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.