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

An Impenetrable Strength

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As a survivor in the anti-trafficking movement, I am often treated as though I am only necessary for my story. This is not news. Most of my survivor friends can tell you about being re-exploited by those in the movement who are trying to make things right. But of course, in their effort to do the right thing, they are not helping the survivor advocates.

When I began my efforts, I thought I might be different. I thought that wouldn’t happen to me. I have an advanced degree in social work. I have twenty years of experience in the corporate world. I am different. I will be respected.

But in reality, I was stereotyping survivors too! Why am I so different? How many survivors have advanced degrees? How many survivors have experience in corporate jobs? How many are running companies? What makes me so special? Continue reading

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

The Wilderness

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As a trauma survivor in recovery, I have spent a long time in the wilderness. It isn’t an actual wilderness. I am not a fan of the outdoors. Nature and my dissociative defense mechanism are not compatible. I am speaking of the wilderness that is often the subject of the spiritual texts. It seems that before most protagonists find their mission or purpose, there is some period of waiting. There is some period of preparing, of letting go of the old.  And it makes sense to me. I don’t see another way. If the foundation is shaky, it cannot be built upon.

But I hate it.

I carry a large amount of masculine energy with me. I rejected that which was feminine many years ago in my attempts to avoid the loathing that my parents spewed upon their little girls. I figured that if the feminine was so easily abused and disliked, I would not be that. I learned over the years to be about action, to be about the willful accomplishment of goals. In my early adulthood, it seemed to work for a while. It worked until the children were born. But children don’t respond to the unbalanced masculine unless the goal is to rid them of any individuality. They must be raised with both. So I have worked hard to resurrect my feminine aspects. I have even found some balance. But I still favor action. 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

The Human Journey … Passing It On

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For the past eight years, I have worked hard to overcome the difficulties associated with trauma recovery and parenting. It has been anything but easy. I have wanted to quit many times but I am far too stubborn and willful for that. Throughout the process, there have been little miracle milestones that have kept me on track (or put me back on track). These miracles may not seem like miracles to some, but to me, they were incredible experiences. They are incredible because they are changes in the way I viewed the world. My perspective changes. And that is a miracle.

While there have been many miracles, there have been a few that I remember best. One day, I was standing in my kitchen and it suddenly dawned on me that my children were the same as me. I don’t mean they were the same person. But my internalized belief that children were at the bottom of a human totem pole was blown up in an instant. I realized that they were no different from me. They were only born a little later. I wasn’t smarter than them. I wasn’t more privileged than them. I didn’t have more rights than them. I was simply older than they were. I had more experience at life because my birth date was before their birth date. Continue reading