July 27, 2009
Licking My Wounds & Art Therapy
Thank you all for your kind comments. There were some things written in the comment section of my last post that I hadn't really realized before. Seeing those sentiments in black and white was very helpful to me. I appreciate you all so much. Our Survivor Solidarity is awesome!
Another thing I'm finding helpful is my art therapy through collage over at Polyvore. Let me share a couple of recent compilations.
This piece is called "Return to Wonder." I wish we--as child abuse survivors--could all go back and NOT know what we shouldn't have known as young children...return to innocence and wonder.
This piece reminds me that maybe--just a little at least--I'm coming out of the dark and into the green, the growing...the light. Also, that maybe I can grow something out of all the dark, black dirt that I have. I wish you all much rest, peace and blessings on your own journeys of recovery, healing, dirt-digging, reaching for the light, and growing beautiful things out of the muck.
July 21, 2009
A Systematic Breaking of The Spirit
I'm going through the "Realization Stage"--Yeah, I get it. This happened to me. And it really felt that bad.--on several counts. One is that it was very systematic, my parents' way of breaking my spirit. And, although I was not abused by members of a cult, my parents did utilize some brain washing, mind control-type techniques.
The memory I retrieved recently was something they forced me to say: "Nobody cares about me." and "Nobody cares what happens to me."
This comes on the heals of a memory that I've been working on--on and off--for literally years. My father, on many occasions, tried to drown me in the bathtub. Sometimes it was a joke of his. Sometimes it was a life-or-death struggle to survive. It didn't think my mother knew about these near-death torture situations. But, she did.
For so long, it's been hard enough to break through my denial and accept the realization that she was aware of all the sexual abuse my father forced on me. I figured she was okay with sexual acts that she did not want to be obligated to perform herself. But, now I have to face the fact that this monster man who was my father could have done anything to me. He could have killed me. He could have done anything his twisted mind could think up and my mother would do nothing to step in and protect me.
This is so final. So infinite. Nobody cares what happens to me. Nobody cares...no matter what.
The worst part is how much I still believe it. This is such a core belief.
It is seared to my soul.
I don't know what it is going to take to undo it. I don't know if it is possible to erase it. My logical mind knows that people now care about me. But, this was ingrained into my very being. My gut, my heart, my soul are taking a lot longer to reprogram the message.
I'm doing my best to comfort parts right now. But many of them are just about inconsolable. The anguish is huge. If I don't get around to some blogs for a while, please forgive me. I am just in the depths of grief right now.
July 13, 2009
Freedom to Heal!
The theme for the July Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse is "Freedom to Heal." I'm excited to announce that Mile 191 at Come Into My Closet will be hosting this Friday, July 17. About this carnival edition, Mile 191 says, "I have come to realize that healing is a choice. We have the freedom to move into a better future and to not give even one more moment of our lives to our abusers. We are free from them and have power over our past as we realize that healing is freedom....possible, available....healing is worth fighting for."
Wow, Mile 191, I couldn't have said it better myself. Now I just know you are going to be a GREAT host! Hurry, folks! The deadline for Friday's carnival is Wednesday, July 15. You can use the Blog Carnival submission form here.
July 09, 2009
Helping Your Inner Child Help You
There are entire books dedicated to "the inner child." One author, Lucia Capacchione, talks about becoming more creative, intuitive and playful by getting in touch with him/her in Recovery of Your Inner Child. This book's got great inner child exercises that are easy to do and I highly recommend it.
Even medical doctors are hopping on the "inner child" band wagon. Charles L. Whitfield, M.D. has written Healing the Child Within for adult children of dysfunctional families. Many of these books are listed at my Survivors Can Thrive! dot com site's Resources section, "Books for Survivors," with direct links to Amazon dot com.
But who is this inner child and why would we--as abuse and assault survivors--want to get to know him or her? I get asked this question a lot. I've also been asked to write about this topic for a guest post that will appear soon over at Michele's blog about healing PTSD.
Actually, this is one of my favorite "healing and therapy" topics. I love talking about my inner child!
But, this topic wasn't always so rosy for me. One of my earlier therapists back in Illinois asked me to pull out a photograph of myself as a baby. As soon as I got on my reading glasses and really looked into my tiny little face in this photo, I began to sob. Immediately, I realized that my vulnerable, precious, innocent child self was holding immense pain.
In those early days of therapy, I did not want to look at my inner child. Her pain just scared me too much. I thought that I would get lost in it; it would swallow me whole.
I can definitely relate to the idea of the inner child as the "exile" in the book, The Mosaic Mind,
as well as in the Internal Family Systems model of therapy developed by Richard Schwartz PhD. For me, my wounded inner child was long ago exiled to a land far away so that I could get things done, get good grades, be successful, appear reliable and dependable...and not look like I was "crazy" or a "loser."
I have "firefighter" parts (another IFS term) who have gone to great, dysfunctional lengths to keep these fearful, sad, lonely, abandoned exile parts quiet. I've run away in dissociative fugues, I've drank myself into a stupor, I've had sex with questionable partners, I've binged on chocolate and I've spent too much money.
But, the exiled, dissociated, cut-off inner child won't stay quiet forever. She's got a message to deliver, a debt that needs to be paid.
At first, I had no idea what it was she was trying to tell me. I was so cut off from my feelings (and my own body) that I could not listen to them, nor honor them. When I went down to the Colin Ross trauma unit in Dallas a few years ago, I was shocked and dismayed to be given a handout of "feeling words" that contained columns of emotion descriptions that I didn't even know were feelings! Now, I'm a writer and I consider myself to have a pretty strong vocabulary, but I just stared at these words at first; they meant nothing to me on any personal level.
But, the folks at the Ross program have their ways. They gave us patients hand-outs with exercises to complete as homework. And, boy, did these get the feelings going! In fact, I had to work with my assigned therapist there to come up with ways that I could pace myself, instead of being completely flooded with the new-found feelings.
If there's anything I've found that helps get in touch with that sometimes-illusive inner child it is FEEL THE FEELINGS! I recommend that you work with a qualified, experienced therapist in order to succeed at this without re-traumatizing yourself.
But, what I really want to talk about here is how to comfort your inner child. If you're like me and you never had any healthy bonding or attachment with your biological mother, there may be some real re-parenting that needs to happen to help your healing.
Some comforting strategies that I've found helpful are easy to do, quite generic and would probably work for most people. I've got an antique rocking chair that I drug out from the basement and positioned prominently in a cozy little reading nook I have in my home. I have an amazingly soft throw blanket that's stationed on the back of the rocker for soothing and warmth. Simply wrapping myself in the soft throw and rocking away works wonders some days. In the summertime, I find the same joy and sweet soothing on my porch swing.
Most folks I've consulted talk about "stuffies," stuffed animals that they find helpful. Now, I find that I'm a little shy about walking around dragging a beloved, raggedy stuffy with me. And most of the stuffed animals I've bought for myself as an adult have ended up being "adopted" by my own son. But, what I have done is reclaimed some of these cushy animals and I've recently given them an honored spot in a beautiful, old baby buggy I found at an antique doll shop. For everyday snuggling and comfort, I keep a small, spotted cat in my bedside drawer. After my husband awakes and exits the bed (he's an early riser), I'll get out my kitty and snuggle with it on days that I feel my inner children need some comfort. This is especially helpful if I've had a night that consisted of any flashbacks, night fears or nightmares.
If you spend some time thinking about how attached many kids get to their beloved stuffed animals, it can give you some hints for other ways of comforting your inner child. Just think of anything that you always wanted as a child. What were some of the things you asked Santa to bring you for Christmas? Remember how the adults in the movie, The Santa Clause, always wanted a "Dream Date" game and an Oscar Mayer wiener whistle?
Now, you don't have to wait for Santa. Go out and get yourself something kid-like that you always dreamed of when you were little. For me, it was a dollhouse. This was something I always wanted and never got when I was little. So, guess what I did? I went to the craft store and purchased an easy-assembly doll house kit and put it together and painted it. Over the past two years, I've been having a ball buying little miniature furniture pieces, potted plants, kitchen items and tiny porcelain dolls for my inner child's doll house. It's a splurge, but it's fun and my inner child is worth it and she deserves it!
Little inner child comforts, treats and pamperings don't have to cost a fortune. They can be easy to come by, but full of rewards. How 'bout getting some colorful sprinkles on that sundae the next time you treat yourself at the ice cream parlor? Why not read yourself a bedtime story while you sit in that rocking chair? Remember the lullaby songs you sang to your child when he or she was an infant? Singing them to your own inner child can be amazingly soothing when your feelings get hurt or you feel wounded or scared in some other way.
Why not buy your inner child some coloring books and some crayons? If you feel embarrassed in the check-out lane, you can always say you're buying these child-like items for a baby shower, child or grandchild. Heck, most people won't even ask, so there's no need to tell. Some friends and neighbors have given me a few curious looks about my doll house, but I just explain that it's a hobby, a creative outlet and--with some trusted others--a gift to my inner child. I've always gotten a smile and a knowing nod or look at the latter explanation.
Comfort food is a whole other category. Why do you think they call it comfort food any way? Maybe because it comforts your inner child! While I love a home-cooked meal of fried chicken and mashed potatoes, I have to be careful with comfort food, because I can have a tendency to binge and to gain too much weight. But, I've found that the simplest little things can qualify as comforting in the food category. Remember those sprinkles I spoke of earlier? I bought myself a little jar of them off the shelf in the baking goods aisle of the grocery store and I give myself a shake of them on a little dip of ice cream now and then. I also like whipped cream for a little treat that tells my inner child, "you're special, you're adorable and I love you." Try a little on your coffee in the morning for a quick, inner child pick-me-up. For a totally low fat comforter, hot herbal tea does wonders.
Some fragrances are "tasty" and comforting, but aren't taken internally at all. No calories there! I especially like honey vanilla lip balm (you can find these at health food stores) and hand lotion with the fragrance of cherry blossoms.
Every person I've ever met with DID (previously MPD) talks about their "littles," or little child parts or alters. I especially like Buffalopine's idea of carrying a small toy in her pocket to soothe her littles. In this blog post, she talks about carrying a Stuart Little key chain with her for an entire year. What inner child wouldn't like a little mouse friend to keep him company?
Speaking of Stuart Little, I've talked to lots of folks who, like myself, really enjoy the inner child treat of watching children's movies. If you're too shy to walk into a children's, G-rated movie without a kid in tow, you can always rent one to watch in the privacy of your own home.
I'm smiling right now just thinking of all these comforting, fun, playful ideas for my inner child recovery program. I can't wait to get off the computer and put some of these ideas into action for my own inner child right away. What would you like to do today to comfort and please your inner child? Don't wait! Get up and do some little thing for your little self right now. And leave me a comment with your favorite inner child comforts, play-date ideas and treats and we'll compile and even bigger list!