A journal of healing

Archive for the ‘domestic violence’ Category

Judgment

Goddess of the garden

Yesterday, The Good Doc, Victo Delore posted a great post on the vulnerability we all have to react to stimulus without the complete picture. Here’s her post: The Bigger Picture With shame attached, I would have reacted the same to the original situation and thought, “who dares to park in a handicap spot without the credentialing”?  I have a placard to hang from the mirror which is totally out of date. I lack the desire to be labeled handicapped but there are times when it sure makes my life easier to have less of a walk into the store. I honestly have also parked when I am in my car without the mirror handicap sign but only on really bad days and in a rush. One day I was feeling particularly cheeky and parked in the “for expectant mothers” spot. One of the few perks for being fat is you can look pregnant and people won’t ask, “hey, you preggers or just fat?”

Being judgmental is normal. We are taught it at an early age because we are judged. We are criticize and directed for correction as soon as we can voice a decision. When a baby first says, “NO”, the parent thinks, who the heck do they think they are? This is not a bad thing  because we need to learn parameters and boundaries. We also need to test the waters.  Learning what is acceptable is part of being assimilated into a culture.

I was raised by two incredibly judgmental parents who were raised by even more harshly judgmental parents. There was a code instilled in my family of needing to be perfect and that has completely messed with me and all of my siblings. This voice has been a deterrent for me at times because I do not want to face criticism and judgment. But the question begs, who is doing the judging?  When I take the time to really feel what I am thinking, I realize it is often not me; it is the old voice of my parents. It is the illogically comments from a time gone by. It was a mindset that I needed to be aware of so I could protect myself. But I also needed to play along in order to survive in the clan. I rebelled early on when I disagreed with their bigotry and hatred. I still hear their reaction to things and people that are not my real feelings.

I have a huge quantity of personal triggers that set me off. People who have PTSD react to stimulus that others cannot fathom. I have worked very hard to become aware of my triggers and try to deal with them. I am so sensitive to things that no one else can comprehend what they do to me because it is “nonsense” to them. For example, a certain color of light or a shadow on a wall used to completely upset me and bring on a sense of fear and despair. I now can explain that it is the color of light that happens at sunset and the low shadow is a marker of that same time frame. Why does this set me off? Because they are indicators of the time when my parents would begin their drinking.

People with PTSD have a bag of “stuff” to deal with that is so individualized that no one can comprehend what they are dealing with. It is that personal. Yet we hear people all the time say, get over it. We hear and feel the judgment. No one can really comprehend the pain and total suffering of others, ever. We do not have the ability to understand their triggers either. We need to have compassion. And it starts with not judging.

One challenge I am working on for myself is the “pause.” I try to take a moment and step away from the visceral reaction to something and breathe. In the second of calming I often can see a different story than the original view. Much like the good Doc says in her post about seeing the old couple and realizing the real story takes a moment of reflection. This process is hard and I often fail. But for the times when I do, it makes for a sweeter time of it. Unless it is a real jerk….and they do exist.  Ok, that was just to make you smile.

 

My mother and Weight Watchers

stone goddesses

I began Weight Watchers in January, 2015. I am strongly letting everyone know that it has nothing to do with being accepted or trying to meet anyone else’s expectations. It is about me getting my Psoriatic Arthritis under control, which it is not. I found out that inflammation changes the hormones and body chemistry making it very difficult to lose weight. In fact, most people gain. And I am like most.

In the last two years, I sat back and watched my weight steadily increase, some of it since last May when I had a horrible incident with a kidney stone that was 6mm big. It threw my chemistry completely off and within a month I had put on 8 pounds. I thought it was fluid, but it kept climbing higher, even after I passed the stone.

I did a lot of research, as I often do when I come up against something. I thought about bariatric surgery and discovered it should be called barbaric surgery. I asked around a lot and found from the mouths of people who had the surgery that it worked at first, but then MANY gained back some, if not all. And then on top of that heartbreak, they all had some form of  new issue such as diarrhea, hair loss, pain, mal-nutrition, anemia and the list went on. This to me was not an option for me because of the other complications with my blood clotting. I scratched it right off the list.

Then I looked into serious weight loss plans. Again, major rebound issues coupled with health problems. One program was good for small weight loss like 20 or so pounds, but very impossible for long term. The diet was 500 calories with multiple supplements. Really? How does that change a life for better?

So I turned back to old Faithful Weight Watchers (WW). This was my third go at it. First time I lost about 30 pounds but rebounded. Last time I gained right off the bat. This time…. well…. First my story. This is triggered by a friend’s blog I read tonight.

My weight issues began when I was very, very young. I do not remember ever not having a weight problem. I was pudgy as baby. I had severe food allergies and then that seem to not be a problem. There is one picture of me around three and I am not fat but I am not thin. I was tall though. A picture of me at five is that of a beach ball. It remains that way the rest of my life. But in truth, there is a picture I found of me standing up and I was around 13 or 14. I was fully developed, taller than any woman in my family and thick. Not fat, not thin. Shapely. I think at that time I was a size 14-16. The same size clothes now would be a 10-12. I had fabulous legs because I rode a bike everywhere and for miles. I walked, skated, swam all the time and danced. I had a bit of a gut compare to others, but I also had a shapely figure. But by then, I learned to hide, so to see a full shot of me was startling. I also realized I was not the beast my family had portrayed.

My mother, sister, aunt and both grandmothers were petite women. No one was over 5’1 and no one was over 120 pounds. In 6th grade, I was 5’5” and 117 pounds and in a DD bra. I was considered an aberration and chastised soundly by everyone. I can remember my aunt telling me to wear a girdle when I was 13.

My mother decided right about then she was going to “fix” me. She put me on this diet of green beans and Jello. I like both, but it was all I was allowed. I bought lunch at school and that was when you did not have choices, just one hot lunch for 25 cents. Our house was filled with candy and cookies. My father made his own root beer. We had store-bought bakery goodies and donuts every Sunday. Dinner was a roast or casserole with white bread, whole milk, fresh butter, and some dessert.  Crème sauces were big and on everything like fish, potatoes, veggies and meat. Veggies were lima beans, corn, peas and potatoes. I did not have a tossed salad until I was 16. Fruit was rare and often a “salad” was a canned pear on a leaf of lettuce with a glob of mayo and a maraschino cherry. Very chic! Very 50’s.

So her solution to my EATING problem was making me eat beans and Jello for a while. Now mind you, when I was younger, if you did not eat your dinner, you were severely punished. As children, we did not eat with the adults until we were older. On holidays we were allowed at the dinner table, but no talking and no messing around. Just eat and shut up.  I learned very early to eat everything. I was the kind of child who hated being scolded in any manner. Still don’t like it.

My mother could out eat us all. Her metabolism was not given to me. My siblings could eat and remained thin until much later in life. Not me. I ate what was on my plate. Rewards were foods like a special Dunkin donut covered in frosting. Birthday meals were fried chicken or lasagna. Candy lurked everywhere, dishes and bowls of the stuff. Fortunately for me, I am not a big fan of most hard candy, but in a pinch. My mother and father had buckets of Fanny Farmers’ assorted chocolates. There was always a full cookie jar on the counter in the kitchen.  Cheap soda was in the refrigerator and the famous root beer was shared on special occasions. Even alcohol was allowed early in life and on special occasions. I learned to love Cherry brandy by the time I was eight

The part as an adult that I have had to work on so very hard is to get my mother’s critical voice and disapproving looks out of my head. She would skew her face up and would look at me with such distain sometimes that it would hurt me to the core. Food was the enemy she deemed and would go on rampages to humiliate me or shame me into “doing something about my weight.”

Dinner often turned into a battlefield, especially if they had been drinking, which….. they did every night. Some nights, it was a race to be done eating to get away before something happened. Common tortures were a heavy knife handle to the elbow for having it on the table. We had these ball shaped salt shakers which my father would swipe up and pelt at you for some perceived misdoing. As time went on, and my siblings left to go to college or their own lives, I was the featured target. My father would take his dinner plate and fling it at the back of your head like a Frisbee. If he was really out of it, he would fling whatever he could reach.

But I always ate my dinner with my head down and quiet until I was around 15. Then I began to cook for myself and eat privately when I could. My parents often never got to dinner or it would be ten o’clock or so. They were so smashed it didn’t matter. My father munched on cheese and crackers and Mom smoked. But by this point in my life, my food issues were tightly engrained and my body was never going to be petite. NEVER. I ended up at 5’ 6’ inches with size 8 feet. (Mom’s were a size 5) My hip bones (pelvic area) were a good five inches wider than hers, and at her  4’9 inches, I towered over her.

But her voice never left me. is I will always see her dark hair framing her disapproving looks.

Fast forward to now, the present moment… well we will back up first. When I started working at my job there was this woman who I saw for the first time from the back and my heart skipped a beat. I swore it was my Mom.  Something about the way she held herself.  This woman and I do not get along. She is critical of everything and everyone. She has a frown on her face most of the time. She especially does not like me. I am in the position she held for ten years as head of Education. She is a nurse, I am not. This is my failing and she and a few others let me know at every opportunity they do not approve of me. It was very hard for me to get passed her and ignore her and her cryptic comments and her LOOK.

Now, present moment. What does any of this have to do with Weight Watchers? I was doing WW on line since January. But they offered a deal at work and were going to have meetings there. So I signed up and arrived early to the first meeting last week.  Who do you think walks in to join? Mind you, if she has ten pounds to lose, it is a lot. So there I am and all the old guilt, resentment, and uglies surfaced. I could barely speak in the meeting. We had to share why we were there and I wanted to stand up and scream because my mother was a mean bitch and so are you….(looking at this woman). But in a shaky voice I mumbled about being a big beautiful woman and that I was here to get healthier. I went home so upset I thought I should quit.

But I did not. Instead, I challenged her. She has four other participants and we have our own team from HR/ED. We will win. This week our team all had significant weight loss. I am doing really well, after a couple of stalls. This will happen and then I lose a few more. Right now I have lost 5% of my total body weight from where I started. It’s all numbers. I am still big. I am also still in pain. But I have not had a shot in two months. It will be interesting to see what happens once I get a shot and calm the inflammation. Right now I can barely walk so I am not exercising. But that will become necessary soon.

The team that loses the most total poundage gets a lunch provided by the other team. I will enjoy watching her serve me……hahahah. I keep holding on to that.

 

 

 

Why I only see the bad in me…..

On my last post, someone asked this question and I thought it is an excellent question. I knew the answer but I went and did some research anyways. Here’s the question:” Why is it I know all I did wrong and think of nothing right? or see mistakes, not successes?”

When humans first roamed the earth they were given a very basic nervous system called the limbic system to protect them. It is a genetic piece of work that still is within us. The system is our warning system that something is wrong and to do something about it. It is fear radar. I have written before how this all works. Through time, the brain became more evolved and we developed the capacity to override the limbic system by learning in reality what is harmful. For example, we know a hot stove can hurt us, but only if we do certain actions like touch the burner. We do not walk around and every time we face a stove, we go into a panic mood or better known as fight, flight or freeze. Unless you hate to cook.

But children who are raised in trauma based environments face a different learning sequence that changes how they react to things as adult. It is not a failure in the child, it is actually another mechanism put into place to protect the child. It appears that genetics predisposes us to develop in certain ways. But our experiences, including our interactions with other people, have a significant impact on how our predispositions are expressed. In fact, research now shows that many capacities thought to be fixed at birth are actually dependent on a sequence of experiences combined with heredity. Both factors are essential for optimum development of the human brain (Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000).

I often wondered why my reactions to things seemed so much over the top. I am very sensitive. I have learned to accept this part of me as a gift, along with the desire to learn to live in peace with it. I am definitely prone to hyper arousal. I would go off and very little would sooth me even if I knew cognitively that things were not as bad as I was making it out to be. When children are exposed to chronic, traumatic stress, their brains sensitize the pathways for the fear response and create memories that automatically trigger that response without conscious thought. These children have an altered baseline for arousal, and they tend to overreact to triggers that other children find nonthreatening (Child Trauma Academy, n.d.).

We all have voices in our heads. And those voices are the echoes of conversations we have heard before since infancy. Many can override negative voices through affirmations and other verbal training. They can change the imprints of negativity. However children who grow up in violent or chaotic homes are too busy trying to survive. Consumed with a need to monitor nonverbal cues for threats, their brains are less able to interpret and respond to verbal cues, even when they are in a supposedly nonthreatening environment.- if a child’s caretakers are indifferent or hostile—the child’s brain development may be impaired. Because the brain adapts to its environment, it will adapt to a negative environment just as readily as it will adapt to a positive one. But if a child’s caregivers are unresponsive or threatening, and the attachment process is disrupted, the child’s ability to form any healthy relationships during his or her life may be impaired (Perry, 2001a).

The question is why do some people only hear the “bad” in their lives? I do not take compliments well. I always am waiting for the other shoe to drop. It is my parents voices I hear which is totally unfair since they are both long gone. Why can I not move on? But if the early environment is abusive or neglectful, our brains will create memories of these experiences that may adversely color our view of the world throughout our life. Explicit memory, which develops around age 2, refers to conscious memories and is tied to language development. Explicit memory allows children to talk about themselves in the past and future or in different places or circumstances through the process of conscious recollection (Applegate & Shapiro, 2005).

This study goes into the effect of long term negative environment. It explains that the brain continues to grow and develop with whatever stimulus the child is exposed to. One way that early maltreatment experiences may alter a child’s ability to interact positively with others is by altering brain neurochemical balance. Research on children who suffered early emotional abuse or severe deprivation indicates that such maltreatment may permanently alter the brain’s ability to use serotonin, which helps produce feelings of well-being and emotional stability (Healy, 2004).

This was an excellent study to help understand the long term impact of childhood trauma and sexual abuse. More and more information is coming out on the long term effects which will help with acceptance. But the most important acceptance is self-acceptance. Based on this study and others, the situation is daunting. If you are chemically and physically wired for hyper-arousal, self-deprecation and negativity, how do you overcome it? Can you overcome it?

Yes, I believe so. All humans have neuroplasticity, which means our brains will create new neuropathways for life. The process slows down as we age. And it takes more than just verbal input. You have to train the body as well to not react to stimulus incorrectly. You have to learn your triggers. You have to learn what is safe. And by that I mean feel within your body, mind and soul what is your place of safe. And you have to forgive….forgive your predators because if you do not, you are still giving them power. And you have to forgive yourself when things set you off course or upset you. This process takes a lot of work and I honor any who keep on trying because I know it is hard. Just as the child who repeated falls when learning to walk, they get up and keep trying. So goes our lives. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

From:

Child Welfare Information Gateway ISSUE BRIEF. November 2009, Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development

 

2015 New years and dream

Goddess of the garden

Again I am amazed at the amount of stories and bloggers of people who have some form of PTSD and Trauma based issues. And the level of trauma ranges from violence and sexual abuse to anxiety and to incurring self-mutilation. When I first starting this new post, I thought I would focus more on the clinical aspects of trauma inflicted issues but then I thought “who was I to write about things like that?” After spending some time reading other posts I think I will continue to share my journey in the hopes that maybe others can relate. I find in the plethora of blogs out there on the topic there is also a difference in each one. And in my own pursuit I have come across information I did not have. I have felt compassion and understanding and I find this soothing. It is sort of a community. And since I do not see childhood abuse or sexual abuse or domestic abuse going away, I think it is important to talk about it and share.

So in that vein, I am going to share a dream I have had off and on for the last (I sat for about fifteen minutes while writing this and realized the amount of years and was shocked) over twenty-five years. But I must give a brief history for it to make sense. I met my first husband when I was 19. We got married a year and half later. There were signs then that he was violent and a liar and cheat but I did not pay attention. I want to get out of the even more abusive situation at home. I did love him, very much so. He was in a band, had long hair, was over 6 feet and large. He wrote poetry and sometime songs. He wanted to go to Canada with me and start a farm and not be in the military. He was pretty close to being drafted when Vietnam ended. I was a total hippie and the thought of raising plants and animals for a living has never gone away. I would never have raised animals to slaughter, but I love cows and sheep. I grew up on farms of my friends and was no stranger to the hard work that is farm living. But I was young and very healthy and strong back then.

From the day I met him, being unfaithful was going to be a part of my life with him and his friends. His best friend was cheating on his girlfriend and wanted to “date” my best friend, and was hitting on her. That was how he and I met. Once we became a couple, in short order, I realized we had a different meaning of being committed. I never caught him red-handed, so to speak, before we got married. But there were signs. I wanted to be married and on my own so I went onward. But there were a couple of situations where his temper flared, including taking a hammer to the windshield of his van and smashing it right where my face was. This was to be his method of attack in the future. He never hit me directly in the face, but would smash things very close to my face such as the wall or throw something. But, after the home I came out of, violence was nothing new.

What became more pervasive was the onslaught of girlfriends. I will not go into all the details of it right now. In the later years it got so bad that he would pick up women at bars in front of me and go off. Early on I knew something was up and would go through his wallet and find names and phone numbers. I had no shame about going through his wallet either. I knew what he got paid, I knew what he gave me, and I knew how much cash he blew on going out. Early in our marriage, he would explode when confronted on things, and I learned to let it go. But I did not let it go. I brought it all inward. It ate away at me all the time. What self-confidence and self-esteem I had was GONE by the time I was 25. GONE! I remember we both went on medication induced diets and I lost a ton of weight. I was gorgeous and had a body like Marilyn. I attracted a lot of attention. But my head image never changed and I had no realization of being anything but a fat, ugly, unwanted woman. The weight came back incredibly quickly and doubled. He had joined the police department, and the level of ostracization became intense. He quickly gravitated to a couple of women in his class and became too friendly with one in particular. This relation lasted for years. She made it very clear to me that he was involved with her. I was embarrassed and humiliated because everyone in our personal circle knew about it and accepted her and the relationship. She was not the only one, believe me, in the 27 years we were married. He had one affair that lasted nine months before he had to confess because she contracted a STD and he had to tell me. BUT…. I have to explain something that will make sense why I was subjected to this for so long and never got out.

After he became a cop, he changed. I believed in marriage being sacred. My mother instilled abject fear about divorce in me. She said it was the ultimate disgrace and failure on the woman. At the time, I did not know her mother was divorced. I did not find that out until several years after she died. I thought it was my duty to stay and put up with it. In hindsight, I know I was also terrified. And this is what he fed into, as most predators find the Achilles in their victims. He would also become the most violent after I confronted him. One time he got so mad he punched the wall and broke his hand. (served him right) He had to go to the hospital and get it cast.

But he also isolated me. He even admitted he did this when we were going through his divorce. He would do horribly embarrassing things when we were with my friends. And my friends could not stand him. So in short order, the only girlfriends I was allowed to be with were the wives of his friends. I was very blessed that my dearest friend forgave me for the period of time when I did not see her and we have become close again. Other friends did not hang in there. The women who I was in relationship with were very nice, but, I would not befriend them now. There were too many differences, especially with his closest guy friend and his wife. She was a simple woman whose whole world was her family. She had no children of her own, which was horrible for her. But without being condescending, she was also not the brightest woman I have ever met. I have not heard anything from them since the divorce either. The rest of the women were in the same predicament as I. One lady, Linda, had been with her man for ten years. He had another woman, Carol, who he saw every Sunday. He also spent time with her as he pleased leaving Linda crying in the house they shared. We were never sure who he would bring to a party. He cheated on Carol, when he met Linda. One gentleman died “in the saddle” of girlfriend #2. It was such a joke they called her Killer. I am sure his wife laughed all the way to the bank when none of the three girlfriends got anything and he was very rich. There was one guy who kept bringing this woman to our house and events and I made the faux pas of calling her his wife. Nope; girlfriend for over ten years and the wife knew all about it. She preferred to stay home with their children. This list goes on. They all were not cops, but many were. And this is not to say that all cops cheat, but in my permitted circle it was the norm. Most of the women were not highly educated and although some worked, none had management jobs. Some were secretaries, or hygienists or in medical offices. This sounds highly condescending, but they were not interested in anything else. None had outside activities except going to shooting matches with their men. I am serious. Some actually shot. Conversations were about house- hold cleaning products or television. I was even ostracized even within this circle because I believe in gay rights and was called a Feminazi because I was a feminist. It added to the depletion even more of my self-esteem. I had to get out of that circle to figure this out. Many of his circle of friends divorced when the cop husbands retired and they ended up with much younger wives. Very sad. But the real tragedy is what this constant degradation of the wife and the humiliation that goes with being treated that way does to the woman. It strips away every drop of self-esteem you have. Many did not leave because of children, but I found out later, many also were subject to mental and physical abuse. I joined a divorce support group and one of the members turned out to be the wife of a cop I knew only by name. What he did to her was criminal. Being married to a cop has many challenges as the Blue Code protects some and hurts many others.

Now back to my dream. I will preface this also with the facts I am married now to a man that fidelity is not an issue. My husband is the most faithful and loyal person I have ever met. The reoccurring dream is one where I am still married to the ex and he goes through a string of behaviors that flaunt his connection with another woman. The dreams started when I was still married to him. I would wake up crying and humiliated and also very angry. When we divorced, the dreams increased in frequency. I would wake up stressed and upset. Eventually, in the last two years, the dreams would change at the end to me beginning to fight back. There was a couple where I flayed on him. He was a big man so it was futile. It only added to the frustration. More recently, the dream resolves where I am starting to tell him to go f**k himself. Most times I don’t get it out as I become inarticulate and I wake up.

This morning I slept in and the dream came again. Just as I was about to have to face this woman picking up my ex-husband and I to go to some event, yes all three of us in her car carrier truck,…it’s a dream but the other woman always is more macho in activity or had children (we could spent a whole month of that) and I go WHOA…..”you’re an asshole”….and I am about to rip into him and tell him how I feel about this and my current hubby opened the bedroom door to allow our little peanut doggies to wake me up. I was so close.

I have been divorced for 13 years. I have not spoken to him since then. I wrote a letter once but of course never sent it. It helped with some of the anger. The anger I have now is not at him. He was a pathetic jerk and so were his friends. None of them deserve anymore of me. But I am angry and frustrated at myself for not being able to resolve all this in my dream world. It gets to the part where I pull up my big girl panties and I am about to invalidate him and I fail. I am sure there is a whole mess of psychoanalysts who can tell me what this all means. What is very weird is that I have not really talked about much of this period of my life to anyone except in my writing. I think I am still grappling with the humiliation and the fear of retaliation that was so pervasive for almost thirty years of my relationship with this man. He began his isolation and exclusion of me from his life almost from the moment I met him. There is consolation that I am getting closer to speaking up in the dream. In the real world, my self-esteem and self-worth is still pretty fractured. If you couple my childhood years with this period it is 47 years of pure hell. I guess I need to give myself a lot more credit for being able to even have some peace now.

Although I celebrate the New Year on October 31st, I am sending everyone a blessing for the upcoming year of 2015 to be one of great healing and recovery. I hope we all get a bit stronger and fight for help for all the people who are impacted in some manner of trauma to become the Spiritual Warrior they are meant to be. I cannot help but believe there is a reason we all are here. And those who have had some huge battle with the evil of the world, whether it is on a battlefield or in our own homes, we are here to stop it from happening in the future. I really see and feel in my deepest regions of my soul there is goodness and light in everyone and we are not meant to hurt each other. I struggle every day with the whys and what ifs. But the future is where the change can occur, so I wish for it to be a better world for us all.

Trauma induced Obesity…. Really? No Sh*t!

rain clouds'

I actually wrote a whole different blog last night. I decided to sit on and not publish. In the morning, I reread and tweaked it and thought I would send it out anyways later. But in going over my emails, I found this email from a friend and therapist who sent me a blog article. I did not get to read it until later in the day. I had taken a break from work and decided to read through. I sat there at my desk crying.  Fortunately no one was around much. I have a heater fan running so hopefully no one heard me sniffling. I stopped and mopped my face up and decided when I got home to reread the blog and then write. Oh…. I was going to write.

I spent time tonight working on house stuff, laundry and the sorts and just sat down a little while ago to read the blog again. I was actually not thrilled about facing it again. I then went to the site and looked at some of the older posts. It took my breath away. It is so overwhelming to the point it knocked me out of writing what I wanted to. I am just ….and I am not sure the right word is that I am. I am mad because there is so much statistical information out there on trauma induced illness and yet it is so unknown by practicing clinicians. I had written about the ACE study before in my blog. If you have not done an ACE study, do so. And then read the implications. It is enlightening.

http://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/

But now as the night has progressed and I spent it reading instead of writing, I am going to let the blog speak for itself. It is quite a collection of information. I am going to share the one line that made me cry. And it is terrible. The author is sharing the story of how the doctor who was working in creating an obesity clinic was upset because he was not successful. He went on to dig into many of the (obese) patients’ history and found a resounding amount of them had some form of childhood trauma. That is not what made me cry….it made me slap my head and say out loud, “Really? No shit!” This is right from the Dr.’s story after he had given his results to a body of educated physicians and clinicians.

So, if you were Vincent Felitti, whom would you pick as your first audience to reveal your stunning findings? A group relatively informed about obesity that would greet the new information with extreme interest, praise and applause? Natch. So, in 1990, Felitti flew to Atlanta to give a speech to the members – many of them psychologists and psychiatrists — of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity. The audience listened quietly and politely. When he finished, one of the experts stood up and blasted him. “He told me I was naïve to believe my patients, that it was commonly understood by those more familiar with such matters that these patient statements were fabrications to provide a cover explanation for failed lives!”   http://acestoohigh.com/2012/10/03/the-adverse-childhood-experiences-study-the-largest-most-important-public-health-study-you-never-heard-of-began-in-an-obesity-clinic/

……..A fabrication to cover FAILED Lives?   Oh man did that stick in my craw. Truthfully it makes me furious. So again, because someone is obese (and I hate that word with a passion) the presumption is that (1) they lie and (2) their life is a failure. If you think this is an exaggeration, you are not in the world of being overweight. The reason I was crying is because it happens a lot. To read someone with such credibility admit this was overwhelming to me. It is pervasive in the medical field and I face it every day at my job. That is exactly what people, doctors and other clinicians have projected to me. I have heard other large people tell about me about their discrimination. A person I know just died because they refused to give her a liver transplant because she was overweight. Prime personal example: years ago, I had gone to have some work done up to find out why my a1c had spiked. I had the Chief of the Endocrinology department tell me I was a waste of time, that I would never be able to lose weight or exercise like HE did and so he was going to march me down to bariatric surgery immediately and get me fixed. (I have to breathe deeply every time I think of this) He never looked at my chart. If he had he would have seen my blood sugar had spiked in three months after a life time of low to normal readings. It took me having to read and discover that the prednisone and other drugs they slammed me on for the PsA all raised blood glucose. AND when I went off, it came back down. I went to see a nephrologist after one of my kidneys failed. Again, he never discussed anything but the fact that I was overweight and he wanted to bet me, BET me, that I would NOT be able to lose weight. I think he thought he was challenging me. Again, no one ever told me for a year my right kidney had failed…first concern…and that I had developed stones and they were a by-product of the PsA…it took me eight years to find that out and I should have been medicated then, eight years ago, to reduce the creation of more…which happened. No one can see past the weight. I am a non-person.

That last statement about being a non-person is very telling. I am going to stop tonight and let it just sit out there. I hope you will skim through the blog article: http://acestoohigh.com/2012/10/03/the-adverse-childhood-experiences-study-the-largest-most-important-public-health-study-you-never-heard-of-began-in-an-obesity-clinic/

 

 

 

 

Righteous indignation

I have been reading some new blogs. I am impressed with all the people who participate in writing as a form of expression of themselves. I actually started writing as part of my therapy. It has helped a lot. But I am disheartened by the content of so many blogs that I read. They are so many hurt people in this world. My vulnerability is showing and I do not care what people think of that. I have in my soul a place that feels deeply for so many. Maybe it is the Christmas music playing. Maybe it is because it is Charitable Tuesday. Something is weighing on me. This time of year brings out the good and wondrous, but also misery seems to increase. Maybe it is because we want the good at this time of year, the bad seems more heinous.

I like Christmas but I do not like all the commercialism. We have an event here called Roc the Day. It is when there is an all-out campaign to hit people up for money in the county. It is competitive by organization and it is very popular. Our organization had three entrees on the website for donations. I gave to one, but I also give at other times. The thing that bothered me was I overheard our foundation person talking to someone about how successful this is because of Christmas. People are more generous now and so they created this huge marketing plan in an attempt to get more donations. It works. But I do not like the idea of playing people.

And this led me down my path of righteous indignation tonight, especially after reading some blogs. What makes adults play on children, or should I say prey on them. What in the world creates lechery? Why would someone intentionally kill the spirit of a child for their own pleasure? I think part of why I struggle with this is because of my own experience. I will never understand why things occurred in my life; at least not while I am still in this plane of existence. I think it will be clear someday. I hold on to that as a concession. But tonight, it is overwhelming.

We accept that soldiers of war suffer from PTSD. But talking about childhood trauma and sexual abuse is still taboo. PTSD is not talked about or widely known as a medical condition for non-combat women. I think, and this is my personal theory, that it is because it is taken upon by the victim as a badge of shame. That they (we) feel they deserve what happened, or there is something so wrong or broken with them,(us), that they,(me), have a hard time sharing it or even talking about it. I know I do not speak of my childhood experiences with just anyone. And for the most part, I cannot articulate my experiences unless I write. I cannot speak about it. That is why I have such a feeling of companionship from the blogs.

Tonight I read about some pretty sad situations. This is not judgment, it is their story and to say it is anything but that it was sad would be not real. Even though the people have made a success out of their lives, at what cost? I think what potential was lost. I think of that often for myself. What could I have done with my life if I had not escaped by marrying the wrong person at such a young age? What could have become of my children if I had become a mother by marrying someone else? What-if? So many what-ifs? And the answer is “live for today.” Well, in reality, there is no other choice.

But back to my righteous indignation. Why is sexual abuse and child abuse not going way? I do not get this at all. I see parents walking kids to school for fear of them being abducted, yet they have no idea Uncle Ernie is playing “Hide the weenie” with their daughter. They turn a blind eye when their spouse crosses the line or a sibling playing house takes it too far. And why do we punish the victim and not the perpetrator? I know there are answers but why is this still an issue? It needs to stop.

But the thing that is sticking in my craw more tonight is why can’t we fix the adult that has had things happen to them? Why is there no big campaign to raise funds to help women (and men) who suffer from PTSD from childhood abuse? Why is this so difficult to heal from? I read how the past inflictions have made a living hell for so many. They suffer from chronic illnesses, fear and many are unable to work or function in the world as it is. They had the where-for-all to create a little pill to make a man get a stiffy. Really? We can’t fix the thousands of zombie-like adults who traverse this world? We cannot find some way to heal them to live their full potential, with our fear and shame?

I do not find this acceptable. I am angry and want to do something beneficial to change this situation, to help people heal, and become whole. I am so full of regret tonight that I am sitting here crying. I want to have another chance at this. I want to be twenty and able to go to college and train as a psychologist or therapist of some kind. But I am forty years past that and so I must find another way. I really feel I am wasting my existence more now than when I was younger.

My husband and I were talking about Christmas presents tonight. He is upset because I truly have nothing I want as a gift. But there is something I want and that is to find the purpose to my life. I am not sure how this post tonight got to this point, but I let my fingers do the talking. So what started out to be a post to bolster acceptance and power has left me feeling useless and in tears. So I am stopping writing for tonight. That is the first step. I do not need to beat myself up anymore.

Altered States

painting 11-2014

It was nice to have some time off. I did have to work on Friday and the lack of personnel at work made for a quiet day but I got a lot done. From somewhere in my head, I got this idea that I needed to revisit a hobby I used to have. I stopped because my hands no longer worked well. But it came into my head to find my old stuff and haul it out and take a try.

I thought I knew where the fairly large box would be. I went into the garage and faced a  pile of boxes and stuff. I ended up spending about two hours cleaning up the boxes of things we kept to donate, and then never did. Unfortunately I did not find what I wanted but the garage is organized again.

I then called around to see if anyone carried the supplies and was told from one of our largest hobby shops that no one in the area carried them anymore. I was very disappointed but persevered and did find them at a big chain arts and crafts store nearby. We went and found them on sale so I bought a bunch.

I Love to pain little houses and things that you use to make a Christmas village. My friend RH showed us a picture of one he set up and it inspired me. I did a series before for a friend. I gave her a new house every Christmas for about ten or more years. She has quiet a nice village. I also did ornaments and other things. But I stopped doing the painting because it hurt my hand.

All this blog chatter is nice, but not very important. What I want to share is what I discovered. I spent about two or more hours painting yesterday. I had on Christmas music that was gorgeous and filled the house with harps and strings. It was lovely. I was totally occupied with my painting and I realized something and this is what is important.

My breathing was slow and steady; much like it is when I meditate. My brain was quiet. No chatter and what-if’s. That is very important. It takes a lot to really quiet my brain especially when I am stressed. I realized I was so deep into my concentration of tiny paint strokes that I had become totally calm. No wonder I enjoyed this hobby so much. It was an oasis of tranquility. It connected me with a place that I struggle to find in my life.

There was no guilt attached to just sitting there and paint these little houses because I had decided it was a worthwhile endeavor. I was being creative which is a great esteem builder. I am very good at this. I stopped after about an hour and just sat there and paid attention to my body. The ever present pain was very mild. I was hunched up a bit but it was ok. The calm was pervasive and totally encompassing me. I paid attention to it and “printed it.” I am working on a theory that I need to retrain my brain to know calm as the most desired state instead of the hyper arousal and stress normally coursing through me. But it is hard for me to do because it is not present naturally. My natural state is to be on guard all the time. This activity defocused my outward senses, deactivated the constant fear and created a presence of safety. It created an altered state.

My theory extends that the more I find these activities to create this calm presence the more it will become natural for me. People like me who go through life on guard all the time need to retrain the brain to let go. For years, people have told me this… “just be…let go…clam down”. I tried to explain once to someone “how can I feel safe when I do not know what that is?” It is hard to comprehend that natural for me is like being a mouse in a world of cats. I have lived like this for most of my life.

My theory extends that the more I get to a state of calm, the more the issues I face like pain and obesity will also abate. I believe my pain is created partially because I always have my muscles in a crunch. My normal state is with my shoulders up, my leg muscles clenched and my hands in a ball. My food processing stops or overreacts. Either way it is not normal. I have too many hormones that occur naturally when someone prepares for fight or flight. These chemicals create inflammation which creates pain. The pain stops me from moving and not moving creates stiffness which produces pain and on and on it goes. And when I do not move, I do not burn calories. It is a viscous circle which I want to stop. Just dieting does not help because my body reacts like someone who is being deprived (which is the basis for diets) and holds on to calories even more. I gained weight when I was on Weight Watchers. And that circle of shame just adds to the situation.

As I continued to paint, I thought back to the time when I did this before. There was a lot of nasty stuff in my life, but I had found things that kept balance in my life. Slowly, many of the things I did lost their zest as I tumbled down into the black hole that became my life for a while. After my divorced and I moved into this house, I now realized that I had removed myself from a very bad situation, and mentally there was great relief. But my body had become so used to being afraid that it had become engrained. I rebounded by becoming very sick. None of this is my fault. It took me ten years to understand this. It will be my work for the rest of my life to heal from all of this history and teach my body that is just that; history.

Shake, rattle and roll

Have you ever seen an animal run around like crazy or shake its fur in a series of ripples? If you own a cat or dog, you have witness this and maybe did not know what your pet was doing? My cats used to charge around the house and it seemed to be nonsensical when they did it. Our dogs also do the running thing outside. They blast out the door and run as fast as they could until spent. This is called discharge, and it is what healthy animals do to get rid of stress. Animals also shake to rid themselves of pent up energy and often in dispensation of a serious threat. We can and should do the same thing. But we do not and then hold on to the stress which builds into PTSD. Sound simplistic, but I am a firm believer in this process. The book I am reading by Peter Levine goes deep into this and there are many others who follow this process as part of their therapy. But how do you do it and what if the trauma was many years ago. This is the basis of somatic therapies and body work.

For today, I am going to share one of the things I do. I am a work in progress. But I want to see if anyone else does similar things so please share. I got away from working on this and practicing my healing work. It made a difference in how I feel and for the better.

So this morning, and unfortunately it is a rare opportunity, I lay quiet in my bed. The first thing I do is become aware of my surroundings. The house was very quiet. My husband was asleep softly breathing (again, rare as he can snore). The little dogs had already got up to go out and had climbed back in for a few winks and snoozes. The cat was fed and asleep in her room. No one wanted anything from me. This is a crucial feeling. You have to be able to completely relax. If I think someone wants something from me, I do not relax. This is part of my bag that I carry. It is very, very hard for me to completely relax. But if do not, the next step cannot happen.

I then go inward. I feel what it feels like to be me. If you do not mediate or do not understand “go inward”, this can be confusing. I find many teachers of healing arts like yoga and meditation just automatically think everyone knows what this means. So to explain; for me, and that is my only point of reference, it is like a separation of body from mind. Think of having a shell and you are almost a complete separate entity housed within. Be in the darkness and sense the protection of your body housing you. Much like you can sense you outside bubble, your body space, it is a perception. There is no physical line of demarcation, it is all sensed. You are separate floating within this housing vessel called your body.

So once you get that feeling down, take a stroll around your body with your mind. Pain might pop up. Focus on the pain and in your mind, send it energy to feel better. Some say send it love, some say light. Whatever works is what is important. Think of your body as your child and you are a parent sending soothing comfort to your child’s boo-boo. This should dissipate the soreness. Really feel whatever comes up and then let it go. If it seems to get “brighter” with pain, breathe deeply and calm. You are relaxing. When I get a flare when I do this, I send light to it and I focus on the strength of the light, and not the pain.

This, by the way, was not a process I did over night, I have been working on this for years and sometimes it still does not work. When I first started doing this, I used to lay down when no one was around. I had an older dog that would not bother me so I had quiet more often. I would crawl into bed and slap on headphones with music to help calm me. There is a ton of meditation music out there and you can get it right off of YouTube. Whatever sound you use, it has to be something that does not get you charged up. This is preference you will have to discover for yourself.

Back to calming: Once you are totally calm, comforted and peaceful, print it. Print the sensation in your mind. Be aware and feel it deeply and completely. When you feel you are in a place of complete comfort, tell yourself you are safe. Breathe deep and repeat this in your head. “I am safe.” “This is what safe feels like.” If you feel tension somewhere, breathe deep and relax the muscles that are tight. Keep doing this. What you will probably start to feel are twitches. Sometimes it’s your feet. They may want to flex and almost feel like they want to walk or ever better run. Let them. My feet twitch, but they do not run. This is very indicative for me of the trapped sensation I often have. Your hands and fingers may flex. Let them. Whatever twitches involuntarily is great. This is what you want. Notice it, but do not stop it. You are not really meditating and need complete stillness. You are discharging. Your legs may flop, your arms may move. It is all good.

For me, once I really let go of my hypervigilance, I shudder. My shoulders go up in a spasm. First time it happened, it scared me. I felt it come up through my body from my gut and snap. It is very quick. I cannot make it happen or to force it. It is a completely uncontrolled body movement. Once I started doing this, it happened often and it did not take me having to lie down. Watching TV would be enough of a numbing to have it happen. Sitting in my garden chair would be enough. It happened in the dentist chair when I was having a cleaning. I allowed it because I knew it was ok and a good thing. I found that when I am in a state of anxiety it doesn’t happen. That is when I have to really pay attention to calming and centering myself.

The other thing I do and I had no idea what it was for a very long time; I have a low vibration that happens to me. When I say low, I mean it is not very apparent. One could not detect from the outside of me that I am shaking inside. But I feel it. It is a very rapid and quick vibration. I used to think it was the pre-cursor of something bad going to happen. The first time I was aware of it was when I was lying in bed, going through my divorce and a bunch of really life altering things. I thought the bed was shaking. I paid attention to it as it happened more. Now I know it was my systems discharging all on their own. Unless we are really aware of our body, which I was not twelve years ago, this might not even be something we are aware of. Again, it happens totally involuntary. I cannot bring it on. What used to scare me but now it makes me smile.

Think about this: The medical practice when someone has been in or witnessed a trauma is to strap them down, medicate them to calm and not allow them to move. It is the worst thing we can do. In surgical recovery, it is common for people to shake and struggle as they come out of anesthesia. When a child is upset and scared, they will shake when they cry and will continue afterwards to shudder as they calm. If you have ever witness something, or scare yourself, and you find yourself wanting  to “shake it off?” Do so.

There are many ways to discharge energy if you are physically able. Running and repetitive exercise is great. Dancing is also good. This helps dissipate energy and flood your body with “happy hormones.” There are many ways to discharge like drumming or even laughing.

But for some of us, mobility is a big issue. This practice that I mentioned above is for someone who is healing from trauma. Body work has to become part of therapy for anyone who is dealing with trauma. There are many forms of somatic therapy and it is finally becoming acceptable. We are discovering that we do not heal well from cognitive based therapy. We need to engage all our senses. We as patients or clients need to be open to this. The more we are involved with this evolution; the world will have to take notice of evidenced based therapies that diverge from CBT. The body is not separate from the brain. We must heal the whole person.

Disconnection of the body

Buffalo

Tonight I am inspired by a friend’s blog. Please check it out at MY BODY…. She speaks for so many of us. It is funny because sometimes blog ideas come to me in the weirdest ways. I was going to write about something else but this is very relevant and so I am going there. “There” is what it is like being large and what it feels like to be disconnected to our body and what that means. For many survivors of sexual abuse, the only way we can deal with ourselves is to not associate with our bodies, because then we are connected to the trauma. In other words, if I do not feel the trauma, it may not be real.

I know many people who have survived sexual trauma go through a stage of did it really happen? That is what happened to me. The memory was not in place; only fragments which came to me in jagged flashbacks. One was on my first wedding night. I had no sense of the past situation in reality. I did not remember the physical confrontation. Matter of fact, much was not clear enough for me to even know if it was real. And truth be told, I am still not sure. And if you were to survey many of us, you would find that doubt is quite common. But then who would make up this shit? But too much makes sense. As I went through therapy two years ago, I started to put pieces together. And then one night I remembered the physical feeling. I remembered too much. I could smell things. Blurry images became clear. I am not sure now if it was such a good thing to relive as I was alone when it came back and I am positive I retraumatized myself. I had not learned any coping mechanisms, yet.

I do not want to focus on that. What I do want to talk about is disconnection and the impact of not loving our bodies. It is not a simple cognitive function. One who has had physical trauma, especially one based in shame like abuse, does not go “Snap, I am past this.” It can be and often is a life sentence. And why?

These are my theories: I am in firm belief that we ALL hold some form of shame when dealing with fat. It is that basic. Our society likens carrying fat as being the ultimate disgrace. Parents, teachers and other forms of early authority in our lives make sure the larger child knows that they have failed just by being fat. Nothing surpasses that. And I think that it all comes back around to the same thing; they are ashamed for us and of us. They are ashamed of our fatness. So no matter what happens we never can or will ever measure up. I think that we wear our weight as a scarlet letter because we think we deserve to be fat. I am not convinced it has totally to do with what is consumed. I think it has to do with release or not being able to release the trauma. So the weight stays and we take the punishment for what we all think we did to cause our trauma. And if you dig deep enough, you will discover that often the victim feels they caused their situation. Why me….why was I the one, what did I do to deserve this? It is a tape running in our heads that few can ignore.

This is where it becomes interesting, and it is my theory. But I think my studies will hold up to a lot of what I am going to say. We as children do a couple things to survive. We over achieve because we have to prove that being fat is not who we are. And then, we disassociate with the cause of all our pain. We disconnect from our body.

So over achieving…. This is me. I always danced too hard. I would dance around people doing my “what can I do to please you because if I please you, you may like me and I do need to be accepted.” Dance. I danced it for years and I still do. But now I get pissed sooner. I danced it for my family, my mother and father and then for my ex. Silly thing is that all it did was make me vulnerable and more of a victim. But in my defense, I have four degrees, all Summa Cum Laude. I have three professional certifications, two teaching licenses and a plethora of awards and accolades. And I still feel insignificant. Very much so, especially where I work. The need to be the best and most was always so important to me. And this was my original topic for tonight. When do we stop caring so much what other people think about us? Do we ever stop? Does it matter? Really?

The answer is a big fat no. (((smile))) But I have not convinced myself of this, physically and only slightly mentally. The only thing that this type of stress will do for you is make you sick. If you want to do something, do it for yourself…..ah…..here comes the second part.

So doing something for yourself means you have to feel ….oh no….feel…not feel….anything but needing to feel. That is the issue. When you relate to trauma by disassociating, you cannot feel. And now it where it comes to the heart of the matter. Again, my theory, but the more I read the more I think that this is being substantiated.

Nonetheless, the medical model persists. It (arguably) functions fairly effectively with diseases like diabetes and cancer, where the doctor holds all of the knowledge and dictates the necessary interventions for a sick patient. This is not, however, a useful paradigm for trauma healing. Rather than being a disease in the classical sense, trauma is instead a profound experience of “dis-ease” or “dis-order.”

Levine PhD, Peter A. (2012-10-30). In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness (p. 34). North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition.

You can talk your way through trauma with all sorts of processes and mind games. But it is a big waste of time. Thinking is not going to help. Feeling is. If you feel what? I have written before about feeling safe. This is what is needed to heal. You must be in a safe environment. There can be no predators; you must have comfort and no fear. If you do not feel safe, it is impossible to heal. Then, look at what society does to the large person. It is impossible to feel safe when people give you horrid judgmental looks for just existing. And why do they do that? Because you are fat. You don’t want to be fat, so you disassociate from your body. And if you disassociate, you do not feel. And if you do not feel, how can you know if you are safe. Round and a round.

Here is another explanation. I have always been big. Shapely, but most standards, larger than my peers…except my one dear girlfriend who was 6 feet tall by 6th grade. Funny, she could have modeled as she was gorgeous and well developed. But instead, her life dissolved into depression and self-loathing and at 41 she killed herself. (I am so angry about this, btw) I never thought about my body stopping me from sports and so I did them. It never stopped me from anything actually because there was nothing wrong with me. I wanted to dance, so I took dance classes in college and got straight A’s. What I saw in the mirror was not, I guess, what other’s saw. I saw nothing. And the reason was I had disassociated from my body many years before, possibly as an infant but definitely as a young child. The pain and shame about my body came from my family, especially from my mother who was totally disgusted by me. She never held back. I think back and truly I feel so sorry for her angst and shame about me, because she missed such a great opportunity to love me. She made only one comment about her remorse when she was actually on her deathbed and that is why I feel sorry for her. But when I was with friends it was not important. Many of my friends when they make a harsh comment about someone being fat and I corrected them, they would say, “oh we do not think of you as being fat.”

I did not feel. Without going into depth, I did not feel much of anything and had lived that way for so long that when I did feel something, I had to either get drunk or high. Now, there is no denying that drinking massive amounts of alcohol led me to put on significant weight. But I never felt it.

Then, because of the therapy, I began to feel. I equate it to this story. There is a Lakota Chief sitting on hill with a white man. The white man asks the Chief what he is gawking at and the Chief replies, a buffalo. The white man sees nothing in the field except grass everywhere. There is no buffalo. But they continue to sit in quiet for a long time. Finally the white man cannot contain himself and asks the chief again. He turns to look at the chief who smiles and points again to the field. As the white man gazes back at the field, he suddenly is aware of the buffalo that must have been there the whole time. The white man is amazed. The Chief does not turn towards the white man, but just says in a calm manner, “The buffalo allowed you to see him.”

(paraphrased from Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn)

When we disassociate with our bodies, we do not see what others do. And then when they make comments, it is hurtful. There is no way anyone can make a comment about weight to a large person without judgment and not inflict shame. I do not care what the intent. You would never go up to someone who has lost their hair and tell them they should buy a wig. At least I hope you wouldn’t. But few hold back about giving advice on how to lose weight. It is like saying, you are not acceptable as you are and this is what you should do. So if we disassociate with our body, it is not hiding, it is survival. If you are perfect, you would not understand how painful this is. AND…it perpetuates the feeling of not being good enough and then without meaning to be, you become a victim all over again. If you do sooth by eating, no one should point a finger. We all have some form of self soothing like TV, Booze, cigarettes and sex. Guess what, running and excessive exercise can also be a form of self soothing. But we would never say to someone who is addicted to running, geeze, you really need to withhold doing that. We never say to someone who is so gaunt from dieting how emaciated they look, how pale, and boney. We say, “oh, have you lost weight, you clever thing?”

This is getting quite long. I am in the process of reading… I am always reading….more about the physical connection to trauma and healing. I am on a quest, a seeker of sorts, for finding different methodologies of healing. I am totally convinced that it has to be somatic healing. Body and mind and spirit. For my fellow bloggers who have connected, I hope that you will share and keep sharing your thoughts on this.

But for tonight, for Pat especially, give yourself a break. And then give yourself a big hug. We need to get back in touch (no pun intended) to the physical self and not loath it. I know that is very hard as I have my own super big issue (no pun again) about accepting my body, especially now with the horrible Psoriatic Arthritis flaring. But I am also convinced that those two things are connected. I just need to relax and get back to healing exercises. (and not exercises in puff n grunt manner) I need to focus and work on my healing modalities that have worked in the past.

And in offering of hope, I think that this is the key to weight loss. The release…. All in the release. I am still too strung up about things in my life. I am bull rider when it comes to stress. I hop on and allow it to toss me freely inflicting havoc on everything. But I will explain more in future blogs.

bull rider

Trying to understand safety

maslow

My head is whirling as I spent some time with my cup of coffee and read a few new blogs. The content was disturbing in one, sad in another, hopeless, anger and pain is pervasive in many. Last night as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, this thought kept running through my head and it is still here this morning. Why? Basically, Why? Why is life so difficult? Why do people do what they do to others? Why do so many people grow up with such terrible baggage? Is this what being human means and if it is; what is the point?

In the quiet of the morning, snow falling in tiny diamond chips, my purring black cat beside me, I struggle to answer these questions. But it is not my place to answer this for others. But I do need to answer it for myself. I am not feeling depressed, it is more just my curiosity and lack of understanding of life. I am very naive, to the point of ridiculousness sometimes. I am also an easy mark because of that. People “get me” all the time. My ex-husband made it into an art. He once told me a joke when we first dated that I did not get was a joke. Instead I spent years thinking he was some sort of saint, and there was nothing further from the truth. He has told me the joke about dating a girl who had no legs, and then one night after trying to initiate sex he did not leave her hanging….. it is an old joke and I hung on to every word when he told me it when we were first dating. It still bothers me that that was his idea of a joke. I never got it until another one of his friends told the same joke. But by then, the joke was about me believing it. There were several of those through the years that I know of. How many things I believed that were actually lies disguised as a joke I will never know.

This type of behavior of “poking fun at me” was common in my family. Part of it was my rank as I was the youngest of five. It was also because I had this way of looking at the world as if it was all magickal. I still do, but I keep it more to myself. But the point was their idea of fun was to make a ridicule of my innocence. It was taking away the wonder and bringing me “in-line.” And this is something I see in so many of the blogs I read. The writers were disillusioned to the point of despair and in one blog, to extreme violence. What causes some people to snap? What gives people the right to inflict suffering on others? How do some people go through life totally unscathed, or do we all end up with some tormentor? What is the point of this?

I read one blog where the writer was incarcerated for such extreme senseless violence it was sickening. He has written a book about being incarcerated and posted the first chapter. At such an early age, he drifted off the path into one of drugs and alcohol, which he said “fueled his fire” and aided his rage to the point he took a shotgun and fired at people who just stood there. He chose this and now he says he has remorse. I am having a difficult time not judging him. Extremely hard time. There are no “backsies” for the people he shot. There is no rewind. He is incarcerated, writing books and “suffering”. There is a part of me that says why would someone do that? What pushed him at an age when he should have been playing baseball to go get high? What could possibly have made him so angry?

What makes people do what they do? Why do people inflict the pain and suffering on each other. Someone will shake their head at this and call me a silly girl. I do not believe that people are born into this world angry. It is learned. But I also think we bring a genetic coding that also gets triggered by the frustrations of life. But what makes this unbearable for some to the point of such violence? What makes someone inflict sexual abuse or physical abuse on an innocent child? What makes a child inflict this on another child? How is this possible when their brain is not even fully developed?

I certainly do not have the answer for all this. I can only speak for myself and what I know. Safety is the most important thing in the world we can give a young child. And as we grow, being kept safe is what makes youngsters able to succeed in the world. Time spent trying to survive takes away the time that is needed to thrive. That should be a poster! I am not talking about making every child “a winner” like the school system perpetuates now. There is something gracious learned when you lose. We need to teach that as well as winning.

I am talking about teaching them to know what it means to be safe. You can be poor as a church mouse and still be safe. There are many stories of young people who grew up and out of poverty to become successful adults. I also believe that infants come into this world and with their first breath have a spiritual knowing of safety that is either strengthen or dissolved based on the treatment they receive. I think this is why so many are driven to be seekers of spirituality, because they know it’s part of their soul and they want it back.

Abraham Maslow put the hierarchy of success into a triangle years ago. In 1954, he wrote a book that is still taught to teachers as a basis for understanding children’s growth. After food, water and shelter, safety is paramount to survival. He even put safety before love and belonging. So is this where the path splits for so many children? If a child does not feel safe, can they feel love? Or is the betrayal of trust, that fracture of safety the point where the rest of the life of the being will be forever challenged. Do we really know the complete impact on what trauma at an early point in life can do?

Many, many questions and I certainly do not pretend to have answers. I do know that safety for me is a huge part of my healing. I have to work at feeling safe. It is so easily pulled away like a cheap carpet. The other day I was working on the household budget and for some unknown reason, I felt panic sneaking up my back like a spider. I stopped what I was doing and concentrated on the feeling. My breath shortened, my nerves tinkled and my head gets this fizzy feeling at the top. I really leaned into the feeling and thought, this is a memory. I used to hate to work on the bills because we were so strapped for money, especially when we were in school. We were living in a negative state of finances all the time as our student loans accrued. I had to really feel myself into the present moment because the situation now is completely different. As I sat there, I was totally aware of the physical sensations running through me and the welling sense of loss of safety I felt back then. It was so easy to return to the past. It took a conscious effort to release the fear, calm the nervous system and get it back to the now and not then.

During this short duration of panic, my husband asked me a question. Not intentionally, I sniped back at him. I was flooded with my angst from my past and angry because he had no idea what I went through back then. I was not actually upset with him in the now, he just stepped in at the wrong time to ask his question. I am not saying this as an excuse for bad behavior, but is this a correlation to what maybe brings on anger in others against innocent people? Is this why the world is so angry? Anger begets anger? I do not know. I certainly do not condone it, I am just trying to understand it.

As for the person in jail; I doubt he will ever really feel safe in the outside world. And because of that I do not think he should be allowed to return to the general populace. Recidivism is the process of repeating an undesirable behavior that lands people back in jail. There is safety in jail because there is no need to be accountable for your daily needs. They are provided. See Maslow’s triangle of hierarchy and you will see the first two layers are met in jail. I think in general, the judicial system along with the penal system is total garbage. I cannot image the total horror or trauma he inflicted during his rant where he randomly took a shotgun, trapped people in a basement and blasted holes in people. I am not sure I have the capacity to understand this. But I do not want him to do it again. But deep inside of me is this little piece that says, but…what if we give up on people, what does that say?