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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Moving On

When I first started this blog I was fractured.  I had divided myself into parts so I could choose who received which part.  There were too many people who weren't safe to offer my whole self to.

As I've healed, I've learned that it's not about whether others are safe or not.  It's about being safe within myself.  It's about bringing all those pieces back together to create the whole me.  It's about believing that all those pieces are important and make me who I am.  It's about believing that the whole me is good enough to offer to the world.  To not have shame for what I've experienced.  To believe in what I've learned enough to shout it to the world.  To not feel like I have to apologize for who I am.

Like a broken vase, the big parts of me have been glued back together.  There are still visible cracks and tiny chips that will never be found, but for the most part I am whole.  Whole enough to serve my purpose.  To do what I was meant to do.

A vase holds water.  Water that sustains the life of cut flowers.  Water that allows those flowers to offer their beauty to the world.

I can hold water again.  I can help sustain others.  I can help others offer their beauty to the world.  And I can offer my own.

I don't need this blog like I used to.  I am not hiding parts of myself from the world anymore.  I will leave it up because these stories and experiences are important to share.  They are important to testify of what was and what hurts.  They are important so others will know they are not alone.

But I don't need to write here anymore.  I am confident in offering my story to the world, including the people I know.  I don't think I'll post here again.

I will continue to write.  I will continue to document my healing.  But I will do so on my main blog, The Mess that is My Life.  If you would like to follow my healing and learn with me, I invite you to follow me there.  The next post I'll publish will be my husband's story.  He wrote about being an abusive husband and what he's learned and how he's grown.  It will go up in a day or two.

I won't be writing here, but I am not going away.  I still long to help others.  I still want to listen and strengthen when I can.

Thank you for sharing in the dark parts of my journey.  It helped to know I wasn't alone.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

Father's Day was not at all what I expected.  For those of you following my relationship with my dad, I wrote about it on my other blog:  http://infaithbelieving.blogspot.com/2012/06/fathers-day.html.

I hope you are healing.  And if you are struggling, I hope you are finding moments of peace and joy.  It comes in moments.

Monday, June 4, 2012

It Matters When He's Mean

Something important happened at my last therapy session, other than me confronting my therapist.

We had about fifteen minutes left and my therapist asked what I wanted to work on.  After thinking for a minute I suggested we talk about my dad.  I told my therapist that we are coming up on a time when things get difficult.  Father's Day is coming up.  Shortly after that is my dad's birthday.  And family will probably come to town during the summer and invite us up to my parents' to spend time with them.  I'm just not sure how to handle those things.

He talked about forgiveness.  In fact, he called it doing the forgiveness dance.  He suggested I go to their house on Father's Day, stay as long as I'm comfortable, but if my dad is mean I have to leave.  It's my job to protect myself and get out of there.

He's usually fine lately.  He's not warm and fuzzy -- he never has been -- but he isn't usually demeaning or controlling.  But sometimes.

I told my therapist that I don't always notice when he's mean until later.  It's just been such a part of my life that I don't see it.  He asked if I could recruit my husband to help me see it and be my backup to get me out of there.  I cried and said no.  He's not reliable enough.  Sometimes he would see it, but more often than not he will just join in.  He and my dad will bond by picking on me together.  He asked if there is anyone who would be there that would be able to help stop it in the moment.  There isn't.  I won't put my kids in that position and my mom isn't stable. 

As we talked I realized that while I don't always see it when he's mean, I know how I feel.  I know when I start to feel unsafe.  I can usually sense the tide turning before it gets ugly.  I have just ignored it in the past.  I told my therapist.  He asked how often I'm right when I sense that my dad is going to be mean.  I told him I am always right.  100%.  So we decided that I can go as long as I have an immediate escape plan that I will use as soon as I sense it's getting dangerous.  He made me promise that I would leave if that happened.  I did.

I semi-jokingly asked if I couldn't just take a Xanax before I go.  He said that if I needed one to calm down enough to go it was okay.  But if taking one would incapacitate me enough that I wouldn't be able to leave when I needed to it wasn't okay.  I said I never take that much.  Just a little.  Just enough so that it doesn't matter when he's mean.

And my therapist said, "It matters when he's mean."

That one simple sentence brought instant tears.  That moment was so powerful.  I had difficulty processing it.

He could tell it was important and he said it again.  It matters when he's mean.  All that encompassed came rushing in.  I deserve to be treated better.  It's not okay for him to treat me that way.  It's not okay for anyone to treat me that way.  I have every right to be hurt and scarred from the way he's treated me.  When he's mean he doesn't deserve to be with me.  When he's mean I don't have to stay.  I don't have to take it anymore.  He has to earn my presence.  Just being my dad doesn't give him the right to be mean.  It's not okay.

Those words changed my life.  I now offer them to you.  Whatever brought you to my blog, whoever is unkind to you, you deserve to be treated better.  You have the right to protect yourself.  You have the right to walk away.  It matters when he's mean. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Validation and Progress

So many things have happened in the last two weeks.  Unfortunately, much of it isn't my story to tell.  How do I share all the things in my heart without violating someone else's confidence?  Let me just say I had the opportunity to be with someone as they processed some difficult things.  Many of these things validated much of what I am struggling with.  And I got to validate the other person, too.

Many more memories are coming back.  As they come, they are sometimes too much to handle.  And yet, I can't seem to let them go.  They run around in my mind, playing hide and seek.  I can tell they are there but can't really lock down their meaning.  It's tough when my adult brain tries to make sense of things that happened to me as a child -- things that didn't make sense then.  So much of it doesn't make sense now either.

I have had the opportunity to work on my therapeutic assignment.  I have worked up several alternate coping strategies, some of which can be painful.  I don't know if they will fill the void and make it so I don't hurt myself but we'll see.  I typed them up because when I am in that place I can't seem to think straight; even though I had all these plans I can't remember what any of them were.  This way, I can read what they were and try some.  I will list some of them in a future post.

I also found something that helps to quiet my mind sometimes.  When something starts to bother me and I realize it's something I need to discuss in therapy, I write it down.  I have a file on my computer where I type random thoughts, memories, connections.  Once I write them down, knowing that they are there when I am ready to deal with them, I am able to let them go and move on.  It seems to free me from them temporarily.  Mostly.

I also connected with several people on facebook late at night.  I don't think it's necessary that I have someone I can vent to and process with, just someone to connect to.  (Although I do have both kinds.)  I have written up a list of these people as well, so I don't have to try to remember when I can't think.

And I was blessed with an anxiety attack irrelevent to any emotion or memory.  I say blessed because experiencing it without emotion or memory meant that I was just dealing with the physical symptoms.  I was able to test one of my coping mechanisms at a lower state of aggitation.

When I have a panic attack, when I get really tense and start to shut down, the first place I feel it is in my shoulders.  I feel like there are hands on my shoulders and I need to shake them off.  To get away.  Even without memory connected to it.  It happened this time as well.

I was tempted to scratch, but the temptation wasn't overwhelming.  I was able to think clearly enough to remind myself to try my new strategies. 

So I got out my hand weights.  I worked my arms, especially through my shoulders, until it hurt.  I pushed through the point that I thought I couldn't go on until they were almost numb.  And it helped.  I felt better.  The tension relaxed.  The pain remained long enough to get me through the tough moments.  It distracted me for a bit, changed my focus. 

I don't know if it will work for a full-blown meltdown, but it helped me get through that moment in a healthy way.  I got the chance to practice in a less intense moment.

And any time I make progress, I feel like I'm moving in the right direction.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Cry in the Dark

As far as I can tell, people find this blog most often through a Google search (or Yahoo, whatever).  And the most common phrase that brings them here is "my husband is mean" or some variation on that theme.  They are directed to my post My Husband is Mean to Me and the Kids.  I am so saddened by how many women are searching with that phrase.

Sometimes they write to me.  They tell me their stories.  They are heartbreaking.  These women are so lost and alone.  And scared.

Most of them comment anonymously. 

I understand.  It's a scary thing to admit that your husband is sometimes a monster.  It's hard to admit to yourself.  And maybe they worry that he will somehow find out that they've told someone else and it will invite danger.

But because they are anonymous, I can't respond.  And that breaks my heart.  I write this post to them.

I want to reach out.  I want to tell you I heard your pain.  I feel it.  It's real.  I want to tell you that you aren't crazy.  I want to tell you that I'm so sorry he hurt you.  That marriage isn't supposed to be like that.  That you deserve better.

I want to invite you to keep talking to me.  I want to tell you that I am a safe person to talk to.  I will listen.  I will hurt with you.  I will not betray you.  Everyone needs someone to talk to.  You aren't alone; I want to tell you that.

I want to offer support and validation.  Or just a listening heart.  When you reach out to me, I want to reach back.  I want you to know that you are heard.  That you matter.  That your pain matters.

Some of you may never feel safe enough to let me know who you are -- and that's okay.  Hopefully, you will read this and know that I carry your story with me.  Thank you for sharing it in whatever way you could.  May you find moments of peace to carry you through until you find the strength and support to find change.  Thank you for sharing your pain.

If you think you don't have any options, please read What are My Options When My Husband is Mean?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Therapeutic Assignment

So it's safe to say yesterday's session led to a rather massive meltdown, on a visceral level.

Through a wierd twist of fate, I was able to take advantage of a cancellation and get back in today.  Yeah, that was a good thing.  No more processing today.  Today was all about what happened yesterday and last night and preparing for more of the same (because this work will bring more emotional pain) by building some more/better coping mechanisms into my life.

One thing he wants me to do is connect with other people to have them help me through those dark moments.  I explained that it's tough to do at 2:00am.  He asked me to try to find a way.  I have a few friends on facebook that are night owls, so I am going to connect with them and just ask if they will stay available on chat when they are up late.  Then I need to make sure I stay logged into chat and take advantage of it.  He would like me to practice whenever I'm up late when I'm not in crisis.  That way, I'm more likely to take advantage of it when I am in crisis.  If anyone out there reading this would like to be my friend on facebook, who might be willing to help sometimes, let me know (send me an email or a facebook request -- Robin Reed Grosland).  I'm not asking anyone to stay up waiting for me to need help.  But the more people I have on call the more likely I'll find someone when I need them.

My other assignment is to come up with some more visceral coping strategies.  I have several logical/intellectual ones, but when I melt down I am not in the thinking part of my brain.  I need something that works when I bypass that part of my brain and am just looking for pain.  Basically, I need to find non-destructive ways to hurt myself.  That doesn't sound quite right, but that's what it is.  Deep tissue massage that hurts.  Exercise to the point of pain but not injury.  Going outside in the cold without a coat on to really feel the cold but not to the point of freezing.  So I am to find ways to address my need for physical pain in those moments that isn't damaging.  Suggestions are welcome.

I am in a better place, although I'm still fragile.  I have made some connections for support.  And we're going to take things a little slower in therapy.

On the bright side of the dark side, he says that all the emotional pain and the fact that I self-injured indicate we are on the right track.  We are not working on a decoy.  He's proud of the fact that I didn't hurt myself worse, even though I spent a lot of time pondering doing so.  And he's proud of me for telling him that I injured myself instead of hiding it.

I'd say I'm out of the cold, dark water but still shivering on the shore.  Luckily, there are people trying to warm me up and keep me safe.

Little Girl Lost

I started.  I'm telling.  I'm talking.

I knew it would be hard.  I didn't think it would be this hard.  It's as hard as my first day of therapy several years ago.  And it hurts as much as anything I've ever done.

I'm scared.  I'm violating the rules.  If I am caught I'll be in trouble.  It will get so ugly.  I will be punished.

And I'm so sad.  It hurts so much.

I scratched today for the first time in a very long time.  Not much, and it only left a few tiny lines, but I did it.  I wish I'd been better prepared for that temptation.

Why did I do it?  It wasn't to punish myself, as it has sometimes been in the past.  It wasn't to feel because I was numb.  It was to change what I was feeling.

It was my lifesaver.  I was drowning in an ocean of emotions, so many that I couldn't name them all.  Choking on them.  Scratching kept my head above water.

I can't seem to turn it off.  I was okay during the day while I was busy, while I was with my family.  Then everyone went to bed and the house got quiet.

That's always when the ghosts rattle their chains, isn't it?

Memories.  Emotions.  Images.  Monsters.  Skeletons.  And lots of dark water.  All threatening to devour me.  Chasing me.  Breathing down my neck like fire.

A little girl.  Lost and alone.  Trying to force herself out from behind the safety of the shield.  Trying to lift that big, heavy sword.  Knowing that she, alone, can slay the dragon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Cancellation

My therapist had a cancellation so instead of seeing him in a month I am seeing him tomorrow.  I'll admit it's got me a bit anxious.  It's nice to be able to prepare myself emotionally for therapy.  But I guess I'm going, ready or not.

Positive thoughts in my behalf would be appreciated.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My Father's Hands

I'm going back to therapy.

Through a strange twist of events, I was able to meet with my therapist very quickly a month ago.  I updated him, we discussed those things in my life that he could help me with, and we chose a plan of attack.

Then I set appointments.  I couldn't get scheduled for sooner than March.  That seems like forever.  And way too soon.

You see, we're going to talk about my dad.

I went to therapy off and on for a couple of years a while back.  I attended a support group for a year or two.  I did lots of therapeutic writing to process some of the dark things in my life.  My attention to my relationship with my father has been lacking.  I have touched on it, but not really done much work.

Even though I feel like it's the source of so many difficulties.  Maybe all of them.

I have stayed away.  I have stayed mostly silent.

I knew I had other work to do so I always steered therapy that direction.  I avoided discussion about my dad whenever I could.


Because I am afraid.  I don't understand.  I feel so small and helpless when I think about my dad.  I worry that I'll get caught.  I worry that I'll get in trouble.  I worry that he will know, that he will find out.

I'm forty-two years old.  I'm still afraid of my father.  And I don't really understand why.

My memories are so inaccessible.  So foggy.  So vague.

And when I think of them, of my dad when I was little, all I feel is fear and sadness.

I am sad because I never had a daddy.  He didn't like me.  I was in the way.  I was trouble.  I was a disappointment.  I needed to be invisible to be safe.  I was a thing.  An annoyance.  A money suck.

As I have waited for my appointment I have tried to avoid preparing for the work.  I have tried not to think about it.  It causes such intense anxiety that the rest of my life becomes difficult.  I cry and shake and collapse.  I curl up in an attempt to hide.  To protect myself.  To be little and unseen.

But my mind started working anyway.

I still don't have many memories.  But my fear has found a focus.

I am afraid of his hands.  They are big and strong.  They hurt.  They are so strong.  They hold me in place.  They are in control.  They don't care about me.  I am a possession.  I am to be what he wants me to be.

When we are out together in public, I am never allowed to stray.  I must stay right by his side.  He grabs me by the shoulder or the back of the neck.  He holds me this way as he talks to people. 

I don't move.  I don't squirm.  I don't wiggle.  I am still.

I smile and say my lines, what I think he wants me to say.  Anything that will make him look good.  Anything that will make him let go of me.

But he doesn't let go.  Because I am bad.  I will misbehave.  I must be kept under control.

So I just do what he wants.

Don't worry, dad.  I learned my lesson well.  I do what I'm told.

Thanks a lot for that.  You set me up for a lifetime of abuse.  Boys and men telling me what to do and me obeying.  Because that's how to stay safe.  That's how to be loved.  Just do what you're told.