Monday, August 27, 2012

Seeing Red

Remember the Tom Hanks movie, Cast Away?  What is the first scene that comes to your mind?  For me it is the toothache scene.  Ewww, yeah, I can’t watch it, but it is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of that movie.   Hanks’ character Chuck Noland has bad tooth and he has been procrastinating going to the dentist.  Then his plane crashes and he is stranded, alone on a desert island.  As the pain increases, he resorts to ever more creative and chilling ways to deal with the pain, until in the end he knocks the tooth out, knocking himself unconscious at the same time.

If that were real, it seems very possible that his pain was caused by an abscess (infection).  I’m not a medical person, but that has been the cause for my worst toothaches.  If that were the case, just knocking the tooth out would not resolve the infection or the pain.  And to complicate matters, knocking the tooth out very likely left sharp edges which would now cut his tongue, and cheek.  If Chuck Noland were a real person, he likely would have understood those things, and he likely would have taken the same actions anyway.  Why?  Because the pain was so great that it was muddled his thinking. 

A bad toothache is something everyone can relate too, and while it may make you uneasy you can understand why Noland did what he did.   I would like to compare this to a pain that you are not so familiar with, and the muddled thinking, and desperate actions that can follow.  I’m talking about trauma and self-harm.   According to the Sidran Institute: Research shows that people with trauma disorders have more serious medical illnesses, substance use, and self-harming behaviors than even people with major depression.

Have you ever heard of people harming themselves and wondered, “Why in the world would someone do that?”  I used to wonder the same thing, until one day I got the urge to do it. . .

It was about two years ago, but as clear in my memory as yesterday.  I was sitting in church, when an image came to my mind of cutting myself—from elbow to wrist, long and deep. 
That was the first step on a confusing journey.  I did not know where this urge had come from, only that it was strong.  I had so much emotional pain that it felt like cutting was the only way to release it.  Like Noland willing to knock out his own tooth, I was blind to reason; all that mattered was the emotional pain and whatever it would take to make it stop.
This post is continued here:  Seeing Red Part II
Note: I wrote about this topic once before here: Ashes of Abuse.  In that post, I wrote, "Recent events have given me some new insight in to this coping mechanism."  Um yeah, the recent event was that I was struggling with the temptation to do it myself. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Math Fest: Games and Classic Books

Math can be fun. No seriously, give me a chance to prove it. I don't claim to make you love calculus (bleh, I can't even wrap my head around that), but I think I can surprise you. . .


Here's a funny little trivia thing to make you scratch your head. When I look at my blog stats, one of my ten most popular posts is: Math Classics. I looked at that post (from 5 years ago) to tell you my favorites, you know the ones that have lasted "the test of time" and all that...but I still love them all. So check it out!

In that old post, I mentioned my idea for a Math Fest. Why not? Spellling Bee's are pretty popular, and spelling is boring. Ok, important, but for me, boring. Math is cool.

What is a Math Fest? Well, since I made it up, it can be whatever we decide it is. I have some ideas to get us started. My dream of Math Fest is basically a math carnival. I'm losing you aren't I? Come back! This is not the math your teachers tortured you with in school.

We could begin with Math Games and Activities from Around the World by Claudia Zaslavsky. You can make the games she talks describes with cardstock and some of those decorative marbles (not round marbles, but the ones with one side that is flat that people put in plants and fishtanks...all the box stores have them). Or your kids would love it if you use M&Ms, but you might have to keep replacing the pieces. Seriously, check out this book, even if you don't have children. It's that fun.

Chess. No Math Fest would be complete without chess! "But chess doesn't have numbers," you say. That's right. Neither do the games in Ms. Zaslavsky's book, that's because math is more than numbers. Math is logic, and math is fun. Don't just limit yourself to traditional chess though, after all this is a math carnival. How about some Chess 4? After wanting this game for a LONG time, I finally bought it, and I'm so glad. The kids and I had a blast with it last weekend. All the same rules apply, but now you have 3 opponents instead of 1. It is mind-boggling, yes! And if you are feeling really daring, how about Strato Chess. THAT is going on my Christmas Wish List, you know, just in case you were wondering.

I suppose we can have some "numbers" at our Math Fest, but only if it's fun! All right?


So for those of you that want numbers, don't miss Muggins/Knock Out. My 6 yr old just learned to play Knock Out this summer and he is thrilled. He thinks we're just having fun (shhh! don't tell him he's learning his math facts!)

And our Math Fest will not be complete without Mancala. Some historians believe that Mancala is the world's oldest game. You can buy a game, you could make one with an empty egg carton and M&Ms, or you can even get a Mancala App. (Yep, I have mine!)

Now that you are checking your calendar and pondering locations for your Math Fest, here's a list from a helpful mom at amazon, with more math games. Thanks JoAnn! 

Oh, and don't forget to have some of those Math Classics lying around at your Math Fest, and in your home.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Better Than Chocolate

             You know how as you get older your weight starts creeping up?  Well, I just realized that for 6 months or so, mine has been creeping down.   So why am I losing weight, albeit very slowly?  I attribute it to therapy.

 Yes, you too, my friend, can lose weight if you commit two days a week to therapy for two years!  I know you are all lining up.  But seriously, instead of trying to ignore my pain or soothe it with various forms of sweets, I’m facing it. And I’m learning coping skills that are better than chocolate.  Blasphemy, I know, but read on. . .

Recently I was feeling really bad and I thought, “I wish I had a book to read that would feel like a hug.”  It took me a few days to realize that I had just such a book in my Nook reader already (yep, I’m a dork.)

So then yesterday—    What?!  Oh, you want me to tell you which book is a good virtual hug?  Ok.

 It’s Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom.  Now that I am thinking about it, almost anything by Mitch Albom would work.  I also love his One More Day, Five People You Meet In Heaven, or Have a Little Faith.   Yep, I’m going to go on record here, I think Mitch Albom’s writing is better than chocolate. 

Speaking of Mitch Albom, he has a new book coming out in September, yes next month!  I am so excited that I “pre-ordered” it.  In fact, I think I need all of the books I mentioned on my reader because sometimes you just need some Book Love.
You know what else is better than chocolate?  Swearing.  Yep, who knew.  I’m about to swear so if that offends you, close your eyes.  I think a good damn, damn, damn is better than chocolate.  I’m serious.  I don’t really recommend it for everyone.  I don’t want my children to start swearing, for example, but for those of us survivors of abuse that have dragons in the cellar, swearing is like turning the value and releasing a little of that anger.  Who knows, after another year or so of therapy I might feel good enough to stop swearing.  We shall see.

Grounding On Friday, I had a doctor’s appointment, and when the assistant called me back it was not the familiar face I expected (a nice woman), but a scary man.  (Actually he was nice, but something about him triggered me.)  When he told me that my blood pressure was 160/105, I was not really surprised.  I wanted to say, “it’s you! Get away from me.”  But I didn’t. Then as I was waiting for the doctor, I realized that I was feeling short of breath, and fairly uncomfortable. I recognized this as the beginning of a panic attack, so I put my book down and focused on grounding myself.  Grounding for me, meant looking around the room paying close attention to detail, and thinking about those details as if there would be a quiz later.  Being triggered is like a time warp into a traumatic past, grounding helped bring me back to the present.  I did it.  Yay me!  Yay for therapy. 

After the doctor’s visit, as I was leaving the office,  I felt a powerful urge for chocolate, never mind that it was only 10 am.  I recognized that I was still feeling tense from the near panic attack and craving chocolate because it helps me relax.  So I looked around the lobby (it was a large office building) for something beautiful i.e. a painting or flowers.  I found a gorgeous plant.  As earlier, I used it to ground myself.  After a few moments, I left.  I was calmer, the chocolate craving was gone.

Perhaps you doubt me that these things, and others I have mentioned in previous blog posts i.e. writing, music and drawing could be “better than chocolate”.

 While I can’t guarantee it will be the same for you,  I can guarantee one thing : all the things I suggested are zero calorie and sugar free.   

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

For Your Bucket List

Ok, I cannot handle seriousness all the time here on the blog, so this week’s post is something different, something fun. 
Something for your Bucket List.  
Yep, I want to help you with that all important list of lists.  First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page.  A bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket.”   You have one don’t you?  If you don’t, that’s ok, I’m here to help you get started.

Being an amateur sociologist, I love anything and everything about cultures.  So when I stumbled upon a trivia question about the Lumberjack World Championships, and the Okie Noodling Festival…I was hooked.

In a heartbeat I was planning future family vacations, and “googling”. Here, I must confess that I was very disappointed, to learn that the Okie Noodling Festival has nothing to do with pasta.  I love pasta.  Don’t you?  But no, it’s actually about catching catfish your bare hands.   *crosses that one off the list*

Not deterred by that minor setback, I began searching for other interesting festivals to visit.  Visiting all 50 states is already on my Bucket List, so why not visit a cool festival while I am there, right?

I found a very helpful website, that gave me info about festivals all over the US.  Most festivals appear to revolve around music.  That’s cool, I like music, but I was looking for something a little more unusual like lumberjacks and well, you know, pasta.

So the search continued.  I reasoned that perhaps it would be helpful to start close to home.  Easier on the budget and all that, so I searched for “Montana festivals” with the Marie Osmond/Dan Seals song, “Meet me in Montana” playing on the radio of my mind.  And I gotta tell ya, Montana has a festival that should be on everyone’s Bucket List.  How could we possibly have lived this long without experiencing it?  Do you have a pen and paper handy?  Cause you don’t want to miss this…
It’s the Testicle Festival.  I’m so not kidding.  That is actually what it is called.  It’s all about Rocky Mountain Oysters served with cowboy beans.  They boast of two and a half tons of this gourmet food being served along with music and adult activities.  Hmmm. . .(crossing another one off the List, where’s the pasta?).
Then I thought perhaps I should check the South West (my family lives there, I could kill two birds and all that...).  And I found the Festival of Festivals.  Get your pencil (yeah really!)  It's the:
Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup
Oh yeah!  The festival begins with Bouny Hunters who for $5 lb round up rattle snakes, straight from their dens.  Then they "milk" them, which in this case has nothing to do with mammary glands.  Once they are milked they hold them out for the audience to see...and touch!   
There is a "lion-tamer" type show where they demonstrate irritating a rattler and how fast they can strike.  That sounds safe, right? Bad day for the snakes, who are taken off set, as it were and killed. They are then returned and skinned before a live audience.  The skins and meat are sold to happy buyers. All this for only a $6 entrance fee.   We've already missed it this year, sorry about that!  But you can see pictures HERE.
And here's a little something for your fridge:

I have to be honest, snakes squick me out…so I might be better off sticking with festivals.coms and the music festivals.  To be fair, they also listed cultural festivals and historical rendezvous’ that sounded fascinating.  I’d list them, but honestly- there were too many, and they just weren’t funny (criminal isn’t it?)  But do check them out for your list.

And if you know of any “don’t miss” festivals, be sure and let me know.  Particularly, if pasta is involved.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Shame on Me

Some Day

"Tell me again,"
I say and they do,
"It's not your fault."

I picture them in my mind,
my husband,
my Bishop,
my therapist,
my friends

I see the words on their lips,
I hear their words with my ears.
"It's not your fault"

But my heart
. . .does not hear
The little child in me
. . .does not see. . .

Somewhere deep inside,
...I know
It was my fault,
and I need
to be Punished.

"Tell me again," I say. And they do...
Some day I will believe them.
Some day,
. . .but not today

I wrote this poem in April 2010.  Later in Dec 2010, I wrote that I had at last overcome the shame and the belief that what happened was my fault. Not too long after that, they came back and have been my companions ever since. 

I like to think of myself as a critical thinker, and yeah, it bothers me to have such an irrational thought consume me the way it does.  I was a child, it wasn't my fault.  On the surface, rationally, I know that is true.  But in the deeper processes of my mind, the man behind the curtain, or rather the child behind the curtain says it is.  That is all that matters.

Because the child says it was my fault, I don't do a lot of things I used to love.  Recently I was asked to say one of the prayers in church.  No.  I didn't even have to think about it.  I can't do it.   Give a talk, or a lesson?  Nope, forget it.  Recently I was asked to substitute in my 6 yr old son's Primary class (it's like Sunday School for children).  I tried to wriggle out of it without explaining my situation.  How could I explain that I could teach 6 yr olds science maybe, but religion, nope.  Forget it.  Because the teacher seemed a bit desperate, I agreed to do it.  Then I twisted my husband's arm to take my place.  While he taught, I supported him by sitting nearby and smiling.  (Incidentally, during class my friend Josh's daughter said the funniest thing.  You can read about it on his blog.)

I wish I could end this post by telling you, especially those of you that have experienced the same kind of trauma, what the answer is.  But I'm sure I don't know.  I don't think it is a question that can be answered in 1000 words or less anyway.  According to The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook by Glenn R. Schrialdi, overcoming the shame and guilt is one of the reasons that the memories need to be recovered and processed.  He believes that healing can happen.  For now, I'll take his word for it.  I highly recommend his book, by the way.

In order to reconcile my illogical emotions, with my logical mind, I prescribe chess.  Anyone up for a game?