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On my blog entry entitled In a Weird Place Today, a reader posted the following comment:

I need some help on how to get over being tough about all the abuse. I know it all happenned but I can’t cry for all the horrible things that happenned. My uncle was the abuser but my parents drilled into us kids be tough and brush of the hurt feelings and move on with life. I can’t move on with life because I can’t get past my feelings. My parents buried the abuse and never would talk about it. I was raped and tighted up at the age of 8 plus more that I won’t go into to. I don’t sleep when actually I’m a wreck. I need some help from other survivors. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. My therapist is great and working with me on this but I want to express my saddness and pain. ~ JMM

The inability to cry is common for child abuse survivors. Some child abuse survivors are unable to cry at all. (Side note – Child abuse survivors who are unable to cry for any reason seem to be more vulnerable to cutting and burning as forms of self-injury – they cut or burn their emotions onto their body since they cannot express them in any other way.) Other child abuse survivors are able to cry but not in connection with the trauma that pains them the most.

I fall under the second category. I have always had a lot of dissociated sadness. I used to be able to cry at the drop of a hat. I would cry at commercials and at the end of any movie with a touching soundtrack. However, when dealing with my most traumatizing memories, such as when my dog was slaughtered in front of me , I could not cry. I could tell you exactly what happened, but I was unable to shed one tear over it.

Because I could not cry, I felt a heavy weight on my chest whenever I thought about my dog. I tried and tried to get myself to cry but couldn’t. Then, I finally managed to muster up a single tear, and it was a huge relief. Just that one tear washed out an enormous amount of pain. Later, I was able to connect the emotions back to the memory and cry for my dog while listening to a sad song. Crying helped me wash the pain away. I cannot listen to that song without grieving for my dog.

What worked for me was to put myself into a position where I would shed tears and then switch gears. For example, I would watch a movie that I knew would make me cry. Once I was crying for the characters, I would think about something sad that happened to me. In time, I managed to reconnect the tears with the memories.

I am not sure how to start the process of crying if you are unable to cry under any circumstances. Perhaps some readers who have been in that situation can share some ideas.

Related topic:

Connecting the Emotion Back to the Source

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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PhotobucketOn my blog entry entitled In a Weird Place Today, a reader posted an excerpt from a blog entry entitled The Truth About “Feeling Sorry for Yourself”….. I am so grateful to have learned about that blog entry because it has really helped me clarify where I am emotionally right now.

The following paragraph summarizes the blogger’s position on feeling sorry for yourself:

When experiencing hurt, anger, frustration, sorrow, depression, dissapointment….etc. there is a natural urge which leads towards healing. If we were to “go with the flow” on feelings alone, most of us would probably feel really sorry for ourselves for a while, comfort ourselves, and then, find ways to feel better, and eventually get back into the game. ~ Illusions at Powerful Intentions

I think this explains very nicely where I am right now. I have felt the need to withdraw from most people in my day-to-day life, but I haven’t been able to articulate why. I am coming to realize that I need to “be” right now. I need to “be” with my feelings of grief. I don’t want anyone else cheering me up, distracting me, or trying to fix it. I don’t want to analyze what happened in the past, what I should or shouldn’t be doing now, or what I need to do in the future. I just want to “be.”

My therapist advised me many times to learn to “sit” with my emotions. Don’t try to stuff them down with food, drown them with wine, or control them in any way – just let them “be.” Perhaps I am finally understanding this on a heart level.

I have been frustrated by gaining five pounds since the latest flashbacks surfaced. I am not binge eating, but I am doing some comfort eating. Reading that blogger’s article helped me to recognize that, while I am not wild about the weight gain, it is coming from a place of compassion and comfort.

I am still not very good at knowing what I need or how to nurture myself. I have been trying to follow whatever feels right in the moment. I have played the piano more in the past week than I have in the past year. I have watched TV and eaten cookies. I have written when I felt like it and refrained from writing when I felt like it.

I have been trying not to label where I am right now as “good” or “bad” – it just is. However, reading that article has helped me to see where I am in a more positive light.

When I have head cold, I know there is nothing I can do to make it magically go away. I accept that I am going to feel lousy for a few days. I eat some chicken soup, nap, and watch TV – little things that I know will comfort me until I feel better. I don’t think where I am right now is much different, only the pain is in my spirit instead of my body.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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In a Weird Place Today

PhotobucketI am in a weird place today. I am not even sure how to describe it. I am worn out from processing my most heinous memory yet, which I wrote about here, here, and here.

I haven’t had a whole lot of room to process all of this. This is such a busy time of year with trying to get everything ready for Christmas and squeezing in everything that needs to be done before my kid is off from school for two weeks. I haven’t had a lot of time alone in my house. I have had repairmen and other workmen in and out for the past couple of weeks. I have had friends come over for favors and have been on conference calls for various reasons. There hasn’t been much room in my life for me, and I don’t see that changing until after the holidays are over.

The adult me is ready to check this new information off my list and move on. OK, now I get why I hate Christmas so much. It makes perfect sense. Moving on… The adult me also gets how much of a mind f#$% it all was – that I didn’t kill anyone, that I wasn’t actually buried, that there is no Santa, etc. In so many ways, the adult me just wants to put this all behind me.

Then, there is the child me – the part of me that was horror-stricken from being forced to kill the person I loved most in the world and then locked in a box with what I believed was a dead body. Yeah, that’s a lot for a little kid to take in. I was in the age range of six to eight, which is younger than my kid is now. I have no idea how a little kid processes that kind of terror.

I have a friend who wants to be supportive and sends me messages that she is here to talk it through, but I don’t really have anything to talk about. It happened. It sucks. I feel sad. Moving on…

I finally had some alone time on Thursday. I had Bible Study in the morning but nothing else after that. I have been tutoring on Thursday afternoons, but I had a break this week to do whatever I wanted. Yes, I have a million things I **could** be doing, but that was probably going to be my last day until after the holidays of having “me” time for the entire day.

I asked myself what I **wanted** to do, which isn’t a question I ask myself very often. I wanted to play the piano, which I did for a while. Then, I was just so tired that I thought I would take a cat nap. I woke up 2.5 hours later! I have been sleeping lately (thankfully, the insomnia seems to be over), but I don’t think I have been **resting** when I sleep. My body really needed the rest.

I feel sad and lost but not suicidal. I just want the holidays to be over.

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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I shared yesterday that a dear friend of mine passed away. Lori Schmitt was the owner and operator of Isurvive, which is a message board for adult survivors of child abuse. Lori did not create the board. I found it in 2003 (and don’t know how long it had been around before this), and Lori took over roughly two years later (~ 2005). Isurvive was a good place before, but Lori took it to a whole new level, adding the toll-free number, the chat room, a Positive Transitions forum, a place for survivors of ritualized abuse to talk, and many other enhancements. Although I never met Lori face-to-face, she was very dear to me, and I am so saddened by her passing.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not coincidentally), I spent yesterday morning thinking about healing mentors and the sadness of losing them. I was doing yoga for the first time in a while (because I battled so much illness this winter), and I started thinking about P, my one-on-one yoga instructor who moved away a couple of years ago. P was much more than a yoga instructor to me. She is a fellow child abuse survivor who is much farther along her healing and spiritual journey than I am.

I would see P for a yoga session every three or four weeks, but I always got so much more out of it than yoga tips. She was always so “in tune” with where I was emotionally. She just “knew” when I was doing well or (as was typically the case) struggling, and she always had the answers I needed to find my way. She moved to another state a couple of years ago, and it was hard to see her go. She was a safety net for me of sorts, always putting me back on the right path both emotionally and spiritually. Without her here to guide me, I have to take responsibility for doing this myself.

As I mused about the loss of this mentor, I had no idea that another mentor had already left me the day before. Lori was another person who always believed in me, always saw the best in me, and was always there for me. While I rarely leaned in her in the past several years, she was my safety net. Just knowing that she was there for me helped give me the courage to fly … to this blog, among other things. Now that safety net is gone. Even though I know I don’t need it, there is something hard and sad about knowing that you are now on your own.

Of course, we are never alone. We grow and change, and we transform from being the mentee to the mentor. Our investments in others have ripple effects. Because of Lori’s investment in me, I invest in all of you. Several of you have told me that I have inspired you to start your own blogs, and you will wind up investing in others as you do this. I hope that Lori is able to see just how many lives that she touched and that the ripples from her kindness will continue for many years to come.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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The past few weeks have been rough. I have not been sleeping well for weeks, with lots of nightmares when I can sleep. I finally took some prescription strength medication to get a good night’s rest a couple of nights ago. That moved into me feeling lethargic all day yesterday, like I was fighting off a cold (and maybe I was).

I got a lot of sleep and rest yesterday. Today, I just feel kind of depressed. It’s like I had all of this intensity going from the visit to my hometown, and now that the intensity has passed, it has left a dark pit of depression in its wake. The weird part is that I really thought I was okay while I was in my hometown. Perhaps I was just dissociating?? I don’t know.

It doesn’t help that we have a full moon tonight or that Mother’s Day is approaching, with my mother/abuser coming to my state. She told my sister that she might swing by my house to drop off a video whether I am there or not … should be interesting if hub is home! My son and I will be in another state. We will be gone from Friday evening through Sunday evening, so we will miss her passing through.

I have decided not to acknowledge my mother/abuser in any way for Mother’s Day. I am finished with contact. I wonder if I am dissociating my feelings about all of this. Perhaps a part of me is saddened by this decision?? I don’t know. I just know that she makes me feel crazy, and I am tired of her ability to wield this kind of power over me. I have decided to write “return to sender” on anything she sends me, and I will not be contacting her any more. So, perhaps my funk ties into that??

I don’t know. It is all very annoying. If I have to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it would be nice to know why I am triggered so I can heal it and move on. I feel like I am trapped in this awful place of feeling pain without knowing why or how to fix it. It is very frustrating.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Connecting the Emotion Back to the Source, a reader posted the following comment:

…could I ask you to elaborate more, though? When you say you worked really hard for that one tear–what did that mean for you to work at it? What did you do in follow-up that allowed you to connect more sadness to the memory?

One of my great frustrations is how often I experience exactly what you said, “a deep heaviness on my heart, but being unable to cry.” When you are feeling things like that and suspect they are connected to a memory, what do you do to identify what memory it is coming from? ~ blueorchid8

The first step is to recognize the disconnection. In my example, I would cry easily at commercials, but I shed no tears at all when recovering the memory of my dog being slaughtered. I knew that having no feelings about the dog’s loss was not normal. Instead of tears, I felt a cold “heaviness” inside of myself. I was afraid to open up that part of myself because I knew it would be extremely painful.

Because I refused to deal with the pain, the memory continued to haunt me. Different things would trigger it, and I knew I had to face it, but I kept refusing. In time, I decided that I wanted to heal this memory and move on. It was at this point that I recognized my inability to cry.

I decided that tears were appropriate, so I tried to cry, but I could not do it. Considering I can cry by hearing the music to a movie trailer, that was really strange for me. I tried to think about how painful it must have been. Eventually, I felt a tiny shift in the block of ice inside. I put all of my energy into making myself cry. I only succeeded in bringing out one tear, but I felt an enormous amount of relief at this.

Many months later, I was again triggered by the memory of the dog. I knew that I had to face it once and for all. I decided to go to that painful place inside of myself, feel like h#$% for a little while, and be done. I played Leona Lewis’ song, Better in Time, and I forced myself to remember that terrible night. Then, the tears came down in buckets as I applied the lyrics and haunting melody to my situation:

Thought I couldn’t live without you
It’s gonna hurt when it heals too
It’ll all get better in time
Even though I really love you
I’m gonna smile cause I deserve to
It’ll all get better in time ~ Leona Lewis from “Better in Time”

To this day, I cry when I hear that song.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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As I shared recently, my beloved 16-year-old beagle passed away. I was heartbroken all that day and spent many hours crying and grieving his loss. By the next day, I was okay. In fact, I was even able to appreciate the ways in which my life was easier, such as not having to administer two pain medications and carry the dog in and out to use the bathroom all day.

Some people might assume that I did not love this dog because I adjusted to life without him so quickly, but that simply is not true. I raised him from an eight-week-old puppy. As with the book Marley and Me, his life story is the story of my family. My husband and I were newlyweds when we adopted this dog, and so many of my memories of my son are intertwined with memories of this dog. Yes, I loved him.

So, how can I adjust so quickly to his passing? I think this about resiliency, not a lack of caring. Many people believe that if they spend years in mourning after a loved one passes away, refusing to adjust to a life without the loved one, they are somehow proving the depth of their love. Instead, I believe this is just a lack of resiliency and inability/refusal to adjust to a new reality.

Those of us who survived child abuse also survived many losses. We learned at a young age that loss was a part of life – the loss of innocence, safety, loving relationships, etc. My life has been filled with loss, so why is it so shocking that I am resilient and can adjust quickly when I experience a loss?

I have only experienced two losses that I did not recover from quickly. The first was the death of my father, although even then, I did not understand why I should struggle since he was rarely around. I have since recovered the flashbacks of my mother starting up the abuse again. So, my issue was not with adjusting to my father’s absence so much as to the lack of safety that resulted from his passing.

The other loss was that of infertility. The problem with infertility is that there is a monthly hope followed by a monthly loss. It was the emotional rollercoaster of the ups and downs that really got to me. Once I accepted my infertility as a permanent fixture in my life, I was able to grieve my infertility loss and heal that pain.

My mother-in-law passed away suddenly a few months ago. Hub took my strength as a sign of not caring or not loving deeply enough. The reality is that I have become resilient in my grief. I have no expectation of those that I love being in my life forever. We will eventually part, such as through growing apart, moving away, or one of us dying. That is just a reality of life. Therefore, when a loss happens, I am not “shocked” that life can be cruel. Instead, I try to appreciate the relationships I have in my life while they are in it, knowing that they are a gift for now rather than a fixture forever.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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