The Familiar Pain

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*If you are sick and tired of hearing people tell you to “put the past behind you” or “get over it” or “move on with your life already”, I want to ensure you that this is not the message of this post.

Today, I had a small epiphany. I was thinking about what life would be like if I wasn’t sad, if I no longer carried the pain with me. In that moment, I felt a twinge of sadness about not being sad. I felt grief about living life without pain. I felt fearful about living with the faith necessary to open up my life. It was as if I might be saying goodbye to a long-term relationship, a dysfunctional relationship, but a relationship nonetheless.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the pain. I push through it. I will my way through life with gusto despite it. I want nothing more than to move past it. But I have inner parts. And I may have an inner part who isn’t ready to let go of the familiar.

There is a phrase: “the evil you know versus the evil you don’t”. I think it sums up the recovery journey well. When pain becomes familiar, letting go of that pain can cause more of it, at least at first. And recovery doesn’t feel like jumping off a cliff. It feels like jumping off multiple successive cliffs. So when faced with one more change, one more risk to take, it might feel better to go with what doesn’t feel good at all, because at least we know it. In this journey, pain may be the only thing that isn’t new. Continue reading

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I Don’t Want To Grow Up

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I have a friend who is an adult. That may sound weird since all of my friends are adults. But this friend stands out as extra “adult”. She gently (or not so gently) reminds me of the things I have to do, the things I hate doing. She doesn’t let me procrastinate until they are problems because she knows I might do that. She reminds me of what it means to be an adult who takes responsibility for the stuff that adults don’t want to do.

We all have things we avoid as adults. We don’t like paying bills. We avoid the dentist. We hate doing taxes. We don’t often grab these things by the horns and make them happen with gusto. And for trauma survivors, it is worse. In many cases, we have triggers associated with these things. Maybe our parents didn’t do them well. Maybe they abused us after doing those things because they felt powerless, and they needed to feel powerful in their dysfunctional way. Whatever the reason, doing the things required of adults may make us feel triggered or powerless. Continue reading

My Mirror in Severus Snape

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I recently read the first two Harry Potter books to my eight-year-old twins. They were astounded by them. My children’s entire lives shifted forever when Harry saw Quirrell standing in front of the mirror at the end of the first book. I knew it would be surprising to them. The brilliance of the Harry Potter stories is their unpredictable nature. And since my children are still processing things as black and white, they just received a mind-blowing lesson in “things are not always as they seem”.

But I have a truly shameful revelation to make. I had never read these books either. I know. I may have been the last person on the face of the Earth who had not read them. I am not sure why. I have always loved fantasy stories. I filled my childhood with unicorns, wizards and fairies just to keep distracted from my reality. But I was already an adult when the Harry Potter series first came out. And I was living in a world of obligation. I didn’t make time for my own entertainment. And my dissociated brain had trouble focusing on books, so I usually didn’t read unless required by school or work. Of course, I went to the theater for the first couple of movies like the rest of the world. But as is usually the case, the books are in another league. Continue reading

My Inner Rebel Will Not Be Stopped

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My family members were masters at squashing rebellion. It is what any good (or bad) dictator learns how to do before all else. It only takes one person to rise up against you, one bad link in the chain, and the empire can fall. Personally, I could not imagine depending on the fear in others to maintain the life I want. It sounds like a lot of work to keep that house of cards intact. But many are willing to try it because they think it is the only way to have power and control. And honestly, what can be easier than teaching children to fear you … especially if they are your children? I believe this actually works most of the time. I believe there are thousands (or more) of children who never speak of their devastating childhoods, who spend their entire lives deeply hating their parents while going through the motions of one big happy family, even arranging the perfect funeral for their parents in the end.

My parents were expecting everything to happen just like that. After all, it is what they had done for their parents. And who are we kidding? Their parents did it too. Unfortunately for them, they had me. I have a rebellious side. I have always had a problem with people telling me what to do. I told far more people about their abuse than they expected. They had to do far more cover up than they had planned. And then, at 38 years old, I blew the lid off the whole thing, denying them their self-ascribed right to abuse their grandchildren and keep the cycle going. I know they feel like the victims. I know because they told me. They told me I was breaking their hearts and that they didn’t deserve this treatment. They never expected this to happen. But unfortunately for them, they had me. Continue reading

Packing Up The Trauma

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When I was growing up, I never grew up. I grew upward. I grew taller as most kids do. But many aspects of my development stopped at a very young age. While my brain grew intellectually, my unprocessed emotions from my traumatic experiences thwarted my reliance on emotional intelligence and intuition. I had shut all of that down. And while I grew taller, I hid most of my unprocessed experiences in my body which resulted in chronic bouts with pain for many years.

There is much discussion in the therapeutic community about how much recovery is possible when acute (one time) trauma becomes complex (chronic and inescapable) trauma. Most trauma experts are convinced that recovery can be extensive, but may never reach “full” recovery (whatever that may mean). As Dr. Bruce Perry stated in The Boy Who Was Raised As a Dog, “she [his patient] will always love with an accent”. Continue reading

Overqualified for the Job

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I have been thinking about leadership lately. What does it mean to be a leader? What personal characteristics does that require? Is a leader defined by their followers, by their dissenters? What is required of them when they are a leader? And why am I so scared to be one?

In our society, most leaders seem to be figure heads. It appears that most of them have a team of people in the background telling them what to do. And while I agree that everyone should collaborate in their creations, it seems that most of our leaders aren’t creating much. They aren’t standing up for much. It seems that they are maintaining the status quo. So to me, they are not leading. They are staying put. Continue reading

Letting It Break

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When I was growing up, I suffered all types of abuse, but I find the most difficult to overcome was the abandonment and neglect. While my abusers stayed in my life (to my dismay), they emotionally left me before I was born. They neglected me in my early life by not meeting my basic needs. So while they were still around, they were not, unless of course, they needed something from me. This feeling of abandonment was exacerbated by the bystanders who walked out of my life while I hoped they would help me.

In my adult life, I struggle to find gratitude and appreciate what I have. It seems as though the people, animals and things that matter to me the most are appreciated the least. It seems that way, but it isn’t the case. As a child, I “learned” that what mattered to me most would be taken away. In some cases, this was a result of manipulative parents who would use my favorite things against me so they could break me. They would also remove my favorite people from my life because they were dangerously close to exposing the family secrets. And their methods certainly worked. So, I developed a defense mechanism. Continue reading