Sunday, December 18, 2011

On Learning to Fly

For most children, childhood is a magical time where anything is possible. From pirates,  unicorns, and  Santa Claus, to Mom not noticing the clothes and toys shoved under the bed, anything can happen.  Dreams are reality waiting to happen and summer days are filled with jumping on the trampoline and running through sprinklers. 

For these children, growing up means letting go of Santa and the Tooth Fairy, but still holding on to the hope that Mom won’t notice the mess under the bed. Dreams are whittled back into “goals”, but still doable. Summers morph into a break from school and hanging out looking for cute guys (or girls), while hanging with the guys, or giggling with girl-friends.  Mostly, growing up is exciting and fun.
These things are not the norm for every child.  For some instead of pirates and unicorns, their days are filled with terrible villians and nightmares.  Their foes that are all the more terrible because they are real, and they bear the name “parents”.   Their nights are filled with loneliness.  Confusion and fear fills their days and reaches into the center of their soul. 
For them, growing up means instead of hiding clothes under the bed, they push memories far into the recesses of the mind, for that is the only way to survive.  Coming-of-age means learning to live The Lie of Normalcy, smiling on the outside, while awash with pain inside.  I wish I didn’t know that pain; I wish no child did.
For children with magical childhoods growing into adulthood with all its hurts and bitter realities can be a jolt. This is the stuff coming-of-age stories are made of.  However, for children whose lives were waking nightmares, growing up can be a release, like Tinkerbell’s fairy dust that allows one to fly.
Flying is not easy.  There are some falls, some bumps, some harsh winds that force you back, but if they persist, they can soar.  I can soar too. 
For me, to soar means I must first feel the pain that I once repressed.  Once I feel it and mourn it, then I am finally able let it go.  As I am able work free of that old pain, I feel myself lifting off the ground.  The more I am able to heal from the past, the more I can trust the love offered me in the present, love from my husband, my children, and my friends.  This love brings magic into my life and bathes me in moon beams.
I cannot stay in the air forever though; landing is necessary.  Eating and sleeping are required.  Landing can be hazardous.  Old memories resurface, pain ignites, but the new memories of flying are still alive as well.  Like a clumsy bird that needs a running take off, I work through the pain and once again lift off.
While soaring, I can see others who are wounded.  I stop and visit them.  I can’t teach them to fly.  No one can teach another person to fly.  The fairy dust must come from within.  However, I can sit with them, and listen to their stories.  I can let them know that I care.  If they ask I will share my story.  I will tell them how I learned to fly.  Someday, when they are ready, they will fly too.  Like a flock of geese we will fly together, taking turns being in the lead, calling out encouragement to each other.  Most importantly, we will not be not be alone, we will face our fears and we will soar!
Through breaking free of the pain and learning to fly, we create magic.  The magic that we missed as children, but revel in now: our own magical healing place, our own Neverland.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


When I find a good thing, I just have to share.  There are a couple blogs that I love that, fall into this "good thing" category.  I admit (boast is more accurate) that these people are all friends of mine, but hey, whatever it takes to find the best blogs, right?

My friend Kristine is losing weight, and she is such an inspiration to me.  If you like people that are real (you know what I mean), then you will love this blog:

Overweight But Losing

If you are looking for a blog that is the literary equivilent of taking a nice hot bubble bath, i.e. you feel pampered and glad you took the time, then you must check out Cathy's blog:

Nibbling on Life

Sometimes you are in the mood for something funny.  My friend, Josh, writes a blog that is funny and sometimes a little insane.  He's a therapist, and I can't quite figure out if being a therapist pushed him over the edge or if he has always been this way.  Read his blog and you will understand:

The Weed

And last but not least...or maybe I saved the best for last...wink, wink, is my daughter's blog.  Today I helped her edit her most recent blog post, and well, proud mom moment aside, I think it's awesome.  You can decide for yourself.  The blog post is called:

A Homeless Man, A Ganster and Me
Nelo Writes

Enjoy!  And if you have a favorite blog (even if it isn't a friend's blog), post it and I will be sure to visit!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wheel of Dissociation

Before you read this post...remember some computer glitch posted it before I was ready, and I was going to repost after editing, but guess what...the wheel of dissociation changed on me and I lost interest in the post entirely!  Man that is frustrating!

Also...I just want to add, I talked to my Therapist about this issue.  He says this is part of the trauma.  Trauma causes you to lose "fluidity of thought".  He says this is one of the reasons for therapy, to regain fluidity...that sounds hopeful!

For some time, I have been thinking that I need to discuss Dissociation with you again. I still like the Haunted Mind analogy, but I am afraid that in that post, I might have slightly misdirected you. The misdirection is that reading that post, you might think that in different rooms are all about emotion i.e. an angry room, a happy room etc. Or perhaps you understood exactly what I meant, and I'm just being happens (me being paranoid I mean!) Anyway...something happened last night that is still causing my thoughts to churn, and has spawned another analogy for Dissociative Disorders.

First, let me clarify or remind you (meaning simply I can't remember if I wrote about this before). Dissociation occurs on a spectrum. You have like heard how Autism is a spectrum disorder, and the same idea applies here. For Dissociation, on the less severe (or in this case: normal) side is daydreaming. Everyone daydreams and this is a form of dissociation. It is also perfectly normal. Where dissociation becomes a disorder is farther along the spectrum. If you follow the spectrum all the way to the most severe end you will find Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) which used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder.

SIDE BAR MOMENT: Maybe I should call this soap box moment, but I have to take a moment and say, there has been a lot of interest in the media lately about DID. From comedies to crime shows, they love to throw in a character with DID, and of course this person is always extreme...either a brunt of jokes in a comedy or a murder in the crime shows. Dear readers, don't believe everything you see on TV. We all know, though we don't think about it consciously, that writers and directors embellish things to make them more interesting. DID is real, but in real life it is a lot less "flamboant" than is portrayed in the movies. Now back to your regularly sceduled program post.

I have a Dissociative Disorder, in other words although you and I both dissociate (you daydream, right?) my dissociation is more developed, and can be a detriment in my daily life. Now where I fall on that spectrum...well, you read my blog, I'll just leave it to your imagination. Back to the Haunted Mansion...changing "rooms" or dissociated states, is not just about changing moods. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First I would like to tell you about last night and we'll work our way back to how dissociation applies.

November was National Novel Writing Month, and my local library was hosting a class on writing. The teacher  was a New York Times Best Selling Author. I love writing, and though I usually stay in the nonfiction area, I thought this sounded like a great opportunity. I went and I was so inspired. The class was about developing characters that your readers will love and think about after they put down the book. I was on fire! I kept thinking, "I could do this! I have enought life experiences, and writing experience, and, and, and...." I was jazzed. I was mentally trying to figure out what my daily writing goal should be and what I might write about...

POP! Suddenly, like a balloon popping in my mind, a thought deflated me. Leslie, you know you won't be able to stick with this long enough to make it work. I slumped down in my chair as I deflated emotionally and physically. Because I knew it was true. I listened to the last of the lecture with a weak version of tog of war going on in my head. One part of me saying, "but, but, but...maybe it will be different this time." At the same time being pulled by, "you always say that..." Still as I went home, I couldn't stop the brainstorming in my mind about characters. I got out a paper and started writing...I couldn't help myself! I have an idea I think people would love. An idea people would read. A character people would cheer for, and cry with. All I need is to spend some serious time working it out. And THAT is the problem.

It is not the problem in the way you might think. When I say time, you likely think of your own very busy schedule and think, "yeah, I couldn't fit it in either." But that is not the kind of time I mean. I work overnight shift...I love the quiet! I work in a residential treatment facility so my main responsibility is to stay awake and check on the residents periodically to be sure the haven't run away or harmed themselves...what I do the rest of the time: read, knit, watch movies, play video boss doesn't care. Or I could write. I have plenty of time to write. So what it the problem then? It's the dissociation, the wheel of fortune.

Previously, I explained my dissociation like rooms in a Haunted Mansion. Today I would like you to think of a huge wheel, like the TV show "Wheel of Fortune" or in vaious children's games, and sometimes at carnivals. It is mounted in the center so it will spin, there are pie shaped pieces with something written on them, and a little arrow that points to the "selection". My mind is like that wheel. The pie like sections have not only different interests like reading, writing, knitting, chess, spanish, sociology, ect, but each pie like section can have a different world view. Spin the wheel and see what Leslie will be most interested in today.

Sometimes it will happen in the middle of the day. I have this sensation that feels like waking up, though I might be walking when it happens and I think, "Why haven't I been practicing chess lately? I love chess. I'm going to go to the library as soon as I have a minute and check out a book". Then for a time (the time always varies and I have NO control over it) I will be completely obsessed with chess. Perhaps you've read the phrase, "God, Family, Country"...well on those days, those "pie pieces" or room in the Haunted Mind, it's "God, Family, Chess, and chess, and chess...". Then without even realizing I've done it, I lose interest and focus on chess and start thinking about blogging. "Geez, it's been a month since I last wrote on my blog? I'm going to lose readers," and a flood of ideas for blog posts will start coming to my mind. If you are a blogger you may be thinking right now, "Leslie, we all do that. I go through spurts on my blog too." My answer to you is, I know. That is because dissociation is something everyone does to some degree, but I am farther along that spectrum than you are. So last night I excited about writing, and I am focused on that this morning...I swear I have an idea that would work! But sadly I know that before too long, I will get distracted. The reason I use the wheel analogy is because these things my mind is one wheel, one house...and I move about within it. I am in a writing phase at the moment, but chess will be back, and then another day art. I find some comfort in that. The things I really love don't disappear, they just move to the back burner for awhile.

You might be thinking, "Leslie, we all do that, really." So let me take you one step the wheel turns, or I go into different rooms in my mind (and remember I have no control over that), it is not only my moods or interests that change, it can be my whole world view. Please stop for a moment and think about that. Think about your own world view, what is important to you, the values that are close to your heart, your feelings about religion, about the other people...all those things that form your "world view". It is normal for people's world view to change over time, but with dissociation mine can change rapidly. For me one world view, or place on the wheel, can last a few months or a few minutes.  If that sounds disorienting, trust me it is.

There is one place on that wheel that rarely seems to come "up", but I know it's still there because I do feel it from time to time. And that is the point here, I have not simply "grown and changed my world view" in the way you can and do. I slip in and out of different world views. For example, in the place I rarely visit anymore, I am very spiritual, optomistic, loving, at peace even in times of stress like finanical difficulties or health problems. Another place on the wheel I am less sure about religion, less optomistic if not a bit cynical, I'm not depressed, but I wouldn't say I am happy either. I feel frustration about many things and especially about relationships. Sometimes I find myself very logic, anlytical and detached. The world and the people in it may not be what I hope, but I don't concern myself with that. I'm more interested in learning something new. I think I will check out a book on algebra so I can re-learn that and help my teenagers with their math.

At this point, you may be starting to feel a little dizzy on my behalf. Yes, it is frustrating for me, and can make day to day life difficult. Fortunately whatever "space" I find myself in, I love my husband and children...but everything else is subject to change. I think this is the reason that people with dissociative disorders are often misdiagnosed as having bi-polar disorder...those rapidly changing places on the wheel can make a person appear very moody. I assume that is how people that know me well rationalize my behaviour...moody.

This brings us full circle...I want to write. Suddenly I want to write a novel so bad I can taste it. I know I can do it, and yet I know I can't. Someone stop this merry-go-round, I want to get off. I'll start writing that novel anyway. I'll write as much of it as I can until the wheel spins on me again, then? Well, then I guess it will wait for an unwanted toy on the shelf, until I come back to it. If the spinning wheel of my mind doesn't get me to discouraged, I'll finish it. It might just take me about 10 years.

Just Three Words...

A long time ago, I think even before I started school, children were taught to read with Dick and Jane books.  Even if you aren't old enough to remember them you have likely heard of them.  They went something like this: 

See Dick run.  See Jane run.  See Spot.  Spot runs with Dick and Jane.

I mention this because I am taking an on-line writing class about journaling and memoirs.  For the class I had an assignment to write about a 10 yr period of my life, but each sentence could only have three words.  Just three words.  It's hard!  Four would have made all the difference, but phew, three was tough.  I was struggling with it until I got the idea to take some liberties with grammar.  After all that is what the writing books say, "Experts sometimes break the rules, but they know what the rules are."  That means it's ok to break the rules as long as I know I am doing it, right?  Ok, maybe not. 
Anyway, this is just silly, but I thought it would be fun to share.  Can't let things get TOO serious around here!

Leslie's Life in Three Words

I move Winslow. See friend Charice. We work prison. We are officers. We talk inmates. We work hard. We date boys. We have fun. We get bored. Want more money. Want to date. Want more boys. Think, think, think. Move to Nevada? Nevada pay more. Think, think, think. Move to Alaska? Alaska pay more. Alaska have men. Lots of men. Think, no...move. Move to Alaska. 

Live in Anchorage. I love Anchorage. We meet boys. We have adventures. We are tourists. We find jobs. We work half-way-house. Happy, happy, happy. Job offer Bethel. What to do? Good job. Good money. Boring, no men. Think, think, think. Think some more. Don't want move. But money good. Career move good. Think, think, think. Sigh and move. 

Bethel is cold. Bethel is dark. Bethel is Hell. Don't like Bethel. Bethel is lonely. Job is good. Job pay well. I like job. I hate Bethel. Bethel hates me. Below 80 degrees. Winter is cold. Summer is mosquitoes. I hate Bethel. Met ONE guy. He very handsome. He was jerk. Probably still jerk. Yes, jerk always. Lonely, cold, miserable. I hate Bethel. 

Met nice woman. She have son. He single. She say meet. I say ok. One problem. He live Oregon. We laugh. Snow, snow, snow. Cold, cold, cold. Dark, dark, dark. I hate Bethel. I need vacation. I fly Oregon. See my friend. She say meet. Meet my son. I say ok. Why not?

Meet son. He is handsome. He is nice. I like him. He like me? Maybe, probably yes. He say write. Write letters. I say ok. I return Bethel. I write letters. He write one. Maybe two. Bad boy. I move Oregon. We date. Much better.

We date. We kiss. We date. He is happy. I am happy. I ready marry. He thinks. And thinks. And thinks. I wait. Wait, wait, wait. Then he thinks. I wait. Then he proposes. I say maybe. Not. I say yes. I happy. He happy. His mom happy. We plan wedding. We marry April. Everyone happy.

Soon I pregnant. He thrilled. I thrilled. Pregancy long. Finally baby come. It's a boy. We are family! Everyone is happy.

P.S. This does not actually cover a 10 yr period, I cheated on that too.  BUT my teacher said I did "a great job", so maybe cheating isn't so bad after all?  Shhh! Don't tell my kids.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Housekeeping reader, email subscriptions etc

Darn computers!  I was just working on a that needs some editing yet, and suddenly a message popped up that said, "Automatic save is turned off because this post has been published."

ACK! What?  I didn't publish that, it needs editing.  But I looked at my blog and sure enough there it was.  Curse, curse, mutter, mutter.  So I did the best thing I could think of...I copied it and deleted!

Whew, problem solved, right?  Wrong...  I "follow" myself on google reader (because something like this happened before!).  I wanted to know if deleting it on my blog would delete it on google reader also...apparently not.  It's there. 

So I apologize for offending your delicate sensibilities with my grammar and spelling errors...I am going to fix those and repost...sigh!

If you have an email subscription...I don't know if it emailed before I deleted or not...

NOW that we are on the subject though...if you don't already follow on google reader, or email or some other kind of reader, you might want to give it a try!  I love google reader.  Instead of manually clicking on each blog I want to follow to see if there are any new posts, I just 'subscribe' to them via google reader.  Then with one click, all the current blog post from the many blogs I follow are there at my finger tips! 

Email notification would be handy too.

Anyway, that is just a thought.  As for me, I think in the future, I will do my rough drafts in microsoft office to prevent these "crisises" in the future.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Exercising the Dragon

Sometimes I wish I had kept my blog a bit more anonymous because at times there are things that I would like to say...anonymously. For example, I would like to share a current experience I am having with the Dragon in the Cellar. In other words, where anger from the past meets anger from the present. However there is the possibility that someone could be hurt by that, and I would never want to ease my pain by hurting someone else (accept perhaps my abuser...I won't spare his feelings in what I write.)

So I can only say...I am angry with _________. Because ________ did _________. Can you believe that? I know you would be furious too! My therapist asked me to write a letter (not necessarily to send it!), and express my feelings. So I wrote a letter and I said ____________ and _________ and _________. Then I wrote ______________. It was like creating a door and letting the dragon get some exercise.

The dragon, as you can imagine, is a bit stiff from being cramped up in the cellar for so long or to be more clear, I still struggle to accept my right to be angry about what happened (then and now.). You have heard how abused women will often say, "it wasn't his fault, I deserved it". Well, I don't say I deserved it, but I do make a lot of excuses for this person's behavior.

I think this is the most incomprehensible blog post I have ever written.  So, you know the saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words" since I don't have the right words, how about a picture?

I call this Rorschach as art.
Yes, I did paint this my son's kindergarten art class. 

It reminds me of those ink blot tests that psychologists sometimes use, Rorschach tests.  So I showed it to my therapist.  He seemed to find it ver-r-r-ry interesting....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Call me Mrs. Dumpty

I hate to admit this, but I am fragile.  I suppose that is no surprise to you, but like I said, I hate to admit it and that admission begins with myself.  By now, it shouldn't be a surprise to me either, but sometimes it is.

For the last month (two, three...sometimes I lose track of time) I have been doing a lot better.  I mean the emotional roller coaster that is my life, had smoothed out quite a bit.  I was pleased and during those times it is easy...I will submit even feel hopeful that I am healing and that the worst is behind me.  Unfortunately, that is an illusion.  At least for now, maybe someday it will be true, but for now it is not.

So I one day I was cruising all through the daily agenda, as we all do, when BAM, I hit a wall.

Perhaps later I will explain what the trigger was that caused my mental house of cards to come crashing down, but for now it is still too close and too painful to discuss publicly.  One phone call, and suddenly I felt as if I were 4 years old again....alone, afraid, in pain, with no where to turn.

Remember I explained to you about my Haunted Mind.  I think I need to revisit that and explain it better....but for now suffice it to say that I was in a room and I was four years old and so afraid.  Then suddenly I was across the hall and I was an adult, calm and me Spock.  Then suddenly back in the room where I was four again, and crying.  I spent hours like this switching back and forth between these two rooms.  Later, an angry room was added, an angry child. 

I am in Spock mode now, or I wouldn't be writing this.  Sometimes when I am in  that 4 yr old child space, I do write, but only in my journal.  I can't share that right now, but some day when I have some distance from it...perhaps.  I have thought that some day when I am healed (if such a thing is possible) that I will write a book, it would have my blog posts, but interspersed chronologically would be select entries from my journal..."the rest of the story"...  I think for you it would be like watching the movie, Gone with the Wind and then later reading the book.  The story line wouldn't change, but a lot of details would be filled in.

Call me Mrs. Dumpty is my way of saying that today I feel like an egg.  An egg when you hold it in your hand and squeeze it is unbreakable.  Seriously, try it if you haven't before.  Squeeze as hard as you can and it will withstand the pressure.  Sometimes I am like that.  I can withstand a lot of pressure.  But take that same egg and hit it on a surface, and it will shatter.  Sometimes I am like that.  Sometimes I am fragile.  I really hate that, but that is life with PTSD and Dissociation.  I hope that I won't always be this way, but for now...

Call me Mrs. Dumpty.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Look Ma, No Hands!

"Look Ma, no hands" is my way of saying, "I finally get it."  A bit abstract perhaps, but so is healing from trauma.  Let me explain.

As I have been working to heal from the trauma inflicted on me as a child, there has been considerable pain...(no kidding, right?).  At first I wondered why it was necessary to remember and feel all this pain any way.  I mean why not leave it all forgotten and stored in memory?  I would have liked to do just that...but my body remembered.  This "remembrance" manifested itself as anxiety and somatic pains.  I can't prove it empirically, but I think it was the cause of my autoimmune problems as well.  For these reasons, I decided that I had to feel these memories and body demanded it. 

Lately I started to become frustrated with myself because these memories still hurt.  I thought that feeling this pain and processing it would work in much the same way as grieving a death of a loved one.  You never stop loving the person who is gone, but in time the pain becomes more tolerable.  Yet this trauma pain did not seem to be getting more tolerable.  (I think I am getting stronger and better able to deal with it, but the pain has not lessened in intensity, actually it has gotten worse.) 

Haven't I grieved enough?  Why can't I move on already?  I asked myself in frustration. 

Being an amateur scientist, I had to conclude that if the results were not what I was expecting, then perhaps my theory/hypothesis was wrong.  (That is harder to accept in real life than in the lab, as you probably know...)  So I accepted that this would not be similar to the grieving process.  However, I had no new theory or hypothesis to replace the discarded one.  That is until I talked to my therapist. 

My therapist understood exactly what I was trying to say.  Fortunately, I was not the first to ask this question, so he had an answer.  He said think about a time in the past that was painful (not related to the abuse).  I did.  Then he said, "Do you remember how painful that was?"  I was confused by this, and told him so, "Of course, I do.  BUT that is the point.  I remember how it felt but I don't feel the pain any more.  With the trauma memories, I feel the pain like it just happened today."  He explained that experiences (both good and bad) are usually felt, experienced and then the memory is stored.  Sometimes traumatic memories don't get processed and stored properly.  Until the memories are felt and processed, they will continue to feel fresh and new.  That is why we do the work we do in therapy.

I think I paraphrased that badly; I hope it was clear enough.  Here's the crazy thing...I had read about that before!  When he explained it, I had one of those 'aha' moments.  I had learned this principle academically, but hadn't digested it emotionally. 

SIDEBAR:  If you want to know more...I read about this The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook by Glenn R. Schiraldi  also there is a great article about how trauma effects memory here at the Sidran Institute: What are traumatic memories  I found this quote particularly interesting...

"There are several factors that influence whether a traumatic experience is remembered or dissociated. The nature and frequency of the traumatic events and the age of the victim seem to be the most important. Single-event traumas (assault, rape, witnessing a murder, etc.) are more likely to be remembered, but repetitive traumas (repeated domestic violence or incest, political torture, prolonged front-line combat, etc.) often result in memory disturbance. The extremely stressful experiences caused by natural or accidental disasters (earthquakes, plane crashes, violent weather, etc.) are more likely to be remembered than traumatic events deliberately caused by humans (i.e. incest, torture, war crimes). People who are adults when they experience traumatic events are less likely to dissociate conscious memories of the events than children who experience trauma. Research shows that the younger the child is at a time of the trauma, the less likely the event will be remembered.

"Case studies show that traumatic events in which there is pressure toward secrecy are more likely to induce forgetting as a dissociative defense. For example, a woman who is brutally attacked by a stranger but who receives sympathy, family support, and many opportunities to tell her story, may suffer from PTSD, but is unlikely to develop amnesia for the event. However, a young girl who endures repeated incest with her father and has been sworn to secrecy will more likely have memory impairment for the abuse."

NOW I get it, and hopefully you do too.  Look Ma, No Hands!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Very Own Prince Charming

Can I be honest?  Ha! Can I be anything else?  I suppose not.  Here it is…
I worry about writing “too many depressing things” on my blog and so I stretch to find positive things to say, while at the same time not  sugar-coating the pain in my life either.  It is the mental equivalent of tight-rope walking, and I can’t say for sure if there is a net down there.  Today I have something positive to share, a bright shining diamond if you will, but in order to appreciate it, I need to also share the contrast…if you will bear with me there is a happy ending here.
I have been struggling with feelings of abandonment. Remember the dream I told you about in “Emotional Sinkholes”?  I feel like that dream…left alone in the dark, abandoned.  These intense feelings of abandonment rise up at odd times, like a crack in the sidewalk to trip me up as a stroll along through life.  They usually cause me to fall, and yes, cry.  Tonight was one of those times; complete with cleansing tears, and some very serious wondering if this (abandonment) is how all relationships end.  (It embarrasses me to be so emotional and irrational at times, but emotion is rarely rational…and I did promise to be honest).
Fortunately not all rationality had left me and I began to think about people in my life that have been faithful and constant.  Their faces (some of yours) coming before me were a huge comfort.  There was one in particular that seemed to melt away the icy cold pain.  My husband.
How can I explain him?  There is so much I could say, but I’ll try to keep it brief. He is the most patient, and yet the most tenacious person I know.  Our families would say stubborn, but I always tell them (with a laugh) that when that stubbornness is helping them, they will see the value in it.  Those words that I have said for years, have never felt truer than they do right now.  As I was pondering (in my emotionally irrational state) if all relationships end in abandonment, I remembered my Prince Charming and his mind-boggling tenacity, his tender love, his patience…and I knew, I KNEW that no matter what happens he will be there for me.  What a comfort!
Would you like to hear the story of how such a love began? 
I was living in Bethel, Alaska.  It was March, the coldest, darkest month of the year.  At that time of the year in that part of Alaska, the sun is only out for a couple hours a day.  I was working overnight shift (not by choice), and thus hadn’t seen the sun for a while.  That and it was bitter cold.  There had been a week of -80 degree wind chill.  I had had it.  So I decided to take a few days off and visit Portland, Oregon.  (There was not enough time or money to go to Hawaii.)
I took a small plane from Bethel to Anchorage. (Did you know there are no roads between the two?  You have to fly.)  When I got to Anchorage, I was surprised to see a friend from Bethel.  In the “what are you doing here?” conversation that followed I found out that she had been in Anchorage visiting her sister and was now, like me, on her way to Portland.  She was going to visit family.  We talked to the flight attendants and made arrangements to sit together on the flight.  During the flight she said, “I hate for you to spend your time in Portland all alone.  Why don’t I call my single son and see if he will be your tour guide?”
I said sure.
---If I might interject here---it is not that I didn’t know the huge failure rate of blind dates!  But even though the men out-number the women in Alaska 7 to 1, only one of those single men was in Bethel.  This was no time to be picky---
We had talked about this “single son” on many occasions.  She said things like, “I have a son that would just love a girl like you that is willing to rough-it in Bethel.” 
“Does it count if I hate it here?” I asked.
Another time she confided that she didn’t think he would ever get married because he had this long list of what he wanted in a future wife.  Of course, I had to enquire what was on the list (curiosity more than politeness driving me).  As she told me items from the list, I laughed and said, “that’s me” over and over.  Please don’t misunderstand, I wasn’t ‘desperate’.  I didn’t care for Bethel, but I was otherwise happy with my life.  I was making good money and I had plans for the future.
He was equally aware of the “blind date taboos”, but agreed to meet me anyway.  He came to my hotel riding a motorcycle (his only transportation at the time).  Between that and his leather jacket, I felt sure he was some kind of “Fonzie wannabe”. . .and yes, I was a little concerned.  (Looking back, I understand that having a motorcycle was a matter of being frugal and saving gas, and the leather jacket was safety equipment.)
The rest of the date was like magic.  I don’t mean magic in a “love at first sight” kind of way.  It was better actually.  He felt like an old friend, someone I had known forever and could relax and be myself with.  Really what more could you ask for on a first date?
Too soon it was time for me to return to Bethel.  He suggested we exchange addresses, but then warned that he is a terrible letter writer.  He is!  Long-distance relationships are difficult, especially fledgling relationships like ours…so I did the only thing I could…I moved to Portland.
He teases me about this to this day; he loves to tell people how I “chased him”.  But you, dear reader, understand that I was not happy in Bethel and looking to leave anyway.  I loved Portland which is why I chose to take my time off there…so moving there was completely logical.  You believe me don’t you?
Well…even if you think I was simply love struck and completely foolish (I swear that wasn’t it!), the results speak for themselves…more than 15 yrs later we are still living the dream of…
Happily Ever After

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"total stranger to itself"

For some time I have been pondering something I read in The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook by Glenn R. Schiraldi, PhD (a wonderful book). In the beginning of the book while explaining what PTSD is and how it affects people he states:

"Each of us holds basic assumptions that give order to our chaotic world and make stress bearable.  A number of researchers have indicated that PTSD is due to the shattering of views of self, the world and other people."

Then he shares some examples:

 Pre-trauma assumptions
  • The world is meaningful, fair, good, predictable, orderly, comprehensible, pleasurable, rewarding, kind and safe.  It makes sense and follows accepted social laws. 
  • People get what they deserve--if I'm cautious, I can prevent the disaster. Bad things won't happen to me.
  • People are good, trustworthy, comprehensible, worth-relating to.

Post-trauma assumption
  • It just doesn't make sense.  The world is confusing.  ("Why did this happen to me?  What's the meaning of life?), I can't believe in a God who permits this. God hates me.
  • What I do just doesn't matter.  I have no control.
  • I can't trust people anymore--they're bad, exploitive, hurtful, ect.  I can't relate to others; I feel alienated and isolated.  Nobody understands.
 [end quote]

Although my trauma happened a long time ago, because of repressed memories the trauma feels very recent.  Previously, I believed the pre-trauma assumptions.  Now I definately relate to the post-trauma assumptions.  What troubled me was this:  is the author saying that I can some day return to the pre-trauma assumptions?  That seems like a fairy-tale idea to me.  Utterly un-realistic, and yet I don't want to totally discard that hopeful idea either.

I found a possible answer one night while watching Numb3rs (thanks Netflix.)  One of the characters, Larry, was looking out the window at a chrysallis and observed, "The butterfly that emerges will in no way resemble the catepillar that it once was, it will be a total stranger to itself.  All that it really knows is that someday it must fly and rejoin the dance of life."   Numb3rs Season 4

". . .total stranger to itself." Yes! That makes sense.  I think that PTSD is a form of chrysallis.  Having been wounded, we, victims, wrap ourselves in a protective shell and take some time to make sense of the world again. It resonates with me that we would come out of the chrysallis changed. I wonder though do all catepillars become butterflies?  Or some such thing?  In the darkness of the chrysallis, it is hard to imagine that the me that eventually emerges will be something beautiful.  Still, I am hopeful that with a lot of work and therapy, I will someday "rejoin the dance of life." 

And just maybe...I will be a butterfly.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Embracing Hope: Healing from Sexual Abuse by Chieko Okasaki

Dear Friends, Sorry I have been away.  I know you are all going through blog withdrawals  (smirk), but it is hard to write in the dark.  I have some candle light now in the Haunted Mansion, so I'm back. 

Recently a dear friend sent me a link to a talk that she thought I might like.  Like?  I didn't like it; I LOVED it.  If I had one resource that I could point people to and say, "This is what I would like you to know about my situation," this article is it. Not only that!  It is also something I could (and will) share with fellow survivors and say, "this really gave me validation, support and some ideas to help me begin to trust the Lord and others again."  Truly wonderful. 

Not only is the content amazing, but it is written by a leader in my church (I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) and so that gives it a "stamp of approval" when I am talking to fellow members of the church.

This talk is truly a light in the darkness to me.  I don't feel right about posting it here...copyright laws, you know...but here is the link:

In case, you have trouble with the download, since it is a PDF file.  I also found this copy on the net.

If my glowing review was not enough to tempt you, here is one of my favorite quotes from the talk (though I must say that every page of my copy...12 highlighted!).  Of course this quote mentions light....
"Another woman who had survived years of sexual abuse from her father spoke to me of the dreadful task of healing. I think of the Savior who shuddered because of the suffering, who suffered and bled at every pore, and drew back from the bitter cup, hoping that it was not necessary. He shrank away, but it was necessary. He says, “And I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.”

Children of men is a stock phrase in the scriptures that means all human beings or the human family, but in this context, I hope you will also hear it as a literal phrase, as the little children who have been betrayed and injured at the hands of men, especially who were entrusted with their care. Christ finished his preparations for these children. The time of their physical torment may be over, but the time of their spiritual torment is great. Christ also adds significantly, “Glory be to the father.” For him, accepting and fulfilling the atonement was a dreadful task, but because he did it, we too can lift the dreadful cup to our lips. The scriptures tell us, “He descended below all things in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all, and through all things the light of truth, which truth shineth, this is the light of Christ.” It may seem inconceivable that the light of Christ is eradiating and illuminating the horrifying images and memories associated with sexual abuse, but such is his promise. If this is your situation, cling to that promise. Cling to the light, and let it grow stronger."

Until next time, "Cling to the light" is good advice for all.

Monday, July 18, 2011

And the darkness settled in...

There's been a power outtage (or something) in the Haunted Mind.  There used to be some rooms with light...but I realized yesterday that I am in one of the rooms that used have light and happiness.  Sadly it is dark now.  Last week I was in another room that used to have light and it is dark too. 

I'm one week into three weeks without therapy, and that is part of the problem.  There are some other factors as well.  The question is not so much how I got here, but how to get the lights back on.  That I don't know.  Pondering this yesterday, I realized why I love the moon and stars so much...they are small lights in the darkness.  Not surprising, I also have a strong attachment to flashlights (one in my purse, one in the van, several in the house...).

The reason it is so hard when my therapist is gone is because it triggers feelings of abandonment.  I usually go to therapy twice a week. Two hours where someone listens to me non-judgementally and validates my feelings, and asks wise questions that help me find light.  In other words it is a place I feel "safe".  (Safe is a difficult concept for me, but it is the best word I can think of at the moment.)  When that 'safety zone' is gone, it brings some very old feelings of abandoment to the surface.  Imagine what it most be like to be an abused child...your home is not safe.  What a terrifying place the world must be for that child!  As horrible as you imagine that might be, the reality is even worse.  I know because sometimes I am emotionally detached and I THINK about what that must feel like....terrible.  And other times, I don't have to think about it because I FEEL it. 

Then despite all logic, I project that feeling of abandoment on to my current life and I feel so very alone. 

And the darkness settles in...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jury Duty...the rest of the story

Ok, I will try to keep this promises. 

As you can imagine, the attorneys from each side of a case have different ideas about what kind of jurors they hope to have on a case.  In narrowing down a jury pool...and just to give you an idea our pool started with 58, then they decided it had been narrowed too much and brought in 30 more...all that whittled down to 13 or 14...12 jurors and a couple alternates. 

Attorneys can "challenge" a potential juror either for 'cause' or 'preemptory' reasons.  (Just as a side note, I think dismiss or excuse would be a better word choice than challenge, but no one asked me....)  To challenge for cause is used when a juror says, "no, I'm sure I couldn't be unbiased in this case." or "I can't do it because of my job..."  Things like that.  Pre-emptory means the attorneys don't have to give a reason.  The defense or prosecutor simply doesn't want that juror.

I was excused...oops, I mean challenged, by the Defense for pre-emptory reasons.  I can't say that I blame was a 'child rape case'. 

They asked all of us potential jurors if we or anyone we knew had been abused.  (I should note here that they did give us an opportunity to speak to the attorneys and judge privately).  I explained that I really did not know if I could be unbiased...I would certainly try...but because I am in therapy for this very thing, and have PTSD, I can't promise anything.  Apparently since I said I would try to be unbiased, they couldn't challenge me for cause, though, I'm guessing  the defense is wishing they could have challenged me earlier than because...

During the voir dire, the defense asked the jurors questions about their daughters, if the daughters had lied to them and so forth.  The prosecuting attorney asked some of the jurors how they anticipated the defendant to act on the stand.  They said nervous, etc.  He then asked, "what if the defendant doesn't seem nervous?"  One potential juror, young guy (no more than 22) said that would led him to wonder if she was lying.  The prosecutor then asked if anyone disagreed with that.  A couple of us raised our hands. 

"Juror #25, you raised your hand pretty fast, what do you think?"

I did?  Oops.  Then I explained as briefly as possible about dissociation and how I, for example, could talk to them quite unemotionally about my own abuse that does NOT mean that I am lying or unemotional about it.  Dissociation is defense mechanism.  The attorney then turned back to the young man, and asked him if that changed his opinion.  He said it did. it appears to me...the case was basically her word against his, and the defense is planning to paint an unemotional witness as a liar....then I potentially helped the prosecution. 

What a precarious thing the law is...for both parties...the victim and the accused.  On the one hand...imagine that you are the victim.  It can be your word against your assailant.  What if you are dissociated and unemotional?  What if you are the accused?  What if you are innocent?

If I could summarize my jury experience, I would have to say, "There are no easy answers."  That and if you get called to jury duty...bring something to read.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Jury Duty..."this won't hurt a bit"

Jury Summons....the words strike dread into the hearts of many Americans.  But when I saw them in my mail box, I was happy.  I think that makes me some sort of "nerd".  It is something I have always wanted to do...and yet I did have some concerns.  I think I share these concerns with many other people, and I am happy to report that we were wrong.

To start, I had thought that the court system was rather Orwellian.  Big Brother wants you for Jury Duty and you must comply regardless of how it impacts your life.  My next concern was that I might end up on a case that would last "forever" (definition of forever 2 months or more).  After all, I've read John Grishom!  And I remember how long the O.J. Simpson trial lasted...more than forever!   If you have the same preconceptions and want to know how it really works, keep reading.  If I have bored you already...then sorry, please check back soon for my next post. 

I actually received the Jury Summons a few months ago, and it wasn't a good time for me. To my relief and surprise, the summons includes instructions to defer service...and to a date of your choosing!  Wow, thanks Big Brother, that's pretty reasonable!  So I thought about it and defered to July 6th.  I mailed it in, and received a reply in the mail.  Deferal accepted.   So far so good!

On Wednesday, I nervously drove to the court house...another pleasant parking.  Yes, I am easily amused.  I was able to pass through security without incident (phew! going through security always makes me nervous).  Large signs made it easy to find the place to check in. 

Next step, wait.  Finally after about an hour of waiting, a judge came in and addressed us.  He seemed very friendly (must not have been "the" Big Brother.)  He thanked us for being willing to serve.  I thought "willing" was probably a stretch, but it was kind of him, anyway.  He commiserated that the jury pay of $10 a day is really paltry.  In 1913 the pay was $3 a day and in 1950 they changed it to $10 and haven't changed it since.  He explained that the reason for the waiting so far and the wait that awaited us...was this:  in some cases the parties involved can chose if they prefer the case to be decided by a judge or a jury.  For example cases involving a lot of legal business (corporate law etc) are often decided by judges, whereas cases that are based on facts (rather than legal mumbojumbo) are better for juries.  So at the beginning of the day, the court may not know for certain if they will require a jury or not.  Even when they know they do want a jury sometimes the attorneys have motions and things to take care of that require an undetermined amount of time.  When they are ready, they want potential jurors ready to choose from.  (Are you also getting the image of a lake stocked with fish?)

Then there was a short video that explained the basics of jury selection.  Forgive me if you already know this from John Grisham, but I thought it was interesting.  Both the prosecution and the defense have opinions about the kind of people they hope to have on the jury, so from a large pool, they ask questions.  This process is called voir dire. 

After the video we waited.  Another hour or so passed and a group of 50 people was called to court for voir dire.  I was not one of them, so I waited some more.  We broke for lunch (a generous hour and a half) and then returned to wait some more.  I am not kidding about the waiting!  Finally, they announced that they would be calling up 58 potential jurors for the next voir dire.  I was included in this group.

Remember that one of our concerns as potential jurors is getting "stuck on a forever case"?  In this case the judge informed us that this case is expected to last 2 weeks and we were given the opportunity to express ourselves if this would be a hardship.  Several people said it would be and were questioned by the judge.  Some of the reasons given seemed like genuine hardships to me, being the main caregiver for a mentally disabled adult, for example.  Some I had less sympathy reunions, vacations, and airline tickets.  Don't think me heartless...remember we all had the opportunity to defer service.  So I simply wondered why the people in this category didn't defer their service.  The point is that as far as I could tell everyone that said 2 weeks would be a hardship was released back in the the jury pond...pool...waiting area.  They were released from that trial, but not released entirely.  They had to go back to the waiting room and wait to be considered for the next case.  All these people were completely released from jury duty the following day BEFORE lunch.  Their jury service was a day and a half!  (Note: Of the 108 people that reported with me on Wedneday, 14 of them will serve on a jury, the rest were not selected for a jury and "served" only a day and a half.)  From this we can conclude that our fears of being forced into a never-ending-court-case seem to be unfounded.  The judge seemed very reasonable, and so far I haven't encountered Big Brother or any of his minions. 

The next step was to continue the voir dire.  I'm not supposed to talk about the case...even now...and the jury hasn't been decided yet.  So stay tuned for part two later.   I can say, that after a couple hours of this we were released to go home and asked to return in the morning of the following day to continue.  I thought that since we were asked to arrive by 8:45 am that we would start at 9.  Wouldn't that be your assumption as well?  But I had already forgotten the first lesson of jury duty...wait, wait, and wait some more.

On Thursday morning we were informed that our pool of 58 had dwindled too much and so the judge asked for more jurors.  While they went upstairs and repeated the steps, I and my companions had been through the previous day, we sat and can guess what comes next right?  We waited some more.  Seriously.  After lunch we were called up to the court room again.  Would it surprise you at this point to learn that we have not finished voir dire and I have to return on Monday?

So, for those of you, who got bored and are skimming (caught you!) here's what I learned.  Judges and the court system in general are not Orwellian, they are actually pretty reasonable and willing to work with people.  Second, eternal court-cases appear to be less common and prospective jurors in these cases are given ample warning and given a chance to be excused for hardship.

The most important lesson so far seems to be...bring something to do!  They do provide wi-fi, so you could bring your lap top.  They also have vending machines, a microwave and a refrigerator. Whether it is your laptop, a book, or suduku...bring something.  You will need it! 

Other than that Jury Duty as not as bad as people think...come prepared and "this won't hurt a bit."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Inspiration from Scarlett O'Hara

I recently watched Gone with the Wind again.  I love the scene where she returns to Tara during the war and finds things vastly changed.  She goes out to the garden amid the destruction, is able to find one lone turnip.  She takes it firmly in hand and says, "As God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."

Love Scarlett or hate her (who could hate her really???)...these words, her tenacity and courage are inspiring.  I find inspiration in her solemn vow.  I find strength in giving myself a similar promise...I will survive this. And when I do, I will use the strength gained to help others.  I will have to pass on lying, cheating, stealing and killing, of course, but you get the idea.

I will get through this.  There are times that I do feel very fragile like a broken egg shell...but I am not an egg shell.  I am heated steel.  I am malleable right now because of extreme pressure, but I have an inner strength that will see me through this!  Watch for it.

I won't be able to do it alone though...I need support...and I can't thank you, my friends, enough for the support you give me by reading my blog.  It means a lot to me.  Together...we will "never be hungry again."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Drawn and Quartered...

My therapist is out of town and that means that I am not doing well.  When he is gone it triggers a certain reaction, which I have come to recognize.  However, recognition is not enough.  You could think of it like this; if you broke your arm, you would recognize that the ensuing pain was due to the injury.  However, knowing that doesn't make the pain go away.  In much the same way, realizing why I have a hard time whenever I can't go to therapy, doesn't help minimize the pain.  Though if I were feeling optomistic, I might theorize that it is a step in that direction.

The cause of the pain is still so acute and tender that I can't write about it yet (sorry if that makes this post a sort of teaser). While I am not ready to talk about the source of the pain, I do want to share something related.  The other day when I was feeling this pain acutely, and having a sort of melt down. 

SIDE BAR: At times like that I have wondered if I was having a 'nervous breakdown'.  That does not seem to be a "real" malady...and just what is meant by patients how use that term I can't pin down and doctors and therapists don't use it at all...or as nearly as I can tell from my google search.  And we all know that google is the be all and end all of research. But I digress.

It was a really, really bad morning.  One of those "forget 'one day at a time', try "one hour at a time" moments.  While I was struggling with this my children reminded me (more than once) that I had promised to take them to the Seattle Aquarium that day.  I could not imagine how I could do that in the state I was in and yet if I didn't how could I explain.  "Sorry, kids but your mother is having a melt down."  Ummm, no.

At times like this I feel "drawn and quartered".  You've heard that phrase, right?  My understanding of this (which was incorrect) has always been that a rope is tied to each of a person's hands and feet the other ends of the ropes to horses, and then the horses are sent running all in different directions.  It's gruesome, I know...sorry.  The actual definition is even worse (too disturbing for me to share here.)  The point is that is how I feel about going to therapy, being a mom, a wife and working full-time, etc.  Sometimes it feels as if I am going to be torn apart. 

Cutting one or all of the ropes is not an what to do?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pampering Yourself to Fitness good friend Josh has a blog...totally insane and hillarious...and recently on his blog he asked for advice about weight loss.  You can read all about it on here: You Just Became My Personal Trainer.

Being the good friend that I am (humble too), naturally I had to send him an e-mail and share the World's Best Weight Loss Advice.  In fact, it is such good advice that I decided to share it here with you!  Lucky you!  (oh yes, I am in a good mood today!)


Ok, ok, I know you were joking, and I know I am the last person that one would expect to be giving advice about losing weight...for the obvious reason that I need to lose weight myself. But seriously, seriously, I know the answer!!!

Actually the answer has three parts...are you ready for this wisdom? Ok, serious now..

#1 A person who has serious weight issues, we're not talking about those 5-20 lbs now, but serious issues...first must determine the emotional reasons that cause them to overeat. Self-control...phooey...Take yourself for go to work regularly, you help at church, you help with the do plenty of things that exhibit self-control...only sometimes you eat more calories than you burn...why the breakdown in that area? Until you figure that out and resolve it this won't go away. There are many stories of women who have weight loss surgery and then afterward acquire some other addictive behavior like gambling...they lost the weight but they didn't deal with the emotional issues. (I don't even have to be a therapist to figure this stuff out, LOL!)

#2 Find a physical activity that you LOVE. Something that calls to you! For me that is racquetball and bike riding. I feel a little guilty making time to do these two things because I love them so much! If you have an activity that you love, it is so much easier to do. It needs to be something accessible of course...if you love swimming but don't have access to a pool then you need to get access or find a different activity.

#3 Eat food that remembers where it came other words the less processed the better. An apple is good, but applesauce not as good and apple pie...uh oh! Think about Venezuela...what did you eat there? Let me beans and rice...tons of rice. Sometimes a little chicken. Those are all foods that remember where they came from!

I call this plan "pampering yourself to fitness", because really when you eat whole foods and do exercise you LOVE, it feels so good!

So why don't I do it then? Well, that brings us back to #1...I am dissociative. So while I sit here now and tell you what I think is THE best plan for weight loss and fitness (I'm absolutely serious)...tomorrow (or even later today after therapy...if it is hard) another part of me will say, "to Hell with that, give me some chocolate!" or sometimes I get in a funk and I just don't think to eat at all. My husband says everyone goes through this anorexia/binging/eating healthy cycle...but I say they don't do it to the same extreme that I (as a dissociative person) do.

Think of it like this...if I were a healthy weight and I said, "I don't like the way my body looks, I need to lose weight." You might laugh and think, "women are never happy with their bodies."  However, if I were a normal weight but had a history of anorexia or bulimia and I said exactly the same thing, now there are alarm bells going off in your head.  That is the difference between my anorexia/binging/eating healthy cycles and a "normal" person's.

So is there a prize for being the best personal trainer ever??? You know my address... LOL!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Dragon in the Cellar

Remember my  Haunted Mind? Some of the rooms hold anger from the past.   Anger is a very difficult emotion for me to allow myself to feel, and when I do feel it it is hard to figure out what to do with it.  It is like having a Dragon in the Cellar.  What to do with that thing?  It's too big to come up the stairs.  It breathes fire, so you can't go down there.  You fear his fire breathing may burn down the house so you throw meat down the stairs in a effort to appease him...but still there is a dragon in the cellar.

Photo by Bernard Goldbach  aka Topgold on Flickr

My anger dragon disrupts my life in different ways.  He is sleeping right now, but here is something I wrote one day when he was snarling and pacing...

Today I woke up in an angry room. I don't know why. Yesterday was such a nice day. My husband and I went to the Flower and Garden Show in Seattle. I found it inspiring. I came home happy. I was happy to return to my cute little house, my darling children and my fuzzy puppy. Ah, life was good.

This morning I woke up and how can I explain? Everything is different. The children are getting on my last nerve. It does not help that one of them is sick and whiny. I want to give him the TLC that I would want if I were sick. I try, but the whining makes me want to send him to his room...ALONE! Of course, feeling guilty about this (even though I didn't send him to domestic exile) makes me even grumpier. The house looks like a wreak. How did it get this way? Ahhh! I go into the kitchen, the dishes were not done last night. That is one of the kid's jobs...said kid is gone for the day...more annoyance. Of course, that is my fault too, I let him go after all. I am slipping, whatever happened to "firm, fair and consistent"? How can I be firm, fair and consistent when I do not even know myself from one day to the next?

I tell myself, a "normal" mom would use this energy created by the anger to clean the house instead of just moping about it. So I step into the kitchen. I tell myself, I can do the dishes myself, and deal with the teen-dishwasher in some other way...there are always chores to be done. But being in the kitchen makes me so uncomfortable. It feels like 5 fire alarms are going off in my head screaming at me, "danger! get out! danger! danger!" I look around, nothing to be afraid of, but the anxiety builds exponentially until I obey and leave the kitchen. Two of my worst nightmares had "kitchen scenes". I don't know what my subconscious is trying to tell me about the kitchen, but whatever it is I'm not sure I want to know. I will clean some other room, and bribe another teenager to do the kitchen for me. I go into another room. Better, but still the anxiety is building. I just want to get out of the house completely. I snap at the children and then apologize.  I think I am going to implode.

Sometimes I really hate my, not my I hate me. I hate what the smoke and ashes of the abuse have done to me and what was a good life. I wonder if I will ever heal. If I will ever be truly happy again. Then I remember that yesterday was such a lovely day. I can't feel those feelings now, but I remember that some part of me felt them. The hope that I could feel that way again seems like a life is a ways away from me...but I start swimming for it.

Maybe, just maybe, tomorrow I will feel better. Maybe tomorrow I will wake up in a happy room. Maybe someday I will heal. Until then, I will stay away from the kitchen.

.....Still there is a dragon in the cellar. . .
Photo attribution:  Thanks to Bernard Goldbach for this marvelous photo.  You can see more of his photos at Flickr  Topgold

Friday, May 27, 2011

Silence Promotes Violence

Since I have been sharing my journey of healing from childhood sexual abuse, several people in my life have confided in me: either their own stories or their children's. I am stunned and saddened to be made aware of what a rampant problem this is.  I admit I also feel frustrated that as serious as it is and as one is talking about it. 

Ponder this for a moment.  If you have a facebook page, you know that nearly every time you log on you will see on someones status: 'repost this if you know someone who has cancer'.  I asked a friend once, what is the point of me reposting it. (Yes, I was a little cranky that day, but fortunately my friend didn't take it personally.)  She said, "awareness".  Oh...because cancer is a big secret?  Pink ribbons for breast cancer, red dresses for women's heart health and it goes on and on.

I don't mean to trivialize cancer or heart problems, certainly.  The point I am getting at is 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer, 1 in 3 will be sexually abused.  And yet where are the facebook posts and the ribbons for awareness of this problem?   According to Boy Scouts of America, "More than 3 million reports of child abuse are received each year, including half a million reports of child sexual abuse."  Half a million a year!  And those are the ones that are reported.  How much would that number grow if every case was reported?  I shudder to think...

There ARE some out there trying to raise awareness.   Recently I saw a car magnet with a ribbon that said, "Silence promotes violence."  The point being that we need to talk about it to help prevent it.  So let's talk about prevention for a moment.

There are websites out there that tell you where convicted child molesters live when they are released from prison. While I do think that is valuable information, I suggest that it is the "unconvicted" abusers that we should be more concerned about. Most victims are abused or molested by someone they know and trust. So what can we, as parents, do to protect our children? Knowledge is one of our best tools.  Here are a couple books I have found helpful.

BSA Pamphlet for preventing child abuse:  (until you can get to the library...)

Out of Harm's Way by Sandy K.Wurtele PhD 

A short book that you could read in an hour, but is packed with information.  I learned a few new things from reading it.

Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story by Mary Ann Broberg 

Once several years ago, I was with a couple of friends when one of them casually mentioned, "When I was kidnapped as a child, they found me in a basement." Ahh...excuse me, did I just hear you correctly? You were kidnapped?  My friend's mom wrote a book about their experience.  Jan was kidnapped and sexually abused by a family friend.  I mention this because the foreword of the book is written by a police officer that worked on the case and he said, Mrs. Broberg, was very brave in asking him to do this because what he was going to say was that my friend's did "everything wrong". There were warning signs, and red flags that the parents missed. Mrs. Broberg was willing to put her pride aside, admit her mistakes in order to help prevent us from making the very same mistakes.

So Sexy So Soon by Diane E. Levin PhD and Jean Kilbourne EdD 

I haven't read this one yet, but one of my favorite blogs did a fabulous review on it.  You can read the review (and other great reviews) here: Reading for Sanity  I am interested in this book because I am very concerned about this trend.  Not necessarily from the point of view of the authors, but in a world of half a million reports of childhood sexual abuse is it wise to allow our daughters to dress "sexy".  Do we really want to attract the lustful eyes of pedophiles? 

Finally, we need to talk to our kids about abuse.  I know, I know we don't want to scare the kids.  I have that same fear.  I was discussing that with a friend recently and she said, "It depends on how you present it.  When you ask your child to wear a bike helmet, you don't tell them that it is to they won't hit their head and spread their brains over the sidewalk."  Point taken.

My friends, lets start talking about this problem.  Talk to one another, talk to your children.  Through talking about it we can educate ourselves to prevent it.  Through talking we can support survivors and their families.  And through talking about it we can help victims to come forward...this is especially important for those that are being abused right now

Let's do what we can to stop the abuse.  Start talking...Silence promotes violence.

Monday, May 16, 2011

True Confessions

Dear Friends, I escaped the sinkhole that I was in when I wrote last, only to slip into another one...sigh.

Sometimes I think my life is divided into good days and bad days.  On good days, I have pain, but also have hope that someday will be better.  On bad days, I have pain and no hope.  Guess what kind of day I am having today...

I can't write's dark down here...but I have something I have been working on...when I had an actual good day (happiness without pain...that does happen, it is just hard to remember sometimes...)

I hope you will enjoy this.  First confession...I got this idea from another blog!

I confess....

I have gone to Dairy Queen, right after working out at the gym (I know, I know)

I love Jane Eyre but I'm bored by Jane Austen.

I would give a stranger the shirt off my back, but I wouldn't give my last piece of chocolate to my own child...

I have a thing for rogues...I particularly love Captain Jack.

I hate the color orange. My Bishop has an orange tie and everytime I see him sitting in front of the congregation wearing it, I just want to have Dart Practice!

Sometimes I listen to my music louder than my teenagers do. They are very embarassed by this...they say it wouldn't be so bad if I didn't do it while driving a mini-van...

That's it...any confessions YOU want to share?  I dare you...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Emotional Sinkholes
As a child I had a vivid nightmare that haunts me still.  In the dream I had fallen into a pit (a sinkhole).  My mother was standing at the top of the pit, with my siblings, one a toddler and the other a baby.  She looked into the hole puzzled, not knowing what to do.  She wanted to help, but didn't know how.  And then she turned and walked away.

Before I entered this alternate universe of grief and pain, back when all my memories were tucked away in that vast expanse we call the unconscious. . .it would have been hard for me to understand how something that happened so long ago could cause someone so much pain now.  I likely would have thought something like, "Gee, that is terrible that you were abused as a child, but that was a long time ago.  Aren't you glad that is in the past?  What do you mean it is bothering you now?  Can't you just let it go?"

Ah, ignorance IS bliss.  It is easier not to know.

However, as I have told you before, the unconscious will not be ignored forever.  Forgive me, I know have said some of this before, but I feel a need to restate it.

Childhood is many things.  One of the purposes of childhood is learning coping skills.  A child falls skins a knee and is comforted by a loving parent.  Eventually the child will fall skin his knee, comfort himself and resume playing.  However, what happens when a child is confronted with a pain so deep that even an adult would have trouble processing it, and the child is NOT comforted?

It seems the only thing a child can do is put that away in a part of the mind and seal it off to be dealt with at some later time when coping skills and support systems are in place.  I suppose it really is the best thing that can be done in such a situation.  What happens then though when that child becomes an adult?

The pain, grief, terror, shame, anxiety...all those emotions that were sealed off have been perfectly preserved.  When the unconscious is ready to divulge its secrets, unexpected triggers open up the doors of the Haunted Mind, and one finds herself in an Emotional Sinkhole.

People who have not experienced childhood trauma cannot understand the depth and breadth of the pain.  I have experienced many painful things in my life: unrequited love, miscarriages (one at 12 weeks that haunts me still), loss of beloved family members (young and old), job lay offs, bankruptcy, foreclosure, life-threatening illness....I have experienced all of these.  Yet when one of the doors of the Haunted Mind opens up and I feel the pain I felt as a child: the pain so fresh, so well preserved that it feels like the trauma happened today, no other pain even comes close.  And no, I can't just "let it go".  The trauma caused not just emotional damage, but mental damage as well. I really hate to call it Mental Illness, but I suppose if I were honest I would.  I have PTSD, and a Dissociative Disorder....I can no more "let go" of those, than I could let go of cancer.

I am in an Emotional Sinkhole.  It's cold and dark down here, and I can only hope that those who are standing on the edge will not turn and walk away.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Emotionally Flatlined

The human mind has an amazing ability for self-preservation. At least that is how I am going to justify what I am about to explain to you. It sounds good. It sounds reasonable. Most importantly, it sounds sane.

When the emotional pressure (read: pain) becomes just too much, it is as if a an emotional circuit breaker flips...and suddenly no more pain. No happiness feeling, just silence. Numbness...

...Emotionally flatlined...

One would think that after dealing with unimaginable pain, that this numbness would bring a welcome relief, and it does...for a short time.

But the unconscious mind will not be ignored. If the conscious mind refuses to acknowledge it, then the unconscious will "communicate" through the body. We call this...anxiety.

Shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea...this is the price to be paid for being emotionally flatlined.

When one can no longer tolerate the physical symptoms of anxiety and goes figuratively searching with flashlight in hand to find the circuit breaker box...

...the pain begins again...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter, Happy Birthday!

Easter is my favorite holiday.  I don't decorate or make a special meal; I confess I am Domestically Challenged.  We decorate eggs and the Easter Bunny visits...but mostly my Easter Celebration is internal.  That celebration is significant though.

So knowing this you can better understand why several years ago when I was pregnant and my water broke on the eve of Easter, I was thrilled.  A baby born on Easter would be a wonderful way to celebrate Easter and all it means to me spiritually.  However, it was early and my body didn't want to "give up" the baby, so getting labor to start was a long process, labor was a slow, painful process...and right after midnight on Monday, my son was born.  Not only was it no longer Easter, but it was....April Fool's Day.  My son, who is old enough now to understand this finds it all very amusing...I still do not.

Amazingly, a few years later I found myself, once again, pregnant and being told "we need to get the baby out."  It was Easter Day and I was thrilled!  THIS time I would have my Easter Baby!  Who would have thought I would get a second chance?  But as mothers, midwives and doctors know, babies are unpredictable and once again my son was born shortly after midnight.  At least it wasn't April Fool's this time.

So fast forward a few years to today...Easter 2011.  Guess whose birthday it is today?  Mine!!!!

Isn't that amazing?  As you know Easter changes every year, and it doesn't usually "fall" this late in April.  And of course, each year our birthday's fall on a different day of the I think I can safely say my birthday and Easter have never been on the same day before.

I would have considered this an amazing gift anytime, but especially after the Hellish year I have had,  the ups and downs I have had in my relationship with Christ (remember Stealing Guilt and more recently Palm Sunday...well it is simply incredible to me that THIS year of all years Easter would fall on my birthday.  I am in awe.

I am so pleased in fact that I am feeling a little mischievious. . .

Easter is about birth and death.  Which brings me to my next item on the agenda of today's post.  A good friend of mine and I used to write our own epitaphs for fun.  It was a macrabe way to relieve stress.  Last night, I was reminded of that and wrote this:

"Here lies Leslie:  Upon examination, doctors discovered that while she had been emotionally flatlined, and mentally derailed for sometime, what kept her heart beating was her family.  But in the end her physical heart also tired, slowed and stopped...however, her love for her family continues to grow and scientists are baffled."

Death is inevitable, and sometimes even may feel preferable to life, but because of Christ, we can all hope for a new birth, a new beginning.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Things that make you go...hmmmm....

Look at the odometer.  Is it just me or does this cry out, "Go back in the house and go back to bed. Do not drive anywhere today."

Just sayin...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Palm Sunday...Triumphal Entry back into my heart...

"Words were useless. At times, they might sound wonderful, but they let you down the moment you really needed them. You could never find the right words, never, and where would you look for them? The heart is as silent as a fish, however much the tongue tries to give it a voice."  Cornelia Funk, Inkheart

Though I fancy myself a writer, at times I find words to be useless as well.  At the most important times, and for the things closest to our heart words simply fail.  For example, often times I tell my husband, "I love you," and while I know he hears the words, I am not altogether certain that he hears what all is in my heart.  In spite of the inadequacy of words, I would like to try and share with you what happened to me today.

It's Palm Sunday...on this day Christ entered Jerusalem triumphantly with people laying palm leaves on the ground (this was before red carpets...).  Then He went to the temple and cleansed it.  He overturned tables!  Stop for a moment and imagine what a scene that was.  He was angry.  We don't often picture him that way, but He had to have been very angry.  I find His anger oddly comforting.

For some months I have struggled with the idea that Heavenly Father and Jesus knew what happened to me and yet did not stop it.  Many of you reading this have children, can you imagine knowing that someone is hurting your child in such a way and yet allowing it to continue???  My adult mind understood that God cannot simply swoop down and stop the bad guys all the time.  (Think about it, our population could diminish very quickly...but seriously, as an adult I do understand.)  However, the parts of me that holds the pain and memories of a child...did NOT understand.  Not at all.

A few weeks ago, I began to think about the scriptures that talk about God's vengeance on the wicked.  Those scriptures that made me cringe before suddenly became very comforting.  God did not intervene when the abuse happened, but that does not mean that He is not angry about what occurred.  It does not mean that my abuser...or any abuser...will go unpunished.  Mercy cannot rob Justice.

Thus began the healing in my heart, my God has not forsaken me.  Then today during church I was pondering the words of a hymn, I Stand All Amazed...and I realized...Christ felt alone in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He wrestled with pain while his friends slept.  Then came the trial and the Crucifixion...Heavenly Father did not rescue Christ from the hands of the evil men.  And Christ did not save Himself from them, though it was in His power to do so.  When He was on the cross, He cried out, "My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?"  He felt alone in His greatest time of need.

And through His pain, I could finally see that while I have felt alone and abandoned,

I was not.  I am not.

And thus, Christ was welcomed back into my wounded heart.