I Believe

I have made life so complicated.  Stuck in my head, living as an “outsider,” being present but never there.

“Your prognosis is actually very good.”

“I don’t see you needing Nexium or Paxil for very long.”

Great words of encouragement which did not resonate at all.  They became idealistic goals that I could attain but never really manifest in my life, fully, for the long term.

But it’s simple.  Those words of encouragement are true.  Full of hope and promise.  And for one very simple, very uncomplicated reason.

I’m willing to talk about it.

I’m willing to talk about what happened, how it’s made me feel, and to learn what I can do about it.

I’m willing to shed the shame through sharing indiscriminately.  (Establishing both internal and external boundaries may later prevent indiscriminate sharing…but for now, I’m okay with it)

Now that I accept I am part of this world, this culture and community, firmly planted with two feet in the ground like everyone else (and quite possibly more than some), I accept that my willingness to share my story, to explore and share my emotions are the factors which will lead to a better, whole, more complete life.

I am willing to talk about it and because of that…

I believe I have the ability to recover.

Paradox Depression

imageI am amazed by the effects of Depression.  I continue to be perplexed, confused and frustrated by it all.

Dysthymia is a recurrent, kind of always there depression.  Not necessarily debilitating, but leaving it’s patient less than optimal.

As an insatiable intellectual, I can often see clear solutions to what seems like life’s most complicated problems, but trapped in my mind, in my body, and curiously devoid of energy to do or say anything to effect change… it’s frustrating.

And its embarrassing when I see people around me starting to understand what I experience and then feel the need to take care of things for me.

I have depression.  I’m not stupid.  I’m not incapable.  I’m not retarded.

I have depression.  I have “open apps” that I’m not necessarily aware of that drain me like any soccer game in Brazil’s heat and humidity drained even the most elite athletes in the world.  At least they knew it would and prepared the best they could.  Didn’t change that they were exhausted after the match.

Similarly, seeing the issues I can sometimes cause and for which I ostensibly have the solution, and then being “referred to” instead of “spoken to”… It’s frustrating.  Embarrassing.

Not only do I have to learn the tools to cope with my life, but I have to put them in full effect as I not only continue to live it, but also reclaim what was stolen from me.

Of course, I don’t have to resume this position with this company and these colleagues. I know it’s just as frustrating for them as it is for me.

The paradox is as I am learning skills to be easy on myself, to change my world view filter that I have to quickly apply them as my colleagues around me still think I’m behind the power curve.

I’m not stupid.  I’m not an idiot.  I’m not disengaged and I do care very much.

I’m incredibly smart, gifted.

I’m me and I struggle with depression.

Paradoxically, it’s my little victories against it that has even allowed me to write to you about this at all.

12 Days

Life can feel like a perpetual struggle between life & death.

Life can feel like a perpetual struggle between life & death.

One of my colleagues goes on these periodic cleanses.  The details of the diet change each time, but the concept remains the same… Through a period of controlled cleanses, she will monitor her weight and attempt to remain healthy.  The plan is working for her and she’s happy with it.

She recently shared the details of her latest cleanse.  12 days without any carbs.  Only veggies.

Sounds interesting, it really does, but I am also reluctant to embark on a diet like that.  After all, I’m learning moderation as a paradigm by which to recover from CSA and Depression.

I commented as much.  “I can’t imagine not having any carbs or sugars… wow… that seems so tough!”

And her response kicked me in the gut.

“It’s only 12 days.  After that, the cleanse is over and you can eat whatever you want.”

12 days.  I couldn’t see past my own short-sightedness on the things I couldn’t have so much that I didn’t even factor in the time boundary on this ostensibly healthy approach to life.  I had internally written it off before even considering it.

But see, it’s not just the cleanse that struck me.  It was my short-sightedness.

As a survivor, my experiences in life have felt so narrow, so abrupt, so quick and so fleeting.  Like the anxiety someone feels when in a life or death situation, that was my life.  Nearly every moment of my life.  Each moment feeling like this is the moment.  This is the moment that I’m going to die.

12 Days.

I’m not promised tomorrow.  As a Christian, I get that.  So what’s the rush to consume everything I can and not avail myself to some of the latest, hip diet trends?  It’s not the food.  It’s the feeling.  The feeling that I’ll never again have the opportunity to taste the sweet comfort of a warm slice of freshly baked bread.  The sugar in a wonderful piece of dark chocolate.

It’s not the desire for these types of things that stops me from considering a diet like that, it’s the feeling that I’ll never again have the opportunity.

While I’m not promised tomorrow, there is no rush to try everything.  The anthem from Lion King… “Circle of Life” say it well.

There is more to see, than can ever be seen.  More to do, than can ever be done.

I accept that.

So what’s the takeaway?  Continue to become aware of my own self.  My own desires.  I can’t experience them all in a day, but I can learn to prioritize them.  To enjoy the moments with which I am blessed to experience them.

There is no rush.

It’s only 12 Days.

The Diesel has Started

diesel

Diesel engines do not like the cold.  They are not fans of the frozen tundra.  They like to be kept warm.  It’s in the warmth that they perform optimally.  In the cold, it takes extra time for the cylinders to turn over, to ignite the spark, to start and make the hallmark sound that is unique to The Diesel.

I may not be a powerful diesel engine.  But I have the potential to be.  I believe that like the diesel engine, I do not like being frozen.  The first moment in which my dad raped me, sodomized me, horrifically violated his very delicate trust with me… I was frozen.  Frozen in that moment.  My emotional core stuck.  My curious intellect insatiable.

As I acknowledged and have begun to accept that this terrible act is not only possible, but actually happened to me.  TO ME… I’ve tried to get going, to ignite the spark and turn over the cylinders.  I’ve attempted to reconcile my juvenile emotion with my adult intellect.  I’ve attempted to start up after decades being frozen.  Like the caterpillar emerging from his safe cocoon, ready to spread his wings, uncertain in their ability, afraid to fall… so have I begun to emerge.

I’m more than ready to test my wings.

I’m ready for the cylinders to turn and power this beautiful creation that is God’s and bestowed upon me.

The diesel has started my friends.

And it’s ready for the long haul.

 

Random Thoughts

For a child emotionally and sexually abused, how does he create joy from years of pain?  I believe it’s possible though very complicated and challenging.  But the central issue is… how would he know what joy is?

Is it possible for an emotionally and sexually abused child to have no lasting effects?  I don’t believe so.  The issue here… What does this child need afterwards?

 

Memo

Did you get a memo?

I didn’t get a memo. At least I don’t remember a memo.

It seems like everyone got a memo but me. Like they all know something I don’t.

I feel like I should have received a memo. I feel like there was some valuable information in it. Some information that I needed.

Everyone is holding me accountable for the content of this memo.

But I didn’t get it.

I didn’t read about it.

I can only speculate that it exists. I can only guess what it says.

Sometimes I feel like I guessed correctly.

Other times, the looks I get, like I’m an alien, I think I guessed incorrectly.

Is there a memo out there?

And

then

*click*

It made sense.

There is a memo. It’s not a piece of paper or an email. It’s not a song or a poem, a saying or quote.

It’s an internal memo. It’s supposed to be communicated by your earthly parents. They are ordained to show you, demonstrate to you, and sometimes actually say to you… the memo.

And if they don’t.

Then you’ll feel like an outsider.

Like I did, and have, and sometimes still do.

Like you don’t fit in, don’t belong.

The memo, you see, is quite simple. There are songs today on the radio that allude to the memo. Beautiful anthems that underscore what your parents, what MY parents were ordained to show me.

Christina Perri – I’m only human.
John Legend – All your perfect imperfections.

I am human. I will make mistakes. And I am a creation of God. I am perfectly imperfect.

That’s the memo.

Facebook Folly

facebook

 

 

 

 

 

Every now and then, there’s a Yahoo! article suggesting that too much time on Facebook can lead to mild depression.  The “studies” suggest that looking into someone else’s seemingly ‘happier than mine’ life can be a source, a trigger, for depression.  The illogical logic in the Facebook observer is supposed to go something like:

“oh, they’re doing more things with their family than I am, oh, they’re pictures look very happy, they must have a great life and mine sucks.  they’re doing so much better than me, i should try harder because i’m doing something wrong.  what’s wrong with me?”

Sound familiar?

If it doesn’t, then great, I believe you have figured out your internal boundary with Facebook and that’s a good thing.

If it does, keep reading, because I used to be in the same boat.

The problem isn’t that Facebook can trigger depression in the observer, the problem is why?  Why can it lead to self-deprecating thoughts and a question of “what’s wrong with me?”

I believe the why comes from unresolved childhood hurts.  As a sexual abuse survivor, I recognize that I can easily “go there” and irrationally believe that’s the root cause of all hurts, but that’s not what I’m suggesting.  I’m suggesting than any unresolved childhood hurt can be triggered at any time by anyone or anything.  Facebook fits that bill for those of us who weren’t empowered as children.  Who weren’t affirmed.  Who didn’t hear things like “I love you.  You’re exactly who you’re supposed to be.”  And all of the actions that follow suit like being heard when you’re physically or emotionally hurt, nurtured when you are hurt, and the like.  Hearing those things, experiencing those things as a child are life affirming.

See, I used to scroll through my feed and read everyone’s post, see everyone’s pictures, and receive invites to everyone’s game.  And I observed my feed at home.  Alone.  Lonely.

I wish I were doing those things, have family pictures like that, and where does everyone find time to play these games?!  Don’t they have stuff to do like I do?!?!

I used to think that.

Now I don’t.

I believe Facebook is an awesome tool!  It digitally extends the reach of our global community, making communication much more efficient and so much fuller and richer!  Facebook can be a tool to keep up with friends from all walks of your life and hear from, share with and talk to as much or as little as you want.  It can be a networking tool for work or a picture sharing tool for geographically separated families.

I believe Facebook is a great tool.  I believe I have learned healthy boundaries with Facebook.  I love myself and I’m no longer shamed while scrolling, I’m happy to see other’s happy times.  I know they have bad times too.  I digitally share their moments, I stay connected with them and I get ideas of things I want to try.

So why on Earth would I minimize Facebook time when connecting that way can be a powerful recovery tool?

Because the people who do those studies, analyze the data and summarize their findings in articles eventually finding their way onto the Yahoo! news stream presuppose that we are all destined to lead lives in which we can be easily shamed.

Unresolved childhood hurts reside in all of us and can be triggered at any time by anyone or anything.

So what’s the difference between the people who use Facebook as a tool and those who view it with shaming caution?  Resolution.

Resolve.

The inner will to deal with their childhood pain, to bring it to the carpet and address it.

I once read an article on my Facebook feed that suggested the way to make the world a better place, to resolve wars, to resolve crises was to address trauma.

I believe them.

Address trauma.

And so as I continue to openly share my thoughts and stories, I’ll do so cautiously, respecting the current social treatise but also striving to sever it, to renew it, to turn it on it’s head.  The goal isn’t to “overshare,” it’s to challenge the existence of that paradigm at all.  See, to a disempowered child, oversharing includes “feed me” or “I scraped my knee.”

We’re so careful in our social society not to be too social at all.  Why hold back?  That’s the source of our shame!  Resolve it all, resolve it now so that you too can have the life you want!

I am not ashamed of who I am or the things I did as a kid.  I was being sexually abused at home and was a typical kid given those circumstances.  So, I will share all of me.  I will share all of what I remember, how I think it fits and what I hope.

I will share it all so that all may share some.

Because if we start to pull the layer back on unresolved childhood pain, we’ll not only find predictable pain, we will find an unexpected utopia.

Animal Instincts

Mezzy Cat

Mezzy Cat

I can’t help but notice how every time (literally every time) my family comes into my small but comfortable apartment, my cat runs away into her safe place.  It’s the guest bathroom which is actually bigger than the master bath, where we keep the litter boxes and cat beds.

Plainly, it’s a cat sanctuary.

And every time my nieces, my nephew, my brother in law and sister walk in the door, jovial and excited, she runs to her sanctuary.  She also runs there during heavy rains and lightning storms.

Now that I’m connected to my animal instincts for survival, I can see and feel her uncertainty, her fear, I can almost hear her catastrophic thoughts!  “Little kids, new people, I’m gonna die, oh no, it’s the end, I’m going to run and hide in my safe place!”

Every animal not only has the instinct but has the right to keep themselves safe and secure, to ensure their own survival.

It’s like the older woman in Minority Report says

Dr. Iris Hineman: It’s funny how all living organisms are alike…

[she starts crushing a mutated plant]

Dr. Iris Hineman: …when the chips are down, when the pressure is on, every creature on the face of the Earth is interested in one thing and one thing only.

Dr. Iris Hineman: [the plant scars her palm] Its own survival.

Every animal not only has the instinct but has the absolute, inalienable and unqualified right to its own survival.  Each and every living organism on this beautiful planet.

Including me.

It’s weird, actually, to be able to admit that, to feel that, to be able to connect that logic to a movie and a seemingly innocuous scurrying away of my cat into the bathroom.  It’s weird because I am starting to connect to that right, possibly for the first time.

There are so many tragedies in my personal story of sexual and emotional abuse by my dad, one of them being that learned and validated instinct of survival was completely removed, severed from my soul.  It didn’t die, it was just disconnected.  And because I wasn’t connected to that, I was connected to a need to please.  To please everyone else but me.  I would even assume responsibility for the bad driving of the driver behind me and would change my driving behaviors accordingly.  Some may suggest that’s just good defensive driving.  I’d say “you’re not hearing me.”  I’d assume responsibility for their behavior.

When your actions and responses look like normal healthy responses, no one wants to dig deeper and get at the core of the issue.  But that’s where I need to be repaired.

Before I understood the survival instinct, I would cull my cat out of her sanctuary and into the “loving arms” of our visitors.  All the while, she’s having a panic attack.  I didn’t understand that she just wanted to feel safe.

Now, I tell my visitors to let her be.  She’ll come out when she feels safe and ready.  And to my credit, she does.  She loves warmth, attention, affection.  She feels safe enough to receive those offerings from others.

In so many ways, my furry little friend is a lot like me.

Wow.

IMG_0462I can’t seem to find that prolific title to quickly, simply and powerfully convey this very palpable feeling of overt joy I am experiencing this morning.  That title to convey either the lesson or the reason for this blog.

I guess I don’t have to try so hard… Wow says it all.

Last year I won my first ever 5k.  I’ve run them for 8 years and this was the first ever First Overall finish.  I chose the race, 20 miles out of the city, because of the cause… Crime Victim’s Rights Week.  And I won.  I asked to say something when receiving my medal because of all the factors that came together for me to win that race.  I very briefly said who I was, what happened to me and what I’ve learned.

A year later, I was asked to share my story at a luncheon for this year’s Crime Victim’s Rights Week.

That was yesterday.

And it was absolutely incredible.

Never in a million years did I think I would have the opportunity to combine my love of public speaking with what I have found in this last year is my passion for making the world a safe place.  And when I was able to combine what I’ve learned through speech therapy (for stuttering in 6th grade), speech class in high school, speech and debate club in high school, improv training in Chicago, communications class in grad school along with the pyschoeducation from my own personal story and the class at The Meadows… Fireworks.

The result were beautiful, inspirational, touching and healing fireworks.  Both for me in my recovery and for the audience in theirs.

I’ve been asked to do more.  If this was the first step, I am excited to even think about what this journey of sharing and healing through sharing looks like.

I always dreamed of being on a platform speaking to a group of people, teaching or sharing something with them.  I always knew I would be good at it.  I didn’t know what the topic was but standing behind a podium with every eye trained on me… that was very vivid in my dreams, my imagination.  I did it not for my own glory but to help others.

Yesterday that dream manifested itself in a way I never thought possible.  I got a taste of what it’s like to have my dreams come true.

And I want more.

For me.

For others.

So that future victims won’t be victims at all.

It’s Just not Natural

no-easy-buttonI was having a conversation with my colleague yesterday.  I had told him I was “catching up on emails.”  Which was true but also a conversational tool I can use quickly when asked what I’m doing.  He scoffed “you’re always checking emails.  How long does it take you?  It takes me maybe twenty minutes at the end of the day.”

It takes me 20 minutes an email.

We got into a brief but deep conversation about what I’m doing to continue to recover.  Perfectionism shows up for me in every facet of my life.  I shared that with him.  Reflecting, I maybe shared too much with him.  That’s okay, but I took down my internal boundary to make myself vulnerable with him about something that bothers me at work.

When I told him all that, he simply said, “just don’t do that.”

Really?  It’s just that simple?  Just… don’t… do… that?

Hallelujah!  We found the answer!

Now, back to earth…

In reality, I’m having to deliberately relearn some of the skills I should have picked up on as a child.  The complicated, complex, confusing part of it is I can, now, readily identify and talk about areas I want to improve… emails for example, but the unresolved emotion that flows through me like a current continues to want to direct my actions and reactions which look frighteningly familiar to my life as a victim.  5 or 50, you wouldn’t know it because my feelings are still locked up inside me, influencing my behaviors.

This is hard work.  The challenge isn’t necessarily identifying or even changing the behavior.  It’s what attempting to change the behavior stirs up… the sludge of pain, anger, emptiness that naturally comes with having been abused the way I was as a child.

What does a kid do?  If you were raped, sodomized, ostracized, criticized by your father, your dad, your hero, your protector and never allowed to talk about it?  What would you do?

When I identify issues like my work email issue and address it, attempt to change it, it only dredges up the painful emotions that made it an issue in the first place.

It just doesn’t come natural.

But like the Genie in the classic film Aladdin says… “It can be done.”

Of that I am firmly convinced.  My resolve to reclaim my life is stronger than ever.  I believe I have a right to feel and I believe I have the strength to deal.