Tag Archives: hope

10 Tips for Understanding Someone with PTSD

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Reblogged from Heal My PTSD by Michele Rosenthal.

 

PTSD makes communication difficult. Many survivors can’t find the words to express what they’re feeling. Even when they do, it’s very normal for them not to be comfortable sharing their experience. Elements of shame, fear, anger, guilt and grief often get in the way of a calm, focused discussion.

Friends and family (and anyone else who is not the source of the PTSD but is standing by while someone attempts to heal) need something that translates PTSD language. Armed with knowledge, insight and awareness you’ll have an easier time knowing how to react, respond and relate to your PTSD loved one during the healing process. The more you appreciate things from the PTSD perspective the more helpful and supportive you can be. Now is the time for empathy, compassion and patience.

The list below will give you an overview of things to understand. For more in-depth information – plus content specifically geared for you, the caregiver – check out the free archives of our radio show, CHANGING DIRECTION, which features professionals and experts weighing in on what you need to know about PTSD and your role.

#1 – Knowledge is power. Understanding the process of a triggering event, the psychic reaction to trauma, the warning signs and symptoms of PTSD, and available treatment options for PTSD allows you to help recognize, support and guide your PTSD loved one toward diagnosis, treatment and healing.
We need you to be clearheaded, pulled together and informed.

#2 – Trauma changes us. After trauma we want to believe —as do you—that life can return to the way it was; that we can continue as who we were. This is not how it works. Trauma leaves a huge and indelible impact on the soul. It is not possible to endure trauma and not experience a psychic shift.
Expect us to be changed. Accept our need to evolve. Support us on this journey.

#3 – PTSD hijacks our identity. One of the largest problems with PTSD is that it takes over our entire view of ourselves. We no longer see clearly. We no longer see the world as we experienced it before trauma. Now every moment is dangerous, unpredictable and threatening. Gently remind us and offer opportunities to engage in an identity outside of trauma and PTSD.

#4 – We are no longer grounded in our true selves. In light of trauma our real selves retreat and a coping self emerges to keep us safe. Believe in us; our true selves still exist, even if they are momentarily buried.

#5 – We cannot help how we behave. Since we are operating on a sort of autopilot we are not always in control. PTSD is an exaggerated state of survival mode. We experience emotions that frighten and overwhelm us. We act out accordingly in defense of those feelings we cannot control.
Be patient with us; we often cannot stop the anger, tears or other disruptive behaviors that are so difficult for you to endure.

#6 – We cannot be logical. Since our perspective is driven by fear we don’t always think straight, nor do we always accept the advice of those who do. Keep reaching out, even when your words don’t seem to reach us. You never know when we will think of something you said and it will comfort, guide, soothe or inspire us.

#7 – We cannot just ‘get over it’. From the outside it’s easy to imagine a certain amount of time passes and memories fade and trauma gets relegated to the history of a life. Unfortunately, with PTSD nothing fades. Our bodies will not let us forget. Because of surging chemicals that reinforce every memory, we cannot walk away from the past anymore than you can walk away from us.
Honor our struggle to make peace with events. Do not rush us. Trying to speed our recovery will only make us cling to it more.

#8 – We’re not in denial—we’re coping! It takes a tremendous effort to live with PTSD. Even if we don’t admit it, we know there’s something wrong. When you approach us and we deny there’s a problem that’s really code for, “I’m doing the best I can.” Taking the actions you suggest would require too much energy, dividing focus from what is holding us together. Sometimes, simply getting up and continuing our daily routine is the biggest step toward recovery we make.
Alleviate our stress by giving us a safe space in which we can find support.

#9 – We do not hate you. Contrary to the ways we might behave when you intervene, somewhere inside we do know that you are not the source of the problem. Unfortunately, in the moment we may use your face as PTSD’s image. Since we cannot directly address our PTSD issues sometimes it’s easier to address you. Continue to approach us. We need you to!

#10 – Your presence matters. PTSD creates a great sense of isolation. In our post-traumatic state, it makes a difference to know that there are people who will stand by us. It matters that although we lash out, don’t respond and are not ourselves, you are still there, no matter what.

Don’t give up, we’re doing our best.

What have you experienced that you feel should be added to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments…. 

Michele Rosenthal is a PTSD survivor, author, speaker and Post-Trauma Coach. She is the author of Before the World Intruded:Conquering the Past and Creating the Future and Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices for Reclaiming Your Identity

 

 

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Still-face paradigm

Henry Avignon image

Image by Henry Avignon-Used with permission

 

The subject of this post is one brought to my attention by my therapist Cathy.  We often work on issues related to connection or lack thereof. We’ve been discussing my deep seated longing for connection, the elusive feeling of absolute safety knowing that I above all, feel merged with myself, with my tribe, with the divine, with my soul.  

She tells me of Dr. Edward Tronick‘s work and gently describes to me how children of mothers who are absent, abusive, drug-addicted, depressed or afflicted with other mental illnesses, show marked negative coping, often developing long term affective disorders.  I’m taken back.  Partly because I’m touched deeply by how she validates my pain and partly because her validation makes this real, an issue that will have to be explored and conquered.  

What this means to children of trauma and sexual abuse, among many other situations, is that we have extreme difficulty with trust.  Because most probably, we haven’t had a consistent, cognitive connection with an available mother, caregiver, or parent and haven’t developed the attunement necessary to function well.  We don’t know who to trust, who is safe, what situations to avoid.  It delays, distorts, prohibits and skews our innate knowing.  

What are the implications and negative effects to a child with an absent, depressed or vacant mother?  What are the long term effects of a child’s cognitive development when subjected to a distressingly unavailable mother?

In 1975, Dr. Edward Tronick, Ph.D. at the Child Development Unit at Harvard University presented the still-face paradigm addressing exactly this issue.  It continues to be one of the most replicated findings in developmental psychology referencing affective disorders on infants and child development.  Dr. Tronick documents an infant who experiences his non-responsive expressionless mother after three short minutes of “interaction” View video here.  

The child...“rapidly sobers and grows wary. He makes repeated attempts to get the interaction into its usual reciprocal pattern. When these attempts fail, the infant withdraws [and] orients his face and body away from his mother with a withdrawn, hopeless facial expression.”

This video is disturbing for me to watch.  Because I get it.  Because I’m ultra sensitive and I want to shake that mother and tell her to respond to her child even though it’s a research experiment.  Because I know what that baby feels like, as a young child, as a young woman, as a full grown mid-fifties adult.  It haunts a survivor to witness an empty person, giving us no social cues to process and understand, reminding us of our initial failed connections to our own mother or caregiver.  It fills us with anxiety as we try to connect, doing all sorts of things as the child in the video did.  We smile, cajole, reach out.  When unreciprocated, we recoil, withdraw, feel rejection, depression, shame. 

I serendipitously stumbled upon an artist who creates from one of the deepest places I’ve witnessed.  We’ve not met but have exchanged a few conversations.  I don’t know Henry’s background or childhood. But Henry knows something. He understands some place within that I’ve lived.  I don’t know how but he does.  This painting represents to me, the small child, fraught with fear, frozen in emotion, empty of connection.  It provides me with a place to be, a moment where the child can release, to be seen just as she is.  I can’t entirely change my neurological programming but I can choose to honor her in the place she was given to exist.

Here are the links to his work.  I bow in respect.

Henry Avignon Art

Margot Muto Contemporary Art

 


what it takes to start writing….again

1604885_10152130171577702_1009583295_nSomewhere around the end of last year, right around the holidays, the bottom fell out of my world. Emotionally, spiritually, physically.  Actually, it had been falling out for over a year but the accumulated stress hadn’t taken its final blow.

It wasn’t the first time or the second but what felt like the hundredth, thousandth, millionth time.  All my coping skills had been used over the last year surviving several huge hurdles and I now found myself with what felt like an empty bag of tricks.

The number of times I’ve bottomed out or the trauma of my childhood isn’t the point of this blog post, its about what I did in that situation.  What I did was succumb. Psychically unplugged from life.  Flat. out. gave. up.  It had won.  I just couldn’t pull myself up one more freakin’ time to stare down the demons again and again and again.  Wouldn’t do it for my daughter, my husband and or for my dogs, which if you knew me is saying a lot.  

After limping through the holidays on about 25% of myself, the final layer peeled off in early January and took my physical health with it.  For months I was gone.  Lost in that circular, downward spiraling, free falling haze.  The demons recognized its frazzled, stressed out host with parasitic vigor.  They seized that opportunity to invade my body with long buried memories of abuse and violence.  They haunted my dreams, robbing me of much needed rest to heal and recover.  They invaded and eroded my skin, giving me huge welts across the backs of my legs reminiscent of beatings with the belt.   My skin itched and burned at the slightest touch, wearing clothes or any contact with a piece of furniture was a challenge.  I lost the ability to be comfortable in my own skin.  I had no where to go.

But mostly, they intruded upon my feminine parts with a vengeance.  The little girl parts that took the abuse, tried to adapt and scar over, the parts that became swollen almost beyond recognition, the parts that tried and tried to stretch but couldn’t….eventually giving way to rips and shreds.  Those parts were the target again.  What the little child couldn’t tolerate at that time, she buried deep and then systematically began to hand back to the adult woman in bits and pieces over the years.  Somewhere in our collective unconscious, we must have bargained. I must have made a deal with her that if she survived the early trauma through whatever means she needed to, then I, the adult, would deal with the suppressed memories and physical sensations later.

And that is what happened.  For weeks turned into months, I rode the edge of the razor’s split.  Burning, stabbing, swelling, searing pain.  Urinary, vaginal, rectal.  My every orifice that was violated contained sensations that rose to the surface.  Over and over and over and over.  The cascade of symptoms was never ending. Urinary swelling turned into infection which spread to my bladder and kidneys.  More crying and screaming than my husband could handle.

Eventually by late Feb, the symptoms began to subside a bit thanks to Marilyn and Betsy, two women energy healers who encouraged and tolerated appointments with me; half dressed in nightshirts due to my sensitive skin and sporting ice packs for my swollen parts.  Week after week, they lovingly helped me on the table and began to spin their healing magic.  We began to make progress that continues at this writing.

That’s the backstory, here’s the point.

What it takes to get writing…. again….is LOVE.  Four women emerged as a cosmic lifeline who carrying me out of the physical and emotional pain.  Four women who I’d come to know online but never met, shared many conversations with over the years, created a small online support group for me.  Just for me.  Each day and often several times a day, I’d come to the group page to see beautiful images, unfailing words of support and love as well as space just to let me be.  It was beautiful.  I nicknamed them the “Fabulous Four” because I’m not sure I would have emerged from those dark depths without having these angels to carry me.  And I’m coming up short with words to describe how it feels to be loved and cared for with this level of compassion, especially when one isn’t familiar with that level of support.  Again, it was just beautiful.

As I plunged to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, my writing and words died.  It was impossible to write, think straight of have any type of creativity when coping with issues of basic survival such as pain.  The bottom and largest portion of Maslow’s pyramid describes needs such as breathing, food, water, sleep.  He suggests that one must be secure in the basic needs before being able to move up the hierarchy.  Creativity is characteristic of the very tip-top of the pyramid and during this health crisis, far beyond my reach.

So, this is my debut….again.  I have scaled the pyramid with the LOVE and support of four extraordinary women as well as my energy practitioners.  My words are coming back as the crisis fades.  I see hope again and crave being present on this blog and with my sojourners in healing.  I’m confident that many more layers of the health crisis will be revealed when the time is right. As the accompanying image depicts, not only have I been lifted from the level of most basic needs, I’ve been infused with the energy of a Goddess-Priestess-Warrior vibe.  The power of our hearts beating in unison, multiplied.  I stand at the top of the pyramid with my arms wide open.  I feel my power again. 

Blessings to the women of Sacred Circle Retreats:  Jackie,  Melynnda,  Joss and  Deanne.  May we nourish the Divine Feminine in each other. 

Photo credit, used with permission from Sarah Durham Wilson, DOITGIRL .


Identity Disturbance…

Identity Disturbance is a relatively and equally fascinating new term to me and since I haven’t researched it to my satisfaction to be able to write about it, I thought I would begin here by re-blogging this article from The Bernard Bert-A Borderline Adventure.  This author did a great job of streamlining and breaking down the components of this condition.  Hoping this continues to shed some light on the many shades of mental illness and reduce the stigma attached.~~Thanks!  Little L~~

broken heart

 

Identity Disturbance, November14, 2013

Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self image or sense of self.

“Identity disturbance has many different aspects/features making it a very complexed issue even if it is a lone problem, but with the added factor of other BPD symptoms, it can be an overwhelming and complicated thing to understand and deal with!

In a 2000 study of patients with identity disturbances, Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, and Drew Westen identified four types of identity disturbance:

Role absorption (in which patients tend to define themselves in terms of a single role or cause),

Painful incoherence (a subjective sense of lack of coherence),

Inconsistency (in thought, feeling, and behavior),

Lack of commitment (e.g., to jobs or values).

A stable sense of identity means being able to see yourself as the same person in the past, present, and future.Identity is quite broad, and includes many aspects of the self and is probably made up of your beliefs, attitudes, abilities, history, ways of behaving, personality, temperament, knowledge, opinions, and roles.

A healthy identity includes the ability to choose an appropriate avenue for industry, achieve intimacy with another, and find a place in the larger society by having developed a sense of continuity over time; emotional commitment to a set of self-defining representations of self, role relationships,and core values and ideal self-standards;development or acceptance of a world view that gives life meaning; and some recognition of one’s place in the world by significant others.

“Who are you?”  – If asked this question, many people with BPD would be unable to answer and will only be able to reply with – “I don’t know”, “I’m not sure” or “It depends on who I’m with.”  This uncertinaty makes them feel empty and lost, confused and lonely.

Considering that identity is comprised of stability, continuity, understanding and acceptance of ones self over time, it is painfully obvious to see why this doesn’t happen in the self identity of someone with BPD.Nothing is stable, everything is changing and totally reactive; all that is left is a fragmented self left with a chronic feeling of inner emptiness caused by the inability to integrate into a coherent sense of self identity.

These unanticipated changes can range from relatively minor things, such as changes in appearance, to aspects central to the life of the individual, such as gender, sexuality and life goals.

People with Identity disturbance may experience:

Experiencing frequent changes in sense of self-worth.

Difficulty committing to roles and occupational choices.

Feeling conflicted or unsure about own gender or sexuality.

Feels as though he or she is a different person depending on who they are with.

Does not know who own self is.

Tends to feel empty inside – hollow, something ‘missing’ and a desire to fill the void.

Who they would like to be are unstable and ever changing.

Views & feelings of self change rapidly or unpredictably .

Has memories only available under certain states sometimes feels unreal.

Tends to feel like a “false self” whose social persona does not match inner experience.

Some of the noticeable changes for those who know the person with the identity issue are:

Lack of consistently invested goals, values, ideals, and relationships.

Their personality changes dramatically periodically.

They are “chameleon-like” depending on who they are with.

Values tend to change frequently / does not seem to have a constant set of core values.

Difficulty choosing and committing to an occupation.

Beliefs,actions and behaviors often seem contradictory.

Has trouble committing to long-term goals or aspirations.

As a way to ‘fit in’ they may:

Identity seems to revolve around a “cause” or shifting causes.Defines self in terms of a label that provides a sense of identity.Depend on relationship to a charismatic other. Tends to be in the orbit of a strong personality.People with BPD can be very “chameleon-like” in an effort to integrate.

The tendency to confuse one’s own attributes, feelings,and desires with those of another person, especially in intimate relationships, means that when a breakdown in a relationship occurs it can lead the person with BPD to fear a loss of personal identity.

The large inconsistencies in behavior,over time and across situations, lead to difficulty integrating multiple representations of self, a lack of a coherent life narrative or sense of continuity over time;and a lack of continuity of relationships that leaves significant parts of the BPD’s past “deposited” with people who are no longer part of the individuals life , and hence the loss of shared memories that help define the self over time.

One contributing factor to borderline identity disturbance is dissociation.  When we compartmentalize our experiences rather than integrating them into one meaningful whole, our sense of self fragments causing  us to feel lost, empty, and confused.

As this empty feeling and loss of inner self becomes more problematic and chronic (in some cases) a refuge world or fantasy self can at times take the stage by means of dissociation from the painful reality the BPD is forced to live in if they remain in their current state consciousness/awareness – making it similar but not the same as DID  – Key points of difference are that those who suffer DID (dissociative identity disorder) usually remain unaware of their other fragmented selves (referred to as alters) which are more concrete, unique individuals, accompanied by blacked out memories/loss of time, whereas BPD’s remain more coherent through their changes in persona.

Identity disturbances in individuals with BPD usually reflect efforts to preserve a sense of self-worth in the presence of interpersonal turmoil.

Because of the inconsistencies in what the person with BPD is doing and saying, non BPD’s may accuse them of “faking it” “Lying” or “putting it on” but this really isn’t the case, they just may not be aware of it and by saying these things to them may actually hinder their progress in changing thier behaviour by making them doubt themselves,their worth and their relationship with you and others.

Other issues that may arise are eating disorders, substance misuse or reckless/impulsive behaviours, (these may also a seperate issue for people with BPD regardless of whether or not the have identity disturbance); all which may feel like a form of control over their lives that they are lacking in other areas.

If you have the associated,emotional instability,impulsive behaviour and black and white thinking of BPD you may have difficulty forming a coherent sense of self because your internal experiences and outward actions are not consistent. In addition, many people with BPD come from chaotic or abusive backgrounds which may contribute to unstable sense of self. If you determine who you are based on others’ reactions to you, and those reactions have been unpredictable and/or scary, you have no framework for developing a strong sense of identity.

However, it’s not all bad, on the positive side of things not knowing who you are allows you to start from scratch, experiment, explore and to build yourself up into the person you want to be!

So how do we tackle this issue and find out who we are?

Treatment/therapy with a trained professional is the most highly recommended way to deal with these issues as they can help to guide you through the process of self discovery; but there are also things you can do yourself too.

One way is by observing your own emotions, thoughts, and feelings, in addition to others’ reactions to you.

Questions and reflection on things like:

How do I want to be seen by others?

What are the things most imporant to me?

Who do I admire and what positive traits do they possess that I respect and could incorperate into my own life?

What am I passionate about?

What talents/attributes do I have?

Another way is to try and work out which areas you would like/need to focus on by writing a list which includes:

Intimate

Relationships

Parenting

Family

Friendships/Socializing

Education/Personal

GrowthCareer

Recreation

Spirituality/Religion

Physical Health

Helping Others

Goals

Values

How would you like to act/react to each section? What can you do to make this possible?

These are the things that help to give us identity and allow us to form a more stable sense of self. Due to the complexity of the issue, the road to ‘finding yourself’ is a life long journey of discovery and one which may take you to some upexpected, intense and even pleasurable places emotionally!

No one can tell you who you are, they can discribe you but ultimatly it is up to you, you are the one who can make the changes, the one who can decide as to how you act and what you believe and stand for.  Who/whatever you decide to be/do, remember that you are worthy of love, to be treated with respect and to live a life that you want and deserve.

I hope that this helps explain a little of what and why we feel this way and, fingers crossed, we can start to finally build the jig-saw of ourselves that has been in so many pieces for so long! ~ Emma.”

The Bernard Bert

 


Godspeed to Your Running Soul….

Maurice Sendak -Where the Wild Things Are

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The little boy comes to me with stifled tears, head bowed, chin jutted out, lips pursed together to keep in his words

I lie down behind him smoothing his long graying hair off his neck

He fights so hard; not to feel, not to disappoint, not to let the little boy get too far away from the only place he knows to be safe

I ache for his longings; his undiscovered freedom, stifled passions, joy without limits

I hold space for his gentle heart even when he can’t

He silently slips into sleep as I place a butterfly kiss on his salty neck and watch him come alive in his slumber, leaving tormented consciousness behind

Slowly at first, then with urgency, his legs start to twitch and run

I pray for godspeed to his running soul

and to please find my husband and bring him back

 

Photo credit:  Image from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

 

 


an unexpected moment of peace…..

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Photo credit: An’ Marie at callmeanmarie.com

Peace and joy are elusive to survivors.

We have to learn and re-learn these types of experiences, cultivating the beautiful aspects of life as if we were students in school grasping a new skill.  I’ve usually been able to be kind of a joy parasite (not to be confused with a joy sucker) who gravitates toward frollicking animals, playful children or any group or individual who is just laughing unabashedly.  I watched and learned what this beautiful emotion was and then set out to mimic it.  These situations always felt right and kind to my heart although in direct conflict with my upbringing.  Kindness and love weren’t taught or shown but pathology and self destruction was handed out freely and often.

Survivors as a general rule haven’t learned how to play well or experience peace.  If we did learn to play, what we were probably experiencing was destruction in action disguised as play;  i.e. out of control drinking/drug/food/anger (fill in your favorite addiction or crazy shit here), driving recklessly, giving ourselves hearts and bodies to men that were undeserving of that sacred gift.  So many behaviors were masked as “a good time” that it took decades for me to truly figure it out.

During my high school years, I usually found myself gravitating toward healthier families.  I certainly can’t take credit for this action for it wasn’t conscious.  But I’ve come to believe that living things; plants, animals, people will gravitate toward health and love and I base that belief on some serious reflection upon my past behaviors.  I wanted a better life and in many ways, set out to get one even as a child.

One family I attached to had two parents, 6 children who were blissfully crowded into a tiny house with a tiny kitchen.  Many families grew up in this fashion in my day, no one owned a McMansion or rarely had a bedroom to themselves.  It was customary to share a room and even a bed with a sibling.  And this was the way it was at C. J.’s  house.  She, myself and several other friends grew up in that tiny house; from junior high girls, into high school girls, to brides, then mothers and now grandmothers.  We’ve buried parents, sent sons to war, survived cheating husbands and celebrated our re-marriages. We’ve lost touch and reconnected many times, rarely without missing a beat.  They are my ya-ya’s, my sisters.

I had the good fortune to spend a weekend with C.J.  It’s always an easy kind of experience to spend time with friend from long ago, who knows your stories and your quirks.  We’ve transcended needing to explain things as we just know each other that well.

It was the usual agenda; yard sales, thrift stores, food, playing with the dogs and cats, naps, late night talks with the girls.  Yeah, girls….56 year old girls. All the good things in life.  My last afternoon was marked by C. J. hosting a dinner (and she’s a fabulous cook by the way) for me before I left for home. Her modest farm home was full just as her childhood home was and served as a playground to many activities that day. After an afternoon of swimming with the grandkids, I plopped myself (temporarily of course) on the living room couch where I soon found myself snuggled in and stretched out.

I can’t exactly describe what happened but whatever “it” was, I’ve managed to hold onto “it” for weeks, even sharing the feeling with other friends. Sitting on the over stuffed couch, I found myself sinking in deeply, letting my tension float away and began to absorb the energy of this household. The sheer comfort of the environment gave way to me lying down putting a throw pillow over my face.  I became so relaxed and peaceful that I couldn’t resist  the temptation to surrender.  During the most blissful two hour nap I’ve had in a long time,  I floated in and out of the commotion of the grandkids playing and eventually crying, the miffed off weiner dog’s continuous bark to get back into the house, doors slamming, the phone ringing, the parental and grand-parental units shushing the kids to be quiet as to not wake me and the most delicious smells of garlic and anchovy coming from the kitchen.  It was a sensory delight.  And it was heaven.

The more that the everyday, normal family life noise increased the more peaceful I became.  A thought came to me as I grinned under my throw pillow; this must be what its like to be a part of a family.  It was okay for me to relax, to feel peace, that loved ones surrounded me, even cooked food to nourish me after my nap.  I recalled a long forgotten dream as a child to belong to a nice family.  And that simple gesture on C. J. ‘s part became a truly, magical afternoon for me.

I left for home that evening, after my nap and dinner, accompanied by my yard sale treasures and fresh tomatoes from their garden.  My most treasured gift was the lightness and peace that I felt.

During the 2 hour drive home, I think my heart actually smiled.

An Marie 1ecc9394106646b69ed2a35e726cecc5

Photo credit: An’ Marie

To view other works by this artist, visit www.callmeanmarie.com


love story in there….somewhere….

girl and dragon

There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

I seem to have made it through the latest chapter of dark times.

Hopefully.

When I started this blog, I felt lost.  Then I found myself through writing and gave myself a voice that I’d never possessed before, at least for myself.  I’d been championing for others for decades; animal rights, women’s rights, diversity, environment.  It had become painful apparent to me that a great deal of time had been spent advocating for others and not myself.  That was a game changer.

Writing this blog has enabled me to find my voice through writing but look several issues squarely in the eye.  Honoring myself was one.  A simple bumper sticker noticed by the artist, Terri St. Cloud of Bone Sigh Arts.  Honor Yourself.  Simple words that were nearly impossible to integrate.

The next issue was that I couldn’t wrap my thinking around the fact that someone, anyone would want to read what I had to say.  In my mind, my words had to be profound, a literary masterpiece before putting them out for the world to see.  Shouldn’t I get a MFA in writing or something or some sort of artistic approval before being so bold as to put my words, my life, my history into words?  Well, that answer came soon too.  Survivors trickled in, slowly at first, some stumbling and fragmented, some already having honed their beautiful craft of expression.  All were worthy and I felt so blessed to be a part of a counterculture emerging for survivors, men and women, who were taking back their power.  I wanted to be a part of that.  For me, it was coming home.

My most recent absence is due to my utter confusion and re-entry into that dark place.  You see, I thought I’d been through it and had emerged complete, or at least complete enough.  I thought I was finally, finally in that safe cocoon where I could share my story of abuse and survival with the clarity of hindsight.  I was wrong, at least sort of.

This summer I separated from my husband.  My fairy tale crashed and I felt that I was a fraud.  How on earth could I write stories of hope and love when I had failed at my own love story?  Slowly, I moved through the hazy days of summer with my tool bag (purple of course) of rest, solitude, meditation, reading and dark chocolate.  I cried when I felt like it, wandered through the library, raged at Grandmother moon in the wee hours of the morning when sleep eluded me, slept any time I felt fatigued and tried, oh how I tried, to find joy anywhere I could.  I picked flowers and herbs from my beautiful garden and gave them to anyone I could think of; my church for Sunday morning service, the women at the convenient mart on the corner who are always so kind and make me laugh every time I’m there buying chocolate, my dear friend’s mother who was passing this summer, a friend who works long hours and commutes into the city each day.  I gave them just because.  Just because in the absence of my own joy, I needed to create that precious spark of joy for someone else and live vicariously off of that until I had my own.

Many, many people supported me though this passage, you will find them on my blogroll and Facebook page.  I simply couldn’t have weathered this without logging on to see their daily posts on love, writing, poetry, painting, nature, food.  I traveled with several as they made major changes in their lives too and hope that I provided them a wee bit of support also.

Slowly that spark began to burn again.  Now I have more words and more insight into myself.  I tip my hat to the dark side, purpose well served.

I still live a love story.  Really, there is a love story in here somewhere.  One that, once again, must begin with myself.  With or without a partner, my daughter, my dogs, my house.  I can write words of hope because now I’ve lived them again.  I’m not a fraud but an innocent person who stumbles and trips often, sometimes sitting in the mud puddle I fell in, squalling and crying.  But then there are times, when I laugh and dance around with a soggy tutu.

It’s all good.


the puddle of self love…

magicThere are so many wonderful concepts in Terri St. Cloud’s recent blog post, “real feel“.  I would strongly encourage you to take the time to visit her site, Bone Sigh Arts, and read the post on her reflections on self love.  Near the end of the blog post is one of my favorite parts where she says she wants to swim in the sea of love, but then realizes that she may in fact be more in the pond of love.  Ha, I loved that!

Its so easy to be vulnerable and open after reading Terri’s writing and art.  She’s a master at self reflection and being vulnerable.  Seriously, Brene Brown should be studying her!

Figuring that I have to start somewhere in the monumental task of unlearning unloving behaviors and learning to practice self love, I find myself more in the puddle of self love.  Not swimming in the sea of love, or being in Terri’s pond of love but a big puddle of love. Its an okay place to be and I’m happy here.  I’m splashing around, discovering what works and what doesn’t, clearing out the muck to see the treasures hidden deep in my puddle.

Following Terri’s lead of vulnerability and self disclosure, I will admit that I don’t take as good of care of myself as I could and certainly not as well as I care for my daughter, husband, pets, garden, friends, community, job etc.  And the answer to the why don’t I take better care of myself question is that I haven’t fully learned how to yet.

There is great comfort in seeing that I’ve taught my daughter how to love and accept herself.  I’ve been a consistent reminder to her (actually she sometimes compares me to an annoying gnat buzzing around) that she is a beautiful creature with extraordinary and unique gifts.  I see how she cares for herself and I feel great pride in that. But still it gets me wondering why I don’t practice it more with myself.

Actually, over the last 5-10 years but self care has increased exponentially. And like Terri, I’ve had so many, many moments where I didn’t know who I was, what kind of life I wanted, what sorts of books I enjoyed reading.  For myself, it comes from not only, lack of a role model but actual negative reinforcement to the concept of caring for one’s self.  Coming from a family that was bred on stoicism and weaned on martyrdom, I was taught and shown that life was a chore and one didn’t complain about it.  It was nose to the grindstone, don’t look up until you’re done, giving yourself a break was a sign of weakness kind of attitude.  Any peeks to the inside of ourselves could reveal our true selves which in my family, was the sworn enemy.  There was no telling where that kind of selfishness might lead you.

Geesh, so here I am.  Solo from my family, learning to splash in my puddle with my friends and acquaintances who believe in vulnerability, authenticity and the power of whole hearted love.  I like it here even though it still feels foreign.  Making major life changes do feel foreign for a while, until you reach a crossing over point where you look back and can’t believe that you ever lived as you did.  As I’m playing in my puddle, learning how I might swim in the pond of self love, I watch and model others who are practicing the same thing.  Some are in front of me, while some are behind me.  We are all learning at our own rates, blossoming in our own time.

I continue to thank everyone I’ve met along the journey who has challenged my old patterns of thinking and inspired me to adopt a more loving approach to myself.  I’m an eager student willing to learn.  I send gratitude to the universe for placing the perfect people and events in front of me.

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So the woman who has danced out of control….

So the woman who has danced out of control, who has lost her footing and lost her feet...has a special and valuable wisdom

 

Thank you Jackie Robinson for coming to the rescue today.  This is the beauty of connection at its best.  One of us puts wise words out in the world, another friend finds them and passes them on.  And so it goes.

As I combed through my inbox, I found this jewel just waiting for me to find at the perfect moment.  From Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves

‘So the woman who has danced out of control, who has lost her footing and lost her feet and understands that bereft state at the end of the fairy tale, has a special and valuable wisdom.’

Wow.

I would consider it an honor and privilege to rise to this occasion that Dr. Estes illustrates.  It would be a personal challenge to take those life challenges where I’ve lost my footing and turn it into my own fairy tale. First, I have to fully grasp and accept the feelings that arise from losing one’s footing.  Each time I do, I believe it to be the last and final time that I’m faced with such challenge that completely knocks me off my feet.  Yet again and again, I’m plunged into that dark place where I must face once again the end of the fairy tale.  But now, I’m starting to understand that there is more than bleak, painful acceptance.  I can use the opportunity of the darkness to rest, spin a beautiful, silky cocoon around myself and re-invent myself, my soul and the fairy tale.

This really got me thinking hard again.  There is much dancing to be done.  Dancing with wild abandon.  Dancing out of control.

I would encourage you to visit Jackie’s site, A Heart’s Whisper and especially Sacred Circle Retreats.  These women, among others, in person and online have kept me afloat during those “bereft” times.

They dance with me out of control.

 


a day of questions….

a day of questionsIt is indeed a day of questions. This particular day of questioning has been followed by weeks of questioning.

Its an awkward junior high dance of where to place my feet, what do I do with my hands, how can I stop sweating each nuance of my being?

I suppose each day brings me closer to my truth.  I’m not sure why my truth has been so buried.  Who decided that it was to be my life’s journey to dig through the muck and proclaim my findings a treasure?  Why is it taking so long?  My post it notes that line the area above my desk say to practice acceptance.  They also remind me that I’m entitled to make mistakes and that I can’t start the chapter of your new life if you keep re-reading the last one.  I wonder if I’m not assimilating the lessons of my life or if I just have too many post it notes?

Today’s biggest question is one of my voice.  Usually my biggest questions are regarding my voice; where it is, how loud is it, how do I use it to the greatest good?  But underneath those questions lie the deepest challenge I face today.  What do you do when it is apparent that your voice and message make those in your life uncomfortable?  Where is the line of discernment between how the individual should proceed when they form a part of a larger  group and what is their responsibility to the greater good? Should one compromise the group for personal benefit?  Does one pray for the fear to be released from the family/community/church/friends with whom you’ve made a life with or does one practice a life unspoken or better yet, a life carefully spoken to those only ready to hear?  And if so, how does one know the difference?

I’ve been quite drawn lately to the plight of the gay person who struggles with whether or not to come out.  I find this a struggle that is similar to mine in the sense that neither can reveal the story truest to themselves without wondering how detrimental or incredible the outcome might be.  How does one make that final, irreversible decision and action?  It’s a long standing fantasy of mine to be able to tell the story of an abused and compromised child only to break the shackles of shame and liberated by the act of coming out.  It seems as if it would be freeing beyond belief.  Not taking the steps toward fulfilling that fantasy is a sort of slow emotional suicide.  That scenario involves lots of pretending, not stating the obvious (well at least the obvious to me) and leading my life with as much rhythm as a flat line on an EKG.  A basically unappealing and empty existence.

Is the solution a matter of re-framing one’s thinking to accommodate only thoughts of gratitude and a positive nature?  Isn’t that denial?

Could the whole matter of avoiding the tough subjects in life some sort of grace that I’ve yet to develop?  Isn’t that fear?

Should I practice more acceptance of what is and isn’t in my life and resign to a life without unabashed celebration of my total self?  Isn’t that numbing and settling?

I’d love to hear from anyone who not only has had the same questions but any solutions to this personal crisis as well.  Wishing I had more answers than questions, I leave that to you.


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