Archive for August, 2009

The State of North Carolina has passed a law that empowers a judge to issue a permanent no contact order against a convicted sex offender. See NC Session Law 2009-380. Let’s all do a happy dance!!

What I find pathetic is that this has not been the law up until this point. As someone who has a sexual abuser continuing to try to maintain contact with me (my mother), I understand the need for this law. Just hearing her voice on the answering machine or receiving a letter from her triggers me and sends me into an emotional nosedive. In my case, my mother is not passing along threats, but many sexual abuse survivors do. Now some sexual abuse survivors will have a way to protect themselves from this harassment permanently.

Of course, my mother does not live in NC, nor is she is a convicted sex offender, so this law will not take care of my situation. However, in the cases of sexual abuse survivors who choose to prosecute their abusers and get a conviction, they now have the ability to have a permanent no contact order (a restraining order) put into place. I am so glad to see that lawmakers are paying attention to the need for this protection for sexual abuse survivors.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have recently gotten hooked on the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Although I am not generally interested in vampire stories, I can relate to how Edward and his family feel like outsiders. I have felt like an outsider for most of my life.

Edward and his family try to pretend that they are something that they are not. They are strong enough to lift a car, but they pretend to have the same limitations as the humans around them. They can run faster than the wind, but they walk like humans so that they will fit in.

While I am certainly not that strong or fast, I have an intensity inside of myself that fuels me in ways that make me feel like as much of an anomaly as Edward’s family. I have to work hard to control the intensity because it causes others to raise their eyebrows whenever I show it. A friend of mine recently told me she that thinks people simply assume that my son’s attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) comes from me because we are both so much more “extreme” than others. Of course, his issues are much different than mine, but what we have in common is that we both have an enormous amount of energy inside of us that is always pushing for release.

Sometimes my intensity shows itself through talking very fast. Other times, it shows itself through working tirelessly to complete a project as I take on the work of five people and help others complete their parts. Once people get over the shock of seeing some sort of evidence of my intensity, they appreciate it and want to use it in completing their goals (generally through volunteer work).

As with Bella’s fascination with Edward’s family, people don’t seem to see the downside. I long to spend an hour or two relaxing, but I don’t know how to do that. I spend most of my life channeling my intensity through working, blogging, and volunteering. I need to get it out so I can sleep at night. It is very hard for me to sit back and “unwind,” and I generally need to take some sort of substance (wine, Xanax, etc.) to accomplish that.

It can be hard being an outsider. I feel like the lyrics in the Superman (It’s Not Easy) song. I have been given this gift of having much more energy than those around me, and it wears me out sometimes. People tell me they wish they could accomplish all I do in a day. I wish I could accomplish being still and resting.

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*******Religion triggers*******

On my blog entry entitled Reconciling Child Abuse and Faith/Religion, a reader posted the following comment:

Anywho… if I can continue our religious discussion: so you contend that the evil of the world is caused by humans. An obvious enough answer. But what does god do as he looks down upon the evil that his children create? He should easily be able to prevent these terrible things from happening and spare the innocent victims. The fact that he doesn’t means that either he is willing to allow the innocent to suffer, or he does not have the power to stop it. Perhaps he does have a purpose for allowing this suffering, as you seem to imply (if I understand you properly). But the fact remains: the lord, who is supposed to be all-loving allows unspeakable acts to be inflicted upon the nicest, kindest, most devout, and most innocent of his creations. God could have hypothetically created a world where there is no pain and suffering, and his creations are only ever filled with positive emotion, but he didn’t. In my mind, the only logical conclusions to make of this are that:
1.) God is not truly all-powerful.
2.) God is not truly all-loving.
3.) God does not exist.
And what of natural disasters, disease, accidents, and other forms of suffering and pain which humans do not cause?
Hehe… sorry for the somewhat confrontational answer. I just really like these kinds of discussions. ~ Lenore

I really like these kinds of discussions, too, which is why I am blogging about this today. :0) Considering how deeply child abuse survivors have been wounded, I think that these are good issues to explore as people wrestle with how a loving God could have allowed such terrible things to happen to them when they were innocent children.

To respond to your question, I need to present a different premise from what you might hear from many religious people… I do not believe that the Garden of Eden was a place. I think that story is an allegory for something that happened to us in the spiritual realm. I believe that all of us were once a part of God and that something happened that split us off. (People with Dissociative Identity Disorder will probably understand what I mean the best.) Our natural state is being one with God and includes having his attributes – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (the fruit of the Spirit).

I do not believe that God created anything evil but that evil is a natural state of being outside of the presence of God. Blaming God for the existence of evil is like blame light for the existence of darkness. Darkness is what exists when there is no light: all of the darkness in the world cannot snuff out a tiny candle.

I think that each of us is a part of God that somehow got “split off” and is in the process of integrating back into being a part of God. For this to happen, we need to become pure light because darkness cannot exist in the presence of light. I believe that the way we become pure light is to develop the fruit of the Spirit, and we do this by experiencing difficult circumstances that have the ability to solidify embracing these attributes. For example, how else can you learn patience than by being forced to wait? If you don’t have to wait, there is no need for patience.

I think earth is a place that is separate from God other than what we bring with us. We are the hands of God on this earth. The more we become like God (develop the fruit of the Spirit), the more presence God has on this earth. God is also present in the living things that surround us (nature), which helps him be closer to us. However, earth is no Eden. We learn through facing and overcoming obstacles, and that is what life is all about. It takes many lifetimes to develop the fruit of the Spirit.

Because the purpose of earth is to learn, I have no expectation of life being easy. I do not believe that death is the end – I actually believe that living through trauma is a much more difficult road than dying from it. So, when natural disasters happen and people die, I see them as being released from this cycle of the learning experience and being at peace for a while before they travel back to learn more life lessons the next time around.

What is the point of a weight room with no weights in it? You wouldn’t grow any muscle. The hardships in life are what develop our spiritual muscle.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have recently become a fan of Pandora Radio. This is a great FREE website where you can create your own personalized radio stations. (You will hear periodic short commercials that are only five or ten seconds in length.) Let’s say you really like the Eagles or a particular song, like “Take it Easy.” You type in the name of a band or a song you really like, and Pandora Radio will play songs by other bands that are similar in style as well as the original song or band that you entered.

To better tailor your personalized radio station, you can check whether you like or dislike each song. (You can only reject a limited number of songs each hour, so I just give no feedback for songs that I don’t like but don’t really bother me, either.) As Pandora Radio builds a profile of what you like and what you don’t, you can wind up listening to a personalized radio station for hours and like everything you hear. How cool is that??

No, I am not being paid to promote this website. I am just sharing this because I have found this site to be a wonderful healing tool for me. When I listen to the radio or pop in a CD, I tend to listen to music that might sway my emotions. One song might fuel anger or sadness toward a particular relationship. I might become triggered by a lyric (such as the reference to “good girls” in Tom Petty’s song, “Free-falling.”

There are a handful of Christian songs that I really like and a ton I don’t, so I quickly lose my patience with Christian radio stations. I typed in the title of one song that I like, and now I have this fabulous radio station that plays nothing triggering to me! I have discovered lots of new songs that I like that are also “safe” for me to listen to.

I don’t feel the need to think about G*d all the time. Instead, what I need is background music that does not trigger me or sway my emotions. (In addition to blogging, I work as an online college instructor, so I am on the computer for hours every day.) Thanks to this website, I now have a way to listen to lots of songs that I like and that don’t mess with my head.

For those of you who are not religious, I also built a great radio station with Jim Brickman music as my starting point. (You can build multiple radio stations for free to match your mood.) That plays lots of piano and New Age music, which does not trigger me and helps me to stay calm (well, as calm as I get! LOL).

One day, I had enough of the mellow music and typed in Evanescence for kicks. I had no idea what could be similar to Evanescence. I found another band that I had never heard of that has a similar flavor. It also played lots of Linkin Park, Nickelback, and other bands that matched my mood. It really is a cool site, both for healing and just for fun. :0)

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Chapel (c) Lynda Bernhardt***** religious triggers *****

On my blog entry entitled Talking Very Fast When Triggered, a reader posted the following comment:

If I may briefly touch on the subject of religion: I hate to question your beliefs, but I’ll admit that I’m curious about how you reconcile the idea that god is all-powerful, all-merciful, and loving, with the fact that he allows things such as this to occur to innocent children? ~ Lagore

This is a great question, and I have written on issues of faith on my blog a number of times. I wrestled with the answer to this question for many years and finally reached a place of peace within myself.

The book When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner talks about the same thing. If we assume that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, then why do bad things happen to good people?

I think where we go wrong is that we have the expectation that life is about being comfortable and safe and that, if we do X, Y, Z, then God will keep us comfortable and safe. That is contrary to what the Bible has to say:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:33

Jesus was very clear that we would “have trouble” in this world, so it is an unrealistic expectation to believe that God is guaranteeing heaven on earth. It simply is not biblical.

The Bible has numerous charges to take care of the widow and orphan (the weakest members of society). When that does not happen, it is not God who failed to act but MAN. I do not believe that God is responsible for the Holocaust. God’s people who failed to act soon enough are accountable. I apply the same principal to child abuse. God has called US to prevent it. At no point did God promise that no innocent will be harmed.

So, then where does God come in? Jesus’ first job description was to heal the brokenhearted. (See Isaiah 61:1.) This assumes that hearts will be broken on earth. God provides the hope of healing and then wants us to extend that hope to others.

I also embrace a belief in reincarnation, which I believe is the missing part of what Christian doctrine teaches. I believe that the point of being on this earth is to learn life lessons that mold us into becoming more like God. I believe that, with each lifetime, we learn different lessons that shape into the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control).

The only way to know if those past life lessons have “stuck” is to endure a painful life that would not produce this “fruit” on its own. There was little in my childhood to produce these “fruit” in me, but somehow I grew up to embrace many of these attributes. Where did my compassion come from? I think it came from previous lifetimes. If I can endure a childhood like I had and grow into the person that I am, I believe that this is like a “final exam” of sorts showing that who I am is stronger than my circumstances.

I believe that all of us are one (the “body of Christ”). When I am good and kind to you, I am good and kind to myself as well as to God because we are all intertwined.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Talking Very Fast When Triggered, a reader posted the following comment:

And to wrap things up: if these things you have said are indeed true, then I do not want to judge you too harshly. But I will say that it is sad that the victims of something like this would sit idly by simply because they were afraid of going to court, or just assumed that you’d lose. I give children more leeway, but you are a grown adult now, and who knows how many more children have been brutalized because no one stepped up? ~ Lagore

Lagore’s comment is very long and is questioning whether something as heinous as ritual abuse could actual happen. Lagore states that there is no recorded evidence of ritual abuse taking place and that, if it does happen, then we victims of ritual abuse should be prosecuting it. So, what I would like to address in this blog entry is whether child abuse survivors have an obligation to prosecute our abusers.

My answer to this is no. We certainly have the grounds to prosecute, but we also have the choice of how to live our lives. My entire childhood was dictated by the choices of others. My childhood is gone, never to be recovered. To say that I am obligated to make my adult life about prosecuting my abusers is to take away my choices in adulthood as well. At some point, my life needs to be about my choices and not in reaction to the evil choices of others.

I told my therapist that, after all of the hard work that I have done to heal, I wanted to help other child abuse survivors heal as well. He said that, while I could choose that path, I was under no obligation to do so. It is okay for me to live my life in any (legal) way I choose. I can spend it helping others heal, prosecuting my abusers, traveling the world, or as a recluse. This is my life to do with as I wish.

Let’s get back to the court system. I hold a law degree that I earned from a prestigious law school, so I am very knowledgeable about how the court system works. People are theoretically tried by a jury of their peers; however, a jury is just a group of people who live in your area who bring their own personal experiences and biases into the jury box. Most people in society reject the reality of ritual abuse for a number of reasons, so those people are not going to convict without overwhelming evidence – evidence which, in my case, is decades old.

At this point in my life, most of my abusers are either old or dead, so my role in stopping ritual abuse is not going to come through the court system. Instead, my role (in addition to helping other child abuse survivors heal, which is my primary goal) is to raise awareness that ritual abuse really does happen. As society comes to accept this reality, then they will be more likely to enter the jury box without assuming that the victim is lying or delusional.

I don’t think anyone who knows me offline or reads my blog would accuse me of “sitting idly by” when it comes to child abuse. I have raised awareness and talked about many issues that most people do not, such as animal rape, mother-daughter sexual abuse, and using masturbation as a form of self-injury. Many people have thanked me for speaking out about issues that they believed only applied to them.

Child abuse is an epidemic that affects a large percentage of our population. No one person is going to stop it, but each person filling his or her role is a step in the right direction. I am accomplishing much more societal good by writing this blog than I would by shifting focus to prosecuting my abusers. I want the focus of my life to be about healing, not retribution.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Sorry to be posting late today. I have had a busy week with school starting back for my kid and traveling right beforehand.

The Holocaust has been on my mind a lot lately. A friend recommended that I read the book, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and I read it while I was at the beach last week. It was a very good book but was so sad at the end. As a book about the Holocaust, I obviously saw a bad ending coming. However, the book had a tragic twist to it that I only saw coming at the very end right before it happened. It really drove home the tragedy that befell the innocent.

I then completed my nine-week Beth Moore Bible study on the life of Esther. On the very last day of “homework,” Beth Moore shared how her father had been among the soldiers that liberated one of the concentration camps within days of the end of the war. When he was in the camp, he found the following words etched into the prison’s wall:

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.

I believe in love, even when I do not feel it.

I believe in God, even when He is silent. (Author unknown)

Nobody knows whether the person who wrote those words survived the Holocaust or not. I was so touched by the hope that this person held even in the midst of deplorable and desperate conditions, and I was encouraged to apply this determination to feel hopeful in my own life.

The past year has been a very difficult one for me. I have lost people (and a beloved dog) that I loved and will likely lose my grandmother before the year is out. I have integrated one of my most traumatizing memories, and I continue to wrestle with integrating the pain, terror, and despair held by that wounded inner child.

I have struggled a lot lately with feeling enveloped by the despair, but I know that there is sunshine outside of the dark clouds around me. I need to keep on hoping and believing, even when I cannot feel the warmth of the sun.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I understand why my mother grew up to be a child abuser. Her parents abused her, and she did the same to my sister and me. I don’t condone it, and I view her as weak, but I do understand that a person who has been abused might repeat what was done to him or her. I don’t even want to know how many generations of abuse took place that ended with my sister and me. I am glad that we stopped it.

What I find much harder to understand is why my father’s side of the family was prone to marrying abusers. My father could have married just about any woman on the planet, but he chose my mother, who abused my sister and me. Why did he choose her? What was it about her that drew him to her?

I just found out that my uncle (who married my father’s sister) was a child abuser as well. I knew that he was a raging alcoholic and could get mean as a snake when we was drunk, and I suspected that he sometimes got too rough with the kids, but I did not know the extent of his abuse until recently. In this case, none of the abuse was sexual, but he was physically abusive to his wife and children and even came close to killing them one time.

My father and his sister grew up in the same house. Neither of them were abusers, but they both chose to marry abusers. Neither of them liked the abuse, but neither removed their abused children from the abusive spouses. Why not?

There is one other sibling – my uncle. He had multiple affairs before my aunt finally kicked him out of his house. My grandparents (father’s parents) were very judgmental of this woman for dumping their son. My grandparents were also quite upset to learn that, in adulthood, my cousin cut off contact with her mother. They asked, “Who cuts off contact with their own mother?” Of course, they were asking this question of someone else who had done the same thing but did not tell them. I know why I cut off contact. Could my cousin have taken the same action for the same reason? If so, that makes this family 0 for 3 in choosing spouses.

What was it about this family that groomed three children to marry child abusers and not protect their children? (Assuming that my aunt was also a child abuser, my uncle left the kids behind and married another woman with children, so he made no effort to save the children.) Yes, I get that it was a different time and all that malarkey, but the parent-child bond has been the same since the beginning of time. I know how bonded I am to my child, and it would feel natural to kill to protect him. Somebody has to be really messed up in the head to allow another person to inflict harm on his or her child on a regular basis.

Does anyone have a hypothesis about what type of family dynamic breeds spouses of child abusers? To my knowledge, nobody in my father’s family drank when he was a child. My grandfather was strict and was known to hit the children over the head with the humongous family Bible on occasion, but I have never been told about beatings or sexual abuse. However, 0 for 3 is a really bad record. Any ideas?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Here’s a new one for you – Have any of you experienced a form of “switching” after healing from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)? I think that is what I have been doing, and it is really strange.

Let me explain what I mean. Read Nansie’s comment, which I quoted in this blog entry. Now, imagine that “carousel of emotions” taking place but from a “singleton” perspective. That is what has been going on with me, and it is bizarre.

When I was badly triggered as a multiple, different parts would come out and switch repeatedly as the multiple system tried to figure out how best to respond to the threat. I described one such scenario in this blog entry when I was in conflict over choosing to trust a friend. I was in such conflict that it felt like a carousel was spinning in my head as one part after another came out to try to restore order.

This is how I have been feeling since the recent incident that upset me. (Don’t worry about this lasting for a week and a half. I am writing ahead because I am going out town soon. I sure hope what I am writing about today will not still apply when this publishes!)

Over the course of several days, I have felt shock, anger, and sadness, decided to leave the relationship and decided to stay, decided to play mental games and decided to be indifferent, felt such deep despair that suicide seemed appealing, felt completely okay, felt like binge eating (after losing 14 lbs and being “on the wagon” for months), etc. It feels like I am constantly “switching,” but most of these emotions are no longer “parts.” I feel like there is a dial in my head that releases various emotions, and a toddler has gotten a hold of that dial. I makes me feel like I am losing my mind!

When I was a multiple, eventually one of these parts would drive my reaction. If it was the angry part, I might leave. If it was the sad part, I might sink into a depression but take no action. However, there is no one “part” to take over any longer. It is only me, a (mostly) singleton being hit by one powerful emotion after another, and I cannot seem to make a decision about which way to go because my emotions keep shifting in powerful ways.

Have any of you experienced this? Do you have any advice? If I am still feeling this way after my trip, I will make an appointment with my therapist.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Does anyone else talk very fast whenever you are triggered? I used to talk fast all of the time (before therapy), so I guess I was always triggered and/or always feeling an enormous amount of intensity. I would guess that it takes an enormous amount of intensity to stay split into multiple parts.

My therapist told me that, even if we had met under different circumstances, such as a party, he would know that I had a story to tell based upon my rate of speech. He said that people who talk very fast frequently do so because they want to get the words out before they are silenced. They are people who have a story to tell but have not yet been heard. I was fascinated when he told me that my rate of speech would probably slow down after therapy.

My therapist was correct. When I am not triggered, my speech is much slower than it used to be. However, whenever I am triggered, I start talking very fast again. I have an offline friend who has picked up on this. She will immediately start asking what’s going on with me when I am talking fast. The funny thing is that, about half the time, I am not even aware that I am triggered. However, after my friend inquires, I will notice that I have been feeling the urge to overeat or other symptoms that I am triggered. I sort of have to “step back” and recognize the intensity in myself.

I now recognize this dynamic in others. When I am in a “good place” and talking at a normal pace, I will notice other people whose words are spilling out on top of each other. This is a red flag that they need someone to listen.

I used to talk very fast all the time. Now, when I get triggered, talking so fast wears out my tongue. I will notice that I cannot get certain words out clearly because they are tumbling over one another so fast. No matter how hard I try to slow down, I cannot do it because the intensity inside of myself is driving the speed.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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