Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ashes of Abuse: On the Bookshelf

I have loved reading for as long as I can remember.  I read for fun, of course, but I have also always read when I wanted to learn something.  As a kid when I wanted to know about "the birds and the bees", I was too embarrassed to ask my parents we didn't talk about that sort of thing and I guessed my friends didn't really know much more about it than I did...I found a medical book and read about it...complete with illustrations!  When I wanted to learn to knit...I got a book.  When I started having serious health issues (all of them are much better right now), I turned to the Internet and read about it.  So, naturally, with this new challenge in my life, I have a million questions so I turned to my old standby....reading.  Of course, reading does not and should not replace therapy but while it is not the "main course" for my healing, it is a good "side dish".

The Body Remembers by Babette Rothschild

When I first started therapy it was for anxiety.  One day I was telling my therapist about the anxiety that I get at the dentist and that I had figured out that it was not the needles or the drill, but the CHAIR.  I hate the chair.  It makes me feel very vunerable, and that is an uncomfortable feeling.  I told him I feel the same way about his couch.  "My couch?" he asked confused.  Well, yeah, in the movies people always lie down on their therapist's couch.  That made him laugh and he promised he would never ask me to do that.  Then he added, "Don't do it, but in your mind's eye imagine you are lying on the couch and pay attention to how your body feels."  I did and instant anxiety...shortness of breath, dizziness etc.  Wow!  Anxiety on cue.  I was amazed by that but my therapist wasn't.  He simply said, "Your body knows why you are uncomfortable with the couch."  I was astonished by this.  How could my body know something my mind didn't.  I pondered this a lot and later at home I asked myself how this could be. 

Then one night in one of those moments between being awake and asleep a voice in my mind said, "if you really want to know, imagine yourself as a child lying on the couch."  I did and OH! My first flashback!  I won't give you the details.  It was awful.  It felt as if I was there with all the physical feelings and emotions (read: fear) of that moment.  I wanted to know more about how "body memories" work so I started googling and came across this book.

Though it is scientific, I also found it to be quite readable for a "lay person" like myself. She explains body memories, PTSD, somatic pain and other related issues. Highly Recommended.

The Stranger in the Mirror by Marlene Steinberg

I'll never forget the day my therapist started asking me some questions that I could tell were intended to see if I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously called Multiple Personality Disorder.)  This disorder is more common than I thought affecting approx. 10,000 people in the US.  As I understand it, it is generally not as "sensational" as what Sybil experienced.  After all the whole "system" works to hide the memories of the abuse from the person themself and the multiplicity from the public.  More about this in another review.

Anyway, I didn't think that I had DID, and my therapist later told me that he doesn't think I have DID either, but I do "dissociate".  Of course, I was then driven to learn everything I could about dissociation.  That is how I found this book.  It was an answer to prayer and answered my questions very well!

She explains clearly what dissociation is, the different ways it affects us and because we all dissociate to some degree, what is mild, moderate, or severe dissociation. It is scientific, but readable for us "lay people".  Highly recommended!

Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

When I first realized what my 'real' issue was, not anxiety but childhood sexual abuse, I had a million questions surrounding "what will healing be like and how long will this take?"  This book has been a wonderful resource for giving me an idea what to expect, and comforting me that what I am feeling is normal.  Though I am a huge fan of the library (my bookshelves are already overflowing with beloved's nice to have the library 'store' books for me!), this is one I will need to purchase.  It is not something you just sit down and read through but rather a book that you read in parts, and refer back to it as a resource in healing at different times and different stops on the journey.  Highly recommended

A Fractured Mind: My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder by Robert Oxnam

Though I do not have DID, I now find myself with a fascination with this topic.  As I mentioned before, not all DID cases are as 'sensationalized' as the story of Sybil.  When I saw this book about Robert Oxnam who was an international authority on China, I had to read it!  After all, how does one become so highly educated and appear so "normal" with this disorder.  I had to know.  The book, a courageous offering on the part of Mr. Oxnam, was fascinating, enlightening and touching.  At the end, I wanted to meet this amazing man and give him a hug!  Hearing his story, and vicariously sharing in his healing, gave me hope that my symptoms of dissociation, which are not as severe, can be healed as well.  Highly recommended, thank you for having the courage to share Mr. Oxnam!

I should have named this post "On the Bookshelf and the Favorites List" but that title would be too long!

I like blogs (obviously since I write one). So recently I got an idea to look for blogs written by others who are dealing with the challenges I am (both to hear their stories, and to find people who might be interested in what I am writing.) And wowzer, you can find most anything you want on the internet! I found the perfect thing...a blog carnival!

A blog carnival, in case you are not familiar with the term, is basically a blog post that listed a bunch of other blogs they think their readers might be interested in. This particular blog carnival is published by various volunteers, once a month. They have been doing it for four years. All you have to do to join the carnival is write them and ask to be included, so you will see that I have an entry there too. I found a few new "favorite" blogs there.  Check it out!

What's on your healing bookshelf?

Update on Mt. St. Helens adventure

For those of my readers who read my blog on Google Reader,  or Facebook, I wanted to let you know that I updated the post to include a couple pictures!  I think you have to go to the site to see them.  :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Difference Between Mothers and Fathers

Mothers and Fathers are different.

Ok, so, no I didn't expect you to be surprised by that statement, but call me naive, sometimes it still catches me by surprise.  I'd like to share my most recent example of this.

My older boys were invited to hike Mt. St. Helen's with some friends (and yes with a responsible adult...I'm not totally insane, just partially so.)  My older son had done it before with his Boy Scout troop, so having that experience under our belt, so to speak, I was a little less nervous this time around.

I have make a little side bar here and tell you about our family history with Mt. St. Helens.  This will date me a bit, but so be it (though in my own defense I must say that my husband is older than I am.  He keeps getting older each year, while I manage to stay young.  I have no explanation for this.)  So years ago, PM (pre-marraige) my hubby and his best buddy went hiking on Mt. St. Helens. At the time, scientists were concerned about some volcanic activity and were watching it closely, but people were still allowed to go up to a certain height. Visitors were NOT, however, allowed to go above "the red zone." 

Now, when my husband and his buddy went up the mountain, they were not accompanied by an adult (because at 20 yr. they were adults, if you use the term loosely) and they were not detered by "the red zone".  Up and up they climbed, painstakingly collecting the little bits of ash they could find on the tree leaves. 

You know where I am going with this,don't you? It started getting late and they started pondering what to do.  Should they camp and hike down in the morning, or head down now.  The friend was in favor of staying overnight.  Why not, since they were there?   But fortunately, fate intervened.  This was on a Saturday.  "We can get up early in the morning and hike down and go to church," the friend said.

"No. I know us, we'll sleep in and miss church if we do that.  We better go home tonight." My future husband said.  So they hiked down and went home.  You know the rest of the story.  Sunday morning 57 people died when Mt. St. Helen's erupted. It was nearly 59. Hubby spent the next few days at his gas station job sweeping up garbage bags full of ash. 

Now back to the present...My son's and I had a little misunderstanding about what time they would be home.  I thought they would be home by 6 pm, or call...because, you know, I'm reasonable and sometimes it is hard to judge how long a hike will take.  At 6:20 pm when I hadn't heard from them I started making some calls myself.  After trying to call the boys, I called the father of one of the other boys.  He explained that there was no way they could have been home by 6 pm because it takes 6 or so hours to climb up, a couple more hours down and it's a three hour drive home.  He assured me that everything was fine.  But then he added that he hadn't heard from them either. They were supposed to call when they got to the top.  Great.

I took a deep breath, chalked it up to bad cell service and went about my day...not worrying.  Well, ok, worrying, but not panicking.  A little later when I talked to my husband, he also reassured me that things were fine.  After all, "what could happen?" he asked.  I was almost too astonished by this question to answer.  They could fall off the mountain, of course!  Or any number of other horrible things.  We, mother's, are really good at "worst case scenarios".  He just laughed at my paranoia, and I decided I was over-reacting.  Surely everything was fine.

The group did return home safely, but what a story they had to tell. My two sons related it to my husband and I the following morning after their return. (My thoughts interjected into their narrative will be in italics.)

It seems that there was more snow on the mountain than they had anticipated and they were not adequately prepared. We're all heard this story before haven't we?  On the 10 o'clock news!  Nevertheless, they climbed to the top and were, as expected, very pleased with themselves. 

The rest of the story is a little difficult for me to piece together.  If you have ever talked to two animated teenagers at once, you will know what I mean.  First there was an issue about one of them gettting so cold he could barely walk -mom alert flashes in my mind--warning! warning! frostbite? hypothermia?  They  said had to split up because the boy that could barely walk was going very slowly and one of my son's was also freezing and didn't want to end up the same. So he and a buddy went ahead.  My other son, the Ice Prince, who is has this amazing gift of being nearly immune to feeling cold, stayed with the near hypothermic (my imagination? or fact? you decide) boy.  They didn't mention where their adult counterpart was, I assume because adults are boring, you know. 

When the group reunited, they worked together to warm him up.  I wondered what this meant and asked if they had given him a "group hug".  I thought I was being funny, but the Ice Prince said, "yeah, pretty much."  My other son, WindTalker, a name he recieved as a toddler for trying to command the wind to stop.  He is still bossy.. said he put the Popsicle boy's bare foot on his stomach, but (he laughed as he related the next part) because the foot was too big to rewarm all at once, he could only warm "half" it at a time, first the toes, later the heel.

At this point in the narrataion, I looked at my husband in disbelief and said, "What could happen? What could happen?"  My voice rising a little in fear of what could have happened, and yet laughing because after all, everyone was home safe.  My husband just gave me a sheepish grin.

Then the parties started out again.  This next part I don't completely understand, but then who can understand the minds of teenage boys?  They came to a slope and decided they wanted to descend the mountain a little more quickly. The Ice Prince decided he would like to slide down on his stomach.

WHAT? I stopped him to ask.  "Did you think you were Frosty the Snowman or something?"

He said, "No more like a penguin."  O..k....

So he got into position and started the slide.  He quickly picked up more speed than he was comfortable with so he put his elbows down to slow the descent, but it didn't work.  Then he tried his feet with the same non-effect.  Next he put his hands out in front of him, that is until the thought came to him that perhaps at the speed he was going if he hit a tree he could break a wrist and pulled them back in.

Mom alert is flashing in my mind again.  Your wrists?  You are only worried about your wrists?  What about your head, your ribs, your spine, your legs.  I should interject here, I took an EMT class with a bunch of ski patrol people, years ago.  On our breaks they would take turns sharing gruesome stories of things they had seen on the slopes.  I had never been skiing before, and thanks to those stories, I never will.  He did have a spectacular crash, but amazingly walked away unharmed.

At this point of the narration, I gave my husband the "raised eyebrows, wide-eyed, you see what could happen???" Look, and again he smiled sheepishly.

Popsicle Boy had gone down at the same time as my son and also crashed spectacularly.  So when they looked back  and saw that WindTalker and his companion were at the same point, they tried to warn them NOT to follow their example.  Unfortunately, with the wind and distance, "No, don't go," became "go," pause, "go".  So they did.

Except for Ice Prince, all boys slid down on their feet.  Like skiing, without the skiiis???  Is this just my mom imagination, or would you agree that this is infinately more dangerous than regular skiing?  No skiis + no poles = no control.  Apparently WindTalker, and Popsicle Boy also had "rough landings", but walked away on harmed as well.

Again...I extended The Look.

The fourth boy, who needs a name, we'll call him Olympian, you'll see why in a second, also went down on his feet.  At some point, he lost his balance and slid on his posterior.  From this "seated" position, he flew over a hill that served as a sort of jump and miraculously landed on his feet!  He was the only one of the four that was able to stop without crashing.

And...again...the Look which was answered by the Sheepish Grin.

The rest was fairly uneventful, as hikes go apparently.  Ice Prince, and Popsicle Boy, have sunburns on their faces.  "Why didn't you use the sunscreen I sent with you?"  I felt compelled to distance myself from this insanity, but showing that I, SuperMom, had tried to prepare them. 

"I did use the sunscreen."  Huh?  "I just forgot to put it on my face."

Oi ve! Son, you are never leaving the house again!  I give my husband The Look again, and this time he just starts laughing.  Do you know why he was laughing?  I bet the dads reading this do.  I'll explain it for everyone else. 

He was laughing because none of this surprised him!!!  Yep, you read that right.  He didn't know the details, of course, but it did not surprise him that there was "an adventure".  He did all kinds of crazy things like this when he was younger.  And naturally, he assumes that because he did it and came through it fine, the boys will too. 

And that, my friends, is the difference between mothers and fathers.

I just gave him The Look one more time and took my daughter to the store.  I had to put some distance between me and the insanity.

This story would not be complete though, without this final twist.  Are you wondering about the adult who accompanied the boys?

It was Popsicle Boy's Mom, who I am proud to say was one of the first two to reach the top.  Although, given the difference I just explained between mother's and father's...why she went and how she survived this day is a mystery to me.  But the point is, they all survived.  She needs a name...we shall call her Crazy-Woman.  I love ya, Crazy Woman!  Thanks for taking my boys on a memorable adventure...I think., used by permission!  When I asked Crazy Woman if I could post a couple of these on my blog she said, "Sure we are proud of our near death experience."  LOL!

Here is a before picture...from left to right: Crazy Woman, Popsicle Boy, The Olympian, WindTalker, and Ice Prince

Friday, June 18, 2010


I have been journaling a lot in the last couple days.

---But Leslie, we haven't seen any new blog posts.

I know, but in my world blogging is what I do for other people, writing that I share.  Journaling is personal.  Those thoughts and feelings that I want to record but perhaps will never share.  I have come to think of my journaling as snapshots of my mind and moods.  Have you ever thought about journaling that way?  Writing it down takes a moment, an hour, a day (you get to chose) of your life and preserves it for you. 

Some moments simply call out for this type of preservation...important days in your life, your wedding, your children's births and so forth.  Some moments beg to be recorded because though they are important to you in the moment, they will fade with time like those funny things your children say, or those funny things that come to your mind that you don't say...  Some moments are just too painful to be shared with other people, but paper and pen can be good companions.

I have other mental snapshots, pictures, sensations, moods that I want to hold on to.  I wonder if writing them down would help?  For example, the simple joy of holding the hand of a small child.  My youngest, Peter, is very strong-willed.  If I dare think to simply take hold of his hand, he will resist me.  However, if I ask, "Peter, may I hold your hand?"  He almost always acquiesses.  He just likes to be asked I suppose, but ah, those moments walking with his little hand in mine...priceless. 

I would keep a mental snapshot of cotton, from the cottonwood trees floating through the air.  How I love seeing that.  One day, I had the windows down and as I stopped for a stop sign a piece of cotton floated in the passenger window and landed on my pant leg.  I marveled at it for a moment, I could have sworn for that moment it was fairy magic or something just as lovely that brought it to me.  Then I started driving again, and it floated away out the other window.  Then I was certain it was carried on fairy dust.

I would save a snapshot of the sound of children's laughter.  And another of the way the dawn breaks on a new day...not just the sunrise, but the dawn, the light that increases and overcomes the dark.

Then I would take these snapshots and send them to myself like postcards, on gloomy days to remind myself that like the dawn, light always follows the darkness.

For now, I'll content myself with writing about snapshots and see what that brings.  What snapshots will you capture today?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ashes of Abuse: The White Dress

In a previous post, Ashes of Abuse: Guilt, I explained how children who are abused often blame themselves, and how as an adult survivor they can continue to feel guilty.   Recently, I was venting to some fellow survivors, on a message board, about this guilt that I still feel and how it is affecting my life.  It is changing me in ways that I do not like.  For example, I used to enjoy speaking, teaching, and praying in church, but now I am very uncomfortable with all of those things because of the guilt I feel.  My friend, Michelle, wrote a reply that really touched me.  I can't say that this has fully convinced me that the abuse was not my fault, but this parable did reach me on a level that nothing else has so far.  With her permission, I would like to share it with you.  The name is mine, the rest is from her.  Thanks again, Michelle.

The White Dress by Michelle

Somehow, dear, dear girl you are going to have to believe Christ when He says that He has suffered for all sins and that you can be redeemed from them.

Let's just say, for a second, that your daughter came home from a birthday party where she had worn a beautiful, new, expensive, white dress. The location of the party has a pond and while there she went down to look at the ducks and someone pushed her down and got mud all over her dress. She cried, she was distraught and no matter what she tried she couldn't get the mud off of her dress. She came home, she didn't want to come in to the house because the dress was so dirty and she didn't even do it! It was 100%  NOT her fault but, she can't get over it. She goes over and over what happened and she just can't forgive herself for something she did not do but feels responsible for anyway.

What do you, as her Mother, who loves her more than life, do? Do you tell her she's right, she isn't worthy to come into the house and what was she thinking and you are going to make her pay time and again and never let her forget what she did? Even thought SHE didn't do anything wrong?

Or, do you insist that she is worthy to come into your home, do you tell her that she is loved, that she is forgiven because there is nothing really to forgive? Do you help her understand that because of your experience in stain removal that , although she couldn't get the stain out you can?You know about bleach and hot water and all the other things that will make her dress clean again.

Well, Leslie ,sweetheart, YOU are that little girl and you do NOT have to get the stains out by yourself. YOU didn't make them and Christ knows how to get them out. Heavenly Father wants you in His house as much as you want your daughter in yours. He loves you. You have to tell Him you don't know how to get the stains out and would he PLEASE help?

Don't be afraid my friend. Father can take the pictures out of your head and the deadness out of your heart. I'm here to tell you as someone who KNOWS.

Be patient. Breathe. Pray always.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ashes of Abuse: Cat and Mouse

Recently while pondering a new post on abuse, the image of a cat bringing his owner a dead mouse came to my mind. It was rather amusing to me at the time, but I have come to realize that there is a lot of truth to it. When I was young, I had a cat. Sometimes she would bring us “presents”. At least I think she thought they were presents. These “gifts” consisted of dead birds and more frequently dead mice. We were less than joyful to receive them. It’s not that we didn’t know that our cat killed mice. We knew there were mice, and we were glad she killed them. That is one of the advantages to owning a cat, after all. The thing is, we didn’t want to see the mice or even think about them being there. We just wanted the cat to take care of them, behind the scenes, you know.

I believe it is the same with abuse. We all know it happens, but we would rather not think about it. That is understandable, of course. It is a painful subject so why dwell upon it? The thing is when you are the person who was abused; you don’t want to think about it either. Some people are even able to repress the memory and not to think about it for a long time, years, even decades. Unfortunately, ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Eventually, there comes a time when your body and mind refuse to keep the secret any more. And so it begins.

How do you face an enemy that is inside of you? You can’t run from your own memories. You can try, and most people do try, but the memories are inside of you. There is no where you can go to get away from them. It is a lonely battle, because no one can face the inner dragon for you. It is a lonely battle because few people understand. If you were facing a medical demon, there would be much support. People would ask you how you are and ask what they can do to help. But how do you begin to explain this kind of a battle? And if you do, how do people respond? With confusion mostly, it seems. Some wonder why you aren’t “over it” since it happened a long time ago. Some want to help, but don’t know what to say or do. Some don’t believe you. Too often, because they are confused and don’t know what to say, they do nothing. They don’t ask how you are or offer service. They just leave you alone…to face the dragon. If you fall in the battle, how will they know? If you are victorious, who will cheer you? Who will appreciate the victory? When the abuse occurred, the child had to endure it alone. Now the adult must deal with the pain, alone.

So like a cat with an unusual gift, I keep bringing you: The Ashes of Abuse, because our friends and loved ones need to not be alone any more. But there is another reason that I write about abuse and it’s after effects. . .


I am a survivor too…

Because I hurt,

. . .and if I fall in this battle, or if I win…

I want someone to know.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Time like sand
 slips through my fingers


   Death with an icy touch
knocks it from my hand.

Note to my wonderful readers, my health is fine, better than it has been in a long time, in fact.  This poem was simply a result of my reflections on the many things I would like to accomplish in my lifetime and how little time there really is to do them.

My Wish For You: Laughter (reposted)

Last week someone told me that my "wonderful sense of humor is like a parachute".  I love that...a parachute can soften the landing, by slowing the fall...  Everyone should have a parachute handy; life is hard work. This is from a year ago, I hope you like it.  Leslie

My Wish For You: Laughter

Today I was listening to my favorite sound, that of my children laughing. They were laughing at their dad because he had done something goofy. Laughter is so important for children, for families.... for everyone, I thought. My husband and I have always said, as long as we have our sense of humor we will be OK.

Which made me wonder, what is it that is so appealing, so healing, so simply wonderful about laughter?

I started to analyze it.

You can't laugh with someone you are angry with. Try to picture that for a moment. Think of the last time you were angry with someone. If they had told you a joke, no matter how funny, you would not have laughed. So laughter signifies good feelings between people. After the apologies are said, laughter can help the mending begin, but it won't be there until some good feeling returns. That explains in part why there is so little of laughter in prison. Oh there is some laughter there, but it is usually the coarse type. An impostor, hopelessly trying to make up for the lack of the real thing. Shudder...anger is cold and dark. Laughter is not only happy it is warmth and love.

How about the last time you were sad, really sad. Could laughter reach you there? Sometimes at funerals people laugh. "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion," (Steel Magnolias). Even in the darkest of times, laughter has a way of reaching deep down and beginning the healing.

Great friendships can begin with laughter. If I can laugh with someone, I know that is a spark for a potential friendship. In fact, if someone makes me laugh, that is enough to make me want to be their friend.

Remember when you were a kid and you laughed so hard you peed your pants. C'mon admit it, you know you've done it! You're smiling now aren't you? Let's just hope the last time that happened to you was a long, long time ago.

Imagine the laughter that comes from being exhausted. You know what I am talking about. Those times you laughed until you cried about something that was not really that funny, just because you were tired. But oh how good that laughter felt. One of those times for me was when I was in the hospital, after having a baby. My sweet husband brought me flowers. Not cut flowers, but the kind you plant. I took one look at them...pretty but slightly wilted and burst out laughing. I laughed so hard I cried, and the nurse looked at me like she wondered if they had given me too much pain medication. I laughed because I know my husband so well, and I knew he had rescued those flowers from a dumpster somewhere. (Greenhouses can only sell perfect looking plants, and many less-than-perfect but nice plants get thrown away.) Of course, it only made me laugh harder when he feigned innocence to the bewildered nurse. "He brought me Dumpster Flowers" kept running through my mind and I laughed until I couldn't catch my breath. Even today, he pretends not to know what was so funny about that. And I, of course, still laugh. I don't even have to be tired.

Have you ever laughed even when it hurt? I'm not talking about those aching cheek muscles, though I love that one too. I had a c-section with one of my little blessings. My husband took me on my obligatory walk around the hospital floor, and kept making me laugh though I begged him not to. Ow, ow, ow, torture!

Laughter can chase away fear. It can't necessarily keep it away. I think of laughter in this sense more like a yippy lap dog, barking with all it's might than a german shepherd. But it can give you some respite from the fear. That reminds me of the time my husband started comparing my various health issues to what would be the equivalent in a car. At the end of it he concluded with mock sincerity that if I were a car, we would sell me to the junk yard and get something else. Wicked, wicked man! How I love him.

Sometimes we look to laughter simply for entertainment. The best movies, TV shows, books, and even music make us laugh. We must not forget blogs. My favorite blogs are those that intermingle funny posts with serious thought provoking ones.

As I think back over my life and all the tender memories, laughter is often there. It's not in the family photos, but it's there.. Sometimes it is the photographer, sometimes the frame. Yes, maybe that is it. Laughter is the frame that holds our lives together.

I wish you...laughter.