Desiderata

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog. I’ve been busy with family things and a small additional foot surgery. I’m fine. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my mother as she was recovering from a leg ulcer that almost put her in the hospital and she had many, many follow up appointments. That, and her elderly dog had cancer surgery…he’s fine as well. Plus, birthdays and some necessary home plumbing issues.

So, things have been rather busy. But one day while at my mom’s I was reading the letters column in her newspaper. And I happened to read something that I thought you all may find heartening.

Legally, things in this area as far as prosecuting priests has been held up by the diocese not releasing records of the accused priests. This prompted a member of the congregation, a cradle Catholic and church-going bishop-appreciating, non-clergy victim, to speak out against the church publicly. This is not right, she said. If you have nothing to hide, then release your records. And if there is something to the accusations, then punish the bad priests. What is wrong with you people?

Or words to that effect. In any case, this person brought to light that the congregation sees what is going on. And the congregation is getting sick of the church not handling things in an open and direct manner. That is encouraging. Because this is causing non-survivors to question things and to begin to step away from a church it feels no longer can be trusted.

They don’t make it easy, though. It’s not easy, any of it. It’s so tempting to curl up into a ball under the covers with your remote in your hand and a bag of chips or an entire chocolate cake…or whatever it is you reach for when you realize once again that your half empty glass is not going to refill itself.

Today, I’d like to talk about how we are affected by situations and the other people in our lives. And more importantly, how we handle those triggers.

I think we have all had people in our lives who have not liked us, and we don’t know why. I used to work with a woman who had to walk through my office to get to her office and she would walk in with lunch that she had ordered for everyone…everyone but me…and then she would call people…who had to walk through my office…to come and get their lunch. I mentioned to her that I would be interested in ordering lunch too, and she kind of acknowledged that…and then did the same thing the next day.

It can make things awkward when people use group tactics to isolate a person to get their feelings across. It is particularly difficult when you have to be in contact with that person through family or at work. It can also bring out feelings buried inside. We may feel exposed and vulnerable. Someone has found out that we’re not as good as we thought we were pretending to be. Or we may feel angry and not quite sure how to go about expressing that feeling for fear of making things worse for yourself. Or if you are like me, you are non-confrontational and don’t ask uncomfortable questions.

Or perhaps you have felt rejected by someone. That never feels good. Or you write something, and someone gives you only one star and you begin to wonder if what you are doing makes a difference to anyone. Because that little voice has been nestled there inside of your brain for ages just waiting for a chance to speak up.

There are always flip sides, remember. For every time you have felt rejected or bullied by someone, there is someone who appreciates you and who you are.

For instance, my ex-husband used to tell me that I was “too nice”. That was meant as an insult. On the other hand, one of my co-workers told me that I was one of the nicest people she had ever met. Both people were saying the same thing, but it was meant differently.

At work, I had been praised by a supervisor for defusing a difficult situation with a patient, told by another person that I was kind and sensitive when I was covering for the patient rep, had another boss tell me I was a diplomat when working with people….and then had another boss tell me the same thing as an insult. And yet another supervisor said I was a bleeding heart.

My point is that as humans, and as sensitive humans, we tend to care what people think about us. It feels so good to get a compliment, and so bad to be insulted. But the thing is, we are still the same person. It is the other person who is seeing what they choose to see in us. I’ve read that what we think we know about someone is only a tiny bit of who they are. And that someone who knew you when you were 16 does not really know the person you are now at whatever age you may happen to be and whatever experiences you have gone through that have changed you.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t learn anything new about ourselves from the feedback we get from other people. But just as hurtful words and actions from others can make us feel bad, so can hurtful thoughts and beliefs within ourselves about ourselves do the same.

I was thinking recently…what if we flipped our own script? We may be so used to believing we deserve the bad comments or treatment because we see all of our own imperfections. What if we say to ourselves…so what if I am not perfect? So, what if the best I can do is not as good as what someone else can do? This is me, and I am good enough.

I’m thinking….and serious about this…that in addition to a gratitude book…we also start writing a self-love book. And write in that book every time you do something that makes you feel good about yourself. Or every compliment you receive from someone. And read that shit. Often. Love starts from within.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my mom lately, as I said. And I realize that like most people in this world, she has some issues. Of course, as her kid, her issues were taken as my issues because as kids we don’t understand that parents aren’t perfect. And my mom…fluctuates as to what it is she wants. So, this has always made it very difficult to please her. And punishments were arbitrary. So, if I did something, I’d find out it was wrong after the fact, and I was told that something good was going to happen if I hadn’t done what I had done but not any more. That was so not fair. And confusing.

When I was married, she constantly criticized everything, which made me feel like I was in between my mother and my husband. Then when I left my husband…well, then and now, he is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Also confusing. It can be very difficult to not please those with squeaky wheels, but sometimes it’s more difficult when you do live your life carrying the oil can around with you for everyone else.

When I was younger, I used to take Karate classes. One of the things you learn in Karate is how to ground yourself so that your opponent cannot easily knock you off balance. Grounding and balance are used in many energy practices for a good reason. Think of yourself feeling strong and connected to the Earth. You belong and are a part of creation. Think of the energy in your solar plexus…the core of your being…your strength. Think of your connection to a higher power…whatever that may be to you. Visualize and calm your own energy. Let other people own their own energy and not topple yours out from under you.

An inspirational book I have been reading by our own Dorothy Small, is called “From Darkness into the Light”. Dorothy has a gift for expressing her thoughts and in this book of personal poetry, she credits her higher power for helping her through some of life’s tough times.

I don’t try to tell anyone what to believe or what they may find works for them. Some people have held onto their religious beliefs. Some people have changed their religion. Some people have gotten upset with me for even mentioning anything other than what they have been taught. I feel that whatever best gets you through your life and whatever life throws at you, is something that works for you. Might not work for someone else. But that is what makes us unique.

And we are all unique. You are a child of the universe, and you have a right to be here.

Somebody That I Used To Know

This past week, I received something from SNAP leader David Clohessy from “Into Account” which seems to be a decent place for survivors to share stories of abuse. I will include one of those stories and a clip from the survivors of one abuser named in the article.

Also, I want to talk about some emails I received this week and how I answered them. I received an email from someone who said they sought help from SNAP and received nothing. This person…and many people like him, want action. They don’t want to talk about what happened to them or be in a support group. They want to do more, and they want more done about the crimes that have been and are being committed by the Catholic Church.

I get that. I once had someone ask me to join them in a protest outside the diocese…with the stipulation that we refuse all food to call attention to what is going on.

The thing is, we all handle abuse and healing in different ways, and we are all at different stages of healing. We also have different comfort levels in what we are willing to do or to be seen.

What I told this person who emailed me is…once again, we are basically a non-profit peer support group. Volunteers and fellow survivors lead our group meetings. But more importantly, just because you don’t find an answer where you go looking for one, does not mean you have failed. It just means you may need to look for another path. Or perhaps you need to begin a new path with other like-minded people. New ideas are born from people who hit walls and don’t give up.

Also, in other emails, I want to say that we all have our triggers. We are all individuals. Personally, I cannot listen to Howard Stern. I don’t dislike the man personally, but I cannot listen to his show or the way he talks without having uncomfortable flashbacks of someone asking me personal questions for their own boundary crossing enjoyment. We are all human beings who are sensitive to stimuli that trigger memories both good and bad.

As someone who has led support groups, I can say that like anything else, I try to be fair to everyone, but there are limits and rulings to be made. Some of these limits and rulings come from gut feelings. In fact, most of them do. Each meeting is different depending on who is there. And as we talk and email with people and lead meetings, we begin to tune into people’s vibes. And we try to keep the meetings to be a place where people feel they can talk freely without being peppered with questions or told to keep quiet. In other words, a safe place for survivors.

I have myself refused to get back to people if they have become abusive to me. I have suggested to people that perhaps they find another group if they appear not to be on the same page…such as someone who is not there to listen or to share or to heal but rather to harass or control or go off on tangents that have nothing to do with the group.

Because as leaders, we are responsible for the flow of the group as much as that is possible. That doesn’t mean we don’t run into all kinds of people and issues because it is a constantly changing and bumpy road with all kinds of raw emotion and pain.

People may not like me. They may not agree with me. And that is okay. But I also feel that there is respectful disagreement and then there is disagreement which in itself can become disruptive to the group. When it reaches that point, I feel that feelings can get toxic and be detrimental the group itself. That is all I will say.

Also, this week, I was going through some old papers and journals. One of the things I found was a letter I had written to the priest on his birthday. I never gave it to him, and I am glad I did not.

I just want to say that it is okay to love someone. It is okay to have feelings. I know so many people over the years who have had some kind of buddy crush on a priest. I’m not saying that to be disrespectful. Priests are supposed to be safe. I knew a girl in grade school who used to pal around with the priest. She even gave him a nick name. She did the same thing to one of the priests in high school. She called the priest Radar and treated him like he was her buddy.

It happens that old Radar has been defrocked for sexual abuse and he used to be our vice principal, but I don’t know if this girl was abused or if she just felt he was safe to joke around with. I have no idea.

I have said that we used to have priests and nuns at our dinner table and in our pool when I was young. I felt particularly close to one seminarian who came to dinner and brought me a small gift and carried my guitar to practice for me one day. I felt honored to be noticed as just a kid. To not be invisible. But sometimes they cross that line. That didn’t happen to me…until I got older.

But as I’ve said before, we trust that as soon as we walk into a church, we are safe. Completely. Our secrets are safe. Our pocketbooks are safe. Our bodies and our souls are safe and sacred.

So, when that line gets crossed and things get twisted, it is okay that we felt honored to be noticed, or attracted to power, or safe to feel vulnerable, or flirtatious within a safe boundary. It’s okay to wonder what is going on. It’s okay to ask. You are not/were not stupid. To love or to care is not to be stupid. But we do need to learn to take care of ourselves and not give ourselves away completely to others. That is nothing to be ashamed of either. But we need to be aware that we have this…empathy…that attracts people who should not be given our trust.

I ended up tearing up the letter and throwing it away. It is not something I need to hang onto anymore. It is not something I want to hang onto. I don’t even want its energy around me or in the house. It’s gone forever now. Perhaps I should have burned it.

No…perhaps it would be healing to write a letter to our abuser. Or to anyone that we are angry with or any situation over which we have no control…write a letter and then rip it up and burn it and let it go. Symbolically.

I also ran across a journal from when I was married and dealing with what appeared to be quite a lot at the time. I had pages of writing and “what to do with this situation” kinds of things going on. I looked it over and it exhausted me to read it. I think I made the right choice to get away from all of that.

Does not mean I got away from myself. But am still learning. And growing. As are we all. Please see links below for more about intoaccount.org.

https://intoaccount.org/2022/07/29/youre-not-ready-the-controlling-deception-of-david-haas/

Halfway ‘Round the World

Some people may wonder why we share personal stories about our lives here in this blog instead of focusing mainly on the problem of priests and what to do about them and what is being done about them.

My feeling is that we who have been abused at the age of 18 and older share some similarities in our stories and our lives. I’ve heard it said, and I believe it to be true…that it is not the abuser who should get credit for our survival and for our finding our way out of the darkness into perhaps a better existence, but it is us ourselves who discovered our own strength when we needed to find a way to get up and go on…alone.

But while there had been patterns of abuse and co-dependency and fears and feelings of inadequacy throughout my own life, nothing quite put up the “STOP” sign quite like running across an evil and narcissistic priest. Because in order to begin to heal, I had to begin to also look at what made me a more attractive target.

That kind of dysfunction does not just happen, and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And the reason we want to learn what made us an attractive target is not so we can blame ourselves, but so that we can understand ourselves better so that we can begin to separate the facts from the personal persecution. So, we can then begin to let go of the self-blame and even the hatred towards those who abused us and begin to heal.

Notice I did not say “forgive” those who abused us. I am talking about lessening the intense emotions going on inside us…we don’t have to fix or forgive anyone. Besides, forgiving a Narcissist is only inflicting further harm upon us. There is a difference between becoming more aware of how things happened so we can distance ourselves and find peace…and looking for more trouble by having anything to do with someone who is set on destroying you. We do not have to make nice or be responsible for anyone else’s healing.

Today we can talk a little bit about boundaries and how we probably don’t have any and why that is and what we can do about it. It’s not easy.

First of all, we may know by now that when we start to set boundaries, we are going to have resistance. And we are also probably going to lose people from our lives.

And that is exactly why it is so hard to have boundaries. Because we care. We are like puppy dogs bouncing along into the junkyard wanting to hand out bones and make friends with all of the other strays.

And let me just say here…I grew up in a puppy mill. When my mother’s family got together, it was a contest to see who could give everyone else the most stuff to bring home. “You take it” “No, you need that” “No, you will enjoy that later, you take it”.

And it seemed to be a genetic thing. I was told that my grandmother would hand out sandwiches to people who came to the door asking for food during the Depression. And I mean…sandwiches. Not by today’s standards. Piled high, nobody leaves here hungry sandwiches. Probably pie too. And my grandfather would be insulted if you didn’t take home half of the table and the silverware.

To this day, anything I give my mother, she gives back to me saying I can use it more than she can. And as a kid, you can view this as a form of rejection. I’m sure I did. Now I see it as my mom’s own kind of mom craziness and love because that is what she knows obviously. But that’s another story for another day.

Thing is, we learn this behavior somehow. Whether it be, like it my mom’s family…it makes people happy if you give away more than you can afford to give. Or as we see at work, at home, or in friendships or romantic relationships, people switch up behavior depending upon who needs to be pleased at any given moment. Many times, what we may be witnessing is people trying to placate a Narcissist at the expense of others.

While it’s best to avoid Narcissistic rage, the way to do so is to go no-contact with the person…and that is the only boundary that is going to work. If it is a romantic relationship or if there is a child in the middle of things, I feel it is best to have a lawyer take care of matters so that you have as little contact with the other person as necessary.

If that no-contact boundary is breached, you can find yourself sliding that slippery slope back in to be used as needed and discarded when they are done with you. Over and over again.

Someone told me recently that I have a bad judge of character when it comes to people. I don’t know if that is the case or if it is more about having a short memory and needing to be liked and to have a connection. The needing to please thing again. I think it is also easier in the short run to use a go-to pattern. If pleasing people worked in the past, we’ve learned to use that system. It can be difficult to try to consciously go against the grain at first until it becomes second nature.

My life has felt like a minefield in many ways. I find myself taking care of people who probably should be taking care of themselves more. And so, when I give, what I get back is a sense of entitlement and what feels very much like betrayal.

I recently sold a house I owned to my son. It worked well for both of us. I sold it to him for half of what I owed on it because I wanted to give him the best break I could while for me, I would still owe money, but I would owe half of what I did owe with a loan instead of a mortgage and I would no longer be responsible for repairs and taxes and such.

My son being who he is, would probably describe the situation differently than I. I felt emotional during the closing. I felt that it was a big day in both of our lives. I had asked my son if he wanted to go out with me afterwards for dinner. He said he had to work.

Tension was very high in the conference room where the closing took place, and I don’t think my son ever made eye contact with me. He was on his phone to work. He did, however, give me the finger at one point. He did. He then told me that anything that was mine that was still in the house was going to get tossed into a dumpster. I asked him could I come over to see what I had there. He said no. You haven’t needed it in 7 years. It’s junk.

When we were done, he left the room quickly to get back to work, without acknowledging me at all. I told him congratulations and that I loved him. He ignored me and walked out.

My lawyer hugged me.

Now they say we teach others how to treat us. That sounds exhausting. I just want to live in a world where if I am kind to you, you are kind to me. But none of us live in that world.

I know my son, obviously. I have known him for years, obviously. I know that if asked why he acted that way, he would have a reason. Work is stressful. You pissed me off. Your lawyer is incompetent, and he was late.

I’m not going to change my son. I don’t feel like telling someone how to treat me at this point. But I probably won’t make him my health proxy. I did, however, find myself falling into a trap of my own making.

After the closing, I was thinking perhaps somewhere down the road, I could buy an RV. That way I could always bring the dogs with me on vacation, and they would be in a familiar spot and not freak out when I am gone. And I could pack it up and go away for the weekend and not worry about hotels and things like that. Just a thought.

But then I thought…what if my kids want to borrow it? I would love to share something like that with them. I would love to see them happy. But I can’t. Because I have to be the one who is responsible for who I give to and how much I give.

Boundaries are not so much about what other people do to us. They are to be set in order to not allow someone else to do something to us again and again. They are about not expecting different behaviors from someone after their behavior has hurt us. And it’s about not giving more and more to someone and expecting them to suddenly act differently towards us.

I have found also that when I do give too much, thinking that it is out of the goodness of my heart, people do begin to expect you to continue to do so. So, when you begin to pull back and put your own needs first…like I needed to do when going through my divorce…it can be seen as not being nice. And because we want to be nice and we want people to like us, it can feel devastating to feel that you are losing people and sometimes more importantly…losing people’s approval of you. But sometimes we need to remember that the people we have lost were part of our dysfunctional past. In order for them to remain in your life, you would have to not change and just keep accepting bad treatment.

The thing is, the pain is usually inevitable, and the loss is usually already there. We tend to stretch things out and prolong things so that we put of letting go for as long as possible.

Someone recently reminded me to re-read “Co-dependent No More” which I need to do. Something recommended for anyone suffering from a lack of power in their life due to feeling surrounded by people and situations they feel the need to fix.

You know, I do believe that emotions tend to go inward or outward or sideways. But I think they go somewhere. If someone were to ask me how I handle less than loveable people in my life, I think I’d have to say that there was a numbness to it…because you grow used to it. That’s just the way that person is. Where I often find it to affect me is with totally unrelated people. Emotions happen in a situation, and you cannot explain why. Like someone is nice to you and you back away in fear of being hurt.

One book I found on Amazon that looks pretty interesting is “Boundaries: Where You End & I Begin…How to Recognize and Set Healthy Boundaries”.

Families and people who you see the most often are probably the hardest to set boundaries with. But perhaps they are the first you need to practice with. That is the first step to boundary setting. Practice.

Okay, practice. Well, back up a second…I lied. The first step is to see a therapist. Because we can’t practice what we don’t know how to do or where to start.

Okay, so you now have seen a therapist and you know what you are doing. You have a roadmap to go by. That is a GPS for younger people. We used to use roadmaps. So, what are we going to practice? Saying the word, “No”. No. Hard to say? That is why our lives are in the shape they are in. No.

When do you want to say this word? Well, you want to recognize that your needs are important. It’s starting to get harder now. We actually have to identify our needs. Needs. Hmmn. What are some of those? I looked this up and the term “needs” seems a bit vague.

No abusive behavior; No being used or taken for granted; No letting anyone control your emotions or dictate your actions; No disrespect or making you feel inferior; No spending time with people who don’t respect your boundaries; No doing anything that is uncomfortable or violates values; No one else determines your happiness; No allowing yourself to have lingering negative thoughts or feelings; No being a doormat or pushover; No being an afterthought to anyone else; No one else makes decisions for you.

Well, wow. Now that we have seen the list of where boundaries need to be placed, know that you are allowed to only do family functions that feel doable. That’s right. You can stay home on Thanksgiving and not feel guilty if your family bullies you.

Also, be firm and kind. Ha-ha. I mean, I agree. I just remember coming home from the hospital with a new baby and having night number one at home with the new baby and a two-year-old and what a huge adjustment that was. And having to explain, firmly and kindly to my mother-in-law that I would be coming home on Friday and that I would prefer not to have any visitors until Sunday. But that anyone who wanted to come on Sunday was welcome That did not go over well.

Boundaries do not always make you popular.

Be direct. Be assertive. Be consistent. Be firm and kind. Remember, you are in charge. Nobody can make you feel or do anything you don’t want to feel or do. That’s a lot of words assuming that we’ve already got this.

Hence, the need for therapy. You are going to need back up on the road to reinvention.

I Can’t Make You Love Me

Well, the SNAP Colorado Face to Face weekend has come and gone. I hate to say that I didn’t make it there, but for those who did, especially the first timers, I hope you had a wonderful time. For those reading this who are not survivors of abuse, that may sound strange, but I myself have met some of the best people at SNAP. There are people who give of themselves and work to abolish clergy abuse tirelessly. There is a healing power like no other when you see survivors face to face. There is so much support for each other. Plus, there is ice cream on Friday night.

As I have mentioned, I have felt the need to step back. At least until I can get some things in my life back on track. But before I get into anything else, here are the end of month stats:

First of all, not a stat but important. Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233. Mental Health emergency number 988.

Now blog stats: Top five countries reading after U.S.: United Kingdom, Canada, Philippines, Brazil, and New Zealand; Total monthly views 213; Total followers 95; Total words written so far this year 46,699; Favorite TV show with religious theme: Joan of Arcadia and Miracle Workers tied; Calling or texting a friend is the most common way people alleviate feeling lonely or isolated.

I have included a YouTube video that I thought some may find helpful. What I particularly liked about this video, which describes Narcissistic Rage, is that the woman describes how rage differs from anger, how growing up with the Narcissist affects you as an adult, and especially, how working with a Narcissist affects the workplace. Anyone who has ever held a job can probably relate to how a Narcissistic tantrum from a co-worker, or worse yet, a boss, can affect the environment. Especially since the tendency is to placate the Narcissist at the expense of the other workers.

And in a relationship, how many of us are afraid to leave the Narcissist? How many of us live our lives in a prison because we are trapped in a situation where we feel we can do nothing except appease the Narc in our lives so that the rage does not erupt? Rage, which when it does erupt, burns a path of destruction, killing all in its way…whether immediately or through years of ceasing to exist except to please someone else.

I myself have been there, and I have to say that it can be a confusing dance sometimes. Confusing because often gaslighting goes along with abuse and being with the abuser can be quite pleasant when all is well in their world and so you don’t even realize how hard you are peddling to keep up that pace or how many times you have made excuses such as “everyone has a bad day”, “it was just the way they were raised”, “I’ll just communicate with them and tell them how that made me feel, or work harder on the relationship”, or my favorite “no marriage is perfect, my mom (or dad) had it worse than this and they didn’t give up”.

I have been guilty of denying that abuse exists. Sometimes it is because I just didn’t want to see it. Because I knew that it meant I had to leave someone even though I felt that I loved them.

And I will tell you, many of us understand what triggers are, but nobody can trigger you like family can trigger you.

Funny thing is as I sit here writing this, I had a dream last night about a gun. Speaking of triggers, right? I didn’t connect that. In my dream, I put a loaded gun in a dishwasher…not because I was washing away prints, but because I needed to clean it for some reason. And then, in the dream, I was afraid that it would go off.

We survivors, we know triggers. I’m trying to take one thing at a time, right? Well, I have been trying to work with son #1 for the past ten months…ten months…to sell him a house for half of what I owe on it so that he can own it instead of paying me rent and I won’t have to be responsible for the repairs…I will need a loan…but whatever. I want to help my son. I love my son. My son and I have a difficult relationship. Why?

Well, he tends to blame me for everything and so that is kind of hard to get around. It happens. Especially when Dad has been difficult and tended to be a blame placer-oner.

Again, people, I say these things not to hate on anyone but to be aware of relationships and so that we can become more responsible for what we accept in our lives. Because learning is the goal here. And it can hurt like Hell to learn as we all know.

Without going into a lot of detail, son #1 triggered me badly recently. I’m just going to say that he chose his father over me in a situation where it seemed very unfair that he did this. It may have made sense to my son, but to me, it was very insensitive, and it hurt.

However, being the survivor that I am, because we all are that…survivors…and because it was a familiar hurt…and because some of the variables have now shifted to where I realize that I have a bit more control…it still hurts…but only one or two tears hurt. And then I went into either numbness from having been through it so much that it can’t hurt me anymore and/or because I realized that my son is making a choice based on fear.

You see, I stepped away from that. My son never did. I never made anyone choose. Yet, lines were drawn, and people stopped talking to me when I walked away. People that the child within my older son is still afraid of losing. He may direct his anger towards me, and all of the blame, but he knows I’m here and he won’t lose me.

Then I did something stupid. I called my mom and told her what happened and that I had felt hurt. We joke about how if my mom worked on a suicide hotline, she would talk people off the ledge…but the other way.

And this brings me to another kind of trigger. Toxic Positivity. I hate to say it, but I’m guilty of some of these things myself.

You know how you have those moments…those days…when you just need someone to understand? Well, here are some of the things that you don’t want someone to say…even though you know they mean well.

It could be worse. Look at the bright side. You’ll get over it. Everything happens for a reason. Stay positive. Think happy thoughts. Everything will work out. Just get on with it. Don’t think about it. It was meant to be.

Or in my case with my mom, I was told…well he did used to live with his father. He is close with his father, etc.

The thing is, I was feeling stronger and not so very bad, but having someone try to “explain” things to me…or actually what was REALLY happening…making excuses for someone’s behavior and then telling me I should not be feeling bad about being treated with disrespect for whatever reason and making me feel like it was my fault….oooh…does this dysfunction sound familiar to anyone?

Anyone else recognize the poison that was pumped into you (again no offense to my family as I don’t believe anyone is doing anything….) oh, F**k what am I doing making excuses for these people? Seriously?

What is this? Even after I told my mom that I didn’t need anything fixed and that I am a grown woman who can fix my own life, which is only half true…she said, yes, but…and kept going. And I learned. Be nothing but nice. Smile. Don’t feel. Everything is okay. People shit on you for a reason. They have their reasons. Try to understand.

And if you can’t? If you push it down because you aren’t supposed to make trouble, and nor you are supposed to understand it is okay for other people to do whatever they want, and you are just not allowed to feel because that just means that you do not understand, and you are just too sensitive and so something must be very very wrong with you.

And so, you can get it ingrained in your head that it is your problem and that there is something wrong with you, so that when someone else tells you this as an adult, you believe it to be true.

Thing is, growing up trying to understand why other people do things is not really such a bad thing in itself. I understand why my mom tries to fix things and why she has her beliefs. I know she grew up in a house where her drunken father beat her mom, who suffered in silence and just continued to stay there and clean and crochet and bake pies on Sundays. She learned from the time she could talk that it was better not to talk at all.

But trying to talk to my mom about any of this…about how it affected her…and she gets defensive as any kind of “issue” gets interpreted as an accusation of mental illness…which was very misunderstood and scary back in the day and still is. But back in my mom’s day even more so.

And I think it’s that fear of the dark side…that fear of talking about it and bringing it out to the light…is probably why we say things like, “chin up, stiff upper lip, let a smile be your umbrella”, stuff like that.

Because emotions can be dark and scary and uncomfortable. And because like in the dream, perhaps we wish we could just wash away the triggers and hope nothing explodes.

Last Night I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All

It seems like many of us are feeling lonely. It seems strange to feel so all alone in a world with so many other people around us. But loneliness has nothing to do with how many people live with us or how many people we talk to in a day.

Feelings of loneliness can be caused by the death of someone close to us, a huge life change such as a divorce or an empty nest, moving someplace new and starting over and not knowing anyone, physical isolation such as when you are sick or recovering from injuries, or even from emotional issues such as shame, social phobia, past trauma, trust issues, and low self-esteem. Substance abuse can also cause isolation and feelings of loneliness.

Divorce and a shift in family dynamics such as an empty nest can disrupt a life and cause feelings of depression…even if the change was for the better or looked forward to. Both of my kids moved out within two weeks of each other, and it was a major life change. I grieved for a good six months.

I have likened major life changes and loss like beating a rug and having all of the dust particles fly off into the air. Nothing feels solid or settled and nothing will feel settled for a while to come. We have to settle in to change. Adjust. Shift position. Accept the horrible feeling of panic and anxiety that comes from the unknown until the newness of the change begins to feel routine and safe again.

I ended up focusing my attention on my dog and then my dog had to be put down five months after my kids left home. So, then I got two dogs and I found that, as all pet parents know, you cannot replace a fur child. And a pet can’t stop the feeling of sudden loss when you’ve been a mom since you got the news you were pregnant. Sometimes you just have to feel the pain of loss. So, you cry. And if you are me, you write.

Loss through death rips out a part of you as well. Life gets rewritten. I once lived alone in a small house in the city, next to an abandoned two-family structure that attracted homeless people and people looking to do drug deals. It was a night about a week after my dad had passed and had seen a man take a sudden turn from the sidewalk in front of the house and walk right into the vacant house next door. The lock must have been broken by that point. I remember feeling so alone and vulnerable. I actually never slept in the bedroom in that house because of that feeling. I wanted to be able to get out if I had to.

I did call the police, and they took care of it, escorting the man who insisted he lived there, out of the house. But part of me felt that I no longer had my dad to protect me, and that was the hardest part. My father had been very sick and weak and would not have been able to physically help me had he been alive, but he would have cared and that feeling of protection would have been there, instead of feeling alone.

Being newly separated or divorced or getting transferred to a brand-new city where you don’t know anyone, can lead to feelings of isolation. So can going to college and being away from home for the first time in your life. When you have either been attached to another person or part of a family “pack”, being apart from those people and being in a new situation where you feel majorly aware of being alone, can create upheaval and uncertainty. Perhaps for the first time in a long time, or maybe the first time in your life, you are responsible for things by yourself. You have to make decisions for yourself. With freedom comes responsibility. Not everyone is emotionally ready for that.

When you are alone, without another person to distract from the noise and thoughts within your head, thoughts can run amok. If you are prone to emotional issues, radical change and too much time in your own head can raise unwelcome thoughts. Self-doubt, fear, self-hatred. Not feeling as good as other people. Past emotions begin to come forward again. You know what I’m talking about. Old family patterns. Nobody ever really understood you. You didn’t fit in. Things weren’t fair. You never lived up to expectations. Your trust was broken. Punishment was too harsh. There was alcoholic rage. You felt responsible for other people. There was trauma that you buried that now wants to emerge in the silence around you. We feel shame and are afraid to let anyone come close because we fear that we might disgust them.

But one of the surest ways that I’ve found to feel lonely is to have nobody understand you. To have nobody else “get” you. This happens a lot with trauma and growth, I think. With trauma, you can be forced into silence. When you grow up reacting to other people’s issues, these issues tend to become normal for you. When you grow up and out on your own, you may begin to question things you’ve known, but we all feel comfortable with what we know. So, we begin to sow the seeds of dysfunction with our children and they, too, begin to see it as normal. It’s not that someone may be “bad”, but rather unaware of any other sense of normalcy. And being comfortable and unaware tends to keep things stagnant and without growth.

So, when something happens within us that creates feelings of not being so comfortable…when it’s familiar but you begin to become aware that something isn’t quite right…change and growth may begin as you see other options and thought processes.

Make no mistake about it, gaining a new sense of awareness is scary as hell and brings about a sense of loneliness that can seem to be unbearable.

When we take an emotional step back, we begin to depersonalize other people’s issues. We allow others to fix themselves. And by detaching, it can also be a bit like a daisy discovering that it is supposed to be a daisy and not a dandelion. Discovery can feel lonely, but it can also let in the sun and the growth can actually start to feel good. And all at once, you can take notice that other daisies exist in the sunshine. They were there all along, but you’ve had your head buried under some dandelion’s butt trying to give them all of the sunshine. You get what I’m saying…nothing against dandelions.

Another thing about loneliness…when I first began to “grow”, I felt wrong. I thought that something was horribly wrong with me, and I didn’t know why. I grew up with such a normal life, and I was loved and not deprived…so what the hell was my issue? I had always been told my life was normal and that it was other people who had tough lives, so anything I felt that was odd or different must have meant that I was just defective or ungrateful.

Growth and insight are like the layers of an onion, both of which can bring on tears.

When I began to go outside of my comfort zone, getting an apartment for myself and my kids and becoming independent from both my husband and my parents, I began to develop panic attacks and agoraphobia. I was in a very dark place at that time. What kind of a parent was I? I was supposed to be a grown up and strong for my children. What was wrong with me?

In addition to what was happening inside of me, on the outside, I wasn’t really receiving help or information about what was happening to me. This was before the internet. Also add the stress of a major life change…moving out of my parents’ house into an apartment for the first time without someone there to help me, raising two boys who had babysitters quit after taking care of them for two hours and who were having their own emotional issues and school problems, having a full-time stressful job, having my mom tell me that I should be a better mother, like my friend, Irene, and having a brother recovering from addiction issues and suicide attempts…well, something had to give.

And. the hardest part? Not having emotional support or anyone who understood how I felt. And feeling like a failure. Feeling like I was alone at the bottom of a black hole with no way out. And feeling like it was because I was a “mistake”.

Anyone else ever get to that point? Where the stuff in your head is your worst enemy? That’s loneliness. You feel alone. Nobody should feel that way ever.

I remember I called my doctor asking for help. I was told there was nothing she could do for me. Nothing. I called the suicide hotline. I talked to a wonderful person…actually I cried to that wonderful person, for a half an hour before my son came home from school. And then I got angry. I was a mother, damn it. My kids needed me. I (looked up in the phone book…yes, before internet) and got ahold of a local college who needed volunteers for an anxiety program. I joined the program. They asked me how long I had been depressed. And like many people with depression, I asked…”What do you mean?” What I felt was normal to me. Other people with problems had depression.

But ultimately, it helped. I went to my doctor and said I was told I was depressed, and I needed help. I was asked (not the first time in my life) “What are you, a doctor? You are giving me your diagnosis?”

I got the meds. I don’t judge people who choose to self-medicate with liquor or drugs because I could have very easily turned to something like that in order to cope. And you know what is funny about that onion with its layers? It wasn’t until just recently that I connected the dots between my anxiety and panic at the time (and will always be there on some level) and the memory of when I was a child, and our family would be getting ready to go someplace. We would be getting ready to leave the house to go out socially. My father would be, for lack of a better word, a real asshole the entire time. Anxiety skyrocketed through the roof in my house from the moment we began to prepare to go someplace until we had arrived, and my dad got a drink in his hand.

You don’t realize how much you internalize and normalize patterns in your life with your family growing up. You don’t realize how it lays there, coiled up waiting for the right moment to come out and strike. What brought it out?

Perhaps, it was the message that it was wrong to leave my husband, or that a woman wasn’t strong enough to take care of things on her own. Yup, growth can hurt. It can tear you apart when you have to face the demons inside of yourself. And we have all been there at one point or another. Even in seemingly loving households, we got error messages that have to get sorted out as adults.

Loneliness can tear you apart. And in this world, it is a deadly epidemic. The question is, what can be done about it? What can help? There are no one-size fits all solutions. And it can be so difficult to have to pick yourself back up from the puddle on the floor that you feel you have become, to have the strength to do anything about it. It can be a destructive cycle. What has helped other people break this cycle? Please take a moment to answer this week’s poll about what helped you or what you would try in order to be less lonely.

Thank you and have a great week.

Hello, In There

Thank you to the person who told me that he reads my blog each week. And a shout out to the least represented, but still important, readers in the bottom five most active countries: Zambia, Russia, Tanzania, Czech Republic, and Ecuador.

This week, we had some discussion about Narcissists and anger and victim blaming and triggers, as well as trauma bonding, self-hatred, gaslighting, forgiveness, fear of having others not believe us, boundaries, and close personal loss.

Firstly, we are all somewhat Narcissistic. We all have egos to protect. And even the most giving of people, rarely give until it hurts…willingly. We have self-preservation. Except for family, who we may not always like, but who we probably love unconditionally, who tend to love those who give us something back. We are drawn to people who make us feel good in one way or another. Whether they cook for us, laugh at our jokes, compliment us, flirt with us, comfort us, listen to us, make us feel special to them, take care of us physically or financially, smile or give us positive feedback, praise us, pay us, thank us, or give us likes and upvotes, we like people who like us and who make us feel good or feel good about ourselves.

But what are we getting out of abusive relationships? What are the “rewards” of staying in a relationship that does not appear to be good for us?

From my own experience, and from hearing others speak about their relationships or victimization in Narcissistic partnerships, fear plays a big role. The reward is giving up oneself in order to have something the other person is offering in exchange for us not feeling fear.

Let me explain. I allowed my ex-husband to do whatever he wanted without confrontation in exchange for not having him threaten to leave and telling me what I already felt inside…that I could not survive without him. I was unable to take care of our kids by myself. I could not take care of the house by myself. Nobody else in the world was ever going to want me as a partner. I believed him. And I was terrified. And it was not just me who would be punished but our children as well. It may not seem like much of a reward, but at the time, it was. I knew it was not right, but changing things meant that I had to change, and that concept did not feel as solid as the life that I knew, good or bad. By “solid”, I mean, what is known. What is real to a person.

Many victims of abuse find themselves stuck in a situation where they feel they have no power. Why? When I look back now, I know that my husband was repeating back to me what I already felt. Not just how I felt about myself, but how I felt about the reality of marriage. I was reliving what I knew…what I had grown up to believe. As was he. He and I were the only ones of our siblings who did not have a problem with alcohol. But that did not mean that we did not have a problem.

Many people who have had dysfunctional role models seek to be rewarded by attempting to help, or to fix, or to understand what it was they could not when they were children. And Narcissists? I don’t claim to understand them. But I know that they look for people with a need. They swoop in like a moth to a flame. And for those people who knew dysfunction or abuse when they were young, meeting the Narcissist can feel like they have finally found the one person who gets them.

A relationship with a Narcissist has been compared to being hooked on Heroin. I don’t know what Heroin is like, but from what I understand, it is so fantastic that once someone has tried it, they get hooked because they are looking for that feeling they got the first time they used it. When someone who has lived in the shadows on the outside of other people because they feel they don’t fit in or they are not worthy for some reason, has someone “find” them, and insist that they are worthy…when someone who is supposed to be trusted smiles kindly and shares their own vulnerability…leading the other person into what feels like the light…they get that other person hooked. And that person who is now hooked, does not want to lose that feeling.

GaslightingI never knew how common a thing that was. Gaslighting is like taking a trip down the rabbit hole. It’s like…you really want things to be good between you and someone who likes you and makes you feel good, but something seems off and the ground does not feel solid under your feet.

For me, I remember the day I asked the priest if I could talk with him. I was so nervous, but I couldn’t stand the tension in the office. Talking to a priest about sex feels like asking your parents to describe what goes on in their bedroom. It feels wrong. It feels incestuous. So, I asked my boss what it was he wanted from me. I asked him if he was implying that he wanted to see me outside of the office.

He looked at me. And I think we all know that look. A bit smug. But careful. Always careful not to trip up. “You are making me feel so uncomfortable right now,” is what he said.

I felt like throwing up. I apologized profusely. I felt lower than dirt. What I did not know is that I was being gaslighted. He wanted me to be confused. He wanted me to feel unsteady. He wanted the upper hand in the situation. He didn’t want me to ask questions. He didn’t want me to trust my instincts.

Not only was he gaslighting me by denying what he was doing and making me feel like I was crazy, but he was also establishing trauma bonds with me…whereby I was being abused by him, but I felt sympathy for him.

If this seems like insanity, it is. What is even more insane is that not only can the Narcissist make you feel like everything is your fault, but they can and will convince the people around you of the same thing. We call that victim blaming. And when you’ve been a victim enough in your life with the people you have trusted, you get angry, and you stop trusting. But at the core of the betrayal is the feeling that you somehow deserve it. Self-hate.

We often discuss forgiveness. What a burden to put on a victim. Sorry, not sorry. My belief is that forgiveness for the person who wronged you should be for your own good. For instance, if you are obsessing about hurting that person or getting even with them, I think it is best to let that go. One person said that they hoped their abuser got an STD or became impotent. Some anger is healthy. Being able to turn obsessive vengeful thoughts into a wish for something uncomfortable and unlucky for the universe to bequeath upon a person turns it over to fate and gets it off of yourself. Can even make you laugh instead of cry.

My belief, though, is to focus on learning about what happened to you and why it happened to you to the point where you understand, and you begin to use that understanding in your own life. Living well is the best revenge, they say. Read, learn, educate yourself. Learn to love your imperfect self.

And that brings me to…having other people not believe you. I understand. I’m at the point where I believe I was abused. I was sexually harassed by a sick man. So, telling my story is easier now than it used to be. The shame has lessened somewhat, and it does not matter as much as it did as to whether or not other people believe the story that I tell. But that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to go shouting it to the world. Because there is still a stigma attached to being a victim of a sexual crime. There really is.

I called a law firm this past week about going for a civil suit and compensation. But in order to move ahead, I need to be ready to be “that woman”. That woman who may be judged for any decision I’ve ever made. That woman who, by just making this public will never be looked at in the same way. Labels. Slut. Prude. Shame. We don’t talk about this stuff.

Boundaries. What are the fears that prevent you from maintaining your boundaries? And I’m not talking about being rigid here. But I am talking about being manipulated because you are afraid of not being loved or of being alone. But what is the alternative? Being used, having your vulnerabilities used against you, being told that you are unable to do anything for yourself and that you need someone else, being guilt-tripped into giving someone else what they want? Be aware. Just be aware. And fight for your boundaries. It may feel like you are being a horrible person. The manipulator or Narcissist will tell you that you are being horrible to them. You are mean. You are abusive. But you are not. Maintaining polite boundaries will prevent abuse because there will be more honesty and less resentment.

None of this is easy. It takes a lot of bravery to begin to change yourself. Life can be scary and unpredictable, and nobody wants to be alone or unloved.

This past week, another friend was lost too soon. It’s so hard when someone you care about passes away. They take the memories you shared with them. But it also reminds us that there is good in the world, although it hurts that much more when the good is gone.

Just a reminder that our next Abused as Adults meeting will be held on the first Sunday of August from 4pm to 6pm EST. Have a good week, everyone.

Let The River Run

Stats for June…most popular time to read this blog is Wednesday at 7pm. Guest Blog Number 7 was the most read post. Top five countries reading the blog (after the U.S.) are Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, China and New Zealand. Most of you…in fact, everyone, believes that marital rape is a thing and is included under physical abuse. One reader said it has happened to them. And most people are not familiar with energy work.

I realize that when it comes to religion or politics, people have different viewpoints. And we survivors get triggered by things easily. Whenever I share information that may seem unfamiliar or controversial, I’m not doing so to offend anyone. I’m just sharing information. Some people may embrace an idea and find it helpful to their healing. Others may be fearful of anything new or different. Some people may be able to relate, and others may not.

Like many people, I was raised to believe in God and Jesus and guardian angels and miracles and sin and Heaven and Hell. We were told to pray for people who had passed away in case they didn’t make it into Heaven. They had to wait in Purgatory, which I can only imagine resembles a parole board hearing where you are required to spend time pondering your sins until you come before the board. Then if you don’t get approved, you have to start the process again until you either get enough prayers from people speaking for you, or you have been there long enough, so they decide to take a chance on you and send you through to Heaven, but you have to check in with your guardian angel on a regular basis. You screw up, it’s straight to that “other place”.

Nobody really tells you anything about yourself when you are a kid and learning about religion. Where did you come from? Your mom and dad. Why are you here? Because you were born. Where did I come from? From God. What does that mean? We don’t know. Why do bad things happen? It’s God’s will. Why did everything happen over 2000 years ago? Here is a book to tell you about it. How do we know this really happened? Because we say so. What does my guardian angel do? Protect us from evil and tell us to be good. Who are we exactly? Children of God. Why is everything so vague? Have faith, my child.

The problem, I think, could be that we as children are taught things in simple language so that we as children behave because we fear punishment. And many of us never really grow in our wisdom as we grow into adults with adult issues. And those who taught us the basics when we were children, were teaching us from what was understood over 2000 years ago. And even if there was more to be understood or told, the stories were passed along so that the people at that time could accept and understand them.

As children, we are shown pictures of holy people with halos around their heads. We never really question this. Some people merit halos, but most of us don’t. That’s how it goes. The pope has to say you deserve a halo in order for you to be shown in a picture with one over your head. You have to be a saint. You have to have that special glow. Mainly, we learned that most of the saints died horrible deaths for their beliefs. I give them much respect. However, not everyone who has died a horrible death standing up for their belief has been given sainthood. So, what are halos exactly and why do we see them over the heads of holy people in the bible?

From what I have read about halos, there are a couple of beliefs about how they came about to depict a holy person in a painting or a stained-glass window. Firstly, when telling a story to many people over 2000 years ago, you were basically trying to convey an idea to people who could not read or write for the most part. And throughout history, the story was retold to illiterate people, and to people who spoke different languages. Showing a glowing light coming from the crown of the head, said what needed to be said without words. These people were special. These people were blessed. These people had God within them.

Another interesting theory about halos…is that way back when, before streetlights and electric light bulbs and neon lights and TV’s and loud music and computers and phones, and car engines and planes and all that we have in this modern day that we tend to drown out and tune into, is that people were more sensitive to the energy of other people. In fact, it is believed that way, way back, people could actually see, the halos, or energy fields of others. Someone emitting a white aura was said to radiate peace.

Today those energy fields are known as auras, and although most of us cannot see them, they do exist. We are spiritual beings inside human bodies. Our spirits are energy.

And this is why energy healing is a thing. And has been for centuries.

But, as I have said, the things we don’t understand can scare us.

I first began to understand death when my grandfather died when I was eight years old. It was my first time going to a wake and I had never seen a dead body before. I understood from losing my grandmother two years before that death meant you wouldn’t see a person again. But this was my first time realizing there was a process that was done leading up to that.

My mother has always been a paradox. She taught me to be afraid of many things in order to protect me, but if she sensed fear in me, she would inevitably push me to get over it. And so, in order for me to get over feeling uncomfortable around a dead body, my mom kept pushing me to kiss my grandfather goodbye. No way was I going to do that. I’d kissed my grandfather’s scruffy, drooly, tobacco scented cheek many times when saying goodbye, but this was different.

Thing is, death is an unknown. We see the scary and sad side of it. My dad tried to explain the concept of our energy living on by saying that my dead grandfather could be in the room with me, but I just couldn’t see him. Well, that just made things worse. Then he told me that they were a new star in the sky. I became afraid of stars. Then they gave me my grandmother’s old sleigh bed. I had just seen my first coffin. Do you know what a sleigh bed resembles? For me, at least, I was terrified of every sound at night. I was sure that I would wake up in a coffin next to my dead grandfather.

It was because of my fear and the lack of satisfactory answers in part, that drove me to become more curious about life on the other side and other unexplained mysteries and things that I had never been taught growing up in Catholic school and in a time when answers to these questions were just becoming available.

My first introduction to energy healing was after my mother had gone through cancer treatments. She brought me to one of the classes that was being offered for women healing from breast cancer. It was called Chi Qiong which translated from Chinese means, “energy cultivation” or “working with the life energy”. Chi Qiong is visualization, breathing, poses, and meditation with a goal of quieting the mind and releasing unneeded energy while accepting healing energy. We visualized the energy within ourselves in order to achieve a healthy balance within.

The woman who held the class is also an energy healer who does Reiki, a form of energy balancing and sweeping while also detecting blocked energy within the body causing disease or distress.

I understand that many people reading this may distrust a person who claims to be able to heal someone with energy. And usually, nobody makes that claim. Someone who is a true healer is not someone who makes any claims. Nor would they try to take advantage of anyone.

Energy balancing is said to be essential to our health. I am reading about Chakras and the energy of stones. The body is said to contain seven Chakras. They are the Root Chakra, the Sacral Chakra, the Solar Plexis Chakra, the Heart Chakra, the Throat Chakra, the Third Eye Chakra, and the Crown Chakra. Each of the Chakras is like a vortex of energy located at different parts of the body. If the body is in balance, then the cells of the body work in harmony. But if the energy in the body is off, physical and psychological illnesses can result.

Trauma can and does affect the Chakras. Addiction is said to be located mainly in the Throat Chakra, but other Chakras can be affected as well, depending upon the cause of the addiction, such as if there is shame, avoiding processing painful emotions, feelings of low self-worth or powerlessness, heartbreak, or feeling alone and disconnected…each affects different Chakras.

In addition, each Chakra has a specific location on the body, physical body parts that it affects, dysfunctions that may arise if out of balance, mental and emotional issues if out of balance, possible causes of energy blockages, crystals or stones that may be carried or placed on the body for their healing energy, and essential oils that have healing properties.

The book also discusses diet, yoga, meditation, has yoga positions and photos of different stones and crystals. I am just a beginner really. So, this book is a wonderful guide for me.

The name of the book is “Chakra Healing, A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Healing Techniques That Balance the Chakras” by Margarita Alcantara.

Like I said, this may sound strange or scary to some people and other people may not believe something they can’t actually see. But then again, isn’t that what faith is all about? Believing that something unseen exists?

This kind of healing technique may not be for everyone. Scents can trigger memories so be careful there. Meditation and visualization can be used for calming and grounding and have been found to be a good way to lower blood pressure and clear the mind when overwhelmed. As with everything, do only what is right for yourself and don’t push yourself to do anything uncomfortable or triggering.

Have a wonderful week, and take care of yourself.

Guest Blog Number Seven

Yes. Indeed. The entitlement of the charming charismatic chameleon is all too familiar.

I followed the cord in my life all the way back to where it was plugged in.

Guess who my first love was? A charming charismatic, narcissistic, alcoholic wife beater womanizer! Dear old dad! He was the first man I saw beside the doctor of course. He was my first love.

My mother would have fit the classic codependent.

Our personalities are formed by the time we are five. So the first five years of my life I lived in chaos and abuse.

Then my mother died two months after her 35th birthday. She wanted to leave my father.

She did along with the three of us little children so close in ages. She did not want our father to have us. She asked one of her sisters to take us and keep us together. Her sister said she would but could not. At least my mother died thinking we would be somewhat ok.

The cost of codependency is a heavy price. My father went on to live, if you call it that, until all the consequences of his alcoholism took his life a month shy of his 58th birthday. He had wet brain syndrome from his brain turning to gel after years of being pickled and along with neck cancer from years of smoking unfiltered cigarettes combined with the toxins of alcohol.

The point is the codependent died of cancer long before my father’s alcoholism claimed him. She thought her love could change him. It killed her instead. It did not change him.

My marriage was abusive. I knew I should not have married him but did not want to inconvenience the people who bought their bridesmaid dresses or guest who purchased airline tickets for the event. I told my then fiancé let’s wait another year. He demonstrated really serious red flag behaviors. But he convinced me to stick with the date we chose. I figured if he really wanted to be married to me that maybe things would change and he would be ok.

Things got worse.

I ended up leaving ten years later with a blossoming alcohol abuse issue and cancer. That’s my mother’s story.  But I managed to leave. She did not make it that far.

I am surprised given the complex ptsd created by a lifetime of nothing but narcissist abusive people and throw in there three priest abusers that I still am sucking air and sane.

Today I am doing both. I am breathing and sane.

With a lot of work on self-recovery which is a life time journey I have managed to heal my life and be sitting here in a state of wonder and gratitude.

Everyday hero’s don’t appear on the movie screens in theaters nor are they dressed in fancy costumes. We might not ever be known by the world for our courageous acts.

But just look in the mirror. There is a hero or heroine staring right back at us.

Smile at her/him. Look in her/his eyes and tell them just how amazing they are. Tell them you love them and are sorry they suffered so much. Tell them we made it to here, and the best is yet to come.

Do this every day until those words make it into our hearts. Feel the warmth of true love that never leaves us again never to pour it into empty narcissistic abusers who siphon our light while depositing their unowned darkness until we are depleted and it’s time for them to find new supply.

We don’t have to stay trapped entombed in the prison cells of our childhoods locked inside by the bars of pain and oppression. If that door opens to our cells we don’t have to lie there in learned helplessness even though the door opens ever so little.

We can choose to step off the hamster wheel of abuse and it’s corresponding addictions to ease the pain spinning going nowhere. It takes the first step.

There is an abundance of help out there. The first step is to take the outstretched hand and grab the help. We ARE so worth it even if we were told lies that we are not. Don’t believe it! The investment into self that we poured into others is the best gift of love we can receive.

I learned there are no knight in shining armors out there who sweep down and rescue us. We are our own knights, our own rescuers. We get to choose to rewrite our stories.

I learned how love without abuse feels through how I rescued myself. It’s incredible!

Helpless

I read something this week about a woman who says she was raped by her husband on their wedding night. She was a virgin and was saving herself for marriage. However, on the day of her wedding, she was sick. She was actually running a fever, and it was all she could do to get through the day. That night, all she wanted to do was get out of her gown and sleep. She explained to her husband that she was not feeling well, and wanted to put off their first sexual encounter until she was feeling better.

Instead, he told her that he had waited long enough and that she was now his wife, and that sex was an expected part of marriage. So, he flipped her onto her back, got on top of her, and had sex with his sick wife who begged, “please, no”. She went on to say that sex within the marriage never got any better after that night. It was always expected, and it was never pleasurable for her. Her husband criticized her sexual performance and basically everything about her as a woman. And she believed that it was all her fault.

Eventually he left her for another woman. It was at that point, after he left, that she began to see how she had been abused.

This story probably sounds familiar to many people. We probably also felt that something was off but that it was our fault. We were there. We were making out. Maybe drinking. Maybe without prior consent, someone just decided that they were going to have sex with you, so they did.

Or maybe you felt obligated to keep a partner happy because if you didn’t, your life would not be very pleasant, so you just had sex to keep from being made to feel like a horrible human being, or because not having sex meant sending someone into a rage against you and you had children and needed to keep things happy for everyone.

Except for yourself.

The woman in the story who was sick on her wedding night and asked her new husband if they could please wait until the next day when she felt better, was forced to have sex against her will by an abusive partner. He felt impatient and entitled and his needs were all that mattered. He forced her to have sex. That is marital rape.

I knew a woman who was in an abusive relationship. She was abused in every way possible. Her daughter told someone that her stepfather had raped her mother. I was not there, so I assume that for the daughter to say that she was raped, it probably happened after he pushed her around a bit and there was most likely an escalation of anger that was witnessed beforehand. I knew both the woman and her husband well enough to have heard stories that he was not such a great guy. He was psychologically abusive to the teenage daughter as well. I heard about how he would go into the laundry and take out soiled underwear when the girl had her period and hang them out on the line with the intent to embarrass her.

When someone is in an abusive relationship, they may realize that things aren’t how they should be, but they may fall into a pattern of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness happens in trauma bonding. It can happen when one partner has more financial power or more physical power or is able to psychologically intimidate and manipulate someone.

It can happen when life is unsteady and when the emotional climate can change suddenly, depending upon the mental state of the person who needs to have control. Children can develop this emotional state if they are raised in a situation where they are made to feel inept or never good enough, or if they witness abuse in the family.

When someone feels that things are hopeless or that there is nothing they have the power to change in their situation, or that they lack the tools to better their life, they can be experiencing a sense of learned helplessness. They have learned that they have no power and no voice and no choice in life. They end up learning to please others to keep life in balance.

It is said that feeling this way is one of the main reasons for depression. I think that is understandable.

The woman who I once knew who was in the abusive relationship ended up leaving…or perhaps she was forced to leave…a house she owned, leaving her child behind. By this time, she was already drinking heavily. She had no job and no way of supporting herself. At one point, she ended up living with someone in an apartment above a bar.

Could she have turned her life around? People in worse situations than her have done so. But she had learned that she was worthless and now she was very vulnerable. Family would not take her in because of her drinking. She saw no way out. She lived that way for years until she ended up in the hospital and at that time, did end up giving up the bottle and reconciling with family because she needed to stay with family in order to recuperate.

These psychological issues which can affect, and even ruin lives are often seen as the fault of the person who needs the most help. When these things happen within a relationship with a Narcissist, there is a double whammy. Support systems are cut off. Lies are told about the victim. Money can be cut off. The victim is blamed by those who believe the Narcissist’s charm and twisted version of the truth.

It’s a dark road of self-blame and depression with the whole world seemingly all too willing to mirror the disgust the victim sees in themself.

But this is something that many of us already know all too well. Because we have lived through it, in our lives and in the one place we thought we were safe…our church. And then when we go to seek help, we can’t find it. Because we were caught in something that we didn’t see at the time. So, we did stupid things. We cared. We made excuses for the person. We didn’t report what was going on. We let it continue. We knew that it was in our best interest to keep quiet.

But it wasn’t love that we felt for our Narcissistic abuser. And I call them that because it’s true. Our abuser felt they were entitled to abuse us. They were above the law. They felt smarter than us. They knew how to play the game so that they could make us lick their boots and have us thinking it was our idea. They could make everyone think that it was our idea. They could hold our jobs, our reputation, our feeling of safety, and our need for love, approval and belonging over our heads. They could terrorize us into behaving how they wanted us to behave. They could withhold their approval, or work benefits, or a status we enjoyed within the church community. They held the power. We learned helplessness because we had no power.

But, like some instances of rape, it can be hard to prove abuse legally sometimes when the victim appeared to have willingly participated in the crime. Or if they defended their abuser. Or if they continued to be in contact with the abuser. Or if they married their abuser.

And having to go through the humiliation of telling a legal person what you went through, only to have them tell you that you don’t have a case and that the person is going to get away with what they did…that can rip open the wound all over again as if it just happened to you.

Know that this does happen. Have a trusted friend help you through the legal process or help you get out of an abusive situation. And if you are alone with nowhere to turn, call a suicide hotline or other support hotline in your area for help. You don’t have to be actively suicidal to call the suicide hotline. If you are depressed, it can help greatly to talk to someone who will just listen. And it’s free. Or join a SNAP support group.

One of the most important things you can gain from reaching out for help is learning that having your soul trampled on by someone who does not have a soul, is not your fault. No matter how much abuse you put up with or how many “stupid” things you did and mistakes that you made because you couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

The next Abused as Adults on-line meeting will be held the first Sunday of July from 4pm to 6pm EST.

Be good to yourself. Be kind and gentle to yourself first and foremost. And have a great week.

Smiling Faces Sometimes…

The following are stats for the month of May:

The top five countries to read this blog after the U.S. are: United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland and China. This blog now has 91 followers. Busiest time is Sunday at 6pm. Top five blogs so far this year are: In My Head, Clarity, Goodbye to Love, Guest Blog #6, and Reflections of My Life. Most people have never heard of the bill tracking site called “Where’s George” (I do it as a fun waste of time), Most people are now seeing a therapist and they feel that it is helping them to do so, the majority of readers said they plan to attend the SNAP Colorado conference on-line, and most of us are working on our Co-dependency issues.

I know that there are things that happened this past week. Disturbing things. Evil hurting innocents. I think what is even more disturbing is that at this point in time, mass shootings have become so common that we can only feel bad for the victims for a moment before the next one happens. And it becomes such a common thing to hear that we begin to tune it out and move on in order to be able to live our lives. The fact that children aren’t safe in school and that there is such evil that exists is a very sad commentary on the shape of our society.

The cowardness of evildoers is obvious. Going after the most vulnerable of people who have no means of defense ensures their sense of power and control. Just the week before the shooting at the elementary school, there was a shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY where one of the victims was an 86-year-old woman. No way can an 86-year-old run quickly to hide. We tend to forget in all of the overwhelming news stories that this was someone’s mom maybe. Just out picking up a few items perhaps. Maybe her grandchild was coming over after school. Bravely going out risking getting infected by Covid. Never suspecting that a mask wasn’t going to be of any help that day. Any plans for life in the future cut short by someone who did not see her as a human being.

It affects us. It has to. We go on and live our lives because there is really nothing much we can do to help, and because we have to go on, but any progress we’ve made as far as feeling safe in our world probably takes a step back. We want to leave justice to our higher power and to those in positions of power on Earth. But some of us may doubt either or both for what seems to be their lack of involvement and action in protecting the innocent.

I was sent something recently which I watched regarding Narcissistic people. Remember that we all have egos and many if not all of us have some unresolved issues regarding being loved enough as children. Well, these days it seems that everyone wants to be recognized. Everyone seems to want their 15 minutes of fame. We see videos of little children who want to be influencers, before they can even grasp what that really means. But we get a kick out of the likes we receive, and the praise and the fame and perhaps the money. And I’m thinking that probably has a lot to do with the increase in violence we are seeing in our country.

Because even as children, we learn that even negative attention is still attention.

Also in the news is that Manson murderer Patricia Krenwinkel was granted parole on May 26, 2022. I was a kid when the murders took place in 1969, and due to the nature of the violence involved, and the fact that the group of Manson’s followers murdered people who were complete strangers to them on someone else’s orders, the details of that night are still horrific to this day.

Yet now that we have a better understanding of how grooming works and how the rollercoaster ride of manipulation…the giving and removing of praise and rewards/love…creates trauma bonds between the perpetrator and their victim, we can maybe understand more the vulnerable position this woman was in at the time. Perhaps we can relate a bit to her connection with a Narcissistic madman whose love and acceptance she grew to crave and need. And of the fear that would have been felt at the thought of losing that connection. As well as the barrier breakdown that was happening so that her own feelings of weakness and self-doubt bonded with that which she saw as strength until she could no longer think for herself.

The drugs and isolation would have contributed to these feelings. And the idea that this happens more often than we want to believe is scary as hell.

I’ve read children who grow up with Narcissists are more likely to fall into relationships with Narcissists. However, seeing how the Narc can be charming, and how they know just how to become everything a person has ever wanted or needed, who wouldn’t welcome their soul mate and best friend into their world? And who wouldn’t completely trust someone who recognized how special they were? Who wouldn’t feed upon the life-giving fuel of pure love?

Until it is snatched away, leaving the person starving and willing to do anything for a crumb. It is then that a person begins to put their Narcissistic partner before their own children, before the values they grew up with, before their financial and physical health, before their own dignity, and sometimes, before their own life. And it happens all the time.

This week, I began to read a book about healing and the body’s energy centers or Chakras. I just started to read this book, so I know very little about anything just yet. I have in the past worked with energy, participating in classes for Tai Chi and Chi Qigong, as well as working with Reiki. But I never actually looked into energy healing as in researching its history or why and how it works within the body.

I do know that I have come to a point in my life where I need to focus on myself and turn my attention inward. And that is what I will be doing for a while. I have stepped back a bit from my SNAP duties. I am suffering from burn out. Covid and world news has not helped. I have found that my well is dry and I need to replenish.

What this means is that I will no longer be doing weekly Abused as Adults meetings. I will be sharing hosting duties for a once a month Abused as Adults meeting with another SNAP leader. Right now, we are looking at the first Sunday of the month from 4pm to 6pm EST. Writing helps me heal so I will continue to work on the blog, although it may not be a regular weekly thing. I have a lot going on as far as family and changes and people needing me right now, so being tied to a regular schedule or even feeling responsible, is not something I’m craving at the moment.

I have been having some unsettling dreams lately. Last night, try as I might, I could not keep up with my co-workers in my dream, and I was in danger of being fired. It felt unfair because I felt that I worked harder than everyone else. Everyone else seemed to effortlessly get their work done with time to spare. Not me. I was sweating and struggling and still coming up short. My boss pulled me aside to counsel me. I felt panicked and like I would never fit in or be as good as the other workers.

I need to not be stressed out in my dream world. Perhaps some yoga might help.

We have talked about what we all do when we are upset or depressed and we need to put our minds into something we enjoy. We will see where this energy journey goes.

I read today about a doctor I once knew…back in the day when I was pregnant and visiting the obstetrician. This doctor had kidney failure and needed dialysis and a kidney transplant. He practiced what we call “Western Medicine”, but he also decided that he wasn’t just going to sit around and wait for things to be done to him. He was going to be an active participant in his health journey.

So, he meditated, and he visualized his body healing, and his family said that he radiated golden energy. I know I always liked him. He was part of the group I went to during both of my pregnancies. He continued to care for his patients, for whom he had a deep respect. He remained positive.

Unfortunately, he did pass away sooner than he should have, but his daughter feels that he lived longer than he would have otherwise if he focused on being a kidney patient. Instead, he saw himself as a person who just happened to have some kidney issues to take care of.

I have to say that I do believe that the mind has much to do with our health. I may have mentioned before that my mom had cancer back in 1995. She didn’t say anything to anyone, but the doctor had told her to get her things in order because she probably had about six months to live. My mom chose to focus instead on cleaning out her sister’s house after she passed away, and getting it sold. She then joined a dance group and did line dancing and then joined square dancing and many exercise classes during the week. She has just lived her life without counting the days. And she is still around now 27 years later.

Okay, she doesn’t meditate, and she hates candles and wouldn’t know a chakra if it hit her in the solar plexus, but she does eat well and she exercises. And every day, even if she feels like staying in bed, she gets up, makes her bed, lets the dog out, has breakfast, and does the crossword puzzle. So, yes, I’m going to be working on doing some of that.

Be good to yourself. You are worth it. Have a great week.