Archive for April, 2010

As I shared here, I am 1-1/2 weeks into a 6-1/2 week plan to transform my body. I promised to keep you posted on my progress, so here is my first update.

So far, things are going very well. I have lost 6 pounds, and I have been exercising every day. With the exception of one day (when I was short on time), I have been exercising a minimum of an hour a day – 45 minutes on the elliptical machine plus 15 minutes of weights. I have also been eating much smaller portions.

I can’t remember if I shared this before, but someone told me years ago that, when your body gets enough food, it sighs. I thought she was crazy, but when I slowed down and paid attention to my body, she was absolutely right! In fact, it will start with a little sigh and then gradually get deeper as my body is sated. The shocking part was how quickly the sighing happened – easily a quarter of the way through what used to be a typical meal for me.

If I listen for my body to sigh and stop eating once it does, I walk away from the table feeling just right, and I don’t feel hungry throughout the day. If I disregard it, I wind up overeating, feeling too full, and then getting hungry two hours later. Weird, huh?

I must say that I have impressed myself with my ability to stay on target because this has been a rough week emotionally. In addition to the nightmares, I was triggered by seeing a picture of Russian nesting dolls and receiving a letter from my mother/abuser.

I have also neglected to share that I am driving to my hometown this afternoon (where the abuse happened) to see my grandmother, who is in ill health and probably won’t be around much longer. (That probably accounts for at least some of the nightmares.) I am meeting my sister there. Other than my sister, who also lives several hours away by car, nobody in my hometown other than my grandmother knows that I am coming. I won’t be visiting with friends, and I definitely won’t be seeing my mother/abuser.

I typically go into an emotional nosedive for weeks before and after a visit to my hometown, so I am doing extremely well all things considered. I haven’t been back in two years because it was so hard on me emotionally last time. However, I would like for my son to see his great-grandmother at least once more before she passes away, so I am making this trip despite the emotional cost. Compared to prior years, I am doing quite well.

So, I would consider the first 1-1/2 weeks a success if things were going smoothly. The fact that I am doing so well with all of this emotional “drama” going on is nothing short of a miracle. Five more weeks to go!

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt


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I had nothing but intense nightmares last night, but even in my world, these were really, really, bad. I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and would have just watched TV to clear my head if my kid had not climbed in sometime during the night. I just woke up this morning, and I am shaking. I would love any theories on what my subconscious is trying to tell me so I don’t have to endure another night like that.

In the dream, my mother/abuser has been missing for months. The police have been searching for her, and I have been able to say honestly that I wouldn’t have a clue about her whereabouts since she and I are not in contact.

I receive an anonymous text telling me that “what remains of her body” has been found. I am suddenly in a meeting with a guy from the FBI as well as a group of other people, and he is filling me in. This whole time, her body has been decomposing in pieces on her own porch, but nobody noticed. After her last letter from me, she went out on her porch and killed herself piece by piece. She used some weird tool (like a cross between a pizza cutter and a box cutter) to cut up her body piece by piece and spread it all over her front porch and lawn.

I dreaded telling my sister the news. She walked in the room and was very young. The FBI agent began with condolences, so someone had already told her. Her (dream) boyfriend was there – a blonde high school jock who asked what happened. My sister looked at him, was young, and a very young alter’s voice came out saying, “My mom is dead.” He reached out to her, but I grabbed her and held her like a baby, and she was as light as a newborn baby in my arms. Her boyfriend said he can’t deal with this and left.

My sister was very upset, but my feelings were mixed. I was horrified by the state of her remains, but I was relieved that she was finally out of my life forever.

Then, someone gave me a newspaper with pictures, and that is what really shook me up. It had black and white photos of my mother’s remains. Her body was more liquid than solid, but there was enough definition in her face to be able to tell that it was her.

It took me a long time to get back to sleep, and then I had more intense dreams but none as terrible as that one. The last one centered around dirty laundry, and I get that metaphor.

Still shaking…

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Oh, the irony. We just spent yesterday talking about my mother/abuser (m/a), and then I got a letter in the mail from her in the afternoon. I was torn about whether to read it at all, so I decided to skim it. It did wig me out, but I am grateful that I read it because, as painful as it was, I finally saw the manipulation in it.

First of all, I have told her several times that she is not to write about reconciliation, and yet she did it again, just as she did in her last letter. Second, even though my sister told her that I would be out of town on the weekend that she is planning to visit relatives in a nearby city (over Mother’s Day weekend, no less), m/a asked about me meeting her along the Interstate to pick up an item from her, which leads to point #3.

Third, my sister told m/a that I would like to see a video of some fool thing that she has been doing. (Too long of a story to go into.) I said it to my sister because I would laugh my tail off at m/a looking incredibly stupid, but m/a took it to mean that this is something I really care about getting. M/a’s letter wants me to meet her along the interstate to pick up the DVD she had made for me. Of course, mailing a DVD is dirt cheap. This is a carrot.

And, finally, we have a lie that she is dating some guy, who she has specifically told my sister is “just a friend” and that she has no intention of dating. Why lie about it? My guess is that this is a manipulation as well. She has not dated since my father passed away back in the 1980’s, and maybe she is hoping that a dating story will pull me back in. It won’t.

I thought about putting the letter back in the envelope and writing “Return to Sender,” but I ripped it when I opened it, so she will know that I read it. I have decided that any further letters will get “Return to Sender,” and I will not open them. I never feel like I have the option of not reading a letter she sends, so this will be huge for me. As for Mother’s Day weekend – I will be out of the state, so it won’t be my problem. If she does choose to drop by, I guess hub will have to deal with her, which will be quite amusing.

There is truly not one ounce of me that feels grateful for this correspondence. I hyperventilated and got a bad headache. That is the little girl inside of me saying, “Enough!”

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Letter was for Me, Not Mother/Abuser, a reader asked me the following question:

I really hate to quote Dr Phil but sometimes he does make sense here goes…”What are YOU getting out of this “relationship” with your mom? There has to be a payoff for you or you just wouldn’t do it.” “People just don’t do things that don’t pay out for them in some way” I do not mean the above statement in a malicious or rude way just a thought provoking healing way. ~ EB

I think this is an excellent question, and it is one that I have given some thought. I used to watch Dr. Phil when he was on Oprah and the first couple of seasons with his own show. He used to ask people why they continued to do something that was harmful to them. They would answer, “I don’t know.” Dr. Phil would then say, “How many times have you stuck your hand in a blender?” The guest would laugh and say, “Never.” Dr. Phil would point out that we don’t do things that don’t “work for us” on some level, so you need to identify what your motivation is for choosing to engage in a destructive behavior.

My answer would be that what I get out of having some sort of relationship with my mother/abuser is fulfilling a duty. Nobody has ever told me that it is my duty to stick my hand in a blender, but numerous people have told me that it is my duty to have a relationship of some sorts with my mother. Religious people quote the Bible. A spiritual leader told me that spiritual healing surpasses any damage done in the physical realm. When I have numerous people in authoritative positions telling me that I have a duty to maintain a relationship with someone, I feel conflicted about what is right for me versus what I am being told my duty is.

I feel a duty imposed by outside influences to continue to have a relationship with my mother/abuser simply because she is my mother. I would be happiest if she would just drop dead and be out of my life forever. (Sorry, but that’s the truth.) However, in church and in society at large, there is a lot of “pressure” to do your “duty” of forgiving and reconciling, particularly when the transgressor is your mother. I have fought this influence for many years, and it was HUGE for me to set any boundaries at all.

I feel guilty just telling her to go to hell forever because I feel like I don’t have the right to do it, and it goes against my underlying belief of all of us being interconnected. A part of me feels a duty to help everyone, even her, heal, but that feeling of duty is in direct conflict with the wounded little girl inside. So, I stay conflicted, vacillating between reaching out and cutting out. Can anyone relate?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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No wonder I am so exhausted even after getting nine hours of sleep! If last night’s dreams are any indication of what I typically dream in a night, it is a wonder that I ever get any rest.

First, let me set the stage – We had a bad storm come through that knocked out our power right at my son’s bedtime. He was scared, so I took some Melatonin, climbed into bed, and tried to go to bed early so I could get up early to work. Of course, my son is back on his ADHD medication that gives him insomnia, so he was driving me nuts. He woke me up at least 10 times before I kicked him out of my room. Also, with no power, I could not generate any white noise, so I was on high alert for every sound in the room. I believe this is what caused this particular brand of nightmare – my extreme terror of being awakened in the middle of the night and hurt.

In the dream, we were living in the townhouse I used to live in when I was in graduate school. It was a repeat of what really happened – my son wouldn’t sleep, and he kept waking me up. I got angry and left to take a brief walk around the block to clear my head. The road I was walking kept getting narrower, and angry people kept telling me to turn back. A train arrived, and it was going to be photographed for some historic purpose. I wound up getting stuck in the photograph because, on this narrow road, there was nowhere else to go.

I then walked home later than I planned, passing my neighbor who was sitting on his townhouse steps drinking beer. The power was still out. He handed me two coupons for free beer and said, “My favorite kind of beer.” His voice was flat with no emotion.

I went to my bedroom and tried to sleep again. Hub came to the door and opened it, which set off my adrenaline again. (Every time I hear a noise, particularly a door, when I am sleeping, it feels like someone gave me a shot of adrenaline.) He kept debating whether to come in or not, which just kept sending more surges of adrenaline as I pretended to be asleep (just like I did when I was a little girl). He finally decided to come into my room and confront me about leaving our son in the townhouse while I went for a walk.

Something about him entering the room heightened my terror, and I started vomiting all over the floor. Hub ignored this and started berating me. I looked back at him and said something about him not even noticing that I am not doing well. He yelled louder, which set off another round of my vomiting. I then turned to him and screamed at him at the top of my lungs. I yelled, “You need to hear me! Why don’t you ever listen to me!” I stormed out of the room, stormed back, and yelled, “Maybe it’s time I use the ‘D’ word [divorce].” Hub got angry and yelled at me, saying it was never okay to say that. I yelled back, “I can say it if I want to. Maybe you will hear me now!”

I ran to my bathroom (the one that I have now) and kept vomiting. Hub came in after me holding a cord stretched out between his hands with his wedding band dangling on the middle of the cord. He tried to wrap it around my neck to choke me, saying that there would be no divorce. (Hub is not violent and would never do anything like this.) I fought back. That’s all I remember.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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+++ religious triggers +++

I am a big fan of Beth Moore, who is a well-known leader of Bible studies for women. In my last study, The Patriarchs, Beth Moore talked about strongholds in our lives and God’s desire to free us from them.

One of my biggest strongholds is my battle with the eating disorder of binge eating/compulsive overeating. This stronghold has plagued me since I was a “tween.” As I shared the other day, I feel ready to conquer this for good, and I have set a goal to transform my body into a healthier one. I have set a schedule with a deadline, giving myself 6-1/2 weeks to make this transformation. (Of course, I would like this to be a forever thing, but I cannot wrap my mind around “forever,” so I am only staying focused on the next six weeks.)

Sure enough, on Day 2 of my transformation time, things blew up in my life. Nothing sets me off faster than something going wrong with my kid, and his new ADHD medication is not working, which affected his ability to learn at his new, very expensive school. I spent an hour in frustrated tears, and this triggered the despair of my childhood – that nothing is ever going to change.

I am now into Day 4 of my transformation, and I am happy to report that I did not binge eat!!!!!! The stage was set for failure – I had to bake brownies and my favorite bean dip for Bible study this morning, and I could have easily binged on either of them, but I truly was not even tempted. When I was upset, I cried and called a friend. I took Xanax to pull me out of the panic attack, and I drink a little wine last night to try to calm the anxiety. At no point did to return to my former stronghold.

That got me thinking about something that Beth Moore said in her study: She said that, when God has freed you from a stronghold, he will allow you to be “triggered” (my choice of wording here) to test whether you really are freed from the stronghold. The reason for this is that, until you are tested, you will always be vulnerable to returning to that stronghold.

I was a bit annoyed that God/life only gave me until Day 2 to test me out. Seriously, couldn’t it wait a week!?!! However, I passed the test!! Now, I am not saying that I won’t be blogging later about struggling and failing, but these past few days have given me hope. The stage was set fully for my failure, but I didn’t return to the stronghold. I used new tools – exercise, expressing my emotions, calling a friend, Xanax, and wine – to get through it. I didn’t return. Hooray!

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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Very frustrated today

See my professional blog for what is going on today. I am sooo frustrated with my son’s ADHD medications. It is triggering the despair from my childhood, so I have not been a good place to blog today.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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