A year of healing

I thought today would be a fairly significant day for me. A year ago today, I lost friendship and fellowship with someone I continue to deeply admire. Someone who saw my brokenness and tried desperately to come alongside and mentor me, at my initial request.

But I have changed. Changed immensely and entirely. Today was rather insignificant. I changed diapers, laughed with my son, cheered my husband on with his marathon training (for I have dropped to the half-marathon, but that’s a post for another day), and easily kept my mind on things present. If I had not changed this year… If I were the same broken woman I was the day my dear friend stepped away from me, I would be an emotional heap on the floor, unable to contain my fear of abandonment, my self-harm, and my anxiety attacks. But I am put together and smiling after a long day of serving my family.

In honor of my Christian sister (for that is still what she is, if no longer a friend), I will share what I learned from her.

-All life is a gift of God and is to be celebrated.

-There is healing after trauma.

…In Christ.

-If you make excuses or believe you cannot heal, you won’t. If you stand upright and just do it, you will heal.

-If you put your deep shame and fears into any relationship, it will crumble.

…Only God can withstand the intensity of the emotions that deep trauma provokes.

-Husbands are worthy and in need of attention, love, servanthood, and respect.

-Friendship ought to be lovingly cultivated and kept, thinking of the other before yourself.

It seems that a person I speak so highly of ought to have taught me more than six lessons, but these are profound life truths. These are things she tried to teach me while we were in fellowship, but they are things I did not learn until I was left to myself. To learn that I could heal. To learn that I am strong enough to stand.

I wish this hadn’t been the case, but it was her stepping away that tore open the remainder of my deep, dark wound that had festered since childhood. Only once I was torn open and oxygen hit the wound could I begin to find my way towards healing and wholeness.

Am I healed? No. Do I still have PTSD? Yes.

Am I healing? Yes. Am I walking forward, no matter how bruised and bloody my soul feels at times? Yes. Do I have the desire to self-harm? Sometimes. Do I? NO. It’s been so many months, I’ve lost count. Do I have the desire to sabotage relationships? Yes. Do I? NO (well, I do still try to push my husband away, but at this point we both start laughing through my angry outbursts because we recognize the ridiculous pattern).

Thank you to my dear Christian sister for stepping away, for through it, you have mentored me one thousand times over what you could have done if you were still alongside me. I still pray sometimes that our fellowship would be restored, but I know I still have a long way to go before He will answer; it’s not yet time.

I know many who read have lost relationships for which they care deeply. I hope that one day you will see how God has used both the presence of, and absence of, the relationship to mold you into who He wants you to be.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. -Romans 12:2

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Half-Marathon: Complete.

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I am officially halfway through my marathon training. I did a half marathon last week, and this week I was able to take my long run down a notch and do 10 miles. I never thought I’d be a long distance runner, but it has been so beneficial. It improves my mood, gives my husband and me something to talk about, and makes me feel more confident about my body. It is strange to exercise so much that you have to eat mid-workout, though! I’ve logged 145 miles on my feet since I started training, and I’ve logged 29.1 hours of running!! I wore out my old shoes and got to buy my first nice pair of running shoes! My husband asked me what my goal time was for the marathon and my response was, “I just want to finish before they pack up and go home.” That’s the six-hour mark. My average pace for long runs is a 12 minute mile (which is really slow, but it’s a pace I’m comfortable with right now), so if I can keep it up, that gives me a finishing time of a little less than 5.5 hours… that means I cannot spare any walking time during the marathon!

It appears that I have turned a corner in my healing. I still freeze and curl into a ball, but it does not last hours. I still have uncontrollable screaming and crying fits, but it does not last as long and is less intense. I still have nightmares and flashbacks, but I am managing them more effectively. I am smiling. My husband’s and my fighting has leveled out. My son’s anxiety has begun to level out, and he’s becoming more talkative (as he sees I’m stable, he has come out his anxiety shell a little bit).

I still have days where I’m so frustrated when I leave for a run, that I stop midway and collapse in tears. But that is healthy. I am allowing myself to feel. I am allowing myself to cry, to express emotion. I know that when I am done crying, I will pick myself up and finish my run.

I have hope.

Week 9 Complete

 

 

Spiritual Warfare

This is every bit a spiritual battle as it is physical and emotional. Sometimes I can feel the darkness trying to pull me in, and today I needed this verse as encouragement to continue to fight the good fight. How will I resist the devil today? A 6 mile run with prayer (and potentially tears this morning), and then a family day with my husband and children.

Some days are harder than others. Today is one of those days. I refuse to let my body freeze in the corner. I will fight today.

Therapist Clearances And Happy Memories

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I am in the middle of filling out one of my three required clearances for work, and it happens to be the most grueling of them all. It’s the child abuse history clearance, and I have to fill out every address I’ve lived at in my entire life, including who I lived with and their present age. WHAT?! I have previously counted 16 homes before the age of 18, and then a move every year for the duration of my schooling. Total, I have lived in 27 different homes (not including co-parenting or summers)…. and I am only 28!! Thankfully, I’m keeping this document saved (it only took me like 4 renewals to do this!) so I can pull it up next time this clearance is due.

What a wave of memories!!!! Like taking my pregnancy tests for all three babies. When I was a live-in nanny to a beautiful family for the summer before grad school. Or when my roommate and I went to see a scary movie and were afraid so we watched Free Willy afterward and laughed about the bad acting. And when I spent a semester in London and went to the store one day; I bought tampons and was delighted to see an American chocolate bar (Hershey’s) so I bought the large, 1 LB bar…. the clerk said, “Wow, it must be a rough week for you!” I remember watching my body go through puberty. I remember drawing the skeleton in middle school and memorizing the names of the bones for a contest (I can still recite them for you too!), and deciding I wanted to be a doctor. Realizing I shouldn’t be a doctor several years later when I spent time in a cadaver lab and was nauseated for weeks afterward… and then nearly failing every pre-med class anyway. My roommate drilling me on simple biology like mitosis and meiosis so I would pass. Studying psychology and human development, and realizing my passion for mental health. And then I remember walking with my husband into our first apartment for the first time; and in the same place when we first brought my son home from the hospital. Making up dances with my friends during my elementary years. Learning to use tampons in high school because I had a cheerleading competition the next day and didn’t want anyone to see my pad (what a learning curve that I’m sure most women can later laugh about!). My mom tucking me into bed each night into my high school years. Or when I was about 12, I got bored and drew on my leg with nail polish… it took the pigment out of my skin and I had a smiley face on my leg for months!!! My very first kiss. And my first kiss with my (would-be) husband!!!!! 🙂

I think that when we have PTSD, we tend to focus on the bad memories (and why wouldn’t we, they are forced into the forefront of our minds with the slightest of triggers!) and forget or ignore that we probably have many happy memories in there somewhere.

Here’s a reminder to remember the good times too. What are some of your best memories??

Photo credit: http://www.stonerdays.com/memories-of-a-first-toke/

Unanswered Questions

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Dear Mom,

As I cradled my baby in my arms at 5am, these questions ran through my mind…

What’s my birth story? What was it like to push me through your body? What was it like the first time you heard me cry, saw my face, touched my fingers?

What was it like to be my mommy? On the nights I didn’t sleep, did you take joy in snuggling me into your chest? Did you look into my eyes? Did you kiss my toes, fingers, and belly? Did you take joy in making me grin? Did you memorize how my skin felt on your fingers and along your face as I reached out to touch you? How did you respond when I tried to chew on your fingers, nose, arm, or chin? When I followed you around begging to be picked up, did you take me into your arms with a kiss and a smile? Did you touch my face and hair while you fed me my bottles?

What was it like to raise me? Did you enjoy the evenings when I snuggled into you? Did you love the silly conversations I found myself having with you? What was it like to teach me to read? Did you enjoy watching me dance? Cheer? Compete? Tumble? Stunt? Did you enjoy watching me make friends and play with them?

What was it like to say goodbye to me? How did you feel when you dropped me off at grad school on the opposite end of the country? What was it like the first time I flew my future husband across the country to meet you? How did you feel when you shook his hand for the first time? What was it like to see me in my wedding gown? What did you feel when you watched me walk down the aisle?

What is it like for you now? How do you feel when I tell you I am pregnant? What was it like the first time you saw me holding my firstborn? What was it like for you the first time you held my firstborn? What are your thoughts on my parenting? How do you feel about my son? About my daughter? About the child we said goodbye to, too early? How did you feel when I shared my miscarriage? What do you think about my career? How do you feel about my mental health? What goes through your mind when I tell you about therapy? What do you think about my husband? How do you feel when you step into my home and see the family I’ve created? How do you feel when I tell you stories about my children?

I was just wondering.

Love,

Your daughter.

My 8 Month Old’s Choking Scare

This afternoon, I was finally able to sit down and have a moment to relax. I sat at the table while my 4 year old son played with his toys next to me and my 8 month old daughter crawled on the floor.

I heard my daughter cough a few times and I looked down to see her playing with the computer chord. When I stood up to pull it away, she stopped breathing and her face turned red. I immediately scooped her up and swiped her mouth, but didn’t feel anything. I pried her mouth open and still there was nothing. I tipped her and began pounding her back like I’ve practiced on so many CPR dolls before, and she started coughing again (thank God). I lifted her up to swipe her mouth again and there was nothing in there. She was still coughing so I tried to nurse her, hoping I could wash down the obstruction. She latched and immediately started gagging.

I told my son to put his shoes on and stand by the car while I put her in her carseat, simultaneously rechecking her breathing. She was breathing but coughing and would gag every several coughs. I called my husband and as I was walking down the steps he came flying down the driveway.

We arrived at Patient First or Urgent Care (or whatever that place is called) in record time and everyone looked up when we burst in. I barely heard myself say, “This baby is breathing but she’s choking on something.” An immediate swarm of doctors and medical staff surrounded us and I handed her over. She started coughing and then SCREAMED! They gave her back to me after checking vitals and her throat (they couldn’t see anything either), but after the screaming she had stopped coughing.

They said it sounded like whatever it was probably started to go into her lungs but either came back up (maybe when I was doing CPR?) or the acid disintegrated the object. Her throat probably opened up and she had most likely finished swallowing the remains when she started screaming. I tried to nurse her again and she latched okay but was too distracted to eat.

They told us to watch for fever, fussiness, lethargy, or more coughing and if so, to take her to the ER. She came home and took a nap and seems to be doing okay, thank God. She has her 9 month check-up tomorrow and her lungs will be re-checked then for any sign of fluid build-up (they said something about if the object is still in there, the lungs will start to fill with fluid).

In all the commotion, I never registered that my son might have been afraid too. Tonight, he started throwing his toys and yelling that he couldn’t let his sister eat them and he was scared.

My heart broke and I immediately sat down (several hours after I should have, to talk to him) and talked to him. He said it was really scary when all the doctors ran in and were looking at his sister. We talked about that being my scariest moment that day too, and we talked about the purpose of doctors, the purpose of making sure there is nothing small on the floor, and then we thanked God for her safety. After that, he was okay!

What a day.

My Marathon To Mental Health

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I seem to have this notion that once I’ve completed this marathon, my PTSD symptoms will disappear (or be very manageable) and my marriage and parenting will be on track. It seems like quite an unrealistic notion, as running does not improve marriages or parenting, and while it is a healthy outlet, it will not magically remove my PTSD diagnosis. However great I feel after running, I still have to walk back in the door to a needy family; I will still have severe attachment issues; I will still be triggered by the little things.

If my problems will not magically disappear, what will be the benefits?

Faith: There is no way I will be able to complete this training or the race without God giving me energy and stamina. My daughter is nearly nine months old and is still waking several times a night, and my PTSD symptoms have wreaked havoc on my body. I also feel like my mind has been clearer and as a result, I’ve been able to do more devotions over the past month. I have not self-harmed since I’ve been running.

Fitness: Before last month, I had not run farther than 4.5 miles, and honestly I had no desire for more! That particular mud run (in 2012) was 95 degrees, I had taken 2 ibuprofen so I could run through a knee injury, and then I was given a 5-Hour Energy drink (and I rarely have caffeine!); by the middle of the race I was dizzy and I very nearly threw up at the top of the 20 foot wall! However, each time I go out now, it seems I am improving my distance and my pace. My biggest goals are 1- not be the last person to cross the finish line (or be in the top two-thirds), and 2- put a 26.2 sticker on the back of my car!

Nutrition: It is very hard to run any distance when you’ve eaten a giant buffalo chicken cheesesteak or an enormous burrito (with queso) from Moe’s. My husband and I are slowly working to improve our diets so that our bodies can manage our respective training programs (because my husband is also doing the marathon).

Marriage: My husband and I finally have something in common! We have something to talk about, besides the kids, that we both care about equally. That’s big! We’ve been married nearly five years and my conversation falls short on the topic of sports, much like his conversation falls short with psychology.

All of the above will contribute to improving my mental health; I am already seeing the mental benefits of exercise and am looking forward to seeing where I’ll be in September. If I can conquer a marathon, I feel conquering my past will be cake… or I’ll be too distracted to be bothered by it! While I know this endeavor will not magically remove my PTSD diagnosis, it is a big step towards healing (well, 26.2 miles worth of steps, plus 18 weeks of training, towards healing!).

Photo credit: http://www.canstockphoto.com/vector-clipart/marathon.html