Healing from Abuse: Night Visitors

Friday Flashbacks–particularly for my new readers, I thought I would share some past posts to give you hope.  I have come a long way (and still have a ways to go), but my posts are more upbeat these days. If you are hurting right now, hopefully these posts will give you hope that things can get better for you as they have for me.

A Midsummer-Night's Dream public domain
A Midsummer-Night’s Dream public domain

Have you ever pondered the guests who come to your house when all is dark and the world is asleep?

Invited Night Guests

The Sandman
Santa Claus
Tooth Fairy
Easter Bunny
Shoemaker’s Elves

Uninvited Party Crasher


Fear is a worse companion than Pain.  Pain comes alone, but Fear always has some creepy companions…don’t ask me who they are, I don’t dare look that closely, do you?  Pain sits with you and puts blinders on, then slowly tortures you, but Fear…ahh, Fear dances around.  It teases you.  It plays Hide and Seek, and Peek-a-Boo.

Tonight Fear paid me a visit. It was like when you are watching a movie and the suspenseful music starts and you know something bad is about to happen.  The hair rises on the back of your neck, you feel your body tense and your mouth goes dry.  If the fear gets too intense, you remind yourself that it is just a movie.

Unfortunately this movie was in my own mind, a memory close to resurfacing, I think.  It is awful to feel like a child again when that child experienced trauma and no comfort.  It is hard to trust that comfort will come this time.

“Trust,” part of me whispers, “trust someone will be there.”

“Yeah,” another part answers…”like Santa Claus, or The Sandman.”

Trust. . .I reach for it, but it is just outside my grasp.  Fear is closer, smothering now.

I hope the dawn comes soon.


Can the Horrors of Halloween Drain Away, Leaving Room for Fun?

Every year I dread Halloween. I don’t know why. I hate orange all year round. And yet, I would like to make Halloween fun for my children (the actual ones). Kathy Broady has some great ideas here. I wanted to do something like this, this year, but just couldn’t quite make it. Maybe next year. Anyone know where I can find a WHITE pumpkin? That would help. 🙂

Discussing Dissociation

For most dissociative trauma survivors, Halloween is a difficult time.

Halloween is an expansion filled with horrific memories, vivid flashbacks, overwhelming darkness, and uncomforted fear.

Internal systems flip and change, with those typically lodged in the back finding their way to the front, making the usual everyday feel completely different from before. Working with these dark parts is essential for healing. They may frighten you, but they need your patience, understanding, and compassion for having survived the horrors they had no choice but to endure.

Living through the Halloween season with active PTSD and heavy traumatic overtones may be as delicate and sensitive as fighting for one deep breath after another.

It hurts. It’s scary. It’s confusing.

For survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder, and survivors of Ritual Abuse, the pain is real, and the struggles last year after year. Resolving system conflicts and sorting through trauma memories…

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Relapse Happens

Hugs by Brittany Randolph  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Flickr
Hugs by Brittany Randolph
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Flickr

If you have followed my blog for a while, or even if you are new, but looked at the archives, you will notice that I am gradually healing.  Too gradually for my taste, but I don’t seem to get a choice in that one.  Still, I am grateful for any and all growth and healing.

Still because I want to be authentic, and more especially so I won’t give a false picture to those who are traveling this same path, I have to say: relapse happens.  I have days where I find myself feeling awful.  It isn’t as frequent as it used to be, but it still happens.

On those days I think, “Oh no, no please not this again!”  Because as you probably know, when you get into that space it feels like that is all there ever has been, and all there ever will be.  It defies logic, to be sure, but I have come to believe that emotions can be more powerful than logic.

The biggest relapse for me happened recently.  I was triggered, and without warning  found myself in that place where self-harm seemed like the only way to ease the pain.  I felt so torn.  Part of me, really wanted to get a knife and relieve the pressure.  Another part of me said, “No don’t do it.”  At the same time, I despaired because, “I thought I was over this.”  In the end, I didn’t do it, but I wept because I wanted to so badly.

Where do such strong feelings come from?  I am sure I don’t know.  But I have close friends (also trauma/abuse survivors) that have experienced them, and acted on them.  Our culture focuses on teenagers that do this, but it’s not just teenagers.

There is good news.  The feelings only stayed a day or two.  Then they were gone again.  I hope that mentioning this will give others hope: it does get better.

If you’re thinking about self-harm, but have never done it–don’t start, it’s very addictive.   If you have done it, I wish I could put my arms around you and cry with you.  (safe hug)  I would tell you that I understand.  And I would say:

I’m so sorry for what happened to you.  That never should have happened.  It wasn’t your fault.  I will do everything I can to make sure no one ever hurts you again.

If you need to hear those words, print out this post and put it somewhere private just for you, and know that I would say them to you in person if I could.  I’m so sorry for what happened to you.  It will get better.


Photo Attribution


Rebuilding When Life Whacks You

I received a big disappointment today.  It was not unexpected, but it still hurt.  So I’m thinking today about how we recover when you feel like one of the moles in a game of Whack-a-mole.

Trouble is this is where I am supposed (by my own rules) to tell you the problem and some how wrap it up in a positive way.  But I’m still stinging and trying to figure out the wrap up for myself.  Maybe we can figure this one out together, what do you say?

The hammer that whacked me down today is another rejection on my book proposal.  My book is about healing from childhood abuse, but different from my blog.  The book is specifically about healing your relationship with God.  The feedback I have received is that my writing is good, but the market is flooded with this topic or the competition is too stiff.  Rejections are part of writing, I know that.  This is far from my first rejection, and far from being my last.  But some rejections hurt more than others and this was one of those.

So I know what the professionals think, and I respect that, after all they do this for a living.  At the same time though, I think I understand something about abuse: the wide-spread nature of it–and the pain and difficult recovery process that they don’t. Or maybe I am delusional.  (That is the reason for my blog name Leslie’s Illusions . . . a reminder to myself not to take myself to seriously.)

What do you think?  If you are a survivor, do you read books about healing from abuse?  Blogs?  Would you read a book like mine, about spiritual healing even though I am not a pastor or have a master’s degree?

Finally, what do you think about self-publishing?  I know what writer’s think (it is a hotly debated topic).  I understand the work involved.  What I want to know is–as a reader what do you think about self-publishing.  Do you have a bias for or against it?

Okay, writing this has helped me clear my head a bit.  Writing always does for me. I am reminded of my heroes.  They are my heroes because they overcame the obstacles in their path.  It wasn’t easy for them.  Heroes are formed from heroic battles whether they be on the field or in the soul.

I don’t know what will happen with my book.  For now I’m going to finish writing it  (I know that sounds weird, but that is how non-fiction works.  First you write a proposal then when a publisher accepts it you write the book.)  So I will finish writing it. Maybe only a handful of people will read it, and I will move on to something else.  Life is like that sometimes.  Or maybe I will get my book out there and it will help a lot of people.  The only way to know the end of this story is to finish the book and get it out there in the best way possible.

What about you? Does thinking about your heroes help you have strength to get up again after repeated hammer blows?  What else helps?  Even Goliaths can be overcome.  Let’s go get ’em.


Dream Graveyard

Ship Graveyard by *rmac619  CC BY-NC-ND 3.0  DeviantArt
Ship Graveyard by *rmac619 CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 DeviantArt

Have you ever wondered where dreams go when they die?  Is there some kind of graveyard for their empty shells to rest?  Or perhaps they don’t really die, we just take them to the airport and wish them well on their journeys with other more fortunate people? Maybe they see their limited future with us and quietly slip away during the night.

And what about us? Age thins our hair and wrinkles our skin, what impact does the death of dreams have on us? Do our spirits wrinkle and age?  Is it possible to keep dreaming new dreams when the ghosts of so many others unrealized haunt our waking hours?

Who determines which dreams will come true and which will not?  Which dreams will blossom and which will crash onto the rocks like angry waves?   Is there a Cupid-like imp that grants dream fulfillment to some and not to others?

I’d like to believe that if there is a dream graveyard, there must be a place for new dreams to be born. Not every young boy that dreams of being President of the United States can do that, but he could become a leader in other ways.  Perhaps while we sleep storks bring baskets full of dreams and endow us with new ones?

Certainly there are dream salesmen out there trying to convince us all that we can have any dream we wish if we are just willing to work hard enough.  Don’t be fooled. Sometimes dreams of the hardest working, kindest people slip through their fingers like sand.

There are so many things about dreams that I don’t understand.  But I know one thing.  Dreams are like food for our souls.  We can’t live without them.  So whatever happens, we must keep dreaming new dreams, keep holding on, keep hoping. Perhaps some of us have dreams like Chinese Bamboo Trees which are watered year after year with no change, no growth.  And then suddenly in the fifth year the trees grow eighty feet in six weeks.

Or perhaps dreams sometimes get mixed up and need to be passed around to find their rightful owner.  Maybe we just haven’t connected with the right one yet. Like Thomas Edison, we haven’t failed we just found 10,000 misdirected dreams.

Edison seems to have known a little something about pursuing slippery dreams.  He gives us this encouragement, ““When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.”   And when we think our bamboo dreams will never grow, remember Edison also said, ““Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  Let’s commit to hold on together–to keep watering our bamboo dreams.

Photo attribution link

Music Therapy: Good for What Ails You

Fox's U-Bet in plastic squeeze bottle.
Fox’s U-Bet in plastic squeeze bottle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earlier today (Wednesday) as I drowned my sorrows in Death by Chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup, my husband said, “Who needs Prozac when you have chocolate, right?”  Funny dear.

He was trying to cheer me, and often his joking is helpful, but today the chocolate was better.  I realize eating is not the healthiest form of coping though, either mentally or physically.  I am working on other forms of coping. I use mediation, art therapy, journaling and blogging. In fact, I wrote a very raw blog post before I ate the ice cream, but I decided not to post that one (you’re welcome).

Today I would like to talk about music as a coping tool.  I don’t know if what I am thinking of would technically be called music therapy, but hey, we’re not technical here, right?  A wonderful blog post I just read inspired this.  Author Jane Kirkpatrick was responding to a question about whether her background in mental health played a part in her historical novels. She said it did and she also said:

“I worked for 17 years on an Indian reservation and I know that some of the healers there said that when they went in to meet with someone ill they asked three questions. The answers determined how far from health the person had fallen.  The three questions:  When was the last time you sang; when was the last time you danced; and when was the last time your told your story.” Mental Health and Historical Novels by Jane Kirkpatrick

This version of “music therapy” intrigued me.  It is true, I remember singing in the shower one morning, and realizing that I had not done that in a long time.  As the healers said, it was a sign that my depression had lifted.

In addition to singing, I have found listening to music very helpful.  I have different music for different moods.  I imagine you do as well. Just a couple of my favorites:

Spiritual:  My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee

Comfort Josh Groban‘s You Are Loved

For anger and depression: Brandon Flowers‘ Crossfire, and several songs by Linkin Park

One night, a friend of mine created a list of suicide songs, which I contributed to (we were both in a very dark place), but I’m not going to share any of those, because it would not be very therapeutic.   The point is there is music for every mood!

Jane Kirkpatrick’s post made me think, what other ways could I use music for coping?

Dancing?  Hmmm, I wonder if Just Dance (WII) with the kids count?

Or how about playing an instrument?  I wish I could play the piano.  I don’t have time to learn right now, but I do have a tin whistle and instruction book that I bought for my husband.  I wonder. . .

I’ll have to give these things a try and report back.  In the meantime, have you used music therapy?  What songs do you listen to?  Do you dance?  Or play an instrument?

And just in case you need it–Top 100 Songs About Chocolate— ahh, the best of both worlds!

Changing the Narrative…

Survivors of the Titanic
Survivors of the Titanic

If a rose by any other name would smell as sweet (Shakespeare) does it matter if we use the label “victim” or “survivor?  For those who have not experienced trauma the difference may seem like semantics, but really it isn’t. Victim evokes pity and survivor evokes empathy, and perhaps respect. Therefore, if you have experienced trauma, which label would you want applied to you?

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, I want to share something with you…20 Photos that change the Holocaust Narrative…check it out and then come back (don’t forget the coming back part!)

I think the point of those pictures is to help Jewish people, and the rest of the world to think of Holocaust survivors as just that…survivors.

I do use both terms…I might talk about “Hitler‘s victims”, because “Hitler’s survivors” wouldn’t make sense. Besides saying “Hitler’s victims” seems to better illustrate my disgust for him. On the other hand, I would also say survivors of the Holocaust, or Anne Frank and Corrie ten Boom are two Holocaust survivors I really admire. In that sense, I would feel as if I were insulting them to call them victims.

Changing the Narrative applies to all survivors of trauma.

I have been pondering lately, on how people might perceive me and my sharing of my story.  Do they, I wondered, see me with pity as a victim?  I hope not, that is certainly not my intent!  I share because:

  • I lived with silence most of my life, but no more
  • I want to help other survivors know they are not alone
  •  to give other survivors courage to hold on for one more day if that is what they need
  •  to  try to lessen the shame of being a survivor of abuse, particularly sexual abuse
  • to lessen the shame of being in therapy…for years
  • to lessen the shame of mental “illness” such as PTSD, and DID

Make no mistake, I am not a victim…I am a survivor.

Photo attribution Library of Congress courtesy of Flickr Commons