Gratitude week 9

  1. And still more compliments about my hair from strangers.
  2. February is over! It was a really tough month and my husband was gone half the month.
  3. Spring is in the air. The sun is shining. The temps are above freezing. A fly just buzzed by me. I’m excited for what is to come.
  4. My daughter will be spending her college spring break here. I miss her so much.
  5. We will be taking our family road trip to Florida this month.
  6. I finished the book Complex PTSD and learned a lot about myself. I started a new    book called Childhood Disrupted. I am now healing with mindfulness.
  7. My husband started reading Complex PTSD. He is working hard to be supportive.
  8.  I am in a pretty good mood today.
  9.  This morning my husband and I watched 7 deer walk through our yard.
  10.  I feel like there are brief periods of time I have a reprieve from my stress.

Losing my reality

I felt good for about a half a day this week. I told my husband to enjoy it while it lasts.

It’s been a rough last couple of weeks. It’s that time of year again where I am reminded of the anniversaries of the deaths of three loved ones. I especially remember my grandma who seems so far removed from me now that it is hard to believe she even existed.

In this past week I’ve heard about the deaths of the wife of a friend and the daughter of an acquaintance. Both died unexpectedly, tragically. They were both young, upper 20’s and lower 30’s. They both left behind families, very young children.

Then there was an acquaintance this week who told everyone via Facebook he was going to stop kidney dialysis. He is in his 30’s, had a failed transplant, has no family, and can barely make ends meet because of this. I have to question, is it suicide? I want him to want to live, but would I make a different choice in his circumstances?

Death is in the air and the sorrow of it is making me sad. So I gladly breathed in a reprieve from the anxiety I was feeling if but for a few hours. I thought just maybe I would sleep for the night but to no avail. It’s been almost 3 weeks now since I slept a full night. The exhaustion of it is almost relaxing to me.

I can’t relax. Depression is the closest thing to relaxing I do. My body resists all attempts to relax me. I sometimes wonder if local anesthesia doesn’t work for me because my body literally fights off all attempts of relaxation. Maybe it is just a crazy thought.

I was in hypervigilant mode for two weeks. It was awful. One day my daughter came up behind me unaware to hug me. I freaked out and screamed at her to get away from me. Later I talked to her in a general way about the trauma I experienced as a child and explained to her how startled I was by her unexpected touch. Even my husband tried to comfort me by touch and I told him not to touch me.

I tried to explain to my daughter why I had a hard time with touch and she got mad at me. She told me I was overexagerating and that her life is just as hard as my life was. I tried to give her the kind of life I wanted as a child and it is painful to hear her say that. It’s hard to have compassion for the trivial things.

Sometimes my autistic brother would attack us while we were sleeping. Is it any wonder that I cannot find sleep? My brother beat me on the daily and I was not protected or comforted.

Being physically abused wasn’t the worst. Even my dad’s verbal abuse wasn’t that bad. Being called stupid frequently didn’t end my world. What really hurt was the psychological terror. My dad seemed to have this innate ability to know what our deepest fears were. When we were little he would force us to do things we were afraid of. Then he would laugh at us when we showed fear.

My dad would torment us in the presence of our siblings. We weren’t allowed to be angry or cry, then we would get it worse. In fact, the more we laughed and taunted our frightened sibling, the better it would be for us. Compassion or kindness was punished.

We were terrified of my dad. My dad was especially abusive when our mom was not around. I don’t even think she knew about most of the abuse. At best, he would ignore us and watch TV. Sometimes my mom threatened to leave my dad. We were so terrified of being alone with my dad that it was my brother Mark’s job to beg her not to leave.

I built this wall of strength around myself. My dad robbed me of compassion, tears, and anything perceived as weakness. I can do anger, but I cannot cry. My mom cried and  was too weak to stand up to my dad or my violent brother.

But yet I am weak, yet I am vulnerable. In the whole healing process, I’ve lost a part of my knowledge of normal and real. Is this normal or is this normal to me? Am I not safe or do I just think I am not safe? Am I reading people right?

For example, I told you about the old man at the gym who complimented me on my running and looks. Perhaps it is creepy, perhaps he is just a lonely old man. He seems to know my patterns now. I saw him watch me when I was in my exercise class. When I am running, he gets on the treadmill next to me and starts talking to me.

I always wanted a dad who paid attention to me. I am starving for that. I am so hungry I might ingest things that aren’t safe for me to take in. Because of my hunger I reach for anything offered and I seem to no longer be able to distinguish if it is good for me.

I’ve seem to have lost some of my discernment.

That’s probably why I wasn’t prepared for what happened next…

 

 

Gratitude week 7

  1. Another compliment on my hair this week. Again, it was after I ran 8 miles and hadn’t washed it in like 4 days. Gross! The lady loved my hair and asked what color it was. I replied that my hair is gray. She thought I dyed my hair, but instead I am not coloring it anymore.
  2.  After spending the week in California, Paul passed the class he was taking. Not everyone else did. I am grateful for a smart husband interested in life long learning.
  3.  Due to stormy weather in Chicago, my husband’s Wednesday night flight home was cancelled. He rescheduled his flight for Thursday which also got cancelled. Thankfully he was able to catch another flight home on Thursday. Thankfully his trip was delayed on the back end so he didn’t miss any of his classes.
  4.  I was grateful to have my brother Luke and his family spend the weekend here. We haven’t seen them in two months and it was great to visit.
  5.  Paul and I had a double date on Valentine’s Day with Luke and his wife Emily.
  6.  I’m thankful I was able to have some deep conversations with Luke, Emily, and Paul.
  7.  I’m grateful my husband was able to make it home in time to meet up with a good friend who is moving away.
  8.  I’m grateful that I found a book on Complex PTSD. I started it this week and so many things are making sense to me now.
  9.  I am grateful to try another new therapy this week in hopes of additional healing.
  10.  I am grateful for a quiet week ahead.

questions

It’s amazing how gullible we were as children believing the things we were told.

How could anyone believe that some fat guy in a red suit could get skinny and simultaneously go down everyone’s chimney with a bag full of presents that end up under a tree the next morning perfectly wrapped? Or that a fairy is going to sneak into your room at night to take your teeth once they fall out? Or that a bunny is going to leave a hidden basket of chocolates? But we do all believe it if that’s what we were told.

Then what about the other things we were told?

I was told that God loves me. If I prayed hard enough, he was going to send us the right doctor that would heal my violent autistic brother. Mile after mile, state after state, we trudged hoping we would find the right doctor.

I was also told my brother was violent because of the foods he ate. Or it was the east wind that blew auto fumes in through the windows of our house. Or it was the lady that was wearing too much perfume. The music was too loud. Just fill in the blank…

I was also told I was stupid, not good at anything, and that I needed to be perfect to be loved.

Why wouldn’t I believe what I was told as a child?

I’ve been cleaning out my closet and found that almost everything I’ve been told and believed as a child was not true. There is no Santa Claus. There is no tooth fairy. There is no Easter bunny.

I am not stupid. I am good at some things. I still fight the drive to be perfect. Thankfully, as an adult, I no longer believe the negative things I was told about myself as a child. It probably took a bit longer to realize that than a child who was told positive things.

But take it one step further, as an adult pursuing healing I am questioning everything I ever believed.

Do my parents love me? Is there a God out there that loves me? I want to think so, but God never healed my brother. I no longer believe God will heal him. But if I had real faith shouldn’t I believe it is possible?

I don’t believe reactions to the foods he ate or his environment caused him to be violent. He was just violent. There was no rhyme or reason. There wasn’t a way to control the unpredictable chaos in my house.

It took me longer to dismiss the beliefs of magical thinking and false hope. But isn’t false hope still hope? Didn’t even false hope help us cope?

Then is God real? Does he really love me? Our pastor spoke of God’s love being like that of a father taking his child in his arms and kissing him on the forehead. What is that like? Neither Paul or I knew. We’ve never been kissed by our fathers. Is that just more proof that a father’s love, God’s love, is meant for others, not me? Are some chosen and some not?

I still have the childhood belief that God loves me. But I’ve also built this big wall around myself that prevents his love from shining through. I can no longer accept this belief as truth, but I cannot dismiss it either as a lie. Some strange almost miraculous things happened in my life that I can only attribute to God. Yet sometimes I feel God answered my prayers with silence.

I no longer believe that parents always love their children just because they are parents. Yesterday while I was running an elderly man started to talk to me. I removed my earbuds and asked him what he said. He said I was pretty fast and pretty too. In just one sentence, a stranger said words nicer to me than my dad ever said. Sometimes the kindness of strangers hurts. Over the past 45 years, I’ve accomplished some amazing things. How hard would it be to say you are proud of me? Does a stranger have to take your place? Why would I think you care?

I want my world to be neat tidy black and white. I feel safer there. I want to be all in or all out. I seek the truth and find myself with more questions than answers.

I hate the grey areas. It causes me so much inner turmoil. I want to pick and choose what I believe. But I want that decision to be made realistically. I want to toss out the things that aren’t true. I want to fully embrace truth, not just what I want to believe is true. I hate this feeling of being in limbo. Not knowing. Not being able to distinguish truth from non-truth.

Can I even trust my own thoughts? Is truth absolute? Or can truth be different for other people, yet truth? Can some of it be truth and non-truth at the same time? Does God show me love by the blessings and good in my life? Conversely, is the opposite true too? Is God punishing me for the bad that has happened? Or does God take bad things and make them good? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why isn’t life always fair?

Aaaarrggghhh!! Here’s to overthinking!

 

 

 

 

 

Breathwork

Last week I started deep breathing therapy.

I have been a lifelong member of the insomnia and nightmare club. What I didn’t tell you, when I am really stressed out I also grind my teeth at night. Some mornings I awake with the insides of my cheeks all bit up and sometimes also have canker sores in my mouth. I hold my mouth tight and am somewhat surprised I haven’t yet developed TMJ.

My therapist was rather shocked with my insomnia that I don’t awake when I chew myself up. I guess I never thought about that before. How do I sleep through causing myself pain?

So we decided to try something new. With this therapy, I laid down on a massage type table without my shoes on. I also had on an eye mask and kept my eyes closed. I covered with a blanket. I was told to breathe deep in a circular pattern with my diaphragm. Every breath in caused my stomach to rise.

My therapist asked me to imagine my grandma standing at my feet holding a multi-colored ball. I needed to visualize the color moving up to the top of my head from my feet.

My therapist asked me what I was doing and how old I am. I told her that I am 3 or 4. I am looking at the books in the basket up north. I am coloring. I am coloring the book that has the pictures of the ladies with the long cigarettes from the Virginia Slims ad. The book is tall and narrow with glamorous women smoking cigarettes. I am getting crayons from the chocolate tin they are stored in. I am playing with dolls. I am filling up a bright turquoise container with lake water.

Do I feel tension in any part of my body? Yes, my shoulders. What do you want to do? I want to push it out, I want to fight. The therapist puts a pillow over my hands and I push as hard as I can against her. I am afraid to hurt her because I am very strong.

Where do you feel the tension now? I feel it everywhere. I feel trapped like I am being buried alive. Every year the weight is getting heavier and it pushes me down. The little girl trapped in the coffin is sinking deeper and deeper with each passing year. She can’t get out and feels sad.

What does the little girl want? She wants to color. She has been trapped in the dark for so long. She tells herself she likes it there. But she tells herself that because the darkness is all she can see and all she thinks she will ever see as she sinks further away from herself. She wants to see all the colors again.

That night she goes home and colors. Coloring is fun. She colors the house pink. The things she finds scary, she colors black so she can’t see it anymore. But everything else is in brilliant unusual shades, like the sky is green and the grass is blue. Pretending is fun.

For two nights afterward she is able to sleep deeply.

My logical mind tells me this is all hokey. But my inner child has been trapped in the dark for so long she just wanted to see if it was safe to come out and play.

Gratitude week 5

1. I’m grateful that the sun is shining today. It’s been a long time.

2. I’m grateful to be planning a vacation and visiting states that I’ve never been to before.

3. I’m grateful to have a house with an indoor pool. Last week we had a party for the youth group at church. It’s a miracle, but now the youth group has twice as many kids. Plus I have several new items to add to my collection of things left behind; a sock, a bra, and a cute bikini. Would these be weird items to put in the church lost and found box??

4. If all else fails, at least I have a sense of humor.

5. I’m grateful to watch my son perform with his new band for open mic. I am very proud of his talent. There is nothing like watching my children perform. Plus I saw an acquaintance there who said she goes to open mic just to sing with the house band. She said I should give it a try sometime and I’m planning on it.

6. I’m grateful to live in a state where we can provide unique experiences for our foreign exchange students. Yesterday Paul took us ice fishing.

7. I am grateful to try another new trauma therapy. I have been sleeping better.

8. I am grateful that several friends at this point seem to be winning the battle against cancer.

9. I finished The Tattooist of Auschwitz this week and started another Holocaust book called The Choice written not to long ago by a survivor. I’m thankful that she was able not only to survive but make something good out of a horrible experience. I am very impressed she was able to write such an insightful and inspirational book in her later years of life.

10. I am grateful it is February and the end of winter is in sight.

 

Paper cuts

12/24/19

I have nothing left to live for. My whole life has been a joke. Hell couldn’t be any worse than living at this point.

Why? Why did it have to end this way? There isn’t a day in my life that I feel joy or peace. It’s just unrelentless pain. Why would I want to continue down this path of suffering? I just want it to end. Every day it’s the same struggle to place one foot in front of the other. Every day I fight against this meaningless existence. I don’t want to do this anymore. I feel like I have to. There is nothing left here for me.

The holidays are the hardest time of the year for me. This year especially with everything going on with my dad. It happens every year, the holidays come and like clockwork, I’m depressed. It seems like the season of light, joy, and merriment are the darkest times for me.

Why am I telling you this? I want you to understand what it is like even if you can’t relate.

This was a really bad episode of depression. My very heart was being attacked. Every time I have a heart attack I hope I will survive. You can’t tell me to be happy and count my blessings once an episode starts. Don’t you think I would if I could? It’s like telling someone who is drunk to be sober. Once it starts I can’t positive thought my way out of it. I have to work my way through it and it takes time.

I can be depressed for days, weeks, months at a time and not once feel suicidal. It’s a long lasting sadness. Sometimes I don’t feel depressed at all. Then there is the rare occasion I feel extreme intense depression. It generally is short lived ending within a few hours. It sometimes includes rage. Usually it has to do with a trigger, flashback, or extreme stress that throws me through a loop. Once it starts I can’t stop it until it is done. That is why I think I have Complex PTSD. It really sucks to feel like your emotions are out of control.

Later that evening, life went back to normal. We attended the candlelit Christmas Eve service. I was still feeling pretty down, questioning the existence of a God that allows evil, and couldn’t even bring myself to sing. But I was there. Then we had a Christmas Eve supper with Paul’s family. Paul’s family consisted of his step-dad Darryl and his girlfriend/fiancee/ex-girlfriend (it’s complicated).

Darryl and his SO got into an argument when he was walking her out to her car to leave our house. There was drama he wanted to get us involved in. Now my family causes the most drama by far, but not all. I’m going to tell you right now, I am so sick of the drama and stress our so called role models try to get us involved in.

I am done rescuing and trying to fix people. Right now it’s a full-time job just trying to fix me.

I learned now for the first time I am not responsible for cleaning up the messes of others. Not my problem. No longer my job. I am trying to heal me. Writing is a wonderful way to cope. Now when I feel over the top depressed, I’m going to write about how I feel. I am not going to do anything stupid. Although there is always a chance I might get a paper cut.

I am alive, but what I want more than anything is to fully live.

 

The whole me

What does the whole healed version of me look like?

  •  Sleeps restfully without insomnia or nightmares.
  •  Does not let the bad choices of others affect me!!!!!!!!
  •  Energetic without anxiety.
  •  Quieted inner critic.
  •  Healthy, no more gut issues.
  •  Does not excessively worry.
  •  Relaxed, not always on alert for danger.
  •  Peaceful. Serenity. Tranquility.
  •  Wisdom to help self and others.
  •  Joyful despite circumstances.
  •  Able to feel and express feelings.
  •  Sets boundaries.
  •  Less black and white/all or nothing thinking.
  •  Able to admit faults, tolerant of imperfection in self and others.
  •  No longer tries to fix/control others.
  •  Unconditional positive regard.
  •  Works on relationships/trust issues.
  •  Funloving.
  •  Gratitude for what I have.
  •  Be able to see the best in others.
  •  Trusting, but not gullible.
  •  Takes better care of myself.
  •  No suicidal thoughts.
  •  Able to depart from a routine without stressing out.
  •  Able to enjoy accomplishments.
  •  Not let the past dictate my future.
  •  Not be triggered so easily by everyday things.
  •  No delayed processing of feelings.
  •  Work less, play more.
  •  Decisiveness.
  •  Saying ‘no’ more to things I don’t want and ‘yes’ more to what I want.
  •  Not being afraid to speak my mind or stick up for myself.
  •  Be honest.
  •  Embrace both my strengths and weaknesses.
  •  Appreciate everything I’ve been through and allow it to be an inspiration for the      healing of others.
  •  Deeper meaningful relationships.
  •  Being willing to listen even if I have to set aside my to-do list.
  •  Be patient with myself during the healing process even if progress is slower than I’d like.
  •  Get out of survival mode.
  •  Let go of things not worth holding onto.

Well, I think this is a good start…..

Trust in healing

Last week I had a follow up appointment with my wellness nurse. Since my last appointment, my acid re-flux went away. I’m attributing it to avoiding the foods I am allergic to. However, other symptoms did not go away which the nurse thinks are stress related.

I went into the wellness appointment thinking I was going to start a 30 day detox diet. Incidentally, our church is starting the new year off with a short period of prayer and fasting. I decided not to participate because with the detox diet I was already going to have to give up a lot more foods in addition to coffee and alcohol. I already gave up my favorite foods last year. What more was there to give up? It would be like giving up meat for Lent if I was a vegetarian. What’s the point?

At my appointment, the nurse decided I was not ready for the detox diet. I decided not to participate in fasting anyway, which is unlike me. You see, I am really good at denying myself things. In fact, I excel at it. I could probably go a week without eating, whip myself, and finish the week off with a marathon.

Self-discipline and pain come easy for me. What is really hard for me is trusting, allowing myself joy, and accepting love. For most people it is the other way around. But I did what I had to do to survive and I got used to living there.

I’ve never really felt God’s love. I don’t feel his joy and peace in my life. Everyone says that I need to pray more, read my Bible more, and forgive. I do all of those things and feel nothing. I have to believe more and have more faith. Guess what? Still nothing. So I am asking God for a specific sign to see if he really loves me.

If God loves me why didn’t he protect me from the things that happened to me? It’s hard to trust God. It’s easier to trust me. I was the only one I could rely on.

In the meantime, the wellness nurse put me on St. John’s Wort and CBD oil among other things. If my body can be calmed in the next couple of months, I can start the detox diet. Then after that, I can have my allergies retested after I wipe the slate clean.

I can’t stress enough the importance of seeking therapy and a wellness program especially if you experienced childhood trauma. Myself, I fought this for a long time. I figured if I survived without anyone’s help, then certainly I don’t need help now when my life is going good. I justified having insomnia more than restful nights and nightmares more than dreams was normal for me. None of my symptoms were normal, yet nothing was ever wrong with me.

If you have lived through childhood trauma, it can be very frustrating if you are trying to heal. There are not going to be a lot of people who can relate. Well meaning people may at times make you feel worse. Perhaps you have trust issues that people say you should somehow just get over. That happened years ago, let go of it and get on with your life. I wish I could. Every time I try to outrun it, it haunts me more.

Some people have told me I should be happy for all the blessings in my life. This only makes me feel worse. I see my blessings but something prevents me from feeling the joy. Then I feel guilty because the outer things don’t make the inner me happy.

Is this all there is for me? Am I only going to be able to see my blessings by pressing my face against the smeared glass window of this zoo I am caged in? Or will I be able to somehow some day touch it? Feel it?

Sometimes I feel blamed for not being able to get over the things that happened to me. It’s incredibly hard to ask for help or trust others (even God) to guide me in this healing process. It’s hard not to feel frustration that the progress is very slow. I wish I didn’t have to fight so hard to be healthy.

I feel like an 80 year old wise woman and 5 year old little girl are living in my body simultaneously. Thankfully, the wise old woman is able to filter out comments that are hurtful and realize that people are only trying to help. But the 5 year old is scared and I can’t get her to stop crying.

Compassion rages

After I heard the news, I felt both intense compassion and rage towards my father simultaneously. It’s really hard to explain because I can’t remember feeling such extreme polarity before. How can I still feel compassion towards someone who is so easy to justifiably hate?

He was a horrible father. He was the role model of what I didn’t want to be as a partner and parent. He hated us and called us stupid. I never felt like I was good enough. I never felt like I was enough of anything. Smart enough. Brave enough. Happy enough. It’s hard to feel like I was never enough, unlovable, despite my best efforts.

He tormented us. He laughed at our fears. Even worse, he taught us to laugh at our siblings shortcomings and fears. If we laughed, we wouldn’t be targeted next. We were pitted against each other for sport. How could there be unity? Most of the time it was safe to pretend not to care. I’m sorry I did not comfort you, brother, while you cried. I was just a coward trying to survive.

My dad is a depressed man. He lived a life of regrets. I see that now. He wasted his life in front of the TV screen, not playing ball with his kids. But I always felt calm if the TV was blaring when I came into the house. It was the silence I feared most. In the silence, I never knew if I would find him dead. Do you know how scary it is to feel that fear as a child?

He often flew into rages over nothing. He was abusive, but he is still my dad. When I was a child I hated him and wanted him to burn in hell for all of the things he did to hurt us.  But now I feel pity for the mess he has become.

I had to see him one day after it all happened. My mom hasn’t been well and needed me to give her a ride to the doctor for tests. After the appointment, I sat down with my dad. It was mostly small talk, the only real conversations I ever had with my dad.

I felt a lot of stress leading up to our visit. What would I say? Would the rage or compassion come out? I had to be wise with my words, but was coming up blank. Should I tell him what a fool he is? Should I tell him how some of his actions hurt me? Should I scream and yell at him like he did many times to me?

Instead I told him I loved him as tears poured down my cheeks. He told me he loved me too. I said I was sorry. He asked why. I said I was sorry that it had to be this way. This wasn’t what I would have chosen.

He looked sickly, like he lost a lot of weight. He is already in hell. That is what you get when you live a life you regret. What good would heaping a few more coals be for someone who is already burning in hell? I felt pity towards him. I never wanted to see him burn. I just wanted him to be a dad to me.

I don’t have any regrets over how I handled the situation. More than anything, I don’t want to live a life of regrets. I don’t want to be like him.

I don’t want to be his daughter, yet I am. My compassion rages.