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On my blog entry entitled Shouldn’t G*d be Expected to Protect Children?, a reader posted the following comment:

***** religious triggers *****

Faith, I thought this was a really good post. I feel like I am so stuck in this area of my healing. I feel like I have grown and healed so much over the last few years, but I remain confused and anxious and tied up in knots over the issue of what is true about God (whether anything is true), and what my response is to be. Even when I am doing really well in other areas, I remain deeply anxious and can be easily brought to tears in talking about God and my relationship to him. I don’t know how to heal in this area. Yes, I came into the healing process from a place of deep personal faith, and yes, the forms of abuse I experienced centered around Christian spirituality, so it makes sense that this is where I feel most conflicted. What do you do when you find yourself really stuck in one area of healing? ~ Blue Orchid
***** end religious triggers *****

For those of you who skipped the religious triggers, the bottom line question is what to do “when you find yourself really stuck in one area of healing.”

Someone over at Isurvive gave me some great advice: Only move as fast as the slowest part of yourself is ready to move. I have not always heeded that advice, but I do think it is good advice nonetheless.

Sometimes, when I am really “stuck” in an area of healing, I choose to respect that I am not yet ready to heal that part of myself. There are so many areas of my life that needed (and continue to need) healing. I don’t need to “force” myself to heal a wound that is not yet ready to heal. Sometimes the best course of action is to give yourself permission to “stay sick” for a little while longer.

If you choose to do this, you also need to choose to be compassionate toward yourself. For example, I have been very slow in healing myself sexually. I used to beat myself up for this. Now, I simply recognize that my slow pace in healing this area of myself is indicative of how deep of a wound I have. I need to love myself through my sluggishness. Sometimes progress is made simply in ceasing the negative thoughts toward your lack of progress.

***** religious triggers *****

I did go through a period in which I was extremely triggered by religion. I called a couple of Christian friends and told them I needed support and prayer because I was too triggered even to pray for myself. They came to my house and prayed with me. I don’t know what God did, but something powerful happened during their prayer, and I was healed from that particular issue. If you have Christian friends that you really trust, this might work for you, too.

***** end religious triggers *****

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Now that I have shared my story about seeing my mother/abuser again, I am ready to dive back into helping all of you! On my blog entry entitled What is a Body Memory?, a reader posted the following comment:

I have a question- I know about body memories. But I don’t get how to process them. When I try to work through them, I end up just being stuck. They come back again from time to time but they never seem to change. It was good to learn how to “manage” them. But it’s really starting to get on my nerves that I can’t seem to be able to change them. I’m working on this for almost 20 years and have been in therapy. How exactly do you do it? Any tips? ~ Anon

Body memories can be difficult to manage and heal, especially when you don’t know the origin of the trauma. This is doubly an issue for anyone whose trauma began when you were preverbal. The book When You’re Ready does a great job talking about how to process body memories for trauma that occurred when you were too young to process the memories with language.

The key to healing body memories is to relate them back to the source. For example, I used to have body memories of tasting cigarette smoke in my mouth and feeling it in my lungs, even though I have never smoked. This phenomenon happened long before I started having flashbacks. I used to wonder if it was some sort of weird “past life” phenomenon.

When I recovered the memory of the origin of the trauma (being choked nearly to death and then having mouth-to-mouth administered by my abuser, who had been smoking), I started having the body memories again. This time, I knew what was going on, so I was able to connect the elements of the one traumatic event back together again. This helped me to heal this particular body memory. I can still access that body memory or have it triggered, but, just like with any other type of triggering, I use my tools to bring myself back to the present, and that heals the body memory.

Body memories really are not any different than any other type of flashback. They can be triggered, just like visual or emotional flashbacks, and you heal them by processing the trauma that created the body memory. The most difficult part is often connecting back the body memory to the underlying event.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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After my mother/abuser left, my friend and I went to my sister’s graduation party where we had a great time. I got drunk and figured that was completely warranted in light of the situation. I didn’t get a chance to decompress afterward because of the drama that ensued in trying to get home. I returned home to find out that my mammogram was suspect, and I had to endure over a week of waiting to find out if I had cancer or not. I spent Christmas Eve waiting for biopsy results. Fortunately, I received good medical news.

Sis and her kids came to my house for Christmas. My mother/abuser sent Christmas presents for hub, our son, and me. My sister told her what to buy hub and me (an Outback gift certificate) and ripped off my sister by not fully reimbursing her. What she got my son was for a four-year-old (he is almost nine).

On Christmas morning, my mother called Sis on her cell phone to wish her a Merry Christmas. When they hung up, Sis said that mom had asked her if she should call me to wish me a Merry Christmas “now that we have seen each other and talked.” My sister said no, and I said, “Hell, no.” My mother also told my sister to tell me to write her with the rules of communication (like I haven’t told her ten times what the “rules” are). I guess “back the f@#$ off” was too subtle for her. Idiot.

I have been dissociated for weeks now. I have the memories of the last few weeks, but they are encased in fog, and I have to look hard to see them. I tried to move back to presence yesterday, but I felt the need to cry hysterically for a long time, and I don’t have that luxury until after these d@#$ holidays are over, hub is back at work, and my son is back in school. Until then, I guess I will keep putting one foot in front of the other and do the best that I can.

Related Topic:
Trauma Tuesday: Seeing Abuser after Years of Safety

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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After the graduation ceremony, I was so caught up in my joy over my sister that I wanted to race to the portico to celebrate with her. My friend is the one who pulled me back to reality. She said that there are a ton of people pushing their way through this auditorium. Let’s let my mother have that moment first and then I won’t have to interact with her as long. After about 10 minutes (with plenty of people still swarming about), my sister texted me, so we came out to the portico.

People were taking pictures of her (she never poses for pictures), so I jumped in and started taking pictures, too. That was the first time my mother saw me – as I was taking pictures of my sister. I put down my camera, said hi, introduced my friend, and then walked away. My friend immediately jumped in with the small talk to do her “buffer duty.” My mother kept looking at me and trying to talk to me, but there was enough of a crowd for me to avoid her for the most part. We only said a few sentences, with me remembering to say, “It was nice of you to come for sis.”

Sis’s best friend was leaving with her family to eat at a local Ryan’s (a buffet-style restaurant), and my sister asked all of us to join her there. My friend kept reminding me that I did not have to go, but I wanted to be a part of my sister’s celebration. When we got there, we saw that our party of eight was to be split into two tables of four with a big opening between the two tables. I headed for the bathroom while my friend moved people around so my mother and I were at different tables. (My friend was awesome!)

I managed to avoid my mother/abuser until it was time to leave. She walked up to me and asked me if she could hug me. I didn’t know what to do, so I let her with no warmth on my part, and I was definitely as stiff as a board. Then, she asked if she could get a picture of the three of us (her, sis, and me). I posed for it. My stomach was really churning after the hug, and I even scoped out a plant to catch my vomit if I couldn’t hold it down, but I did manage to hold it in.

Then, I saw my mother and her friend drive away, heading for her home that was several hours away by car, and I could breathe again.

To be continued…

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Wishing You Happy Holidays

I hope all of you have a good holiday season (or simply get through it … whichever applies).

I found out today that my cancer scare was a benign tumor. I am so dissociated and exhausted that I had pretty much no reaction to the news. Hub cried in relief. One of my best friends did a happy dance. I can’t react. I have been so dissociated over the past couple of months that I cannot, at the moment, feel pain or joy. Maybe after the holidays…

Now I just need to sleep for about a week.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Despite my mother/abuser’s plans to arrive an hour early to the graduation ceremony, my friend and I beat her there, which isn’t surprising … my mother is always late except for airports and dentists. We arrived about 45 minutes before the ceremony, and we chose seats where we would have a good view of my sister but were also in a cluster of people in the middle of a row. I made sure that the seat next to me was taken.

About 10 minutes later, my mother slowly walked by in front of us, but she didn’t see us (thank goodness). I pointed my mother out to my friend, and I got nauseous. I seriously feared I was going to throw up, but I didn’t want to run to the bathroom for fear that my mother would see me. I got out a book, tilted my head so my hair covered my face, and laid low. Meanwhile, my friend kept tabs on where my mother went and would warn me when to lay low.

My mother found my sister and her kids, and the group walked right past us to seats about two rows ahead and maybe 50 feet away. None of them saw us, thank goodness. My mother brought along a friend, which I found hysterical (like she needed a buffer, too!). My mother would stand up periodically as we waited for the ceremony to start and look around for me. My friend would shift to block her line of view to me, and my mother never did find me.

The graduation ceremony was amazing. The president of the college chose one student – my sister – to talk about during his address. As he shared about her hard work as a single mother and her success in college, I could hear people around me saying, “Wow!” The president then asked my sister to stand and be recognized. I was so proud of her.

My sister graduated cum laude with honors, and she had all sorts of regalia over her graduation gown. Of course, under the gown, she was wearing a T-shirt about brain-eating zombies, fish socks, and combat boots … but that is another story. During the ceremony, I succeeded in making this about her, not my mother, and I am very proud of myself for that. As difficult as this time has been for me emotionally, I would not have traded being there for my sister for anything in this world.

To be continued…

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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My friend and I had a leisurely breakfast on Saturday morning, and we talked about all sorts of things. I shared some of my childhood experiences with her. She already knew the big picture – mother abused me, and my childhood was really bad – but she did not know the extent of the abuse or the aftermath. I did not get into my diagnosis, but I did tell her about being raped at this college and some of the traumas I endured when I lived in this city. I don’t think about the college years very often, but being back in this college town after 20 years dredged them up again.

In the course of telling her about the rape, I told her that I remembered the aftermath of what happened but only recovered the flashback within the last year. She was really surprised to learn about being able to dissociate to that degree. I explained that the ability to do that is a gift for abused children and that, once you know how to do it, you always have that ability. I consciously choose not to dissociate in my day-to-day life, but I could do it at any time if I wanted to.

I also shared about the early years of healing when the flashbacks first started. I told her some of my stories of how I would act and react before therapy. I was so different back then that I am sure some of that was surprising to her. She opened up about some of her own issues (not child abuse stuff), so it was kind of cool to deepen the friendship through this experience.

I told my sister that I wanted to take her and her children out to lunch. We went to a nice restaurant, and it was funny to view my nephews through my friend’s eyes. They are both sweet boys but “odd.” It is always funny to see a “normal” person interact with my “odd” family and see the reactions.

I learned during lunch that my mother/abuser was planning to arrive at the graduation early, and my sister wanted all of us to meet on the portico after the ceremony. That meant that I would definitely see my mother and have to interact with her at some level. That got my stomach churning. My friend and I had about an hour to hang out before leaving for the ceremony. I had to double my Xanax dosage because my anxiety was getting really bad.

To be continued…

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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