I Can’t Make Me Happy

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I think all the time. I have always been overly cognitive. Inhabiting my body was not safe when I was a child. I invented a much nicer world in my head and it helped me through some horrible situations. But constant thinking is a recipe for disaster. It is easy to take small things and turn them in to big things. That’s how the brain works. It stays in charge that way.

The problem with the “brain on trauma” is the creation of problems that do not exist. The brain will take those old separated emotions and create a problem to accompany them. Then, the brain will create all sorts of approaches to resolve the non-existent problem. This overactive brain of mine has led to heavy anxiety levels and an exhaustion that reflects running a marathon a day. 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

Oil and Water

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Do you ever have those days? When your skin hurts? When a cocoon of blankets is the only place that will provide an ounce of comfort? When no physical touch, no matter how well-meaning, can soothe the inner turmoil? When the idea of a meaningful embrace actually invokes nausea? Do you have those days?

I hope your answer is no. But if you are an abuse survivor, the question is rhetorical. Those days are inevitable.

For me, those days come when I am processing my past trauma. Usually a memory is looming on the horizon, waiting to bless me with additional knowledge about my childhood. I am generally happy to receive the information. I am happy that my inner-child is willing to trust enough to share one more piece of the puzzle. The physical pain is worth it if I can understand just a little more of the trauma I am carrying. The emotions are tough, but if I can compartmentalize them from my current life, they can be tolerated for the sake of recovery. Continue reading

As We Start Our Family Tree

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To my children as we start our family tree,

I cannot begin to describe the impact you have on my life. You are the blessings sent from the divine to wake me up. You are the little life tornadoes who never let me choose the easy way out of the pain. You are the epitome of forgiveness as I made mistake after mistake as a parent. You are the comic relief that comes just when I need it. And you are the reminder of how important the small, daily life events really are.

I have been hoping for a savior since I was born. I even found myself enmeshed with several people throughout the years who I thought might make things right. But of course, they didn’t. They didn’t make things right because the only person who could do that was me. And as I look back over the past seven years, I realize that I may have been responsible for my life, but I had help. I had two little saviors who came to help me figure it out.

You haven’t heard of parental guilt because you are only seven years old. When you asked me to tell you the hardest thing in the world, I wasn’t kidding when I said ‘raising children”. You laughed and said “no way”, but one day, you might be lucky enough to understand. And I do feel guilty for the bad days, the bad decisions. So today, I am going to apologize for the parts that haven’t gone the way I hoped. But I also want you to understand that I know I did so many things right. Parenting is dualistic like that. It is never easy. And it is never black and white. It’s just worth it. Continue reading

The Battle of the Wills: Can I Have a Do-over?

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I am a willful person.  I have always been willful.  I was born that way.  Some look at willfulness as a bad thing.  Willful people have been described as “type A”, control freaks and hard to be around.  Some very willful people have done serious damage to the world in our history.  I am sure Adolf Hitler was willful.  And in his case, it would be justified to call him a control freak (and many other things).

But there is another side to willfulness.  Will may have almost destroyed the world, but it is also responsible for saving the world on many occasions.  Will does not have to manifest as violent and controlling.  Will is short for willingness.  It can manifest as a desire to do something important no matter what gets in the way.  I am sure that Martin Luther King was willful … thank goodness.

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Have Trauma, Will Hover (Chapter 3)

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‘Vacation’ is a funny word for a single mother of young children.  Before having children, the term ‘vacation’ would invoke a feeling of relaxation, but it doesn’t mean what it used to mean.  Now it means I will move my exhausted self and young children to a different place, so I can do the same activities with the same unrealistic schedule.  Nonetheless, we go to the beach every year.

I pick the beach because it is the least painful of the options.  I live within a few hours of numerous beaches so there are no long trips or plane tickets.  I don’t have to drag them (and more importantly their stuff) all over a city while trying to keep their attention at tourist attractions that may or may not be appropriate for their age.  And to be fair, they love the beach.  They start to jump up and down the minute they see the ocean and the sand.

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The Third Option

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I had the privilege of participating in a panel for HuffPost Live yesterday, which focused on parenting methods. It was prompted by a viral blog post about a new parenting “method” called CTFD (Calm The Eff Down). The post was written by David Vienna, author of The Daddy Complex. Although it was mainly meant as a joke, the idea that parents need to calm down and stop stressing is serious.

I was asked to join the discussion because I have admitted to being a helicopter parent. I think they were expecting me to argue with David about parenting approaches, but I explained on the phone that I am not an advocate of helicopter parenting. I am interested in examining the reasons for my need to hover, and adjusting my internal approach to parenting. They still let me participate in the panel.
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