Category Archives: Personal

Lifelong Recovery

I haven’t been posting, because I originally envisioned this as a blog in which I would share my wisdom gained during my recovery process. I saw myself as being healed and looking back on my recovery. However, God has shown me very clearly that I’m still right smack dab in the middle of recovery. I can’t speak for others who have gone through the recovery process from childhood sexual abuse and DID, so I’m only speaking from my own experience. I have the added component of bipolar disorder, so that complicates the situation considerably. So, I’ve decided to tweak the focus of the blog a bit as I deal with the continuing process of recovery. I’ve been severely depressed for about a year now. Routine personal care and housekeeping has become extremely difficult. I’ve spent most of my time lying on the sofa, which is also where I sleep. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was hospitalized in August 2012 for two and a half weeks, and I was just discharged from another hospital a week and a half ago. I decided that perhaps it could be beneficial to others to walk this journey with me as I learn to navigate the rough waters of lingering PTSD and the ongoing problems that come with bipolar disorder. A friend of mine is working on a blog about dealing with bipolar disorder, so I will refer you to that when it is up and running.

I’ve often heard the “joke” about the man who died at 30 and was buried at 70. Sometimes I feel like that person. You know, the individual who stops living, stops contributing, enjoying, touching other human beings with love and care, doesn’t enjoy laughing and loving and lives as though she has died even when the heart continues to beat. What a tragedy. As long as God gives us breath, we have an opportunity, a responsibility to live to the best of our ability, whatever that happens to be.

I hope you will join me on this journey and find encouragement in knowing that you’re not alone in your struggles. I will share what I learn, what works for me and what does not. My desire is that we can offer hope to one another as we proceed through our lives and strive to overcome the constant challenges we face.

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Sorry for my absence

Please forgive me for my extended break from blogging. This is not how I envisioned this blog when I began, but, as with most things worth doing, it is harder than it looks!

Life has been especially busy lately with both happy and difficult circumstances. I’ve had more work than usual, and my daughter has been sicker from the illnesses I mentioned in another post. I am hoping to get back to regular posting as soon as possible. I hope you can bear with me through this.

During my most recent therapy session, my therapist suggested the possibility that not every alter integrated when most of them did 11 years ago. If I had heard this a year ago, I would have been devastated, but I had begun to suspect that it might be the case. My hospitalization in August revealed hints that perhaps I still had parts holding onto information they had not previously been ready to share. 

Whether or not there are more parts still there doesn’t really matter to me. I know that I still have work to do, and I intend to do that work. The healing I have done so far has been so worth it, that I’m not willing to quit now. I have lots of living to do, and the healthier I am, the better I can take advantage of what’s to come.

It’s not that I’m not afraid. Therapy is scary and difficult, but I’m determined. I have children and grandchildren who motivate me. I want to be there, all there for them, and I will be!

 

 


Feel Your Feelings

I’ve written about the importance of experiencing anger and expressing it appropriately, but what about all those other feelings that cause us such discomfort? What about the intense sadness, the dark depression, the troubling fears and the debilitating anxiety? All those emotions we consider negative and just wish would go away and leave us alone and feeling “normal,” whatever that is.

I would love to make your day by telling you there is a two-step process to working through them all to move into blissful happiness. I really do wish I could do that, because I would be a very rich woman with all the books I’d sell and all the television appearances for which I’d be booked. However, you’re stuck with the hard processes and I’m stuck with a blog that I hope helps people but brings in no income.

First, the don’ts: Don’t self-mutilate; don’t binge and purge or starve yourself; don’t drink (In fact, it’s best if you stay away from alcohol altogether during these times.); don’t do drugs, except those prescribed by your one psychiatrist, and only at the prescribed dosages. In other words, don’t cop out by doing the things you usually do to blunt the feelings. Feelings are good, natural and normal. Let them come.

The good news is all you have to do is what comes naturally. When you feel those emotions, really feel them, experience them. Do not shut them down or run away. During one session with my psychiatrist, one of my alters started to cry and my doctor reached out to hand her a box of tissues. This part, who possessed great wisdom, said, “She needs to feel her tears on her face. Tears are healing.” And so, I sat there, experiencing my sadness in my heart and in my body as the tears made my face wet. I also think there was another benefit as my heart and body experienced the sadness together; I believe it helped battle the depersonalization that was such basic part of DID.

You may have already figured out that there are just sometimes you need to feel sad and cry. I just know that once and a while I need to listen to sad music or watch a sad movie to encourage the flow of the waterworks. I cry and I cry and I cry. Sometimes it’s a gentle cry with tears streaming; others it’s a sobbing, body-wracking wail. Occasionally I know why I need it, but many times I don’t have a clue. I just know what I need. That’s part of getting to know yourself and honoring You by giving You the freedom to do what you need. It’s a healing experience that leaves me feeling exhausted but almost euphoric afterward. Go figure.

Normally, when we experience depression, anyone and everyone around us, trained or not, has a, so-called, surefire cure. I’ve learned over the years that, though well meaning, most of them don’t help. I’ve also learned that just about everyone other than those who have themselves been clinically depressed and the professionals who work with us are well-meaning, but clueless, They get the blues and call it depression, so they really think they understand, and they want to help. As I’ve mentioned before, in this situation, I find it’s usually best to smile and nod. Arguing won’t change their minds and will likely only upset you. I’ve learned that when I’m down, there are certain times, and I’ve pretty well learned to know when, it is best to just give in. Lie down on the sofa, be sad, be depressed. Sometimes I don’t get dressed. I don’t answer the phone. I just let it wash over me, but only for two or three days. A lot of times I find that by then, I’m coming out of it. I just needed to give myself time to allow it to work itself out.

However, if it hasn’t begun to resolve after three days, I get on the phone with my doctor or my therapist. Then I listen to what he or she says, and I follow the recommendations.

Now that we’ve gotten to the good part, guess what? I’m saving fear and anxiety for next time.


The Poison We Take

I’m sure you’ve heard the adage: “Bitterness is the poison you take hoping someone else will die.” So true. But you say to yourself, “I’m not bitter.” What about the person or persons who abused you? Have you forgiven them? Bitterness is nothing more than a lack of forgiveness that grows and foments in your heart.

I can almost see you rolling your eyes and giving me a “huh!” or “Yeah, right.” And for sure you’re thinking, “What? Are you kidding? Let that #@!? off the hook? Are you crazy?” Well, let’s see. No, I’m not kidding. No, I’m not letting the #@!? off the hook, and no, I’m not crazy, well not anymore anyway.

A wise doctor once told me that as long as I refuse to forgive my abuser(s), I’m connected to them. I’m spending energy on them. That’s the poison. If I’m holding on to the awful wrongs they did to me, I’m thinking about them, I’m letting their actions control my emotions, thus spending energy and keeping my connection with them strong.

Letting them off the hook? Nope? That’s not up to me. If they are to be let off the hook, they have some action to take, which includes repentance. And only God can let them off the hook, though as long as they live they will endure the consequences of their choices. Now, I know that it may appear that they’re not experiencing any consequences, but we can’t see the torture God may be working in their souls. And they’re certainly not going to let it show if they can help it. But it’s not unusual for these people to turn to a variety of behaviors to try to numb the guilt and try to kill the compulsion to repeat the offense. Think of heavy drinking, drug abuse, sex addictions, serial “relationships,” loss of family and friends and certainly of self respect. They are living every day with the fear that someone will find out about their “dirty little secret.” So, no, forgiveness in no way lets them off the hook.

Do they deserve more? Yes, I think so, but that’s really not up to me, except in the respect of reporting them to authorities. I had a lovely fantasy of torture that I entertained for some time, but eventually I gave it up in favor of forgiveness when I realized how much time I was spending thinking about my abuser. If I wanted to move on and be free from him/them, I had to forgive. It wasn’t easy, because I just didn’t feel like forgiving. Then someone pointed out to me that forgiveness had nothing to do with how I felt and everything to do with my will. I just had to choose. Whether or not I felt like it, I could choose to forgive them and release myself from the grip they had held on me.

It took a lot of forgiving in the beginning. I’d forgive, and then an hour later, I’d find myself thinking bitter thoughts, so I’d forgive again. Sort of like washing my hair. You know: lather, rinse, repeat. Only this was: forgive, release, repeat. Finally, I could go half a day, then a whole day. It takes practice, but it is so worth it. I certainly did not want to feel connected to my abuser(s). I learned how great it felt to be free, so I became committed to forgiveness. Now I practice it as a regular part of my life to keep my friendships in good shape and to release myself from bitter thoughts.


Dealing With Body Memories

Body memories are some of the oddest and, sometimes, scariest phenomena experienced by people who’ve been abused. They’re unexpected, catching us off guard with strange sensations and, occasionally showing up as marks on our bodies. One thing’s for sure, they can’t be ignored.

I was fortunate to be in the hospital when I experienced my first. I had just begun to remember bits of what had happened to me. I had been reading Courage to Heal or as some call it, Carriage to Hell. Something I read struck a chord, and I suddenly had a “vision” of the wallpaper in my parents’ bedroom when I was small. We had moved from there when I was seven, and the house had burned, so I hadn’t seen the room since. I couldn’t even remember what the wallpaper in my own room looked like, but suddenly I could see what my parents’ looked like. Just then, I started experiencing strong feelings of arousal. With everything that was happening and the realization of what this might mean, it scared me – a lot. Fortunately, my therapist was between appointments, so, holding on to the wall for support and bent over at the waist to try to stop the feelings, I hurried to get her. She took my arm and walked me back to my room and sat me down on my bed. She sat in the chair across from me, looked me in the eyes to ground me and reassure me, and then told me I was okay. She explained that what was happening was not unusual and that it was called a body memory. She kept reminding me to keep my eyes on her and breathe. She understood that I could easily get “lost” in it and lose touch with where I was, where I was in time and what was really happening.

Body memories can, as in my experience described above, create physical sensations that mimic those experienced during the abuse. Others can remind you of events when marks appear on the body for no apparent reason. Once when I was about to meet up again with a family member who had recently confronted me violently, marks appeared on my arm where she had grabbed me weeks before. I believe my body was reminding and cautioning me about the upcoming meeting.

Body memories present challenges in dealing with them. Because they are so unexpected, we are usually vulnerable and afraid, making the struggle to deal with them particularly difficult. First, remind yourself that this is a memory. Though it feels as if it’s happening now, it’s not; the event is over, in the past. Second, try to ground yourself to your surroundings by touching things around you; rub your hands on the carpet, hold ice cubes. Third, ground yourself to the present by saying your name out loud, looking at the date on a magazine or newspaper, looking in a mirror. Fourth, connect with someone. If a trusted friend or family member is close by, explain what is going on and ask them to hold your hands and talk to you. Ask them to remind you to keep your eyes open, because closing your eyes makes it easier to be pulled into the past and into panic. If you have to call someone who can be helpful and supportive, do it. Your therapist may not be a good idea, because he or she may be in session or unavailable, and you need help now.

When you’ve made it through the body memory, take a deep breath and allow yourself to calm down. Get something to drink, but avoid alcohol and drugs, except possibly a prescription anti-anxiety medication, and then take only what is prescribed. After you’re sufficiently calm, journal about the experience: what it was about if you can figure that out; how you felt while it was happening, describing the physical sensations; and record what helped you stay grounded and get through it. You’ll want to remember that in case you experience another body memory.

Though body memories are unsettling, they can serve to validate the past that can often feel surreal. Don’t let them throw you off course, but instead use them as tools to grow and progress.


Mind Readers

Abusive families usually abuse in more than one way. For example, in my family, we children learned quickly how to gauge the feelings, thoughts and opinions of our parents. People say that no one is a mind reader, but we came as close to mind reading as anyone possibly could. It was essential to our survival.

We learned to listen carefully to everything they said openly or obliquely. We watched their expressions closely for clues to their moods and reactions. We paid attention to the way they moved: the turn of their heads, the gestures they used. When we saw a flying hand, we knew to duck. Even when away from them, we parroted their opinions as fact. We shut out the beatings or justified them by telling ourselves we deserved the punishment. I (being the only one who was sexually abused) forced myself to forget what happened during the daily naps.

When we could, we deflected the anger toward a sister or brother onto ourselves. I was much younger than my siblings, and when my mother was in a rage at me, my oldest brother would grab me up and run away from our mother. After she followed us outside and was running around the house to catch up, he would carry me inside, and lock all the doors to keep her out. He would only unlock them after she’d had time to cool down, and he was sure she wouldn’t hurt me as she had hurt him so many times.

When I grew up and left home and was finally safe, I didn’t stop trying to mind read. It had become an ingrained behavior. If a friend looked confused or perhaps angry or frustrated, I was on my guard. What had I done to cause it? What did I need to do to fix it? My mind raced to it figure out as my heart pounded. I tried not to let on, because it was crucial to figure it out without asking. Most of the time, it would blow over, because it was never about me to begin with. Sometimes, I would ask what I had done to upset my friend only to learn . . . it wasn’t about me to begin with. I was a bit shocked to learn that I wasn’t the cause of every negative feeling in those around me.

I have worked hard to internalize that and to wait until someone expresses frustration with me before starting to panic. I squelch the panic if I can, but it’s still hard for me to stay calm and control my feelings as we talk and work things out. I’ve learned that I can work things out with the people and relationships that really matter. But it’s work. It’s a process of retraining. And it can only be done with safe people who can be trusted with the precious person of me.

As you develop relationships with safe people, people whom you can trust, try out your wings. Don’t always jump to the conclusion that you’re causing the problems you sense in your friends. Try to stay calm and just wait. Healthy people who respect others will tell you if there’s a problem. Then it’s your responsibility to react as a mature adult: without becoming defensive or crumbling with guilt. Remember the Guilt Bucket? This is the time to use those lessons. You’ll find it much easier to respond in a composed manner if your Guilt Bucket is healthy. Your relationships will grow deeper with the mutual respect that builds between people who are respectful of one another through the ups and downs of relationships.

Growing up into a healthy, responsible, mature adult is hard for anyone, even from the best of families. For us, it’s a true challenge. But challenges can be overcome, and you can overcome this to become the kind of friend/spouse/parent who is capable of real relationships that are open, kind and loving.


Feeling Wrong

Growing up with abuse, and I think it’s the same with any kind of abuse, we absorb the feeling that we are Wrong. Not that we do wrong, but that something in our core, our very being makes us Wrong. We can ask for forgiveness and do penance all day long, but it doesn’t change the fact that we are Wrong. Or at least that’s what we come to believe.

Then we grow up into Wrong adults. Somehow we try to muddle through life, trying to do things right. We try to look normal. We try to be good, while always believing we’re living a lie. We live in constant fear of being found out.

Sometimes we choose to give into the Wrong and just live as badly as we feel. We do things we hate, things our conscience tells us are wrong, as we tell ourselves that’s just who we are, that we’re finally being “authentic.” We give up and surrender to the Wrongness.

Or we learn to be good actors. Most of us play our parts so well, we would be worthy of an Oscar, but we can’t admit it’s an act. Not even to ourselves. At least not consciously. We study other people and learn to act the part of responsible adults. We may even act the part of wife and mother, living in terror, because we know we don’t have a clue what we should be doing. After all, we’re only acting out a part, playing a character we have devised. But no one’s shown us the script. We’re scared and miserable.

For most of us, the strain eventually takes its toll, and our carefully crafted veneer begins to crack. Memories remind us of who we are, or rather of what we are: Wrong. It has become a fundamental part of our being.

There is good news. WE ARE NOT Wrong! We were never Wrong. We were created by God in His image. And as Mahalia Jackson used to say, “God don’t make no junk!” And he certainly doesn’t fashion someone in His image and call it Wrong. We were precious children. Gifts of God to our families. Their inability to recognize that and cherish their gifts was all about them, not us.

When a piece of expensive, finely crafted sterling silver is tossed in a drawer or cabinet and forgotten, it eventually looks like an ugly, tarnished, worthless piece of junk. But is it really? No. It is still a fine piece of silver of great value. The fact that its owner didn’t care for it properly didn’t change its value. And that’s the way it is with us. Those who hurt us, for reasons of their own, didn’t recognize our value, but it never diminished that we were, are, wondrous, precious gifts of God.

When you have that light bulb moment, and you realize that you are not Wrong, no matter how you feel, you’re on the road toward recovery. It takes diligence to daily refute the lie and reclaim your value. I pray that you will today begin to recognize what a precious gift you are to the world. Savor it for a while. Wallow in the thought. Then make a decision to choose the truth. It will change your life.