Stop Saving & Start Loving

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We all have that inner child part that is waiting to be rescued. It doesn’t require something awful to happen in our childhoods. At some point in our childhoods, we were not treated fairly and our needs were not met. This is natural. Children are born with needs that are hard for adults to meet. And so, deep inside, there is a part that waits for those needs to be met by others.

This insatiable and global desire for a hero to rescue us manifests everywhere. We see it in our movies and books about super heroes of all shapes and sizes. We see it in those co-dependent relationships which never seem to meet our expectations. And we see it in the anti-trafficking movement. Continue reading

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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

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

Mount Everest

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Relationships are hard for everyone, but especially for survivors of child abuse. Before I started my recovery work, I spent years in relationships that were obviously abusive and damaging to my emotional wellness, but I was too blinded by my own trauma to see it. My family had always taught me that survival depended on having a man in my life. In my family, women kept abusive men around because of this belief. It was critically important for this to be ingrained in each family member as early as possible. There could be no understanding of their individual power. They must believe they could not survive without a partner or the abuse might not be tolerated.

So, I spent many years in codependent relationships that perpetuated my belief systems born from an abusive childhood. I am not worthy of love. I am not meant to be happy. I must do whatever my partner wants so that he will remain happy and not leave me. I cannot say no. I cannot react to his emotionally and verbally abusive comments because that might be dangerous. It was not until my children were born that I realized something needed to change. As I have written before, it was their birth that gave me the motivation to examine my past. 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

Let’s Journey Together

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To My Survivor Friends,

We talk often about how our recovery partners, friends and family may not always say the right thing. We know they mean well, but it is difficult for them to understand our painful situation. They may trigger us with what appears to be invalidating or dismissive comments.

“If you just forgive, everything will be better.”

“Maybe you should just forget about the past and move on. It happened a long time ago.”

“Everyone is dealing with pain in their life.”

Even with these setbacks, you keep moving forward in recovery. And I am so proud of you for the work that you do. I personally know how hard it is to do this work every day. The emotional processing is devastating. The physical processing can be debilitating. We are left moving through the world with about half the energy and physical ability of a non-traumatized person, and that is on a good day. I get it. It sucks. Continue reading