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Archive for September, 2012

Hi, all.

As I have shared before, I am working full-time hours for three more weeks. This week, my kid is out of school half the week, and we will be traveling on top of me squeezing in 40 hours of work, so I have no time to blog. I’ll try to get back to it next week. I should have more time after 10/15. :0)

~ Faith

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On my blog entry entitled, Talking about Child Abuse with Religious People, a reader posted the following comment:

So, the premise of this conversation here is: ‘if my religion says I should forgive, then I should forgive, however, my religion also proposes hell which means forgiveness is only for those who repent; then I don’t need to forgive.’ If your abuser’s one day came to you and told you in tears that they’re extremely sorry and repentant, would you forgive then? would you even believe them? … Why not try to decide for yourself? It seems like some of you are already doing this, but maybe you’re still looking for someone outside of yourself to tell you that it’s OK not to forgive. Is forgiveness something that you feel you need to do in order to feel peace? what does forgiveness even mean for you? (for YOU, not a definition the bible or someone gave you). I find that, when someone says something that really gets to me, it is because in some way I feel that they are right. Why is it even an issue when people tell you that you *should* forgive? do you believe them on some level? ~ Luna Sol

I have long since put this issue behind me, but at the time that I was wrestling with how to reconcile my definition of forgiveness with my religion’s definition, it wasn’t because I wanted anyone necessarily defining it for me. Instead, my faith was such an instrumental part of my healing process that what my faith had to say about different issues carried a lot of weight.

What I learned through lots of prayer and critical thinking was that church doctrine and faith are often not the same thing. The scriptures were written thousands of years ago, translated into English, interpreted by “men of the cloth,” and then passed down from generation to generation. I often wonder how many rituals and beliefs started as one thing but evolved into something else.

Part of my healing journey involved taking a step back and reading scripture from a fresh perspective without the influence of what I was always taught about a particular passage. The topic of forgiveness is one of these areas. I have come to define forgiveness as an internal choice that I make to stop nursing my bitterness toward someone who has wronged me – to stop spending my time thinking about that person. To do this requires no action on the part of the one who wronged me.

My personal definition of forgiveness has nothing whatsoever to do with reconciliation. I believe this is one area where church doctrine is way off the mark – if reconciliation were a required element of forgiveness, I simply could not do it. By my definition, I have forgiven my abusers, but I have also cut of all contact with them. I am 100% comfortable with this decision, and when questioned about it at church, I have no problem backing it up with scripture.

I have many other areas of my faith where I diverge from mainstream Christian doctrine, but I can back it all up Biblically (which is, of course, only relevant to people who believe the Bible). One example is my belief in reincarnation. All areas in which I diverge have come after lots of prayer and critical thinking, and my divergences have brought me immense healing rather than the whole “I guess we’ll know when we get to Heaven” cop out that some people give me when they are not open to considering alternative perspectives.

My advice to people who wrestle with their faith is to question it down to its core. In my opinion, any faith that cannot withstand critical thinking and Socratic questioning isn’t of much value. I am not saying that I have all the answers, but through lots of praying and questioning, I have found the answers to the questions I needed answers for the most without having to “wait to get to Heaven to ask.”

Photo credit: Microsoft

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*** religious triggers ***

This is a continuation from this blog entry.

I want to focus on this part of Lizzy’s question:

How do you handle the balance between not being able to undo the past and it\’s scars and the whole ”Jesus heals all” attitude? ~ Lizzy

I am (thankfully) in a season of recognizing how far I have come with my healing. That is not to say that I won’t have a whole lot of sludge to work through as the holidays roll around … only that, at the present time, I am in a season of respite, which I am enjoying immensely.

My experience has been that, as my emotional wounds heal into scars, they stop hurting. I have experienced this many times. If you read through my blog, you will see me writing about processing lots of pain, but I am not typically dealing with the same emotional wound for years on end. Some emotional wounds take me longer to heal, but they do, in fact, heal.

No, I cannot change the past, but the past loses its power over me as I heal. As an example, when I first recovered the memories of animal rape, I could not look anyone in the eye because I felt such deep shame. I worked through my feelings about those experiences, and now I can talk about without feeling any shame or emotional pain. It’s not something I go around telling everyone (nor is there a need to do this). It is also something I don’t think about on a daily basis. It is something I experienced as a girl, but it is not something that continues to hurt me as a woman (since healing it).

This does not mean that I am immune from triggers. If I were to watch a movie with an animal rape scene, I am sure I would feel triggered, and I would use my tools (deep breathing, walking out of the theater, etc.) to calm myself back down. I might feel “off” for a few days, but then I might go months without thinking about the animal rapes at all.

I do believe that God has the power to heal all, but it takes time and work. Because I endured so much trauma, I don’t know at what point, if ever, I will have experienced healing in all areas. What I can tell you is that I am no longer the brokenhearted woman I used to be, and I view my life much differently than I used to. My past has not changed, but my perspective about my past has.

I do not write about religious topics like this very often because I don’t want to exclude my readers who are triggered by religion, but talking about God’s healing power is actually one of my favorite topics! I am glad you asked the questions.

Photo credit: Microsoft

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*** religious triggers ***

On my blog entry entitled Deeper Awareness of Healing from Child Abuse, a reader asked the following question.

So to come down to my question … I am extreemly wary of Christian therapists. My expectation is that they are going to to claim that if you can give all the hurt to God, forgive in His anem, then all will be healed and you will go on to live a full life, no hurts, love the people who did it to you. Over and over I have heard that ”Jesus heals everything”, ”give it all to Him and He will take it away”, ”release your unforgiveness and He will bring healing and love”. I know I’m mocking, but seriously! It leaves me feeling like the people who say these things have never experienced anything that deeply wounded them.

So how do you respon to this kind of comment? Are you open about your past with your Christian friends? How do you handle the balance between not being able to undo the past and it\’s scars and the whole ”Jesus heals all” attitude? ~ Lizzy

Let me start by addressing the Christian therapist issue. There is a difference between a “Christian therapist” and a therapist who is a Christian. My therapist is a Christian, but he is a psychologist first. This is what I needed. My issues were too complex for a “let’s pray you through this” kind of therapy. I needed sound psychotherapy to work through my many issues.

I actually do believe that God has the power to heal our deepest wounds. I believe this because I have experienced it! However, as you know from reading my blog, the healing has happened over a long period of time and with lots of work. God is not going to wave a magic wand and erase the pain. I believe that God is interested in more than taking the pain away – the healing process itself can build a deeper relationship between you and God as you gradually heal, and I think that well-meaning Christians often miss this aspect.

They also miss that if God waved a magic wand and instantly took my pain away, I would lose the ability to minister to others who have experienced similar pain. The fact that my healing has taken place gradually and with lots of ups and downs is relatable, even to those reading my blog who have no Christian faith. God loves those people as well, and my sharing my healing journey can encourage them in their healing as well. There is a bigger picture than just **my** healing.

I am very open about my past, but I typically talk about it in general terms, saying things like “I survived severe childhood abuse” rather than getting into specifics. I have no trouble talking about it and will get more specific if asked, but most people who have not been abused cannot handle hearing my stories. As long as the other person is respectful, I maintain this boundary. However, if someone tries to argue with me, I am not above sharing a particularly graphic experience to shut her up. LOL

As an example with the forgiveness piece (many people have trouble at first with my choice not to have a relationship with my mother) … I will ask if a woman is raped by a stranger while jogging in Central Park, is she forever obligated to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with her rapist after she forgives him? Of course, the other person says no. I ask isn’t what my mother did to me even worse than a one-time rape? Most people have no response to this.

This blog entry is getting too long. I will continue tomorrow…

Photo credit: Microsoft

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Today has been a really cool day! I started a new Bible Study written by Beth Moore that is entitled Breaking Free. If that sounds familiar, it’s because I did it a couple of years ago and shared some of the concepts that were helpful to me.

Here’s the cool part – During her orientation video, Beth Moore talks about healing for the “brokenhearted.” That is a term that always resonated deeply with me. If one word captures how I viewed myself for most of my life, it was brokenhearted. I had the realization that I am no longer brokenhearted. What a HUGE, HUGE realization!

Now, I am not arrogant enough to declare myself “healed” or “done” with healing. I think that healing takes place at deeper and deeper levels as we grow. I also believe that I am blessed to be in a season of emotional rest. If history is a good predictor of the future, that season is likely to end as Halloween approaches, but for now, I have been in a wonderful place of rest and appreciating the fruits of my labors. I just want to enjoy it while it lasts!

I also noticed another area of growth today. My sister called me from the road as she is driving up to take care of momster. She hasn’t been keeping me in the loop, but she wanted me to know that she needed to travel to tend to some medical issues that momster is dealing with, and this information was relevant because she and I are working together on a project professionally, and she needs to send an email to the group explaining why she cannot be as active for the next few days. She didn’t want the first time I heard about this to be in that email.

My first reaction to this news was feeling badly for my sister – not guilty for me not helping out but just sad that my sister, who is working and going to college while parenting two children as a single mother, is having to take care of yet one more person. My second reaction was that I take no pleasure in knowing that momster is in pain. I didn’t think that her pain was the result of karma or whatever. I felt badly for her that she is in pain while, at the same time, had no compulsion to get involved.

I am aware of the many ways that I have changed as I have healed, but I don’t often have days like today where I am really aware of how much growing I have done. It’s a great feeling!

Photo credit: Microsoft

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Hi, all.

My old laptop is on life support after fritzing out yesterday. I bought a new one yesterday and am in the process of migrating over. This took a big chunk of my day and put me behind in work. It might take me a few days to catch up with work and get up and running again.

~ Faith

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I have been mulling over the goal or point of healing from child abuse. In my early months of healing, my goal was to stop being in pain. I was having flashbacks every night and felt like I was losing my mind. My goal was to “get over this” and stop being in pain.

I am no longer in ongoing pain. Yes, I go through periods of processing pain, but I also have periods in which I feel peaceful and am not in emotional pain. Does that mean I am “done?” I don’t think so.

After a few years of healing, my goal of healing from child abuse became more about exploring the person I was becoming. My actions and reactions were different from what they used to be. Instead of being the world’s doormat, I could be a b@#$% when needed, and as time went on, I even learned to embrace this facet of myself. I learned new ways to interact with the people in my life and the world around me. I wound up growing distant in some friendships and developing healthier friendships with different people.

I have heard different theories over the years about what the “end game” to healing from child abuse is. Some people tell me that I need to process and process until there is nothing left to process. Others tell me that the ego is never “finished” and will keep spewing up stuff to process until I learn how to live in a different level of consciousness through tools such as yoga and meditation. My therapist told me that I will always have trauma issues and triggers bubble up, but I will process them faster and faster as they become speed bumps rather than brick walls. My church tells me that through my faith, I can be miraculously healed from all of the trauma and lived the rest of my life renewed.

At the moment, I am toying with my own theory that I have not heard others mention. I wonder if perhaps the goal is not to heal from the child abuse but, instead, to grow. Processing trauma was part of my growth – and a central focus for a while because I needed to work through X, Y, and Z to continue growing. Now that I am on the other side of regular flashbacks, etc., perhaps I don’t need to think about “healing from child abuse” but, instead, simply focus on growing into the person I am becoming. As I encounter trauma issues that need processing because they are interfering with my growth, I’ll process them, but I also don’t need to go looking for traumas to uncover and process, either.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Listening to Your Body

Listening to my body is such a new and exciting experience for me that I will probably keep returning to this topic as I explore it. Many of my lifelong struggles could have been simplified immensely if I had simply been able to listen to my body. All that I needed to know was right here in front of me, but I was unable to connect with my body for so long because of the disconnection after the child abuse.

As an example, I have been drinking water like crazy over the past few days but did not know why – I just could not get enough water in my body. It finally hit me this morning – I have been recovering from feeling “brain fried,” and readers have advised me repeatedly to drink lots of water whenever I am processing trauma. I have no idea why drinking water is relevant, but I drank much more water yesterday and felt much better.

Another example is my body weight. I battled an eating disorder (binge and compulsive overeating) for most of my life, and my weight has stayed 25-30 lbs over my ideal body weight for decades. I tried just about every diet imaginable, but nothing ever seemed to work.

I am listening to my body about what, when, and how much to eat, and my weight keeps dropping. I stepped on the scale this morning, and my weight was the lowest it has been since the mid-1990’s. The ironic part is that I feel like I eat all the time!

My body does not want three large meals a day. Instead, it wants five smaller meals, and one of those meals (my afternoon snack) can even be junk food (but not chocolate) as long as the others are healthy. My body does not want more than about 300 calories in a sitting, so my total caloric intake is probably half of what it used to be, but I feel like I am eating all the time and getting to eat what I want because what I want is now aligned with what my body needs. This is such a foreign concept to me!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Brain Feeling Fried: Effect

PhotobucketRead this blog entry first for the background situation.

When I was driving like an old woman desperately trying to see the road in extremely heavy rain, my brain/mind/consciousness started to split. I had the thought that I don’t want to be in this situation, and my brain was ready to split off into an alter part to take over so that the rest of my consciousness could flee. I resisted the urge to do it, but it gave me a massive headache and also flooded me with panic, which was the last thing I needed when I was trying to focus on driving on an Interstate highway in such heavy rain.

When the car kept turning itself off, the panic slammed me harder, and hub criticizing me (yes, I get that he was feeling helpless and out of control since he wasn’t the one behind the wheel) compounded the situation. Then, when I did the wrong thing in trying to get the stalled car to start again while under a sheet of rain, thunder, and lightning with cars behind me trying to get through an intersection, my brain went into overload and back to the reactions of a traumatized child. I could not emotionally handle the situation and felt detached and distant from it.

Thankfully, hub took over driving, and the car seems to be working fine again. Also, we drove out of the storm within minutes, so the “danger” was over by this point. However, I could not pull out of feeling “brain fried.” My head was killing me. My heart was racing, and I had to take a Xanax to calm down, but even that did not work very well. I kept crying.

When I get emotional like this, I try to activate the logical part of my brain, so I pulled out a Sudoku puzzle. Hub would try to explain why he was yelling, and I just kept yelling back that the last thing I need in a stressful situation is to be told that I am incompetent – he can either be supportive or shut up. Later, hub apologized and tried to get me talking, but I told him the two options in that moment were for me to cry or do my puzzle, so please leave me alone, which he did.

When we got home, I laid down for an hour because my head hurt so badly, and I was “off” for the rest of the night. My head felt better in the morning, but I noticed that I was still “off.” I start each morning replying to emails, and I always reread them to look for typos. I could not believe how many typing errors I was making, which is very unusual for me. I can tell that my brain is still recovering from the past couple of days because it shows up in my writing. In fact, my partner over at Adoption Under One Roof always emails me to ask me what’s wrong if she sees a blog entry with more than a couple of errors.

I know I am going to be OK, but I am going to have to take it easy today and give myself plenty of time for rest. I am writing this on my first full day back from the trip, which isn’t the best day for rest because I always have a lot of reentry issues to deal with – grocery shopping, picking up the dogs from boarding, etc. – in addition to my work responsibilities. However, I know that my brain is “fried” right now, and I cannot function at 100% — I need to slow down and give myself a chance to heal.

Does anyone else go through dynamics like this?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have this situation happen periodically, so I want to write about it while I am in it. I know I am going to be OK and won’t be able to represent what it feels like in the moment unless I write about it while I am in this place. Typically, I withdraw so I can heal and get back to “normal,” but I am going to push through to write about it in case this is also helpful to others.

Hub, child, and I went to the beach for Labor Day Weekend. Hub and child are both high-maintenance in different and opposite ways, so I try to be as adaptable as possible so we can all get along and have a good time.

Hub and 11-year-old child had a huge argument in front of me in the car that went from 0 to 150 MPH in about three seconds. If I could have thought fast enough to intervene, I would have, but each said the absolutely WORST possible thing to push the other’s buttons, so the argument flew out of control quickly. There was nothing physical involved – just yelling – but it was intense with me being the only one in the car “getting” how deeply the emotional wounds were being inflicted back and forth with each response.

I did finally get things calmed down between them after about an hour, but I do believe a certain amount of long-term damage has been done to their relationship. I have tried to explain to each separately that they have different love languages and that just because X means Y to one does not mean that X means Y to the other. I don’t think the bigger picture was resolved and that more of these situations will arise.

Then, the next day, I was driving us home on the Interstate highway when we drove right into the heaviest storm I have had the misfortune to encounter in a car. The windshield wipers on the fastest speed we are good as sitting still, and I could barely see two feet in front of me. I could barely hear hub’s criticisms about how slowly I was driving (about 40 MPH) over the noise of the storm, and most cars were either pulling over or flashing their hazard lights so we wouldn’t hit each other. I gradually made my way over to the right-hand lane so I could get off on the next exit while hub kept telling me to pull under a bridge so he could drive if I “couldn’t handle it.”

When we found an exit, the car kept turning itself off while we were stopped at a light. The car died again while I was driving it through an intersection. I panicked in trying to turn it back on (it would not turn on in Drive), and trying to get it to Park to turn it on did something really funky to the transmission. Hub started yelling because I was tearing up the transmission, and child started screaming because he was frightened of being stranded in a car in the middle of a heavy storm. Hub got the car into neutral so I could start it again (I had never heard that is what you are supposed to do – never came up in Driver’s Ed, I guess), and we were able to pull into a gas station. Hub drove home from there, and of course, the storm ended within a few minutes of him taking over.

My emotional reaction tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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