Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Drama of Mother's Day in High Demand Religion

For many reasons, Mother's Day takes on great significance for me this year. I turn fifty later this year, and my high hopes of possibility of having a baby of my own have vaporized with my age.

My next sentence that I must write? I take a deep breath, as I know well the showers of words of well wishers who ask why why didn't pursue adoption. The answer to that question is very complex and only people who struggle daily with chronic illness – those often suffered by children who grew up in troubled families – aren't really anyone's business.

But people ask, and people pressure for answers that they find comforting and satisfying to them with little awareness or regard for any pain that such questions might pose for others. They ask because we human beings fantasize and idealize the virtues of motherhood, and we need them. But for many of us, the reality of the subject of motherhood is not at all pleasant.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Considering Angst as a Healthy Part of Growth while Anticipating Mother's Day

The Quiverfull and Patriarchy Movements in Evangelical Christianity (which are strongly associated with the Religious Right and with the homeschooling movement among Christians) understand any deviation “from family” as a great moral problem. 

 Family translates for many as only the specific will of the parent, and for many, this means obsequious submission to the “vision” of the father concerning even banal elements of daily life. Not every family is so stringent, but children, budding adult children, and fully grown adults are expected to write their lives according to the dictates of the family script of their family of origin. Such families do not tolerate true differentiation from their ideal, regardless of what price children may pay.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Anticipating Mother's Day

Mother's Day (Cindy Kunsman)

My first multimedia work inspired by a vignette about five year old Ashley's behavior described by Francine Shapiro in
EMDR: The Breakthrough 'Eye Movement' Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Trauma.

I know too well what it's like to be Ashley.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Daffodils Along the Way of the Higher Path

Through daffodils forgotten and found and reclaimed in my recent meltdown, perhaps those reading here can catch a glimpse of how healing from trauma can unfold. In the writing of this, I am almost amused by how spontaneously the whole concept bubbles up in me. I spent many years wondering whether I ever even know joy because it seemed that I'd forgotten because trauma alienated me from the memories of it. I couldn't find it no matter how hard I tried.

Having already defined my dilemma of moving through the Third Stage of healing in the last post, I feel as though I tackled the integration element well. Moving forward and reconnecting, the other tasks involved in Stage Three, blend for me in what I have yet to work through. I noted an example of a meme that objected liars and gossips as “lowlifes,” yet I wanted to aspire to something better. But I hadn't figured out how to get to “the high road,” having made the choice to seek resolution of conflict as opposed to perpetuating it. For my own benefit, I wanted and needed to aspire to something better.

Disclaimer: Everyone has to find their own way through their conflict in ways that work well for them, and It's important to note that not everything works for everybody. I draw on my own supportive beliefs to transcend pain and loss and trauma, though I understand and expect that many people will find their way through such conflicts differently. I also find myself at a point in my own exemplar conflict where I've come to terms with my anger and the injustice. I also don't want anyone to misunderstand this approach as offering forgiveness to people who aren't sorry for what they've done. I do hope to see justice for everyone involved. Taking an approach that avoids marking people as adversaries or that comes from the secure perspective that love can offer shouldn't be mistaken for cheap forgiveness that ignores justice. (Here's an index of over seventy blog posts that basically argue that without justice, forgiveness and mercy are meaningless.)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Daffodil Season Ends but Recovery Continues

More than a month ago, I learned about some cruel gossip that's being spread about me and it triggered a host of complicated hurdles for me. The questions of others sent me back to revisit my history of hopping around through some truly fringe varieties of cultic Christianity, but I also found myself more affected by the deep personal losses that are all wrapped around that history, too.

Ironically, I'd just started blogging about the stages of recovery right before this happened, but I suddenly realized that I was living an experiential reminder, too. Stage One persisted for a good two weeks before it faded into decrescendo, mostly because I still can't understand that if people took issue with me that they didn't feel comfortable with approaching me. And the truth is that there may be no rational reason behind their actions.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Daffodils of Integration: First Promise of Joy through Recovery
(Photo Credit)

(Read Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 in
my Quick Revisit of the Stages of Recovery.
But only if you want to.)

James Taylor's melancholy Fire and Rain which laments the unexpected loss of a friend, and I now think of the loss of integration of trauma when I hear him sing “sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.”

In a way, that is what trauma does to us. Our dreams break apart, perhaps because they weren't very realistic but sometimes because we don't have time to realize them because we're so busy trying to figure out how to put ourselves back together. Sometimes, we just can't recover all that we've lost. Sometimes, we lose our ability to fly because the pieces lay on the ground, smashed and broken because of what happened to us. We become no longer whole. We dis-integrate.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

#TGC16 and Soveriegn Grace: Break the Story. Break the Silence.
I'm watching the film Spotlight, and I stopped it because my husband came home from work. I'll finish watching it in a bit. I needed to express this much before I do.

A New Springtime: Daffodils Reclaimed (A glimpse into Stage Three of Recovery)

(Read Part 1 and Part 2 in
my Quick Revisit of the Stages of Recovery.
But only if you want to!)

I wonder what I thought when I was old enough to find those scattered daffodils in the woods behind my parents' house. I must have been quite young, for in my mind, I seem to have always known that they were there. 

I had a good sense of what belonged to my family and what did not, for that is all wrapped around how I treated them. I must have asked permission to pick them, though I remember only being concerned about whether the property owner wanted them. Yet still, in their own way, they were mine. I saw what no one else saw in them. And I remember that excitement of going to look for their blooms when I saw daffodils bloom at my neighbor's house.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Gospel Coalition's Inclusion of CJ Mahaney: Words are not enough.

Adapted from two works by nakedpastor David Hayward with much gratitude.

The Real Left Behind

Children in Gaza

Daffodils Grieved in Recovery

After the first stage of recovery where we find safety and stability (things we sometimes must learn about for the first time), we find ourselves in a place of revisiting trauma to see it for what it is.

Awareness in Grief

For me, though, the experience is more than that, and I find it to be more spontaneous. The best analogy that I have is that of driving home from work after a busy twelve hour shift as a nurse in critical care. I don't know how long it took for my body to become self-aware after a hard day, but I know that by the time I hit the ten mile point, I'd suddenly have acute awareness that I hadn't emptied my bladder in quite some time. Epinephrine or adrenalin suppresses function of the gut and the urinary tract, and for me leaving work, its effects lasted until I'd driven ten miles from my workplace. My brain would become magically aware of the needs of my body. I'd race in the house and retreat to the bathroom, and then, I'd remember that I was hungry, too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Protest Against The Gospel Coalition 2016 for Inclusion of CJ Mahaney
I am so angry and feel so helpless that I have been unable to write about this issue.  Protestors from SNAP (Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests) have joined Pam Palmer in Louisville this week to protest CJ Mahaney's presence at the The Gospel Coalition's conference.  I can't think straight enough to write about it (and I know that's hard to fathom considering my verbosity).  I'll let others do it for me.

(Learn more about the media event HERE.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Stages of Trauma in the Flowers of Spring: Daffodils Forgotten

I grew up in a house that stood at the edge of a small plateau on the incline of a mountain. It was bordered by unoccupied wooded acreage that sloped down behind it. In the spring, the forsythia and the azaleas bloomed in our yard, but we had no daffodils. Down in the woods behind the house however, daffodils poked their heads above the crisp, brown leaves that had covered them all winter. Nineteen plants grew there within twenty feet of the edge of our land on the hill as it rolled downward toward the city.

I don't know how they came to grow there in no particular pattern, but I looked forward to the appearance of the daffodils every year. I can only imagine that someone bought and forgot about them and just threw their remains into the woods. Maybe some naughty children used them to see how far they could throw them. I never harvested them to replant around our house because they weren't mine to take. I would wait for the first bloom to wilt first before I picked the ones that remained, just in case the owner came by, for he did occasionally used our driveway to gain easier access to that edge of his land. He may not have even known that those plants existed. I knew every single one of them.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Safe Expectations as the Safest Place in Recovery

I used this quote a short time ago, but I read something that brought it to my mind again. There is so much truth to the saying that “we learn what we live.” Alice Miller makes that fact so clear for us by explaining why people who have been hurt often repeat the same tactics that were used against them. But how does this relate to feeling safer?

Hurt People Hurt People

Many weeks ago, I ended up in a conflict via social media that didn't end well. People who were connected to the same type of trauma fell into two groups – and each was traumatized in a different way within a totalistic and authoritarian system. From that emerged a discussion that essentially pitted the comfort and perspective of one subgroup against the other. It became a survivor war.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Watershed Moment in Stage One of Recovery
The Mighty
The message in this meme from The Mighty website speaks so well about how trauma pervades one's life, feelings, and sense of self. I found it to be essential to my own healing, and I often wonder why no one had said this to me much earlier. I'd been to counselors many times before, worked at my recovery, and read about everything I could find. Why didn't someone tell me this during one of my first few visits?

At age thirty, after I walked away from my spiritually abusive church, I eventually found my way to an exit counselor. It was a year after the Cult Awareness Network folded (and was bought by Scientology), but she worked with them as a volunteer prior to that. She addressed the issues faced by people who exit high demand groups, but she was not a therapist. She quickly recognized that I needed deeper work and more help than she could offer.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Balancing Hope and Safety in Stage One of Recovery
During the last year in a spiritually abusive Shepherding-Discipleship church, I developed all sorts of allergies, partly because of how my body voiced what I could not through new, more intense illness, and partly because of the general hard toll that trauma took on my immune system. Two physicians recommended that I see a hypnotherapist, but I didn't feel comfortable with the idea.

It took another decade and the advice of yet another physician to see if hypnosis would help. Most notably, medications that were meant to ease pain and symptoms became severe, life-threatening allergy triggers for me. I quickly ran out of available treatment options, and I spent all of my time avoiding physical triggers and chasing symptoms. It's much like the challenges that Suzanne of No Longer Quivering deals with in her recent blog post.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Desire for and Illusions of Safety in Recovery

The previous post listed many factors that increase our vulnerability to people who are not safe for us, but what is probably more difficult is that subconscious impulse to gravitate to people who are unsafe. This comes from a complicated mix of many things, most of which are based on feeling in addition to our lack of good experience with healthy people who could have modeled better relationship skills for us. We end up figuring much of this out through trial and error.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Vulnerability and Safety in Stage One of Recovery

One might think that the first stage of healing from trauma involves recounting tragic circumstances, but it is actually about creating a safe place with safe people who can help you heal. In the previous post, I described a situation that I had with a counselor who I don't believe understood trauma very well and didn't use an approach that was helpful for me.

But think about that for a moment. This counselor had a master's degree and many years of experience as a Licensed Professional Counselor, and they were highly recommended for me. I made the assumption that she would be a safe person. If she wasn't, who was – especially because I sought help after a string of events that left me off balance. I wasn't in any place to make such hard decisions. I had to reach out to trust someone.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Trusting a Therapist in Stage One of Healing

My husband and I once took in a few feral kittens. He says that it took three years before they would let him touch them. I saw this meme today and thought of the good therapists and the not so good ones that I've seen. It is no easy job to develop trust with a feral cat, and in many ways, I think that traumatized people have much in common with them.  We have forgotten how to trust, and we need someone with great patience to help us remember and learn if we ever knew how to have healthy trust to being with.

When I sought help a number of years ago, I didn't seek out a specialist in trauma but rather went to someone who had a different specialty. After more than a year, I decided to stop seeing her. It seemed to me that it did far more harm than good. I'd invested so much money and so much of myself in that relationship with the counselor that I felt like I had no right to walk away. (She was supposed to be the expert, and I kept waiting to start feeling a little better, not worse.) For the last two sessions, I took my husband with me under the guise of having relationship problems, almost like I needed a witness to see how mean she was. She also made what I thought were empty promises, and I never saw any evidence that they were true. I didn't have enough confidence to see anyone else for another year and a half after that.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Deciding to Get Help After Trauma

At some point, for most people, the stress of their trauma alters their lives significantly enough that they reach out for help. It was no light thing for me to seek it myself.  The expense alone can be enough to keep people from seeking assistance
I happened onto a watershed moment while I was in school while observing a group therapy session for teens in a drug an alcohol rehab. I often wonder if I would have felt comfortable with therapy if I had not had  good training in school.  I always believed that there had to be a better way of being because I saw modeled in serene, compassionate, mentally healthy people with great boundaries from time to time.  But after I observed that group therapy session, I realized on a very deep level that I was not alone in my pain and that there was viable, effective help out there for me when I was ready for it. I just finally became tired of living a sub-standard life of pain.