I attended a self-care workshop last summer. One of the books that the presenter suggested was The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferrucci. I dutifully found the book and purchased it. I put it on my shelf and thought about reading it. This is the way it goes with a lot of books with me. I buy it and put it on my shelf, fully intending to read it. I have an entire shelf of books I fully intend to read.
I started a book challenge for myself this year. 100 books to be read this year. Of that 100 books 60 of those are fiction, 25 are non fiction, and 15 are spiritually inspiring. The Power of Kindness got put onto the shelf of books I could read for the challenge. Which is how I finally started to read it.
I have struggled with a huge burden for many years. I may not be very judgemental but I do seem to hold on to resentment and anger. There are a number of instances in my life where I have withheld forgiveness. As I sat reading the section on forgiveness I realized how very much I have held on to. The hardest thing for me to forgive has been betrayal. Betrayal can take many forms. But the hardest one is when I give friendship and have that person turn on me or betray my confidence. As well as the feelings of betrayal that come from the abuse.
Ferrucci points out that forgiveness can make us feel very vulnerable because we are letting go of the anger or resentment that has become part of our identity. As I move through and heal so much of the trauma damage I noticed that I had a bag hidden in the corner. Something that I carry around with me everyday. This very heavy bag I noticed was filled with all the hurt, anger, resentment and withheld forgiveness. In some cases it was anger over something that I should have let go of a long time ago.
I will say that having a life changing experience with an illness helps to put things into perspective much more quickly than I had previously been able. I began to open the bag and take things out and examine them one at a time. Some of the things I took out of the bag made me wonder what I had thought putting them in there in the first place. Others I had to put to one side because they needed a little more effort and work to release.
As I lightened the bag I felt lighter. The less things that I had to worry about maintaining. I also realized that letting them go did not mean that I in any way opened myself up to have a repeat occurrence. I am very mindful of what and who I trust or let into my life. But the events of the past don’t need to weigh me down in the present. Forgiveness can be a slow process or it can happen quickly.
The thing that I learned from reading and then applying it to my own life is that forgiving and letting go empowers me. And ultimately it does not have any effect on the person I am forgiving but has huge life altering changes for me.
Sometimes I wonder about whether I should talk about the fact that I have difficulty with some situations. There have definitely been some negative moments arising from talking about my issues. There have also been some very amazing growth experiences.
I just spent four days in the hospital while the doctors tried to figure out and understand why my heart has been acting this way. The paramedic performed a cardioversion in the ambulance, whether it really scrambled things up in my brain for a little while or not I was having trouble getting my thoughts to stay clear long enough to use my skills for coping with panic. It was a struggle to find a calm place. I tried meditation, guided and meta. I also tried to distract myself with other things. But it did not work. Nothing seemed to work.
During this time I had to have a stress test which also involved a CAT scan. I am very claustrophobic. The thought of going into the donut shaped machine was causing me no end of terror. I told the technician and the doctor that were working that day about some of my issues and how it was such a struggle for me to reset my panic into a calm even at the best of times since arriving at the hospital. These amazing people worked with me and together we had a rock and roll sing along while I went through the CAT scan process. They never left me until I had to actually go into the donut and even then they kept talking to me. They helped me to feel safe at a time when I had nothing to cling to ground me in my panic.
The night before my brain cleared up enough for me to get my skills to kick in I had a very bad anxiety attack. This time I took anti-anxiety medication. While I was waiting for it to take hold and help calm me so that I could sleep the nurse sat and held my hand. She talked with me about her own fears and struggles with an encounter with a CAT scan. She talked about the things that sometimes made her uneasy. By doing so she helped to bring things back into the world of normalcy.
I am home now. I try very hard to decided whether to tell people about my struggles or to keep quiet. When I do talk about them I find that I am able to get the level of assistance I need. I don’t actually need much assistance. But sometimes, like in the hospital, it helped the doctors to understand and gauge what was happening with my heart. It also helped two very wonderful people to rise to the challenge of how to help me feel safe enough to go through with a necessary test.
It comes down to where the individual feels about whether to share their experiences. Sometimes I need extra help to get through things. And if I say who I am and what I have endured, it gives people a chance to help me. Something they not be able to do without that knowledge. It is a very individual decision.
Breathing in and breathing out. Opening myself to each day. There are times that I come to a point of complete exhaustion. When I become so tired and feel ready to be done. Days where I would welcome an end to the pain. Because to be honest there really are no pain free days. There are no days when the scars on my body do not hurt me deeply. I spent twelve years being systematically tortured, sexually, and physically abused and the remainder of my childhood dodging psychological and physical abuse. Those years have left many scars on my body.
For years I could go through the day without letting on to the pain I experienced. During the years of the abuse I learned that you kept going and swallowed down the pain that you experienced walking, sitting, or just moving. After repetitive times of having the soles of my feet beaten I struggle to walk with the support of shoes. Too much nerve and tendon damage. I dream of a day that I wake up in the morning and am not in pain. Those days of being able to hide the pain have left me.
Why am I writing about all of this? I would guess it is because I so very seldom talk about what happened. I do tell people the quick abbreviated version in which I say that I had a very traumatic childhood. How I walked out the other end in as good of shape as I have is sometimes a mystery to me. What I do know is that my childhood taught me how to fight back. I did more fighting back in those early years than I want to remember. Nor do I want to remeber the consequences that the fight brought me.
I have reached a time now when I am so tired. When I have given so very much to be alive and functioning. At one time in my life I had a great passion. I was filled with immense light that was generated from the bonfire that passion ignited. Now that fire has dwindled to a mere pile of ash.
I know that at the bottom of that pile of ash is a spark. Perhaps so small that it is barely there. But it is there. I can feel it. Somewhere in that pile it is waiting for me to find it. And though I feel so tired, almost to the point of exhaustion I know I need to find it. When I find that small spark I will blow on it and give it the nurturing that it needs to create a bonfire in my heart that none of the exhaustion of just breathing will be able to exist in its presence.
Even though I am moving through a very hard place I am still moving. Sometimes it feels like trying to walk through a wind that wants to rip and tear at you. The only thing to do is pull the hood tighter and keep my head down and move forward against the wind. Because if I stop that wind will blow me backwards. I do not want to go backwards. Even though it is hard to move through the wind there is the added bonus that perhaps that wind is blowing away the ash that covers my spark. And with a little kindling that wind could blow my tiny spark into a roaring inferno.
Lately I have been trying to make a decision. I guess that a better way of putting it is that I am trying to find a path or direction. I have tried mind mapping the thoughts around the search. I have tried talking to someone about the decision. Nothing really seems to help me find the clarity that I am looking for. Which leads me to my last place of discourse. My interview with Oprah.
Years ago, when I had time and a television, I would watch Oprah Winfrey interview people on her show. She would ask questions and people would open up to her. Somewhere along the way clarity about what ever it was that they were discussing would appear. I would say around five years ago I started to have time in the car when there was no one else with me and I would talk to Oprah about what ever was going on. She never asked a question I did not want to answer and somehow I would find the clarity I needed to better understand what was going on in my world.
I know that I have mentioned this before in an earlier post. As I drive down the road seeing people talking on hands free devices I know that I do not look strange talking to myself. This particular problem I am struggling with seems to be one of those that requires a series of interviews.
I am not sure exactly why I brought this up here. I think it has to do with communication and feeling overwhelmed. I know that if left to fester on its own my mind will create a labyrinth of problems from one small question. Talking to others about what is going on in my life and the problems or issues that come up helps to untangle that mess of thoughts. The real bonus part of my conversations with Oprah is that I am not insulting anyone as I make my way through the confusion that I am untangling. I have a tendency to just start talking and say what comes up. I do this primarily when I am talking to people I know well. This sort of thing happens often when talking to my husband. Primarily because whatever we are talking about generally results in a knee jerk response from me. When I talk to Oprah I have a chance to recover from that fateful foot in mouth syndrome. Because sometimes all I need is to just let loose with a stream of consciousness conversation with someone who asks the right questions.
When I am struggling with depression and all the trappings that go with it I lose touch with people. I forget that I need to communicate with people and bring all the darkness into the light. I have found that for somethings that have to do with the trauma I need to talk out loud. I need to hear my voice. But I don’t need anyone else to hear or understand about my trauma. I just need to say it out loud. As though the sheer act of putting it out there is all I need. And having an imaginary listener who is neither shocked nor traumatized is really all I want.
I will continue on my journey of trying to find this path that is being so elusive. I will continue to try to find the answers. And I think that on my drive home I will be having a long talk with Oprah.
Be courageous and keep breathing.
There are days when I feel like an imposter. I get up in the mornings and go through all the motions. I do the reading for my course work, work with my daughter on her home school work, look for an internship, make sure the family has what it needs. Even still I feel very much like I have not accomplished anything. I have a check list that tells me that I have accomplished things. And yet I feel like an imposter.
I muscle past the fear and anxiety that talking to people brings up in me. For example, I have to call someone about the insurance and I have to straighten out the order for my new glasses. I am filled with terror at the thought of both. I will do them eventually. But the thought of doing them fills me with fear. The rational side of my brain tells me that this is no big deal. Neither of these two people I will talk to are a threat to me. My life does not hang in the balance, and yet it feels like it does.
Regardless of all that I have accomplished I cannot get past my feelings of failure. For many years of my childhood I felt as though I could not succeed. I was never good enough. Never expected to be good enough. So when I do succeed or do well it is always a surprise.
I would not say that I don’t try, because I do try. Sometimes a little too hard. And it is those times or the times that people express belief in me that I feel like an imposter. It is always a welcome though surprising piece of information when I find out others feel that way as well. For some reason that always surprises me. What also surprises me is when someone believes I can do something that I feel I have no idea how to do.
Which brings us to the feelings of being an imposter. I have come to a point where by using mindfulness and meditation I am able to go to appointments and feel like the real live confident person that I am and not the scared and inadequate person that I feel I am. I am hoping that the imposter feeling will find somewhere else to be for today. But even still as long as I just keep doing what I need to do regardless of the imposter feeling I will accomplish things. Even if I can’t be who I think I should be then perhaps this me that steps up to do all the things that need doing will become the me I look at instead of the me I think I should be. And then the imposter will be the right person.
Christmas is not an easy time for me. I try hard to make it a good time. In the past I have struggled to not spend all my time wishing it was Jan.2. This year I have tried very hard to keep that feeling at bay. I have all my shopping done. Thank you Amazon. I have made inroads into the cookie baking. I am enjoying the Christmas music. I have so far not had a meltdown.
It all started a long time ago when I was 5. And now many years later I have finally figured out what the problem is. Other than the trauma that started it all. I have been trying to have the perfect Christmas. The one I wanted all my life.
When I was 12 i had a large piece of cardboard. I decorated it to look like a fireplace. I put it up in my room. I then turned a children’s outside bench into my couch and put a trunk in front of it to make a coffee table. I wanted a small version of Christmas that was all mine. Something that I had control of. Feelings of lack of control is something I always battle. This was my Christmas.
Now I have many people in my home. My children all want to be a part of the Christmas decorating committee. It is wonderful to see them taking part in the decorating. But I have stopped doing things that I love because I am afraid that I will lose that little bit of control in life that I somehow think I have. I no longer decorate cookies. I once did a series of Fairytale cookies. Snow White and the seven dwarfs, Rapunzel, Goldilocks, the works. I decorated them with icing and very little tools. It was a blast. Now there are so many people wanting to help that I stopped.
I have stopped a lot of things that I should never have stopped. This year I think I will try to do more things that I love. And enjoy the Christmas season. And if that means watching my favorite movies until it drives my family crazy than so be it. This year I have decided to reclaim a lot of things about myself that I have let go of.
This year I will not let the panic attacks eat my soul (now on day number three of the epic Christmas panic attack), I will enjoy my family, and I will find some peace. And I will finally learn that every Christmas is the perfect Christmas.
Due to the fact that I am not as fast with the computer at home due to having antiquated dial up Having a picture in the blog is taking me some difficulty.
I wanted to share this picture. This is my trauma quilt. I made this as my final project for my BA. What it is is a representation of my trauma and healing. It is a small picture so you can’t see all the details. In the center of the flower is inner strength. There is a flower with a Chrysalis on it and some emerging butterflies. The petals of the flower all represent traumatic events. The vines coming off of the petals all have something written on them. I wrote all the various symptoms of my PTSD. The butterflies represent the healing. Written on each butterfly is something that helps me. Some of those things are prayer, family, meditation and chocolate shows up twice.
Making this quilt was a huge moment of healing for me. It told stories that I had never told before. Other than at the college I have not displayed it. So this is its otherwise maiden voyage. Later I will post close up pictures of it.
Art is an amazing avenue toward healing. Through art things that I cloud not say came through in beautiful healing colors.