Archive for November, 2009

Please consider clicking on the Buy From Amazon.com link to the right. If you do a lot of holiday shopping online like I do, this is a great way to help out a worthy charity at the same time. A percentage of your purchases will be donated to Isurvive (a message board for child abuse survivors). The checks are sent directly to Isurvive — I never have access to the money. Feel free to verify this arrangement with Lori Schmitt, Executive Director of Isurvive.

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My sister graduates from college on December 12. She was a ninth grade dropout, and she applied to college in her mid-thirties as a newly divorced single mother. She will be graduating with honors with a double-major. I am sooo proud of her, and I am thrilled to be there to watch her receive her degree at the commencement ceremonies.

Unfortunately, my joy over being part of this amazing accomplishment is being overshadowed by my complete freak-out over having to see my mother/abuser for the first time in six years. My sister invited both of us to the graduation (she still maintains a relationship with our mother/abuser), and my mother is coming. My mother and I have had no contact since I sent her the note telling her to “back the f@#$ off” in September.

I have done a fairly good job shoving aside my anxiety over seeing her again after six years apart (by my choice) until recently. Now that this “meeting” is less than two weeks away, I am a basket case. I have a constant headache. I am irritable. I feel triggered all the time and am staying “medicated” in one form or another 24/7 – Xanax, wine, food, etc. (not all at the same time). I am having trouble sleeping on and off (depending upon what I take at night – I am also doing a rotation of various sleep aids to get through the night). My two states of being are unbelievably anxious or deeply depressed. It really, really sucks.

I am going to try to keep blogging during this time because I think I will need it. Please be patient with me during this time because I am not sure how much I have to share during this time. I am so overwhelmed with emotions.

I can’t remember if I shared this already, but a friend will be accompanying me for the visit. I am paying all of her expenses (airfare, hotel, taxi, food, etc.). Her “job” is to be my “buffer” and make sure that I am never alone with my mother. She has a wacky and warped sense of humor, and she is “morbidly curious” about meeting my mother. She will do her best to keep me laughing by making all sorts of inappropriate comments and hysterical observations. She is looking forward to the trip. She finds family dysfunction to be quite comical, so she is the right person for this “job.”

I am staying so triggered. Even as I write this, it feels like I have bubbles in my head, and I just want to cry nonstop. I don’t worry about a hell after I die – this is hell.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I hope all of you have a Happy Thanksgiving! For those who are in pain, do the best you can to nurture yourself and remember that this time will pass. You are going to be okay.

I am going to be busy cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time without my mother-in-law’s help. (She passed away last December.) Also, my son is out of school until Monday, so I won’t have much time to blog for the next few days.

You will all be in my thoughts throughout the holiday because I am so thankful for all of you. I started this blog because I wanted to help others. I never dreamed how much wonderful support that I would receive from my readers. You are the best!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Yesterday was not a good day. I had to return a bunch of phone calls (which I hate doing), one of which was rescheduling my son’s appointment with his attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) specialist. She worked at a psychiatrist’s office and has a degree in pharmacy, so she was very knowledgeable in medications to help my son sleep and eat when he became a skinny insomniac thanks to his ADHD medication. We worked together for almost two years, and we had reached a place where all of his medications were working well for my son.

Just like that, she is out of our lives. Nobody even bothered to tell us that she left the practice. I have no idea if she retired, moved away, was fired, or moved to a different practice. She is just gone, and the office is giving me no answers. Now, I am in a position of having to start from scratch. I have to find another doctor, go through evaluations again, and find someone who will meet my son’s needs. I am so frustrated I could spit nails.

All of this triggered my issues with feeling abandoned during the holidays. I know that this woman did not technically “abandon” us, but it sure feels that way. This is another person who was a part of our lives for two years and is now just gone with no goodbye or other form of closure. It just plain stinks.

Of course, my son does not remotely care. These are all my own issues. If someone is going to leave me, it is always at this time of year. During the holidays is when friends announce that they are moving away, doctors drop me, etc. It’s no wonder I hate this time of year.

I even got some really great news today (that a grant I wrote won $500 for my son’s school), but I couldn’t feel joy because I was so overwhelmed with this news. I was so incredibly triggered. I doubled my Xanax dosage, drank some wine later in the day, binge ate, etc. I cried off and on all day. I still feel lousy.

Hub works with a lot of doctors, and he is going to see about getting us a good referral. At least he is taking a proactive step toward fixing this mess. Every direction I turned was a big fat disaster.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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At church yesterday, the pastor showed the following video (no religious triggers). I thought it was such a great message that I want to share it with all of you. Bottom line — No matter who you are or what your station is in life, you can make a difference.

I have tried several times unsuccessfully to embed the video, so please follow this link:

The Simple Truths of Service

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A reader emailed me asking me not end my comments with “Take care” or “Hang in there” because some of you are perceiving this as me meaning that I am finished with the discussion. I actually sometimes say those things as an added form of support. However, since some readers have misconstrued my intention, I will make an effort not to end with those words.

Please know that your comments are always welcome and that I would never want to silence anyone. I think I have only ended a discussion once (and might have even closed comments), and I was very direct about that because a topic had been beaten to death and was off-topic from healing from child abuse. Other than that one incident, my intention has never been to stop anyone from continuing a conversation.

I apologize to anyone who might have felt “silenced” by any of my comments. I hope that, if these struggles continue to be an issue, you will feel comfortable continuing the discussion. :0)

Also, please do not hesitate to email me with other similar concerns. Unless someone tells me, I won’t know. :0)

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On my blog entry entitled Stuffing the Memories Back Inside after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following question:

Faith, on the subject of repressing memories, how do you know that something is actually a memory, and not some weird dramatization your mind is making up? This is possibly triggering, and I even feel a little sick to recall it, but recently, I had another “memory”, a very short one, of my abuser trying to kiss me. My reaction in this memory, was different to my usual reaction in other memories I’ve had before. I would usually just let her, but in this memory, I jerked away, and I even physically jerked away from nothing as I was remembering it. This was just so strange to me, because it was very different from the way I remembered all those other times. I don’t want to sound like I’m in denial here (maybe I am), but I can’t help but think that maybe I made that one up. Maybe I was mixing a memory with something I read or saw, maybe how I wished I had reacted? How do you know if it’s an actual memory, or just something you’re imagining? ~ Janet

Not knowing what is real and what is not is a very frustrating part of healing from child abuse. I had to choose to believe myself. Nobody that I know who was not traumatized would have “flashes” or “memories” of events that never took place. I was able to verify some of my memories, which helped me to believe myself with those that I could not validate.

I tend to believe myself when I physically react to the memory, as Janet mentions in her comment. Like Janet, I will sometimes jerk away, feel the need to suck my thumb, or have some other sort of physical reaction to the memory. To me, my physical reaction is validating.

The other piece is whether the memory (or collection of memories) makes sense. Before recovering the memories of abuse, nothing in my life made sense. Through the lens of the childhood trauma, my entire life makes sense. The memories filled in the missing puzzle pieces that brought the full picture into focus.

One final thought is to ask why you would lie to yourself about something like this. Why would you make up a memory that brings you nothing but pain and shame?

To a certain extent, I had to take a leap of faith to trust myself and what my subconscious wanted me to know. I have not been sorry. As painful as my past is, I am much happier knowing it consciously and dealing with it.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Do you ever feel like nothing is ever going to change in your life, so what’s the point in even trying? Sometimes I get that way, especially after I have been sick for a while. I feel this physically, such as watching the child spill applesauce and the dogs track in mud on the floor that I just mopped. I think to myself, “Why did I even bother? Maybe we should just live on a dirt floor and be done with it.”

I feel that way sometimes when it comes to overcoming my eating disorder (binge eating). Before I got sick, I had exercised every day for nine days. I was eating healthier. My clothes were getting looser, and the pounds were dropping off. Since I have been sick, I cannot exercise (still don’t have my energy back) and have gained a few pounds back. So, I ask myself why I even bothered trying to change the size of my body when roadblocks always seem to get in my way.

I felt that way as I dropped off to sleep last night. I asked myself why I even bother putting so much energy into trying to change the course of my life when I just wind up right back where I started. What is the point of trying so hard when some invisible force continues to move me back to square one?

Then, it hit me that I have made many permanent changes in my life, and I am just being unrealistic in wanting to change them all at once. What helped was contrasting my life with my sister’s life. (I mean no disrespect to my sister. I just needed a visual to help me see how far I have come.)

If my sister and I had made no changes, our children would be abused themselves. Both of my parents were abused as children (my mother to a larger degree than my father). My mother continued the abuse, and my father failed to stop it, so that family tradition passed along to another generation. However, neither my son nor my nephews have any idea what it is like to experience child abuse, and I am so grateful for that. No matter what else my sister and I have or have not managed to change, that family legacy stopped with us, and we need to be proud of this.

There are areas that I have changed that my sister has not, and I need to recognize and applaud myself for those changes as well. For example, my parents were both social outcasts with no concept of how to interact with society. My father could turn on the charm to get something out of someone, but he didn’t have the first clue about what an emotionally intimate connection with another person was. My mother did not know how to interact with others without offering up her children as the main course. Clearly, my sister and I learned few positive social skills from either of my parents.

My sister and I grew up as social outcasts. I was the nerd, and she was the freak. Her children are also social outcasts. They are nice enough boys, but they don’t know how to interact with their peers and come across as “odd.” The oldest has been plagued by bullies for years now for this reason. Unfortunately for my nephews, it will be in their hands to figure out how to break free of this family tradition or pass it along to the next generation.

Contrast this with my son, who is Mr. Popularity at his school. Other children love him, and he makes friends very easily. He did not learn those skills from my hermit husband who has no friends and would rather hole himself up in a log cabin away from society. He learned those skills from me, the person who would not rest until she figured out how to make a connection with someone outside of her family. I frequently marvel over how a former social outcast like me could be raising such a “normal” child.

And, the thing is, my kid really isn’t “normal.” He has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which typically makes it difficult for children to make and maintain friendships. My kid’s social skills are so good that he is able to be popular (as in very well-liked) despite having ADHD.

So, I need to acknowledge that I have made changes. I hope that gives me the energy to keep trying.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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As I have shared before, I am working through a Beth Moore study on the patriarchs of Genesis. The stuff I read yesterday has got me thinking (which really is the point of a Bible study, right?). Beth talks about the “stronghold of deception” and how it is passed down from parent to child. She says:

Deception, passed down through example from parent to child, can be a frightfully contagious approach to life. If honesty is not held in high esteem and practiced in the home, children learn the destructive art of deception. Unless something dramatic breaks the cycle, it carries into adulthood and can invade any realm of life. ~ The Patriarchs pp. 114-115

I am not sure how I feel about that chastisement. On the one hand, in a perfect and safe world, being honest all the time sounds idyllic. However, my childhood was anything but idyllic, so deception is all I learned. I learned how to look someone in the eye and lie convincingly because, if anyone learned my secret, then my sister would die. Yes, in adulthood I realize that my abusers were just protecting themselves, but as a child, I believed this. When I looked the police officer in the eye and said that nobody was hurting us, I did it to save my sister’s life. I could not distinguish between the power to kill a dog and the power to kill a child.

So, as a parent, I don’t come down hard on my son for lying. (Also, he is very bad at it!) Because of my son’s special needs (attention-deficit hyperactivity – ADHD) and immaturity, I don’t know what is a normal part of childhood in “telling stories” and what is me passing along my “stronghold of deception.” I know my son did not leap over a 10 story building, so why would I punish him for telling me a story about doing it?

What are your thoughts on the “stronghold of deception.” I am not convinced that always being truthful is a good thing. How can my kid protect himself if he cannot deceive the bad guys and escape? Am I pouring too much of my own s@#$ onto my kid?? I don’t know.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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Does anyone else go into a depression after recovering from an illness? This is standard protocol for me, and I hate it. I can kind of understand how it happens, though.

As I shared yesterday, being sick as a kid meant that I was on my own. There was no nurturing to make me feel better. I was just that much more vulnerable.

Now, as an adult, the same dynamic happens. As Ruby mentioned in the comments, my hub also gets angry when I get sick. Unlike Ruby, though, I don’t have a positive spin for it. It just p@$$es me off and makes me MEAN. I really do get mean when I am sick because that is the only way to get my family to LEAVE ME THE H@#$ ALONE. I am not asking them to take care of me but, for g#$’s sake, can they not take care of THEMSELVES for a few days??

Anyhow, back to the post-illness depression… After my body has finished fighting the illness and I am on the mend, I find myself feeling deeply depressed. I think part of it is because I have just been forced to face the reality that there is no one in my family to take care of me. (I’ve gotta say that some of my friends were great, dropping off food and babysitting my kid so I could rest.)

Another part is that I have been isolated from the positive influences in my life. For an entire week, I was in quarantine and saw nobody except for hub and child, both of whom were unhelpful at best. I guess I got of view of my life minus friends, and it wasn’t pretty.

The other piece of it comes from the book Risking Intimacy by Nancy Groom. I can’t find my copy, so I am paraphrasing, but she says something along the lines of:

It is sad that some people never learn that they are loved for being precious, not for what they do.

When I am ill, I cannot do for others, and the phone stops ringing. That makes me question whether I am of any value to anyone other than in what I can do for them. It is quite a depressing thought.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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