Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Your Turn...

*whispers*....come close.  No closer, I want to tell you a secret...

Just between you and me, I don't what to write this week...I'm trying (and succeeding) to distance myself from my past.  It is not something I can do for very long, but hey it's Christmas, so you can't blame me for trying. 

Dissociation is great for this.  Sometimes I can feel and act normal for short periods.  But then...what to write for my blog about healing from child abuse?  I could repost an older post.  Or I could tell you about Les Miserables.  I loved it, but I'll leave it at that.
Larisa Koshkina's what's really on my mind.  Since my repressed memories started to surface, along with the grief, pain, shame, and anger...came a crisis of faith.  I have alluded to it here on the blog, but not fully discussed it.  Why is it that the things that pain us the most deeply are the hardest to talk about?

I'm ready to talk about that faith crisis and how I am getting through it.  (I wish I could say it is in the past, but it isn't.)  This time though, I don't mean blogging about it, I mean that I intend to write a book.  I've already started it.

This is where "Your Turn" comes in. One day I went to a church bookstore, searching for a book that could help with the pain, I didn't find one.  I told my son, who was with me, "I will have to write the book I need--for someone else." 

So tell me--what would you be looking for in THAT book?  I know my own story, but I also know there are other stories.  Perhaps there are questions that others have asked that I haven't thought of.  Perhaps there are answers that others have found that are still hidden to me.  So I need your help.  What came to your mind as you read this post?  What would you like a book like this to cover?  What questions are you still searching?  What answers would you like to share?   

The questions are for friends/family and loved ones of survivors too.  What are your questions? 

I welcome your responses, here, on facebook or in email.  You can email me at lesliesillusions at gmail. 

Photo attribution: Larisa Koshkina

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What I will tell my children about the Newtown Massacre

Nat Sakunworarat

My readers, my friends, on this day after tragedy, if I could I would just sit with you and listen and validate your feelings about what has happened.  Since I can’t be there with each of you, I will share my thoughts, and hope that perhaps they will be helpful to someone in need.
Because of my past, I struggle with the concept of “safety”.  I think I stopped believing in that idea long before I stopped believing in Santa.  “No safe places,” is a mantra from long ago and deep within. 
So when I received emails from my school district, with suggestions on how to talk to children about the tragedy, and the first item on the list was “assure the children that schools are safe.”  I balked.  Big time.  How in the world can I tell them, in the light of today’s events, that schools are safe?  I would feel like a hypocrite.  I mentioned to my co-worker what a ridiculous idea I thought that was.  He said the idea is to reassure them and not….here he launched into what is best described as an imitation of Chicken Little.  Only in his version the sky was not falling, but schools were not safe.  All right, point taken, however, I still can’t tell my children schools are safe because I don’t believe in safe places.  So what should I tell them--and myself?
I wish I could tell them God will protect you.  But clearly God does not prevent these kinds of tragedies from happening, so a simple “God will protect” you is not enough.  As an adult, it comforts me to think of Jesus with Mary and Martha after Lazarus died.  Even though he knew that in a moment He would raise Lazarus from the dead, He still felt their pain and wept with them.  I believe He weeps with us now, after today’s events.  That comforts me, but I don’t think that would help the children.  It sure doesn’t feel like enough.  So what then?
Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places, and for me it came from a quote being passed around Facebook.  This is from Fred Rogers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’  
"To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster’, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”
Look for the helpers.  Yes! I love that.  In today’s tragedy there were teachers, and police men and swat teams that knew what to do and took action quickly. One of those helpers was a teacher, Kaitlin Roig.  She acted quickly, closing her classroom door and ushering all the children into the class bathroom and blocked the door.  Roig said:
"If they started crying, I would take their face and tell them, 'It's going to be OK,. . .I told the kids I love them and I was so happy they were my students... I said anyone who believed in the power of the prayer, we need to pray and those who don't believe in prayer think happy thoughts."  Article attribution here
In hurricanes, and earthquakes, there are always helpers.  That is something I can feel comfortable telling my children, “God can’t always prevent tragedies, but He will send someone to help.  When bad things happen, look for the helpers.”
One of my favorite books, The Hiding Place, reaffirms this.  Corrie Ten Boom said that she wrote the book to show that “there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.”  Corrie Ten Boom and her family were Christians living in Holland during Hitler’s reign.  They were part of a sort of underground railroad that helped 100’s of Jewish people escape.  However, they got caught and Corrie, her father and her sister were sent to a concentration camp.  Her sister and father died there.  Still Corrie shares in her book, many times throughout her tragedy where there were little miracles…helpers, if you will.
I can also tell my children that the children who died are in the arms of the Savior now.  They are not afraid anymore.  They are not hurting.  But what can I tell myself about the parents of those children?  I have never lost a child, and I pray I never have to know that pain.  I hope that perhaps those who have can find comfort from God who allowed His only Begotten to suffer and die for us.  Another tragedy that He could not prevent.
I don’t think that I will ever believe in safe places, but I do believe in a God who weeps with us, and sends “helpers”, maybe even angels and miracles to see us through the dark hours.

Photo Attribution: Nat Sakunworarat

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Whatever Happened to Wailing?

Wailing: a long, loud high pitched cry as of grief or pain. 

It is my understanding that wailing at funerals used to be common among many cultures throughout the world.  It still occurs in some places, but seems to be an endangered tradition.  I think that is a shame.  I remember when I first learned about the custom, probably as a teenager, I thought it was very strange.  Now, with a little more life experience under my belt, I think it is beautiful. 

Imagine with me for a moment the last funeral you attended...very quiet, right?  There likely was some crying, but most people these days are ashamed to cry and try to hide their grief even at a funeral.  Well-meaning friends and family, tell the bereaved things like: "He's in a better place."  Or "at least she went quickly."  The goal seems to be to cheer the person and help them not cry.  I wonder though, is this cultural tradition of hiding our emotions healthy?

I have been thinking a lot lately about the New Testament story of Lazarus' death.  When Jesus arrived he found Mary and Martha grieving, probably wailing.  He didn't offer them platitudes.  Even though he knew that in a few moments he would raise Lazarus from the dead, he didn't try to comfort them.  He felt their grief and wept with them.  I am so touched by that.  I think of wailing in much the same way---the bereaved joined by family and friends, sharing their pain together instead of hiding it and dealing with it alone.  

Of course, I am not just thinking about funerals, but how we share one another's grief at any time.  I would like to share something from The God Who Weeps by Terryl and Fiona Givens. They were discussing Job. 

You will recall that Job was suffering some great difficulties, including an illness so severe and disfiguring, that when his friends came to help, they did not recognize him.  When they did realize who he was, they sat with him for seven days and nights without saying a word.  Of this Terryl and Fiona Givens say:

"For a full week Job's friends do what genuine friends are called to do: their actions seem simple enough but they are sublimely great. They 'suffer with' they participate in Job's anguish.  This human capacity to suffer at the anguish of a loved one is an imperfect shadow of the grief a perfect being feels when His creations put themselves beyond His healing embrace."

There is so much in that short story and short quote that I love.  Job's friends actions were "sublimely great" they didn't try to solve his problems or cheer him up, they just sat with him and suffered with him.  Beautiful.  And then when the Givens make the comparison that God feels an even greater pain when we turn away from Him...does He grieve when I turn away from Him, not from sin, but from my anguish?  The Givens seem to be suggesting that He does.  I can't think of more healing words.

I wish that in our culture we could put away the platitudes and the advice, and relearn the art of "suffering with".  I even think, I wouldn't mind if my friends wailed with me a bit. 

Photo attribution: George Hodan

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Lesson from my Heroes: Hold On

George Hodan

As I search for comfort and guidance in my healing journey, I have found some of my greatest help comes from the examples of other survivors of trauma.  I would like to “introduce” you to two of my heroes: Marilyn Van Derbur and James Stockdale. 

Marilyn, the self-proclaimed “quintessential tomboy” became Miss America in 1958, her sophomore year of college. She was also a survivor of childhood abuse. At the time she won the pagent, she was unaware of her past. Like so many of us, she had repressed the memories.  In her book, Miss America By Day, she wrote, “I wish I had known that many--if not most—adults, sexually violated as children, are in their 40’s before they begin to deal with their childhoods. Just knowing that this is “normal” for many survivors would have helped me cope with friends and family members who were saying, ‘This happened a long time ago. Just move on with your life.’”

Like other survivors, Marilyn's well-meaning friends and loved ones, counseled her to "let go and move on."  In another part of the book she explained why that is not possible. “During this time of recovery, I wasn’t remembering the memories and feelings, I was living them. When memories and feelings are split off and stuffed deeply within the body, it is necessary to disgorge them and feel them as if they are happening in real time. This was not a voluntary decision. When memories are triggered. . .the memories and feelings are instantly felt and no amount of willing them away or decision to ”-just get over it,” will work.”

That is exactly how it is for me as well.  Reading her memoir was so validating.  And because I knew she understood, I believed her and felt encouraged when she said there is hope: the pain ends, but you have to do the hard work."

James Stockdale and The Stockdale Paradox
Vice Admiral James Stockdale, a Navy Pilot, was shot down in Vietnam and held in the Hoa Lo prison for seven years.  He served part of that time in solitary confinement and was routinely tortured and beaten. 

Admiral Stockdale was later interviewed about his experiences by James C. Collins, for the business book, Good to Great (which I am told is a classic).   During the interview, when asked about how he survived Admiral Stockdale said:
‘I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
When Collins asked who didn’t make it out of Vietnam Stockdale replied:
“Oh, that’s easy, the optimists.  Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go.  Then they’d say, 'We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go.  And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again.  And they died of a broken heart.
“This is a very important lesson.  You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current  reality, whatever they might be.”

Collins calls this philosophy the Stockdale Paradox. 
When I am holding on, trying to deal with one hour at a time--sometimes one day at a time is too much--I remember Marilyn and Admiral Stockdale.  Marilyn promises that is will get better, but I have to be willing to do the hard work.  Admiral Stockdale said the same in a different way (if I may repeat):
“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Sometimes there is wisdom in letting go, but as Admiral Stockdale and Marilyn Van Derbur teach us sometimes the best course is quite the opposite.  It is holding on to faith in a brighter future, and fighting through the darkness until the Light comes.
Photo Attribution: George Hodan

Friday, November 16, 2012

Five Things NOT to Say to Abuse Survivors

This swan is warning you to Stand Back!
Bobbi Jones Jones

Dear friends,  I have had a really difficult week.  I had a nightmare that will likely forever be in the Top Ten of  Worst Nightmares.  Therapy was intense...thus, as you might imagine, I'm not in a great mood.  That makes this a perfect time to tell you: Things NOT to say to an Abuse Survivor

1. Forgive

     Forgiveness is not a one-size-fits-all principle.  What is right for one person may not be right for another.  For example, if you have a squabble with your mother, then forgive and reconcile your relationship is good advice.  But for a survivor of abuse, if the offender is not repentant i.e. could still be dangerous, reconciliation is not remotely a good idea.

     And please even if you are a survivor and you think you are NOT tell another survivor to forgive.  There are so many factors involved for example the severity of the abuse (one time, or lasting for years), and who did it (a neighbor or a parent) many different factors that what helps one survivor may not be a good solution for another.

2.  Let it Go -

    All I can say to that is I wish I could.  If someone will make the nightmares stop, and the PTSD go away...then I will be happy to let it go.  The thing is I can't let it go any more than someone could simply let go of cancer.  When someone loses a loved one, is it ever appropriate to tell them to "let it go", I don't think so.  There are times when "let it go" is good advice.  I say those three little words to myself regularly over little when some well meaning person tells me to forgive. 

3.  Don't assume I am depressed.  Listen to me I am NOT depressed.  I have emotional pain--there is a difference.

     When you go to the doctor, and tell him you have a pain, you will be asked what is the pain like?  Is it dull?  Is it sharp?  Throbbing? Sudden Onset?  So then why do we throw all emotional pain into the "depression" category?  I have been depressed, and I am telling you what I feel now, is something different.  It bothers me when people assume I am depressed because there are certain assumptions and stigmas about depression that I also feel do not apply to my situation.

4.  Don't try to fix it

     You can't fix me in one conversation, even my therapist does not attempt that.  What a survivor needs from you is a listening ear, validating words, perhaps a shoulder to cry advice.

5.  Don't ignore me

     I am not a china doll.  I won't shatter if you say the wrong thing.  Ignoring me hurts worse than mis-spoken words.

There is a theme underlying most of these cautions--it is invalidating pain.  When you tell a survivor to forgive, let go, try to fix them, or ignore them you are basically saying, "Your pain does not matter.  It is not real or significant."  And that hurts.  So please don't do it.

I know people who say these things just want to help...please believe me the best way to help is just to listen and validate.  I will give you an example of some wonderful validation I received today.   I was talking to my wonderful primary care doctor.  I mentioned my horrific nightmare to her.  She asked me if I wanted to talk about it, or not.  Because we have a relationship of trust, I did want to share it with her.  I told her about the dream and some other related things that happened this week. 

She said, "I think I am going to have a nightmare now, but thank you for sharing that with me."

That was wonderful to me because by saying that, she validated my pain.  She said in essence "you have experienced something terrible."  I felt heard and understood.  It was wonderful.  

Listening and validation...that really is the best thing you can do.

Photo attribution: Bobbi Jones Jones

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Anatomy of a Repressed Memory OR What is THAT smell?

Ok, my friends, in the past I have wanted to explain how repressed memories come to the surface, but I was unable to do so because of the nature of my memories.  However, it turns out that I repressed good memories too.  I just rediscovered one of them, at least a piece of it.  Yay!  So I can tell you about that. Are you ready?

One day I was at home with my family and we were all relaxing.  Out of the blue, I started to smell something amazing.  Generally speaking my sense of smell is terrible.  I can smell a few really strong scents, for example if I can smell your perfume, you put it on way too much.  The smell of rain?  No way, are you kidding, rain has a smell?  I can't imagine it.  Of the smells that I am accostumed to most of them are noxious so I was surprised by this good smell.  It was not just good; it was delightful.  Instant joy!

"What is that wonderful smell?" I asked.

My family just looked at me blankly. "What smell?"

This has happened before.  I smell things, usually bad smells like burned rubber* that no one else smells.  I was so disappointed when I realized that my family could not smell this wonderful aroma because that meant it was psychosomatic...created by my mind (this is an overly simple definition).  Realizing it was mine alone, the smell went away, and I was so disappointed.

The smell left me, but I could not stop thinking about it and the great feeling that it caused.   Even a couple days later.  So I decided I would draw something to help me remember the moment.  Keep in mind, I am not an artist, but I have found drawing and doodling very theraputic. 

But how to draw that smell?  What was it? Christmas?  No, cotton candy. Yes, that's it cotton candy.  Wait, what does that have to do with Christmas?  Nevermind.

Caroline Steinhauer

I drew cotton candy, it was more like a Kindergartener version of clouds.  Then the idea came to me to blacken the area surrounding the cotton candy and and write the words, "cotton candy chasing away the darkness." 

The next day was therapy.  I was still thinking about the cotton candy moment.  Obsessive?  Perhaps so, but that is how it is with my memories, they don't let go of me.  I showed my little sketch to my therapist who seemed very interested in it and asked me a lot of questions.  I was both pleased and confused by his interest.

As he asked me questions, a picture began to come together in my mind.  For example, I had told him that I thought it was related to a memory (since this has happened before, only with bad memories).  He asked if I knew what the memory was about.  I said, "No, well, I keep thinking of my Grandmother.  I think it has something to do with her." 

He asked me a few more questions and then suddenly it hit me!  The smell was not cotton candy, but divinity.  Divinity is a Christmas candy.  Like cotton candy it has a way of "melting" in your mouth.  My Grandmother used to use food coloring to make it pink...just like cotton candy!

It was very clear to me in that moment that what I had smelled was a memory of making divinity with my Grandmother, and the very delightful feeling associated with the smell, was the way I felt as a child when I had that experience.

As I looked at the cotton candy sketch again, it was bittersweet.  I had thought of the smell and feeling as chasing away the present darkness.  Now I could feel and remember that "pushing away the darkness" was also related to the past.  That moment of joy with my Grandmother, temporarily pushed away the darkness of my life.

Why did I bury such a sweet memory?  I had to, because I am not the one that holds it.  The little boy of my mind does.  He also holds very difficult memories (don't ask me what they are, I really don't know).  His memories are so awful that I get a migraine type headache when I try to approach him in therapy...the headache recedes when I step away from him.  Yet, he is pleading with me to help him.  What can I do?

This sweet (no pun intended) memory is a great example of how my bad memories work.  Sometimes it is a picture that comes into my mind, while I am awake, or asleep, it doesn't matter.  Or maybe a dream, but whatever form it takes, it grabs hold of me and demands my attention.  Everyone has had the experience of getting a song "stuck" in your mind.  The images cling to me even more deeply than a song, and cannot be ignored. 

Right now, the divinity memory is just a smell and a feeling that brings a smile to my face even as I write this, and a "knowing" that it is about making divinity with my grandma.  If this memory works like the others, in time more and more pieces of it will come to me.  I might remember Grandma's apron (if she had one) or the music that was playing, perhaps something she said.  That is how it happens with the other memories.  Only this time, I will be happy to see the other pieces.

Photo attribution: Caroline Steinhauer

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Embracing Fear and Conquering with DID

I have a severe phobia of the dentist.  I mean severe.   It's the chair.  Yes, not the shot, or the drill, it's the chair.  Lying in the chair represents submission, and as you can imagine that terrifies me.  You sit back in that chair and open your mouth, and then trust. 

Trust is a big issue for survivors of childhood abuse.  It is really a struggle for me.

My fear started when I got the reminder call about the appointment.  It increased as the time approached. I was emotional and distracted. The day of the appointment I was a basketcase, I couldn't concentrate.  I wish I was exaggerating, but I am really not. 

As I sat in the lobby filling out the new patient paperwork, I knew that as soon as I started walking toward the chair I would become, emotionally a child.  I would be paralyzed by fear and unable to speak up or advocate for myself.  I know this because it happens everytime I go to the dentist.  So I wrote a note to my new dentist and explained my situation.  The dentist, bless him, read my note and then came out to the lobby and sat and chatted with me for a moment to put me more at ease.  That was wonderful, but still when he said, "Come on back."  It happened.  The paralysis set in.  I was like a helpless child.

I sat in the dreaded chair, and the hygienist began the cleaning.  That's when it hit me.  I forgot to ask for laughing gas for the cleaning.  I hate metal touching my teeth, and what do they do in a cleaning but scrape your teeth with metal...argh!  As an adult, I would just put up my hand to stop him and ask for laughing gas, but I was not an adult at that moment.  I was a helpless child at the hands of an "authority figure".  I could not make requests I could only wait helplessly until it was over.

My body tensed, and my heart rate increased as my panic grew.  How could I get myself through this situation.  Desperately, and with frustration, I thought, "Why can't I dissociate myself out of this?"  Then a glimmer of hope came to me, "Why can't I?  Where should I go?"

I was ready to mentally transport myself somewhere else.  I figured I have been doing it unconsciously since childhood, so this time I would do it consciously.  That was my only goal.  As I considered where to would have to be somewhere I felt comfortable, and somewhere well-established.  Some how I felt that I would not have the "strength" to go to a new place, I needed to go to a comfortable place in my mind I had been to before.

I chose my DID Landscape.  This is a common thing among people with DID, to have an organized space in one's mind for all one's parts.  I don't want to give too many details about my DID landscape, but suffice it to say that even though there are parts there that have painful memories, and one part in particular that I am avoiding, it is still a beautiful place that I created for traumtized parts to heal.  So I went there myself as I have many times before in therapy.

I stood at the entrance and thought, "Now what?"  Then, an idea came to me to go to the part of me that holds the memory that causes most of my dentist phobia.  That part is a  young girl, 4 yrs old (she has a name, but I am not comfortable sharing that). 

I approached her and took her in my arms, lovingly.  I rocked her and stroked her hair.  I spoke to her quietly, "I am so sorry for what happened to you.  So, so sorry.  I know you are scared, but what is happening now is different.  Feel what the body feels right now, and see that this is different.  I promise, I will never let anyone hurt you again."

Something amazing happened, the terror I felt eased, a very peaceful, healing feeling replaced it.  I felt so good.  I marveled at it.

At that moment, the hygenist (who was very gentle) slipped and that sharp metal hook hit my lip.  I thought, "Buster, if you do that again we are done."  And I meant it.  If that happened again, I would raise my hand and simply say, "I'm done.  I can't do any more today."  No explanation needed, it's my body and if I say stop, it stops.  That is when I realized, I was back in adult mode!!!  I can't express how incredible that felt.  I was no longer a terrified child helplessly submitting to whatever the "authority figures of the moment" subjected me too.  I was an adult that could speak up for my needs and defend my boundaries.  I was exhilarated.  I could hardly believe it.

When the cleaning was done, I glanced at the clock on the wall.  I was stunned. How could I have been at the dentist for an hour?  It literally felt like 15 minutes.  As I got up from the chair, my leg muscles, knees and ankles were so stiff and painful that it was difficult to get up (I hadn't had pain when I came in) but emotionally and mentally I felt like I could fly. 

Anthony Maragou

Photo Attribution: Anthony Maragou

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Beneath the Mask: Dissociative Identity Disorder

I've been thinking about writing about this for some time. I have even hinted at it, some might say I did more than hint. Anyway, I did not think I had said it directly, so here it is...

I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

Michael Drummond

My 16 yr old son asked me the other day, "Mom is DID the same thing as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)?"

I had told my teenage children quite awhile ago that I have DID, but I guess he didn't make the connection.  I explained that yes they are the same.  He then had more questions.  Can the parts really be different sexes? Yes. And have different medical issues?  Yes.  Different ages?  Yes. 

I could be wrong but I sensed a bit of "Wait a minute, you didn't tell me it was like THAT."  My point here is that even though he lives with me, he didn't realize.  DID is NOT obvious.  People with DID have families, hold down jobs, get college degrees...all the things that "singletons" do. (Yes, we call you guys singletons.)  The only difference is that our divided mind helps us be able to take care of all these day-to-day things while the skeletons rattle in the closet.

So the first thing I want you to understand about DID, is that you could know someone, even live with them and not realize they have it.  It is not obvious, it is not like it is portrayed by Hollywood.

Before I tell you a little more about how I experience DID, I need to make a disclaimer that I do not speak for everyone that deals with this disorder.  It is much more common than you would think; I have met others with DID, in real life and on line.  There are forums and hospitals and therapy groups for people dealing with this.  What I have learned from sharing with other "multiples" is that while we have much in common, there are also many differences.

I hope that by explaining a little of why I believe my "system" works the way it does, will help you understand why two people with DID can experience it so differently.  First we need to consider how it begins.  DID is commonly believed to begin in childhood as a result of severe, and often repeated trauma.  I think of it as a God-given gift to help child survive and cope.  A child's mind does not have the experience, the coping skills etc to deal with such trauma, so the mind resorts to chronic dissociation.

Remember I explained before that dissociation is something that everyone does.  Daydreaming or highway hypnosis (when you drive somewhere and then feel startled when you realize you remember very little about the were on "auto-pilot").  This sort of dissociation is normal.  But when a traumatized child uses dissociation over and over as an escape to the point that it becomes chronic, then it crosses in to the disorder side of the spectrum.  Because the abuse each person suffers is different, the severity of dissociation can vary as well. 

The way the "system" is set up varies greatly as well.  When I say the system, I mean the parts or alters.  Remember My Haunted Mind, where in each room there is someone that holds some memory or memories of my past.  What I didn't mention in that post is how real those "people" in the rooms feel to me. 

I want to tell you that I know they are not real and yet I can't...and let me tell you why.  This is a conversation that I have had with my therapist more than once.  I will mention to him the name of a part and say, "I know I need to help _____________ .  She's crying and upset and so alone, but I can't."

You have to understand that helping her means remembering what she knows, feeling the pain she feels, the pain she has held for me all these years.  The pain, emotional and physical, of rape.  Can you understand why I don't want to help?  It is not a matter of just giving her a hug, it's hearing what she has to say and feeling it.  So I tell myself and my therapist, "I don't have to help her.  She is not real.  She's part of me and therefore I can ignore her and keep that part of myself buried if I want to."

Doesn't that sound like a good solution?  I wish it worked.  But it doesn't.  Whenever I say or think that, the walls in the Haunted Mind start to melt and all the pain held by all those children in my mind comes rushing to me at once.   I fear that the pain will separate me from my tenuous hold on sanity.  I wonder, "Is this what a nervous breakdown feels like?"

To stop the pain, to stop the melting walls, I surrender.  "Ok, ok," I say to myself.  "She's real."  Not in a physical sense, of course, but in my mind she is real.  She has a name, and her own personality.  I can picture her in my mind's eye...and most of the time when I see her she is crying.  How can I then not go to her?  There in is my dilema.  I must help her.  What kind of monster would I be if I didn't? And yet helping her terrifies me.

I believe that at one point in my childhood, I thought if I was a boy then the abuse would not happen.  It didn't work, and now there is a little boy part with memories of his own.  I don't know his name, and really I don't want to know anything about him...and yet, I know in time, I will have to accept him too.

Another time I must have wished for a teenage brother to protect me. . .and so it goes.

The goal of therapy is either integration or co-operation between the parts.  I say "or" because some multiples do not wish to integrate.  They feel they will lose something in the process.  For me, I do aim for integration.  I think of it as my parts coming together, holding hands, sharing the pain equally, but also sharing joy equally.  We are not there yet, but someday. . .

I know I am taking a huge risk in sharing this with you.  I already feel that sharing that I was abused makes me INVISIBLE or an Emotional Leper and this because people don't know what to say so they don't say anything.  So why in the world would I tell you something that is going to make you look at me like I am some sort of Circus Side Show (my apologies to my friends with DID...that is certainly not how I feel, just how I fear others may see this).

I'm sharing for two reasons.  First I hope you will see that DID/MPD is really not "freaky" or "crazy".  Some of you that read this blog know me in real life and can say, "I never knew."  That is the point.  The whole reason for the dissociation is to hide things.  To hide the pain and the abuse from everyone including me.  AND then to hide the dissociation.  I may have younger parts of myself that feel absolutely real to me, but the rest of the "system" keeps them hidden from the outside world to protect them.   I want people to see that this is not "crazy", not what it is portrayed in the media as, but rather a creative way to deal with trauma no child should ever have to deal with. Not all survivors have DID, but many is much more common than you realize. (I know I said this before, I'm repeating it for emphasis.)

Second, I share because I hope that if you understand the serious and life-long consequences of abuse, you will be more willing to take action to prevent it.  In our culture, we are far to likely to try and protect the abuser than the victim.  Case in point, I read an article from ABC News about Victim 1 in the Sandusky case.  When he and his mother approached the principal and the school counselor about the abuse they were told: "Jerry has a heart of gold and that he wouldn't do those type of things,"  And then they were told to go home and think about it.

Where was the concern for the victim???  This is the kind of thing I am talking about.  This has got to stop. 

The principal and the counselor told the boy's mother NOT to call the police, they would handle it.  Again at this point they were more concerned about "the nice guy" than the victim.  Fortunately, they were required by law to report it to the Child Protection Services so they did.  It was three more years before Sandusky was arrested (how many more violations occured during that time???) Because the authorities said they needed more witnesses...after all we can't prosecute this "nice guy".

We have to stop the denial, stop worrying about the perpetrators and start protecting victims.  The more we understand, as a culture, the effects of abuse, the more likely we will be to help the victims.  Or even better to work on prevention.  At least that is my hope.  And I'm putting myself on the line to help make it happen.

If you have any questions about DID, feel free to ask, I will answer them the best I can based on my onw experience and research, but remember I don't speak for everyone.

Photo Attribution: Michael Drummond

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Are Werewolves Monsters? Is Sandusky a Monster?

Looking at this picture, the question, "Are werewolves monsters?" seems like a silly question.  Yes, that is definately a monster.  But what if I posted another picture of "him" in his human form?

US National Archives

Now we see just a "nice old man", not a monster, right?  This could be your neighbor, your Uncle Stuart, or your child's soccer coach.

I recently read an editoral that talked about this very problem.  It said that almost all adults say that they would speak up if they thought a child was being harmed  And yet statistics show that they don't.  Why is that?

They said it is because too often, particularly when we are thinking about abuse, we think in black and white, good and evil, and we are reluctant to switch Uncle Stuart from good to evil.  So we make excuses and we do nothing.   The article suggested that it would help if we change our thinking to recognize that sometimes "good people" can do bad things.

I think this editorial was spot on, because how many times have you heard it on the news...someone is arrested for whatever reason, and the new station interviews the neighbors who say, without fail, "I don't believe it.  He is such a nice guy."

Well, sometimes "nice guys" do bad things.

Sometimes "bad guys" are teenagers.  The average age most offenders start molesting is 14 yrs. 

I work with teenage sex offenders, and they are not monsters.  (I work graveyard, I don't actually do any kind of "therapy" with them, as you can imagine that would be quite impossible for me right now.)  I wake them up for school, I joke with them, and I am genuinely pleased when they do well in the program.  They are "offenders" for certain, but they are not monsters.

Most offenses are committed by someone the victim knows.  So imagine that you notice that cousin Stuart is exhibting suspicious behavior...wanting to shower with your child, or spend time alone, sleep in the same bed...what should you do?

You don't have to move Cousin Stuart to the "evil" catagory.  You can tell yourself that he is a good guy with a problem if that helps.  But then you must act to help the child and to help Cousin Stuart...or Uncle Stuart, Grandpa Stuart or Coach Stuart....whomever it is. 

  1. First we must protect his potential victims.  Did you know the average "coach offender" molests 100's of boys?  Stop and take a moment to think about that...100's of lives damaged.  Hundred's of boys going through the same kinds of things you have read here on my blog.  We have to say something.  
  2. You will be helping "Stuart" by bring attention to his actions.  If he is truly innocent, then he needs to stop exhibitng risky behavior.  If he is offending he needs to stop.  Christians are sometimes reluctant to pursue prosecution because they want to be "forgiving".  To them I say "mercy cannot rob justice".  It would be better for him to be stopped from sinning, and deal with the consequences here, than in the next life...
I can't stress this enough.  There were people that saw "red flags" with Sandusky and yet did nothing.  And because he was not stopped many more lives were damaged.  You know the quote, "The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to say nothing." 

I hope you will stand up and say, "Not on my watch."  Let's protect the children from the monsters "good people" who do evil acts.  If you don't stand up for the children, who will?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Trick or Treat: A Story for Halloween

I am trying to suppress my inner Halloween Grinch by writing Halloween themed posts.  But I confess this story really has nothing to do with Halloween...that's the trick.  I hope you enjoy it...that would be the treat, right?

Recently I saw keychain on Etsy that said, "Please don't annoy the writer.  She might put you in a book, and kill you."  I love that.  I have written four short stories now where a bad guy gets killed...It pleases me immensely....maaahhhhaahhh.    The following story is one of them.  And remember try not to annoy me, or you might end up in my next story.

Saloon Girls

Laughter and chatter overflowed the dressing room and spilled into the saloon.  The room became still as the girls followed.  Two lingered behind.   With trembling hands Caroline fastened the garters for her lace stockings.  Rose held out a small pistol.  “Tuck it in between your breasts or into your kid boots.”
“But you said that the miners and cowboys are good to dance hall girls.” 
“Honey, I said mostly good.  Take the pistol.  I have another one.  You’ll make enough in a week to pay me back for it and then some.”
“But I-“
“Take it.  Charlie looks out for us girls pretty good, but he can’t watch everybody every minute.  And put on more lipstick.”  Rose laid the pistol on the table, gave her a wink and left the room.
Caroline took the pistol and slid it into her boot. Then self-consciously, her hands pulled at her skirt, still it barely covered her knees.  Next her hands touched her bare shoulders and her exposed chest.  She felt only half-dressed. If Mama could see me, she would know that I didn’t come here to teach as I told her.  She shook her head, and put on some lipstick, bright red like summer strawberries.
As Caroline entered the dance hall, she found it transformed.  When she had seen it earlier it had been empty.  Now the long bar was filled with men of various ages, like horses at a watering trough. The floor was muddied and showing evidence of men who were incapable or unwilling to use the spittoons properly.  Someone was playing the piano, and the dance floor was filled with men and dance girls. The tables around the room were all occupied by men: some holding girls on their laps, some playing cards, others just talking, but all of them drinking.  Sounds of music, laughter and voices intertwined. She inhaled deeply as if her breath could reach down and bring up some courage lying deep within.  Then she stepped out into the saloon.
A young cowboy was at her side instantly.  She could tell he was a cowboy by his smell.  Cowboys smelled of sweat and horses, Rose had said, miners of sweat and dust.  Her first steps on the floor felt awkward.  She had danced at home, but in a more formal style. Her partner, who seemed to be losing a battle with his spurs, didn’t seem to notice. He smiled at her like she was hot supper at the end of a hard day. See Mama, this really isn’t going to be so bad.  Not like things at home with…well never mind.  She could never tell her mother about that.
Her next partner was a miner, musty and dusty.  He was a good dancer but he held her very close and his dark eyes beneath bushy black eyebrows transformed her into the last drop of water in the canteen. After their dance concluded, he drifted off to another partner.  She exhaled in relief.
After a couple more dances, Charlie asked her to sing.  This was another new experience.  At home she had sung to herself while doing the washing, or a lullaby for her younger brothers, and, of course, she sang in church, but she didn’t consider herself a performer.  All the girls in the dance hall sang for the men, though.  Any feminine voice was music to them; talent was not a prerequisite. She was grateful for the reprieve.  Her new boots were not broken in yet and her feet were letting her know it.  Her repertoire of songs was not many, but it didn’t matter.  Mama, I think they wouldn’t mind if I sang the same song over and over, like you used to do when Papa was drunk.
On the dance floor, a girl screamed.  From a nearby table, a man jumped to his feet and without waiting for an explanation, hammered his fist into the jaw of the girl’s dancing partner.  The fist and the whiskey put the offending man on the floor without a rebuttal.  The other stood over him, “We treat our girls right here, Mister, ya hear?”  The man on the floor nodded then slowly rose.  He tipped his hat to the girl, “My apologies Miss.”  He looked at the other cowboy as if seeking approval, did not receive it, and left.  Feeling nervous, Caroline looked through the crowd for Rose and caught her eye. Rose winked.
The swinging doors were cue enough for the piano to begin again.  Caroline was whisked off the stage, by another request for a dance.   This cowboy was tall and lean, with green eyes that did a dance of their own.  Handsome really, she thought.  When the first dance ended, he asked for another and Caroline gladly accepted.  He would have asked for a third, but Charlie intervened.  “Plenty of girls here, plenty of girls.  Have a look around.”  The cowboy smiled at Caroline once more and then moved away.
“I lose more girls to marriage than anything else,” Charlie muttered as he walked away.  Imagine that Mama. You would be proud of me if I married, right?  Papa said no one would want me after. . .her thoughts were interrupted by another dance request.
This one had a handle-bar mustache, and announced himself as Bill.  He spoke with breath that seemed to be part whiskey and part dead skunk.   As the music played, his hands with snake-like fingers attempted to travel over every inch of her small frame.  His dance steps reminded her of a headless chicken running around before it realizes it’s dead.  But with each step, he managed to guide her to the edge of the dance floor near the swinging doors.
“What’d ya say we take a walk,” he slurred, alcoholic skunk breath washing over her like an avalanche.
“No thank you,” she replied.  Too prim?  Oh well, maybe if I’m not nice he’ll go away.  He reminds me of Papa.
           “Think ya’s too good fer me, don’t ya?”  he said loudly even though he was so close that his spongy lips touched her ear.  Her heart quivered like a rattler’s tail and the walls seemed to creep closer.  She was no longer a dance hall girl in a saloon, but a young girl trapped in the arms of her alcohol-addled father.  His hands knew no boundaries when he was drunk.  She was powerless to fight back then with her father and now with Bill. “No Papa,” she whispered, but couldn’t say more.  In some distant part of her brain an alarm sounded, but she was like a wild animal whose survival instinct is to play dead.  She was paralyzed.
A young man near the door stood up.  “Hey, she doesn’t--“  Abruptly,  two other men, apparently friends of Bill, shoved the would-be hero out the door, and followed.  The saloon was alive with the sounds of music, loud laughter and drunken voices.  No one seemed to notice the scene being played out near the door.
Caroline saw the doorway getting larger and larger.  Her mouth was sawdust; black spots began to cloud her vision.
Then came a voice, strong and clear above the din of the saloon.  “She’s not going anywhere with you.”
Bill barked out a laugh that sounded more hyena than man, “Who’s gonna stop me?”
”Me and my pistol,” said Rose as she cocked the gun.
Startled, he released Caroline who stumbled and fell to the floor.  He whirled and lunged for Rose.  But the hate in his eyes gave way to fear as he felt pain explode in his chest.  Disbelief had barely begun to give way to understanding when his body fell near Caroline. 
The dance hall was suddenly quiet.  People quickly stepped aside to let Charlie pass by.  He looked at the two on the floor and then at Rose.  There was no need to vocalize the question that his face made clear. 
Rose shrugged, “He insulted her.”
Charlie nodded as if he had suspected as much. “Alright boys, get that mess out of here.  Rose help the girl. The rest of you men, watch your manners. “As he strode away, the sounds from the piano and talking sprung up again.   A couple of men took Bill’s body roughly by his arms and shoulders, and dragged him out, leaving his feet trailing behind.  The bartender came out with a mop to clean the floor.  As Rose helped her to her feet, Caroline felt the cold metal of the pistol still in her boot.
“Helluva first night, girl.” Rose whispered.  “Helluva first night.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Ghost in My House

My family is haunted by a ghost.  A ghost that does not seem to know its place, I mean aren't ghosts supposed to stay in one location?  This ghost goes everywhere we go.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, after all the ghost is me.

National Media Museum

There was another me, before.  Before the memories; she died.  That me was happy.  That me was self-confident. That me was spiritual.  In my other life, I could lasso the moon.  Then memories, like sharp daggers began to pierce me. Pain weakened me, but it was Shame, like a dagger, that pierced my heart and felled me.

And now a ghost lives in my house.  When I look in the mirror, I know the face looking back, the one that looks like my former self, is an illusion.  My family knows too.  One day I asked my oldest son if "all this" is hard for him.  He said, "Well, it is a little weird because I remember the way you were before.  But it will probably be easier for the younger ones because they don't remember." 

Owww, can I die twice? 

People ask me sometimes if my kids know.  Yes, the older ones do.  You've heard the saying about elephants in the room.  That subject that no one dares talk about.  I grew up with elephants, so no more.  No elephants, no secrets, no skeletons in the closet.  Not for me.  My teenage kids know about therapy, the Dissociation, the PTSD, and the abuse.

As far as Ghosts go, you could imagine me like Patrick Swayze's character in Ghost.  He wanted to desperately to get his old life back.  That is what I want too.  Eventually, he had to accept his new reality, say good-bye and let go.  I don't have to say good-bye to my family, thank goodness.  But I do need to accept reality and let go of the hope that I will return to be the person I was before. 

Thomas Wolfe said, "You can't go home again."  He had something else in mind, but I feel like that applies to me.  I can never get Innocence back.  Not the innocence that should have been mine as a child; that precious gem that should be the heritage of every child.  Not the innocence that I had up until a couple years ago.  I'm sure that some people see me as cynical now, and I couldn't argue.  Cynical? Yes, and skeptical too.  Pain and shame can do that.

But even though my cynicsm and skeptism, cast large shadows that threaten to overtake me, to become the whole of me, still I have a glimmer of hope.  I see it like a small candle in a window of my mind.  Quietly and steadily it flickers. 

Outside the storm rages, but the light burns on.  "Keep on moving,": the little light whispers.  "You can't go back, but you can move forward.  Something better awaits beyond the darkness.  Just keep moving towards The Light."

Brooklyn Museum Archives

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review: Geography of Bliss - Eric Weiner (also my daughter as a tick)

I am happy today, and that is not a word I throw around lightly.  This mood that gave me the idea for today's post.  Well, that and Vienna's homework.  She asked for help with her Sociology: learn about a culture that is different from ours.

Side Bar: As I write this, she is reading over my shoulder.  In her words, she is, "like a tick, always watching" ....not creepy or anything...

As I sorted through my knowledge of other cultures (sociology is my favorite subject), I thought of the perfect book:  Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. 

Bill Kuffrey

I got very excited and explained to her that Eric Weiner, a Foreign Correspondent for National Public Radio and a self-proclaimed Grump, had decided to spend a year traveling the world to visit the happiest, and least happiest places in the world. 

Side bar: I also told Vienna that I can't concentrate while she is watching, and she said to pretend I don't know she is there because most people that have a tick, don't know. . .ok....creepier still. . .

We looked at the table of contents, each chapter covers a different country.  Which one to choose?

Piotr Wojtkoski

Chapter 5:  Iceland: awesome!  Visiting Iceland is now on my Bucket List because of this book.  Icelanders love chess and writing (heaven), and they go months without seeing the sun.  I'm from Seattle, I'll fit right in.  When I go to Iceland, I will NOT eat harkarl, rotten shark, but I will think of Mr. Weiner's description of it:

"The harkarl has an acidic, unnatural flavor.  Worst of all is the persistent aftertaste.  It lodges on the roof of my mouth and resists eviction, despite my attempts to flush it out with many glasses of water, a bag of honey-roasted cashews, an entire wheel of gouda cheese, and two bottles of beer.  By the time I return to my hotel, an hour later, the taste has, ominously migrated to my throat, and shows no signs of leaving soon.  I feel sick."

A local man explained to him that the only way to get rid of the after taste is to drink svarti dauoi, or black death, the Icelandic national drink.  Weiner says the very nasty hang-over was a price he was willing to pay to get rid of that taste.  Harkarl, anyone?

Side bar: Vienna went to class, but not before warning reminding me that she, like a tick, will always be watching. Rotten shark and ticks...I think I'm going to have nightmares tonight, how about you?

Chapter 6: Moldova..ewwwww.  It is said to be the least happy nation in the world.  Maybe the problem is their music.  You know how uplifting music can be, right?  Well apparently it works the other way as well.  According to Weiner:

"Russian pop is--how do I put this diplomatically?--bad.  Very bad.  So bad that it may have contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union."

There you go.

Chapter 7: Thailand...ah, don't read that chapter Vienna.  Their morals than ours.  The chapter begins with how despite his best intentions not to go, one night at 1 am he found himself in a bar. . .yeah, that is not the essence of the whole chapter, but enough for me to have Vienna skip it. 

Chapter 2: Switzerland:  I can't forget Switzerland.  You know the saying one man's trash is another man's treasure.  Well Switzerland shows us that one man's misery is another man's happiness.  Or something like that, read this and decide for yourself:

     "Why are the Swiss so happy?"  I ask Jalil.
     "Because we know we can always kill ourselves," he says with a laugh, but he's not joking.  Switzerland has one of the world's most liberal euthanasia laws.  People travel from all over Europe to die here.
     The strangeness of it all sinks in.  In Switzerland, it's illegal to flush your toilet past 10:00 p,m, or mow your lawn on Sunday, but it's perfectly legal to kill yourself.
And so Switzerland has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.  How can a happy country have a high suicide rate?  There is a theory in the book. . .

If you like humor, sociology and philosophy, you will love this book as I did.

Vera Kratocvil

What?  Oh, you want to know which country she choose for her project?  Why Moldova, of course.  She read this line:

""Getting to Moldova turns out to be nearly as tricky as finding it on a map.  It's almost as if the Moldovans are off sulking in their corner of the globe.  'Leave us alone.  We're not happy, and we like it that way.  We said go away!'"

"You should move there," she said.

I had to laugh at that.  Evil girl. I guess she chose it for her report since she thinks I should move there, and she's planning to visit...or wait, if she is truly a tick as she claims, she will just go with me.

We'll send you a postcard.   

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

You Can't Rush Spring

My favorite season is spring.  I realize that as I write this we are heading in to fall.  Fall is nice too.  The changing colors of the leaves and all that…yeah, yeah.  I hate orange.  If I had my way, I would eliminate orange from the world with the exception of fall leaves and pumpkins.  Still, fall is beautiful, I can’t deny that, but fall is a dying or if you insist, hibernation.  The leaves change color and then they fall off the trees leaving them naked for winter.  Sad.
Jon Harris
Spring on the other hand is rejuvenation, color returning after a gray winter.  I live in the Northwest so when I say gray winter, I mean it.  I mean months of cloudy skies and rain.  Not that I mind;  I love the rain.  But I really love when the first flowers return in the spring, and the leaves push out from buds on the trees.  Now, that is beautiful.  Tulips are my favorite flower, and they are the second flowers that arrive in the spring.  When I see daffodils, I know tulips are coming.  The return of flowers, leaves and birds never fails to make me feel hopeful.

As much as I love the spring, I can’t rush through fall and winter to get there.  If I could I would rush through summer too, but you can’t rush spring.   

I mention this because spring came in my heart on Sunday.  It was not like spring on the calendar which is predictable. It was a sweet reawakening in my heart caught me by surprise.  I went to church dragging my feet if you will.  (More about why church is painful for me, and why I keep going anyway another time.)  The point is, I was not expecting to get anything out of it.  I was “doing my duty”, so to speak.  I figured that if I went to church and did not end up at some point crying in the bathroom I would call the day a success.  That was my plan.

But to my surprise, the meeting touched me.  There was a message there for me, a healing sort of message.   I was grateful, very grateful, but surprised.  Why now?  I have been searching for that for so long, and then when I didn’t expect it, there it was.

As I pondered this, I realized that there have been other signs of spiritual spring in my life recently.  Again I wondered, why this, why now?  The overall message really hasn’t changed.  There was nothing significantly different about this meeting than other meetings that have made me cry in the past.  The message was the same.  The people were much the same.  So what changed?

It must be me.

My heart is changing, and healing.  I felt something different because I was ready to hear it. What I felt Sunday must have been there all along, but until I was ready, I couldn’t hear it.  I couldn’t feel it.

Realizing that the “problem” all along has been me, of course, I began the “why didn’t I get this sooner”.  We all do this right?  I wondered: why was I so stubborn, so prideful, so whatever.  That’s when I realized it.

You can’t rush spring, and you can’t rush healing. 

I didn’t do anything wrong.  I was not too stubborn.  I was not too prideful.  In fact I think I deserve some kudos for continuing to push forward when it was so hard.  Healing takes time.  Some wounds take longer to heal than others.  But if we hold on through the cold, gray winter, spring will come. 

This is not the end of my healing journey, not even close, I know that, but it is measurable progress and I am grateful for that.  I started this post on Sunday night when I was feeling the warmth of spring, and now it is Monday night, and another winter storm is rolling in.  It’s okay because I remind myself there will be more “springs” in the future.

Petr Kratochvil

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Living in the Maze

Sometimes my life feels like a hellish maze of PTSD and dissociation.  I believe there is an exit, but I don’t know how to get there so I wander blindly through the twists and turns. 
Photo credit: Jiri Hodan

Recently I was feeling anxious and jittery.  I decided that I would try some journaling to try and figure out what was bothering me.  So I opened my journal and I promised myself I would just “free write”. No censoring, just free-write.  I don’t have to let anyone read it ever so it doesn’t matter what comes out.  Just write the words as they come to my mind.  So I wrote, and wrote and wrote, and when I was finished I felt better.  I felt purged. 

A couple weeks later I had a quiet moment and I decided to go back and read that entry.  I was surprised what I found there.  I did not remember writing much of it, and was surprised by a lot of what I read.  What was written was haunting and painful.  What I wrote was true.  All brought it back to me in living color.  The memory was pregnant with feelings of fear, and as I read, I felt it as if it were happening for the first time. 

Now a couple days later, it stalks me.  Though I try to avoid it, the feelings are never far from conscious thought.  I know the key to feeling better is to talk about this in therapy.  It is the only way to air it out and get some relief, and yet can you understand what it will take to do that?  I feel trapped.  Talking about it in therapy would mean allowing myself to feel it and sharing it with another person.  I can’t go there.

So I face a “T” in the maze and in every direction there is pain.  This time, I know which way I need to go, but I need some courage that I don’t have right now to move forward.  Instead I will sit here and listen to a comforting song, and cry and hope it brings me courage.

Remember The Hunger Games?  I need some sponsors.  I need care packages.  Anyone got some courage, faith and hope you can send?