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 either...no 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 week...so 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.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chess Klutz Gets Promoted


Transformer Chess Pieces: photo courtesy of my 9 yr old son
In chess, the lowliest piece is The Pawn.  However, even a pawn can be powerful if it can somehow make it's way across the board to the other side.  If that happens: Pawn Promotion!!! 

A pawn can be promoted to any piece that a player desires.  Because the Queen is the most powerful piece, that is the most likely choice.  It doesn't matter if you still have your Queen on the board.  You can have 2, 3, 9...queens on the board at once.  Such is the possibility of a lowly pawn.

Apparently, this is also true with "lowly Chess Klutzes" like myself.  We can make advances and be promoted! 

What am I talking about?  Enough beating around the bush...it's gloating time! 

I almost beat my husband at chess the other day.  Boy, was he surprised!  I almost had him, but in chess as in life, I was too impulsive.  One rash move and his Bishop came "zinging" out of nowhere and captured my Queen.  Ah, such a loss.  I was so close to check mate.  (Note to self: don't be so impulsive and keep an eye on those Bishops!)

The point...and oh yes, there is a point...is how I went from being a "Chess Klutz" to an "almost beat my husband chess player"!  (I'll get him next time!)

The secret to my promotion is chess lessons!  Not just any chess lessons...because I have read chess books and tried to improve my game numerous times over the years.   Sometimes the key to learning something difficult is finding the right teacher.  I found the right teacher in Elliot Neff.  His lessons move forward is such a simple, but logical fashion that has filled in some missing gaps for me...allowing me to improve my game immensely.  And in a short time!

National Chess Master Elliott Neff has more than 18 years of experience in coaching and teaching chess.   His chess lessons are available on DVD, or through his "e-school" on his website:  Chess4Life .  If you happen to live in the area, there are private lessons available as well. 

The lessons are geared towards children (but you are not too proud to let that stop you are you?  I'm not!).  For me the beauty of it, is that I can share these lessons with my children...as long as I stay a couple lessons ahead!

Which reminds me...my 9 yr old beat me the other day (yes...I was foiled by the Bishop again)...does that make me a poor chess player or a really great chess teacher? 

Maybe I am still a Chess Klutz after all?  Anyway, check out the chess lessons available at chess4life.com.  And watch out for those sneaky Bishops!

Disclaimer:  I have no connection with Elliot Neff or chess4life, I just like to share a good thing when I find one!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Rescuing and Being Rescued

Warning to my readers who are survivors of abuse...this post may be triggering...be safe. 

Therapy is hard work.  This post might help explain why I continue and I hope that it will help others face their inner most fears and demons....so they can rescue and be rescued.

I don't dream; I have nightmares.  Fortunately, most of the time I don't remember them, but when I do...

It will be easier for you to understand if I tell you about one of them.  Bare in mind that it is the emotion of the dream that is the most intense, so hopefully this won't be nearly as intense for you as it was for me. 

I had a dream that I was in house or apartment with an open floor plan...meaning from the living room you could see into the kitchen.  The dream began with a woman (a roommate, I think) being raped in my kitchen.  I could see it happening.  Worse, she was screaming, and calling me (by name) for help.  It is an image I will never forget.  The screams were bloodcurdling...actresses screaming in movies and TV don't even come close . 

The woman was raped twice in my kitchen. The first time, I saw and did nothing.  I was paralyzed with fear.  The second time, however, I somehow cornered the bad guy in the bathroom.  I punched him repeatedly, but he did not respond at all.  It was as if I were a fly landing on him.  I felt intense rage...I don't remember ever feeling rage like that in my waking hours.  I was determined that he would not just stand there and ignore me.  So I hit him again.  This time in the face.  I punched him in the nose.  I hit him so hard the cartilage of his nose was forced back into his brain and it killed him.  (I don't think that is actually physically possible....)  He fell to the floor in a huge puddle of blood.

I felt nothing.  Not happy...I vanquished the foe; I had a right to be happy.  But I was not happy.  Not relieved.  Nothing.  I felt nothing.  It was over and that was all.

This is not the only dream that I have had about a woman screaming.  Through discussing these dreams with my therapist, I realized that the woman screaming in the dream is me.

I am the one screaming for rescue.  I am the one that needs to do the rescuing.  Both positions are terrifying.

In a sense it reminds me of childbirth...labor is hard, but the most painful part is the pushing phase. It hurts, and pushing hurts even more...and yet you have to increase the pain for a moment in order to make the pain stop. 

I am so scared, but I can still hear her screaming. . .
 and I have to try to help.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Counting the cost...

Remember the last time you bought a new (or new to you) vehicle and then suddenly everywhere you looked you saw this same vehicle on the road?  Same make, same model, same color.  Obviously there weren't suddenly more, simply you were now more aware of them.

This is how I feel about "counting the cost" of my abuse.  It is not something I do intentionally, it's just there.  It's there in the triggers that blindside me...like scissors and red rugs.  (You don't want me to explain that...)  It also comes in more subtle ways, and sad: "I get it now" moments.  I'm wrestling with that tonight.

One of the painful wounds from the past is about housecleaning.   (Make no mistake I say wound instead of scar intentionally. A scar would mean it has healed, and this is an open wound.)  I am not a very good housekeeper.  My house is cleaner now that I have three teenagers to help with the work, but it is still a source of embarrassment for me and always has been.  What I didn't really understand until this week...one of those blindsided moments...is WHY this is such a difficult area for me to master.  And why any discussion of it is so painful for me.  I won't go into the details (so you can stop shielding your eyes...its safe) but cleaning house is directly tied to my abuse.  To me housekeeping is not about love, but something unthinkable.  I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

So as an adult this is a never ending source of pain for me.  If the house is "too clean" that makes me uneasy.  I get this intense desire to hide.  If the house is "too messy", I freak out.  Yelling and crying are usually involved. The very act of cleaning makes me very uncomfortable.  Every nerve comes alive waiting for danger.  I can only do it in short spurts.  If someone offers to come over and help me clean...well, Heaven help that poor soul for they have just stepped on my emotional landmine.  I assume the worst about their intentions and fall apart while they try to figure out what went wrong.

This difficulty is further compounded by the fact that I live in a religious culture (I am LDS) that puts tremendous value on work and service.  Not having an immaculately clean home makes me feel separate and like a failure. Earlier this evening I was reading a blog from another LDS person who wrote about a friend who had experienced something terrible.  What was the first response of the LDS friends?  To go in and clean the suffering one's house "top to bottom".  Just reading that, imaging receiving that kind of service myself brought me just short of a panic attack.  I'm not kidding.  I wish I could explain the anxiety and fear that swelled up inside of me.  It has been a couple hours and I still feel a sense of unease...a fear that someone in a spirit of love might want to come over and clean my house.  I can't breathe.

Just last week in therapy, I was telling my therapist how I feel so utterly uncomfortable and out of place at church...a place that was once a source of peace and solace.  "I'm not like them."  I had said with tears springing to my eyes.  He got that compassionate look that he gets sometimes and said, "But Leslie, you are like them, you have the same values, the same beliefs."  All I could do was shake my head no, and try to fight back the tears.  Even in therapy, I hate to cry. 

Unfortunately, the housekeeping is just part of the problem.  Another thing that sets me apart from other LDS women (who are good, loving people) is that once they clean the house of someone who is suffering, the next thing they do is bring meals.  I have been the recipient of many such delicious meals after delivering babies, or having health issues. Even I can't complain about being on the receiving end of that service.  BUT...it is a service that is nearly impossible for me to give.

I don't cook.  Again culturally, in my church, homemaking skills are emphasized.  And  so again, I find myself lacking.  I used to cook...never very well, but I could do it.  Now, however, as the memories I have so long kept tucked away in my mind are creeping towards my conscious mind, I find the kitchen very uncomfortable.  I cannot be in the kitchen for any length of time.  Two of my worst nightmares involved kitchens.  Thank goodness my husband doesn't mind cooking.  If I am asked to help out by taking a meal to someone, I turn to my husband...

And that is not all, no that is not all.  (If I sound like Dr. Seuss, it's because I am a fan, and this post is too depressing...)  LDS people are counseled not to watch R-rated movies.  No one is going to come beat you with a stick if you do, but it is good counsel.  The reason is simple; Gandhi said it best, "I will not let anyone walk through my mind with dirty feet."  So, I sit with these lovely women at church who do not watch R-rated movies, knowing that my nightmares are R-rated and my memories are X-rated.  How can I NOT feel different than them???  Sometimes I think I should carry a bell and cry out, "Unclean, unclean..." 

The housekeeping and cooking are not new problems, only the awareness of why I have these issues is new.  I used to compensate for these differences by teaching.  I was given many opportunities in the church to teach and I loved it.  I am a good teacher.  But I can't teach right now because the storm cloud of memories pressing on my mind makes me feel different, apart...like a hypocrite.  So now, I have lost that as well.  I hope it is a temporary loss, but right now I don't know.

As the "casualties" from the abuse continue to mount, I find myself looking for some sort of silver lining.  I can't help it, something good has to come from this!  I am a Pollyanna, and though that term is often used in a negative sense, I wear it proudly.  The best thing I can say about this situation is that I am learning a deep sense of compassion.  Where others see struggles and think, "What can I do?"....I can boldly step forward, because I am well acquainted with pain. It doesn't scare me.  I have learned that when someone is suffering and you don't know what to do or say...don't SAY anything.  Just listen and validate.  "Listen" and "validate" are my two favorite words.  It means the world to me when someone simply listens (or reads my blog) and says, "Wow, Leslie, you are going through a hard time."  Yes, I am.  Thank you for understanding. 

And thanks for listening and reading; it means more to me than you know.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Enchanted Walk

Living in the Northwest, a simple walk on a local trail can feel like a fairy tale...

Every fairy tale needs a damsel in distress...enter Shelab...
 She's really a baby...and I mean in age and temperment.  She needs some socialization, as she is afraid of everyone and everything we see on the trail.  "Shelab, c'mon that squirrel won't hurt you."  Isn't she pretty, though?!  In the magic of the woods, she becomes "Beauty".

Follow this stream to a castle where it is said there lives....a Beast.

On the way to the castle you must cross over this bridge...
  I hear there are three Billy Goat brothers that help people over the bridge.  I don't know why.  It looks like a harmless bridge to me.

You might think these are logs, but don't dally to long in the forest or you might get tired and lie down....

Now I know this is not a "photography blog"  and I am not a photographer...but admit it - you loved the pictures!  Stay tuned, we'll be back to your regularly scheduled programming shortly!

Ok, ok, since you asked...one more...

If this isn't "Happily Ever After" then I don't know what is...
The feeling I have out on the trail reminds me of this quote:

"Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in a haystack of light.  It was what I was born for - to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world - to instruct myself over and over in joy and acclamation..." Mary Oliver