Safety.

When I was a little girl I used to wait until my parents fell asleep. I would crawl down the long hallway from my room to their room. I would then sleep on the floor next to the bed. I would wake up before they got up and go get back in my bed before we had to get up for school. I always remember doing this. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t. I remember the sounds of my mom and dad breathing in their sleep. I slept on my mom’s side of the bed right under where she was, tucked halfway under the bed.

I felt safe there.

How and where do we find safety? Where is the place we feel the most safe? Where do we feel we can be that provides a complete peaceful and safe state of mind? Is safety found in a physical space or can it be found in your mind?

I slept next to my parents bed soundly. I felt safe there. As I got older and felt the need to be a “big girl” and stay in my own bed, I rarely got a good night sleep. After I moved out and had roommates and various different places that I lived, I rarely slept well. I just didn’t feel safe.

It wasn’t until I met my husband and we moved into our house that I truly felt safe. I remember our first night in our house, I slept like I hadn’t slept since I was a little girl sleeping next to my parent’s bed. I slept because I felt safe. I realized sleeping equalled feeling safe.  I think there are many who cannot sleep because they do not feel safe and are ever searching for that feeling of safety.

We went to a family reunion when my daughter was 3 and I stayed awake for almost 3 days. I was away from home and I could not sleep. I even had medication that the doctor had prescribed to help me sleep and I couldn’t. My home with my husband seemed the only place that I now finally felt safe again. A few years later we went to the beach and stayed a night in a hotel. I was awake the entire night. I decided after that I needed to resume some therapy.

My therapist at that time was phenomenal. Best therapist I have ever had. She put things in such logical simple terms. Safe meant at home in bed period. Being away from home meant feeling vulnerable. She helped me to see the most obvious root of my issue which was that being away from home ALWAYS resulted in abuse when I was a child. Every where I went whether it was vacation or visiting friends or even staying in a hotel…being out of my own bed and away from home meant something was ultimately going to happen that I did not want.

I had finally found comfort and peace in my own bed in my own home with my husband.

My husband came to terms with this lasting affect from abuse after my daughter was 3 and we went on that vacation. He understood that if I go away it is not fun for me. I don’t sleep. It is not worth it at all. He has been understanding of that for 20 years. He has taken my daughter to the mountains horse back riding, snowskiing, family reunions, and much more. I turned my issue of not being able to sleep away from home as something that ended up being very cool for my daughter. Every summer she and her dad got to go away by themselves and create memories that were just for them. My daughter and I had tons of our own memories because I don’t work and we spend most of our time together. I became happy for them to do these things on their own. He told me once though that he wanted me to be a part of those memories. Every trip they went on was not something I could have done anyway. Having a muscle disease stopped me from being able to go. But I realized after he said that he wished I was well enough to go, that even if my physical body was healthy, my underlying issue of being away from home at night would be a determining factor.

That is so sad to me. Knowing that even if I were well from this muscle disease and even if I could experience these things, that it would be most likely miserable for me. I feel incredibly robbed of my freedom because another person took my freedom away back then and is still taking away my freedom now. Ongoing issues from sexual abuse really can make a person feel robbed…cheated…stolen. Because they took it when you were young and now the lasting results just continue to rob you of what you want to be. People that tell me, ” That is why you have to let it go and you have to forgive because the only person who it is hurting by remembering is you”. That is much easier said that done! It has nothing to do with forgiveness or actually the other person at all. It is now all just about me. And what is left of me after what was taken away. It is the process of mending the damage that is  my process.

I don’t have issues leaving my house. I have issues with sleeping away from it.

It is literally the biggest childhood abuse side affect that I cannot get past. The triggers, the memories, I have found a way in my daily life to cope with. I have found ways to release memories and I have found ways to accept and deal with feelings that arise.  My therapist tried all kinds of things to help with the bed. She had me sleeping in different beds in my own house. She had me trying to sleep at another house that I felt truly safe in. Nothing worked. I just stayed awake all night and as soon as I got home in my own bed I slept.

This whole subject has been weighing on my mind with our impending move. We are currently looking for a new home. Everyone thinks that looking for a new home should be “exciting…..new adventure….”. It isn’t exciting. And I don’t like adventures. I like that for the last 20 years I have slept, in my home, and felt safe. I like that I have had a feeling of contentment in this house for a very long time that I was missing most of my life.

So this got me thinking about what other people find safe. Anyone. Anywhere. In other countries. Do they find safety in their mother’s arms. Do they find safety in their spouses arms. Do they physically ever feel safe. Can you only feel safe in a situation that you create in your mind. If you can’t feel safe in your physical environment then can you create an environment in your mind that makes you feel safe.

For me, not feeling safe means I simply stay awake with large amounts of adrenaline. But I am sure everyone has their own reaction to a situation or place where they cannot find safety. How can you feel safe if you are in a war. How can you feel safe if you are with an abusive spouse. How do you then create safety when you leave those environments. it does not come easily and it is very effortful and purposeful to find these answers.

I am way from all dangers. Even when I am on vacation with my husband in a hotel, there is not danger there. I should logically be able to sleep in a hotel. But logic can not always overcome a feeling.  I have created a safe place in a physical space. So if I am away from that physical space at night, then nothing can recreated safety. This is a real problem. It is a problem because I need to prepare myself to move to a new home and this even idea is paralyzing for me.

I’ve spoken with women that have escaped abusive husbands. It takes them years, if ever, to know they can sleep without worrying they will be found. I have spoken to people who have come home from war and they have trouble sleeping because they told me they are always waiting for something to happen. I have spoken to men and women who have been raped who, just getting into the bed will trigger anxiety.

I know I am the not sole carrier of this sleep/feeling safe challenge.

I am not ashamed to admit that this is still an ongoing problem for me. It is very common.  I am sharing this problem that I have so that you can know you are not alone in your challenges. It may seem absolutely crazy that I cannot sleep anywhere but my own bed and it may seem so silly to others. But for me it is real. What is real for you and me deserves validation.

Trauma leaves an imprint. A dent. We can smooth it over and pack it full of good thoughts and good intentions. But the dent is still there. We can come up with coping skills. We can overcome obstacles that it has created. But it is very important to allow yourself to be OK with the fact that there may be situations that remain hard. Plain and simple hard. Especially when we find a way to make that traumatic imprint feel almost unidentifiable with therapy, coping skills, and healing practices. Because sometimes then we are asked to do something that reminds us that the dent is still there. It is still there. I can never undo the fact that I was abused. It happened. My mind and body remembers even when I don’t want it to. I am not in any way saying you can never be healed. I think that dent can, in the end, only be a tiny smudge. We can move forward. We can overcome what seems like the impossible. We can become survivors and not just victims.  But we have to be kind to ourselves. I encourage you to not minimize your feelings when they come up. Those feelings are real and deserve to be validated.

I share this part of my life  because this is my journey. I am not perfect. I accept my flaws. I accept my challenges. I want others to know that their obstacles are not silly and not crazy. No matter what they are. You should not be afraid to share the things that are hard to overcome.

No one knew this about me. No one knows that being date  raped at someone’s house, among other abuses,  has made it impossible my entire life to feel safe except in my own bed at home. Before this moment I felt like I needed to keep it a secret because of many reasons. The biggest reason is because I don’t want others to judge me and think that I am not OK. I don’t want them thinking I am still damaged, that I am still suffering. I have heard from a family member ” You are STILL talking about this abuse?” I have heard from a friend, ” I hope your writing helps you to heal since I can see you are still having a hard time”. People constantly feel the need to question where you are and why you are there. Someone else’s assumption I will not allow to rock my process or my purpose in writing.

Sitting here today I had this revelation that I no longer care why anyone thinks I am writing. I don’t need to explain why I am talking about what happened when I was abused. I don’t need to keep it a secret that I still do have some ongoing issues with the abuse that occurred. It is those assumptions and judgements from others that have kept me from being me. It is those comments made that keep other’s who have been abused to continue to be silenced.

Just yesterday I was asked,  ” Is your husband worried what his coworkers will think about you when they read your blog?” NO! My husband encourages me. My husband supports me. My husband empowers me to keep moving forward unafraid, and above all to continue to speak my truth.

Don’t be silenced by others. Don’t worry about what those others even think. They did not experience what you did. Their comments, questions, and opinions do not matter. You matter. We matter.

Talking about my challenges does in no way mean that I am suffering. Writing about my experiences in no way means I am having a hard time. It is just telling my truth. Sharing my experiences.

So, I can’t sleep away from home.  Now everyone knows that this is something that I face. There are people who are reading this right now who have those little things that they have kept to themselves that are direct outcomes of abuse. I am sharing my story. Every part of it. Because in speaking my own truth that is in every part of me I can only hope to help someone else come to their truth.

There is no shame in your truth. There is no shame in your fears. There is no shame in your search for whatever it takes to make you feel safe again. That is real.

So I come back in the end of this to safety. I searched for safety for a long time. I feel it now. But it is only in a physical situation that creates my mind to feel safe, and in that safety I can sleep. I am on an ongoing mission to be able to create a safe place in my mind that in turn makes my body feel safe anywhere! I have not found that yet. But I will not stop trying.

It is not until your safety is taken away that you realize the profound and primal need to have it.

It is not until it is lost that you realize the depth of the effort it will take to find it and reclaim it.

I pray that everyone reading this can once again find and feel safe again.

Giving yourself time to mourn…Giving yourself time to celebrate.

There cannot be a time limit on mourning. Mourning is a process. Miriamm-Webster dictionary says this about mourning:

“Full Definition of MOURNING

1
:  the act of sorrowing
2
a :  an outward sign (as black clothes or an armband) of grief for a person’s deathb :  a period of time during which signs of grief are shown”
You can mourn forever if you want to. I think there always needs to be an end goal though. Mourning forever means feeling sorrow and grief forever. There shouldn’t be a time limit on mourning but there needs to be an end goal. The end goal for me is not really described in a word. Nothing you can look up in a dictionary. The end of mourning to me is, ” Ok…I am OK now.”, or ” I have let go of the sadness associated with that now, ” or  ” I am in a better place now since going through that process.” To say that getting past mourning means I have forgiven or accepted or let go just isn’t the right fit for me. It is more a state of being. It is a peace with what is NOW. Not necessarily a peace in what WAS. Just that right now I am OK.
When I was younger I thought mourning was something that someone did because of a death of a person. As I have grown I have learned that death is loss. And there are many different kinds of losses. Many different things that can be mourned. It is OK to mourn. It is your mind’s way to FEEL. When a couple gets divorced there is a mourning period for what was and what they thought would be, but ended. The loss of what they hoped their life could have been together. But if they stayed in that mourning period then they may never meet the person they were truly meant to spend the rest of their lives with. Or they may never be content with where they are and be OK with being alone.
We all have a right to mourn. It is respect you are showing yourself, you are giving yourself. You are allowing yourself to feel the loss so you can move past it. If you skip the mourning phase you will undoubtedly come back to it later.
I have often allowed myself to mourn after being diagnosed with a muscle disease. I let myself feel the loss of what my body was. I just don’t stay there. But I do let myself feel. As 8 years have gone by since my diagnosis, my mourning has changed. Instead of crying because I can’t go for a run, I just give myself a moment to recognize that I simply can’t and don’t let that frustration monopolize my thoughts any longer. I do have my bad days. But I try to make them fewer and far between.
I’ve been thinking of those who mourn the loss of their body. I have thought of men and women who have lost limbs. I have thought of men and women who have lost breasts to cancer. They have had a loss. They have felt a loss. And they should be able to mourn the loss of what once was.They lost part of their body. They lost part of what they were. I don’t know how that feels. I know how it feels to lose the ability to do the things I once could. But I don’t know the mourning process of losing part of one’s body. I do believe with  the loss of anything we all need time to feel.  Something was taken from them that they did not choose to happen. They did not choose to have cancer. They did not choose to have a tragic loss of their body. I did not choose to be abused. I did not choose to have something taken from part of who I was. I don’t ever want to compare one loss to another. I am just putting my thoughts of loss into words. I am saying whether it is the mind or the body or the spirit that has felt a loss, you can mourn.
I didn’t mourn the loss of my innocence due to child abuse until I was an adult. How could I  mourn something I didn’t  understand. As a child you don’t understand what has been taken from you. As an adult it may just hit you one day. or it may come in small bits of memories. I have had moments that sadness completely enveloped me.
I like my path to have a purpose though. I don’t like to remain closed in to sadness without realizing,  ” OK this is mourning of what you have lost”. I acknowledge the feeling.
I don’t put a time limit on mourning process of anything. But as time moves forward I try to set my intentions on moving forward with it. If I have a fleeting thought of sadness, I don’t completely embrace it any longer. I gave myself time to be completely engrossed in the mourning process. Now I do not deny my feelings but I just don’t stay on them quite as long.
I think this can be applied to so many different emotions. Feel them. Embrace them. Then as you move forward try to let those thoughts drift away instead of holding on to you any longer. They may have held you before because you needed to feel them  to move past them. But now you don’t have to hold onto them. For example, I just randomly thought today of how much I missed my mother. I felt sadness. I felt mourning. But instead of letting my entire day be filled with this feeling I simply shook my head. Thought,  ” What a shame. But that was her choice,” Then I let that feeling drift away. I don’t doubt that the feeling will come back. But I will spend less and less time allowing myself to fully feel it.
Like I said in a previous post, ” I give you permission to feel”, but as we move forward, our feelings need to move forward too. And only you can decide when and how long you want/ need to go through each step of the healing process.
I’ve become VERY mindful of my thinking within the last year. I’ve been mindful of my self talk. I’ve been mindful of what I say to myself when I have a feeling. When you have an emotion are you ever aware of what you are saying to yourself when you have it?  The things I say to myself, the thoughts I have, during an emotion can either move me forward, set me back, or stop me in my tracks. I have begun controlling where my thoughts go after feeling an emotion, only after learning to listen to what I say to myself. Learning to be mindful of my thoughts. I have become aware. Started recognizing that when I had a memory or emotion I would then attach a statement to it. And the statement was not always a positive one. “IF” was often a word I used.  I don’t use that word any more. As I work through mourning it has become more of an intent and purposeful act to achieve healing. It has become less of something that I allow to just linger.
Instead of just floating through the process of mourning different things in my life, I have taken hold of the process with the words I say to myself and the time I let myself feel the emotions.
I believe all who experience loss need to mourn.
Equally important is the ability to celebrate.
Celebrate what you have worked through, what you have achieved, and how through all of this you have grown.
I am just learning to celebrate myself. “Wow, I am strong,” ” Yes! I made it through that!” ” I am a survivor!”
Celebrate your amazing ability to be exactly where you are.
Let yourself mourn.
Then let yourself celebrate! You are a survivor! I celebrate myself as I celebrate you.

The town that abandoned a child.

I grew up in Keystone Heights, Florida. Growing up in a small town had many positives. There was the Friday night street dance. There was the July 4th fireworks over the lake. There was that Mallards dime store that my Nana took me to, to let me pick out a barbie. I still remember the smell of that store. It is still there. The library had a good old fashioned card catalog and the librarian knew where every book was anyway so  you didn’t really need to look. We all hung out in the only fast food parking lot on the weekends when I got older, and always would relocate to a bonfire in someone’s back yard.My guy friends ALWAYS had my back and I think they spent more time at my house than their own. We had one grocery store, Millers.You didn’t go to Millers without running into everyone in the town.

It was a community. Most of us worked at KFC for Shirley who was the greatest boss that ever lived. She was more like a grandmother than a boss. The town had positive. It had simplicity. Everybody knew everybody. If someone got sick then they had meals for a week. We had at least 10 churches on one road and we all went to Sabos or the only other restaurant in town after church. We were prayed for and cared for by the church members and members of other churches as well.

It felt good to be part of such a tight group community. My best friend still lives there. The good,parts, she has told me, still exist. If someone has an illness, tragedy, loss, then there are many who will rally around that person. You can still expect to have dinner brought by many if you have had surgery or a loss in your family.

I don’t forget the good. The good still exists. Always in the face of bad, good exists. I always try to find it. I always try to remember it. I know it was there and I cherish the moments that I had that were truly good moments.

That small town for all of the positives had one huge negative. It COULD have saved a little girl. The people chose not to. Small town gossip exists. Small town secrets exist. It still amazes me how that small town CHOSE to do nothing. With the gossip the way it was and still is, I know people knew I was molested. I know people knew who was doing it. They knew I tried to commit suicide because they all had police scanners and word got around school in a DAY! I even remember the girl who spread it. Like wild fire her mouth just struck the match and tossed it out. So people knew. Later in life I found out more people knew I was being molested. And they did NOTHING. Wild fire spread only when it benefited those who spread it. It would have only taken one person to toss a  bucket of water on the fire. No one did.

That small town made a choice. They rallied around the abuser. They deserted the victim… a child… me.  Not only did they desert the victim but they buried the secret. When a secret is worthy of some good gossip that flies in the wind.” Did you hear Bethany tried to kill herself last night!”, That spread.  When that secret is something that shatters the illusions people have created, it is hidden.

Where was the outrage? Where was the, ” Did you hear Bethany was molested?” Where was the,” Did you know Bethany tried to kill herself BECAUSE she was molested?” Where was the, ” What are we going to do with this MAN? What are we going to do to protect other children?”

No other children were protected. There was not outrage. There was no secret spread about what happened to me. Well, that isn’t completely true. The secret was spread but hushed behind closed doors. It was one of THOSE secrets the had people conjuring up plans and setting up stories to keep it hidden.

No one brought my family dinners. No one checked to see how I was. There were no church members who visited or macaroni salads delivered. No one treated me the way I should have been treated. The town chose to ignore an atrocity. The people of the town chose to continue on like NOTHING had happened. They coddled the abuser. They treated my family as if I didn’t even exist. They stepped around me and talked around me as if I were not even there. IF they had acknowledged me then they had to face the fact that something terrible happened to me. No one did.

I would sit on the end of my dock on the lake that had brought me such joy, and  I would watch all the people who I grew up with. The people that I spent every weekend with since I was 5 years old, drive their boats by with their friends and look the other way. All of these people continued on with their lives as if nothing had happened.

I am ashamed of all of them. I am ashamed of the town that i grew up in. I am ashamed of the depth of how each of them were cowards. All it would have taken was one person to do the right thing. One person. But no one did. They could still do the right thing right now. Right this very minute someone could say that what happened to me was wrong on every single level. From what was done to me, to the reaction of those around me. They could hold the man that did it accountable for his actions. They could confront him. They could confront those around him that covered up the secret. They could make the secret NOT a secret anymore.

I think about those people sometimes. I wonder how they live with themselves. I wonder if in the end they will think it was worth it to play the game. They were all just pawns. The abusive king and all of his little minions just stayed right on that board and kept the game going. The queen by his side deeming me to hell for accusing her husband. I think they all think it was easier that way. If you treat life like a game, use your get out of jail free card, it may seem like the easier path. But it is wrong. Know this. It is wrong. All of them are wrong. I have seen and watched people fight to be right. They will fight so hard to be right that they won’t even validate a child who is molested and hold accountable the man who abused her.SHE can’t be right because then their world can’t stay the same. If THEY are right, then they can pretend the child lied, and the man they trusted is still the man they thought he was and nothing has to change. But they were wrong. Their pride kept then for allowing me to be right. Allowing me to be right meant allowing to truth to come forth. They not only abandoned me, pretended like nothing happened, but subjected all of their own children to the possibility of being abused. BUT they HAD to be  right, and  pretend he didn’t do it, so everything could just go on.It did. It just went on. The town just went on. All of those RIGHT  people went on. All of those people are living a lie. And a lie is not an easier path. A lie is not an honorable life. They chose easy. They chose a lie. They chose to live a dishonorable existence.

This pretend world they created was a cover up. Carrying  this secret, or this lie, and doing the wrong thing, is not how we were intended to live. They thought the easy thing was to ignore it all. I think it would have been far easier to hold the man accountable who abused me. it seems much more logical to abandon him. It seems much more honorable. How hard could it have been to do the right thing? Was it really the easier choice they chose? I ask you this. Everyone did the wrong thing. And they have to live with that. The hard things are not always the easy ones. But how hard is it to support a child? It seems unfathomable to me that I grew up in a dream town with people who were more concerned with ONE man than with the truth of one child. One bad man. One criminal man. One innocent child. I can’t tell you what the easier choice would have been for the people of the town I grew up in. I can tell you the choice they made was the wrong one.

I remember the good. I remember swimming across the lake from my house to my Nana’s house. She would watch me from her kitchen window. Swimming in the lake was so freeing for me. I would go underwater and the world and me just felt peaceful. I would stay with Nana for a few hours then walk the dirt roads home. It was a mile walk. I loved the clay roads. I loved the orange wild flowers on the side of the road.. I would pet the horses, pick the blackberries, and go home to the best home cooked meal you could ever ask for. It was good. I remember the good because the good was better than good. It was what people dream about.

And the bad…it could have been different. It should have been different. But doing the right thing takes honor and integrity.Something none of them had. Bringing a meal to a sick person is a very simple kind act. Dig deeper. i would rather order a pizza and have someone sit by my side and hold my hand, than have a cold macaroni salad sitting next to an empty chair.

.youshare

The Town That Abandoned a Child

Secrets of the heart

Step away and reevaluate.

When you step away from a situation and reevaluate it, sometimes things will come to light that you had no idea were even going on. You realize that you have compromised. Your meter for right and wrong, what is tolerable or not, what is acceptable or not, have been skewed. When you are in deep, your vision is not as it should be. You let things slide. You forgive and forget. You blur the bad and make it livable. You  move on and just push that behavior aside because it seems, at the time, easier that way. Most of the time you minimize things going on around you because it is how you have coped.

Coping with sexual abuse for me, for a long time, meant minimizing.

Minimizing is not accepting. I could not truly heal until I stopped minimizing and saw things for what they really were. This was complicated for me until I started stepping away and really reevaluating each situation.

It was not until I stepped away from many people, that I realized, I had incorporated “minimizing” into my daily life.

I ran some of this by my best friend last night. It is always good to have a best friend who you can shoot ideas off of. Because you may be downplaying it and you tell your friend and she shouts  “She did WHAT?” And then you say ,” Oh, it is kind of bad isn’t it.” Then if you let that sit for a few days and get away from the situation you may realize it is far worse than you thought. You may realize that minimizing has allowed toxic people in your life.

I did this last night. I realized I had given a pass way too many times to people because I didn’t realize how bad what they were doing actually was!

When I was 18 years old I met my brother. He wanted to find his birth family. He found us. I have to say it is one of the top days of my life. Meeting him was like that missing piece was finally filled. I had an immediate bond and connection with him. We talked frequently, visited, and I welcomed him with an open heart.

Years later in conversation with one of my cousins I mentioned that I had just visited with my brother. To my surprise my cousin did not know I had a brother. I thought everyone knew. I didn’t know this was a secret. I am so proud of my brother and always acknowledged he was my brother. Infact I have shouted it from the rooftops, shared pictures of him on social media, etc. So I was shocked to later receive a call from my cousin’s mother saying that this was NOT my place to tell other people I had a brother. This was NOT my secret to tell AND further more she yelled, ” How would you feel if I called your daughter and told her you tried to kill yourself? And that you were in a mental hospital? Lets see how she would feel If I did that!” So…I am now having a family member tell me, that they want to tell my daughter, who is a child, the things that were done to me, against my will, which then led to my attempted suicide.

I hung up on her. And time goes by, days go by, and the sting doesn’t feel as bad so I just go back to how things were. She didn’t follow through with her threat so far, so I’m just not going to think about it. That’s what I tried to do. I tried to do my normal routine.

But the truth of the matter was I had no idea my brother was still a secret to anyone! I was not maliciously telling family members about my brother. I was proudly speaking of him. But that was apparently still a secret.

It is hard to keep track and take care of other people’s secrets.

Especially if you don’t even know it is one. People’s secrets get so involved sometimes I don’t think they even know what is the truth anymore or what they have conjured up to save their own pride. Either way this family member took something that I innocently said and threatened to tell my daughter about my past.

Stepping away from the situation and reevaluating, I realize what a HORRIBLE thing that was for her to say. I am just giving a snap shot of her words. There were many more. She was trying to hold what she thought to be MY secret over my head. And how cruel. She made that a secret as did the rest of the people around me. So I had to live through abuse only to have it thrown back in my face that she will tell my child. The more I talked to my friend about it the more furious I got.

Whether it takes hours, days or 10 years, if you realize that you have minimized an atrocious thing like what she was threatening to say to my child, it is time to face it!

In speaking with my friend, I came back to why I wrote this blog in the first place. Secrets. They are so damaging. They can rip apart an entire family and an entire foundation of your life.

I was stuck in this life of minimizing other people’s actions, making excuses for them, just to not face the reality that many people, including my own family,  were thoughtless and cruel.

I was used to minimizing as a coping skill but I had not yet realized that coping skill was nolonger needed now, today.

With her words weighing me down I realized that in reality, any person could tell my child these things. They were things that I planned I would tell her bits and pieces of when I thought she was old enough to understand. But you don’t always want to tell your daughter you were molested, tried to kill yourself, and were put in a mental hospital. I would not say that was a SECRET I was keeping from her. I was protecting her from any pain it would bring her to know those things happened to her mother.

The two secrets cannot be compared. I shared with my mid 20’s in age cousin something I thought he already knew about me having a brother and his mother then compares the brother secret to my abuse secret. And I get she was angry that she did not get to tell her own son about my brother. But that was no fault of my own. I’ve had him in my life 20 years. She had 20 years to tell her son that I had a brother that was adopted and found us. She chose not to. But threatened to tell my child of abuse that happened to me.

Which takes me to my second point that I feel is crucially important. There are secrets that I wouldn’t really consider secrets. I would more say they are the pain from the past that is kept away from hurting someone in the present. You can’t really keep a brother who is standing in front of you flesh and blood a secret, but you can keep your daughter from knowing you’ve been raped. There are some secrets like sexual abuse only you have the right to share.  There are secrets that I consider confessions, that don’t need to be repeated. I have been with many people as they were passing away and they released all their secrets to me. Those will never be repeated. There are things that HAVE to be honored to the person who has experienced it. Those are secrets of the heart and they need to be protected. I have shared my heart secrets with few. I knew them never to be revealed. Your hopes, dreams, pain, those are yours. Secrets of the heart are yours and yours alone. I have shared the secrets of my heart in this blog in hopes to help others. But telling my daughter these details should never have been forced upon me.

I would have never told my daughter certain things. She could have and chose not to read my blog although she does now know what I write about. Unfortunately, because of one woman, I had to tell her things I wished I didn’t have to… I sat her down and I told her everything. I had to. I realized after talking with my friend that certain people would be willing to hurt me by telling her those things.I tried to pretend that my cousin’s mom would never tell my daughter, but that wasn’t realistic.  It was only a matter of time before one of them did. Do you have any idea how hard it is to tell your daughter what I had to tell her? I am sure there are some that can. It was heart wrenching. But if anyone was going to tell her, I was. Not some vindictive hateful person who has decided to use my pain and suffering to make her point. Now it is all out there. Everything I tried to protect my daughter from, every pain I suffered, ever detail, she knows. Now no one can threaten to hurt me or hold any secrets over my head.

My secrets are no longer leverage.

I wanted to share this story because it was quite an awakening for me. It was a huge realization that I continued in my life to minimize BIG things so that I didn’t have to face them. Big things like relatives that were cruel.

Sexual abuse has so many aspects that I have talked about. Your feelings, their feelings, family feelings, friend feelings, and all of those things can be very overwhelming. They can be overwhelming when it happens and can still be overwhelming years later. So to manage those feelings I have realized that I have allowed certain people, certain comments, certain events to happen. I decided they weren’t that bad or I just ignored them and moved along. But you just cannot do that. I cannot do that. I cannot just slide through life not holding someone accountable.

I cannot have people in my life because it is easier to just ignore them than it is to confront them and let them go.

The time for minimizing is over. This coping skill is no longer needed and in fact is detrimental.  Each person will reach this mile stone and I hope that it is sooner than later.

No one should ever be allowed to victimize you again with their words, with your past, with their own agenda. And the only person that can stop that is us.

We have to stop. Step away. Reevaluate. Not minimize. Hold someone accountable. And decide if that person is really someone that will:

1. Help us grow.

2. Allow us to feel loved.

3. Make us feel valued.

4. Are worthy of walking this path with us in a way that honors and respects us.

Let those people go who you realize you’ve tolerated only because you lacked the ability to do anything else.

Use this time to grow away from them.

Beyond them.

Then find and keep those that will keep the secrets of your heart. They are priceless.

Flashbacks

Every person has certain smell associations. You smell a smell and it reminds you of something. Smelling that smell brings you back to a time, a memory.

Often times when a smell brings on a memory, you smile. A perfume that reminds you of one person. Someone burning leaves may remind you of a time you sat around a bonfire and roasted marshmallows. You may go into someone’s house that has a fireplace and that smell may remind you of your camping trip to the mountains. Certain foods cooking on the stove may remind you of the person that cooked it last and where you were. Brownies may always remind you of grandma and fudge may always remind you of your neighbor that made it every Christmas.

There are smells that make everyone smile that just plain smell good. A baby’s head. Does anything smell better than the head of a newborn baby? Everyone smells a baby’s head and smiles. Smelling the breeze with jasmine or honeysuckle in it just makes you feel good.

But there are smells that trigger memories that we do not like. Smells can be huge triggers. Most people who have had tragic, traumatic, life changing events, will remember the smell at the time it happened. I remember the cologne the man was wearing that abused me. I remember the smell of the gum he chewed every time he did. It causes terrible flashbacks.

I would say the leading cause of any flashbacks I have are smells. Flashbacks to a wonderful time with a certain scent are surprises that are wonderful but to flashback to traumatic with a smell often catches you off guard. You don’t expect to be walking through the mall and suddenly stop because of a smell. You don’t expect to walk next to someone in a restaurant and have their breath smell of the gum that your abuser chewed and just freeze. I can only speak from my experiences. I have not spoken to anyone else about what causes their flashbacks. But I know when it happens to me it can affect my entire day. I have worked very hard to not let that happen but sometimes it does.

You wouldn’t expect to be with your family walking through a department store and have someone come up and punch you in the stomach. And if they did you would feel shocked! You wouldn’t be able to move. You would think for the rest of the day how unfair it was that you were having this great family moment and someone punched you in the stomach and ruined it.

That is how a flashback is.

You are living in the moment and then that moment is taken away unexpectedly.

And it stuns you because you weren’t expecting it. And for the rest of the day it can be like shaking off a bad dream. You know how it feels when you wake up from a nightmare and you have this residue that just seems to stick with you the rest of the day. A flashback is a lot like that. It really robs you of the now. It throws you unwillingly back into the past with this tight grip. If you could pry the grip off of you, you would but you can’t access where the grip is coming from. It is deep within your brain to a place that you locked off. It is off limits. Your brain closed it off and locked the door as a way to protect you from the magnitude of it all. Then with a flashback it is like someone just rips open the door and floods your entire being with this overwhelming sensation that your brain has been protecting you from. No one can handle the thousands of things that are happening during a tragic event so our mind does it’s best to help us cope by shutting parts of it off. This is my own belief. I have blocked out many things in my past. I know many other people who have done the same. I didn’t consciously do this. I know I have blocked things out only because I occasionally remember these blocked out things. I think our mind knows “OK we are going to need to block out 90% of this because she cannot emotionally cope with the enormous weight this event would cause”, and so some of it is just gone. So we cope and we heal and we process and we move forward. Until the moment when the flood gates are open and we have to be so careful not to drown IN that moment.

I know the certain smells that bring back bad memories. But I cannot control when these smells will come nor can I control what happens when they do. I also cannot control the memories that were blocked from coming forward when I do encounter something that reminds me. My body remembers. It isn’t even something that I feel is just in my brain. I can physically feel in my body that same feeling of when I was abused when I have a flashback.

Over the years things  have come to me that I have blocked out. They can be very upsetting and can really seem to rock my foundation. I think I knew everything and dealt with it and now there is something new? UGH! I don’t want anymore. But at the time I obviously blocked it out for a reason. There was just too much at the time to cope with and now there is a little bit more that I need to face. And I do. I don’t ever ignore a memory. I don’t stuff it back in to a hidden place. If it comes out I face it head on and work on the next step of healing. I don’t take it on as a flood of the memory. I allow myself to take small parts a little bit at a time and process them. It can be very very overwhelming to remember something that you don’t even remember happening. It can be dangerous. We have to take control of every single thought that comes after and make sure that we do not let it consume us. It is too big of a task to deal with a long forgotten memory all at once. it may come on all at once but we can control what we do with it after. I just let myself be. I don’t expect too much of myself but I also don’t let my mind just wander. I set certain goals and intentions on how I will deal with this and process and heal from this and that is what I do.  Often times it is just to give myself a moment to feel and remember and then move forward with my day without feeding to much into all of those emotions.

So I have flashbacks of sudden unblocked memories that I never even knew existed, and I have flashbacks of things that I do remember but are brought back suddenly. I know certain things that will bring back a flashback and I have taken steps to prevent that . Certain ways that someone touches me, for example I hate to be kissed on the neck. So I told my husband don’t kiss me on my neck and he doesn’t. Problem solved. No flashback.

But it is the smells. They hit me unexpectedly and bring back flashbacks that to this day are very hard to cope with.

The only thing I know how to do, is when the moment has passed, to breathe. If I can’t control the moment when it comes then when the moment is over, I breathe. I say ” Ok that was a horrible memory and it is gone and my body can let it go”. I verbalize it always. I want every part of me to hear that I am letting this go. I try not to have nightmare residue of a flashback, ruin the rest of my day. I try to go outside and breathe the air and think about right now. I try to surround myself with something joyful to squash out that bad feeling. I try to replace the way my body remembers that in that moment of bad  with a way of feeling loved by having my husband or daughter hug me, or by petting my dog. Simple things really for HUGE memories.

Sometimes it is the simple things that can bring back a lot of bad. A simple smell. But sometimes a very simple thing can bring in the good into that moment as well. You just have to seek it out and make it happen.