Archive for January, 2012

Running a fever

I am running a fever today. I have a doctor’s appointment in the morning.

~ Faith

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Taking a sick day

Hi, all.

I have been sick since Wednesday and have been living in my bed since Thursday. It’s just a head cold, but it’s a doozy. My kid brought it home, and hub now has it, too. :0(

I don’t have the energy to blog yet, so I am taking a sick day. Don’t worry — if I don’t improve soon, I’ll go see my doctor.  I am susceptible to sinus infections, and I fear that I am moving into one now. If I don’t blog for a few days, that’s why. ~ Faith

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Yesterday, I shared how I overcame my fear of flying. That experience ran so much deeper than making plane trips less stressful – it actually helped me conquer my fear of death.

So much of the trauma in my childhood centered around the fear of death. I was forced to kill a kitten. I saw my dog killed. My abusers frequently threatened to kill my sister and even made me believe they had done so on one occasion. I was almost killed (to punish my sister) and resuscitated. The fear of death was my abusers’ trump card. As long as I feared death, they had control over my actions in their presence.

When I lost my fear of flying through that meditation, I also lost my fear of death. For the first time, I knew at a heart level that shedding the body in this lifetime does not mean that I (or anyone else) ceases to exist, which freed me from fearing death. By letting go of the fear of death, I found a way to embrace life. I didn’t have to fear my life’s end – I could, instead, enjoy my life!

Those of you with a Christian faith might have difficulty embracing a belief in reincarnation (I definitely did!), but I don’t believe that G*d would use a false theology to perform such a miracle in my life. I think I needed a miracle of this magnitude for me to stop resisting the reality of reincarnation.

** religious triggers **

The following Bible verse helped me understand my newfound freedom from the fear of death:

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? ~ I Cor. 15:55

Losing my fear of death and embracing reincarnation freed up many things for me. I no longer see suicide as “the murder of yourself” – I see it as a soul’s way of escaping a carnation that is perhaps too difficult for that soul’s level. I still encourage people to push through their suicidal urges, but I also don’t view suicide as a horrible travesty like many people do. I see life or death in this carnation as a choice, which is freeing for me.

Embracing reincarnation has enable me to let go of my bitterness toward my abusers. I believe that hell is not a place of fire and brimstone but, instead, having to experience the way you made other people feel in your last carnation. I believe that my abusers who have passed away have had to experience the “hell” of what they put me through, and that is a far more painful experience than fire and brimstone. The thought of them having to experience what they did to me has enabled me to let go of the need for vengeance in this lifetime – justice will prevail after they finish this incarnation.

** religious triggers **

Finally, embracing reincarnation has answered many questions I had about my faith, such as why a loving G*d would tell the Israelites to slaughter men, women, and children in a society. With only one lifetime, He is condemning those children to hell. With reincarnation, he is releasing those souls from institutionalized repression. I always had trouble with the pass/fail nature of heaven and hell, especially when different people have different struggles to overcome in this lifetime. Finally, I always had trouble understanding how an evil person who asked for forgiveness in his last breath would be ready to spend eternity with God.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. This isn’t a blog on theology, but this happens to be one of my favorite topics, and I know few people in my offline life who will engage in this topic with me.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled Healing Metaphor: Riding on an Airplane, a reader posted the following comment:

With all deference to your metaphor (it was wonderful, btw!), as someone with a crippling phobia of flying, I am asking you to please do a blog post soon on how you overcame this fear. ~ Karen

I am not saying this will work for anyone else, but this completely cured me of my fear of flying…

A few years ago, I was spending a lot of time in yoga and meditation as I explored what it feels like to stay present. I encountered different people who believed in past lives and reincarnation, which I thought was a bunch of bunk for two reasons: 1. I had been raised Protestant and was taught that this life is my only shot; and 2. As someone who was struggling with suicidal urges as I healed from child abuse, I didn’t even want to complete THIS life much less come back for more!

I was going to be flying soon and was COMPLETELY FREAKING OUT about it. I decided I had enough with my fear of flying and just wanted to understand why – Was I abused on an airplane? Was I dropped as a baby? Was an airplane a metaphor for being out of control of where I was going? (The last one was the explanation I was leaning toward.) I prayed that G*d would show me why so I could work on healing it, and this is what happened…

I began my meditation with the intention of dismantling my reason for being afraid to fly and regressed into flashes of memories from a past life (what I suspect was my last life). I was in a man’s body and saying goodbye to the woman I loved as I boarded the plane. The plane was over water (I was always more fearful of flying over water) when it began to shake and started going down. Other people were screaming, but I knew there was nothing I could do. I saw her face as the land came rapidly toward the window.

Then, I was floating away from the wreckage, and I was completely OK. I was slowly returning to wherever souls come from – floating upward as I looked at the wreckage in a detached way. I was calm and peaceful. The best way I can describe the feeling is knowing at a heart level that I am OK.

I was a bit freaked out by this meditation because it forced me to question everything I had ever been taught about my faith. I wasn’t sure if I could believe it. I figured that my upcoming plane trip would answer some questions, and I was right. The next time I flew, which included flying over water, I was 100% calm and OK. Just like that – in an instant – a lifetime phobia of flying was simply GONE.

Even more important than losing the phobia of flying was losing the fear of death. More on that topic tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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PhotobucketI recently rode on an airplane when I took my kid to visit Hogsmeade (Harry Potter’s city) in Orlando, FL. I thoroughly enjoyed the flight.

The reason this is significant is because I used to have a phobia of flying – I mean a really serious fear of flying. I would obsess over any plane crash in the news. I would watch specials explaining why planes go down and what to do if you are in a plane crash. I would wear jeans and shoes that tie so I would be protected from fire, and I would count the number of seat backs between myself and the nearest exits so I could locate them even in heavy smoke.

The list goes on … I would pray and pray and pray in my head from the time I walked into the plane until it landed. I would jump at every sound, such as when the wheels were pulled up or rolled back down. I was a complete basket case in turbulence, certain that I was about to die.

How I moved past the phobia is another story for another time, but I am now completely free of this phobia. A couple of years ago, I endured very heavy turbulence as the plane landed during a heavy storm after circling for hours because the airport had been closed for severe weather. I didn’t break a sweat. At no point did I worry about what might happen.

Here’s the healing metaphor – Every plane I have ever ridden in has gotten me from Point A to Point B. Most flights were uneventful, and some had quite a bit of turbulence. Regardless, I arrived at my destination all in one piece.

Outwardly, nothing has changed. I still board a plane, leave Point A, and arrive at Point B. The difference is what is going on in the inside. I have gotten from Point A to Point B feeling like a crazy person, and I have made the trip completely relaxed. My reaction to the flight did not change the outcome.

I am trying to apply this metaphor to my reaction to healing from child abuse. The healing process is going to get me from Point A to Point B. I can go there kicking and screaming, or I can sit back and let the healing process do its thing with no interference from me, but I am going to get there either way. It’s up to me whether the “trip” is miserable or uneventful.

Some parts are out of my control, such as the “turbulence” I experienced in dealing with the heavy memories I processed during the holidays. However, just as in a plane, choosing to ride out the “turbulence” without adding my own freak out to the mix made the “flight” less unpleasant.

The bottom line is that healing, like flying, is about trust. I used to have trouble trusting that a plane would take me to my destination. Once I chose to accept that I could trust the airplane to get me there, I became able to let go of the need to be in control and trust that the pilot would get me there.

The healing process is the same way. I am learning to trust that when I experience heavy emotions, I don’t need to react. Instead, I need to trust that the healing process is taking me where I need to go, and I’ll ride out whatever turbulence comes with the trip.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I recently encountered a saying that struck a chord with me:

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain. ~ Author Unknown

If I waited for the storm to pass, I would never dance. I think this is true for just about anyone with a history of abuse or not. Really – Have you ever met the one person on the planet who isn’t encountering some difficulty in the present moment? I haven’t. Even when people are in a “good” place in their lives, struggles abound. Of course, the level of struggle varies, but it is still a struggle.

If I waited for the skies to be 100% sunny before I danced, I would never dance. Life is filled with storms, and how I react to and in those storms says a lot about the person I am becoming.

When I entered into therapy, I said that my goal was to “get over” the abuse and “be normal.” My therapist said these were unrealistic goals but that I would experience a higher quality of life through healing. I didn’t get it at the time, but now I see what he meant.

I am always going to have a history of child abuse. I cannot wave a magic wand and make that history disappear. However, I don’t need the storm clouds of my history to part before I can dance. I can enjoy my life – right here, right now – no matter what I am facing.

In fairness, in the early years of healing, I wouldn’t say I experienced a lot of “enjoyment.” I was too busy dealing with horrifying memories and learning how to process my emotions. However, I did experience reprieves, even in the early months, in which I felt alive – really alive for the first time. Those moments were fleeting at first, but they grew longer over time.

I don’t think I will ever experience a time where everything in my life is just the way I want it to be. However, that doesn’t mean that I cannot enjoy my life. Sometimes I will experience joy after moving a mountain. At other times, I will experience joy simply from being alive. My circumstances don’t have to dictate the quality of my life.

My sister would likely agree that joy is not defined by our circumstances. In her travels to Belize, she met some of the most joyous people in some of the most impoverished circumstances. She traveled as a scientist, not a tourist, and she met many of the locals who feel rich if they own a pair of shoes or a bicycle. I know many people who have outwardly achieved the American Dream who are miserable.

I have always liked the saying, “Make lemonade out of life’s lemons,” and “After the rain, the rainbow.” I am going to add this one to my list as well.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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As I shared here and here, I mutually ended a nine-year dysfunctional friendship in August of 2011. I wrote about missing the friend but not the friendship here. Grieving that loss has gotten easier. There are still aspects I miss, but it gets easier every day.

Over the weekend, I pinpointed what I miss the most. That friend and I would spend hours together every Saturday at her house sitting quietly and talking. There was no TV or radio blaring in the background, and our children would play in another room. Even if they got loud, the walls were thick enough that I was insulated from having to hear it.

I recognized this weekend that in losing that friendship, I have lost the sanctuary of time set aside every week for a quiet conversation with a friend. Most of my friends have boys (the ex-friend has a daughter) who are as rough and tumble as my own son is, so when we visit, there is typically a cacophony of noise in the background. I no longer have a set amount of time each week for quiet conversation where a friend and I are not DOing anything but, instead, just enjoying BEing together.

I don’t need to bring that friend back into my life to have this, but I do need to figure out a way to build quiet social time back into my life. I get this somewhat when I meet a girlfriend for lunch, but there is still the background noise and hustle and bustle of being out in public. I also don’t have a set time that I see a particular friend week after week other than my son’s playground, which falls under the “cacophony of noise” umbrella.

My New Year’s Resolution is to let go. I want to let go of having to “do” all of the time. This is a difficult one for me, especially being such a workaholic by nature, being married to a workaholic, and living in a country where workaholism is revered. Setting aside time to “be” is counter-culture in the United States, but it is something I desperately need.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Yesterday, I began exploring the question of how to measure healing from child abuse. I focused on how my sister and I endured similar abuses but reacted very differently. Most people (from an outwardly American measure) would call me the “successful” one because I have had more stability in my life (financial, marital, etc.). However, my stability came at the cost of losing connection with the core of who I am. I lived most of my life pretending (and believing) I was someone I was not. I lived most of my life playing a role and shoving down my core beneath a bunch of food (through a binge eating disorder).

Contrast this with my sister, whose life was less stable until about 10 years ago. (Both of us started our healing processes about the same time.) Ten years ago, her marriage fell apart, she became a single mother of two young children, and she struggled financially. Most people in our lives thought her life was falling apart, but she will tell you that was the moment she took her life back. While she had always been connected with who she was, she spent many years numbing herself to her truths. The “chaos” in her life was actually what she needed to go through to take back her life – to say, “I accept myself the way I am, and I am not going to live my life in a way that anyone else imposes upon me any longer.”

I have no question she was in a much more emotionally healthy place than I was that year, despite the fact that her refrigerator was empty while mine was full. There is more to emotional healthiness than your bank account, and financial stability can come at the cost of yourself.

Many people seem to measure success from the outside. My “outside” really has not changed that much from before to after therapy and healing work. I am still married, still have food in the fridge, still have a job, etc. My external story does not reflect the healing work that has taken place inside of me.

For me, my hard work of healing is reflected in how I feel living in my own skin. Ten years ago, if someone posted a comment that disagreed with me on something meaningless, it would shake how I felt about myself. I would feel shame because I said something “wrong.” I would stew about it for hours – “Michael thinks I was wrong about X. I am a stupid and bad person.” I would binge eat to stuff down those feelings. I would cry because I was such a loathsome person, and I would anxiously check my blog until Michael posted again and didn’t seem mad at me. If we wasn’t mad at me, maybe I was OK and dodged a bullet – he didn’t yet see what a repulsive person I am. Side note to Michael ~ Thanks for being a good sport about me picking on you for my example. :0)

I didn’t write a blog 10 years ago, and you can see why! However, I went through this dynamic on message boards for adoptive mothers.

Contrast that with today. Michael and A x, who are two of my most active readers, posted alternative points of view on that blog entry. I did not feel shame, cry, or worry that they would never read my blog again. I read what they had to say and considered their points of view. I thought about to what degree they “heard” something different than I am intended to say and clarified accordingly. I thought about areas in which they heard me just fine and simply had a different opinion. I considered their points of view and tried to see my words through their eyes. From there, I thought about where I stand after scrutinizing my own views.

As typically happens, their thoughts spawned another blog topic. :0) What does healing mean to me? Part of what healing means to me is that my thoughts and other people’s thoughts no longer change who I think I am or how I feel about myself. That’s a HUGE change for me!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled Why Do Some Child Abuse Survivors Fare Better than Others?, a reader posted the following comment:

This does lead potentially to more interesting questions such as how do each of us measure our healing. I think for me freedom and joy would be key, as they were most stolen. ~ A x

I think that is a great question worth exploring together!

In the blog entry that spawned the comment, I was exploring (with no real answer) why some child abuse survivors fare better than others when they have endured similar trauma. As an example, my sister and I endured most of the same traumas. From the outside, I have “fared better” in several ways if you compare us from an external perspective (from an American point of view – I know that different cultures have different external measures). However, she definitely fared better than me in many important internal ways.

For example, I split into DID and lived most of my life from the perspective of a very innocent host personality. I disconnected so completely from many parts of myself – the core of who I am – because I could not accept the truth of having been raped by men. While I dissociated other parts, that particular piece of the trauma was so horrific to me that I rejected myself to avoid dealing with it.

Contrast this with my sister – She has always remembered everything but compartmentalized the memories so she could access them at will without having them ever-present as she went about her life. Externally, her life has been harder in several ways that I won’t go into here. Short version – her life had less external stability. That being said, she never rejected who she was as I did which kept her truer to herself than I ever was.

This very connectedness with her history directly led to many of the issues that caused chaos in her life. If you define “success” by stability, I was the more successful one. However, if you define “success” as staying connected to who you are (which, in my opinion, is a key to healing), she was much more “successful” than I was despite her outward chaos. So much of the healing process for me has involved dismantling the lies I built my identity around and discovering myself. My sister never needed to do any other this – she always knew who she was, but that connectedness led her through years of chaos. We have both suffered and struggled to move toward emotional health, but we have had to slay different demons.

More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Yesterday, I talked about healing from abuse you don’t remember due to being very young when it happened here. Today, I will address healing abuse you don’t remember due to having been drugged when it happened.

I, myself, was drugged as part of my abuse. I know this through connecting the dots of my flashbacks, not from recovering an actual memory of ingesting a drug. In 2004, I was diagnosed with allergies and started receiving weekly allergy shots. Each time I received a shot, I experienced a strong headache that would not go away no matter how little was injected into my body. My allergy doctor referred me to a local headache specialist who could find nothing wrong with me.

I started paying attention to my reaction to the shots and realized that getting a shot was triggering me. It didn’t matter what substance was entering my body. It was the shot itself that was causing the problem. I employed the methods I use to calm myself down when triggered, and … voilà … I was able to manage the headaches.

I have some triggers for which I have not recovered any memories, and I suspect the reason is that I was drugged when I experienced the trauma. One example would be my very strong aversion to splinters. If I see a splinter in myself or another person, I get extremely lightheaded and have to do deep breathing and get away from the splinter to calm myself down so I don’t faint. I don’t have this reaction to anything else I can think of – not to blood, shots, or other more common triggers.

At this point, I don’t feel the need to go searching for the cause of the trigger. If I need to remember in order to heal, I trust that I will. If the cause happened while drugged, I might never recover the memory, and that is OK, too. It is enough for me to recognize that splinters are a trigger for me and to give myself permission to have a friend or doctor deal with my child’s splinters since I cannot.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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