PTSD and abuse. How do you know for sure? January 09, 2022

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

If you can’t remember how do you know it happened? You could be wrong.

I can see how, lacking memories, skeptics might question my claims of child abuse.

I’ve been thinking about this more intensely this weekend. It’s not that I haven’t spent time with it before. I have… decades in fact. Just not intensely.

This is the first time I’ve managed to lay it all out in order.

Just because my mind has refused to remember extreme pain, that doesn’t mean I have no memories of the rest of my life.

As a child, I remember poverty, insecurity and instability with a self-employed father full of brilliant ideas that didn’t always pan out. Highly sociable parents who loved to party and run with the fast crowd. An alcoholic father who was not always a nice, or faithful man. Dad was never alone much either.

Once the line has been crossed from inactive to active it can never be uncrossed. My conscious mind may refuse to remember the painful violations but my body remembers. Going forward, my unconscious thought patterns, reactions, and expectations were shaped by childhood experiences. As a teen, looking back, I recognize thought patterns that could only come from experience. With nothing to compare to, how could I know an inexperienced teen wouldn’t know what I knew. My naivete was in thinking I went in to marriage as a novice.

The most compelling indicator of abuse, though, was triggers.

For many decades, involuntarily, I refused to question anything. Thought patterns, reactions, hints, not even consideration of the to-question-or-not-to question dilemma, none of it. Subconsciously I knew I wouldn’t like the answers inspection would bring and my mind steadfastly refused to go there.

It was many decades before I gave triggers much thought. They were just a normal part of life. That is how it often is for the abused. Only when we see how others live do we recognize that what we live with is abnormal.

In the beginning most triggers seemed to be related to men. They range from a quick shut down, to knee-jerk reactions, to panic attacks. After years of examining root causes and then dealing with them, there were changes. Or, maybe it was whatever was next-in-line showing up.

The most recent episodes have taken me by surprise. With dysfunctional family dynamics there were multiple levels of abuse, much of it emotional. These lessor? triggers are taking their turn at gaining attention.

Reactions provide compelling evidence of abuse but the final nail in solidifying the idea was my brother insisting I admit it happened.

If there is any lingering doubt acesaware.org (Adverse Childhood Experiences) has extensive questionnaires offering insight. They name the minimum number of boxes it takes to assess probability. I passed the exam with flying colors. More than the required number of boxes checked off.

One of their areas of discussion is health issues. Aggravated by unaddressed abuse trauma. Two areas show up for me. Digestive and autoimmune. They have become more pronounced with each passing year.

A selfie standing on the kitchen floor.

This has been going on for more than ten years. I have a specialist appointment in a few weeks but it doesn’t look like there is any cure. This doesn’t surprise me. I’ve had skin issues most of my life, if it leaves one area it pops up in another. Why fight it?

There is no room left for doubt about what happened to me.

One more note: the As a child, .. paragraph above provided ample reasons for the checked off boxes on one of the questionnaire pages.

If you suspect you may be a victim check out acesaware.org , it is sponsored by California health and has a wealth of information and helpful tools available to everyone.

I hope this made sense.

Have you experienced trauma? January 03, 2022

How can you know? One in four women and one in six men have experienced trauma/abuse with many of them not recognizing that they have. Even more recognize the abuse but have not acknowledged or shared it.

Unaddressed trauma is often the root cause beneath many health issues. Heart disease, auto immune disorders being the most common.

Yesterday I discovered a popular podcast dedicated to helping people live better lives and I enjoyed it enough to subscribe. Today’s interview is with an experienced psychiatrist and author of a new book on the subject of trauma, and it deals with today’s question.

I’m sharing this because helpful resources are so important in our healing journey.

I hope you find this as helpful as I did.

We can never see too many of these podcasts. We need to hear this information over and over again. Partly because we are in a different place with each step forward and we are able to take it in in a way we couldn’t on an earlier step.

And, we need to hear the information again because it reinforces earlier hearings and eventually is able to take dominance over the negative narrative we’ve lived with forever.

Happy Viewing!

C-PTSD conversation October 28, 2021

Walls or Boundaries?

This week I have been thinking about walls.

The emotional walls many of us put up to protect ourselves from hurt (emotional) or harm (physical).

The trouble with those walls – they don’t just keep out the bad stuff, they keep out the good stuff too.

Some of us have flimsy walls that go up and down, depending on what life is doing to us in the moment.

Others have walls that have grown in thickness and height enough to compare with Fort Knox. That’s the famous institution where the USA keeps it’s gold bullion. The ultimate in fortress walls.

The thicker and higher, the harder it is to bring them down, never mind let someone in for a moment. A very lonely life.

At this stage for me, I have walls that go up and down. They are mostly down but there are still circumstances where I feel threatened, at risk, distrustful, and the walls go up.

A small percentage of the time they may be warranted but the rest of the time the threat I perceive is not real.

I’ve being trying to find a solution, a way to handle triggers and paranoia in certain circumstances and that led me to thinking about boundaries.

The beauty of boundaries is the height. They can be markings on the road, they can be curbs, guardrails, fences. They are usually something that allows for communication and interaction while still acting as a barrier.

I think changing from walls to boundaries will take some serious consideration. A change in mindset.

I haven’t figured it all out yet. How to establish something appropriate and workable. Since we don’t actually have physical boundaries it has to be something that can be expressed in words. Something I can live with and put into practice.

Mostly I feel uncomfortable in public spaces. It will be a challenge to find ways to make that work. What would it take to make me feel safe.

At this point I have no idea what that would even look like but I’m willing to consider it.

Mainly because walls are not working out all that well for me, wanting to leave isolation behind.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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This is a book I’ve had on my shelf for a very long time. I think I need to read it again. Maybe it will give me some good ideas.

Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries is the book that’s helped over 4 million people learn when to say yes and know how to say no in order to take control of their lives.

Does your life feel like it’s out of control? Perhaps you feel like you have to say yes to everyone’s requests. Maybe you find yourself readily taking responsibility for others’ feelings and problems. Or perhaps you focus so much on being loving and unselfish that you’ve forgotten your own limits and limitations. Or maybe it’s all of the above.

In the New York Times bestseller, Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend help you learn when to say yes and know how to say no in order to take control of your life and set healthy, biblical boundaries with your spouse, children, friends, parents, co-workers, and even yourself.

Now updated and expanded for the digital age, this book continues to help millions of people around the world answer these tough questions:

  • Can I set limits and still be a loving person?
  • What are legitimate boundaries?
  • How do I effectively manage my digital life so that it doesn’t control me?
  • What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries?
  • How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money?
  • Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries?
  • How do boundaries relate to mutual submission within marriage?
  • Aren’t boundaries selfish?

I’ve been thinking October 17, 2021

I’ve had this post in mind for two days now but it was on forgiveness, a comment yesterday changed my trajectory.

The observation was that I love books but people?… not so much.

At first I agreed with that assessment. It’s true I do have deep trust issues and live a solitary life on a day to day basis.

This morning I woke up feeling an overwhelming love for people. This is not uncommon. I’ve experienced this most of my life.

This last while, I’ve been troubled, not able to identify how both could be true, trust and distrust. Especially when it came to men. My dad was abusive. I have two brothers, they were abused. I hated my dad but loved my brothers? Is that what’s behind it? It doesn’t seem to fit but if not that, then what?

Take for example, my neighbor: I’ve shared with her some of my story. She has first hand knowledge of my struggle with trust issues and triggers. I’ve accepted her event invitations and cancelled at the last minute because I knew men would be there and I couldn’t make myself go. And yet… if we were standing in her drive way with her husband and he cracked a joke I was relaxed enough to laugh. I could tell by her body language that she was not happy and was now doubting my story. Which is true? The uptight or the relaxed?

So, how can I love and not love at the same time?

This morning I’m reminded, a survival tool for the severally abused is compartmentalization.

When I’m conscious of me and what I’m feeling, and people get too close – triggers happen, I’m reacting and not liking it.

When I forget about me entirely and my focus is completely on the other person, I feel empathy and love. I’m open and relaxed.

Where does all of this come from?

This morning I’m recognizing, it’s coming from my inner circle, the place where only three humans have ever been, or should have been. It would be truer to say they should have been there but all three chose to live outside of it, emotionally unavailable to me. One of them chose to visit the inner circle occasionally but only physically and in an abusive way.

Now, when I struggle with relating to people as the focus is directed toward me, I’m realizing it’s the result of the trauma inflicted on me by three. That’s one compartment.

There is another compartment where God shows up in the inner circle. This was my place of refuge in traumatic times. God was always there and has continued to be there, emotionally available to me my whole life.

This is how I can love and not love at the same time.

Wherever possible, I choose to love with the love I’ve experienced with God in the second compartment.

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The original thought for this post was – How could I be forgiving?

That’s a big question and I still want to share my story. Soon, maybe.

Photo by Peng Louis on Pexels.com

Things I learned…

Several days ago I shared the helpful video I had the good fortune to run across. It was an interview with Jennifer Kolari and can be found here.

I’m still thinking about some things she shared that impacted me most.

I did take notes but they are in the form of phrases, just enough to remind me of the thoughts I didn’t want to forget. I won’t be able to share the clear or complete explanations contained in the video. I refer you back to the video for that wealth of information. (This is my disclaimer: much hereafter is on me, the author can’t be blamed for any issues or misunderstandings. I do want to give her credit for the good parts though.)

One of the first significant phrases was “your body keeps the score”. There are many reasons why our brains do not retain memories, especially of traumatic events, but our bodies remember everything Jennifer says. I have never thought about it quite like that before (stored in the body rather than in the brain) but I have always been convinced that some part of me does remember all the things I don’t or won’t.

Another point, in regard to the out of proportion reactions we often have to people, situations, comments etc. — we need to find healing before we can learn how to respond rather than react. I totally get this. I’ve been working on it in my life for quite some time and lately have seen positive changes in my thoughts and actions. I appreciate what she is about to say on how to go about doing this.

Jennifer says “to heal it you’ve got to feel it.” I agree, and to do that we have to give ourselves permission to feel our emotions. Most of us have learned to push down and bottle up our feelings. Typically, over time the feelings fester and eventually erupt into something much worse than they were originally.

So here’s the part I’ve not heard expressed quite this way. She says we feel love with our heart and we feel fear with our gut. I guess I haven’t really thought about the heart response because the feelings there would be positive and pleasant. I have definitely noticed negative changes in the gut though. When I’m feeling anxious things definitely do not feel pleasant in my digestive area.

She says one of the reasons for this concept to be plausible is due to neurons.

Apparently both the heart and the gut have neurons, who knew. I did a little internet research and here’s what I found.

According to several sources, including sciencemag.org the gut contains millions of neurons and is directly connected to the brain. The vagus nerve is one of the largest nerves carrying messages back and forth at a dizzying rate. The site linked above is as recent as 2018. If we feel fear or anxiety there will be a reaction in the gut. For some of us it morphs into painful intestinal disorders and other similar diseases.

The heart similarly has a large number of neurons but it also has it’s own nervous system and brain. Sometimes called the little brain according to heartmath.org. In 1991 a scientist made this discovery. The heart and the head brain are also sending a dizzying number of message back and forth.

Wow! I have to say this little bit of exploration done in order to speak intelligently to Jennifer’s comments regarding the gut and the heart, has opened up a whole new world of information. It’s calling out to me, to look into it more and more thoroughly.

Bottom line for the original subject of this post; to be emotionally healthy it helps to understand how the heart and gut are tied to our thoughts and memories. We feel love in our heart, we feel fear in our gut. When we react to people rather than respond, which part of our body is involved? Most often it will be fear, the gut. The next question is what happened to us to cause this reaction? How is it tied to our early life, what traumatized us. A dog? Lost? Abused? What?

Jennifer’s point is that if we can figure out the originating event and allow ourselves to feel the irrational fear it will lose it’s power over us and we can move on. Feel the fear of the dog, the bully, the dark, whatever it is.

Here’s a little teaser about the heart brain.

I’m not sure if I have been able to stay on subject well enough to make sense but I hope so.

I think the main take away is that our emotional well being affects our physical well being. After that, it becomes a vicious cycle. Learning to read the signs and figuring out what to do to alleviate/repair issues and memories, can be life changing.

Check out the interview and the other links to learn more about this fascinating subject.

Free books August 30, 2021

BoobBub has a FREE suggestion for us from an author who shows up here often. I have read this, one of the thirty downloads I have from Staci Stallings.

White Knight: A Contemporary Christian Romance Novel (The Courage Series, Book 2)

Amazon quote:

Hoping for some excitement and a little extra money, A.J. Knight signed up to be a Houston EMT. However, when he did, he never thought about the life-and-death situations he’d be put into or the lives that he might be called on to save. Worse, he never so much as considered the lives that might be lost under his watch.

Eve Knox understands what it’s like to have life ripped away in an instant. After the death of her first and only love in an unimaginable tragedy, she is struggling to go on with a life that seems to have been stripped of its former meaning. Hurting and alone, Eve knows her friends are just trying to help her cope, but their attempts to fill the void in her heart are starting to smother the spirit she once had. She sees no point in searching for love a second time, what happens when a second-chance love shows up in a way she never saw coming…

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LPC Books has two FREE suggestions for us, I’ve read the first one.

Sticks and Stones (The Barn Church Series Book 2) 

Amazon quote:

Since childhood, Julie Matthews has felt closest to God when singing. Mere days away from realizing her lifelong dream of singing professionally, she awakens in a hospital room unable to speak. Suddenly her dreams and God seem distant. 

Rick Matthews supports his ambitious wife, but has no solution for the constant tension between them. During Julie’s recovery, Rick becomes Julie’s caregiver and their marriage undergoes a wonderful change–they rediscover each other.

But as Julie’s voice grows stronger, unseen wounds surface and years of unhealthy habits begin again to pull them apart. Faced with losing their newly rekindled love, Julie and Rick are forced to evaluate the state of their marriage and how their dysfunction has affected their marriage and their children. 

Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can crush the spirit.

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I think I had trouble getting into this next one as I’m being told I’ve not read it. It probably hit a little too close to home. The abuse part.

The Sanctum by Pamela Ling Cable

Amazon quote:

“Pamela King Cable has created an unforgettable heroine in Neeley McPherson, a remarkable young woman of such courage and spunk that she dares to stand against unspeakable abuse and injustice not only for herself but also for her beloved caretaker, Gideon. Fleeing a horrendous life, Neeley discovers the true meaning of family, forgiveness, and love in a wolf sanctuary, which becomes a central metaphor for the difficult journey we all must undertake to find our way home. Thoroughly enjoyable book!” ~ Cassandra King Conroy (Pat’s wife) – Bestselling author of Moonrise, The Same Sweet Girls, and The Sunday Wife

This inspirational tale thrills with a tight plot, lyrical scene descriptions, and complex characters. Pamela Cable leaves readers aching for more.” ~ Julie Cantrell, New York Times bestselling author.

“I would compare The Sanctum to Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. Set in the deep south during the Civil Rights Era, this book tackles such issues as racial discrimination and abuse.” ~ Kimberly A. Liston-McCabe

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Happy Reading …

on sunny Monday morning.

The Superpower of the Calm Technique

I just watched the most amazing and helpful video podcast I’ve seen in a long time and I just had to share. It’s called The Superpower of the Calm Technique with Jennifer Kolari. I like learning how to do life better and how deal with triggers and reactions. This was so helpful.

She is qualified, wise, and articulate. Such a educational and eyeopening experience listening to/watching what she has to say about learning to respond rather than react. Conflicts in a relationship will loose their steam if we practice her techniques. They’ve done some role plays to demonstrate the way it will work. It was interesting to see how the calming influence changed the dynamics even in a pretend situation. Very cool.

Some of the concepts she presents I`ve kind of heard before but she explains things with new information I’ve not heard and it all makes such good sense.

Carey Nieuwhof introduces it this way – Jennifer Kolari on How to Deal with Irrational People, Customers and Team Members, and the Superpower of the CALM Technique.

Usually Carey`s interviewees have written a book but they didn`t talk about it this time although she has written at least one. In a YouTube search I found she has a lot of content related to parenting although she does a lot of corporate consulting as well.

I’m positive you will find this helpful in life’s situations if you are into good emotional health and productive relationships. Check it out.

Free and bargain books July 31, 2021

BookRunes has a FREE suggestion for us today. This is a long book by an author I’ve not read before. The reviews look good though.

Training Lord Somerset (The Heart of Dorset Series: Book 1) A Clean & Sweet Regency Historical Romance Novel

Amazon quote:

He will see past her scars; she will look past his fear to the brave soul inside…But are their hearts strong enough to seize their one chance at happiness?

A terrible accident left Lydia Stanley in charge of her younger siblings and a Duchy to boot! Two years later, the scar on her face is the only reminder of the day she lost everything: her parents, her innocence, and all marriage prospects

As the new Earl of Somerset, Humphrey Berkeley is expected to know everything about running an estate. But his father’s indifference towards his youngest son has left Humphrey not only emotionally traumatized but also untrained in running an estate…

The late Duke of Dorset’s steward-and daughter- seems like the perfect tutor for the young Earl, but their business arrangement never included falling in love…

Will they find it in them to conquer their inner demons and claim their happiness, or will they succumb to fear and live forever in misery…?

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My current read has just been started so it’s a little early to tell but I’ve enjoyed other books by this author so I’m expecting good things. It’s still on offer at a bargain price.

Fatal Strike

There’s a killer on the loose in Galveston, targeting law enforcement officials and using a fatal injection of snake venom to take them down. Authorities have reasons to believe the Veneno gang is behind the hits, and FBI Agents Leah Riesel and Jon Colbert team up to track down those responsible. Their best lead is an eyewitness who identifies a young man dumping the third body on a church doorstep. But their suspect has gone into hiding, and those closest to him are reluctant to reveal anything that might help investigators find him.

As Leah and Jon check connections among the victims and dig deeper into motives, they discover appearances may be deceiving. Someone is desperate to keep their secrets hidden, and Leah and Jon must face their greatest fears in order to stop the next fatal strike.

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Happy reading …

… on this Saturday with weather that can’t decide what it wants to do or be.

Confessions of an abuse survivor

I decided to name this post, and any future posts like it, in a way that would provide a heads up for anyone wishing to avoid such emotional discussions. I’m not planning on raw, uncomfortable, tell-alls, I know difficult discussions can be had in a civilized manner.

Anyway, today’s post doesn’t include any of that.

This could be a this-and-that kind of day except my thoughts have been heavier than that this week. Confession seems to be a more appropriate label.

I debated including the term abuse survivor but decided it gives context to where my head is at with the topics. There is nothing frivolous in my contemplations.

Enough of that.

So here’s the thing I’m trying to figure out. Why?

That’s what I need to know. Why?

I haven’t come up with an answer, so far, and I doubt this writing exercise will be all that revealing but I have to try.

I’m reluctant to tell you what I’m referring to because when I think of putting it into words, in my mind it sounds silly. I’m afraid you will dismiss it as such if I tell you what I’m thinking.

So, partial confession. As I’m contemplating the why of my reluctance to take on a certain task I’m wondering if maybe a trigger is behind it. What thought or emotion is holding me back?

So, here’s the thing. In the last year or so, because of interviews and the like, I’ve been exposed to non fiction books, mostly related to my life experience with abuse. They struck me as useful in my healing journey and I put out a significant amount of money to obtain them.

I was excited to have them, paid full price for most of them, and yet I can’t seem to make myself take the time to read them.

Were they just another bright idea that didn’t survive the light of day?

Would my reluctance to tackle the challenge stem from deep insecurities? The fear of failure?

Could the reticence be linked to anticipated emotional responses to painful subjects?

Are there unidentified triggers going on?

I’ve faced head on the physical abuse attributable to my dad. At the same time, I will admit I don’t want to think about or deal with the emotional abuse stemming from my mother or my marriage.

Is that what this is about?

I’ve heard it said we must ask ourselves this question – Do you want to be healed, really want to be healed?

When we honestly ask ourselves this question we might be surprised to find that the answer is no. The price we would have to pay to find healing could seem too high.

If I’m really honest, I think when it comes to my mother and my marriage, my heart says the price is too high.

I do really want to be healed. I’m not acting like it.

I will keep on thinking and praying about this.

In the meantime…

Some of the books in the lineup.

The one I’m considering at the moment is The Power of Writing It Down

If you made it this far, thanks for listening.

A helpful resource – professional counselling in book form

The level of professional counselling we need is sometimes not easily found. That was the case for me a decade or two ago and this book was a life saver. It was written as a joint effort by the Minirth/Meir group, both of them psychiatrists, joined by a third person, a psychologist.

The book starts off talking about codependency. That’s not the way I remember it from my first reading. It’s funny how that goes. The parts I remember are the ones explaining what happened to me, how it has affected me, and the broken way I do life as a result. Understanding opened many life changing doors in my thinking.

Of all of the many books I’ve read this one was the most comprehensive and impacting. It was written to be a counselor to those without access to one. It covers the subject well enough to be a textbook written in layman’s terms.

I’ve shared this book here before but feel inspired to share it again.

I was speaking with a long time friend today, catching up on our lives and families. Stuff happens in our families and sometimes there is brokenness left undiscovered for decades.

I’ve been thinking about our conversation for most of the day and tonight remembered about this book that could be helpful in their situation. So, this is for my friend, to share as she sees fit.

It’s for you too (as reader) if this would be helpful in your life.

One more comment. I remember interpreting the title and certain phrases in the synopsis in a negative way.

Reality was nothing like my expectations. Supportive, kind, understanding, helpful; these are all words I would use to describe the experience. And, validation.

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Love Is a Choice: The Definitive Book on Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships

Amazon quote:

Let go of unhealthy relationships with the book that more than 850K people have trusted.

Best-selling doctors, Hemfelt, Minirth, and Meier, walk you through their ten proven stages to recovery from codependency that results from external circumstances.

Humans are susceptible to codependency because of our sinful tendency to use defense mechanisms to fool ourselves. In codependent relationships, deceitful games are played, and important Christian principles are often taken out of context and abused.

God wants us to have healthy relationships with a balance between being dependent and independent. The doctors describe how the most effective means of overcoming codependent relationships is to establish or deepen a relationship with Christ Himself.

They describe the causes of codependency, pointing out the factors that perpetuate it, and lead readers through their ten stages of recovery.

Continue a deeper study with the Love Is a Choice workbook, available separately.

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Read this prayerfully with a surrendered heart and mind. I say this because our defense mechanisms can have us locked up so tight that helpful thoughts cannot penetrate the armor we have going on. Work on wanting to know. Work on believing there is hope, and that you are worth so much more than what you’ve been told.