Category: Healing Process

Let Healing Happen

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I just used a tool I found very helpful.  I want to write about it right away.

It’s called PTSD Coach.  It’s an app for smartphones.  This app included several services/functions. One of those functions is “Manage Symptoms.” Within that, there’s a menu of symptoms.  Within one of those is an exercise that guides the user through observing one’s feelings.

The particular exercise I found so helpful just now uses imagery of sitting by a river, watching leaves float by.  Having imagined each thought or feeling as it arises in my mind, I let it go by observing it float away.

Only, in my imagination, I imagined I was sitting on the beach where gentle ocean waves were lapping over me without engulfing me. As thoughts and feelings arose, I imagined gulls and dolphins coming to carry them away.  It was quite lovely.  I could hear all the sounds and feel the sensations of the seaside scene.

The best part was what happened in my imagination after I was empty of passing thoughts and feelings.  But I won’t share that with you here.  I simply want to encourage you to engage in helpful exercises like this one, and let the healing happen.

PBJ!

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Awesome Affirmations

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I’m working through ASCA’s “Survivor to Thriver” Chapter Four, “Remembering” 

Step One: Breath and Affirm!

When I adopt or write affirmations for myself, I like to try to compose them as short mantras so that I can integrate the thought into my breathing.  An ancient prayer that does this is “Jesu juva; soli Deo gloria.”  I pray “Jesu juva” as I inhale, and “soli Deo gloria” exhaling.  I fill myself with Christ’s Grace, and I hope to live humbly giving God glory.  The essential meaning/ thought/ feeling is that I am gratefully yielding all of me to Christ, fully trusting Abba-Christ-Spirit holds me, and is birthing me into who I am meant to be.

Here are a few of my affirmations specific to being a survivor, becoming a thriver:

  1. It is Good that I exist; I celebrate my Being!
  2. God loves me, and so do I!
  3. My broken-ness doesn’t mean I am damaged; I am healing and becoming whole.
  4. I let Grace flow in as I let go of what I don’t need.
  5. I don’t need to be perfect; I only need to continue healing and growing.
  6. I am not a thing for others’ pleasure; I am a Sacred Person who can share blessing.

I found these from the Audacious Life helpful as well.

Here is a list of affirmations I composed to help me let go of things.

If you’ve found/ made a list of affirmations you’ve found effective, feel free to leave links in comments to this post! Thanks!

 

Take The Next Step

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Chapter 3 Conclusion
Reading the information in this chapter may have stirred up many feelings in you.

Yes! Terrible feelings!  Stomach-ache and head-ache inducing feelings!!!

Recognizing that child abuse may continue to impact you past your childhood is a necessary step in your recovery. The tendency to sabotage yourself in various aspects of your life does not mean that you are a bad person; it means that you are a wounded person. Identifying the wounds and acknowledging the difficulties that grow out of them is an essential part of healing. Facing the anger that you have turned against yourself (and possibly against others) represents a cleansing of these wounds. As with the treatment of any wound physical or psychic the process will cause some pain. This may lead you to question whether the process of recovery is really good for you. Because you have become so used to pain in all of its myriad forms for so many years, you may wonder whether recovery can have positive effects.

I found the above paragraph so helpful I wanted to share this whole conclusion.  Going through Chapter 3 of “Survivor to Thriver” is extremely difficult!  But to anyone using this workbook, I encourage you to PUSH THROUGH!

When these doubts begin to surface, remember that you have survived the torment as a child, and that this is the worst part of the abuse.

You’ve already survived the worst.  Remember that.  You ARE a survivor.  You can become more and more of a thriver, but you already are a survivor!

As an adult, you have new capabilities, new choices and a great deal more control over your life. Be open to new understandings of what you experienced. Allow yourself to draw inspiration from the positive elements in your life: your friends who support your recovery, empathetic family members, your children (if you have them), your spouse or lover who accepts you as a special person or your therapist, who is committed to helping you find your true self. There are many people like you who came back from total despair and confusion about their lives and recovered from their abuse. Others, such as your ASCA co-participants, are on the journey with you as well. We all can find our inner strengths and use them to turn our lives around.

Keep going.  Keep choosing life.  Keep choosing yourself.  Choose health, happiness, wholeness.  Take the next step.

Lend a Hand When You Can

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Relationship Problems
Adult survivors often have a difficult time initiating, maintaining and enjoying relationships. Any kind of relationship… may be problematic.  Relationships for survivors may reflect the all-or-nothing syndrome… In some relationships, the survivor may assume a particular role and proceed to play out a replication of the past abuse.

“Relationships can be difficult because they call upon personal characteristics and emotional capabilities that are often new to adult survivors, such as

  • trust
  • assertiveness
  • intimacy
  • self-confidence
  • good communication skills
  • the ability to give and receive affection
  • self-awareness
  • empathy for others
  • acceptance of one’s own feelings
  • and needs.

Many adult survivors find their personal relationships characterized by

  • fighting
  • feeling misunderstood
  • projecting blame on each other
  • and feeling overwhelmed by powerful moods.

Frequently, adult survivors anticipate rejection or non-acceptance and protect themselves by withdrawing or by becoming overly aggressive. These behaviors and others are probably ones you adopted as a child to help defend yourself against the abuse, but they may not be productive or healthy in adult relationships. ”

The above quote is an excerpt from ASCA’s Survivor to Thriver On-line Manual. The list format is mine.

Personally what I struggle with most is trusting others.  When I was young I trusted everyone and too much – unconditionally.  After some progress in my healing process, I went through a stage where I trusted nearly no-one.  That, of course, is nearly as untenable as trusting too much.  However, I’m glad I went through that phase because it allows me to be more conscious and deliberate about who I now choose to trust.

I have found that discerning who I can trust, for what kinds of things, and how much, is a learning process that is surprisingly challenging and requires much resilience on my part.  I have to learn mostly from my mistakes because there simply isn’t a handy manual on how to go about this.  People can give advice, that may or may not be helpful, but ultimately what I’m learning is how to trust myself to discern who or what is trustworthy.  It is my own mind and heart that must create the wisdom which reveals what is healthiest for me.

While it’s possible, and I hope it’s true, most people who are not abused in their formative years learn from their parents’ model healthy ways to discern for themselves what is safe, who is trustworthy, and confidence in their own capacity to make these judgments.  But I believe that my experience is common to most ASCA.  The main thing we can do for one another is to forgive ourselves our mistakes, encourage one another to keep going, and to keep getting up any time we fall.

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Tangles or Tapestry?

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Other fears I’ve listed in a previous post:

  • Apathy (within myself) I guess I’m not really afraid of this.  It’s just something I’ve never experienced, and it’s something I tend to condemn.  Apathy implies a lack of concern where care should be given.  To recognize I don’t need to be interested in something or to discern I cannot make a productive response, is not apathy, and is often wisdom at work.  So while I hope I am never apathetic about something for which I should actively care, I am fully content to let go of what I cannot improve or to which I cannot productively and appropriately contribute.
  • Not knowing my purpose in something.  This is something I have experienced only during major transitions in my life.  I seek purpose, and I typically find it! I can identify two times in my life when I knew I needed to walk away from my life as I knew it then and walk into an undefined, undetermined future.  Of course the future is always truly unknown, but most of us establish plans before we end former commitments.  I am currently in my third transition.  I have yet to “discover” my “new” purpose.  This is extremely uncomfortable for me, however, I am discovering it’s not as unbearable as I thought it could be!
  • Vomiting.  This is an irrational fear that I have had since childhood and continues today.  As a young child I got the “stomach flu” frequently and often found myself vomiting into the toilet in the middle of the night.  I would wretch until there was nothing left to throw up; then my body would convulse with “dry heaves.”  I thought I could die, and I felt so helpless.  Sometimes Mom would hear me and come to my emotional rescue holding me until I quit convulsing.  As an adult I realize I won’t die, but I feel my historical terror none-the-less.
  • Failure to protect a child in my care.  I don’t believe this has ever happened, and I hope it never will.  To me, failure to protect a child in my care would be unforgivable.  I can’t imagine living with myself were I to fail in doing everything I possibly could to protect a child.
  • Not being prepared, if I’m the one in charge.  This is one of those fears of something I’ve never experienced, but it has been the drama of nightmares.  To me, “not being prepared” is on par with being naked when I should be clothed.
  • Poisonous creepy crawly creatures or flying things that sting (especially hornets).  I am somewhat allergic to bees so this fear is quite understandable.
  • Crashing in a car (because I’ve experienced this twice now, & I hope to never again!)  The moment before an actual crash is truly terrifying.

As I work through my list of fears I realize none of them are more than I can handle.  I suppose I could conjure up hypothetical situations that would be more terrible or terrifying than anything I’ve listed, but I tend to not concern myself with unlikely hypotheticals.

Facing my fears was an exercise I imposed upon myself.  It was mostly difficult, but I’m glad I did it.  Having done so, I believe the fear that still cripples me to some degree is that of Fear-of-Shame, fear of being misunderstood or unjustly condemned.  One constructive way I can address this is to write.  Much of what perpetuates shame is silence.  To write my story in my words with my voice helps me break that silence and dissolve the faux-shame.  Using my voice seems to be one of the most important avenues for my healing.  This is why I blog.  I mostly blog for myself.  But I am truly grateful for my readers.  To know someone has taken the time to read my writing, to “listen” to my thoughts, is amazing gift, and is a cherished thread in my tapestry of growing wholeness.  Thank you!

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Pacing My Perseverance

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Really? I must? My core’s philosophy is more of the “Follow Your Bliss” perspective.  But when I run into something I know I need to do in order to move forward with whatever is the next step in following my bliss, then I not only accept Eleanor’s wisdom but gratefully embrace it as a productive prod to persevere.

Tangentially, it’s a bit interesting to see what images people choose to accompany this quote in their memes. I’m sure these wise words have as many interpretations as there are people who quote them.  I chose this meme because 1) The woman’s posture is the shape I take in my dreams when I fly, so I resonate deeply and joyfully with this gesture, and 2) She’s really only a couple of feet off the ground!  This is no mountain she is climbing; there is nothing heroic going on here; she is simply moving herself into a space of interior freedom symbolized by a whimsical yet celebratory movement.  This is a do-able dare.  This is a manageable mandate.  This is where challenge meets bliss.

That’s pretty much what this whole blog is about: perseverance: Pushing through that which is most difficult so I can fly forward with a freer spirit.  However, sometimes this dogged devotion to breaking the bonds of what would shackle my soul feels more like a crippling compulsion or a pigish plowing ever deeper a rut that risks burying me.  So I take frequent and long breaks from this necessary but unwelcome task.

There are times, when writing, my mind just goes blank, and then flits to something completely unrelated. One might be tempted to think that I am easily distracted.  Actually, I am capable of extreme concentration, and too often engage in a chosen activity with metaphorical blinders on, screening out my surroundings and not even noting the passage of time.

But when I try to write about something difficult, my mind throws up all kinds of obstacles.  And when those distractions don’t work, it just “walks out,” vacates!  My mental landscape becomes something like a desert: all white sand with a cloudy sky and nearly no perceptible horizon.  I could have chosen a “white-out” blizzard as a metaphor except that I enjoy snow and cold and am not easily disoriented by it.  But heat and lack of water make me feel sleepy and unmotivated to move.  This is another thing my mind does when I don’t want to address a painful topic head-on: persistent play with words (developing metaphors, etc.) rather than using words to actually TELL something.

Ach du lieber!  And then there’s that too: clichés.

So, I just keep typing. I let my mind move through its avoidance maneuvers, until I exhaust them. Explore, express, explain, exhaust. Return to topic?

Today, doing what’s difficult means finishing my last post regarding strong emotions.  Some so strong, so painful, I once attempted suicide.

Do I still fear the strength of my emotional capacity today? Yes and no.  I am still capable of a rage that is truly fear-worthy.  But I’ve learned to recognize when I am nearing the edge of that storm.  (I think of how rage feels and moves within me as something like a tornado.  It can pop up seemingly suddenly, yet there are warning signs.  It turns very fast, powerfully, and could be destructive to things in its path, but it doesn’t have to “touch down”.  And most importantly, it really is a storm within me, but it is not me; I can walk away from it.)  While I can’t control my world so much as to guarantee I avoid all possible triggers to my rage, I can even-so sense the perimeters of triggers and walk away when too near.  Even if I temporarily engage, I can walk away.  Walking away is a very important skill!  Walking away is always an option, and one that is as powerful as rage, actually more powerful because in walking away I dismiss the rage.  I won’t go into here and now what triggers rage for me; the significant thing is that I’ve learned how and when to walk away.

Other emotions which I can feel so powerfully that I fear being overwhelmed by them are grief and fear itself.  However, grief represents territory with which I have become familiar enough I am comfortable navigating rather than feeling lost.  Feeling a foreign fear, or fear before I understand what has caused it, or panic, or pernicious anxiety, I have learned to treat that sensation like a ferocious dog.  I can be terrified by a growling, teeth-baring dog.  And while it’s reasonable to be afraid of a dog that could attack, and it’s justifiable to simply avoid such a threat, I have been in situations where a dangerous dog had to be faced in order to get away from it.  The main thing I learned was to not SHOW my fear, to not show that I am intimidated, to refuse to submit to its terror tactic, to pretend to be the one in charge!  So when I experience a feeling of panic flare up within myself (and usually its accompanied with a racing heart and a rush of adrenaline), I’ve learned to bring up within myself, the “Commander,” She who takes Charge.  Taking Charge is not my preferred way of being, but I’ve found it’s a very handy tool in my skill-box.

Where, when, and how I’ve “learned” these things I won’t explore here.  Some of these capacities are unconscious instincts I’ve “discovered” I already have at my ready use; others are skills I’ve consciously and deliberately chosen to learn and develop.

The last fear of strong emotions I’ll mention here is when I notice (usually retrospectively) that others are somehow led by or dependent upon my “power.” Sometimes my “power”, that which I am exuding and others are following, is emotional; in those times its usually expressed as enthusiasm.  Sometimes my “power” is intellectual: clarity of thinking.  Sometimes it is spiritual: wisdom, or moral courage.  I don’t mind being a leader when I have chosen that role and those being led have consciously consented to my leadership.  I don’t mind leading in areas where I have expertise.  But when I find that others are led by my emotions I feel wary.  I don’t like that kind of “persuasion” exercised on myself, so I don’t want to manipulate others.

However, some people really enjoy experiencing the emotions of an artist-type.  That’s when I find myself being put into the role of Muse for others gratification.  And I don’t like it.  To me, it might be something like when a patient projects onto their therapist, or a parent lives vicariously through a child, or a fan stalks a celebrity!  Those things are not equal to each other, but what they have in common is the observer loses touch with the parameters of reality in relation to the observed; the receiver (or taker) of gratification assumes as their own something that actually belongs to another.  If I were a true performer, I would probably like being used as a Muse by others.  I think Performers know how to and enjoy developing a Public-Persona, and can keep their private-person shielded from the public experiences.  I however am mostly “just me.”  I struggle with the idea and use of shields.  I prefer to be fully integrated and to act consciously, directly, deliberately; it’s something I work toward every day.  It’s true I know how to take on various roles in different situations, but I don’t wear them as a mask; I use them as tools or skill-sets.

As a victim of abuse I quickly learned how to compartmentalize my experiences, my world, my self.  But as a survivor and one who would thrive, I work to become fully  integrated.  Facing my fears, especially fears about my own nature, helps me heal, become stronger and healthier, and I hope eventually whole.

 

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“Where Night meets Day” by Loyan Mani (aka Maxine Noel)

To Live Or Give Up?

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This post talks a bit about my emotional struggle at a time in my life when I considered suicide. If you are depressed or could be in any way adversely triggered by this topic, please don’t read further and instead talk with someone who will give you life-affirming support.  Remember, there’s always a listening ear at:

1-800-273-8255

(National Suicide Hotline)

or 911.

Fear of my powerful emotions & whether or not I have the capacity to control them.

After I began to be sexually (and psychologically) abused, I began to have intense emotions that were so powerful I found it hard to control them.  That’s one of the reasons I eventually attempted suicide.  That feeling of “just wanting to die” was a desire to be free from the hell I was in: not only contextually, but also in my own mind, heart, Self.  I’m pretty sure I was born with the capacity for an extensive range of emotions and depth of feeling them, being aware of them. And I’m even more sure I experienced intense feelings before I was ever abused.  It might be fair to say that I was (genetically and socially) predisposed to being vulnerable to emotional turbulence and especially at risk to others’ provocation or manipulation of my vulnerabilities.

I was an easy target for bullies, predators, pedophiles.  I can identify characteristics in my family dynamics that contributed to all of this.  I can also identify (nearly? or outright?) institutionalized dysfunction in societal elements that definitely cultivated all types of bullies, predators, pedophiles, while offering nearly no protection for their targets. However that’s not the primary topic for this post.

My focus here is on what I have personally experienced within myself, and how I manage my emotions now.  I mentioned a suicide attempt.  There were actually several times I thought seriously of how I might end my life and made partial attempts, but there was only one time I made a serious attempt.  Again, more on that some other time.  But it’s important that I talk a bit about that here because, for me, it reveals how STRONG was the battle within myself.  It wasn’t “simply” a spiritual battle.

There are some, I would say naive, Christians who think turbulent emotions or any kind of psychological struggle happens and can be resolved strictly in the arena of the soul.  They don’t recognize the physical, psychological, medical, and/or societal factors and causes involved.  Thus, they don’t recognize the legitimacy and necessity of addressing those factors accordingly.

My view regarding the role of my faith at the time is that my soul, my spirit, my faith in Christ was SO STRONG that it kept my will to live dominant within myself! But the abuse, and my silence about it, was unbearable.  I think the stress of the dichotomy (my abused self vs my healthy self) was so profound that, had I not been fundamentally mentally healthy and spiritually strong, I might have developed a split personality or something like that. [I really can’t say that in clinical terms because I don’t know what causes split or multiple personality syndromes.]  But this is my way of saying there was a war (a life vs death battle) going on for my mind, my psyche, my Self between all that would keep me a Victim versus my capacity to be a Survivor.

I have to continue this in a next post.  Thinking again about that time in my life and the details of it is really exhausting.

To be continued…!