Archive for July, 2012

In early April, I became very triggered by a message over at isurvive (a message board for child abuse survivors) in which a member shared a story about someone with dissociative identity disorder (DID) who was manipulated and harmed when an abuser triggered a dormant programmed alter part. Also earlier this year (I think it was around the same time, but I do not remember which happened first), I received a letter from my mother/abuser (momster). My reaction to momster’s letter was different from my typical reaction to contact from her.

I can’t remember if I blogged about my reaction to the isurvive story or not, and I want to get this out now, so I am not going to take the time out to do the research. Short version – Someone wrote about a situation in which someone with DID was in a place that she thought was safe. An abuser took advantage of her guard being down and triggered dormant programming, causing the person with DID to enter into an abusive situation. Long story short, the re-abuse triggered this person so badly that she committed suicide. I was very shaken by reading this story.

I did not record the date that I received this first letter from momster, but it was around the same time. I can place the date of the isurvive triggering based upon something else that happened right before it, and that was around the first week of April. The letter from momster came in the March/April timeframe, so I do wonder if I received it before reading that post and if that was the cause of the triggering.

Regardless, my reaction to receiving a letter from momster was the same as always. I get triggered when I see her handwriting on the letter. I feel like I have to open and read it, but I also fear how I will react to it. While I logically know it is an option not to open the letter, in the moment of unexpected contact from her, I do not feel like I have a choice, so I have built in the safeguard of telling a friend first.

I used to tell my ex-friend about the letter and give it to her. She would tear it up in front of me and then take it home and burn it. She is no longer in my life, so when I received the letter, I asked a different friend to screen it for me. She read through it (about a one-page letter) and said there was nothing concerning in it to her – that it was positive and pleasant. So, I read the letter.

To be continued…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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This is a difficult series for me to write, but I need to do it to help me process what has been going on with me this year. I am not sure how long this is going to take me, but I need to get it out.

My mother/abuser (momster) triggered programming in me to get me to return to her (and presumably the cult). Thankfully, I have healed enough not to have followed the very strong internal pull, but the fact that I remained this vulnerable – after over nine years of healing and very limited contact with her – is sobering.

If you suffered from ritual abuse, be very, very careful about maintaining ANY contact – no matter how limited – with anyone who was involved in your abuse. Don’t assume that the person is too old, stupid, or crazy to be a threat to you. My recommendation (especially after my experience) is to cut off all contact completely, no matter how innocent the contact may seem. Don’t put yourself at risk. If I can be blindsided by dormant programming after all of the healing work that I have done, anyone who has been under the control of ritual abusers also is potentially vulnerable. Err on the side of being safe.

Before I continue, let me assure you that I managed to fight the programming off, but I have been in emotional turmoil for months. It has been months since I have gotten eight hours of sleep in a night (I have been living off 4-7 hours of sleep each night). I have struggled with severe insomnia, waking multiple times a night to a pounding heart despite taking various over-the-counter and prescription medications that historically have helped me sleep. I have been overwhelmed with anxiety, and many of my “tics” have returned – anxiety-driven behaviors that have not been a problem for a long time.

I am proud of myself for not giving in to the programming, but I am dealing with many other emotions – anger at my mother firing a loaded (emotional) gun at my head, surprise at my mother being smart enough to know how to trigger the programming, fear at the reality that I remain vulnerable to programming even after years of intensive healing work, confusion over how to discuss this situation with my sister (who continues a relationship with momster), and trepidation over writing this series because by doing so, I am strapping an emotional bomb to the programming and blowing it to pieces.

A traumatized part of myself (alter part) is scared to death that I am writing this series because the programming is to quietly return and not discuss this “desire” with anyone. By blogging about this experience, I am shouting “the secret” from the rooftops and calling my ritual abusers’ bluff. I am unwilling to obey, and this series is my way of telling my ritual abusers to f@#$ off. I hope to feel empowered through this process – right now, I just feel physically ill.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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In my blog entry yesterday, I talked about writing a mission statement for my life. This is something I have never considered doing before because I have spent my entire life adapting to my circumstances and using my intensity to break through barriers. On the rare occasions that someone asks me about my dreams, I say that I want to go to Hawaii (which I actually plan to do when my son leaves for his freshman year of college – that’s still a few years away, though). Beyond that, I have had no dreams.

I could not fall back to sleep after two hours of trying, so I starting thinking about what I want in my life. I could not answer the question. I can tell you many things that I do not want, but I draw a blank at dreaming about what I do want. Dreams are a foreign concept to me.

So, I came up with the following personal mission statement:

I want to produce something of value that is meaningful to and appreciated by others.

I came up with this at 4:00 a.m. after only four hours of sleep, so bear with me. LOL

I then asked myself if my life is currently leading me in this direction. The answer was a resounding NO. Perhaps that explains the level of unrest I have been experiencing for pretty much all of 2012.

Here was the hard part – What could I do differently that would meet this mission statement? I immediately went to the book that I want to write “someday” about healing from child abuse. My vision for this book is similar to the format of this blog – a book where people could look up applicable topics rather than have to read through the whole thing in narrative form. Just like with this blog, the book would include “taboo” topics that are not currently addressed in any healing books that I have found on the shelves.

Of course, my first reaction was that I don’t have time to write the book. I have been waiting for my life to have fewer responsibilities so I could focus on writing. I am now starting to think that I have this backward. If my personal mission is to produce something of value that is meaningful to and appreciated by others, then why am I not doing it?

Don’t get me wrong – this blog is also something of value I produce that meets my personal mission statement. However, this blog is also the first thing to get pushed aside when I am weighted down by responsibilities. I have a long list of responsibilities that come first, but my passion for the blog drives me to squeeze out 10 minutes here and there to write it.

Perhaps I have everything backward. Perhaps the part of my life that fulfills me needs to come first rather than last. I am not saying that I will just walk away from my job and family and go write, but perhaps there is a way for me to fulfill my own needs instead of always ignoring them to take care of everyone else.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Most companies have a vision and/or mission statement that guides the direction of the company. As a detailed-oriented person, I used to think a mission statement was a bunch of hooey. I would read my company’s mission statement posted on the wall and think, “Thanks for that. I had planned to do a $#%&ty job today, but now that I read the mission statement, I’ll do a good job instead.” (Yes, I am a sarcastic person by nature.)

However, as I have developed the other side of my brain so that I am better able to see a bigger picture, I have grown to appreciate the value of a vision or mission statement for an organization. Whenever an organization has a big decision to make, it helps to ask which direction will lead the company in the direction it wants to go, and that direction is defined in its mission statement.

I have been struggling with insomnia for weeks (am writing this blog entry in the wee hours of the morning after only four hours of sleep), and I think it is because I am trying so hard to grasp a concept that is just out of my reach. I have glimpses and pieces of what I am trying to see, but I am unable to see the big picture yet. The following concepts tie into what I am reaching for: letting go of control, pouring energy into dead ends, managing my time, surviving versus living, facing reality, awakening to my life, finding fulfillment, and having a purpose.

In Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged, there is a passage involving critical thinking and challenging assumptions, and I feel like I am learning along with one of the main characters. The conversation was interrupted by an emergency, so I didn’t get any farther along than the character did. However, the line of questioning got me thinking about my own life, especially what I want out of my life.

What do I want? That is such a foreign question to me because most of my life has been about adapting, not directing. I haven’t been steering the ship for open waters – I have been navigating around the harbor mines.

As I tried for two hours to fall back to sleep, I asked myself what I want out of my life, which I could not answer. So, I decided to come up with a mission statement. This is what I came up with at 4:00 a.m.:

I want to produce something of value that is meaningful to and appreciated by others.

I am not sure if that is where my mission statement will stay, but it’s a start. Tomorrow, I will talk about applying that mission statement to my life as it is now.

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Hi, all.

Thankfully, I wrote ahead this week, and you are going to chuckle when you see the Thu & Fri topic after reading this message. Please bear with me in reading and responding to comments for the next couple of weeks.

Two weeks ago, a horse stepped on my 11-year-old child’s foot. No fracture was apparent in the X-ray, but his foot was very swollen, and he has been in an equalizer boot ever since. (This is a kid with ADHD who cannot burn his energy off.)

My family traveled last week with the poor kid limping around in his boot. At his doctor’s appointment yesterday, we learned that his foot is, in fact, broken but nondisplaced, which means it is healing nicely but will take at least two more weeks to heal. The doctor does not believe there will be any long-term damage — we just have to get through two more weeks of Mr. Hyperactivity being unable to burn off his energy. (He is allowed to swim, so we might have to hit the pool a lot.)

~ Faith

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This week, I am discussing my reaction to the following quote from Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged:

Any refusal to recognize reality, for any reason whatever, has disastrous consequences. Atlas Shrugged, p. 418

The “disastrous consequences” for me often seem to be insomnia, frustration, unrest, anxiety, anger, and depression. Because I believe the distorted reality, I think that if I just put more energy into this path, I will push through the barriers and reach a place where everything is OK. The problem is that X is never going to lead to Y if X is actually Z. I am awakening to the realization that in just about every area of my life, I have bought into lie upon lie, which is why I continue to stay so frustrated in so many areas of my life.

The areas of my life that do not frustrate me are those that I have already worked through, the biggest being my child abuse history. I am not saying that I am “over” healing – that day will never come – but I know how to process each layer of healing as it arises. This process does not frustrate me. It wears me out sometimes, but I know that all of my hard work is leading me to a better place, so I do not typically get frustrated by it.

I am also no longer frustrated in my friendships. For many years, I struggled with being a friend to people who only saw me as an acquaintance. I would pour more and more energy into the friendship without receiving much back, which frustrated the h#$% out of me. As I have grown emotionally healthier, I have drawn healthier people to fill the friendship role. I am also better about observing my friends’ behavior and building my expectations based on their actions rather than their words.

These were two big areas of my life that used to frustrate the h#$% out of me but do not any longer, and I got from Point A to B by going through the painful work of removing my filters and facing reality. It was very hard in both situations, but the payoff was HUGE. Now I need to work through this process in other areas of my life, which is daunting.

I only know how to commit fully, whether it is to a person, a job, or a hobby. I am either “in” or “out.” I do nothing “half @$$.” (That is probably an aftereffect of the child abuse as well.) Either I care or I don’t, and if I care, I care enough to give it my best effort.

As I open my eyes to reality, I am going to have to figure out how not to be so “all or nothing.” The reality is that most people do not seem to be like me in this regard, and there is a place for putting in some effort (as with a relationship with an acquaintance versus a friend) so that my effort matches the other person (personal relationships) or entity (professional relationships).

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Yesterday, I shared a quote from Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged, that ended with this sentence:

Any refusal to recognize reality, for any reason whatever, has disastrous consequences. Atlas Shrugged, p. 418

I think this statement is true, and I am in the process of exploring in just how many ways I have lied to myself to avoid facing reality in my life. I used to believe this was limited to the child abuse, which was understandable – As a child, my abusers distorted reality to meet their purposes, and I had not yet developed the reason to be able to fight back other than believing deep down inside that their actions were wrong and that there had to be another way of life than being an abuser or victim.

My challenge today is awakening to the reality that I have refused to recognize reality in so many areas of my life, even in adulthood and even after working for years to heal from the child abuse. My guess is that this need to self-delude is a widespread issue that is not limited to abused children. (I think it helps explain the dynamics of many dysfunctional families.)

Society is responsible for many of these delusions (which is one of the points in Atlas Shrugged). As an example, growing up in a rural area of the South in the United States, I was told repeatedly that being a stay-at-home mom was the “only way” and that it would fulfill me as a woman. It did not. Don’t get me wrong – I love my child and value our relationship. However, being his mother is only one aspect of who I am, and the first three years of his life were very difficult because I thought there was something “wrong” with me. Being a stay-at-home mom whose sole role in life was to take care of a child and do housework was not a good fit for me, but I kept beating myself up for being a “bad person” for not finding fulfillment in this role. I kept thinking that if I tried harder, put forth more effort, etc., I would reach that place of fulfillment, but it never came.

When my son was three years old, I placed him in a preschool program and started working part-time as a writer during preschool hours over the objections of some family members who believed that being a stay-at-home mom should be my only job. This led to me being a paid to blog on the topic of adoption and then to starting this personal blog. My life is much more fulfilling by meeting my own needs as well as the needs of my family. Once I faced the reality that, despite what anyone told me, being a full-time wife and mother as my sole role was not meeting my needs, I was able to make changes in my life that led to more fulfillment. As long as I fought the reality that this arrangement was not working for me, I was frustrated and pouring effort into continuing a course of action that was not a good fit for me.

More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I am continuing to work my way through the almost 1,200-page book, Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand and am really enjoying it. I came across another quote that I am mulling over and wanted to talk about with my readers:

That woman and all those like her keep evading the thoughts which they know to be good. You keep pushing out of your mind the thoughts which you believe to be evil. They do it, because they want to avoid effort. You do it, because you won’t permit yourself to consider anything that would spare you. They indulge their emotions at any cost. You sacrifice your emotions as the first cost of any problem. They are willing to bear nothing. You are willing to bear anything. They keep evading responsibility. You keep assuming it. But don’t you see that the essential error is the same? Any refusal to recognize reality, for any reason whatever, has disastrous consequences. ~ Atlas Shrugged, pp. 417-418, emphasis mine

I am finding this idea to be true in my own life, and I suspect this is true for many people who are reading this.

I have talked about this concept as applied to child abuse numerous times. To survive the abuse, abused children lie to themselves about reality so they will not lose hope. They tell themselves that the abuse is their fault so they can avoid the reality of having no power to make it stop. If the abuse is “my fault,” then I have the illusion of control over the abuse – if I change my behavior (stop being “so bad”), then I have the power to stop the abuse. The alternative is to accept the reality that the child has absolutely no power to stop the abuse, which as Judith Herman points out in her book Trauma and Recovery, would result in the one emotion abused children cannot afford to feel – utter despair.

Sadly, the refusal to recognize reality runs much deeper than in childhood. If that is where the self-delusions stopped, we might be able to process our child abuse in adulthood and then be done. That has not been my experience. I feel like I lived most of my childhood and the first 15+ years of adulthood “asleep.” Since beginning the healing process, I keep awakening to more lies that I need to unravel. I thought healing would only be about dismantling my childhood lies (it was my fault, I deserve to feel shame, etc.), but so much of my life – in just about every aspect – is filled with lies that help me avoid reality, which has had “disastrous consequences” because I do X, expecting Y, and Z keeps happening. This brings me back over and over again to challenging my premises.

More tomorrow…

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PhotobucketThe biggest revelation to me in mulling over yesterday’s topic was that I have the ability to be emotionally healthy enough for one person and too emotionally unhealthy for another person regardless of the level of emotional health of the other person. The reason for this is that each of us has strengths and weaknesses. We each have areas in which we interact with others from a healthy place and other areas in which we are far from healthy. That doesn’t characterize any of us as “fully healthy” or “fully unhealthy.” It’s a matter of which part of ourselves we choose to use as a foundation in our relationship with another person.

As an example, before I ever recovered my first flashback (which means I was very emotionally unhealthy in most areas of my life), I was emotionally healthy in my professional life. It hit several bumps in figuring out how to be successful in the business world, but in the years before I left my profession to be a stay-at-home and then started having flashbacks, I was emotionally healthy at work.

I “got” what was expected of me and what to expect from fellow coworkers, and my relationships with my coworkers were healthy ones. I was capable of this despite being very emotionally unhealthy in most other areas of my life. People with professional relationships with me during this time would probably characterize me as “emotionally healthy” based on this one aspect of my personality, but I was an emotionally unhealthy train wreck in just about every other area of my life.

The converse is true today. When I look back where I was nine years and compare it to today, I barely seem like the same person. I have changed in so many (mostly healthy) ways in so many areas of my life. Nevertheless, as you can tell by my blog entries over the past couple of weeks, I am far from having it all figured out. If I were to build a relationship with someone based on those aspects of myself, I suspect that relationship would be emotionally unhealthy for both of us.

This does not make either me or the other person “emotionally unhealthy” as a whole, but that area of my life would not be a healthy foundation for me upon which to build an emotional connection with another person. Also, just because the other person was willing to make this less healthy part of me the foundation of the friendship really isn’t a reflection of that person’s overall level of emotional health any more than it is a reflection of mine.

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I am traveling this week, so I have limited time to do the work I usually do to find and quote reader comments. A reader posted recently that s/he has concerns about labeling other people as “healthy” or “unhealthy.” I have thought about that comment a lot and have come to agree – that the relevant issue is not whether another person is “healthy” but, instead, whether a relationship with that person is healthy for me.

As an example, I have written several times about my long-term friendship that ended last year. We became friends before I started my healing process, and I was very emotionally unhealthy. Since then, I have grown and healed at a mindboggling rate in many areas of my life but continue to struggle with being emotionally unhealthy in some areas.

This friend also grew during the same period but not at the same pace. I can point to several areas of her life where anyone would view positive healing progress from where she was then to where she is now. So, when I last talked with her a year ago, she was a healthier version of herself than she was eight or nine years ago.

This friendship was actually healthy for me during a time that she was not as healthy because she was so much healthier than I was in the areas I needed growth. It was more of a comparative thing. No, she wasn’t 100% emotionally healthy (nor is anyone), but she was leaps and bounds healthier than I was in the areas I needed, and my friendship with her greatly helped me along my healing journey for years, and did mine for her.

At the time our friendship ended, it was no longer healthy for me because I needed the focus to change from our mutual pain to other commonalities, but she was unwilling and/or unable to make this transition. If she had been willing to change our time together from talking about our pain and misery to other commonalities, such as our love of books, teaching, or parenting special needs children, I think we could still be friends today in a way that is healthy for both of us. However, for whatever reason, we could not/did not make that transition, and the friendship ended.

More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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