Saturday, May 7, 2011

Life Doesn’t Stop for Recovery

I think one of the hard things about recovery work is that life doesn’t stop while you are in the process. It keeps on giving us new challenges, new heartaches, new windows into our souls, no matter how hard we try to protect ourselves from it all.

I want to protest this. I want to rebel.  I want to hide.  But that is my pattern.  And this is the very thing that I need to face when life sends all these new things my way, that I have a pattern that I need to address and try to work through; another thing, yet another thing to work through.

What I have wanted for myself is some space to do my recovery work and not have to deal with present things.  I have tried to organize my life in such a way that I keep life at a safe distance, I don’t want to deal with fresh wounds while working on old ones.  I have tried and have failed.  But this ‘failure’ was bound to happen, because life doesn’t stop for us while we are dealing with the past.  I was trying to use an old coping method of withdrawing in order to facilitate my healing process, and have come to find out that my healing needs to include this very same coping method that is dysfunctional.  I hate this stuff sometimes!

I am at a crossroad.  I know the path I want to take, the one that seems familiar and safe.  I know this path will only lead me into a circle and bring me right back to this same crossroad.  I have been in this circle for years.  I know I need to choose the other path if I am going to move forward.  Fear grips me.  The new path, the one that is so unfamiliar to me seems dark and dangerous, and yet I know this is only an illusion of my own making.  I am seeing what I expect to see instead of what is really there.

Last week I was praying for courage.  This week I am praying for courage and a new pair of eyes.
I want eyes that can see the possibilities instead of just darkness and danger.  My prayer.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Hard Exhausting Work of Recovery

Anyone who is either in this process of recovery from child abuse or has been down this road and come out the other side, will know what I mean when I say that it is hard work and there are days and weeks where it seems to take everything out of you. EVERYTHING. Where the things you are dealing with become so intense that there feels to be nothing left and you have exhausted yourself. You are wrung completely dry.

I’ve been doing this for close to 4 years and know the cycles.  It is somewhat like being in the labor of childbirth, but it goes on for years.  You have these intense contractions that keep getting stronger and stronger until you feel you cannot take it anymore, you wonder if you are going to live through this, and then it kind of eases up a bit, giving you just enough time to catch your breath.

Of course, all this is going on in the realm of emotion and memory, and it does often make its way into the realm of physical pain, when the body memories come to the surface and get released.  And sometimes there is a great sense of relief after going through a period of this, after you have come through it you feel a little lighter for a spell.  Some of the weight of all those burdens have been lifted from you and you do actually feel lighter.

Then the next round comes.  People who go through this liken it to peeling the onion.  You go through one layer and then find there is still another layer under that.  You just keep peeling that damn onion. But the tears are real, they are not a reaction to an onion, they are tears of all the pain that has been buried in each layer of your soul.  And you have to feel the pain in order to release the tears, that is the excruciating part.  The tears are the relief part. 
Sometimes I am feeling the pain and shedding the tears and haven’t even been given the slightest insight into what is going on in this layer.  It can be so intense and all I know is I can feel it and the tears are releasing something in me, but the insight, the knowledge has not been given to me as to what I have just uncovered.  Sometimes I am given a little insight, but there is this pressing going on inside, like I know this is just the tip of yet another iceberg.  This is where we have the analogy of the relief valve.  Taking a little pressure off it, a little at a time, so that when you do have the insight, or the full insight, it is not so overwhelming as to set you back.  Your mind’s way of only giving you what you can handle.

When I go through these kinds kinds of stages, the relief valve stage, I know enough now to know that what is coming is not something I really want to deal with.  It’s not something I want to know.  It’s going to be one of those things that is going to make me want to turn around and go back, go back to being numb and staying numb.

Courage.  These are times when I just pray for courage.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What Is the Real Good News Message of Easter?

It’s Easter weekend, and I am wrestling with my faith.  Still.  And that’s OK.  God is not afraid of my questions, He’s not afraid of my doubts.  He’s not afraid of my anger.  He’s not afraid of my rebellion.  Fear has no part in Him.  And He knows it still plays a huge part in me.

I’ve been stumbling upon lots of interesting articles, things that are challenging me to think about my faith, even though I protest greatly in some parts of me yet.  And if I wasn’t already making my way toward being ready to face all of this, I wouldn’t be engaging in the challenge at all.  I guess it truly is time to allow some deep healing to take place in this part of me.

One of those many articles really got me thinking about all the sermons I heard as a child, all those fear based sermons that royally screwed with my head, that royally screw with a lot of people’s heads, even those who weren’t being abused at the same time they absorbed all this stuff.  What stuff?  That God is so full of wrath that he is willing to send his beloved creations/children to an eternity of torture and separation from all things good.  OK, it’s possible that many people who believe this don’t understand fully what torture is.  Because if they understood torture, they could hardly comprehend that a God who professes love for the world could do such things.  So I will give them this small benefit of the doubt.  For those who have experienced some form of torture, and still hold to this belief that God is the greatest torturer of all, well, that speaks a little more about them than I care to get into here.

Here are some of my thoughts this Easter weekend:

Why did Jesus go to the cross if it wasn't to save us from hell?  Maybe he went to the cross (was put on that cross by man, not by God) to show us that God loves us no matter what we believe of Him, no matter what we do to Him, no matter what, period.  Because he died saying "forgive them, they know not what they do". 

And you know what? None of us knows what we are doing.  Period.  Whether we profess a certain 'type' or 'brand' of faith, whether we profess no faith, none of us knows squat; really, we are all pretty much ignorant in all of this.  And God knows this and we can't change one thing about His love for us, because He knows our ignorance.  We are all blind journeymen.  And we are going to screw up, and most often ROYALLY.  We know not what we do.  Even when we kill God.  Even when we kill God THINKING we are defending His HONOR, defending His Word

And how do we as followers, kill God while thinking we are defending his Honor and his Word?  By killing the souls of those around us through destroying what little they are able to cling to in this life.  By bullying them into fear.  By dismissing them because of our own beliefs based on fear.  By not allowing God to be a God of Love and Grace, to EVERYONE.

If the purpose of the cross was not to save us all from hell, then why were the disciples commissioned to spread the word of the GOOD NEWS, the Gospel?  Could it be for the sole purpose of bringing PEACE ON EARTH?  GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN?  Could it be to let people know that they no longer needed to FEAR GOD?  That they no longer had to sacrifice virgins in order to appease HIM?  Or sacrifice their children?  Or sacrifice their minds?  Could it be that he just wanted mankind to finally GET IT, who God really is?  This is what I believe.  That He wanted us to finally SEE how much He Loved.  Not how much He hated and how we can be assured we can avoid that hatred if we say the right words,(that being, if we were part of the fortunate miniscule percentage of humans who have lived and died on this planet, to have ever HEARD the Good News in order to say the right words).

But the message got lost right away, didn't it? This Good News, Christ's message of Grace.  Because we cannot fathom that kind of Love, that kind of Grace.  We cannot fathom the parable of the vineyard, where everyone gets the same wage in the end.

And I have to admit that part of my own wrestling in all of this is, as an abuse survivor, this is a hard pill to swallow; that unrepentant abusers may escape eternal torture after all; but as a sinner (someone who has fallen short of perfection), it is a breath of fresh air.  Can't have your cake and eat it too.  FOR ALL HAVE SINNED (fallen short of perfection).  And NOT ALL HAVE HEARD ABOUT THIS GRACE.  And even if some have heard, does that mean they have heard in their soul, that they have understood???  So is Grace lost to them, FOREVER???  How cruel would God be for this to happen???  That of all the people who have ever been born and died on this planet, only a small percent will ever escape eternal torture?  According to the way the Gospel is preached by most Christians today, this is how it will play out.

This is where I have to part company with most Christians, in order to save my own faith.  Because I cannot bear to believe in a God who tortures.  There was a time I did, but that’s because I believed I deserved to be tortured, part of the way abusers operate, putting that belief inside your little mind.  I lived that and relived it in my soul for 48 years, and it’s time to give God more credit than that.  Not only did He not have anything to do with what I endured here on earth, He is not waiting across that great divide to give me more of the same.  Or anyone more of the same.   Love cannot do that.  And that is the Real Good News Message of Easter.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Repressed Emotions & The God Connection

When I was a child, the only time we were permitted to show any kind of ‘negative’ emotion was in church.  We went to the old time Pentecostal churches, lots of high emotions in those services, lots of repenting going on, lots of weeping and sobbing happening all around me.  And people were allowed to do this without getting punished.  Of course, as I started to get a little older I realized that there was a lot of real anguish going on, a lot of fear of damnation.  But something happens when you are made to stuff all your feelings way deep inside you and then you are around a lot of crying people.  It’s like it’s contagious.  You start crying too.  Only now they tell you that it’s God that’s MAKING you cry, convicting you of all your sin. 
So, I am a child and I go into a church every week, usually 2 to 3 times a week, and I cry.  And now I know that it’s God that is causing all this crying, because he sees all my sin and is convicting me.  So, now I am allowed to cry, as long as it is about my sin and it is God who is doing all this in me, making me feel so bad inside.

When I was a teenager, we switched denominations and went Independent Baptist for a while.  Still very fundamentalist, lots of preaching about sin and judgment, but no one cried in these churches.  They were already saved.  So I learned to keep all that crying down, even if the bad feelings were there every time I went into a church, I just couldn’t let them see me cry, because then they would know about all the sin.

When I was in my thirties, something happened.  I was unable to go into a church without breaking down.  I couldn’t even get there before it started.  The sobbing was uncontrollable.  There was so much pain on the inside of me and knowing I was going to go to church set the wheels in motion.  And I still had this notion that it was God, that he was behind all this bad stuff coming out of me.  I was still being convicted.  And it didn’t matter how much repenting I did, it never seemed to be sufficient, because he just kept on convicting me, and it was to the point of being unbearable.  I couldn’t bear it any longer.  And so I gave up on God, because it didn’t seem there was any way to appease him anymore.

I tried going back, about 6 years ago.  But now, instead of it being the breaking down and sobbing, I was having anxiety attacks.  Extreme anxiety, couldn’t even make it into the parking lot most times, the panic was so intense I had to leave.  I haven’t tried in several years now, can’t put myself through it.

There are many reasons why I have issues in this area.  Abuse by religious people; lies embedded in me before I was even school age, about my worth as a human being, about my role in this world, being a whore and all.  Family being super religious but never living it out in our lives.  Oh sure, they may not have smoked, or drank, or danced, or wore makeup, or played cards, or went to the movies, or went to bowling alleys (all these things being sinners stuff), but they knew how to kill your spirit.  How to beat you and humiliate you and use you.  So, there’s that.  And now of course, another piece of the puzzle that has fallen into place, the fact that church is a trigger on another level as well.  It’s the only place I was ever allowed to cry.  And then that became too embarrassing and too unbearable, seeing how I could never appease God.  So back to repressing emotions and now I am left with anxiety attacks.  Me and churches don’t get along so well.

But you know what they say, knowledge is power.  Truth is freeing. And I may just be on my way to some healing in this area.  Because it wasn’t actually God who did all of this to me.  It was religious people who were pretty wicked in the end.  Pretty wicked.  And I was just a kid caught in the middle of the wicked religious people, and I paid a heavy, heavy price.  And God had nothing to do with any of it, or them.  They were all on their own in all of this.  But they are pretty convinced that if the rapture comes, they will be the first ones to ride the friendly skies.

I say, good riddance.  "I’d rather laugh with the sinners, than cry with the saints".  Always knew Billy Joel had something good going on with that one.

This may seem rather sacrilegious, it being Easter and all.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that this little bit of truth coming up in me is my own personal Easter gift from God, Himself.  Because he sees the pain, he bore it over 2000 years ago.  And I am going to find healing at the end of this.  And freedom.  And maybe even a new and very different relationship with Him when all is said and done. 

And as a good friend said to me today: first things first.  

There is no rush with God.  We are the ones who get so damn pushy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Near Collision, Rage and Milestones

I almost had a head on collision with a tanker truck yesterday on my way home from work.  It scared the S#!%  out of me!  But today I realized it was a milestone in my recovery process.  An awesome milestone for me!

Here’s how it started.  When I left work I had this really heavy feeling come over me.  It was one of those things that happens every so often, when you get this sense that something terrible is going to happen.  It is different from the normal hyper-vigilance that is always with me, it was a ‘knowing’ that there was danger, somehow, somewhere, some way.  I’ve had this happen many times before and have learned from experience to pay attention to this, I am almost always proven right about it, if not myself, then someone I know, and it’s usually imminent.  About 2 blocks from work it grew stronger, so I said a prayer.  I didn’t know if it had to do with me, or with someone I was connected to, but I knew something was going to happen.  So I prayed for safety for myself and everyone I knew, and for awareness.

About 40 minutes into my drive, I was on a country 2 lane road, approaching a sharp curve on my left going up a steep hill.  As I was into the curve I saw a tanker truck heading down the hill at full speed and he was well over the center line in my lane.  Full speed.  He was going to hit me head on.  I had a split second to save myself and I pulled on my steering wheel, hard right and ran off the road.  And for the life of me, I don’t know how he missed me.  He was right there and then he was past me, it was only a matter of seconds.  He never slowed down, he never stopped, he just kept on going.

I was sitting there in the grass, just short of going over a bank.  And rage came boiling up in me.  I was totally, completely filled with rage!  I started calling that man every foul word known to humankind.  It all came flying out of me, I was yelling it with a lot of, ummmm, passion!  He could have killed me!  That dumb ass could have killed me!  And he didn’t even slow down or stop to see if I was ok!

I pulled myself together in a matter of a minute or less really.  Got back on the road and headed up that hill and made my way home.  And I can tell you that within the next 30 minutes of my drive, my mind was well on to other things.  It happened and I processed it and it was over.
That has never happened before in my life!!!  A milestone!!!  

I actually experienced something very traumatic for me, and instead of dissociating (going totally numb and into a conscious fog), I experienced very clear emotions and allowed them to happen in the moment.  It was pure rage and I let it fly.  I didn’t push it under, I didn’t hide from it, I let it happen.  And then I was able to go on with my evening, no anxiety, no continued state of dissociation (as was the way I have always responded to these kinds of events in life), I had processed the experience and it was over.  And I was free from it.  And this evening when I rounded that same curve, I was NOT feeling afraid.  It came into my mind, I said out loud “Asshole!” and then went on about my business!

Two things that settled in for me in this experience:
One: I have turned a corner in my process.  I am beginning to be able to stay with my emotions when they happen.  This has NEVER been the case, I have always pushed them down, creating anxiety; or I have dissociated from them completely, creating numbness and accompanied amnesia for highly emotional events.  Either way, it was not healthy, as the events were never processed and never released through the necessary emotional response, so they were stored in this pressure cooker I have going on inside me.  A volcano ready to erupt at any time…

I am making tremendous progress!!!  And I am thrilled, more than I can say!   

Miss calm, cool and collected over here is actually starting to FEEL things!  And even though I don’t ever want to stare down the front of a tanker truck again, I can tell you that I am happy it happened in the way it did, because it showed me where I am, and that’s a good thing!!!  A VERY GOOD THING!

Two: I will forever pay attention to my gut when I feel danger is imminent!!!  We are given these instincts for a reason.  Responding with a sincere prayer has always been sufficient and I am always amazed at finding out how important this was in that moment.  Too many instances to even recount in this post.  And anyone who knows me at this stage, knows that I am not what you would call a religious fanatic, I have way too many issues around this stuff, STILL.  But I also know that there is a force out there at work.  Some call it God, some call it the Universe, some call it all kinds of stuff!  All I know is it is there, it sends us impressions, and when it does this, all it seems to need is a response from us (for some strange reason that I will probably never figure out).  BUT IN THAT I AM A TRUE BELIEVER!!!  Because I have lived miracles.  I am living a miracle right now.  :)