This is going to make you stronger!

Trying to believe this today. “When the waves are taking you under, try to hold on just a little bit longer, He knows that this is going to make you stronger”

Desperate For Change

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Perhaps your typical pattern is that, when you start to think about what happened, you wallow in despair for two hours and cap that off with wolfing down a whole bag of potato chips and drinking a two-liter cola. A small step… might be that in half an hour… maybe you decide to say “hello” to someone instead of avoiding them; or you snap out of your self-preoccupation, and give your child a hug and ask how her day went. These little things are huge, radical steps…

I am desperate for change. I read this from a ‘Recovering From Child Abuse’ pamphlet written by the CCEF in Philadelphia. This small steps concept is what I’m desperately trying to do. This morning, instead of going back to bed after my daughter went down for her morning nap, I got up and made my husband breakfast and took a shower. Instead of going back to bed after my shower, I read this pamphlet that has remained unread on my dresser for at least a year. I read my Bible. I’m not saying I sought God, because that’s not my style. My style is to run from Him as fast as my legs will carry me. But I found comfort in Isaiah 43. I found answers. I found, “You are Mine.” If I can learn to trust God, I have found a new identity in Him. I am His daughter. I am His. Other portions of this passage say, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine,” “I have loved you,” and….

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” I believe God’s promises for myself, yet I also believe I am being overflowed by the rivers and I feel the fire is scorching my skin and soul. This passage does not say God will rescue me from trial, but He will be with me in it and He will not leave me. If I can bring myself to trust God, it sounds like I have found a potential best friend. I know He is my Savior. I desire a best friend.

I Challenge Thee….

To a Pi memorization contest!!!! I challenge you to report back at the end of the day, the following:

-Number of digits memorized

-Mood at the beginning of the day (including 1-10 scale)

-Mood at the end of the day (including 1-10 scale)

Official hypothesis: If a person is spiraling and chooses to memorize Pi, then the person’s mood will improve by at least 2 points.

Why? You’re engaging a different part of your brain that is not connected with emotion.

Ready, and…. GO!

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Photo courtesy of my son’s bedroom 🙂

Eight Hundred And Fifty Nine

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Adina at 7 weeks

859 days ago, on October 5, 2011, I said goodbye to my precious second-born son, Adina. In Hebrew, Adina is a male name meaning “delicate,” and what better way to describe a 10 week baby? I know in my heart of hearts he was a boy. I’ve known all of my children’s sexes. I do not have many eloquent words today, but I desperately miss him today. I keep a journal for each of my children. I’ll share a few of the entries I’ve written for him. Here is his first entry:

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Today, Daddy and I found out I was growing you inside my tummy! We are so very excited! Let me introduce you to your family. You have the best daddy you could ever want. He is strong, funny, loving, and he will adore you more than you can imagine. You also have a big brother. I found out 2 years ago yesterday that I was growing him in my tummy! That means he is going to be about 2 years older than you. He is silly, smart, and he loves giving hugs and kisses. Then, there is Mommy. I already love you so much I could cry. Daddy and I decided we are going to wait to find out until you are born, whether you are baby girl or a baby boy 🙂

And here is the entry when we first got home after we found that we had lost him. This was a few hours before I held him in my hand.

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We found out today that we lost you 😦 Daddy and I are so sad, and we miss you so much already. You looked so healthy on the first ultrasound. Seeing the ultrasound today broke my heart into a million pieces, when I saw that you weren’t going to be in our lives anymore. I love you, sweet baby.

Here is the entry from his due date.

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Tomorrow would have been your due date. I cannot stop thinking about the day I said goodbye to you. I held your tiny body in my hand. You were the perfect size, maybe about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Your arms and legs were only about a quarter of an inch long, but I could still see your beautiful fingers and toes. I hated so much saying goodbye to you, and I think about you every single day.

One of my first art journal drawings. I consciously chose not to take a photo of his tiny body because I knew I would never forget it. Almost a year later, I drew him to the best of my ability. Then I traced my hand, and then my husband let me trace his hand. Beautiful. My favorite art journal entry in the whole world.

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And here is today’s entry.

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My precious Adina. I miss you so much today. My heart has been aching for you as I watch your baby sister grow. I am missing out on holding you and nursing you. The other night, your sister was wide awake at 2am trying to play. I was doing my best to not respond to her as I fed her, and then I tried to burp her. She sat straight up and grabbed my face with both of her hands, and waited… and waited… If I made eye contact with her, I knew she would start cracking up. Instead, I closed my eyes and enjoyed her little hands on my cheeks. And I missed you. I miss you so much, my beautiful baby.

The Incapable Parent

I would exchange my right arm for my son. My left leg! My heart! My brain! My lungs. My life. In reality, I happily exchange my sanity and grown-up conversation for a little boy who will be four in a few weeks.

I have complex trauma that started from the very beginning, but I was about four when my life came crashing down. As a result, I have some major triggers. Four year olds. Injury. Pain. Fear. Crying. Tantrums. Children bed-sharing in any capacity.

It is a simple task that comes with being a parent. Nightmare, inability to breathe, bloody nose… Whatever the reasons, sometimes four year olds just need to sleep with Mommy and Daddy. Most moms (dads too but this is a mommy’s blog) pull their kids into bed and fall asleep with their mommy arms safely wrapped around the child’s body… The child they grew for nine months and then spent the next year(s) catering to them at any (or all) hours of the night.

So why am I incapable of bed-sharing with my sweet boy? That is a loaded question, yet it is the most simple of needs that I cannot provide for him. It leaves me curled up in a ball in tears.

Someone once told me that I cannot let “this” overtake my life, I have to overcome “it.” I have PTSD, and will probably have it to a varying degree for the rest of my life. It is not my choice to be so triggered. I am doing my very best to not let it affect my parenting. But, it has and it does. I have very little control over this monster in my brain. I do not know how to calm my inner child who is screaming for my son’s safety in the big bed… Even though there are four safe arms wrapped around him.

This inner child is raging to be heard. Until I listen, she will continue to strive to destroy. Even a sweet little boy’s heart who just needs Mommy’s arms wrapped around him.

The Little Girl And The Therapist

the basement

Down, down I descend into the darkness

The sound pierces my ears

Finally, I find her in the corner of a cold room

Knees to her chest, hands over her ears

She is screaming

“Hold her,” I vaguely hear someone say

I can barely shake my head

I hear the voice again. “It’s your choice.”

I am frozen as I watch her in the corner

My desire is to join her; I want to scream louder

She does not deserve this but I do it anyway

I force myself to sit on the cement floor

Cinder blocks behind me

Why is she down here?  I wonder

With no hesitation, she immediately curls into my lap

I try not to notice what she is wearing

Instead, I wrap her in a blanket and hold her tight

I kiss her forehead and she falls asleep.

And then I am crying

Restrained tears, but I am not holding her

I am in my therapist’s office

The floors are not cement; they are polished wood

There is furniture, white and black

Credentials hanging on the wall

I dare not look up but if I did, I’d see a caring face

I stare at the sand tray table instead

When the tears are over, the body memories calm

I uncurl my legs and place them on the wooden floor

My arms relax and I force myself to breathe

The girl is asleep

She will not hurt me tonight.

 

Image from http://www.askmehelpdesk.com/construction/bad-cinder-block-walls-basement-314960.html

Ashes On My Heart

Ash Wednesday Symbol

I have previously fought our attendance at a reformed church, and a church that uses the church calendar. However, today is the start of Lent. Today is Ash Wednesday. Tonight, we will go to church where we will listen to a sermon on our sins and the darkness that led Christ to the cross. Tonight, the four of us will have crosses of ash placed on our foreheads in reminder that we are all in need of Christ’s grace. This is entrance into a grieving and humbling period in which we prepare to observe Christ’s death on the cross, and three days later celebrate His resurrection.

Over the next 40 days, I have resolved to seek Christ with all my heart. I am tired of this in-between faith I have been taking part of over the last year and a half. I am not the type to forgo material things for lent, because as I said, I have fought the church calendar. However, for the next 40 days I have resolved to give up fighting God with every ounce of my being. I will seek Him for healing of my trauma. I will grieve for my sins and the sins that have been committed against me, and I will pray to forgive. I have resolved to humble myself and listen to what He has to say to me. For the next 40 days, I will make sure my family is ready to leave for church on time, I will not complain about the church I attend or its distance from my home. I will listen to the pastor’s words to the best of my ability (with 4 year old and 6 month old in tow) and I will sing with all my heart. I will not fight my husband or speak poorly of him for any reason. I will not yell at my son and I will take the time to meet his emotional needs. I will seek God and fill the role He has for me with my whole heart. I can do anything for 40 days. For 40 days, I resolve to give myself to God. This may start as an endeavor in the flesh, but I pray God would enable me to follow Him once again through His grace.

Someone said to me that Matthew 27:27-31 is a picture of where Christ meets us in our physical suffering; of our past trauma. So I leave you with the verses:

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe around Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.

Mentor Lost And The Discombobulated Attachment Style

I think I recall learning in undergrad that only about 25% of people in the US have a secure attachment. That leaves the rest of us with anxious-avoidant, anxious-ambivalent, or disorganized attachments. The anxious-avoidant attachment style is characterized by unhealthy disinterest in attachment altogether. Those with an anxious-ambivalent attachment style over-attach themselves to people. The disorganized attachment style is considered the most destructive of attachment styles, and is marked by an unpredictable mix of all three of the previously mentioned attachment styles.

Though it was 2007, I recall learning these attachment styles with great clarity, down to which seat I sat in (second row from the right, second seat back- I am really a front row learner but embarrassment during undergrad led me to the second seat instead). At first, I thought the anxious-ambivalent fit me, and then was struck by how well the anxious-avoidant fit. Finally, my breath stopped at the disorganized attachment style; that was me!

Having a disorganized attachment has led to some doozies in relationships, namely with older mentors. I seem to have a need that I believe an older mentor would fill, and they do for a while. Inevitably however, they tire of my constant combination of neediness and withdrawal- often at the exact same time.

This has happened more than once, but my most recent mentor strikes the heaviest chord. Why? She tried the hardest. She held on for 35 weeks and 3 days; 2 days shy of 8 months. For 8 months, she reached out daily with phone calls and emails, I suppose hoping that her persistence would allow my anxiety to settle a little.

As much as I desired a healthy mentoring relationship, I could not allow someone to see my vulnerability. This goal to sabotage the very stability I desired was met with newfound vigor when she caught me in a public bathroom crying about a friend who had been killed by a drunk driver- she held me while I cried. I knew from that point forward that I could and could not trust her, both at the same time.

To say the least, our relationship became discombobulated and ended very badly, just over 7 months ago (7 months and 3 days to be exact), unfortunately with no resolution, closure, or discussion. We ran into each other a couple months ago, and with a passing touch to my forearm I knew she still cared. I hope and pray that one day a healthy friendship will be restored between us. That she’ll forgive if she hasn’t already- holding onto hurt is not her style. That my cycle of destroying the very human relationships I most desire will end.

I love and detest my disorganized attachment style. It keeps me safe, yet it ensures relationship is not how I will come to heal (and still it is how I most desire to heal). It is both my best and worst quality that has come about as a result of my trauma.

I believe only the Lord can handle this and not walk away. But I both love and detest the thought of trusting the One who watched and allowed my trauma. I am told to trust Him; I pray to trust Him. Only He can change my heart, and yet He has not. I keep searching for Him. Perhaps it’s the search He desires from me. Perhaps it’s the search He will use to heal me. I pray relief comes quickly before I destroy any other relationships in my wake.

Alternatives to Self-Harm

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Common coping skills offered for self-harm often include a less intrusive form of self-harm, including snapping a rubber band on your wrist; squeezing an ice cube; digging fingernails into your skin; scratching; or taking a freezing cold shower. All of these provide a minor level of pain and the brain still releases the ever-satisfying (and potentially addicting) endorphins. I have also heard of people drawing hash marks in place of using a blade, sometimes using red ink. I have encouraged these as alternatives when people believe they truly need to feel pain. However, I believe all perpetuate the self-harm cycle… just to a lesser degree than a blade (squeezing an ice cube has also been shown to cause nerve damage). It’s one step down, but it’s not where you necessarily want to be.

Some healthy coping skills I might encourage are: drawing a picture of something sweet (like a butterfly) where you would self-harm; write an encouraging quote (a Bible verse?) where you would self-harm; drinking juice or eating a healthy meal (if you have not eaten recently, your hypoglycemia may be perpetuating your cycle); or healthy exercise.

However, I have found art therapy to be the most effective coping skill in managing self-harm. It’s cathartic, it tires your arm if you scribble hard enough, and if you use bright colors it will improve your mood (whereas the dark colors- especially red- may perpetuate the cycle). This drawing is beautiful because it was used as an alternative. And it worked. I encourage you to try it too.