Friday, November 30, 2018

Healing Takes Time

I've had a rough few days physically. Rest has been my best medicine. There was a time when I had such limited spoons that I could have a shower or use my one available spoon for something else. Dearest One used to wash my hair for me on those days so I wouldn't use up all my energy doing it myself.

I spent some time getting help for my emotional health back then and that extended inpatient help was the difference between limited spoons and more than enough spoons to function. I had no idea at the time that my emotional health affected my physical health to the extent that it did.

Yesterday I went to an event and quickly realized I didn't have enough spoons to manage it. I came home and crawled into bed and slept.

I'm grateful that today is better. Not a lot of spoons but more than yesterday.

Sometimes I forget that healing takes energy. That emotional work can be exhausting even when it's fruitful work.

I had plans for today. Just writing all this out brought my attention to the reality that I don't have enough spoons for my plans. Good things plans can be changed.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


In therapy yesterday I threw back my head in laughter and laughed until I was done. I let my head rest on the back of the couch for a bit afterwards, catching my breath. That kind of laughter was a first for me in therapy. I couldn't help myself.

 A few weeks ago we shifted into doing some guided work in therapy sessions. It's the kind of stuff that, if I think about it for too long, I'd put in a basket labelled Airy Fairy Shit and leave it there. But I trust my therapist so I'm following her directions and seeing what happens. Guided work is really an experiment in trust. For someone raised with abuse, the not knowing what's coming next, can be a little scary. I'm glad I haven't let my fear stop me from trying it.

Yesterday, when my two year old self appeared in my mind, she was guided to take off the mask that protected her from harm at that age. The one that held negative voices bearing conclusions as to who she was as a little person. The mask that contained harsh words and states of mind filled with panicky thoughts of what she needed to do to keep safe.

It took some work. She peeked out from behind it first. She wanted to run. She wanted to curl up in a ball. Eventually she felt safe enough to hold the mask a little bit in front of her and then even further. Her Core Spiritual Self *came along and was ready to be with her as she got the courage to step out from behind the mask altogether. They picked up the mask and danced with it as it went from being plaster to foil. Once it was pliable she folded it up into a tiny square and tucked it into her front pocket. Then she declared, "I am in charge!" I felt laughter bubble up inside me as I watched her.

I wish you could've seen the dance she did and the joy she radiated at the thought of being in charge. I bet you would've laughed, too.

*This isn't the exact guided work I am doing but is similar.

Sunday, November 25, 2018


I've had the same family doctor for 20 years. We know each other well. I've often felt like my doctor wishes I would show more enthusiasm for life. I'm not the kind of person who jumps up and down with joy about anything. I envy people who do.

Comforting Therapist explained to me a few weeks ago about people's natural energy levels of expression (my term, not hers) and that she'd observed mine tended to be on the low side. Some people run the gamut from 0 to 10 and for some their range is 0 to 5. She said that for someone who literally jumps up and down when something great happens theirs might be a 9 in that moment. Mine in that moment would most likely be a 4. Same inner feeling but vast differences in outward expression.

Her explanation helped me stop expecting myself to morph into someone I'm not. It helped me judge myself less for my life long lack of getting overly excited about anything. I can be pleased as punch about something and may even be doing a happy dance within myself and you might not be able to conclude that by my outer behaviour. Okay, then.

I tried explaining all this to my doctor this past week but interestingly he heard it through the grid of pessimist and optimist and figured my therapist was trying to get me to be more optimistic. Arrgh. I actually don't see myself as pessimistic. I didn't try to clarify any of it with him even though it was hard to leave him with an impression that was inaccurate about what I was trying to explain.

I see him again in a few weeks. I had a major breakthrough in therapy a few days ago. The kind I recognize as one of those places where you place a stone on the path as a remembrance of what happened. My doctor might recognize the change and then again, maybe he won't. But I do.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Welcome Home

I didn't know the truth of that saying over there about transitions at the beginning of this melt down, but Dearest One did. He'd been through the process and in doing so became unabashedly himself. He can tell in his body if something is right for him or not. He can place his hand over his heart and ask, "How does that feel here?"

This fall he flew to another province for a funeral. Funerals in his family involve hundreds of people and that's not including the community. I think for his grandpa's funeral we were 189 immediate family members.

The day after the funeral he had had his fill of people. So when his hosts mused aloud about throwing a barbecue and starting listing off the people they could invite Dearest One told them if they did so he wouldn't be there.

He knew it would be too much for him. That he'd rather get in his rental car and go for a drive than spend the evening with too many people. He didn't feel one bit bad for speaking up and owning his truth. It was a better option than having an anxious knot in his chest grow due to social pressure to be someone he isn't. Because of his close relationship with his hosts, and the respect they have for one another, his boundary was honoured and the gathering was much smaller and more manageable for Dearest One.

Last month I brought home a paper from my therapist along with a photo of a diagram she'd drawn for me. Written on the paper was my biggest fear about what would happen in Dearest One and my relationship if I softened and embraced what was on the diagram.

The diagram had categories of what we do from birth to three to try and have/keep secure attachments and what happens if we don't have them. I didn't develop an edge accidentally. It was survival; looking for ways to feel safe. Ways that tend to keep people out. Dearest One and I have worked hard the past two years to form a secure attachment and become each other's person.

My therapist and I talked about how much softer and kinder I could become if I was willing to commit to the process of laying decades old coping mechanisms aside. If I was willing to challenge my thinking when I let those necessary coping mechanisms of old be old news and not current news. I'd thought that edge I developed was integral to being me. So much so that I had been looking at new hairstyles that could possibly indicate to others that I had an edge before I ever opened my mouth.

Immediately I worried out loud that without the edge I would be too much for Dearest One. That I'd ooze all over the place without boundaries. Comforting Therapist was quite sure I wouldn't be. I had her write down on a piece of paper exactly what my fear was so that I could remember to talk it over with him when I got home.

When I did, Dearest One's face lit up at the thought of a softer, kinder me. Not for his sake, but for mine. He could see the potential for me to live free. After assuring me that a softer me would not be too much for him, he told me that letting go of those coping mechanisms would allow me to become who I was created to be. I started to do that ugly cry sobbing.

When he reached over to comfort me I wish you could've seen his eyes.
Eyes that said, "Welcome Home." 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Someone With A Story

Dearest One and I spent the weekend away visiting with family. It is good to be home again and sleeping in our own bed. If only sleep would come that would help. I got up after an hour of laying there with my brain buzzing from one topic to another.

I've been using an App on my phone, at my therapist's suggestion, to track my mood. As I tend to overthink anything, I find it hard some days to figure out what exactly my mood is. I'm convinced other people don't have this issue. Dearest One looked at me funny when I asked him if he could easily tell the difference between feeling okay and feeling good?

I think the app used words such as Meh and Good for those two options and I felt so irritated (no problem figuring out my mood at that moment!) at the word Meh that I promptly paid a fee so I could customize the App and change that descriptor to something else.

To me, feeling Meh for any length of time would be incredibly depressing. Never mind that I've chosen it's replacement word as my mood half of the last 12 days.

One of the things I mulled over while I was trying to get to sleep was worrying that I'll get better soon. What a weird thing to think. I promptly judged myself for it. Then I followed that thought through to find that what I was worrying about was that I'd be be cleared to go back to work soon only to find out that once I got there I felt just as overwhelmed as when I left.

It's good to follow a thought to see where it will lead. As soon as I figured out I was worrying about feeling overwhelmed, I reminded myself that when I'm ready to go back to work I will feel ready, I will look forward to going, and I will feel confident at problem solving whatever I might face once I get there.

I dropped off a baby present at work after hours a week ago. I looked at my desk and the papers that had been piled on it in my absence and thought to myself,  I don't give a shit about any of this and walked out the door. I'm used to not only caring about my work but doing a stellar job of any task I need to complete. I try to see people as someone with a story when their behaviour is suspect. Coworkers are used to my refrain of I wonder what their story is when someone reacts instead of responds to a situation. I should have been tipped off then, that not everything was right in my inner world, when I commented to one coworker that someone else was a fucking bitch. I dislike that phrase greatly and have rarely uttered it. Never at work. It slipped off my tongue with incredible ease that day.

Anyway, I have no idea why I'm writing this all down other than I hope that in the writing my brain quiets enough so that I will soon be able to go to sleep.

My daily goals right now are to have a shower, get dressed and drink 8 glasses of water a day. I added in Centering Prayer last week but managed it only a few times. I lessened my expectation of doing 20 minutes off the bat and changed that App to 10 minutes. Centering Prayer has been a great addition to my daily routine in the past. So much so that when I practice it with any regularity, I find that in stressful situations my sacred word pops into my head and reminds me to ground myself. I think a bit of that could be helpful, don't you?

Friday, November 16, 2018

Seeing The Real

I slept through the night last night with relatively few bits of being awake. That's the first time in a week. Today has felt much more manageable because of it. The sun is shining. That helps, too.

Sparkly Eyed Grandson will be here soon for a sleepover. He has seen all the characteristics on that picture to the right that make up his Nana. I'm more than fine with that. He is an old soul in a little person's body and I love him immensely. My grandchildren give me such joy. I couldn't have predicted that they would play a part in my healing. I didn't know, before grandchildren, that I was capable of loving anyone so fiercely. That's the truth, be it as it may. They melt my heart.

I try to make space for my grandchildren to be all those things on the photo up there, too. What greater gift could I give them? Sometimes I think my message to them is, "I see you and what I see is beyond okay." 

Our grandchildren get to reap the benefits of all the inner work Dearest One and I are doing. I work hard to never invade their space without asking permission. I don't take their no personally.

I speak up when other's invade their space and remind them to stop it. We still live in a culture that often sees children as not having a right to a voice about their personal bubble. It irritates the shit out of me. Especially because of my trauma history I would never expect a grandchild, or any child for that matter, to give me a hug or a kiss or any touch at all. When my grandchildren snuggle up to me it is of their own volition. (And I soak up every moment.)

I know that my actions speak for me. What comes out of my mouth has little to teach unless it is cohesive with my actions. My grandson, especially, has heard me say words I'd rather he didn't. ("Nana, why did you say, 'fuck'?") Although his capability to repeat things in perfect context maybe isn't such a bad thing.

On sleepover nights he still comes into our bedroom the next morning and crawls into bed with us. I pull a bit of my pillow over for him to share. He snuggles down and usually lets out a contented sigh. I love that he feels safe.

One morning he crawled into our bed and snuggled between us. When Dearest One woke up I reached across and put my hand on his arm. I left it there for a while, content to talk without saying a word. Sparkly Eyed Grandson looked at us, leaned towards me and whispered, "I love him, too."

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Changing My World

Today was a hard day. I had a glimmer of hope yesterday morning after laughing with Dearest One the night before. First belly laugh in a long time. I'm not sure why I thought that meant there would be a straight line from glimmer of hope to healing, but I did.

I'm spending much of my time doing handwork these days and that involves untangling yarn from the middle of the skein. I should have my own  brand of yarn named This Is What Healing Looks Like. A mess. That's what it looks like. Doesn't mean it isn't happening.

Sleep was elusive last night. My brain busy. It follows that getting dressed today felt like too much. Late morning I remembered -  there's that thing called supper.  Supper time came around and I went into the kitchen, looked at what I had taken out to cook and walked out again. I repeated this several times until Dearest One came home from work and we ordered supper in.

There were tears tonight in the midst of a normal conversation. I'm sensitive to anything that smacks of me feeling like I don't have a voice. I jabbed at him with a light, but effective, verbal punch. I cried when I realized what I'd done.

I'm grateful that Dearest One and I have done such hard work in becoming each other's person that when words get misconstrued and conversation starts going sideways, when tears fall and harms need to be made right on either side, we can talk and reassure one another; sinking into vulnerability as the place to connect with one another. It took us nearly 35 years to get to this place in our marriage. Previously we pinged off each other's trauma and piled more baggage onto our journey.

This work is worth it no matter how hard it is on days like today. It may not be changing anyone else's world but ours. I am grateful.

Forgive Yourself

When I saw this poster, with its words of wisdom, I instantly teared up. My therapist has been saying these things to me for a long time. The last time I thanked her for investing in her ongoing education, because it impacts our learning and growing, she thanked me for being willing to try something different than the survival patterns I've used all these years.

Years ago I was in a Bible study group with all elderly women. My children were all preteen at the time and I would listen to these women talk about their grown children, and the sometimes shocking choices they were making, and I wondered what age a person had to be before they didn't take their children's behaviour personally. I was very much into seeing my children's choices as a reflection of myself. That only added to my inclination to be a very controlling mother. After all, my reputation, such as it was, was at stake. I had no idea that my unresolved trauma history was impacting my parenting in ways big and small.

It turned out that the age one had to be was the age you were when your adult child made one of those life decisions that makes you cringe. It took that decision by Youngest Son to be willing to pry my fingers off the edges of my adult children's lives.

I know now, in a visceral way, that all my kids have their own trauma history to work through. My unresolved trauma impacted my mothering deeply. I was often not the mother they needed and I have deep regrets. People have a hard time picturing me as a verbally and physically abusive mother yet I was. I was bound determined I would never be an alcoholic like my mom either, but I went down that path, too.

Motherhood was the catalyst for my recovery on many fronts. It was what gave me courage to reach out for help and be steadfast in my search for healing even though that search has been a winding, and sometimes, not so pretty path. Only Daughter tells me every so often that the work I am doing in therapy and the changes I have made over the years, are impacting her life and her children's for the better. It's a reminder that today is not the end of the story.

All those words of wisdom in that yellow box up there are closer to being my reality than ever before. At least I am able to entertain them as truth, now. Although I think my regrets will always be there, I think it is possible to forgive myself for them, too. I inch closer to that every day.

A few nights ago I mused aloud to Dearest One that I wondered what age a person was when they decided to be at peace with what they believed and how they lived their life without feeling like they needed to defend it or apologize to anyone for simply being themselves.  I told him I was much closer to being that person than I had ever been and maybe now was as good a time as any.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Spring Chickens

Trigger warning: sexual abuse.

My mom would have had a milestone birthday today. I think she would've been surprised and wondered out loud how could she be that age already. Where had the time gone? She'd tell me again that I was a Spring Chicken at the age of 56. I don't feel like one these days.

I've been wondering what she would say about my time off work right now. I seriously wonder about that. She was an integral part of why I was put in the situation that ended in rape and continued sexual abuse for the months that followed. If she was alive I would've told her exactly what happened that lead to my being on an extended time off work. Yet she was so fragile at the end. Would I be obligated to protect her from my reality? What is fair? And to whom? Will I always feel like a bad person for feeling such anger?

I never allowed myself to feel angry about it while she was alive. There's still that frown of hers that I can picture in my head and the very real comment she made me to when I was 13 that what goes on in our house stays in our house.

There were many things that she didn't think should be brought out from the shadows and into the light of day. I don't think she ever experienced the freedom that speaking the truth can bring. I don't think she ever got over the boatload of mother guilt she carried. I'm guessing at these things because we couldn't have an honest conversation about the guilt although we came close way back when. She admitted that day to being an abusive mother. It cost her all she had to voice it. It was so much more than anything her own mother would have admitted to being or not being. There's that.

But. She knew he was a predator. Knew he bragged in the bar about the young women he got. She let me/sent me there to babysit anyway. I intuitively knew she had her own history with him. Intuition is a bitch sometimes.

She knew things were going on between him and I. I found out later that she rationalized that I was old enough to handle it. I remember thinking to myself , as I shoved blood stained underwear into the back of my jeans, "where are the adults and why isn't anyone rescuing me from this?" That I didn't feel like I could go to anyone is a sad reality. Let's take a detour down a back road and keep you there for hours. Tell you I'm not done with you yet when you try to get dressed.

It took years of therapy to see that he was always in a position of power in any encounter we had. That my voice meant nothing. My "NO!" eventually fell silent amid anxiety and fear. I thought it was all my fault for decades. To this day there are moments when my instinct, if you touch me without permission, is to want to throat punch you.

Motherhood is such a winding path. The baggage you bring with you into it. Baggage you don't even know you have. It can drag you down. The baggage that accumulates while you are actively parenting. She had enough to make one shudder. But still. There is no excusing not protecting one's own daughter. Not even doing the best you can in the circumstances.

If I indeed, am a Spring Chicken now at 56, she was a real Spring Chicken at the age of 41 when all this happened. I wonder what her milestone self today would tell her 41 one year old self if she could.

Image may contain: text

Friday, November 09, 2018

Not For The Weak Of Heart

**Trigger warning sexual abuse.**

Six weeks ago I was driving along, minding my own business, when I had a flashback of a rape I experienced when I was 17. A tiny detail surfaced that I had totally forgotten about in the rape that took my virginity. That left blood on a couch. By a married man twice my age. The first of many rapes by him over a six month period that only ended when I moved across the country. But didn't stop him from trying again the first time I saw him on my return. The asshole.

I was nearly to a set of lights when the flashback happened and half a block from a parking lot. I pulled into an empty parking spot and momentarily forgot which pedal my foot was on. I pushed my foot down so hard that I lurched forward when I came to a stop. It was work to remember to put the car in park.

Once I did that, even though I knew Comforting Therapist was on a plane travelling out of country, I texted her. I texted Dearest One next. I asked him to come get me as I was too shaken to drive. I couldn't drive for days afterwards.

While I waited for Dearest One to get there I kicked the inside of my car. I totally understand why people, in a fit of rage, kick the shit out of their vehicle. Had I not been in a public parking lot I would've gotten out of my car and done the same.

I looked around and tried to ground myself by noticing as many things on the spectrum of the rainbow as possible. I reminded myself I was safe. That I'd survived the rape. I used every coping method Comforting Therapist has taught me while I waited to hear back from her. There were tears.

I have worked with my therapist long enough that I could have almost predicted what she would write. Things I needed to hear and be reminded of but my initial reply to her text was "oh fucking yay." That is my initial reaction to many things in life. I followed by saying that my aching for healing remained as strong as ever. That I was committed to doing what I could to facilitate that happening.

What followed was two weeks of slow unraveling to the point where I got sent home from work one day because I wasn't coping too well with the question, "How are you?" When you're the first point of contact for students and the public and you can't stop crying it doesn't bode too well for your ability to carry out your duties.

Later that day I had a moment where I almost lost my shit on a trio of boys who I thought was bullying one of the group. It was a saving Grace that stopped them from hearing me ask, after I rolled down my car window, if everyone was okay. I had a sliver of clarity where I realized I was in a public place and was about to lambaste unfairly, the boys I thought were being bullies, for every time a male had invaded my space in a sexual way from the time I was 8 until I was 19. I told myself to roll up the window and drive home.

It got so that I had to negotiate with Dearest One on a daily basis why I was okay to go to work the following day. I kept listing all the tasks I needed to complete before I could think about taking some time off. I spent a good deal of time beating myself up for letting such a tiny memory derail me.

Eventually I made a deal with Dearest One that after a conversation with Comforting Therapist, I would make a decision about taking time off. She told me that my executive functioning skills were impaired by the flashback. Those are some pretty basic skills one needs in order to do life in any reasonable way. After my appointment with her I made a call to my family doctor.

I've had the same family doctor for 20 years. I have never cried in his office, not even when I got my cancer diagnosis. I cried in his office this week. According to him returning to work is months away. I have these moments when I think to myself, "oh I could go to work and be just fine." Never mind that my daily goal at the moment is to have a shower and get dressed.

I've been assured that there are more flashbacks in my future. We are working on coping tools for when that happens. And even though I feel quite secure in those coping tools.....

You know when you want your kid to look at you while you talk to them and they look everywhere but at you? Even when you place their face between the the palms of your hands and they still manage to keep their eyes away from your eyes? That's how I feel when I think about facing another flashback.

Healing trauma is not for the weak of heart. Or spirit. Or body.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.