Dear Jac…I’m gonna divorce him good…

Apparently the adult wants to talk to you also. This is coming from the big girl, actually old woman who is full of rage and betrayal. This might be one of those times when I pick up the phone and spew this sewage out to you. Even though you say it’s okay to do that, somehow it doesn’t feel okay or kind in the least. Aiming my rage toward you even if it’s not about you, just doesn’t seem right. I’m thinking I’m gonna reel that back and propel this shit toward the keyboard instead.

I’m so fucking pissed. And angry. And broken. And fierce. And vengeful. And so sad.

I’m like this really great person. Flawed like the rest of the human race but overall a great gal. I don’t need to even explain that to you. I don’t get it. I don’t get it. I don’t get it. Somedays are easier than others in having this betrayal shoved down my throat until I want to puke. Maybe today because the weather went wonky and we had this massive thunderstorm with hail and all I could think was how the universe was acting out exactly what I was feeling. Thank you Mother Earth-Mother God for that light show complete with sound effects. I was shrieking mad and pounding the earth right there with you. And those bolts of lighting are gonna go straight through his heart for hurting me so deeply.

I decided to leave my post on this blog called The Original Love Story. There is a new chapter to be included on the end of this but where it organically stopped, my life was still a love story. Now I’m not sure what it is. There can be no conclusions made yet. Maybe as I’m doing my life review when I croak will I understand really what the fuck happened.

My thoughts are so scattered, how would you follow this conversation anyway? Girl, I need Madea right now. She would make me feel better. Righteous anger always makes me feel better. Angry women burn brighter than the sun. Maybe I should break more of his shit. I need a wailing wall. A place to smash the fuck out of his belongings like he shattered me without the slightest of thought.

Damn it. The tornado sirens are going off again. I guess she has something more to say.


Dear Jac…she couldn’t find you…

Trigger warning: Stream of consciousness from the little girl…

After she identified and wrote yesterday on her frantic anxiety of lack of connection, she had a fucked up night. I know I texted you a bunch yesterday and couldn’t get a response. I paced with her as she tried to calm herself and went from one activity to another, not being able to settle in on anything. Here’s what we know, lack of connection to another human causes her great anxiety. Yeah, sure, it’s from early childhood, we get that. But c’mon, I’m an old woman now and why is it still present or still surfacing from time to time? Is it solely because I’ve never let her speak before? See how I do that? I ask a question from one of us and answer from another. Geesh, this is fucked up.

I think and analyze too much. It’s very difficult now to turn my brain off, it’s constantly searching for connection. I’ve trained myself that it needs to be a connection to someone; a partner, a friend, a busy workplace except none of that really worked either. Somehow I find solace in the fact that I’m writing to you as if we are talking on the phone or in person. As she is speaking, she knows you are there listening. I know you aren’t judging but I also hope that you have a shield over your heart as she spills her heart out. God knows she hasn’t gotten to do this before. Maybe this will take the place of her attempts to find connection outside of herself. Maybe this space will be of comfort to her as she embraces her deep fear of breaking her silence.

When she couldn’t find you last night, her frantic turned into shame. She felt stupid for trying to reach out so much, her thoughts were of “stop being a burden”……”see, you’re not worth it”….”when the needy child is here, no one loves her”… “go back to being someone else that is more desirable”. The shame spiral continued even after we did the post when she gave up and went to bed. Curled in bed with the dogs, away from the world is her ultimate safe space for the most part. We control our night time routine with pleasurable sensory experiences; dark, quiet, good smells of the essential oil diffuser. Nighttime is prayer time as my chocolate lab reaches her paw out, she knows it’s time to talk to our angels and God.

But still…something crept in my unconscious OR something leaked from old memories. As safe as I have made it, as many prayers of protection I speak, as many crystals I lay around me, there are times when she still has darkness creep in. Last night it was a man. A man who abducted, raped and tried to kill me. It wasn’t a particularly long dream and didn’t contain a lot of details. I knew I’d been repeatedly raped but thankfully was spared from the excruciating details. I did a lot of screaming for people to help me, even showing up at a hospital at some point but the staff just looked through me as if I wasn’t there. Blood was pooling on the floor, running down my legs. Even that didn’t get their attention. I was invisible again and I couldn’t make any connection. Constant theme.

The one man grew into several men. There was more rape. There was more blood. And eventually, law enforcement showed up and right before the man shot himself, he looked at me very tenderly and with the most sincere eyes said “I love you”. Go figure that shit out. Our abusers were my father and uncles. Ones that probably showed the outward appearance of loving family men who were capable of raping until the little girl bled. This is why we feel so fucked up. How can these experiences simultaneously exist?

We woke up okay. It wasn’t the worst dreams I’ve had, these are fairly benign and commonplace as night terrors go. I’ll take these anytime versus the wake-up-screaming-with-rats-crawling-on-us dreams. We’ve actually had an okay day today because I got to see my daughter and talk to someone on the phone. That centers me almost immediately. She dreams of a community full of people and animals, gardens of flowers, activity of every sort. The antithesis of her lonely childhood.

Jac, I know you can’t be accessible every day to me. The logical executive functioning part of my brain knows that and doesn’t expect it. Adults need to be autonomous and create our own realities. So anytime you’re reading this, don’t think you’ve let me down in any way. You have many things on your plate too and I’m grateful for your dedication to me. Yet…in some way I’ve chosen you to be my anchor. I did this to my husband too. I don’t think it’s unusual given the circumstances, I know it’s a fast track to healing. But some label it co-dependant or some sort of helplessness or mental illness (pick one). So then I stop again. I can’t be those things so I just numb my frantic clamoring for connection. And the hamster wheel in my brain keeps spinning.

I just hope that letting her dump these words will slow the spinning down. She really needs some peace.


she’s frantic for attention…

Trigger warning of strong emotion, uncensored child rage and other shit that is causing great anxiety. Another stream of consciousness from the littlest.

Not much I’ve done today has calmed her. I’ve tried the usual offerings to her and she’s swatting them back at me. Or throwing them to the ground. She wants to scream but it is stuck somewhere in her throat and it’s tight. It makes her choke. There was a point earlier today when a song came out but it was short.

The weather is the same, the light through the trees feels okay. I’m trying to straddle our worlds and see what prompts this child to begin the spiral. I’ve had no human contact today so it can’t be that someone said something. That’s not it. It has to be a thought from her, maybe she remembers something that is causing this scowl. She’s still tight, doesn’t really want to talk.

Maybe that’s it, it’s from before words. I think she wants physical presence. She keeps going over to the big chocolate lab because her mass is significant. She is the largest living breathing creature in our house. She can’t remember her last hug. That makes her very sad and causes her lip to quiver. She hesitantly remembers touch being such a tricky thing. She knows that many times she sought any kind of attention, she lacked discernment at that little age. She can still feel her hot stinging skin where she was swatted away with that plastic flyswatter. The appendage of most rednecks she grew up around. Everyone had a flyswatter and a cigarette whether you were outside or in. There were so many flies. Farms and filth bring flies. She hates flies. They drank from her sweaty skin.

The sting from the flyswatter would bring a raised welt to her skin but she grew used to it. At least she could feel herself when that happened. She knows she was conditioned to accept touch, swatting, beatings, and being back-handed. That was the signature move in my family. The back-hand. It came from no where. Why was it preferred to a slap? Maybe when the adult had something in their hand, they did the back-hand. Hitting was common. We got hit all the time. It’s probably why I, to this day, have trouble recognizing abuse. Or knowing that something isn’t right because it’s taken me a lifetime to figure out that this wasn’t right. In our cult and time, it was though. It was just fine.

I wonder why she’s thinking of being hit. Is her skin lonely for some touch? Does hitting count as touch? I think she wants to know that she’s not invisible. When you’re being chased and whipped as a child, you are not invisible. You are instead the center of the attack. You pay a big price for trying to confirm that you exist.

I’m not sure I know I exist now. These feelings have to be from the both of us. I miss the touch of my toddler who lived with her arms wrapped around my neck. I miss the open arms of my husband when he’d see me and instinctively throw his arms open wide. Those are experiences from the latter part of my life but she strains to remember a time when she was given loving touch. Maybe from her nieces and nephew, we held each other’s hands a lot. She feels a familiar pang that tells her that a child shouldn’t have to try so hard to remember how love felt. It shouldn’t be such a strain to recreate a tender moment. Maybe she’s trying to create something out of the ether, something that didn’t exist. So how can she miss it?

I don’t know if this helped, there are a lot of questions and doubt right now.


I’ll go “there” but I won’t stay…

There are times I encounter situations which require me to go back to the past to provide a timeline to my trauma or to explain my childhood to a therapist, physician or other helping professional. It’s not possible to get the help we need without some sort of narrative of what our story is. It is a necessary process we must move through in order to get the help we need but also it’s the part that I’ve come to dread the most.

You see, I’ve not fully grasped the art of revisiting “there” without reliving it. This is a skill that many survivors have yet to master, some of us more than others depending on the degree and length of abuse, the amount of support we have in our lives and our overall stamina to give a damn. Sometimes we give up. Sometimes we summon another shred of strength to take the next hurdle. Sometimes we serendipitously find a source of support that takes our hand and walks with us.

Going back “there” is visiting a crime scene. It is darkness. It feels evil. It is fuzzy and laced with imminent danger that is more visceral than visual. It has the power to accelerate our nervous systems instantly like the flip of a switch. One minute we are fine, the next minute we are not. Each and every time, we must return to the scene of the crime, hoping for the best. The conflict of wanting to relate our story while revisiting it creates great anxiety because in the unearthing comes the intense jarring of being “there” again. Exhuming our stories challenge us intensely and take us to places that we vowed to escape. We must straddle two planes of existence, the “now” versus the “then” and be grounded enough in ourselves to know the difference.

As a child, I created many means of escape. My physical self found itself running away, hiding in the woods, or screeching like a wild animal until an auntie would find me, wrap me in her housedress and apron and clutch me until I settled down or until a man would backhand my little girl face so that I’d shut up. While not foolproof, this mostly worked to keep them away from me by being unavailable or perhaps too much trouble to target.

But it was the brilliant escape that I created in my psyche that saved me from the unspeakable moments. When my abusers realized that controlling me would require more violent means, my body ultimately became their property. I was a child. I had no means to physically fight off grown men. It was only in my mind that I could escape by floating away and into the recesses of a place earmarked for the worst of the worst.

It is unavoidable to have a life where we don’t acknowledge our wounded self on some level. We must sometimes relate it to others. These wounds comprise and define us as much as the light that shines within us. My challenge is to continue to understand and accept that place with love and compassion. While these moments, strung together created trauma and pain, they also created a space that runs deep and wild. It left us with crazy, wonderful intuition and a soul that can see the face of God. It provided us an opportunity to transcend the unspeakable with a brave and courageous heart.

So you’ll find me willing to visit there briefly or peek in for a bit…but I won’t stay “there”.

I don’t have to anymore.


Best ways to further harm a suicidal/depressed person…

I’m not in the mood to be engaging or to use fluffed up words. This shit is real and it is mind-bendingly crazy how suicidal/depressed people are further damaged through the ignorance of their fellow humans. More damaging than what their minds are already doing, running down old neurological pathways racing with trauma (NO, it’s not mental illness). Don’t try to understand. Try to cover your own ass by staying barely in touch, glancing occasionally so that no one can point fingers at you later. It will allow you to stammer in the most confounded way at their memorial service, “OMG, I had no idea it was this bad”. This obtuse-ness THING will send us straight into the arms of those bottles of pills and to finally act out what we’ve been thinking about for a very long time. AND what I’ve been avoiding by holding my head up, praying, asking for help, allowing help, grounding myself, clearing negative energy and all the other cliche shit that has been told to me to do. Every point on the list below has been used against me in a sometimes well-meaning way. I suspect also, that it is also a gross ignorance of the subject and fear of really showing up for someone. 

  • Be obtuse. If one purposefully doesn’t understand the SP (suicidal person, for short) then how could one be responsible for turning their back on them? When the SP sends texts or calls with monosyllabic dialogue that doesn’t elaborate, even though you know they have a LONG trauma history, ignore them. Don’t try to dig in, understand, probe a bit and follow your instinct that this may be exactly the time when they need someone/anyone to reach out. Assume they are playing games and trying to garner attention. The connection is vital to pull the SP out of that moment, so don’t provide that connection. Make them beg for it. When we perceive there is no one to care then it just reinforces our maladaptive thinking. That is a dangerous place for us to be and it’s a dangerous thing to have done to us.
  • Deem them crazy. This is a sure fire way to shift the attention from what they need to yourself. Surely, a person must have boundaries and can’t be expected to be around such craziness. After all, it messes up life to have someone around who struggles. They say weird things, they don’t hang on your every word and story, they command attention that you want for yourself. In sideways glances and hushed voices, widen your eyes to other family members and make sure they know this person is crazy and should be avoided. Shunning them from the family entirely is the most effective way to label and punish them for the unspeakable crime of being the prey of master manipulators, rapists, traffickers, violent people who marked on their souls as children. Shouldn’t society further punish them for being born into these families? Shouldn’t we try to keep them away from any comfort measures of being understood or receiving support and compassion? After all, they are the ones who need to be punished instead of the monsters whose secrets their victims kept. 
  • Are you okay? Ask this question after they’ve spilled their hearts out about their last night-terror, trauma, flashback, dissociative event, or loss. Even though they’ve told you that they are living on the edge, make sure you don’t ever try to help them off the ledge. Instead, lean out the window and ask “Are you okay?”. That way you can ignore everything you already know and feign support. Don’t try to get them to a safer place than the ledge. Don’t give a shit about whether the SP wants a life on the edge. Lean out and tell them about your day, show them pictures of your garden or dog, tell them everyone you’ve been spending time with lately. They are mostly certainly interested in these tidbits as they hang on for dear life. 
  • Remind them of who they will hurt. When the SP is out-of-their-mind unhinged with emotional pain, inform them of the people they will hurt if they try to find relief from that pain. Use guilt to further punish them so they know for sure that they are a very bad person because they don’t want to hurt anymore. That added burden couldn’t hurt, right?
  • Stay busy. If you’re busy with your children, your church, your job, your social and family time, your volunteer efforts or your latest creative hobby, you are absolutely too busy to be bothered with a struggling friend or family member. You can absolve your responsibility by devoting even more time to any activity that would render you unavailable to stop and look at the SP. This will hopefully absolve you later from any guilt if or when the SP completes their suicide. 
  • Lie to them. Use lies to get off the phone, off the hook, out of the relationship with them. Tell them you love them and will always be there for them. Tell them you will call them tomorrow and then don’t. Distort their reality as much as possible. If you’re married to a SP, divorce them pronto even though you knew of their struggles beforehand and reassured them you were up for the challenge. If you’re friends with a SP, don’t ever be honest with them. Don’t tell them “this is hard”, “I don’t know what to do but want to help”, “that it’s difficult to see someone they love hurt so bad”. Let them know they were so awful to be around that you had to ghost them. Tell them God loves them and if they prayed harder perhaps their pain will ease. Let them know that their relationship with God isn’t strong enough or they would be okay. Tell them to take care of themselves and to go rest, then it gives you an out to look like you are caring for them instead of trying to get away. 
  • Scorn them. Make sure that you relate your disappointment in their inability to control their trauma, depression, suicidal thoughts. Tell them that you thought the SP was stronger, more resilient or a more fierce warrior. Make sure they know that whatever they are doing, however fast they are peddling and to what degree they are trying everything they can get their hands on, that it isn’t enough. 
  • Look away often. When you see the SP, don’t notice that their personal grooming has declined. If they appear unshowered or to not be eating, don’t pay attention. Even if their house or yard is more disarray than their usual standards, don’t notice or offer to help. Rationalize that it isn’t a cry for help. Instead find a more malicious thought that the SP is the slob you always thought them to be. 
  • Don’t show up. The one thing that will most often break the SP’s thought processes is someone showing up. And I mean showing up without making us shriek like a wounded animal for help, cut ourselves and show blood evidence or sob with relentless pain. Physical presence is key. Sitting with someone in silence, asking them what they need, holding their hand, etc. or simply stating “You are important”, “I’ll stay as long as you need”, “Let’s see if we can get this pain to ease”. Not showing up is a sure fire way to push the SP right over the edge. 

Here’s my words of warning. If you recognize yourself in these words, you better pray like hell that depression/anxiety/trauma/rape/suicidal thoughts/domestic violence/physical abuse/emotional abuse/cult abuse/trafficking/incest never touches your life. Your family and friends may be inclined to use these points on you and trust me, it will break your heart even further than it already is.

There’s more but I gotta stop, this shit hurts to write. I’ve lived through them all. I wrestle with the jagged pain now. I want it to end and perhaps tonight it will. 


Writing as a Trauma Survivor

 

 

I watch a light dusting of snow come down on this idyllic winter afternoon. Even though we’ve been on a stretch of gloomy, sun deprived days, the opportunity to curl up and tend to some writing projects allure me. I feel a tug of inspiration. There are no appointments or projects outside the house today for which I’m grateful. The dogs are snuggled up near me, one at my side, one at my feet and are content, full and warm. My husband is happily creating in his studio and my grown daughter is busily occupied with her life on the other side of the city.

I can’t locate any apparent danger. Safety of myself and loved ones…check.

I scan the room and everything seems in order. The doors are locked and my home appears secure and safe. The curtains are drawn enough to keep anyone from looking in and startling me. I’m snug in my couch, my back to the wall, facing the entry to my home. I know what I’m doing even as I’m doing it.

Hypervigilence calmed by assessing my surroundings….check.

I sit with myself for a moment to insure that I am centered and safe enough to begin the journey inward to visit the inner world of the child that holds the stories. I’ve eaten today and have had a decent night’s sleep. No triggering memories or events have surfaced, I feel grounded and connected to reality, present in the moment. I think I’m good to go.

Assessment of self …. check.

Feeling somewhat reassured by my physical and emotional safety checklist, I pop open the laptop and see if she’s willing to talk.

The reality is that I have an article to complete. In fact, I have several submissions to compose and a book to finish that is 70,000 words in and 9/10ths done. I’m looking forward to knocking some of this work off of my to-do list.

As I begin to review my material, I feel the familiar stir. At first, I’m just unsettled, then it seizes me. My heart picks up it’s pace and I feel my anxiety mounting, not with what I’ve discovered to be a traditional writer’s block but with a terrorized struggle between my little one and the adult “me”. The adult wants to meet the deadlines, actively participate in various writing projects and continue the advocacy for my cause yet the little one who holds the details of my stories begins pulling back the reins something fierce right now. She’s telling me something but I don’t exactly know what it is. The capitulation is activated.

I’ve encountered this conundrum before as I’ve attempted to balance between the intoxicating freedom of allowing my voice versus the terror of actually parting with information that I’ve held captive for decades. Information that has brilliantly saved my life simultaneously keeping me safe…..yet stuck in so many ways. A paradox for sure.

I’ve discovered a powerful and innate desire to connect to the smallest parts of myself silenced by trauma and shame. I want to know her, I want to hear her dark secrets, I want to desperately reunite with her. And over the years since recovering my repressed memories I’ve done exactly that. But right now, I can’t get her to talk, let alone whisper to me.

Photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash

As a survivor, I long to tell my story for reasons that go beyond the simple recollection of my history. I have a fundamental need to create a coherent narrative of my past. Trauma has fragmented, repressed and distorted my core memories and history. It has lied to me viciously, telling me I’m worthless with no right to even utter a word of what has happened to me. It tells me to shut up in the most violent voice and remain quiet to preserve the pathology of its existence. It has stolen my past and I want it back.

It’s hardwired in my recovery process to be able to give voice to the muted child and reclaim my narrative. In a sense, survivors desire to purge what little we do know AS we attempt to discover what we don’t know. Each and every time, we must return to the scene of the crime, hoping for the best. The conflict of wanting to purge the story while revisiting it creates great anxiety because in the unearthing comes the intense jarring of being “there” again. Exhuming our stories challenge us intensely and take us to places that we vowed to escape. We must straddle two planes of existence, the “now” versus the “then” and be grounded enough in ourselves to know the difference.

It’s an incredibly tricky process. In an effort to excavate the missing elements of our memories and snap together the pieces of the past, we must think about the very things that are unthinkable IF we can remember them at all.

So how do we accomplish the unearthing process when often our trauma occurred at a young age or perhaps even a preverbal time in our lives? How do we form the elusive coherent narrative from flashbulb moments, create a linear timeline from disordered and fragmented emotions or moments encoded and imprinted with so much fear that it feels impossible? Is this even possible as we attempt to access a time when we most probably lacked words to match our feelings and experiences or when often attachments were distorted or non-existent?

My solution is broad as it is incomplete.

Over time, I’ve shaped an emotional safety plan to hold me steady as I venture into the very place that flipped my world upside down, a place that imprinted upon my vulnerable nervous system a trauma that compromised my neuro-physiological wiring for a lifetime.

It’s a work-in-progress, delicate dance comprised of her beckoning “listen to me” as I step toward her while she simultaneously pushes away. It ebbs and flows, shifts and changes…sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes I lean in harder with some solid reassurance that we are strong now, that I know what it takes to protect her and keep her safe. I tell her how much we’ve grown and have mostly mastered our day to day functioning, that this is a journey that we are capable of making together. I console her with the fact that she will never be alone in this odyssey again and that our discovery will be more a “recalling” process instead of a “reliving”.

She relaxes and says she’ll think about this. The anxiety lets up for a moment and I feel the shift of my nervous system to a more decelerated rate. I feel some satisfaction in the knowing that we made progress but a twinge of disappointment from unfinished work. But I know we are done for the day. I read her body signals well and am getting well versed at the dance.

The snow has let up and there’s still time for a short walk before the grey skies go dark. Jack the dog is excited as he sees me put on my boots and coat, grabbing the leash. We crunch through the snow feeling the cold air on my face and I promise the little girl that if she has any words for me, I am listening.


Conversational Narcissism

narc

I finally have a word for it.

Conversational Narcissism.

This word defines a phenomena that I’ve experienced in my husband’s family pretty much 100% of the time I’ve known them, dominating each and every conversation I’ve had with them.  Something that I’ve come home with, shaking my head, trying to figure out why these holidays, vacations and gatherings seem so hollow and confusing.

I’ve been angry, dismayed, disappointed at the endless spinning of conversation designed around anything and everything THEM.  For years, I sat dutifully as my in-laws laughed and told tales of their vacations, their careers, their homes, the decor in each of these homes, details of friends I’d never met as well as stories of their children, their jobs, where they live.  While I thought I was being polite to my elders by listening albeit feigning interest often, it began to occur to me that they knew NOTHING about me.  It hit me hard one day when one of the in-laws or one of my sisters-in-law (can’t remember which), were listing all the professions represented in the family as a sort of parlor game.  The list comprised of a doctor, several teachers, an engineer, a technical theatre designer, a business owner.  One of the sisters said it sure would be great to have a nurse in the family to round out this list.

I was dumbfounded….I probably even shook my head in disbelief…. I’m sitting right there as a nurse with 20+ years in the field and they didn’t even know that? It would be less embarrassing to say that I’d only been in their family for several weeks or months….and I cringe when I say this, that I’d been married to my husband for over 5 years.  How did they not know anything about me or more importantly, how did they never stop talking about themselves long enough to ask?

narcissism-egocentrism-excessive-admiration-for-yourself-or-your-appearance-155@1x

Needless to say, I seized the opportunity to enlighten them that they did indeed have a nurse in the family, my background and education. I continued and went on to tell them about my daughter, their new granddaughter and niece, and all of her interests and accomplishments.  But it left the most bizarre taste in my mouth because I’d never, ever met a family that operated like this.  After this awkward informational session, I figured  we had struck new territory, that they indeed had a bit of background now and from then on we’d have healthier, more give-and-take kind of conversations.

I was so wrong.  The dynamics of this family were so well entrenched that nothing changed.  There were no probing questions or interested inquiries.  I continued to find myself listening as a bystander becoming more invisible through each of their never ceasing conversations of self.  His parents would continue to invite us over for a “visit” which meant come over and sit and listen to us talk about ourselves.  Even during tragic moments, suicide of a grandson’s friend, my own heart attack and hospitalization, or the mental breakdown of a cousin, would ANY subject besides themselves be approached.  The invalidation that I and my daughter felt was so palpable that we stopped going to functions and holidays because even though our bodies were there, we simply didn’t exist to this family.

Fast forward to today.

When I found this article featured in Oprah‘s magazine entitled, “The Mistake I Made with my Grieving Friend” by Celeste Headlee, I literally yelled WOW.

I finally have a word for this disrespectful and disproportional soapbox that I witnessed. Conversational Narcissism.

In this article, the author admittedly realizes that she is using the “shift” to make a conversation about her during a moment when her friend is grief stricken by the loss of her father.

Sociologist Charles Derber describes this tendency to insert oneself into a conversation as “conversational narcissism.” It’s the desire to take over a conversation, to do most of the talking and to turn the focus of the exchange to yourself. It is often subtle and unconscious. Derber writes that conversational narcissism “is the key manifestation of the dominant attention-getting psychology in America. It occurs in informal conversations among friends, family and co-workers. The profusion of popular literature about listening and the etiquette of managing those who talk constantly about themselves suggests its pervasiveness in everyday life.” Derber describes two kinds of responses in conversations: a shift response and a support response. The first shifts attention back to yourself, and the second supports the other person’s comment.

 

Here’s what it looks like taken from actual conversations with my husband’s family.

Shift Response:

Laurel: Did you hear that your grandson Ben lost a friend to suicide?

In Laws:  No, I didn’t.  A lady from church just lost her grandson recently in a car accident, it was awful. She’s having a really hard time.

Support Response: 

Laurel:  Did you hear that your grandson Ben lost a friend to suicide?

In Laws:  No, I didn’t!  What happened?  Have you spoken with Ben or his friend’s family?  We need to reach out to him and give him some support during this rough time.

Shift Response: 

Laurel: I’m unable to attend Thanksgiving this year because I just got out of the hospital and don’t feel well enough.

In Laws:  Okay, I’ll just ask my daughters to bring the food that you would have normally brought. We always have so much food at our gatherings.

Support Response:  

Laurel: I’m unable to attend Thanksgiving this year because I just got out of the hospital and don’t feel well enough.

In Laws:  I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were in the hospital again.  We’d love to have you come and don’t worry about bringing food.  If you can’t make it, I’d love to send some food over to you later.  How are you feeling?

You get the idea.

The excitement that I feel when meeting a new person or even getting to know more about an old friend is based on the healthiest of a give and take conversation.  I love to talk but I also love to listen.  And ask questions and probe into the depths of a person’s stories and soul.  You know, meat and potatoes stuff. I can’t imagine it any other way. I want a dialogue, not a monologue.

But for the “conversational narcissist”, the goal is to get their needs met, not to get to know a person.  It is an ego feeding maneuver which is entirely one sided and executed to keep the attention on them.

For myself and my daughter, we simply had enough of these experiences and now are a no-show to family functions which interestingly, aren’t even really noticed.  As long as enough of the audience shows up, this family can conduct their usual lopsided interplays and never be the wiser to the fact that we’ve ditched them. Actually, they still haven’t stopped talking about themselves long enough to notice.

 


Sacred Longing

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In the wee hours of the morning, we rise.

the time when our dreamtime sleep is pierced with the wounds of the past.

we startle awake, frantically searching

          our surroundings for safety,

          our bodies for breath,

         our minds for unity of our many selves shattered at the hands of our violators,

         our gods and goddesses for harmony within our spirit.

One by one, we stumble into the darkness, leaving the places where our bodies reside but our spirits restlessly search.

The old woman, long ago widowed, crawls from her warm bed where she sleeps alone.

The new mother stands from the chair where she’s been rocking her infant for hours.  

The young father checks his slumbering children before creeping out of the door.

The maiden whispers goodbye to her lover in his sleep.

The aching isolation of our souls prompt each of us to emerge from our earthly dwellings looking for that place beyond ourselves

for our tribe

our kindred connection

our family.

Once outside, we stand in the darkness, drinking in its moist feminine energy,

simultaneously fearing the danger darkness can bring yet slowly stepping into it.

For we sense a beckoning, a sacred longing that begins to ease our fears.   

The clouds part as a path is illuminated by Grandmother Moon for safe and easy travel.

The faint distant rhythm of a drum synchronizes with our own heartbeat.

A far away glow beckons us where a fire already tended crackles warmly.

And we descend upon it.

In that fire circle we sit, bathed in the moonlight, faces illuminated by the brilliance of the embers and we glow.

We greet each other by simply looking.

And it is there we truly begin to see.

Our tribe, made of many wounded souls.  

Some faces empty, devoid of emotion. staring.

Some young with wide frightened eyes.

Some wrinkled, filled with years of despair and longing.

Some with eyes closed, deep in thought.

One cradles her baby to her breast and while he nurses, she weeps softly.

One pokes and tends the fire, focuses on his task, never looking up.

One screams at the moon until wordless and spent, sinking to the ground.

One rocks a sobbing adolescent sprawled awkwardly across her lap.

One lurches out of the circle, purging and retching from her deepest parts.

The elderly crone stretches her crooked legs out in front of her and softly begins to sing.

Some reach out for another’s hand,

some stare at the fire,

some sway to the song of the crone.

In the night, we join each other.

Bonded by our wounds and the desire to transcend them.

In the night, we hold space for each other, knowing each of our paths differ as much as the pace that we travel them.  

The wise crone stands, reaches deep into her medicine pouch that sways from her middle and tosses white sage onto the hot stones and we witness the hissing smoke that arises.  

Young and old, we hush in unison, casting our prayers onto the smoke that travels to the heavens.  

The owl who guards us from the trees above, gives a guttural hoot in support of our ceremonial gesture.

white owl

 

The crone continues around the circle toward the young woman who nurses her baby, still quietly weeping.  

She stands behind her, gently places her gnarled hands into her long, thick hair,

stroking and raking,

stroking and raking.

The young one’s body relaxes and responds with gratitude, leans into her as the crone weaves magic into her hair.

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Maybe Tomorrow, I’m Triggered Today

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*this post is gently re-blogged from Jennifer Kindera*, Trauma Recovery Coach

I can’t look in the mirror today. I’ve done it before, looked at me when I’m triggered and I know what I will see. Vacant eyes telling a thousand stories that I can’t face yet again. I don’t want to face it yet again. When I’m like this, it’s all I can do to get out of bed. Function normally? Yeah, not so much. My brain knows that it’s because of the PTSD, the funk of being triggered, marinating in the past, reliving pain that I put to bed over and over again, through therapy, EMDR and mindfulness. I recognize the signs, my signs. I’ve been doing this thing for a while, walking through triggered, the chaos of heart rate, the anxiety anvil which sits on my chest, over-reacting to the little things, bottling up, stuffing down all the emotional warfare going on inside me, the chaos waiting to swallow me whole.

My Littles have been tearful and enraged by turns for a few days. It’s not my new normal, just my normal. Holidays, I trantrum. We put the Christmas tree up yesterday and that always seems to send me into the darkness. The abyss that is so real, where other people have twinkly lights and nice families and happily-ever-afters and I just blindly can’t see in the pitch-black pit of silent gore. But it’s not the tree or the holidays or <fill in the blank.> It’s my trauma rearing it’s head again. It’s wading in the desolate mire that says, oh you didn’t think I wouldn’t visit again, did you? My Inner Critic delights in the coming, it’s like a four year old the day before their birthday party, jumping up and down telling me everything I’ve done to heal isn’t enough, I better get busier, be better, let go more, or my old frenimie Shame will come a-knocking.

 

How long does it last? The awful apathy, nothing is good enough, leave me the fuck alone backasswards like I’m Sissypus and just one more time I’m gonna push that boulder up the mountain and it’s going to slide right back down.

Maybe tomorrow it will fade. I took my herbs today, made sure I ate, tried to work, used my tools. The lethargy is all-consuming though. I do know that once what took me three weeks to work through now might take three days. That’s great, wait what day am I on? How many layers are there anyway to this trauma recovery?

A friend said today, don’t give up. Don’t give in, whatever that looks like. If it means my socks don’t match and I stay in my pajamas all day, then that’s a win because I’m upright. If I hold my tongue when the nasty words want to spill out and rip across another person to project my pain, then that’s a win. The broken pieces of me are like shards of glass and as I keep on keeping on, shining light into the dark places it feels like infection spreading. There was a time when I thought I was the infection. I know in my head, if not in my heart that if I am struggling it’s okay.

It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s my mantra today. It’s.Okay.

It’s okay if you are struggling too. It’s okay because our healing isn’t linear or logical, it’s messy and ugly sometimes. It’s okay because some days it’s all we can do to breathe in and breathe out. It’s okay because no matter how dark it gets, the dawn will come. It’s okay because I may not be able to see the dawn for a few days, but at some point this panic weight will lift and I will settle again. It’s okay because I get to lean into the feelings, and peel back another layer of my painful past. It’s okay when it sucks and I don’t want to do just one more thing. Longer perhaps in between now and the next time, maybe. The Roman philosipher Seneca said, “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” I agree.

And, it’s okay.

 

 


“Dear Dad” – Anonymous Submission

Juggling the Jenkins

*The following has been submitted to me, and the writer has asked to remain anonymous. Names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.*

I keep telling myself it’s okay to be angry. How could I not be angry after all the anger that my body endured from a man who was supposed to love me.

That being said…

Dear Dad,

This is for me, not for you. 

From the prime age of nine, the words “I hate our fucking kids, I wish they were dead.” Curved and shaped the memory of my Limbic System. I don’t blame you for being mad, you did tell us to have the toy room cleaned by the time you were home; we just weren’t quick enough.

Age 10, quite literally over spilt milk I was kicked out of our home and slept in the tree house for four nights. I know…

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