Archive for the ‘Challenges’ Category

This is my annual “got triggered by the Halloween store” blog entry. I guess I will keep writing it until my 11-year-old son is grown.

My son gets annoyed with me every year that I will not let him buy, or even try on, any costume with a black hood. No exceptions. Non-negotiable. Of course, in his 11-year-old mind, the black-hooded costumes are the scariest and “coolest,” and as an adolescent, he is looking for any way he can to prove that he is no longer a “little kid.”

He placed one hooded mask on his head briefly, and I felt a sharp pain across my head. His friend wanted to try one on, and just that knowledge sent more shooting pains through my head. I told the friend that my son would have to let her know how the costume looks because seeing children in black hooded robes makes me sick.

Last night, I have flashback nightmares. I reenacted one of my more heinous memories. I could feel and hear the same sensations I experienced when the event actually happened, and I jolted awake pouring sweat with my heart pounding. I eventually went back to sleep but continued having nightmares. I gave up at 4:30 a.m.

Photo credit: Microsoft

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This blog entry continues from here.

I was somewhat hurt but mostly angry about my grandmother deciding a week in advance that she was not going to see me while I was in my hometown specifically to see her. So, I decided to reframe the trip. My motivation to continue visiting my hometown every other year has specifically been to see my grandmother one more time. I am no longer going to do this.

I wanted to salvage the trip, so I decided to reframe its purpose – I decided this would be my “goodbye trip.” I decided to view this metropolitan city as if I was a tourist. I came up with a schedule for taking in the five most interesting sites for two 11-year-old ADHD children. We would drive in on Wed evening, take in two side-by-side sites on Thursday, one site on Fri, and two across-town sites on Saturday. I would be generous with the souvenirs for the kids, and we would collect pressed pennies all over the city.

From here, I invited friends and family to connect with us. Not one family member chose to connect. One cousin had surgery recently, which limited her availability, and the other had to work. Both are good reasons, but somehow my friends managed to squeeze in having dinners with us while family did not. (This comment excludes my sister. She spent Friday with momster and then half a day Saturday doing a tourist attraction with us before heading back home.)

Friends from high school did work us in. One did a tourist attraction with us and visited with us when we arrived. Another joined us for dinner on Thursday night. On Friday night, I got together with four high school friends (including the two who did other things with us) at one of their houses so the boys could run around and play while the adults visited. So, it turned out to be a worthwhile visit despite not seeing my grandmother.

I did all of these activities through the lens of saying goodbye. I no longer fit into my hometown. I don’t like the traffic, the driving (everything around there is 30 miles apart!), or the frenetic pace of life that my friends live. Yes, I lead a busy life, but I also have downtime. I do yoga and meditation, blog, Bible study, leisurely visits with friends, etc. In my hometown, there’s no time for this because they spend so many hours each day driving from point A to point B. I respect that other people might like this lifestyle (or perhaps are unaware of other ways to live), but it’s not for me.

I wrote this week’s blog entries right before packing up the car to travel home. I might write more as I process the trip, or I might just move on to other topics.

Photo credit: Microsoft

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PhotobucketThis blog entry continues from here.

As I stated in my last blog entry, I did not take it personally that my grandmother did not want to see me – by this, I mean that I know she didn’t think, “Ooh, it’s Faith coming. I don’t want to see her.” I know this is not a rejection of me as a person and that she is not intending to “punish” me or whatever.

Nevertheless, her cancellation pissed me off. I had prepaid $500 for a hotel to come in August, and I did the nonrefundable option to save money. I had to reschedule the trip because of my son breaking his foot in July, so while I could not get my money back, I could move it to a different weekend. This was the only weekend we could do without my son having to miss school. I gave everyone, including my grandmother, two months’ notice about the change.

If my grandmother had awakened the morning of our scheduled visit and needed to cancel because she wasn’t feeling well, I would understand. People in their nineties have good days and bad days, and I totally understand having to cancel because you are not feeling well. My issue is that she canceled a FULL WEEK IN ADVANCE because she did not feel like seeing anyone. Unless she was going into the hospital, had a current physical issue that the doctor said would not improve within a week, or had some other issue that she would know a week in advance would not clear up, I think this cancellation was rude.

My sister said that our grandmother does this to her a lot. My sister travels five hours by car for each visit, but she also combines it with a visit to momster, so the cancellations bother her less. I have decided that I will never again plan a visit specifically to see my grandmother. If I have another reason to visit my hometown, I will give her the opportunity for a visit, but I am not going to spend that kind of money again if she is going to be unreliable about actually seeing me. (According to my cousins, who live locally, this has become a recurring issue.)

While I know the cancellation was not personal to me – that it was about her and not me – I am finished with having relationships like this in my life. That dynamic describes my entire childhood. It was never about me. The people in my life (mostly family) jerked me around, but it wasn’t personal to me – it just affected me. It was always about them, and I was caught in the aftermath of their self-centered choices. The impact on my sister and me was never a factor, and that’s not OK.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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ShackThank you for your patience with taking last week off. I traveled with my ADHD child and his ADHD friend to my hometown. I had a lot to juggle before we left, and we were gone Wed through Sun – no extra time for blogging.

I have decided to cut down to blogging on three days a week (Mon, Wed, and Fri) in the hopes of staying more consistent. With my increased work responsibilities and continuing to manage my son’s special needs, I simply don’t have the time to cover both this blog and my professional blog five days a week, and I am not willing to give up either. So, I am going to cut down to three days a week for both in the hopes of staying much more consistent in my blogging. We’ll see how it goes!

I need to process my trip to my hometown. As of now, I plan for this to be my last visit. I am not saying “never, ever again” because I never know what the future may hold, but I viewed this trip as a “goodbye” visit. Today, I’ll start by sharing what led up to this one being a goodbye visit and then cover the trip later this week.

The main reason I continue to visit (typically once every two years) is that my grandmother (father’s mother) is in her nineties and not doing well. A trip every other year is about all I can handle emotionally because being in my hometown brings back so many memories of my abusive childhood. I don’t want to spend my time thinking about that any longer.

I gave my grandmother, other family (father’s side), and friends over two months’ notice of the trip, which I scheduled when my son had a four-day weekend off from school. We were supposed to come over the summer, but my son broke his foot, so we postponed the trip so we could do all of the physical activities we had planned on a healed foot.

One week before our visit, my grandmother told another relative to tell me that she was not up to seeing me. She did not mean this to be personal to me – she did not feel up to seeing anyone, including my sister who had also paid for a nonrefundable hotel stay solely for the purpose of seeing her. I’ll discuss my reaction on Wednesday.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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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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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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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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