July 23, 2010
Free To Blog
July 21, 2010
Freedom Is A Natural High
When I am looking at a glorious sunset, taking a wildflower hike or watching birds, I feel like everything can be right with the world. At these precious moments, I believe that I totally belong. I am not a freak or an alien, but part of the intricate web of life.
Maybe the nature fix is so good for me because I've grieved over the fact that the "parenting" I received as a child was anything but natural. It is not natural for a mother to have no protective instinct for her offspring. It is not natural when predators reduce their victims to something less than human; stripping them of their inborn right to humanity, respect and dignity.
This leads me to another thing that Dr. Young said when she called for submissions for this carnival: "My first thought was how fitting, given that today we celebrate Independence Day in the U.S. I then started thinking about the meaning of independence for survivors and our culture as a whole. For me, this naturally leads to thoughts about dependence, unmet dependency needs and interdependence." I believe that all God's creatures are interdependent because we are all connected. What we choose to do in our lives has global and universal consequences. Because we are all connected, we cannot pretend that our actions do not effect the lives of beloved, divine others.
I also firmly believe that people who are damaged and afraid--not willing to look at the wounds they need to heal--allow evil to enter in because they do not feel connected. They don't feel connected to God, to nature, to other human beings.
Maybe, for me, it was something as simple as my constant habit of tree climbing during my childhood summers that kept me open to my connection with nature. Whatever it was, I have always found nature healing and comforting. I'm so glad that my love of nature helped me to stay connected to the divine and, eventually, succeed at breaking the multi-generational cycle of abuse from my "family" of origin.
I now have a new family that I've created with my husband and son. And, I will always have my universal family; a belonging with all God's creation.
I am connected.
And I am free.
July 19, 2010
But, today was a therapy day and I'm wiped. So, for now I'll just tell you that we have the July Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse coming up at Dr. Kathleen Young's blog. She's chosen an Independence theme for July's carnival.
About this edition she said, "My first thought was how fitting, given that today we celebrate Independence Day in the U.S. I then started thinking about the meaning of independence for survivors and our culture as a whole. For me, this naturally leads to thoughts about dependence, unmet dependency needs and interdependence. I plan to write more about all of that for my Carnival post later this month!
Please submit anything related to independence, dependence or interdependence and child abuse. As always, you do not have to limit yourself to this month’s theme. All submissions are welcome."
Don't forget our regular submission categories of Advocacy & Awareness, Aftermath, Art Therapy, Healing & Therapy, In The News, Poetry, and Survivor Stories. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, July 21 and the edition will post on Friday (7/23).
I'm going to tie in my nature/camping post with my independence post and I'll see y'all then.
July 06, 2010
Going Through The Memories
I feel very honored, actually. This new reader is coming to my dot com site, Survivors Can Thrive! and my blog at the referral of her therapist. I had no idea anything like that was happening. I'm am touched. And like I said, I feel honored.
This reader wanted to know if I had any advice about how to help her share an abuse memory during a counseling session, but, "not go through and experience it again in my mind." I told this reader that I always hesitate to give advice and that I am aware that each person's healing experience is different.
However, this is a huge survivor healing issue. At times, I am really struck by how much it sucks that someone else did this to us--abused us and caused trauma--but we are the ones who must be responsible for our healing and do the work to recover. But, this is the ironic reality.
Another ironic reality, that I have struggled to come to terms with in my own healing, is the fact that I have not been successful at finding any way to go around the painful feelings associated with the abuse. It sounds cliche, but for me, I have found that I really have to go through it to get to the other side. For me, this "other side" is life more in the moment, feeling safe, having functional (as opposed to dysfunctional) relationships, and no longer feeling completely disabled about the prospect of living my day-to-day life.
Now, before I launch into my battle cry of "feel the feelings; it's the key to healing," and you tune my pie-in-the-sky message out, let me tell you a little bit about how I came to this point and this conclusion.
First of all, you need to know that I have had many false starts in therapy and have really floundered many, many times. One of the reasons I blog and keep my dot com site going is in the hopes that some survivors reading about my story can avoid at least some of the long, drawn out, painful detours of recovery that I've experienced. For starters, I have been working on recovery from extreme child abuse, incest, torture, PTSD and a dissociative disorder for about 15 years. I think you could call me a therapy "veteran."
Now, I didn't even find out I had PTSD until about 10 years ago. Then, it took me a while to realize that a diagnosis of a dissociative disorder was appropriate for my situation. That came about eight years ago. I finally got a really excellent therapist who has a lot of expertise (over 20 years worth) in dissociation in January of 2007. You can read about how I started really (finally) working on my dissociative disorder in this post from 1/07 here.
Back before I found my current therapist--and after my family moved to Colorado--I was given the diagnosis of PTSD. At this time, I attempted EMDR. As many of us know by now, EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. You can link to some EMDR sites on my dot com site's "Treatment & Research" page here.
My first experience with EMDR started out amazingly hopeful but almost ended in disaster. The practitioner that I went to the first time around promised me that the feelings I would experience surrounding a particular trauma memory that we would process in this way would be significantly reduced, or neutralized so to speak, at the end of a session. I want to say that there were times when I experienced this to actually be the case. Unfortunately, my first EMDR therapist neglected to get me appropriately grounded before we started doing EMDR and I became extremely re-traumatized.
I always tell folks, who ask me what I think about EMDR, how important I feel that the grounding piece is. Now, I'm not a doctor, and I would have a hard time advising anyone on exactly what they would need to do, individually, to get grounded before this type of therapy. But, I do advise that you look into the prospect of finding a T who is an expert in traumatic stress if you want to go this route. That person should know exactly what to do to help you get grounded before EMDR...and will know what this means. My second therapist here in Colorado is an expert in traumatic stress and he taught me many grounding exercises. Some of them I still do, almost on a daily basis. If you want to find one of these experts yourself, there are links to lists of therapists who are board certified experts in traumatic stress on the same Treatment page of my dot com site that I mentioned earlier.
But you know what? Reducing the feeling stress associated with my childhood trauma hasn't worked out to be the key to my healing at all. I didn't hear this battle cry of "Feel the Feelings" until I went down to the Colin Ross program down in Dallas in September of 2006. There is a link to the Colin A. Ross Institute For Psychological Trauma on my dot com Treatment page as well.
Down in Dallas, they were really big on "Feel The Feelings!" I didn't really know why at the time, but after I allowed myself to feel the buried feelings associated with my response to my childhood abuse, I would feel amazingly better. First, I would be amazed that the feelings didn't somehow kill me...then I'd feel devastated...then, slowly, I'd feel better...somehow more healed. One of the "Feel-The-Feelings" exercises I did with materials from the Ross program is talked about in this post here from December of 2006. It really gets into the feelings of grief and loss.
What I later learned is that my dissociated parts were keeping many of the feelings from me in order to protect me. A child just can't come face to face with those kinds of life-shattering feelings during the childhood abuse and still expect to be a kid, go to school, and grow up to be an adult. It was my dissociated parts who really needed to realize (and still continue this process today) that I am now not going to die when I get in touch with these feelings. Also, they need to know that they can now let go of their burden. I am the adult and I can carry it on my own now, with the help of my therapist.
One of the things my current therapist always comes back to, in regards to her training, is something called the BASK model. Unfortunately, I can never find much written about it. If I had a book on it, I would add it to my survivor-to-thriver library. I do know that it was developed by Bennett Braun as a model of dissociation. The letters in the BASK acronym stand for Behavior, Affect, Sensation and Knowledge. You can read a little bit about it using this link here.
Here's what I understand about BASK: First of all, my dissociation kept all Knowledge--the "K" in BASK-- of the sexual abuse and torture from my conscious awareness. But, I started to get clues to how my childhood abuse led to my disorder by my Behavior--the "B" in BASK. One of the classic behaviors I exhibited was gravitating toward other abusers. I had "Victim" stamped on my forehead for years. One of the "Sensation" mysteries that always astounded me was my extremely high tolerance for pain. But later, when I was diagnosed with PTSD and started therapy about my child abuse, I started having body memories of physical pain.
What was missing for such a long time was the "Affect" piece. These are my feelings and how I express them. If you--like me at one time--are walking around like a robot with a smile plastered on your face that doesn't seem sincere, I'm going to guess you are also not yet dealing with the feelings, and have little affect showing at this time.
My therapist firmly believes that I need to join all four of these BASK pieces--Behavior, Sensation, Knowledge and Affect--as they relate to my trauma memories, in order to stop relying on dissociation in order to cope...and to recover and heal. I have to say that I've come to the point where I agree with her.
It's an on-going process. I am continuing the journey. But, I am amazed and truly pleased that I am now finding myself much further down along the path than I ever thought I would be!
July 01, 2010
Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig!
We drank good wine, ate delicious food, listened to live music and had nice conversation. I even managed to keep up some pretty good eating habits and did my morning walk four times while I was away. I might have gained a couple of pounds, but probably no more than two back from the nine I lost. Yeah!
But, I Had Something To Say by MarjakaThriver(on break) on Polyvore.com
I only had one dissociative "episode" while I was on this vacation. My son said something inappropriate and disrespectful and I got triggered. I managed to deal with him during this "learning moment" in an appropriate parental manner.
But, I heard a voice in my head responding with, "Just shut up. No one wants to hear anything you have to say." Yuck! I'm sure I heard that one--almost word-for-word--many times while growing up in my abusive household. Then, I noticed something else. I responded with my behavior as well. I did exactly that--I shut up. There's like this part inside me--a monitor--that notices when an idea starts to form in my head at these times. This monitor quickly spots the idea and squashes it down before it has a chance to become words that form on my lips. The idea is shut down before it can come out of my mouth.
I had a therapy session today and we talked about this quite a bit. It's a huge self-esteem issue. I'm sure it is closely related to my inability to finish my book and my habit of shutting down and not getting any writing done on my blog at times.
Ah, the work continues. I'm going to be coming around to your blogs in the next few days, now that I'm back in town and online, and see what YOU have to say. Because, I do care and I am interested in your thoughts, feelings and ideas. See you soon!