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Archive for May, 2009

On my blog entry entitled Connecting Emotions with Painful Memories after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

I almost never cry. The thought of “buckets” of tears coming sounds like paradise and scares me to death. I feel deeply, and that seems to be where it stays. Am down the healing road a fair piece, but expression of pain at this level eludes me. My greatest expression is laughter, I seem to freely laugh, which is a gift. But tears would be…healing, I think. Perhaps it’s not time? Do some of us never break through that barrier? ~ Ruby

I see healing from child abuse as an ongoing process that has no end. You can always be a healthier you. There is never going to be a moment in which I say, “I am all finished growing. Work accomplished.” As long as I am breathing, I am always growing, always changing, and (hopefully) always moving toward a healthier me.

I, personally, believe in reincarnation. I believe that we experience many lives in the physical state and that we are always moving toward a healthier version of ourselves. At some point, we will no longer need to return to a physical state because we will have achieved enough growth, but I don’t think that is going to happen during one lifetime.

So, in answer to the question of whether some people never break through a particular barrier, my answer would be no. However, you might not achieve breaking the through a particular barrier in this lifetime. I am trying very hard to grow all I can in this lifetime so I can be finished with coming back. This has been a particularly difficult lifetime, so I have no desire to do it all again.

Anyone who has heard my story or has been along for the ride has been amazed by my rate of healing. Part of this is due to my general openness to pushing through the barrier and “getting it over with.” In some areas of healing, I am not as good about this. However, I remind myself that, if I don’t master this in this lifetime, I am just going to have to deal with it the next time around. So, I try to open myself up to feeling the pain in the short run so I can feel much, much better in the long run.

On the one hand, I think we need to respect ourselves and be gentle with our healing. On the other hand, sometimes we need to take a great big leap of faith and dive right in. It takes a certain amount of insight to figure out when we should allow ourselves to move along at a leisurely pace and when we need to challenge ourselves to muster up the courage to dive in.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Those of you who read my blog regularly are aware that my mother-abuser has been contacting me over the last few months and trying to force a reconciliation between us. That is not going to happen. You can catch up by reading these blog entries:

I ultimately wound up paying a visit to my therapist (I ended therapy a few years ago) for advice. He suggested that I write her a short note telling her that, due to the abuse I suffered as a child, it is not safe for me or my family to be in a relationship with her. Do not contact me again. My sister asked me to wait to send this note until after she finished with her finals (she is a senior in college).

My mother happened to call right before I left for the therapy session and has not called or written since. I thought it was odd that she was calling and/or writing at least weekly for months and then abruptly stopped. I have not sent the note since there has not been a need to do it.

I finally got my answers … My mother visited with my sister recently, and my mother raised the subject. (I had asked my sister not to put herself in the middle, so she had not raised the topic herself.) She told my sister that she had been trying to contact me on the advice of her Christian counselor (I knew it!!) who told her that she needed to “mend fences.” However, because I had not responded or contacted her in any way (including Mother’s Day), she feared that she had “blown it” with me. (Ya think??)

My sister pointed out that I had set boundaries with her and told her what I was willing to give (monthly contact by letter only). By my mother overstepping those boundaries, it was like “spitting all over” me. To the extent my mother is capable, she seemed to get it, so I **hope** she will continue leaving me alone.

Things got worse on my sister’s end, though. My mother kept going on and on about not understanding what she ever did that was so bad. (My sister just gritted her teeth.) My mother then became much more clingy with the one daughter who is still in her life, which is about to drive my sister up the wall. For the first time, my sister said that she is beginning to see the wisdom of my ways. She says that her limited contact was barely tolerable. This clinginess is about to put her over the edge.

I am not sure what my sister is going to do, but that is not my issue. My sister needs to choose her own path, just as I have chosen mine.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Dealing with Internal Conflict while Healing from Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

I wonder is it possible for the parts(s) of you that are non-resisting or adult parts to directly communicate with the resistant ones….? Could the adult ones comfort the 2 year old and help her feel cared for enough and safe enough to tell? Could they explain to her that they will be there for her, and that she won’t be dealing with the memory alone? That they will take care of her and that she will only be “telling” the memory, not having to physically face the abusers again… only with her mind, and this time will be different because the others are there to help her let go of it and comfort her through it. I don’t know if these things are possible, but I couldn’t stop my mind from asking it. ~ Mia

This comment is specifically aimed at people who have dissociative identity disorder (DID) or other dissociative disorders that involve alter parts.

I have had a lot of success in encouraging my older alter parts to comfort the younger parts. Ultimately, all of my alter parts are me, so learning how to get the older parts to comfort the younger parts is really about me learning how to comfort myself. Most of my younger parts hold either terror or unmet needs. I use my older parts to help with both.

Terror

I had a difficult time healing the terror. I was not quite sure what to do with it. First, I would tell those parts that they are now living in a grown up body. I would look at my adult-sized hands and feet. I would talk about sleeping in my own bed and in my own house. I would remind my alter parts (myself) that my abusers are all either old or dead, so they no longer have the power to hurt me.

Then, I created a “good mommy” alter part to protect my frightened parts so they (I) could feel safe. I would visualize her comforting the child parts of me. She would rock them in a rocking chair and hold them close. She would look them (me) in the eye and talk about how much she loves me and how precious I am. Then, she would tuck them (me) into bed and be my sentry with a shotgun in her hands. I did not have to worry about being hurt because “mommy” was ready to kill anyone who came near me during the night.

Unmet Needs

Unmet needs have been much trickier for me to heal. Sometimes I simply need to stop working so hard and do something fun. Other times, I need to interact with friends so that my need for a relationship is at least partially met, even though it is not with a mother. I have had less success with older parts healing younger parts when it comes to unmet needs.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have shared that I now have a prescription for Xanax to help me with my anxiety. I try not to take it more than once a day, and I sometimes can go the whole day without it. I have noticed that I am experiencing much more anxiety than I ever appreciated now that I have been trying not to lean on my eating disorder of binge and compulsive overeating.

I have been trying to pay attention to the times that I feel the need to medicate myself with the Xanax. This frequently happens in the evenings or at night when my son (who has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD) is running around like a loud, crazed Energizer bunny. However, I have begun noticing my anxiety level rising at other times, too.

Hub and I went to dinner at a local pizza parlor. The place was crowded with a large group seated right next to us. A customer was seated at the end of a group of tables pushed together, which put him in the aisle. People were coming and going around him. Waitresses were bustling around the tables. Children were making noise. I felt overloaded by all of the stimuli and just wanted to crawl under a rock to get away from it all.

It was then that it hit me – I don’t know how to process all of this stimulation! I have lived most of my life with dissociative identity disorder (DID), so I had a way of escaping overstimulation. Whenever things got too “crazy,” I would simply dissociate. However, as I am becoming more whole and have now stopped using food to help me stay dissociated, I am living more in my body. I am staying present, and I don’t quite know how to handle overstimulation because I never had to deal with it before!
This is quite an epiphany for me, and I am relieved to understand this about myself. My sister has been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, but I never had any trouble being in a crowd or surrounded by chaos. I now recognize that this is because I was “checking out” in my own head. Now that I have chosen to give that up, I am finding myself reacting in a very similar manner as my sister when confronted with chaos and crowds.

Now that I know this about myself, I will start taking steps to deal with it. Half the battle for me is always identifying the issue. Now that I recognize that this is a problem, I can take steps to deal with it (including taking a Xanax, if needed).

I am encouraged because this is another sign that I really am integrating. I really am becoming more whole. In some ways, I am giving up a “super power” by letting go of dissociating, but I am giving myself the gift of presence.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Last night, I had a very disturbing dream that was really a flashback. People frequently have trouble identifying a nightmare as a flashback, so I thought I would share my nightmare and then explain the flashback elements.

Here was the dream. It might be triggering, so proceed with caution.

+++ sexual and ritual abuse triggers +++

Hub and I were about to make love. He wanted it, but I was just going along because I was supposed to. He wanted to move it outside to the back deck. (Our bedroom and house was nothing like our real one.) We continued on the deck with the lights on at night, and there was a building across the street where several apartments backed up to our deck. I feared that people were watching, so I asked hub to turn off the light. He turned off one light, but we were still illuminated, and I knew that someone was watching, videotaping us, and uploading it to YouTube. I was horrified but could not stop it.

Afterward, hub told me to clean the sheets. They were extremely messy and sticky, and his bodily fluids got all over me – my hands, my legs, and my whole body. I could feel it oozing down parts of my body, but I could not make it stop.

+++ end triggers +++

I awoke with a start. My heart was racing, and I was triggered.

This was a flashback, even though this particular sequence of events never happened. The flashback was in the feelings and my reaction to different things that did happen to me, such as not having a choice about sexual contact, being watched and on display for multiple people, being filmed, and being covered with bodily fluids after being raped.

I cannot eat cereal because I get triggered if a drop of milk oozes down my face. I suspected that this tied into the sexual abuse. This dream confirms that this is exactly why I react in the way that I do.

The reason that I awoke feeling triggered is because this was a flashback, not just a dream. For this reason, telling myself, “It was just a dream,” is not helpful afterward. Instead, I have to comfort myself. I have to soothe the hurting little girl inside who is still haunted by the horrors that I suffered as a little girl.

I will probably always experience flashbacks through nightmares from time to time. They are not fun, but they are a normal aftereffect of trauma. Recognizing these dreams for what they are – flashbacks – empowers me to comfort myself through them.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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A while ago, I wrote about Spiritual or Religious Abuse as Part of Child Abuse. A reader posted the following comment:

In a previous comment I mentioned that I believe that my mom’s spirituality functions a lot like an addiction…almost like an alcoholic. You said that you identified with that. Is that something you would be willing to write more about? For me, I feel that it meant that God was unpredictable, and therefore my mother was unpredictable because of her loyalty to what she believed to be his will/voice. Because if something was coming “from God”, then that would take precedence over whether it was healthy for us. I also know that my dad, having grown up in an alcoholic family, tolerated her god-addiction in an unhealthy way. I wish he had protected us.

I’m still struggling to unpack my experiences in this arena. I would really appreciate hearing more of your thoughts. ~ BlueOrchid8

Yes, this is definitely an area in my life in which I struggled. It took me many years to sort through the religious/spiritual abuse, break through the lies, and be able to embrace a faith that was very different from what I had been taught.

In my case, my father was an atheist, but he was fine with my mother/abuser bringing my sister and me to church. My mother went from having no religion to being O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D with G*d. If the church doors were open, we needed to be there. My sister and I were not allowed to listen to “secular” music. Every word, act, or even thought was supposed to be religiously-based. (Ironically, this did not stop the woman from pulling my sister and me out of bed to be ritually abused, but that is another topic.) I even missed my senior prom because I had to go to Florida for a “Jesus ‘86” festival.

It got even worse when my father died suddenly from a heart attack when I was 16. My mother began hearing G*d speak to her audibly at least daily. (My therapist believes that she is schizophrenic.) If a boy asked me out for a date, my mother had to ask G*d if I could go. If “G*d” said no, then there was no appeal – I was to “take it up with G*d.”

“G*d” would tell my mother things that I knew were just plain wrong. For example, my intuition told me that my boyfriend was about to break up with me. My mother told me that G*d said that I would marry him. I believed her because G*d supposedly told her this. Sure enough, he dumped me, anyhow. Ironically, I later married a man with the same first name, so my mother felt vindicated.

When I was in my thirties, I finally had it out with G*d over my mother. I told Him that I could not trust a wishy-washy deity like Him. I had never questioned that my mother was a “godly woman” and that I was the one who was flawed. When I cried out to G*d about all of this, I felt very strongly in my spirit, “What if she isn’t godly?” I was shocked by this thought because truly I had never even once doubted that she was godly.

It was like the guy in the Bible who had the scales fall from his eyes and saw for the first time. For the first time, I examined my mother’s behaviors and held them up to the standard of the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I did not see even one of those fruit growing in her garden.

Once I finally “saw” this, embracing my faith became easy. I was able to recognize that my mother/abuser had lied to me throughout my life. Her warped version of G*d did not define Him. Once I threw away her garbage, I was free to pursue my own understanding of faith. It was empowering.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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As I shared here and here, my eating disorder (binge & compulsive overeating) has been on my mind pretty much non-stop for the past week. Yesterday was not a good day. So far, I am doing okay today, but the day has just begun.

This is not the first time that I have tried to overcome this eating disorder, nor is it the second, third, fourth, fifth … you get the picture. Perhaps this is the first time that I have been this present in my body while doing this – I don’t know. All I know is that I am overwhelmed by the amount of anxiety I feel from minute to minute.

There is nothing in my day-to-day life to account for this. Yes, this is a busy week with my job (which is why I am frantically typing this out and will post this blog entry in real time), but that would not make me feel shaky and anxious. I think I am finally beginning to appreciate why I have battled this eating disorder since I was 12 – I eat all the time because I am anxious all the time. Eating medicates the anxiety. When I stop eating, there is nothing to temper the anxiety, which drives me back. Bottom line – In the short run, I would rather be fat than live feeling that way.

Yesterday, the anxiety was so bad that, by 2:00 p.m., I took a Xanax. Within an hour, the anxiety eased, but it was replaced by depression. I just wanted to curl into a ball and cry. It was awful. I tried to slow down. I actually watched an hour-long show on TV without exercising (I had exercised earlier in the day) so I could sit and do nothing for an hour. That got me so sleepy that I went to bed early.

This morning, I was still feeling blah until I stepped on the scale and saw that I have lost seven pounds. That bumped me into a lower set of numbers, which made me happy. So, I guess I now have the drive to continue fighting again. It is really hard, though.

What kills me is that I was a skinny little kid before the eating disorder took hold of me. Without an eating disorder, I would probably be a naturally slim woman. However, my life is what it is. I cannot change was happened in the past. I can try to work through the anxiety of today. I just have to take it one day at a time.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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