Saturday, September 11, 2010

On this day nine years ago...

...I was sending my kids off to school.
I was preparing to leave for my college orientation.
I was skipping breakfast.
I turned on the TV and was shaken to the core of my being.
I stared in utter confusion as the live coverage
unfolded before my very eyes.
Then the second tower got hit.

Praying for our beloved country and its leaders
today more than ever...


Friday, September 10, 2010

The Diagnosis is in...

Disclaimer: I cannot organize my thoughts to save my life right now. And I don't give a crud. So if you're reading, you're getting it raw and real. I'm not apologizing for nothin. Dig in!

Over the past few months I've been blogging very minimally, at best. I have no excuses. I was here, I had internet connection, I had some time. But nothing ever got through to "PUBLISH". On the flip side, I've been thinking a lot of blogs. In a way, I wished I'd actually written some of them so I could look back someday and see how far I've come. Sort of like a bookmark placed in the reference section of my mental library.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before how much I do not like to whine about myself. Oh, I'll do it all day if it's funny, or to poke fun at myself, but lately it hasn't been too funny. Also, I do not like to feel needy or vulnerable or weak. But the truth is, I am. I have gone from the extremes of feeling like I'm literally hanging on to life by a thread, to feeling so completely overwhelmed with joy that I can barely contain it. It's a strange, strange place to be.

I thank God for my family and friends. I thank Him for the blessing of fellowship with others, which has quite honestly been one of the few things to keep my feet on the ground this year. It's like medicine for the hurting heart. Only recently have I realized just how badly my heart has been injured, and it's not going to be easy to fix it, but it's the season to get 'er done. God has provided me a blank spot in my life schedule for a reason, I believe and I'm not gonna blow it.

I mentioned in a previous post that Mr Nice Guy and I are in counseling. I still say it's one of the best gifts we've ever given each other. During the "discovery" phase of our sessions, it came to light just how much trouble I've been having with anxiety. I know it's been an ongoing problem, it's just not been quite as bad before, for as long of a period of time. I guess you could say it's escalated to the point of being downright scary.

Our counselor asked me to come in for some sessions that were just the two of us, to talk through some of those things that I may not have been able to verbalize with my husband present. It's not that I've ever outright hid anything from my spouse, but I guess in a way we all keep some things to ourselves in order to protect others from feeling the same pain we went through. Is that right to do? Is it wrong? I'm not sure, but I'm not here to say it's ok or not, it's just a fact that people do it as a method of self-preservation, or to shelter those around them from similar pain. I also typically choose to keep it off my blog pages. I don't want to hurt anyone else or make anyone else feel responsible or sorry for me, but just for today (and maybe tomorrow or the next day too) I'm grabbing this page because it's MINE, and I'm just gonna write. And publish.

Needless to say, that first session on my own with our counselor was a really difficult one. As he helped me peel back the layers of my pain to help me see where it was really coming from, it felt as if he was literally tearing away pieces of me. We dug so far back that we both learned (pretty much at the same time) that not only had I been traumatized once, but twice. And these traumas weren't the type that lasted for a brief second, but they went on for periods of weeks, months and years. It was quite a moment of awakening. It really helped me to see that my current circumstances weren't what was causing my pain, or our marital disagreements, or the discord in my home, it was the past that still lingered. Unresolved. Unacknowledged. And unforgiven. I felt so child-like, so little and so very, very vulnerable. I wanted to curl up in a fetal position and suck my thumb. I needed someone to stroke my hair and tell me everything would be alright. In a way, my counselor did that - only he kept his hands to himself. :)

The one thing he said that made me literally melt into a pile of puddles was, "You're not defective."

I can't really verbalize how much that hit me square in my soul, but let's just say it did. When you go through life feeling like you can't measure up, and like everything you've ever done really doesn't mean anything unless it's just right, or trying to do things in a certain way to keep people from leaving your life or rejecting you, then words like that mean more than winning a kazillion bucks. To the little girl sitting in my counselor's office that day, it meant that I was good enough. Hallelujah and Amen.

I went through counseling in High School for some related issues - but I have to say that at that point when I was asked to find my "inner child", I really couldn't possibly do that, because in reality, I still was a child. Today, I get it. I can say I know that feeling now, and it's just bizarre! It's also exhausting. I hope I don't have to do it much longer. I want to grow up soon.

I'm so insanely grateful that this is happening right in the middle of marriage counseling, because I really feel like I have someone on my side to hold me through this stuff... and a best friend to encourage me and to keep me upright to get through to the other side. That other side: The joyful side of me, the side that I miss.

I believe that my inability to discuss some of my past with the people of my present, has kept those emotions and feelings buried so deep, that when they bubble to the surface, it makes a big mess. Right now, we're mopping up tears, sweeping away hard feelings, and dusting the cobwebs off of my memories that have such a stranglehold on my life. I'm looking for the positive, seeking encouragement, and holding on to the Word to show me my next steps.

I guess this is the part where I actually mention that our counselor revealed to us yesterday at our couple's session that he firmly believes I am suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress. He said he'd been thinking about what I'd told him all week, and he kept going back to the neatly typed list of only 20 "eye-brow raising" symptoms that I'd been really suffering with, and he couldn't see it as anything but obvious. Obvious to anyone but me, I guess.

Insert big, long pause... because that's what I did when he told me.

Is it really that big of a deal? It feels like I got diagnosed with cancer when all I had was an itchy, little mole. "Are you SURE? It's that big of a deal?", my brains said. And actually, they keep saying that. But, I guess so. And, aside from all my feelings of needing to downplay things, I really do have to trust that our counselor, who himself lived through his own horrors in Vietnam and dealt with his own PTSD afterwards, might actually know a thing or two about what he's saying. It's very humbling, to know that I've been trying to tough this out for so long, but now here I am, laying flat on my face trying to put the pieces of my life in order and all it's taken, is someone else to glance over my "big picture" and state in plain english what I've been trying for years to pretend didn't exist.

In a way, it all makes sense. And I have to admit it's embarrassing. I can't help but feel that sensation of my cheeks warming up whenever I think about allowing anyone to view that "List of 20". Just knowing someone might even read this post to the end makes my heart rate go up, but it's all about keeping it real. And I want to do that. Even if it's not funny.

So for now, my sweet husband and I are focusing on staying far away from those things that are my "triggers", the stuff that sends me inexplicably "over the edge" and has, for years, caused him to think I'm some sort of wacko. Now, he would never actually SAY that (for fear of his own safety) but I can read his mind you know, and I'm pretty sure that's what I heard. We're also teaming up to eliminate anger, emotional outbursts and painful words from the vocabulary of members of our household - which could take a while, considering the sheer number of hormones that we are up against. But the good news is that we're already seeing the benefits of intentionally living a more Christ-like life, which is what it all boils down to. It's where we want to be. I have faith that God will heal me and I look forward to this chapter of my life no matter how painful it might be to wade through it all. It surely can't be more painful than the past. Only this time I have hands to hold on to.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

School is great but learning is everywhere

In honor of my sweet daughters (one of whom has successfully made it to her freshman year of High School alive), I thought it fitting to share this list of advice. It's a delightful (yet much abbreviated version) of a piece written by Charles J. Sykes, author of Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves, but Can't Read, Write or Add.

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world doesn't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Think Twice, Speak Once

Think twice, speak once... that's the title of an article I got from a Sparkpeople email today and it really got me thinking about how that kind of advice sure could prevent a lot of unnecessary trouble. The particular article ended with, "Once you have said something out loud it cannot be taken back, and rarely can it be undone even with a tremendous amount of work.

It's so ironic how I sometimes get messages like this in my inbox, either from subscriptions I ask for, or from people who get placed in my path, that are so applicable to what I'm going through in my life right now. Not very many people know that my husband and I are currently in marriage counseling. It's been a long time coming, and I'm quite sure it's the best decision we could have ever made for our future and for our family. I'm so grateful just to have an opportunity like this, and so thankful that he has chosen to come alongside me and to strengthen the bonds that keep us holding on to one another. At the same time, however, it saddened me deeply to HAVE to get to this point - as I know that God's idea of marriage wasn't for us to go all destructo on things before we both figured out it was time to stop taking care of everyone else and get some help for us.

Lately it feels like we're not the only ones in the rocky marriage boat. I'm pretty sure I'd feel a lot more happy if we were all alone on that boat, but to see many of my friends and my family aboard this not-so-loving Loveboat cruise makes me really afraid that something has gone horribly wrong. Typically I'd prefer that those I love be standing on SHORE waving at us, and encouraging us to steady our craft and keep up the work so we could be on solid ground with them soon, but instead they're bouncing around on the same rickety boat. The one that tosses it's victims from one side to the other with no regard for the little kids rolling around on deck getting trampled in the process. Not pretty.

Everyone has a different story. Some have to do with addictions that have been swept under the rug far to long, recurring problems with abandonment or rejection that stem from childhood mistreatment, abuse issues that never really got dealt with, worry, self-doubt, lack of trust in others and in God, the list goes on, but most of all there is this screwed up belief that we need to take care of SELF, and not others. 
A wise friend stated that you must first put on your oxygen mask before you can help those around you. And I believe that is absolutely true - but I think somewhere that statement gets completely misinterpreted. We don't put on our oxygen mask instead of helping others. We also don't badmouth, intimidate, lose our temper or force our will onto someone else to get them to put their mask on. We HELP them. I think somewhere along the way in marriage, the thought of helping or serving those around us gets lost in the whole idea of "I need to take care of myself first". Then the rest of the thought process, the part about helping others, drops off into oblivion and doesn't get revisited until a few anniversaries later when the pretty bride and handsome groom finally remember that they are in this thing to honor, respect and love each other as Christ loved the church. Nowhere does Christ say to "Help yourself as you'd maybe, eventually, possibly, help someone else, if you feel so inclined, and if it's not your time of the month, or if he put the lid down on the toilet seat." He said, "Do to OTHERS as you would have them do to you". End of sentence.

Quite simply put, this really just says you are responsible for making the first step. This isn't at all about waiting for someone else to straighten up and pull his (or her) head out from wherever it's stuck. It's about you adjusting your own behavior, to be more Christlike, and to be less selfish.

Philippians 2:3-4
3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

To bring this point back to where I started in the first place (I do not ramble!), what comes out of our mouths must also be in the forefront of our minds as a way of caring for, and serving others. It's those words that will come back to haunt you when you aren't expecting it, because someone else remembers them. Those words etch into the brains of our children, friends, family and our mates - and those words can't be taken back. Can you go through the lengthy process of accepting and forgiving each other and getting a do-over? Sure! But is that an easy road to take? Heck no. I strongly advise taking the road of least trouble and just thinking twice and speaking once.

From my life experience, the words I heard in my past, now make up my present. So seriously, what kind of present do you want to give your family?

Totally random shot of an unknown couple who climbed on a big rock out in the surf to hug and watch the sunset together. It touched me, but...
I'm totally betting they have relationship problems too.