Pain

Repercussions of my ugly reality

I smoked my first cigarette when I was 15.

I had this friend, her parents smoked and she would sneak a few away and hide what became a habit for her, and as it would turn out, for me as well.

When I was fifteen, I went to this high school football game to see the guy I was starting to date, it was a small town in the deep recesses of Georgia and high school football was where everyone gathered on a Friday night.

The popular kids, who were my friends from church, invited me up to their section in the stands. My smoker friend was excited for this, getting an invitation was the first step, so I went.

In the stands on that football field, the guy I was dating, and the girls I was friends with from church seemed thrilled to have me with them, I had this warmth in my heart that I was being accepted, when only moments before I had been scared that the guy I was seeing wouldn’t want to see me since I had confessed to him that I had been raped, but everything seemed so good in those first few moments.

Knowing what I know today, I should have known that they weren’t thrilled, the smile that Lizzy had on her face wasn’t excitement, it was treacherous and manipulative, but I was young and naive. I wasn’t prepared for her to come at me with a full blast of accusatory statements, there was no time for me to get a word out of my mouth. I was embarrassed, humiliated, horrified that everyone knew now and then they all turned their heads away from me. I reached my hand out to touch the arm of the guy I was seeing and he jerked it away, not even looking at me. I burst into tears and he moved past everyone to get away from me.

In shock, I walked down the stairs to leave. I found my smoker friend, she asked me what was wrong but I had already pulled back deep into myself to keep the wounds I felt inside from bleeding any further.

I was broken, she took me to her house, we sat on her bed and she lit a cigarette. I didn’t say anything, I just took it from her, I coughed, choked, but the pain that it caused made me feel better. It took my mind off of the destructive abuse of rape, the searing pain in my lungs momentarily made me forget the humiliation of being shunned by my peers, the high of it – that sharp pain it causes in my brain – filled the void that had been left behind when I felt like I had been stripped and beaten from the inside out.

Today

More than fifteen years have come and gone as a painful blur. I dissociated to save my thoughts from the pain that my body went through, even though the emotions live inside like a black mold eating my body from the inside out. I blocked and blacked out in order to try and survive just one more day.

The healthier the people I surround myself with and the healthier my life gets because of therapy, the more it hurts and the more I hurt myself.

When I would dissociate, I could have an argument and I wouldn’t be present for it, I would go to an inner place in my head while my mouth spewed words that I would later be sorry for. When I am present and I have an argument, the adrenaline spikes and the trigger that it is, causes my face and body to ache in the locations where I have been hit. These areas on my face, my neck, my back, my stomach, my arms, they ache with the hurt of the past.

The monsters of my past haunt me every day and without realizing it, I’ve been helping them.

I felt like I was the worst kind of garbage after years of rape and abuse. I became so broken that deep down I believed I deserved to be treated this way, even though outwardly I was smiling and telling people that I was strong enough to stand.

The repercussion of the physical and psychological monstrosities is that I treat myself like garbage.

I hide from people I love in order to sneak cigarettes because the pain I feel when I smoke fills an ache of pain from my past and I think I deserve that. I drink too much at night in order to make sure that I won’t lie awake in bed terrorized by memories of my past, the headache the next morning … I think I deserve that.

I have stomach issues, lactose intolerance, GERD, and an ulcer, but I don’t stop eating food that is bad for me, because the pain it causes affirms that emotional feeling that I deserve to feel bad.

As it is every day, my vision isn’t clear because I have headaches that build into migraines. My stomach is burning with pain from eating. My neck tension is so severe that when I turn my head I hear cracking noises and pain reverberates, shuddering through my brain.

I panic that every day will be my last because of the amount of stress and pain I feel. I used to think that I was going to die from this pain, suddenly and swiftly.

I think about stopping all of these vices. These vices which have not helped me, but have only monumentally added to the pain I feel. My inner struggle is worry, that without these vices and bad habits – I am afraid I will feel everything. Is the pain from these vices really worse than the ugly reality of what happened?

Is the pain worse than finding out I’m a terrible at keeping a clean house and it isn’t just laziness?

Is the pain and fear worse than tossing and turning for hours, trying to shut out the monsters that haunt me in the dark of night, when the world is silent, but my mind is screaming?

Is it worth the pain and fear of dying sooner in life due to my vices and habits, because they help me dissociate from the agonizing terror of dying at the hands of someone else?

With these vices of mine, I have perpetuated and continued the feeling that I deserve to be in pain and that I deserve to feel bad. As the black tar of cigarettes coats my lungs with every inhale and the bottle of wine half finished is poured into another glass, I tell myself that I will get better, that I will do better, ironically, that is the same thing I used to say when I was being abused.

It is stunningly clear to me today, that the monsters of my past have evolved into new monsters in my present, in the form of things that I can become addicted to.

My addiction is clear for me, I am addicted to not wanting to feel, not wanting to remember, not wanting to look at myself in a mirror and seeing who I have become.

I did not want to acknowledge how I felt about myself, my face, or my body. So I embraced vices and habits that made me numb to everything but the pain that they themselves cause.

I have come to a place in the last few weeks where the vices and habits are making life harder, the purpose they served in the past is missing.

I have nothing to give this world but who I am, if I am numb and my eyes are vacant, I am not living. If I am in pain from a hangover and smoking, giving my body and mind less oxygen than it needs to function, I am only hurting myself.

There is a great quote, unknown to me who said it first, but it goes … I will remember and recover, not forgive and forget.

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I miss the person I once was, I sometimes dream of the person I had hoped to become. This life, with all of the good, the bad, and the ugly, is my reality and I think it is time that I confronted it.

I think it is time I fight for me, for who I want to be, and for what I want out of this life.

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See no evil

The eyes are the window to the soul. – English Proverb 

Last Sunday, the Seahawks went to play the Broncos. Diehard 12’s, my husband, my family, and I were amped. At one point I really took notice of my husband’s face and he looked like a kid at Christmas, his whole face was lit up and his eyes sparkled. I took a close look at my mom when she came over and saw that her eyes sparkle too. These two people are the happiest and healthiest people in my life. They have a joy that they just wake up with every day, a great attitude, and a zest for life and you can see it in their eyes.

When I look into my eyes, I see pain, I see a vacant look on my face, and it feels so bleak. I don’t want this. I see bruises that aren’t there anymore and I see memories that I wish I could forget.

I want the sparkle, I want the inner happiness, and I am willing to fight for it, I just don’t know exactly what I am fighting. Fighting ghosts is what we call it, depression, PTSD, night terrors, an inner feeling of dread that something bad is going to happen weighs on me and there is a part of me that is trapped inside, screaming to get out.

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Matthew 6:22  “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”

I don’t remember what day it was that the light left my eyes, but I know it was many years ago and I’m only just getting to a place where I’m fighting to get it back. I know what it has been like for me, but I am having an even harder time watching it happen to my sister. My heart hurts remembering that I saw the light and sparkle in my sister’s eyes leave on the day of her wedding. She carries the vacant look that goes along with the phrase “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Abuse sucks the life and the light out of us. With every fist and kick, the breath that is knocked out of you from a physical abuser can take away the sparkle and light that once was a part of us. With every tear that comes shaking out of us from the unkind words, slanderous speech, vindictive behavior, and negativity of an emotional abuser, our eyes cease to glow.

 

Insomnia

I can’t sleep. Again. It seems like this is a constant.

My husband and I have a night time “routine”, if you will. We snuggle, he falls asleep, we flip over to the other side and my tossing and turning begins.

I’ve tried countless things to lull myself to sleep. Counting sheep, counting to 100, meditating (difficult when the sweet man beside you snores..), thought movement (the imaginative process of putting stresses into bins to organize and remove jumbled thoughts), etc. etc. I’ve tried tapes to listen to, rushing shores, jungle, rain, all of that makes me have to use the bathroom, inducing more stress on top of not being able to sleep. Melatonin, natural remedies, sleepy time tea, xanax, alcohol. Sigh. Why. Am. I. Awake.

I know that a part of me doesn’t want to fall asleep because of the nightmares I have. Sometimes in my dreams I relive things from my past and I wake up terrified and screaming. Other times the nightmares can be something worse than what I’ve been through.

There is something else to this though. As I was laying in bed tonight I listened to my body, I cleared my mind and focused on what my body was feeling and what became apparent has startled me to an even more conscious state at…. 1:08 am.

I have a hard time breathing. My lungs feel like they are shaking and each breath is small. Taking a deep breath hurts.

My stomach an inner organs feel like they are quivering in fear, which is a sensation I usually only get during a panic attack.

My face has areas that feel like they are throbbing and swelling.

My neck feels like someone has it in a vice and it just will not relax.

My heart hurts, the racing, the panic, the dread, the hope, the pain, excitement…. it feels so tired.

I know this part of the cycle is what can make the next day harder. Good sleep, any sleep, is so very important to our health and state of mind. I just can’t fall asleep.

 

Limitations.

This weekend was pretty rough. I have issues with bulging discs in my neck and when there are flare ups, inflammation, and pinched nerves I get a lot of sensory nerve pain. Everywhere. It wages a strong war against my motivation to go, go, go, and I find myself feeling limited in every way. limitations

If I take a second to really think about it though, it is pain, depression, and fear that make me feel limited. It is the exhaustion from pain that makes me unmotivated and when these go together I have always crumbled. I felt a shift happen today though, I realized that I have been limited, I let myself be limited by the fear and the pain. No more though. Swapping “What do I have to do….” with “What do I get to do.”

You can decide within yourself how circumstances will affect you. Between what happens to you, or the stimulus, and your response to it, is your freedom or power to choose that response. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

One thing I know to be true about myself is that in when hard times strike in life, I rally. Which is really strange considering how much a panic attack devastates me. The difference to me is that when tragedy strikes, or times are hard for people that I care about, I can put the war paint on and push as hard as is needed.

When Aeron abused me I didn’t think ::wow, I should leave him, what an asshole:: I would instead take the worst of what he said to me and about me and I would make a plan to be better, to be what he wanted, to be skinnier, prettier. This was the wrong type of rallying. I was fighting the wrong battle. I should have been fighting for myself.

Aeron was cheating on me, not only was he physically abusive, but the emotional destructiveness he wreaked was overwhelming. Every single time I found emails, chats, photos, and video’s of him cheating, I would try to breathe deeply and suck it up. I would go to the gym the next morning that much harder, I stopped eating, I started throwing up. ::not on purpose, but from the stress:: I stopped paying attention to what my body was telling me and I shut off my heart. I wasn’t even able to cry anymore. I thought I had to keep pushing to be better, that if I became what he wanted he wouldn’t do this. One day though, my body couldn’t take it anymore and I had a nervous breakdown. I fought the wrong battle. I should have been fighting for myself.

It is in the shelter of each other that the people live. – Irish Proverb

Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be. – James Allen

The future is of our own making – and the most striking characteristic of this century is just that development. – Joseph Conrad

What I never saw when I was in a bad relationship was that I was fighting the wrong battle. I haven’t fought for myself until now. My future depends on the decisions that I make today and if the decisions that I make are for someone that treats me badly, even if I win, I lose.

Fight

Unstoppable

This week has been a blur. I’ve had appointments, meetups with family and friends, hardly any time at home, and it has been wonderful. So many changes are going on with me, and my family, that I find myself gazing into the future instead of this constant focus I’ve had on the past. What a relief that is.

Our character, basically, is a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character and produce our effectiveness…. or ineffectiveness. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

My habits over the last seven years have been awful. Wake up in pain, focus on pain, eat breakfast, focus on pain and sadness, do hardly anything, focus on my past, eat dinner, drink wine, sigh deeply and dread tomorrow. The thing is, twice in the last seven years when I’ve worked at a job, my days were pretty great. Having a daily routine and having responsibilities didn’t allow me time to focus so heartily on my pain, sadness, or my past. Both of these jobs offered a respite from the daily onslaught of my bad habits. Unfortunately, by the end of most days, sometimes midway through I was panic-ridden, sweating profusely, slurring my speech, and simply trying to focus through tunnel vision.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been pushing myself to fight, to change my mind in order to change my life and this quote hits the nail on the head. My character, who I’ve been for the last seven years is completely made up of my habits. I stopped being outgoing, I stopped going out, I stopped talking to friends and family, I shut myself down tightly in order to protect what was left of me.

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Comparing and contrasting my habits and my character from before ::and by compare and contrast I don’t mean my little stick figure example:: to what they have been for the last seven years is terribly sad. I lost my innocence, I lost the part of me that was mine to give, and I thought I had to bury the rest of me with it in order to survive, but that isn’t true. It’s a lie that seems to come with being abused, you believe the worst of yourself. You believe that you aren’t worth loving, and that the world is better off without you, but it is a lie. It’s worth the fight to rebuild yourself, and make yourself stronger. My next brick is simple, I’ll admit my innocence was stolen from me, okay, fine. As I no longer have that, I’ll rebuild where it used to be with strength and grit

It is satisfying knowing that for a brief point in time you made a difference. – Irene Natividad

 

Dreams are renewable. No matter what your age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within you and new beauty waiting to be born. – Dr. Dale E. Turner

New beauty waiting to be born, I love that. I think of my sister when I read this. She is in a place where the man she’s married to has stomped out the light, torn down the dreams, and filled her ears with negativity, judgement, and ridicule of her, and our family. I wish I could have a conversation with her where I say….  “hey love, your dreams, they are still there, they are still huge, and you can still chase them down, but not while he is crushing your spirit.”

She is an absolute beauty, but she has withered under negativity, I can see the pain of emotional hurt etched in her face. I’ve been there, I was in a relationship so similar and she was the one who rescued me from it, why is it, that I haven’t been able to rescue her?

When I left the last bad relationship my mom or maybe my dad said to me “ditch the zero and get a hero.” Same to you my twin.

The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. – Goetbe

I’m moving towards strength, rebuilding, and I’m scared,  but I’m not terrified of failure like I used to be. If I fail today, I try again tomorrow. If I fail tomorrow, I try again the next day. Success doesn’t happen without failure, consider how many IOS updates we get over the year. Kidding, but since I’m on that analogy I’ll just stick with it, my life is an iPhone: the upgrades make me better each time.

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A little stronger

Yesterday was a hard day. A migraine that wouldn’t ebb was the leading cause but then I got frustrated. It is so exhausting, like, to my bones, to try to stay positive and hopeful when I want to crumble.

I forced myself to breathe, breathe, breathe through it and then I had a flash, I thought about the future, more specifically, future me. I could see myself coaching a kid’s soccer team, ::I have no idea the rules of soccer, much less how to coach a team:: and my hair looked great. I was blowing a whistle, smiling, and I could see that I was done with this dark mess that is inside me right now. It felt like less than 15 seconds that I went from wanting to call out of the day and take to my bed that I had a rush of what I imagine is adrenaline and I thought – keep moving forward.

Each of us has many, many maps in our head, which can be divided into two main categories: maps of the way things are, or realities, and maps of the way things should be or values. We interpret everything we experience through these mental maps.”  – The 7Habits of Highly Effective People.

Reading this, I feel like I haven’t been thinking hardly at all for the last seven years. I’ve been coping, just trying to get through a day. What is obvious to me, is that my maps direct me to avoid all contact with people for fear of getting hurt or humiliated. If I think about my realities from seven years ago versus the realities I experience today, there is a vast difference.

For example, seven years ago, I was isolated by my then boyfriend. He did not want me to have others in my life, including my family. I was to go to work, come home, make his dinner, put him to bed at 7:30 and clean for the rest of the night so that when he woke up his world was squeaky perfect. I could never clean well enough and there was always a list by the time I got home that needed to be done. A 30 minute lesson on how to vacuum to get the lines in the carpet correctly, then a shove into the wall afterward because I had wrapped the vacuum cleaner cord the way the manufacturer intended – but it wasn’t the way that he liked it. He was very convincing, I believed him that I was the problem, even though my heart ached that this couldn’t possibly be love.

::Something happens when you are in an abusive relationship… almost that if you are in it, you can’t see it. There is no logical explanation for why someone would stay when every day is a bad day, but it happens::

Leaving him was the best decision I had made up to that point in my life. The second it was done I felt free from chains that I hadn’t realized were on me. I cried from relief for weeks. My realities today need to shift to what is truly around me, not be based on what was my life seven years ago.

Just as there are no little people or unimportant lives, there is no insignificant work. – Elena Bonner

 

The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn; the bird waits in the egg; and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. – William James – To Your Success

 

Your hopes, dreams and aspirations are legitimate. They are trying to take you airborne, above the clouds, above the storms – if you will only let them. – Dan Zadra – To Your Success

Not only are my hopes, dreams and aspirations legitimate. I am legitimate. Even though things in my past have made me feel like I am not. I have felt like I am not worthy of love, of life even. This is changing. I am. You are. All of us are. I have a dream to be free from my past, I have aspirations to do something great with this life. I don’t need to forget my past, but I do need to not live in it anymore. I need to dream of what I want and fight for it to take root. I will fight for this, for my freedom from the bondage of depression, panic, and pain. I will get stronger.

Get stronger. Be a fighter for yourself. Raise your arms and stand a little taller today. Fight with fervor for the right to make your life what you want.

The moment I wake up

I had a song running through my head when I woke up this morning to the cooing of my alarm. Aretha Franklin – Say a little prayer. My humming of it is more along the lines of My Best Friend’s Wedding but all the same, it was an unexpected lift and brought a smile to my face before I had even crawled out of bed to make the coffee.

Put a smile on your face? It’s the gift that keeps giving, really.

We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behavior grows out of those assumptions. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I do. Does everyone? When I first got married I had the hardest time accepting that the way my husband saw the world wasn’t the way that I did. In certain cases he learned that the way I saw the world was true but I will admit that for the majority of our marriage, his view on the world was what I’ve needed to see it as.

I had a bad attitude in so many situations because I always expected the worst. There was a reason for it though – for example, when I was 16 or so, I had bought a CD burner at Walmart and it turned out that what was in the box was not what was on the box. I went right back to exchange it that day and the woman at the counter said that I had switched the item and that she could not approve a return.

::This was not only embarrassing but immediately slapped me back into a memory of my own extended family accusing my of theft and deceit when I was just around 10 or so years old. That story is for another time though.::

I went home, grabbed my mom and she took it in to return it, immediately they refunded the money and took the item back. From that day forward, even when something I bought was broken, mishandled, the wrong size, anything – I would not try to return it because I had been so humiliated in the past. My husband didn’t think that returning items was ever a problem until one day, we went to return a pair of heels that had said size 7.5, but were really an 8. He wanted me to be stronger and to experience that it isn’t always a refusal of a return and that customer service is supposed to be there for us, the customers. Unfortunately… when I tried to return the shoes with him by my side the counter girl said there was no way she could accept them, that they had been worn and were therefore mine and no refund/exchange/anything was applicable. My heart broke, I looked at him with this look that just said “see?” Now, I expected him to hold my hand, maybe rub my back as we would shamefully walk out of the store, but instead he held my hand, spoke up, asked for a manager who would actually do her job and successfully got the shoes returned and my money refunded.

I learned from him that I am not to be walked over by anyone. If he hadn’t been around, my attitude and behavior would never have changed, I would think everyone in customer service was mean and I would keep all items that I should return. My insecurity and self-worth would still be dictated by my past as I would continue to assume that every experience is going to be like the one before it, but they are all different. I need to remember to take a breath and reassess that I can’t base my self-worth on bad experiences.

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives. – Dan Zadra

I have had the time, I just haven’t been thinking about anything outside of my pain. I have an unbelievably amazing husband, my family is award-worthy in their level of love and support – yet I pushed all of them away at one time or another, sometimes all at once. I have been thanking them slowly, I have been opening myself back up to them, telling the truth about what happened to me and letting them into my life. I just wish that at the time of the assaults, the abuse, and the loneliness – that I had reached out. My life would have been very different, I wouldn’t have been dealing with this alone, but I was so afraid if I told them the truth that they would be ashamed of me, angry at me, hate me, be embarrassed by me… the worst of anything and everything.

I know now, that when you’re raped, abused, battered – you take on the shame, the guilt, and all of the other feelings that are all sorts of disgusting that your abuser is incapable of feeling. I wish I had told someone. I wish I hadn’t tried to carry it all alone.

My family knows now. It hurt them to hear what had happened to me and although I don’t know when the feeling of devastation will go away.. we know as a family that we love each other and we are thankful that we have each other. I do need to speak it more clearly to them, to show them how truly thankful I am for them with my actions as well. That is a big part of why I am doing this new motivation every day, I need to get back to being the girl that was hopeful, joyful, excited and stoked for life.

Humanity cannot forget its dreamers; it cannot let their ideals fade and die; it knows them as the realities which it shall one day see and know. – James Allen – To Your Success

Dreamers, to dream, to have ideals, that should be all of us. We should all write down our dreams, chase after them, and one day – breathe them in. I am a massive fan of my football team here in Seattle. One of our Seahawks was in an interview and he explained how when he intercepts the football or gets a touchdown, that he raises his arms out and up to show that he did it, he is here, that he made it. His dream took a lot of hard work on his part, but he got there and he has faith that everyone else can do it too.

I’m in a place where I want to start dreaming again, I want to chase down my dreams and grab them out of the air, and I know that one day ::soon, I hope:: I’ll be standing on top of a mountain, at an art gallery, or even in my living room and I’ll know that I’ve got this. I can make it happen, I just have to work for it.

My interest is in the future, because I am going to spend the rest of my life there. – Charles F. Kettering – To Your Success

These quotes about thinking about the future, not the past, keep coming up. I get it. I want my future days not to be anything like the past days of the last seven years. Don’t get me wrong, I did have some great times in the last seven years but they were also downplayed by my pain, headaches, migraines, and the ever present feeling of dread weighing heavily on my body and mind. I am starting to imagine my future days as days without those things. When I have a migraine now, I treat it, get the ice, advil, lay in a dark room until it eases. I used to fight through them to keep going and I see now that it just made them worse. Taking care of me, my health, is the first step in moving forward. My future depends on me taking the right steps in the present, not blaming it on my past.

Amazing