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Archive for May, 2012

Hi, all.

Several new commenters have been including their full names and Facebook links. I strongly recommend against this and have been removing identifying information as I see it. I probably won’t be on the blog this weekend, so please be sure to protect your privacy.

The only identifying information that is safe to include is an email address, which only I can see. Even for that, I recommend opening a separate, private email account, which you can do for free through Google, Yahoo, or Hotmail. Post your first name only (I recommend an alias), and absolutely do not link your comment to your Facebook page. That will automatically insert your picture onto your comment. ~ Faith

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Not sure when I will blog next. Maybe next week…

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PhotobucketThe last few days have been rough. I don’t think it is all about Mother’s Day, though, although I am sure that contributed to it. The initial trigger that caused the spiral was my son being unappreciative. (Yes, I get that he is 11 and that 11-year-old’s aren’t always appreciative, but still…)

I can’t remember if I have already shared this, but hub is halfway through a two-month hiatus from work (long story that is his to share, not mine), so much of my life is “about” him right now. On top of this, my child has special needs, so life is always “about” him as well. In fact, I have taken him to three doctors in a week – one for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication management, one for asthma management, and one for poison ivy on his face.

I think part of what set off the downward spiral is that too much of my life is about the two people who drain the most energy without replenishing it, and I am burning out after five weeks of this (on hub’s end – with my son, it is 11 years of this).

I am not “blaming” either of them for being so needy. I am just stating that I have needs, too, and they have been shoved to the side so I can take care of them. I usually have time during the work week to meet my own needs while hub is at work and child is at school, but hub has been home 24/7 (I work from home) since the beginning of April, and I have had to pick the child up early three out of the last five school days, and all of this is interfering with me meeting me own needs.

When I go through a pity party, it is (ironically) rarely about my childhood. It is about the two areas of my life (being a wife and mother) that take the most effort with the fewest results. I have spent years trying to “cheer hub up,” but he is perpetually unhappy (not with me specifically, but with life in general). I have also spent years taking my child to doctors and educational experts to meet his needs for asthma, ADHD, and learning disabilities, including dyslexia, and there appears to be no end in sight with any of these issues.

I think I am just plain worn out and need a break, but I don’t see a break coming. Hub returns to work, quite literally, the day before my child gets out of school for the summer. I’ll have to figure out some way to nurture myself because I feel like I am going to lose my mind!

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I was doing completely OK until late Saturday morning. My son’s friend spent the night, and I picked up some breakfast for the boys at a local restaurant. As it turned out, the restaurant gave us the wrong side dish for my son, and he got angry with me. I don’t know what it was about that interaction, but I was suddenly SLAMMED with Mother’s Day grief.

I am trying to focus on the positive – that I only got triggered the day before Mother’s Day instead of weeks ahead of time. As a friend pointed out, I typically start wigging out sometime in April, and that didn’t happen in this year. In fact, I was in a great mood while driving out to pick up the food from the fast food restaurant. However, once I was slammed, I was slammed hard.

I spent half of Saturday and all day Sunday fighting off tears. That’s one of the challenges of Mother’s Day – because it is supposed to be celebrating me, I don’t really have the option of blowing off my family to go grieve. I did it in subtle ways, such as taking a Sunday afternoon nap (something I rarely do) so I could have some alone time. I spent the weekend feeling like I had a heavy pit in my stomach – the grief was so heavy.

I just woke up on Monday morning, so it’s too early to say how much residue I still have to deal with. At the moment, I am still feeling depressed with little energy. At least the “holiday” is over, so hopefully I just need to recover from the weekend.

I was able to be objective enough to recognize the progress in only being slammed for half a day before Mother’s Day instead of going through that pain for weeks. I was also objective enough to recognize that this is temporary. That being said, it’s no wonder I have battled my weight (eating to “stuff down” the pain) and questioned my sanity throughout my life. Having to live with the weight of that pain is nearly unbearable.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Although Mother’s Day is this weekend, I have been doing surprisingly well. I typically wig out at this time of year because of all of the abuse inflicted by my mother. I wrestle with whether to buy her a Mother’s Day card, and I typically get sick along with having panic attacks. I usually take a lot of Xanax to get through this time of year.

This year is finally different. I am not saying that I am 100% “over” the Mother’s Day thing, but I am much improved. I have taken no Xanax other than to help with insomnia while I was traveling last weekend. (I have trouble sleeping whenever I travel, doubly so when I have to share a room with anyone.) It has not even occurred to me to think about Mother’s Day with respect to my mother. No, I am not getting her a card, and it never even occurred to me to question whether I should. For the first time ever, my focus for Mother’s Day has been on myself – I have fun family plans for Sunday.

That being said, I know I am not 100% “over” Mother’s Day because I have been sick. My acid reflux has been bad enough over the last two weeks for me to visit my doctor – again – and go on a two-week sample of prescription-strength medication – again – which so far is not working. I have also scheduled an appointment with a GI later in the month because I am sooo ready to resolve this issue. I also had my annual illness, although this time it was as stomach virus that only lasted about 12 hours (thank goodness).

For those of you who are struggling with Mother’s Day this year, perhaps I can give you a small chuckle. Years ago, I posted on isurvive.org that I was struggling with finding an appropriate Mother’s Day card to send to my mother/abuser. At that point in my healing, I did not see the choice of not sending a card as an option. I was angry that all of the cards in the store were mushy and related ideas that I did not feel or want to convey.

Members at isurvive started creating their own custom Mother’s Day cards for me to visualize sending. While several were clever, my favorite was this one:

Happy Mother’s Day.
Thanks for the PTSD.
Couldn’t have gotten it without you.

~isurvive member (wish I could remember which one!)

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I believe it was in Geneen Roth’s book, Women Food and God, where I first learned that our bodies have a physical reaction to our emotions. I have spent most of my life staying dissociated from my body, so I have had to learn basic things that come naturally to most people, such as what hunger feels like. I truly could not tell the difference between physical hunger and the need to “stuff down” my emotions, which was part of the reason for the binge eating disorder.

I am making progress through baby steps in reconnecting with my body, but I am still very new to identifying what my body feels like physically when I experience different emotions. The only emotion I am very good at recognizing is shame. Being able to identity my body’s physical reaction to shame has been immensely helpful in eradicating shame from my spirit. I flat refuse to buy into shame.

For me, shame feels like I have a small fire burning on the topmost layer of my skin. It kind of feels like a sunburn, especially on my face and arms. Whenever I feel this bodily sensation, I know that I am struggling with shame, and I have learned how to process this emotion quickly. In the case of shame, I process it by “pouring it out” – I refuse to give any energy whatsoever to shame because I don’t deserve it.

If I feel the sunburn sensation, I tell myself that I am experiencing shame, and I refuse to fuel it. I love and accept myself exactly as I am, so I have no need for shame in my life. If I have done something wrong (guilt), I will take responsibility for it and make amends, but I will do so without buying into shame. I have done nothing to deserve experiencing that emotion.

After I tell myself these things, I do a visualization to remove the shame. I breathe in deeply, envisioning lots of positive energy and love. I will then breathe out slowly, pushing the shame out with the breath. I direct the shame out through my right side – I have no idea why. This visualization came to me one day and worked, so I haven’t questioned it. Whatever emotion I want to purge always leaves through my right side.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I work out at the local YMCA, which is a Judeo-Christian organization that posts different messages espousing religious values all over the premises. One of the messages that is posted everywhere is

God is first, others are second, and I am third.

This saying has always bothered me because I don’t think it is good advice for child abuse survivors. This message assumes that everyone is naturally selfish and thinks about his or her own needs before considering anyone else’s. So, if everyone followed this advice, then everyone would be thinking about other people’s needs first, and we would have a wonderful balance where everyone was interdependent and nobody was taking advantage of anyone else. Sounds great, right?

Here’s the thing – Many child abuse survivors always put themselves last. They are so filled with shame that they question whether they even have the right to exist at all. So, it hardly occurs to a shame-filled child abuse survivor to put her own needs ahead of anyone else’s. To someone with this mindset, that message is just a reminder that she exists on the very lowest rung of the social ladder and that everyone else’s needs matter more than hers.

Sometimes my needs do have to come first. As an example, when I am sick, I need to be able to get some rest. If I ignore my own need to rest my body, I am not going to be able to meet anyone else’s needs for very long.

Because I was such a people-pleaser for most of my life, I have had to retrain my husband and others who were in my life before therapy that my needs matter, too. Before therapy, I would continue to take care of other people while I was coughing up a lung. By the time I would attend to my own needs, my doctor would be aghast that I waited 22 days to see her when I had a severe case of bronchitis. Meanwhile, I would feel guilty for going to see a doctor at all because I didn’t deserve to “put myself first” by taking time off of work and my other responsibilities to focus on myself.

As with just about every other area of life, I believe that balance is the key. There are some times when I need to suck it up and push through my issues in order to take care of someone else. As an example, when my child is having an asthma flare up, my need for a day of rest has to take a backseat. However, my needs matter, too, and sometimes my needs have to take priority over the needs of others in my life. It’s OK (and necessary) for my needs to be attended to.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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