A War Within Yourself

I think one of the hardest parts in resolving trauma, in particular childhood trauma, is that it is a long process. A looooong process.

The journey for me, has spanned decades. I had to go through every uncomfortable thing I did to get to health, and I’m still getting there.

Through my twenties and thirties and early forties, I struggled to manage depression. I engaged suicidal thoughts too much and was a roller coaster of irrational emotions.

I endured an inner blood curdling scream for over twenty years. I never felt in control and I never felt worthy of good things. I sabotaged friendships and potential good relationships all of the time. I was almost happy being unhappy, but not.

My mid forties has been a reckoning for me. I’ve learned so much about myself, about the healing process, and about managing our pain.

Two things have to be present for healing to take place:

1. The desire to heal.

2. The right time.

You might scoff at both. You might say, No one wants to be unhappy.

You are wrong. It’s not that people want to be unhappy, but they have become safe in that place and pain has become their identity. Breaking through that requires a great deal of work.

I encounter people all of the time who say they want things to change, they want to heal, but they are stuck where they are and unwilling to take any steps away from the safety of where they are.

I get that. It sounds harsh of me, but it’s true. Sometimes, in our head, where we are and what we know feels safer than the unknown. Feels safer than risking it and failing.

The worst thing we can do though, is stagnate, not move, die where we are. You don’t want that.

And yes, the second we have little control over.

I have had opportunities my whole life to heal. Most I’ve taken, some I have not.

What I know for sure is that if we don’t listen to the whispers of intuition we get that we need to change something, our lives will eventually crash around us and force us to take action.

That’s what happened to me in 2016. I had been too scared, too stuck in the fear of life outside of teaching, that I had not left. As a result, investigation for almost a whole year.

Now, I’m grateful for every second of the torment and anxiety and life as it was.

The Phoenix rose.

Because of that, because of the psychological and emotional healing, I’m now ready to manage my weight effectively. The last frontier for my healing journey.

After this, it will become a journey of maintaining mental, emotional and physical health whilst I grow spiritually and intellectually.

I’m excited.

Healing takes a lot of work and a lot of time, but it’s worth it. Every tear, every breakdown, every second.

The Long Term Impact of Trauma

I was having coffee with a great friend yesterday afternoon. We are in the process of developing an idea for You Tube content. The series will focus on childhood trauma and its impact.

We are both examples of surviving and healing childhood trauma, and creating impactful lives for ourselves in the process.

Our trauma occurred in very different areas: she lived in a cult and I lived in suburbia. We both have very high ACE scores (Adversity in Childhood).

The interesting thing about this, is that for both of us, the long term impact and effect of the trauma (unresolved and untreated during childhood) has been the same.

We both struggle or have struggled with confidence/trusting our judgement, we both have found a voice that had been silenced by shame, we are both workaholics, we have both suffered depression and contemplated suicide, and the list goes on.

The impact is not all negative though – we both want a different world and we work hard to raise awareness, and enable and empower the healing in others. We are both very passionate, very focused and love music (a safe place).

Trauma is interesting. It can keep us stuck, afraid, and unhappy repeating desperate cycles, but it can also liberate our souls so that we achieve bigger things than we ever dreamed possible.

Ultimately, our lives are what we make of them. Our lives are the collection of choices we make every day. Even after trauma, maybe because of trauma, life can be amazing.

Healing Truly Is A Process

Well, I’m exhausted lol. Another layer of healing pulled back and processed yesterday.

What I have noticed is that once upon a time, triggers took days, even weeks, for me to process, and during that time, I would slip into depression and sabotage my friendships. I would be immersed in and suffocated by darkness.

Yesterday, during the trigger and processing process, I was a little disoriented when a friend came knocking on the door, but I was functioning and to a high level. In fact, the visit brought the remaining cortisol down. Apart from tired, my self-care and tool kit of strategies took me through the process.

Very often, the triggers are not the cause of the emotional and/or psychological chaos. They just trigger it. I’ve found, that as I’ve added to my tool kit, the triggers no longer disrupt my life or my psyche for long.

I think the greatest tool I use to return myself to balance is what I’ve learned from Mai Mai in our sessions, and from reading Dr John Demartini’s books and applying the ideas.

I no longer have to look for the support in the moment – it is always there in some form – I still acknowledge the step as part of the process though.

The drawbacks are always fairly obvious, and then I focus on the benefits and list them one by one. I also now connect them to my values – how does this incident support my highest values?

Then, after that intense work, I’m just tired and yesterday, I practiced self-care. I apologized for not being able to attend an event I had been looking forward to, and I was honest about why, which whilst embarrassing and shameful (in my eyes at the time) liberated me in the long term.

It is so important that we use our voices and share where we are. Honesty enables trust in relationships and removes guilt.

Ultimately, yesterday was an opportunity for me to walk the talk, and to demonstrate to others how I did this.

Healing is a lifelong process, and that’s okay, because I’ve got this.

Poor George šŸ˜ onwards and upwards

The Darkness

I think one of the hardest things to deal with from being abused is the feeling that you're never quite good enough. When you are young and another person treats you like you are worth nothing, and your power is stripped from you, it's very hard to take that power back and get those feelings of worth reinstated.

I have two clear memories of sexual abuse. One of these has been with me since my late teens and has never shifted; there's not much of it but enough for me to still feel a pang of ick when I recall it. The son of family friends was playing Hide'n'Seek with us. We hid in one of the bedroom's wardrobes. It was dark. And, you know, stuff happens.

Yep. Stuff happens. I'm at peace with it but am struggling to write what that stuff is. There is that fear present. Not of him but of judgement from others, of someone saying, that's not abuse and you're making something out of nothing.

Maybe I am. Maybe I did. I don't think so.

Because it impacted me. In the context of my childhood and my life, it changed me. I was never the same afterwards. I was very young, and the touching down there violated a part of me. I couldn't tell anyone. I lost my voice. I had never really felt safe before and I definitely didn't feel safe after.

I always felt that there was more. There was a way that one of the adult family friends always made me feel when he looked at me: vulnerable, uncomfortable, undressed. A horrible feeling when it isn't coming from someone you love or choose to be intimate with. Last year, during a healing session (I blogged about this at the time), I had a video reel of the sexual abuse playing through my head. That included penetration and all over grossness. Again, I was very young.

By the time this one was fully revealed to me I had completed so much personal work on my own healing, reclaiming my voice and standing in my truth that it barely impacted me emotionally. If anything, for me, it validated how I had felt all of those years.

Neither of these situations was one-off. And I don't think they were the only ones. But, I'm not sure. And I don't think it really matters. The impact was made. I needed to heal that. I'm happy with the knowledge that I do have. I don't need or want more.

We are all very different. What one person can handle, another might find completely devastating. I think that's okay. We all have our own path to walk. And, in our own time.

When I was at uni, away from home and my family, my indicator behaviours became more pronounced. I became obsessive compulsive with cleaning. I was cleaning the house from top to bottom every morning, manically. I stopped answering the phone; okay on its own, but as I listened to it ring out, and landlines ring forever, I was gripped by absolute terror. I became reclusive and shied away from any physical human contact. I started eating really badly and quite gluttenously (hello future weight problem) attempting to shield and nurture myself all at the same time. And, I started arguing unreasonably and without any flexibility in my tutes at uni; I needed everyone to hear me. Flashbacks were coming at random times.

I was sliding between mania and depression. I wanted to hide and be seen, I wanted control and wanted to be looked after. Contradictory behaviours that were driving the sanity bus straight to insanity.

I had majored in Psychology and knew enough to research the behaviours indicators of sexual abuse. I listed them. Made an appointment with a local sexual abuse specialist counselor. Turned up, with my list, and matter of factly announced that I was sure I had been sexually abused, could she please look at my list and validate that for me.

She was amazing. She smiled, read my list, passed it back, and started a dialogue neither validating or denouncing my claims. With her support, I started unpacking my behaviours and my memories and owning them all. She empowered me to see that I had choices, and reminded me that healing was a process, and a long, arduous one.

And, then she went on maternity leave and my professional support stopped for a time.

It was only through owning my perceptions of my childhood sexual abuse that I was able to move forward, very slowly. I started to speak my truth. The hardest thing was telling my mum. She validated my claims, but that opened a whole other can of worms for me. More on that later.

There were many dark times during the next, close to ten years, I'd say. My twenties became marked by trying to work myself out and get better. I couldn't see me reaching my thirtieth birthday; I was sure I would be dead by then.

I drank a lot in my mid to late twenties, started casually using some low level drugs sometimes, and wanted to walk into the ocean and not come out more times than I can count.

More on all of this later.

But, I survived. I still didn't think I was worth very much, I didn't like myself very much, I was doing more and more for others at my own expense, I was bitterly unhappy, fleeing from situations that challenged me in all of my relationships, working hard to not commit to any people, and succeeding, but I survived.

Sigh. What a journey through darkness.

Sexual abuse: the gift that keeps giving.

Anxiety v DepressionĀ 

Hmmm … It isn’t a competition lol. The use of ‘v’ is hyperbole I think. However, I have been processing the differences between the two over the last little bit of time. 

As far as I can tell, the only real similarity is the impact both exert on your ability to function day to day. How it impacts is vastly different. From my experience. 

Prior to March I thought I understood anxiety, and I had been giving advice to sufferers like I understood it. I was so wrong. But I thought I understood it because I have suffered from depression in the past. I thought they were two sides of the same coin. But I haven’t experienced them that way. 

When I was depressed I didn’t feel sick. The anxiety is causing a sick belly for me most of the time (the last week was good but it’s back as return to work approaches). It forces me to second guess everything that I think, feel and say. Before, during and after. It is insane. And as a result, it is hard to commit to anything and everything. Even communicating with other people is too much. 

I am better than I was. Significantly. I can now believe that this is temporary and that it will pass. Then I will rebuild myself. I think committing to an alternate plan has helped with this, ie. removing the source of the anxiety from my life. My strategies are in place. And I am willing to put myself first and if something feels too much I am postponing it. 

Depression was different. I just wanted to die. I was able to function in public and in my roles but could only perform for short periods of time. And I had a desire to keep it hidden. And did, generally speaking. This might just be my experience though. I think everyone’s is different. 

What I understand about anxiety now is:

* as well intentioned as other people are, tough love does not work for anxious people. 

* very small steps are required and only in the sufferer’s time; rigid commitment is impossible. 

* suggestions are great, especially if they are strategic, but the sufferer only wants to hear them once, and will probably feel very vulnerable and incompetent as the strategies are given. 

* telling yourself it is a temporary situation does not alleviate any anxiety. The sufferer knows it is temporary. 

What has helped me work through it and be a little resilient over time:

* focusing on breath. 

* yoga. 

* meditation. 

* planning forward after some time. 

* time out. 

* not being there as much for other people, ie. putting myself first. 

* gratitude. 

* writing. 

Two different mental health experiences. Anxiety impacts life but I refuse to let it destroy my life long term. 

Day 6 100 Happy Days

Day 6:

The seasons are a metaphor for life. Spring – new life, hope, promise, potential, growth. 
  
For me, especially during life’s darker times, I have found it helpful to break time down into chunks. Every new year, every season, every month, week, day, even hour, is a new opportunity. And within that moment or chunk of time, lies hope and promise. 

Whilst we can’t control everything, we shouldn’t lose sight of what we can control. 

We control our responses. And from that, we control our moments. 

And it is easier to know this, when we are happy and life is alright or good. It is more important for us to remember and realise it in our darker times. 

So many children and adults seem to be suffering from anxiety and depression, increasingly as the months roll on, and whilst there is less of a stigma, people still don’t know how to be there for others, and so it becomes the burden of each person to heal themselves. And this isn’t easy to do when the mere thought of getting out of bed seems insurmountable. 

Focusing time into chunks has always helped me. Immersing myself in nature is grounding. Practicing gratitude and meditation helps my brain find the path back to balance. And making time just for me is vital. 

This last part I have struggled with this time. But I am building to it. And I will somehow resolve the guilt that it inevitably brings. But I need to do it. I need to be strong again through balance when I go back to work. It will be a hard term, harder if I don’t start it well within myself. 

I am putting shelves up in the laundry to be able to sort out the spare room. Cleaning out the garage and storage in the laundry will enable this. 

I was sitting in the spare room not long ago, and I started to think about where a bed might go, hoping that my fostering application will be approved. The room needs some life, an inhabitant, to bring it into this home. 

I am really excited about the potential of that, of a family growing in this home, beyond my fur family. I can imagine a child playing, a child healing, a child knowing and believing that their darkest days are behind them. Here, they will grow, they will heal, and I will grow. 
I don’t expect it will be easy. Not at all. But eventually there will be more happy than sad, even if it’s only by a little. 

That is my hope. 

Happiness is a choice

I have been reminded of something I learned years ago this week. Happiness is a choice. Now I don’t mean this flippantly but I do believe it. We are allowed to feel sad, to wallow, to indulge in self-pity; in fact I would argue that it is healthy to do so from time to time, to remind us of what is important, but we shouldn’t take up residence there.

In 2008 I planned my demise, right up to how I would do it. The only thing that stopped me was guilt. Guilt that I would be impacting someone else’s life in a way that they truly didn’t deserve. And so I pulled myself out of what was a very deep and very dark hole, and I built my life forward. And for the most part I have never been back into the bottom of that hole. I occasionally put my head in to make sure everything is alright, but my whole self has not been there since.

And I think that’s okay.

And so in the last week or so, as I have felt a deep sadness, an entrapment in my own choices, the universe conspired to shake my life up. At first I sobbed piteously on my lounge but was reminded quite quickly that I wasn’t alone. The failure I had been feeling, the belief that I was disappointing every one around me, was diminished by a timely reminder from one of my closest friends who listed everything that I was succeeding at. The list was beautiful and given in such a pure way.

It becomes so easy to listen only to the negative voices in our heads, to drown out anything positive, that it becomes coomfortable, like a second skin. But it is so important to shut those voices down when they no longer serve us. And in the last couple of weeks I had forgotten that. I stopped feeling grateful and felt just plain miserable, focusing only on what was wrong rather than what was right.

And then I started listening to the universe and the voices of love and genuine caring that were coming my way, the opportunities to change my life, shake it up literally from the foundation, and I decided to smile.

I decided to.

It was a choice.

After no real sleep on Tuesday night and lots of tears, I decided sadness was finished for this week and I needed to paste that smile on, open my heart and ‘smell the roses’ until it was real and it wasn’t an effort anymore.

And I feel better. Truly. Felt liberated for the first time in a month or so. And it was good.

I realised though that I have been training myself to feel the happy and the gratitude since 2008 because I had decided I was going to learn to control my depression, and I was never going to commit to suicide again, not even a whisper of a thought of it. And for the most part that has been successful.

The first episode of The Newsroom (cannot believe it was not renewed) is titled “We just decided to” and I think it is an apt philosophy for life. If we decide to do something, to achieve something, we shall succeed in some form. Commitment to the cause is vital for success. And we are all capable of that commitment and that success. We just need to lower the volume on the negative voices induced by fear andĀ do it anyway.

It is possible.