hope

Wounds that don’t heal

IImprisoned Spring by Arthur Hacker (1911)Heartbreak and loss come in many different forms: the death of a loved one, rejection by a lover or spouse, abandonment by a parent.

As a wounded woman, I know what it is to hurt.

I won’t bore you with tales of woe from my childhood, but all was not well at home.

By the time I was a young adult, I had been exposed to some pretty bad stuff, much of it a result of our male-dominated culture (exposure to pornography, sexual predators young and old, and male criticism of my female form and personality).

I was bullied by other girls, all older and bigger than me. I was also bullied by my family.

By the time I was 21 years old, I had what was termed”a serious chip” on my shoulder.

Believe it or not, I was judged harshly because I was not all smiles and compliance all the time.  Because I tried to fight back. Girls shouldn’t do that, don’t you know.

I knew the world was screwed up even when I was young, but I never knew how to express my concern. It festered. It fermented. I didn’t understand my discontent.

By the time I was in my early 20s, I wore a pretty hard, protective shell designed to keep me from getting hurt.

And then I found a church that promised “inner healing.”

Was there a chance that I could be freed from the pain that I worked so hard to keep hidden away?

I found a husband who was supposed to be loving, caring and a positive expression of patriarchy.

I believed that in this relationship, those wounds would finally begin to heal. I was in a safe relationship, a safe place, finally.

I let my guard down and exposed many of my wounds to this man.

I trusted him.

He used his power to control instead of love.

This is not a cautionary tale. I am not advocating the growth of dragon scales as a way to protect oneself. We can never truly love others if we don’t allow them to love us. And no one can love us if we don’t let down our guard.

From a psychological point of view, I am most likely dealing with abandonment issues exacerbated by fear of rejection. In a nutshell, when my father left me and my family when I was 7 years old, it affected me profoundly.

Back in the late 60s, it was not common for parents to divorce. I grew up in what was called a “broken home.” I carried that shame with me everywhere.

Thinking back, when my father was home there was an awful lot of yelling and fighting. I’m pretty sure things got physical. I don’t remember much. I liked the quiet better.

I heard a lot of stories from both of my parents over the subsequent years well into my adolescence when I finally reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I eventually refused to see my father anymore. That estrangement lasted for about two years.

I got pregnant. I got married. I had a baby. I got divorced.

I needed the quiet.

When it wasn’t quiet, when there was conflict and discord, my wounds opened up and all the pain came flooding back.

Here’s the thing: we all have wounds. My wounds are probably nothing compared to someone else’s wounds. That doesn’t matter.

We are talking pain levels here and tolerance for pain.

In life, the good times are supposed to outweigh the bad times.

Everyone suffers. Everyone struggles. Everyone has pain.

The real issue is how much pain and how often. Does the pain ever stop? Are there respites from the pain?

For some people, the answer is “No.”

I didn’t understand the insidious nature of chronic pain until a few years ago after contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite. I ended up one of the small percentage of people who experience long-term symptoms. Mine include chronic fatigue and chronic pain. I know what it is like to live with pain all the time.

The physical bite site, the terrible wound that I had from that tick bite, did heal after three weeks of antibiotics. The cause of the initial wound (about the size of a softball) moved away from the bite site and penetrated deep into my body’s tissues and even my brain. There was no healing.

Too Much Pain

The other day, I woke up and realized that I didn’t have any noticeable pain in my body. I breathed deeply and smiled. What a happy day. I want more pain-free days. Who wouldn’t? I thoroughly enjoyed that day. But such days are rare.

There is more compassion for those who suffer from physical pain than emotional pain in our society.  If someone has a back injury and must take opioids, no one holds it against that person.

For those who suffer loss and are wounded by it (and how can one not be wounded by loss???), healing is supposed to take place over time, but there is an expectation of some conclusion where the person affected finds relief and can move on with no more symptoms of grief.

For most people, grieving a loss takes time and the support of loved ones. In most cases, the pain of the loss lessens until it is merely a memory with occasional bouts of suffering that abate after a day or so.

What happens when grieving doesn’t end? Sometimes the wounds just don’t heal.

What happens to those who never stop feeling profound and unbearable pain?

There are many different endings to this kind of story.

Many can find relief through mental health services: therapy, medications and lifestyle changes. For some people this works.

Some end in the body giving up and the person fading away (yes, people can die from a broken heart). Some end in self-destructive behavior that results in death. Some end in suicide.

For some people the wounds just don’t heal. For some people the pain never stops. The thought of living a life of never ending pain is unbearable.

But wait…

 

Even though many wounds don’t heal, there is hope.

And it starts with taking back one’s power…

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I wouldn’t have seen the double rainbow if I hadn’t gone outside

 

 

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Looking outward and forward

One of the most difficult challenges I faced after separating from my husband was my own sense of shame and guilt.

I had failed to be a good-enough wife, and therefore, failed my marriage. Looking back, I do see many things that I could have done differently. I own those failures, and admit to them: mostly allowing myself to fear loss and abandonment, and letting these issues cloud my own sense of security. A healthy relationship cannot exist in the presence of constant fear and insecurity. It will become skewed, distorted, and become very sick.

The wonderful thing about this post is that its focus is not on any of the failures I experienced in my marriage. It is about hope.

HOPE!

I wouldn't have seen the double rainbow if I hadn't gone outside

I wouldn’t have seen the double rainbow if I hadn’t gone outside


I had a serious blow this morning about something very important to me. I have worked through it over the past few hours, doing everything I can to change the outcome. I have done my part. I have remained professional and pleasant. I did have a little cry which helped tremendously (I am not a crier).

I am so proud of myself. My first tendency was to completely withdraw from the source of the conflict, to run away, to hide where it feels safe. I worked past that — mostly. My fight or flight instinct led me to fight, but darn it if I am not now wishing to fly away, to go where it feels safer, to stop looking outward so much.

I grieved the loss of one of the most important relationships in my life for three years. I admit that I isolated myself.

After grieving for a very long time, I began to look outward. I registered for classes at a local community college, which I love. I actively began to write on my blogs, along with the writing that I was doing for classes. I studied hard. I researched extensively. I worked to understand the course material in a way that would relevant to me and the world.

I then began to consider that I might have a future away from all of the failure that I felt. I lived with failure and disappointment and pain for so long that I began to wonder if I would ever live any other way. Today, I can say, “Yes!”

In spite of the difficulties that I face every day (financial, physical, emotional, and geographical), I am looking outward from my own small sphere of existence to the bigger world around me. More importantly, I am looking forward.

In spite of the difficulties that I face, in spite of people that seem to appear in my path that unwittingly stop me in my tracks for a brief time, in spite of all of the negativity that I fight every day to find a glimmer of positivity, I am looking forward to a different life, one of my own making.

Life is hard. That is just the way it is. It isn’t easy for anyone. But…

No matter what happens, I have moved outward and am looking forward.

Grieving and Domestic Violence

escape-teal-smallContrary to what some people might think, escaping from an abusive relationship does not result in an euphoric state with a celebration of freedom.  It results in self-condemnation, fear, self-doubt, fear, depression, fear, anxiety, fear, guilt and more fear.  As awful as that relationship was, it was a knowable state and is a loss even if it is the loss of the idea of what a marriage or partnership should have been.

When I found the courage to separate from my husband I continued to wear my wedding ring.  For a long, long time.  I was still married, right?  Somehow he was going to realize that I meant business and finally get that professional help that I insisted he get years ago if we were to continue together.  I had hope that he would want to change because he loved his family so much.  Denial.

Then I would cry every time I heard the song “Stupid Boy” by Keith Urban because it so completely described my situation where I was required to be something that I am not and discouraged from being ME. Music became a great method of finding and dealing with the many different emotions that were hiding. Pain and acknowledgement.

 
A big part of abuse is the hiding. We learn to hide our real selves away to keep them safe. We hide until we find that seed of strength that grows into determination that branches into action and eventually resolution and soars toward the sky.
pain
So I grieve the loss of my marriage.

I grieve for what should have been:  a healthy, loving marriage.

I grieve what what will never be:  a safe home for me and our children that includes HIM.

I grieve over the loss of my identity: I am no longer someone’s wife.

I grieve over the loss of what should have been:  a relationship where I could be myself without criticism and condemnation.

I grieve over the idea of having no one loving by my side as I navigate through life’s difficulties.

I spent a long, long time in denial.  I then spent a long time very, very angry.  Oh, was I angry.  I then spent a lot of time depressed, shut off from the world.  I then spent time looking for answers for myself.  I began to wake up.  I began to care about myself beyond eating, sleeping and caring for my kids.  I started school, finally.  I called lawyers and found one.   I visited the county courthouse library and researched divorce.

I went through the phases of grief.  The Kubler-Ross model has five stages:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

There is another model that has seven phases:

  1. Shock and denial
  2. Pain and guilt
  3. Anger and bargaining
  4. Depression, reflection, loneliness
  5. Upward turn
  6. Reconstruction and working through
  7. Acceptance and hope

I like the second model as it includes “pain and guilt,” a time of turning, creating a new life, dealing with issues, and finding hope for the future.  Yep, I really like the second model of grieving and believe it more accurately describes the phases I went through, and am still going through.
loss
I have several friends who have been through hell due to loss.  Some have lost both parents and a sibling, some a spouse through divorce then a child, or a child and a grandchild, or a marriage and then a grandchild.  All of these people have one thing in common:  they are grieving.  This process cannot be rushed, ignored, swept under the rug, pushed to completion, or skipped.  Grief must take its course.

The tendency is for friends and family to create some kind of criteria for acceptable grieving.  They think you should be getting back to your old self after 6 months or a year and definitely not more than two years.  Any longer and there is something seriously wrong with you.  I have been separated for years and just the past few months am ready to move on.  It took me a long, long time to work through the stages of grief.  And you know what?  I still have days when it hits me all over again, usually after some kind of contact or not knowing how I am going to buy food that week or shoes for the youngest or . . . lots of things can trigger the fear, denial, anger, pain, reflection, then hope. It feels like the grief process in fast motion, like a grief flashback.
icantdothis
Allowing myself to grieve was the kindest thing I could have done.  I had the added issue of grieving over the loss of my health due to Lyme disease, a horrible loss. I had left my church.  That is a loss.

Grieving happens whether we let it or not.  The difference is that when we acknowledge grief, we allow ourselves our feelings, the bad days, the awful days: the days when we don’t answer the phone, the weeks when we don’t go out. Then there are the lost relationships.  Most people won’t hang around for a grieving friend.  So when we are grieving we discover who our real friends are.  And if you have family like mine, you mostly get a lot of criticism for “choices.”   Just add a little more grieving to the pile.

There is no pretty way to grieve.  It just happens.  If we try to pretend like we aren’t grieving it possesses us and takes over our bodies and lives.  It will not be ignored.
thereishope
There is an end to grieving, at least an end to the worst parts of grieving.  Loss stays with us forever.  But there is living.  Living is what I am doing now after years of grieving.  Although I am thankful for where I am now, I still have a long way to go, much of my life to figure out.  I occasionally have really bad days where it seems like I am feeling much of the powerlessness and fear that I felt when HE was still here.  But I get through those days, get a good night’s sleep and wake up the next morning in a better mood with hope renewed.

And I step outside the door to face this new day . . .

But what if you’re wrong?

About what?

Of course I’m wrong about a lot of things.  I am probably wrong about most things.  Most people are.  That is the key here.  Most people are wrong.

Humans have an extremely limited ability to see.  Anything.

I am very human.  I will always be very human.

People who know me know that I am kind, but sometimes mean.  They know that I am generally well-mannered and polite, except when I am rude.  I am honest to a fault, except when I feel the need to hide (though I still don’t lie — I just hide myself away for a time until it is safe to come out).   People who know me know that I am strange, different, just not quite right, enigmatic (I’ve been told).

One thing that I have discovered about myself is that although I want to be loved, want loads of approval and attention, desire to be adored by someone, anyone, I will not stop being me.  I tried that and it didn’t work.  I got completely lost.  I am finding my way again.

So what if I’m wrong? I will continue to project myself onto the world.  I might hide parts of myself away to keep them safe, the most fragile and delicate parts of me, but I will use my voice because I must.  I am compelled by something deep down, something primal maybe, to speak out, to be present, to not be silent.

I will not be afraid.  I will feel fear and concern, be insecure and doubtful, wonder whether I am just delusional, but I will not be afraid to speak.  Someone has to speak.  Women must speak.

In my on-campus classes (I take  online classes, too), one common behavior I witness is (are) the soft, quiet, tentative voices of female students.  The guys speak up, loud and clear, tend to overwhelm classroom discussions, but only a handful of women speak out, and when they do they can barely be heard.  If one of them is sitting next to me or in front of me or behind me, I tell her to speak up, use her voice, don’t be afraid to be wrong; speak up and be heard.

So I write.  I speak.

I most certainly am wrong.  I see life and the world through my own clouded filters.  So does everyone else.  That’s the key here:  everyone sees the world through clouded, cracked, oftentimes dark glasses.  I love when the glasses I put on some days are beautifully clear and bright.  I love that!  But it isn’t always that way, and that is okay.

People who know me know that I fall down a lot (sometimes literally) but I always get up and find something to look forward to.  Every single day.  For those who have only met me through this blog, my other current blog is entitled, “Serendipity:  Life is a Garden.”  Such a contrast, I know, to this blog.  I have lived by the premise that life is full of serendipity and that life is a garden, sometimes quiet and seemingly dead while it is merely resting, waiting for sunlight and warm temperatures to wake it up and give it new life.  Life is beautiful, magical, delightful, amazing.  It is other, not-so-nice things, too.  We can’t just ignore the ugliness of life, just focusing on the nice stuff.  But we cannot live stuck in the muck of ugliness, either.  We must be able to wade out of the muck, make it to shore, wash off and dance, at least sometimes.  I want to dance.

My other blog: such a contrast

My other blog: such a contrast

I might be completely wrong about Christianity and religious leaders and men who think they are in charge because God said they are.  I might be.  That’s okay.  I am just speaking up and being heard.  I am not afraid to be told that I am wrong (I have been told that my entire life — I can’t ALWAYS be wrong, right?).  I am writing my way through life, and that’s the bottom line.  I write to be heard, to express parts of myself that otherwise would stay completely hidden.  If I’m wrong, so be it.

But what if I’m right?