Sharing Toothbrushes

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I have suspected for about a week now that my husband and I are using the same toothbrush. We share a bed, a car, children, and at times we share the same food and drink. But, while I am only slightly bothered by it, I have a feeling my husband would be horrified. I think I’ll keep it to myself and try to quietly find a way to differentiate the toothbrushes. I think I’ll also keep to myself that my son likes to flip the toothbrushes upside down, because no matter how well and how often I clean the cup, the water at the bottom always seems to reek. That’s worse than sharing toothbrushes any day.

Speaking of children, my 4 year old is finally adjusting to being a big brother… finally. He had his sister laughing so hard last night that when it was time for bed, she started tantruming. Usually, she settles right into my arms. My son is also reading very well and enjoys doing math everyday. Right now, he’s putting together a 300 piece puzzle by pulling the pieces out of the box one at a time. He’s only put it together once before, and he’s memorized each piece so he knows what to look for as he’s digging through the box. He is so much like his daddy, with his humor, his intelligence, and his quick wit.

My dear 14 month old prefers to eat paper over food, and is more stubborn than my firstborn… by far. She can thrown a tantrum to bring down the house and will refuse to eat for days before she’ll go into a full day of eating like a grown man. She knows many signs but refuses to use them. However, she is the best snuggler in the whole world, and her laugh fills my heart with joy.

Right now, my life consists of taking care of these two characters at home most of the day, while answering phone calls for my husband’s business. I am over halfway through my pregnancy, and have started waking up for snacks in the middle of the night. We have a very small apartment and have been busy rearranging furniture to make room for the new baby, and I think we’ve finally started to get used to the idea of having three children.

I am also busy going through a discipleship book with someone I reached out to for something trivial, and she sensed I needed more. Through the unconditional love of the Lord, my husband, my son, my daughter, and my trusted friend, I feel I am moving forward. I will probably have PTSD for my entire life, and will probably fight with many of its symptoms for life, but I have a new outlook most days. My attacks do not last as long, and although it seems they are just as debilitating, I only completely freeze or lose time every couple of weeks. I’m able to endure the overwhelming feelings without dissociating most times, very much because I am able to cry when I need to. My feelings have been manifesting themselves through anger, and I am working as hard as I can to control it.

I have been on a major blogging hiatus, but I am beginning to feel creative and well again. I pray each and every one of you are doing well and I look forward to starting to read your blogs again regularly.

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Love One Another Deeply

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I have recently learned that it is not okay to withdraw from relationships… not just not okay, it’s a sin! Go figure! It makes us feel terrible to withdraw anyway, regardless of us withdrawing for emotional safety. 1 Peter commands us to love one another deeply, and Proverbs 17:17 says that a friend loves at all times. Withdrawal is a form of self-protection, which is meeting our needs through our own  means. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not a sin in and of itself, it is our brain’s natural response to dealing with extreme stress. PTSD does, however, make certain sins feel safe, including withdrawal, minimizing our own and others’ sins, avoiding conflict, controlling, manipulating, anger, or being judgmental and condemning… They are all in the name of self-protection from further pain, but not what God would have for us.

I am learning that my perceived needs, which include security and love, are not needs according to God. God has already freely provided them for us through Christ, but they are not needs… they are privileges. For the longest time, I have thought that if I could simply find someone, completely unassociated with my trauma, to love me, I would be well on my way to healing. I desired unconditional love that does not trigger. Guess what! That does not exist!

I would find someone to mentor me but I’d panic and push them away as soon as I began to feel vulnerable. I have even begun to push away the most important people in my life: my husband and children, because they make me feel most vulnerable. It’s the feeling of vulnerability that scares me. I am finding that I cannot run from feelings.

I have tried time and again to even push God away… Maybe because He was there during my trauma and allowed it; maybe because I feel debilitated in my PTSD at times; maybe because He isn’t healing me as quickly as I desire. But try as I might, He will not leave. He chose me before the foundation of the world, and determined every step I would make before I was born (Psalm 139). He knows when I will choose to make my bed in hell, and when I will choose to look to Him. He knows my self-preoccupation and He knows my desire to glorify Him. I can be as angry at Him as I want, and yet it does nothing but hurt me those around me. It’s miserable.

What’s my alternative to self-protection? Accept what God has for me, and look to Him for contentment and peace. In therapy, it’s called radical acceptance. And it is radical! But it also requires the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to be okay with what God has given me, including my trauma. My training tells me to explain to my clients that they must find their own way into radical acceptance and healing, but I do not know anyone who has healed from complex trauma in their own means. I believe walking with the Lord is the only way. As I seek to glorify God in my thoughts and actions, He will soften and transform my heart. It is the most difficult task I have ever undertaken, because it includes a complete change in mindset, but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Galatians 4:13, NKJV).

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
 -1 Peter 4:8

Image credit: http://www.ibelieve.com/inspirations/love-each-other-deeply.html

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

 

 

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

A Gentle And Quiet Spirit

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When I was first married, an older man in our church used to tell me all the time to make sure I was praying for my husband, and that praying for him was the most important thing I could do for our marriage. I always assured him that I was praying for my husband, and I was. About a year into our marriage, we moved to a new state. Unfortunately, I promptly forgot about praying for my husband. Actually, my faith kind of fell apart around that time, as so many waves of trial washed over me; the trials were too much for my fairly new faith. I was raised in a very female dominant and verging on anti-male environment, so my faith is all I have ever had to guide me in my marriage. Therefore, my marriage took a hard hit as my faith crumbled.

This past Sunday evening, I was at a Bible study and was listening to the women interacting with each other. My mind floated off the subject, and I remembered the man who had exhorted me to pray for my husband. My prayer life has been very nearly nonexistent for 3.5 years. I thought to myself that I am finally at a point in my faith where I am ready to seek God with my whole heart again. I have reached the bottom of my pride and struggles and am ready to accept where He has me. So, I re-entered the world of prayer by praying for my husband. It felt natural to me to be conversing with God again as I prayed for my husband’s emotional strength, peace regarding finances, and natural leadership in our home. I also prayed for my children and for my friends.

There has been an incredible peace surrounding my house over the past 2.5 days, perhaps a peace that passes all understanding. My husband and I are resolving conflicts; my son is calm and readily responds to correction; I am cooking; my husband and I are communicating on our goals for homeschool and dinner ideas; and we are having time together after the kids are in bed. We are also managing my PTSD and triggers more effectively, and I am finding myself feel a gentle and quiet spirit within me. What a change from the pattern we had established for so long of me going to bed hurt or in a spiral of PTSD symptoms!!!

I have prayed these verses off and on regarding my marriage, but I wanted to re-write them here as a re-commitment to pray them for my marriage. This is where I desire to grow as a wife. This is also what I am praying for my children’s marriages to stand upon.

Do not let your adornment be merely outward- arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel- rather let it bet the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. -1 Peter 3:3-4

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. -Proverbs 31:26

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. -Colossians 3:12-15

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. -Proverbs 15:1

Hard Lessons On Forgiveness

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My four year old is a natural musician. He turns on his music and runs to the keyboard to play out the song, then turns around and hits repeat on the CD player so he can do it again… until he’s memorized the song. I have yet to teach him where the “repeat” button is because I tire of these songs after the tenth time and I’m certainly not going to enable him! Right now, the song he has on manual repeat is, “If your brother sins against you, seven times a day, seven times a day, forgive him, forgive him, the Bible tells me so, and everyone should know, forgive him, forgive him, seven times a day.” He’s dancing the hallway, singing at the top of his lungs with his arms spread wide. I made a mental note to use the words of the song to teach him a lesson next time someone sins against him, and then realized that I am not a funnel. These lessons I teach my son are meant for me too. Sometimes I get more out of his children’s Bible than I think he does. And honestly, the lessons my son teaches me right back are meant for me too.

Several months ago, he had a bad day and after several corrections it was finally bedtime. He snuggled into me and started praying, “God, forgive me of my sins. Please help me to do a better job tomorrow because your mercies are new every morning.” What? I’ve never taught him to directly ask the Lord for forgiveness. I have prayed forgiveness out loud when I’ve sinned against him. We have a corporate confession of sins at church… but at that point, neither my husband nor I had directly told him he needed to ask God for forgiveness.

How amazing that my son has taken it upon himself to pray for forgiveness! How amazing that he is dancing, arms open wide, to a song about forgiveness! If God has taken my son’s heart into the palm of His hand and has begun to foster a pure and holy faith, then maybe God is doing the same for me. Maybe God is using my circumstances, just as God has used my son’s circumstances, to bring about repentance and faith.

I often think of As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another in respect to my marriage. One day recently when I was falling apart, my exasperated husband yelled, “God gave you me to help you grow! He could have given you someone to coddle you and hold you when you are self-pitying, but he gave you me instead! So get up and do something instead of sitting there like you’re worthless, because you’re not!” He has also shoved the verse, But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses, in my face more than once (usually at least once a week, actually).

So today, I will follow my husband’s lead and I will forgive 70×7. I will open my arms wide and receive the very joy my son has… And yes… he is still dancing to that forgiveness song. And singing at the top of his lungs. With his arms spread wide.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. -1 Peter 1:6-7

Photo credit: http://www.creationswap.com/media/8764

my Mrs. to my husband’s Mr.

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Today, I have been reflecting on my husband and how we have grown together since we’ve been married. In two months, it will be five years!! Someone gave us a Bible with couples devotionals for our wedding, and I remember reading it with him for the first couple of weeks (it only lasted until my morning sickness kicked in- I got pregnant like the week after our honeymoon). One of the devotionals was about perseverance during conflict. The author was writing about how it appears that some couples have a very easy time in their marriage, but that her marriage was a constant uphill filled with conflict and really hard work. My husband pointed at it and said with conviction, “This is us! It will always be us! Look, we’re not alone!” He was right, it is us, but we have come so far in five years.

We own a business together and every Saturday we work together to do our job. We laugh and organize and stress together… we even dance and sing together! I used to spiral on the weekends, but now I look forward to Saturdays because I get to spend the mornings with him. My husband is a hard worker. He has three jobs, and did have four for the duration of my pregnancy last year. He also knows that my job is important to me so he plans his work hours around mine. This means he is at home with the kids while I am at work. My husband is a wonderful father… it might be one of his best assets. Usually while I am getting my daughter squared away, he is occupying my son or getting him ready for bed. He has also taken it upon himself to train my son to run a 1K so he makes the running team next year when he is 5. Right now, he can run .5K without any trouble, but on the walk back he wants to be carried. It’s fun to watch my husband teach my son about sports, and my husband puts effort into determining which sports he is going to focus on with my son. He has determined that my son has best opportunity to obtain a scholarship in cross country and golf. My son even has a really nice set of golf clubs and has a nice swing already!

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. My husband has set up my day tomorrow so that after church, I am picking up my mother-in-law and taking her to see Mom’s Night Out. Spending time with her is a treat, and I love her so much! I’m looking forward to it. Plus, we both love the rolls at Texas Roadhouse so there’s a good chance we’ll end up there for dinner.

My husband and I have our battles (many times it is daily), but I see how far we have come from where we were when we were first married. I see how we have grown as a couple over the past year especially, and this is our best year so far. I love to hold his hand; I love how our feet often touch during the night because cuddling triggers me; and I love when we have family snuggles and playtime on the bed. I love how when I am isolating myself, he often comes and holds me (and much to my dismay, makes me laugh when I want to cry or pout).

Today, I am especially thankful to be the Mrs. to my husband’s Mr.

Dear Family: I Am Listening…

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My goal has been to really, really listen to my family’s words and actions. That is what I posted about this morning. Here is what I have been hearing.

My family is jealous of my phone

My family needs a clean home

My family needs me to smile and dance

My family needs me to provide healthy meals and snacks

My family needs my undivided attention

Yesterday, I officially decided to homeschool my children. Yes, I know I am already teaching my son to read and am currently researching preschool science curricula for the fall. However, I have been on the fence due to my low opinions of my abilities (despite my early childhood education training) and my exhaustion level. But, I am quickly reaching my limit with worried parents bringing their children into therapy because they are falling behind in school. Sometimes it is bullying, and usually they have ADHD. These children are starved for healthy attention, to the point where they start destroying my office when I am conversing with a parent! They need me to get on the floor with them and play. They need undivided attention.

They do not need therapy. They need healthy attention. They need their teachers to sit with them and individualize their work so they can learn the material on their level. They need their parents to read to them and play with them (even if it means falling asleep on floor while the children drive cars over the parents’ backs), no matter the parents’ level of exhaustion. They need their parents to shut the television off and take away the iPads and video games. I am not judging their parenting, because the Lord knows I fall short. I yell at my son, I spank (yes, I do spank, and may write a blog at some point regarding using this method of discipline correctly and not harmfully) at times when a discussion and a hug is more appropriate, I fight with my husband in front of my kids, and I sit my son in front of the TV when I am exhausted (though he is the one who asks me to shut it off before the movie is over, because he’s bored and wants to play).

I have decided to delete my email off of my phone for now, except for when I am nursing. When I did this today, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders because I did not feel chained to my phone. I listened to my husband’s frustrations with me for replying to a text instead of focusing on whatever sports clip he was trying to show me, and I apologized for hurting his feelings. I let my son help me vacuum. I cleaned my kitchen- I mean really cleaned it, because my daughter’s new-found mobility seems to have her finding everything she cannot have and shoving it into her mouth before I can reach her. I opened my windows and breathed the fresh air. I danced with my husband and children. I engaged in silly banter with my husband. I noticed my husband’s change in mood when I began laughing with him. I decided to run regularly, both with friends and on my own.

I do not have it all together by any means. I have just decided that I need to stop complaining about how much I am struggling and I need to just do things differently. That means making a better choice in the moment. Do I fall apart in despair? Or do I realize that my husband’s comment was not trying to hurt me? Do I hide from my family? Or do I embrace them?

Though I am standing bold today, that does not mean I’ll be standing bold tomorrow. But it means that I recognize my ability to make choices. It means I am finally listening to my family.

Photo credit: http://www.iphixni.com/apple.html

A Brief Homeostasis

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I surprised myself today when I opened the file containing my novel (so surprised that I promptly minimized the document and started a blog post!). I have not worked on my novel in at least a year… partially due to lack of time and exhaustion, but mostly because I feel I need to make a conscious effort to only write when I am doing well emotionally. I do not want my elaborate fictional world to become a sanctuary for me, because I have seen fictional sanctuaries become prisons to the hurting person. I want to be able to make the choice to walk into my fictional world and write, and I want the choice to step out of it when I need to.

The fact that I even opened the file means I am reaching a sort of homeostasis. Thank God. It has been a while since I have felt stable for several days in a row! My house is cleaner than it has been since I was nesting and eagerly awaiting the arrival of my daughter. My son is well-groomed with a fresh haircut done by yours truly (with help of clippers and four different number settings), no wax in his ears, and clipped nails. His 4T winter clothes have been replaced by his size 5 (this boy is tall and skinny) summer wardrobe. I have done schoolwork with my son every day this week. I was even considering dusting because I’m caught up on the clutter!! Strange… I have also been doing regular devotions, and am doing this: http://31dayswithgod.wordpress.com/

I don’t know why I have had the energy or sound mind to complete these tasks, but it almost feels as if my family is normal. I feel slightly uneasy because I don’t know how long it will last, and I know that a single trigger could send me into deep despair. But I am enjoying feeling normal. I am thinking about how I want to enhance my already completed novel, and pondering whether I will have the courage to attempt publication this time. I am brainstorming my afternoon with my kids and writing a grocery list. I have also topically applied the essential oil “Balance”… we’ll see how it goes.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, of power, and of a sound mind. -2 Timothy 1:7

Photo credit: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/01/21/1057124/-We-re-going-to-write-a-novel-Part-4