The first fire

I never heard my mom cry like that before. It was the deep howling sorrow that was saved for behind closed doors. I could almost peak out the window she was staring out of if I stood on my tiptoes. The night sky a glowing orange haze in a hue I never saw outside before. Together we watched her childhood home burn down.

I went with my mom once to see her old house the year before when I was 3. I’m not sure how I remember it. Strong emotions of my mother typically elicited sparks of memories in me. There was a long dark inside staircase that went upstairs to the main floor of the house. There was a bright average sized kitchen with a window above the sink that I could imagine her mother standing at with her back to me. I never saw my grandmother’s face before but I was told my mother looked just like her.

We had to walk up one step to go into the living room from the kitchen. I found that rather strange. I saw the bedroom my mom shared with her sister Jan. It looked as small as a closet. I imagined my mother playing in that room with her one doll. Mom always said that Aunt Jan was messy and my mom was the clean one. They seemed to have switched roles. Aunt Jan never entertains because people get her house dirty. My mom never has people over because she is embarrassed by her clutter and hoarding.

I wonder now if she imagined her mother was still alive inside of that house cooking supper, washing dishes, or just living a normal life every time she used to walk by. That was the only house she remembered her mother living in. Her mother died and her family moved far away, but she remained in that small town.

My mom more often than not on nice days took us for walks by her old childhood home. Every day the memory of her mother was still alive inside of that house. I’m sure she thought of that when she took us on walks to visit her husband’s mother.

Until one day the house burned down and even those memories faded away. She couldn’t imagine her mother happy inside the house when the house was no longer there. It was almost like she lost her mother again.

Bad luck Luke

I got some bad news today.

My brother Luke was diagnosed with kidney disease. It is irreversible. He is not to the point of dialysis and hopefully if he keeps on a strict diet it will not progress further.

How could something like this happen? My brother is a health nut. Why??

Apparently all it took was being very sick, taking too much OTC pain reliever, and becoming dehydrated to lose over half of his kidney function. Without a family history of kidney problems, the doctor could offer no other possible causes. Who would’ve guessed something like this could happen to someone young and healthy? Did lifelong intense stress weaken his kidneys?

Today when I found out about my brother I felt a lot of anxiety. But the strange thing is that I felt anxiety about something else. The first thing I did was worry about the garbage. Today is garbage day and I had this irrational fear that I threw out my son’s wallet when I grabbed the garbage out of his bathroom. Totally crazy!

Then I started to feel anger. Why would God allow this to happen to my brother! Then I felt sadness. I almost cried when I thought what it would be like to watch my baby brother die. What about his family? Life is just not fair. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do healthy people get sick?

Life, it’s taking the cards you have been dealt and playing your best game. It’s lifelong growing, building, and change. It’s not guaranteed to be pain free, but if you give it your best shot it’s worth it. Time is short and I want to look back satisfied that I did the best I could. I did not give up when things got rough, instead I tried harder.

I want a rock solid marriage. That is something else worth fighting for. Someday I might have to ask him if he loves me enough to donate a kidney. They are the same blood type if that matters, whereas the rest of us are not.

This post was originally written back in November. It was one of the drafts I saved because I was not ready to accept this much less post it. It’s hard to think of my brother as sick. Who knew that in a few months I would follow him down the path of illness. I feel bad because his life has been very difficult. It’s not fair. I wanted so much more for him. 

 

A part of me drowned that day in May

When I was 6 years old, I watched my three younger brothers play in the lake by myself. My dad told my mother not to worry because if anything happened surely I would scream for help. They were inside the cabin not too far away. I’m not sure how long I was left alone. It could’ve been two minutes, it could’ve been twenty. But I don’t remember that.

My youngest brother just turned two. He went deeper into the water until it was almost over his head. He started to choke and flail about while my 3 year old brother thought he was swimming. My brother Matt who was 5 is autistic and he was oblivious to the whole situation. I really was left alone to deal with something I was too young to handle.

I was so afraid that my body froze. I couldn’t even scream for help.

The memory is always the same. I almost watched my brother drown and did nothing to save him. If my mother hadn’t checked on us, he could’ve died.

My husband asked me if I ever thought I could’ve died that day. He asked what would’ve happened if I jumped in to save him when he started to struggle. Maybe he would’ve pulled me under. We could have all drowned.

I never considered that before.

I think a part of me died that warm day in May. If you could imagine a 6 year old watching her three younger brothers in the water with no one else around. Debatably if I had any childhood up to that point, it was gone on that day. Who even knows what other responsibilities I had on days disaster didn’t strike.

I never was a carefree child. It seems like I was a careworn old woman all my life. I missed the time of magic and wonder. My imagination didn’t wander. Maybe that’s when my life started to be ruled by logic and structure. One part of my brain overdeveloped while the other part didn’t develop much at all.

I became this way before my brain developed enough to give me adult reasoning. I became advanced in rules, structure, routines, and control. If I couldn’t control my circumstances, I could have super human control over myself. Or I could feel like I had some control over things that no one cared about controlling.

As I grew older, I noticed there was a chasm dark deep and empty. There was a void inside of me bigger than a black hole. I longed to be someone I wasn’t. I wanted to be spontaneous and carefree. But would I have to exchange my hard earned grit for feelings and fluff? I couldn’t see two opposing traits rule inside of me at the same time without causing a war.

I mourned for the child I never got to be. I don’t think I was supposed to be the person I needed to be to survive. The seed was planted and the tree grew tall. It’s too late to cut it down and start all over again. The tree didn’t get watered enough but it got used to the soil it was in. I always wondered what the tree would’ve been like if it was nourished properly.

Maybe a part of me did die on that warm day in May. I feel like a part of me is missing. It was the part of me I wanted to be but never took root.

At this point, it is too late to chop down the tree. But I can prune away the old unhealthy branches to make room for new growth. That I still can do.

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.

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…..

When fear calls

I called my daughter that Sunday morning right before church started.

She was worried about suicide…or murder/suicide. After everything that happened, I shared her concern. What could I do about it?

I had been scheduled to sing that morning with the worship team. I ended the call abruptly as I saw everyone head up to sing.

I worried. Maybe this is good-bye. Maybe I will never see my parents again. It’s a horrible feeling especially when I had to act happy and sing on a live recorded feed. I felt so fake.

Smile! I felt like I was going to throw up or pass out. I started shaking. Smile. This could be the last day he is alive, they are alive. My God, the horror. Twenty minutes later, I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. Everything in my body told me to run off the stage. Flee. I had to stay. Everyone was watching me, in church and even online.

Maybe they would think I was having stage fright. I wish that was all it was. I couldn’t tell anybody. I wanted to drive out to the house. But the day before the car broke down, the only one free that afternoon. Plus I was asked not to because my family didn’t feel like it was safe.

I wanted to ask for prayer that day. But my husband was not in church that morning. He got asked by a friend of mine to help her out with something in place of her husband who spent the night in jail. I told him that helping out someone in need was more important than attending church. He agreed.

Shallow, I suppose. If I left the stage for prayer, it would be obvious. Then people might wonder if I was having problems with my husband because he wasn’t there. It could be misconstrued and gossiped about. I didn’t want that.

I called my brother Luke when I got home. Although he was treated the worst by our dad, he was the first to try to pull dad out of the grave he dug. That day my mom took my brother Matt back to his group home and stayed with us for several days. I made sure the doors were locked and became hyper-vigilant to signs of trouble.

Sometimes I wish my only stress was worrying about the holidays. The simple worries of getting that perfect gift. I couldn’t even think. Or worrying about hosting parties with special diets. Or having 4 teenagers in my house. Anything but this.

We are all worried. You’ve been depressed, suicidal before. Now you have a reason to end it all. Is this the only way your heart will change? Will your curses to God change to cries for help? Maybe this is the only way. But it’s not what I wanted for you, for the rest of us.

It’s been a month since I initially wrote this. I feel anxious. Tomorrow I will be singing on the worship team for the first time since this happened. I don’t want to do it anymore because it is triggering my feelings of fear. I understand why people seek isolation in times of despair. So many seemingly innocent things trigger bad feelings and memories associated with them. I’ve been trying to see my world as it really is but at times it is utterly terrifying and I question everything I blindly believed before.

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.

My pretty mask

I panic as I sit here waiting. I know I have catastrophic anxiety, but in all of my worry I never imagined this.

Waiting is terribly hard when you know something bad is going to happen. This time it really is. I hear the time bomb ticking its countdown in my chest. I want to stop it but I can’t. I just have to brace for the explosion and pick up the pieces when it is done.

The panic sets in. Maybe somehow this is my fault. Maybe I did something wrong. Maybe I could’ve stopped it. Will I get in trouble? This paranoia is making me crazy.

I feel angry. I am broken already. PLEASE STOP MESSING UP MY LIFE! Will it never end? Sometimes I secretly wish you were dead. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. I am supposed to protect you, yet you never kept me safe.

I am so sad for what I didn’t have. Everywhere I go it is rubbed into my face. Maybe my life would be better if I wasn’t in it. I can’t stand feeling this way anymore. I’m drowning, alone. I reach for your hand, but no one is there. I grab at whatever comfort I can find as I go under.

My therapist says I need to break this conditioning. But maybe somehow it is my fault. Maybe somehow I can fix things. I don’t know what to do. But I know what you will do. You will ask me to be a doctor when I’m not even a nurse. Did you forget that I am hurt too? How did I get chosen to be the bellhop for your baggage? Will you never stop ruining my life?

I want to feel joy. I long for peace. But you never set me free. I am foolish enough to think I am getting away when I stick my arm outside of my cage. I fear I will always be trapped here. How can I get out of this? Every time I think I’m out, I’m still locked inside.

The numbness is wearing off too soon, the pain isn’t gone yet. HELP ME! I want to hide in the dark empty void of my mind. But you said it is not safe in there anymore. The demons live there that ravish my soul. But can’t you see I am already in hell? I’ve gotten used to the warmth of its raging fire. Now I’m so cold.

You can’t let them win. Feel joy in your times of sorrow. I wish I could. I feel like I am going to throw up.

Is my life some sort of cosmic joke? Funny, but I’m not laughing. God, what is the purpose?

You mar me with your filth until I can’t even see the goodness in me anymore. I could wash my hands of it a million times and still see the dirt you left behind. I want nothing to do with it.

I want to be on a warm beach somewhere serene. But even there I will find no solace, no escape. Everywhere I go, you come with me.

I see your reflection every time I look at myself in the mirror. My beauty mocks the ugliness inside. It oozes out of me. I wish I was ugly on the outside so no one would notice me.

I put on a smile and say everything is fine. I wear my pretty mask with all the glitter and glitz. I’m okay. I’m good. How about you?

Why am I not happy all of the time? I seem to have it all.

It’s amazing how easily people believe the lies they want to hear.

I’m glad you like my pretty mask. But I have to ask. When will the show end? I’m getting tired of acting normal.

I finished my book!!

Last night I finished my book, my life story. It stirred within me many mixed emotions. I felt like I was covered in a blanket of deep sorrow, yet at the same time I felt joy. It’s been a journey of remembering and releasing in words previously unexpressed.

Last night I sent my book to two test readers, a friend who is an author and a friend that is a child psychologist who works specifically with autistic children. I also sent a copy to my therapist. After I receive feedback, I will edit my book again. Then I want to send my book to my husband, my daughter Angel, my son Alex, and my brother Luke. After that, I am going to find a publisher. Then I will share it with you.

Perhaps this will start the healing process, perhaps not.

I figure if I can do some really difficult things (like running a 50k or writing a book revealing my trauma), then I probably can figure out a way to do something almost everyone can do. Relax. Heal. Let go.

I have been working with my therapist on brainspotting. I shared my first session with you and that was a very positive experience. After that session, things took a dark turn. I have been releasing all of the negative garbage I’ve been holding inside. It stinks! I’ve been working hard on trying to express my feelings. It has been painful, yet beneficial. Through this process, my lifelong struggle with insomnia and nightmares has gone away.

For a long time, I understood myself. I know what triggers my depression and anxiety. I understand the attacks of my trauma on my well being. But I’ve never known what to do about it. Visiting a therapist is taking the next step. Self-awareness is important, but it isn’t a catalyst for change.

I’m trying to give up control. It’s not like I had any in the first place. Just like being a clean freak never seems to make the dirt go away. Being a control freak doesn’t give peace and serenity to the voice that cries out for it. Worry is a waste of time. It doesn’t bring me peace.

I am trying to figure out who I really am. For most of my life I lived in survival mode. Now who am I? The person I needed to be to survive? Or who I really am? It’s hard to be myself if I don’t know who I really am. It’s a new time for self-discovery and growth. I want to fully experience my purpose in life.

I started meditating. Maybe I will try yoga. I always burned my anxiety off by hard workouts at the gym. This is how I process my anger. I am going to keep this, but add to it by including relaxation exercises.

I am going to read a Bible verse a day. This will incorporate inspiration for spiritual healing and growth. I want to trust God more. I also want to trust the people that care about me even if it means I might get hurt. I want to cultivate meaningful relationships. I want to cut off unhealthy relationships altogether, and if I can’t then I’ll set healthy boundaries.

I also started visiting a wellness clinic for physical healing of my body. My nervous system took a big hit from the long term stress. I suffered from stomach and GI issues my whole life. I’ve been working on avoiding the foods I am sensitive to and rebuilding my gut for optimal physical health.

If I can train my body for a 50k, I can train my body for growth and healing. My book is done, but I will never stop writing. The story hasn’t ended yet. The best is yet to come.