meth, I’ve conquered my PTSD symptoms just enough to explain what this APD incident was and how trust is often my personal Judas. Didn’t Depeche Mode do a song … Personal Judas, someone who cares, someone to answer my prayers … pick up the receiver I’ll make you a believer.
I like trusting others. I admire in myself the capacity to trust others. I knew a guy in fifth grade named Rusty. We would say, “When you drop a nail in water, it turns Rusty.” He’d cry sometimes. We were his friends and we were violating and abusing his trust. If I could go back, I would say, “When you drop a nail in water, we call upon Rusty The Trusty to help us retrieve our nail before it can oxidize in an aqueous solution.” This is because Rusty never did anything to warrant us violating and abusing his trust. I feel I owe it to him to invent a time machine.
My shower is a time machine. When I went in, it was 7:25 AM. When I got out, it was 7:33 AM. Immersed in water, I travelled far into mankind’s future. No flying cars or sexy robot maids, alas. However, there are straws made of paper in cups made of plastic for McDonald’s McCafe drink. The future is a confusing and overwhelming arena.
Right, steady on. A week or so back I had an incident with the Albuquerque Police Department. The rub is this: The Albuquerque Police Department had no idea there was an incident involving me. How so? Hold tight.
Bex, my best gal, and I were kicking it in Whole Foods on Carlisle having a dessert of some kind, hot off the heels of recording a Stand Up To Stigma podcast on the need for mental health education for grade school kids, much in the same way we teach kids about sex health before they ever hit puberty. My idea is if we can teach kids about mental illness before they or their friends start showing symptoms, it won’t be a huge shock, there will be implicit understanding, more kids will seek out help, and … it would kill any ignorant stigmas before they have a chance to start. Meggers, Bex, and I spoke for nearly two hours on the topic, and just as soon as I get the login for Anchor we’ll have the podcast posted for your listening and educating pleasure.
I can’t remember what we had for dessert. My only criteria were it not have any soybean, and, it must have all the gluten intact. Try to find a confection of this ilk at Whole Foods. It’s like seeking out kosher bacon or politicians immune to corruption. Rick.
Bex found something that I think met these criteria because I enjoyed the few bites I had before the incident occurred. What happened? Was it being shoved to the ground by officers and told that if I didn’t give up my legal custody of my son I’d go to jail? Was it an officer telling me to “Man the fuck up and don’t bother us again” when I finally called 911 because my wife was beating me? Close. Two officers walked into Whole Foods and ordered coffee. Then, they sat very near us at the communal table. And, I recognized one of the officers as a man I had trained in CIT two years ago. This is the dreadful incident that occurred that at the time had me panicking and at this moment has my heart revving up the tweaker bunny.
This is getting difficult to write. Soldier on. I’ve been through worse, like the time I went to the dentist to get a cleaning and thought he was blind or inexperienced because he was cleaning the wrong end and realized the mistake was mine because he was a proctologist. Much worse, or perhaps equally worse.
Like I said, the Albuquerque Police Department officers had no idea that a severe crisis situation existed. I was panicking, I was in terror, I was flipping through every last coping skill I had in my WRAP and DBT training to get a handle on things, to get where I could think clearly and recognize what I was feeling weren’t my real emotions and it was a physiological reaction to the PTSD my lovely ex-wife implanted in me and the lovely PTSD symptoms Paula Burton brought to full bloom so many years later.
The most frightening part was feeling trapped and powerless, that all the crap history I had with law enforcement while with my wife was somehow going to repeat itself right there in Whole Foods. What the hell was in that dessert? Bex, I told you no soybean! Joke. There was no soybean. There was bacon. This is why Bex is the best girlfriend in the entire history of ever.
What was happening was all those traumatic emotions I overcame to sit down with APD – over five years ago now – were rushing forth unchecked. Do you know how nearly crippling it was for me to get myself to the table with APD and develop training for CIT, and then to train APD to handle peers in crisis by sharing my life experiences openly? I was on the board of NAMI Albuquerque when I started working with APD as a volunteer peer wanting to ensure what happened to me while in crisis wouldn’t happen to other peers when they are in crisis. I had my friends John and Felicia to help steady me. I had my therapist of seven years, Diane, to be there to suss through the wreckage and prepare me to collaborate with APD. It was hard going. It was important work. It took everything I had and then a bit more.
Was I doing anything nefarious in Whole Foods? I confess, it’s been a fantasy of mine to run through Whole Foods in a pink tutu with a bag of bleached wheat flour, throwing wads of powder into shoppers’ faces screaming “I AM THE GLUTEN FAIRY!!!” On this day I wasn’t living out my perfectly undemented dream. On this day I was enjoying a reprieve with my best gal over dessert.
Were the two APD officers threatening me in any way? From what I can recollect in CIT training, drinking coffee in public was not a main concern in deescalating a crisis situation. Most peers are not threatened by police drinking coffee. Passing the reasonable man test, there was no incident to any observer save me. Such is the nature of PTSD.
Let’s get around to talking about trust. Finally. I dropped a touch of foreshadowing about trust, and here’s the payoff if you’ve made it this far. Did APD betray my trust? It doesn’t matter. Did MHRAC betray my trust? Whatever. Paula? Robert? David? Nancy? Danny? They’ve got their own sensibilities, sympathies, and spiritualities to answer to. Still, trust was betrayed.
The betrayal was the trust I’ve promised myself to place my own safety, wellness, recovery, success, and joy ahead of all other considerations and agendas. I made the choice to collaborate with the Albuquerque Police Department. I will never regret this and will be forever proud of what I’ve done for our community. Paula attacked me. It was unforeseeable someone so irresponsible would be at the table with me. And I made a second choice, and that was to impose silence upon myself for fear I’d undo all the good I’d helped accomplish collaborating with APD. It was this second choice where I betrayed the trust I have in myself.
The consequences of remaining silent and accepting the sentiment the attack on me was “no big thing”, a “personal issue”, and “it’s your own fault” led to a worsening spiral of PTSD symptoms, shame, self-loathing, and worthlessness. I didn’t choose to be attacked by Paula. However, I did choose to protect MHRAC and CIT training with my silence and in so doing ensured Diane’s billable hours with me can fully fund her early retirement and Breckenridge ski chalet. In this way, I betrayed the most important promise I’ve made to myself and I alone am responsible for what has happened since.
I don’t want to brush over the statement I made earlier. I was close to killing myself because of what happened at MHRAC and because of my choices afterwards. It had been over five years since I felt that lost. Shamefully, a primary reason I didn’t was because I was afraid it would make APD look bad to have a peer who developed training for the department kill himself. The ONLY reason should have been my faith and my love for myself. Trust me on this one. I’m never going to make that choice again. It turns out in clearer skies I’m disturbingly fond of myself.
By the by, I’ve been sharing my parametaquasi-poking of the bear life experience in articles, interviews, and podcasts for over a year now. Just call it the “Steve Reempowering Himself World Tour” for lack of a fitting idiom. It’s academically interesting I haven’t been tagged with a tort on libel or slander. Ponder that and bite a thumb, goodsir.