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
Leprechauns
Easter Bunny
Shoemaker’s Elves

Uninvited Party Crasher

Fear

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.

Monday Mitzvah: Expressing Gratitude

Gratitude Wallpaper by dontstealmypen flick CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Gratitude Wallpaper by dontstealmypen flick CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hello everyone!  I’m back with a blog facelift (it’s most noticeable on the home page–how do you like it?) and another Monday Mitzvah.  Perhaps you need this little pick me up more than usual.  Holidays can be hard for survivors for so many reasons.  It’s also the first Monday back to school for many.

In case you are new (and if so welcome!) mitzvahs are small acts of service.  The idea comes from Linda Cohen’s book 1000 Mitzvahs, because Linda’s father loved mitzvahs, after his death she set a goal to do 1,000 mitzvahs to help ease her grieving.   I write about mitzvahs that are small enough that anyone could do them–meaning even someone that is severely depressed, even suicidal, because I think mitzvahs do have power to help us and the people we share them with.

Today, I want to share a video that I discovered on Facebook.  I really love this idea.  Such a small thing–express gratitude to someone who has made a difference in your life.  And yet you can see how powerfully it affected the people in this experiment.

Now here’s the challenge for you–express gratitude to someone today.  You choose how big or how small…you could make a phone call like they did in the video, write a letter, or send a text. It’s your mitzvah so you can make it as simple or complicated as you like depending on how stressed and/or you may or may not be today. Just do it–even if it’s small.

I’ll start.  I am so grateful for all of you that read this blog.  Writing has been such a powerful outlet to me in my healing.  But not just any writing would do–I needed to share what I was writing with someone and blogging gave me the perfect platform for that.  The great thing about blogging is I know you will only be here if you want to be.  So when you leave me comments, here or on FB, when you click LIKE, or when you simply read (and I know someone has been here by looking at my blog stats).  It means so much to me.  It tells me that people care, and I think that is one of the most important parts of the healing process.  At least it has been for me.

So thank you for sharing this journey with me!  Sometimes people ask me, “Is it okay if I share your blog with a friend who is struggling?”  My answer is always YES.  Yes and yes!  Please do.  Sharing is the best compliment.

Now don’t forget your challenge–go express gratitude to someone.  Happy Monday!

New “Motto’s” for the New Year

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We know that New Year’s Resolutions are rarely successful, but I can’t resist the temptation of a new year!  So instead of resolutions, I’m creating new “motto’s”.  I love personal mottos.  I create them to help me remember things ideas and principles (or in this case goals) that might otherwise slip out of my consciousness.  For example, my first motto was/is, “Don’t judge yourself by other people’s values.”

I created this motto because I realized that I was judging myself for not having accomplished more financial success in my life.  One day I had an epiphany.  It was never my goal when I was younger to make a lot of money.  I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom–not a lot of money there.  I also thought about being a teacher–not a lot of money there.  When I look back on my actual goals and values, I realize I have succeed at my goals!  And it made me feel a lot better about myself. Thus: don’t judge your success by other people’s values.

Here are some mottos I would like to make part of me during this new year.

1–You’ve got to move it, move it.

If you have a song playing in your head now, my apologies *snicker, snicker*  Hey, I didn’t say the motto had to be original or profound.  It is simply a way to keep something important in the forefront of my mind.  I need more exercise.  In addition to the traditional ideas about that, I think if find other opportunities to move, it would help.  I mean: make it fun, make it part of me, for example, last night at work I was dancing in the kitchen while waiting for the microwave (don’t laugh, no one saw me!  I figure all extra movement is good.)

2–You are what you eat.

Again not original, but something I need.  Several years ago, I went through a “health craze”.  I radically changed my diet, lost weight and most importantly, felt better emotionally and physically.  So what happened?  Emotional eating sabotaged me!  Sigh.  Now with a couple years of therapy under my belt, and some difficult emotions and memories excised, it’s time to try and tackle the emotional eating again.  I know I feel better when I eat healthier so: You are what you eat.

3–Hablar es querer

It means to speak is to love.  My oldest son is going to Argentina soon on an LDS/Mormon mission.  I’m excited, nervous and grieving all at once.  I’m tickled that he will be learning Spanish, because I learned Spanish when I went to Venezuela (just a few years back, okay more than a few years.  But who’s counting?)  I still use my Spanish, but I want it to be tip-top when my son comes back.  So I’ll work on that, and maybe I will even succeed in helping the rest of the family learn a little Spanish too!

4–Stupid is the New Smart

I got that one from Richie Norton in his book The Power of Starting Something Stupid.  This one is about my goal to self-publish my book, Touching His Robe, this year.  Hopefully, you are thinking, “That’s not stupid, Leslie!”  (You are thinking that aren’t you?)  Anyway, I vacillate between excitement about it and thinking “no one other than a few friends will by it” yada yada.  I go through this with everything I write.

I have high hopes for 2014.  I think it’s going to be a great year.  How about you?  Do you have any new mottos?  Or resolutions, you can share those too.

Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge–Who’s With Me?

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A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Luis Stevenson (public domain)

 

Hello everyone!

I’m in the mood for something new, so I joined the Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge.  You can read about it on Goodreads HERE on on the founder’s blog HERE.

Or I could just–you know–tell you about it.  Basically it is a fun way to encourage people to learn more about various types of mental illness by reading books.  The best summary is this (from the blog)

“Any book, fiction or nonfiction, that is either about mental illness or features characters or real people with a mental illness counts for the challenge.  However, the book must not demonize people with mental illnesses.”

For fun, you can even sign up and choose a “challenge level”.

Challenge Levels:
Acquainted–4 books
Aware–8 books
Advocate–12 books

Because I love to read, I chose Advocate 12 books.  I plan to read one a month.  Perhaps that goal is too ambitious, after all I do have a couple other things going on in my life–but I can adjust later if needed.

Are You With Me?

There are a couple different ways you could join me:

1) Officially join the MIA Reading Challenge

2)BEST CHOICE–each month I will share what I will be reading the following month, you could read along.  I will post a review at the end of the month, and you can discuss it with me.

3)  Read at least one book (maybe one I have featured on my blog), brownie points if you tell someone about it.

I hope you are “IN”.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

My first book (will start reading in January) will be:

600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster

It is about a man with both OCD and Aspberger’s.  The book blurb says, “Heartfelt and hilarious, this moving novel will appeal to fans of Daniel Keyes’s classic Flowers for Algernon and to any reader who loves an underdog.”

They had me at “heartfelt and hilarious” but I also love Flowers for Algernon, and underdogs.  That and the many glowing reviews sold me.  I hope you will read along with me.

(Oh, and if you are wondering–I will still post my own personal stuff about DID and whatever is on my mind.  I’m not turning my blog into a book review blog entirely.  I haven’t decided whether I will continue Monday Mitzvahs or not (probably).  You could definitely sway me either way by sharing your thoughts in a comment.

And Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now Available: Everything I Needed to Know About Parenting I Learned in Prison

all rights reserved
all rights reserved

 

I am thrilled to announce that my book, Everything I Needed to Know About Parenting I Learned in Prison, is now available at Amazon and Smashwords, and in a few days it will also be available at Barnes and Noble and other ebook retailers.

The idea for this book came to me about five years ago.  I was thinking about a couple things I had learned working as a correctional officer in a men’s prison that helped me in my parenting.  The more I thought about it, the more connections I could see.  Who would have imagined that working in that environment would teach me things that I would later use as a parent?  That’s how this book was born.

So I wrote the book, but then I ran into a snag.  It was too short.  I didn’t have any more stories to tell and it was too short.  What could I do?  I “trunked” it which means I stopped working on it and forgot about it for awhile.  Then recently I realized that with the emergence of ebooks people are now publishing shorter works–short stories, novellas, and non-fiction shorts.  I realized it the time for my book had come.

I took it out of the trunk, dusted it off, and updated it.  And ta da!  Here it is for your reading pleasure.

Next week, I will return to our regular “Monday Mitzvah” schedule.  But until then–leaving a review of a book you like is a great act of kindness.  As a reader, I always look at reviews.  Books live or die by reviews.  And authors?  Well, they sweat and fret and hope for good reviews.  So if you read my book and you like it, honest reviews are always welcome.  Other authors welcome reviews too!

 

 

Touching His Robe–Jaws of Hell excerpt

Friends, I know you are probably expecting a “mitzvah” post today. I’m sorry I just don’t have one in me right now.  Halloween puts me on edge every year, though I am not exactly sure why.  I’m emotionally treading water here and hoping November 1st will come quickly.

I have big plans for November.  I recently completed the rough draft of my book Touching His Robe: Reaching Past the Shame and Anger of Abuse and in November I will begin the revisions and polishing.  For today I have decided to share an excerpt of the first chapter.   Enjoy!

The Jaws of Hell
The Jaws of Hell public domain picture

The Jaws of Hell

I looked at the “safety card” in my hand. It was divided into sections: suggestions for coping, kind words from friends, and phone numbers including the suicide hotline.  I folded it and put it back in my pocket.  It wasn’t enough. Questions reverberated in my mind: Am I God’s Orphan? Did He push me off the train, or just turn away and leave me?  I told myself it no longer mattered because I had a plan, a suicide plan. Like Job, I cursed the day I was born.

But it had not always been this way.  As a teenager with two alcoholic parents, there was one night my parents didn’t bother to come home. I lay awake frantic that they had either been put in jail, or they were in the hospital. Prayer got me through the night and I began to know my Comforter. From Arizona, where I was born, through my experiences in Venezuela, Alaska, Utah, and Washington, He was my Guide. He led me to a wonderful husband. When a miscarriage at 12 weeks broke my heart, He mended it. When death also claimed a teenage niece and nephew, He wept with me. As my husband’s business failing, subsequent job layoffs, bankruptcy, and foreclosure dropped me to my knees. He was my Staff. When life-threatening health issues frightened me, He calmed the troubled sea in my soul. Truly He was my Bread of Life.

Then, memories of childhood sexual abuse began to surface. I became acquainted with a pain that surpassed anything I had experienced before. And I felt utterly alone. Where was my balm of Gilead, my Savior now? I could not feel Him. I became angry. How could God allow this to happen to me, and why had he forsaken me when I needed him the most?

I grieved the loss of this relationship along with the pain of the past. I turned to the church seeking comfort and answers, but well-intended messages of forgiveness only increased my pain. If I were a better person, I thought, I could forgive. Shame, like a black mold, filled me until one day when I did feel the Savior reaching out to me I turned away from Him. I saw myself as an emotional leper. “Unclean, unclean,” was my heart’s mantra. Without Christ, I was adrift. For a short time, I considered atheism and yet He had been too much a part of my life to let go.

Does this sound familiar to you?  Have you felt alone and forsaken?  If you have, you are not alone.  These feelings are common among survivors.  There are examples in the Bible of others who felt forsaken.  The story of Job could be our story.  Job had done nothing wrong and yet suddenly the jaws of hell gaped after him.  Christ, who is our example in all things, was innocent and yet on the cross He cried out, “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?”

My abuse started when I was about four and continued for several years. I understand your pain. If I could I would just sit with you and listen to your story. I would hear your pain in as much or as little detail as you want to tell it. And I would say I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. That should not have happened.

But I can’t sit with each of you, so I will do the next best thing.  I will share my story, and how I found Christ again.  What Christ whispered to me through the scriptures He says to all.

In this chapter, we will talk about the jaws of hell, the feeling of being forsaken, and feelings that cause us to feel this separation.  Through the rest of the book, we will talk about scriptures that can help you not only overcome those feelings, but feel a deep closeness to the Lord.

When the Jaws Open

What does it mean to have the jaws of Hell open after you? We can track the phrase back to medieval times. In the Vercelli Homilies (prose believed to date back to the 10th century), Satan is compared to a dragon swallowing the damned. The image was used in medieval art as well. “Hellsmouth”, the entrance to hell, was portrayed as the gaping mouth of a monster. This image was common all over Europe and continued until the end of the Middle Ages. Usage continued later in renaissance theater. An entry would be painted to appear as hell’s mouth and during morality plays actors playing demons would dramatically drag sinners to their doom. Eventually, they simply called any trapdoor on the floor of a stage the hellsmouth. In Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, they called the entire space beneath the stage “hell” and the choir loft the heavens.

The idea continues to intrigue men’s minds. The term jaws of hell can be found in many current day song lyrics. But what does all this have to do with us?

Generally we think of separation from God as being due to our sins. But what if as Job we are separated from God, during a time when we need Him most, through no fault of our own?  Could this not be truly called the Jaws of Hell?

Spiritual Obstacles

Shame is a huge obstacle for us survivors of abuse.  Almost immediately as my memories began to resurface, I was overcome with a deep sense of shame. I felt like a rotten apple. People told me the abuse wasn’t my fault. Logically I knew they were right and yet still, I also felt deeply that I was full of worms, invisible to the eye, but spoiled just the same.

Shame did not come into my life alone. It brought a companion, anger. Anger was a really uncomfortable visitor because as a child I had never been allowed to express it.  As the spark of anger grew into an inner bonfire, I had no idea how to extinguish it.

Anger whispered terrible things to me. “If God really loves you, why did He allow this to happen?” I knew all the Sunday school answers about why God allows bad things to happen to good people, but those no longer seemed sufficient. This was not a philosophical question, but a deeply personal one.

With the return of my memories, I lost something else–trust. Trust is huge issue for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Most abuse occurs by someone the child knows; a family member or friend of the family. When we are hurt and betrayed in such a grievous manner by someone who was supposed to help us, we learn not to trust again especially authority figures, even God.

A Door Opens

Thus far I have painted a very dismal picture, but there is hope.  One day, I told my spiritual leader I could not bear the thought of the Savior approaching me with outstretched arms. I preferred to have rocks fall on me rather than face him.

He pondered that for a moment and then said, “Remember the woman who came to Jesus and touched His robe? Maybe you could do that . . . just touch his robe.”

The words resonated within me like a perfect chord on the piano. Yes! Even though I was full of hurt, mistrust and fear, there was a part of me that yearned for the once close relationship I had shared with the Savior. Perhaps I could just reach out and touch His robe.

 

 

 

 

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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