Category Archives: Emotions

Unexpressed emotions.

Buried

I believe this to be true 100%. It may not be true for everyone but in my experience, most people will trauma need to talk about what they went through before they are able to heal from it. I can not fairly speak for others so this blog will be my own experience. That said? I’ve heard the same thing over and over again.

In most of my therapy, there is a real unwillingness by psychiatrists or therapists to discuss what happened in any detail. Attention is given to the here and now with the goal of working on how the trauma affects you present day. I do agree with this for a certain amount of time. Safety needs to be established, trust needs to be created, supports need to be in place and perhaps a few other things before discussing the actual story takes place. This takes time. Sometimes a lot of time. Perhaps for many people the time to discuss the details just never arrives. They do not want to or just never feel ready. That is their own personal choice and I respect that.

The trouble for me began when I wanted my choice to be taken seriously. Keeping all my secrets buried inside of me led me to the edge of a huge cliff and I was hanging on by one small fingernail. My story had never been discussed, never been opened up for discussion… and never believed by anyone. I’d only ever been 0-24 when the bulk of my abuse happened. I’d tried reaching out but no one had ever heard me. Those who did hear me found ways to brush it all off or turn around and blame me for what happened. I’d given up and I’d remained silent for decades. That silence was nearly the death of me. Piece by piece. Day by day.

The first time I ever told my story as an adult was while I was in hospital. It nearly cracked my soul in half to tell even little parts of it and I felt like my mind would never find a way to get put back together. I felt so exposed and I assumed everyone could now see how dirty, disgusting and pathetic I really was.
As hard as those first days were, it was also the beginning of my healing.

My secrets began to feel the air and began to travel along beside me as a part of who I was rather than weighing me down like the rocks they had been before. My shame was heard and disputed. My guilt was seen and I was taught how to place it in the proper place. I learned that my story was just that. My story. It was not who I was.

After leaving the hospital, I had a psychiatrist whom was a very kind and helpful man. I know he cared but he didn’t really see me. He saw my mask. My Helpers came out to him but he didn’t know me well enough to realize it so he was never able to help them. We never really discussed anything in detail. We tried a couple of times to just scratch the surface but it was almost like he was afraid to upset me. I do not know if that is why he pulled back or not but I can think of no other reason.

I also had 2 therapists. One who never believed anything that I disclosed in the hospital because she was too busy writing copious amounts of notes and being totally ticked off that I had opened up while hospitalized and not while I was with her. Her only way to explain that? I was lying.
I will tell you know. She was another trauma. Just one more professional who wasn’t willing to really stop and look. If she added up my symptoms, my life, my triggers and fears? It all pointed to exactly what I’d been through.
Eventually I picked myself off the floor and never went back to her.

Another therapist was found and she worked alongside my psychiatrist. They both felt that it was better for me to stay with current day issues and deal with those rather than dig up the past. That is all well and great but guess what happened? My mask got better looking while my secrets started to find their way back in to my soul. One heavy rock at a time, they got in, settled down and grew larger. On the outside, everything was just great. On the inside? I was beginning to die again.

You see… these professionals had the best of intentions and I am sure they would be hurt if they knew they had caused me to just close back up and put my mask back on but that is what holding secrets does to you.
The things that bother me most today are deeply rooted in what happened years ago. I do not need to discuss it infinitum, but I do need for the back story to be known so the troubles of today can be worked on effectively. By being unwilling to go where I needed to go, their help was of no use. They were really great people and I liked them both but they were not helping me nor were they willing to hear me when I tried to tell them what I needed.

I finally found a trauma centre with trained trauma therapists and I am beginning to continue healing again now. We do not spend each session deep in the trenches of what happened in the past but when an issue comes up, we do look at where it began and how I processed it at the time. It is in that moment of my history that the damage occurred. I do not need to fix the spirit of the woman who I am today. I need to heal the young, confused, scared, helpless child who is still inside of me just waiting to be allowed to come out and once again walk alongside me rather than dragging me down.

I wrote a poem while in hospital about this and I will put it in its own post. I hope you’ll like it.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

A Tree

I moved 32 times (at least) before the age of 30.
Most people realize that moving that often can not be much fun but there is more to it than that. There are obvious disadvantages like always dealing with new schools, new friends, new rules, new people…

Then there are less obvious things that I have only really started to enjoy since I have lived in this house now for over 13 years.
When we moved here, we had only one healthy tree on the lot and it was at the side of the house that has no windows. We never see it. Since moving here we have over 25 tress planted and doing very well. Likely more but it is early spring and that was my rough count. 🙂
There is this one special tree and this is its short story…

We live in a rural area and our ditches are often filled with wildflowers and small trees. When they get too large, the transportation department will scoop it all out like it is garbage. For this reason, I have become somewhat of a tree saver and I go and dig some of the healthiest looking small trees out of the ditch and plant them in my yard to save them and to also enjoy them.

Many of these trees are now large enough for small birds to build nests or hide in, one is even producing really nice apples. I love them all.
There is one special tree though.
I spotted it in a ditch the first year that we lived here and my husband said it was beautiful but its roots were firmly gnarled up with large rocks and would be impossible to dig up without ruining the roots. I let it go but was disappointed as it was just so full and so beautiful even at 2-3 feet tall.
One day soon after, I saw my husband walking down the road towards the house with a shovel in one hand and my tree in the other! I was so, so, so pleased. We decided to plant it in the very centre of our front yard and we were so happy with this tiny fledgling tree. Sadly it had a horrible first year and looked almost dead but its second year proved that this little tree wanted to stay.

I am short (5’1″) but this tress was far shorter. I could not hang anything in it due to how small it was… but it began to grow.
A few years later it started to produce dogberries.
Not long after that we hung some small lights on it.
Eventually it was large enough to hang Christmas decorations off of.
These past few years it has been more than large enough to house 5 birdhouses and several bird-feeders.
I have some big plans for that tree this year with even more birdhouses and feeders.
Right now it is all still bald as spring is not even close to arriving in Newfoundland yet but I have been looking at my tree a lot lately.

When you move more than once a year and you never stay in one area, you never get to see a tree grow. A small tree is a small tree and a big tree is a big tree. You never see it any other way.
You certainly never see a tree go from a ditch to nearly dead in your yard, short and spindly to tall and beautiful.
I have now done that and it has been amazing.

I have watched trees grow, wildflowers take over a huge area, wild blueberry and strawberries start to appear, apples begin to form then get large enough to eat (in 4 bites). It feels amazing to be able to look at those apples and know that as each year passes, those apples will continue to get larger and I see a pie in my near future. Like 2 or 3 years “near” but I will still be here watching that tree grow.

Trees, berries, wildflowers and apples are not the only things that I have watched grow. I have watched relationships bloom, I’ve gotten to know every bend in the roads, I’ve made friends, gotten closer to my husband’s family, watched my children grow from little children in to young adults, and I’ve watched my own life ebb and flow within these walls. I am a part of a community now and people know me. I can not go to the mall without many hellos and even a few chats.

Just like my sweet tree, I have developed deeper roots as each year has passed.

This email feels a bit selfish and all about me but I wonder if perhaps it makes you look out at your yard and look at the gift of watching a tree grow just a bit differently? We are so fortunate to get to watch seasons change and feel that we have roots. It does not matter if you have a house or an apartment, maybe only a room but if you get to put roots down, it is a great gift.

It is just nice to start this new week with a sprinkling of gratefulness. Right?

Have a wonderful week and I will see you on Wednesday. 🙂

Dogberry

Helpers

What a week I’ve had here! How has yours been?
I have been very busy each day so I am grateful for a chance to sit down to write a blog and relax a bit. I hope you’ll enjoy sitting down for a bit while you read it.

I haven’t discussed the Helpers in quite some time because I’ve been going through a very uncertain time with them and felt it was time for that side of my life to be private for a while. I think we all needed it.

On Wednesday I was in to see my therapist and what a wacky session it was from my point of view. I’ll have to ask her how it was for her when I see her next week. I try very, very hard not to dissociate while there but at times it is impossible. Wednesday was just such a day. I arrived for my appointment feeling the anxiety of at least a dozen parts of myself. A man answered his phone in the waiting room and I nearly jumped out f my skin. Doesn’t everyone know that silence and complete stillness is a good thing? 😉

It wasn’t even just Wednesday. It’s been at least a week now of odd feelings and confusion that has not existed in a very long time. An urge to self harm, drink, drive off the road, say a hearty “F*** YOU” to anyone who was even looking at me. I guarantee you that these are not traits of mine alone. I know the Helpers that feel these ways and want these things. I do my best to give them what they need so that the destructive side of them will be calmed down and we can live life the way we have all chosen to live it. The trouble is that I am sometimes not in a good place to be giving much to them if I am having a hard time myself.
We have made it through the week without any “maladaptive” behaviours but I am quite frankly exhausted from holding it all back. Only 2 more really busy days and then a day off. A much-needed day off.

I have been working for the past few months to create some co-consciousness with my Helpers. If you are unfamiliar with that term (as I was until rather recently), co-consciousness is having awareness of another part and if all goes really well, working with that part/Helper to deal with issues together. It is not integration or becoming one. It is more like both being in the room at the same time. Some people seem to have this ability or skill right off the bat but for me? When my Helpers are out, I am not. I had no clue what they were up to. I am hoping that developing some co-consciousness will help us work together in a smoother fashion.

While at my appointment, my therapist seemed to know that it was not “Heather” who arrived at the appointment and she was partially right. I felt like I was there with a half-dozen others and all their feelings were all over the place. A little closer to the end of the appointment, she asked me how the little ones felt about her retirement in June. The adult Heather (me) has been taking it really well. Almost too well. When she asked how the little ones felt about it, I felt this overwhelming presence of the little ones. They did not take over but their obvious distress was felt full force by me. They/I began to cry and feel heartbroken. We were suddenly very little again. I felt them. Small, scared, heartbroken, wanting to be held and hugged, wanting a real mother, and such a huge amount of loss.

I take my therapy very seriously and I have promised myself to always be willing to go wherever I need to go for healing to take place. It does not matter how painful it is. I truly feel that things hurt more when left to fester inside and are worth the discomfort of allowing them to come out.
That said? On Wednesday? I wanted to beg my therapist to stop. It just hurt SO MUCH. I felt like I couldn’t possibly take it for even one more moment. I held on though and still feel like I was kicked in the gut.

I am sorry if todays blog is a bit disjointed but I am dealing with a lot of Helpers still today. Co-consciousness is my goal but getting there is going to be a very bumpy road. I’d actually love to hear from others who have either tried to develop this skill, already have it and how you control it, or those whom support others through it. Do you have any advice for me? Tips and tricks that could help me or others whom read my blog?

I really hope that you have a great weekend and I think that next week I am going to try to let a few of the Helpers lead the blog for that day. Who knows? It might even happen. *laugh*

As a parting note. For those of you whom are newer to my blog, I wanted to post the quote that gave me the inspiration to call my other parts “Helpers”. A positive quote and a positive connotation for my Helpers. Helpers

 

Believing in what you do.

I had the strangest weekend.
I was in 2 art shows with my Tangled Art and not only did I sell absolutely nothing but most people did not even bother to look at my table.
Considering that my past couple of weeks were tough and I had to make some hard choices, adding a couple of crappy shows to the mix left me wondering why I even bother.
Yeah, yeah… I know. Think positive. 😉
Normally I do but so many “bumps” had knocked me a bit.

So why do I do what I do?
I do both of my ventures (writing this blog and the Tangled Art business) for the exact same reason. I love it. When I am writing in here, I can say what I wish to say, express things that I normally do not have the ability to express, and when all the stars line up perfectly? Get an email or a message saying that I touched someone with what I wrote. Maybe I can even be that one tiny bit of light that someone needs when they are where I was a few short years ago. I recall how dark it was yet that tiny bit of light made all the difference in the world.
My art offers me the same sort of reach in many ways because I like to work off of meaningful quotes and ideals that seem to touch my heart and often the hearts of others.
So I do what I do for love in the end.

Being creative is also an excellent tool to use to improve your mental well-being. Even for those who declare that they can’t do ANYTHING, can often find something that speaks to them and allows the world to quiet down and stop spinning so quickly even for a short time.

So now thanks to a whole weekend of sitting at craft fairs, I am feeling zapped for energy and this blog today will be a tad short. I thought that I would share a few of my favourite new “Tangles” with you as they really mean a lot to me.

Kind Words Copy

Scan Puddles Copy

Angel Paws Copy

Until... Copy

If you are interested in purchasing any of these, just let me know.

To see any other work that I’ve done, feel free to look at…
Heather’s Tangled Art Website

Have a fantastic week!!!!!

Stop and look…

I have something that I have been doing for the past few years and it makes a HUGE difference in my life. I suppose I have danced around the behavior many times but I’ve never done a blog on it. So here it goes. 🙂

When we are in recovery or even in the most stables of lives, we make constant changes and decisions. We learn. We move forwards, we fall backwards. We feel great and then horrible. We work hard and do a great job working on a task then it doesn’t work out. That is life. Up, down and all around.

I don’t know about you but for me? Recovery and wellness seem to take a LOT of work and each time that I reach a goal, the list of goals still yet to achieve seems to grow longer rather than shorter.
So here is what I started doing 3 years ago while hospitalized. I can not take credit for this. It was taught to me and I am very grateful for this lesson. Mind you, in all truth, this whole blog is about what I learned. 🙂

I was encouraged to make an “Accomplishment List”. Each time I felt that I had done something well, learned something new, made some good choices, or anything else that was a step forward in my mind, was to be written on this list. I know a lot of people who didn’t bother doing it and even more who stopped doing it after leaving the program but I have found it is immeasurably important to do on a constant basis.
I also stop and take time to look over how far I have come every once in a while. I ignore the work yet to be done and forget about the future as a whole. I take that piece of time to just pay attention to the right now. Today. This moment in time.

I do not do this on a schedule. I actually find that I like to do it after I have gone through a really rough time. It is nice to stop and think about how much better I handled it, how I felt more at ease… whatever.
I really like doing this with my therapist, a friend, my hubby, quite frankly, anyone who will listen to me because it is so easy to only report the negative to all of those people. It is an easy habit to fall in to. Sharing complaints only. It is nice to stop and say “Look how much better I am doing!”

I just went through a really hard anniversary, I’ve been ill with 8 infections and used 12 prescriptions to solve the issue since January 10th (and I am normally healthy as can be), my birth father sank to new lows, a good friend stopped contacting me, and a few other thing. I ended up falling in to a deeper depression than I have in quite some time. BUT… this is where my “Accomplishment List” comes in…

While dealing with all these things, I did not go silent which I normally do. I can write anything at all but actually opening up and speaking when times are tough has not been my strong suit. In the past few months I HAVE reached out. I told my husband why I was feeling down and admitted that I was having a hard time. I talked to a couple of friends and brought the tough stuff to my therapist.
I stayed on top of each infection as it happened and even though I got really fed up with it all, I just moved forwards each day.
I also set a couple of HUGE boundaries in my life which were very stressful because there was a lot of emotion involved in both decisions but after making them and respecting myself, I started to feel much better.
There is even more than this but I’ve been “braggy” enough already. 🙂
It just feels really good sometimes to stop and look at the changes you have made.

Do you keep a list of the positive things that you do in your life?
This list need not be huge things.

  • If you find it hard to get out of bed each day but do it anyways? That should go on your list!
  • If you manage to make a healthy meal 5 days out of 7?
  • Keep a boundary or set a good one?
  • Still alive even though you had days where you didn’t want to be?
  • Start a new healthy habit?
  • Take time for yourself?
  • Have another day, week or month sober? (I am 17 years in yet I still celebrate it as an accomplishment.)
  • Find time to create/write/sing…?
  • Deal with a tough subject.
  • Go through a hard time and manage to avoid doing what you usually do? Maybe you reached out this time? Tried something new?

Your list can be the smallest of efforts to the grandest of gestures. The important thing is just to stop and look at where you were a few months ago and how far you have come. Even tiny changes add up over time so you may suddenly be in a situation that would have crushed you a year ago but now you deal with it better than you expected to. Stop and congratulate yourself. You are making progress.

I hope you will try doing this for a while and let me know how it goes.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Web

Value Your Survival Skills

Value

It can be really tough to look at the symptoms that are caused by whichever disorder we’ve been burdened with and feel thankful. Who would feel thankful for dissociations, unexplained body pain that never ceases yet a mind that feels nothing? Anger, depressions, anxiety, feeling absolutely crazy, and afraid to make friends or trust anyone at all. There are so many different symptoms that I just can not cover them all but you know what you deal with and it really sucks doesn’t it?

So let’s look back a bit to the time when those behaviors were not symptoms yet.
Back to a time when they are what helped us survive.
They were not symptoms then, they were SKILLS.
We needed them. Quite often they saved our lives.

Any good therapist or doctor will tell you that although these skills were useful in the past, they are not helping us now. We know that but we need to be taught how to cope without using them.

It is in that in-between time that we often feel very critical of ourselves.
Why can’t we feel things?
Why can’t we trust someone who we know is trustworthy?
Why do I struggle with addiction? (Food, alcohol, drugs, sex…)
Why do I hurt myself to feel better?
Why do we feel such anger that it is more like a venomous rage?
Why do we then feel nothing?
Why do we eat so much or so little?
Why can’t we stop zoning out?
Why are we depressed when everything seems to be going well?
Why are we so anxious that it can be hard to leave home?
Why do we say or do things to cause distance with others?
We can often feel dead inside. Why can’t we feel?
Why do we want to be alone yet feel shunned?
What the heck is wrong with us?
Why can’t we just be “normal”?

Those questions haunt so many of us and I am sure you can relate to at least a few. It feels awful to be stuck where we do not want to be. It is very easy to be unhappy with ourselves and we want to do better but it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of time to change.

Maybe we can do something a little different when we feel like being hard on ourselves for our now dysfunctional coping.
Perhaps we can look at these “symptoms” and see that they were not born out of weakness but rather born our of the will to survive. We are not weak or frigged up because of them. These symptoms just show how incredibly resilient we were.  We made it through all that we dealt with thanks to those skills.

We also know that we need to work towards healthier coping skills in our lives now but I find that making steps forward is a lot easier when we stop putting ourselves down for who we are at that moment.
Accept yourself for who you are and where you are. You are a survivor. Nothing less. You are strong and good and kind. The people who’ve been hurt the most almost always are.

You will change in time. You will make healthier choices and move forward in positive ways. Allow yourself to accept who you are right now and that change will happen faster.

I learned to value my skills and it changed my life. I had more compassion for myself. I was no longer sorry for how I acted or felt. I had every good reason to be exactly where I was. Any person who lived through my life would do no better.
Maya Angelou said “When you know better, you do better.”
Wherever you are right now is the best you can do. As you learn? You can do more.
Maya Angelou also said “When you learn. Teach.”
One day you will be in a place where others will look at you and learn from your climb.

You survived. However you achieved that? Good for you!!!

Shame vs. Guilt in Trauma

I love Brene Brown and I know many of you do as well. I am not positive if she was actually the first person to say this because I heard it long before she came along but it seems she is getting credit for it. Who am I to argue? This quote means a lot to me and a lot to my recovery. ShameI am sure you just read the quote but did you really allow it to sink in?

Trauma is a secret for many reasons but a big one that keeps so many people quiet is the shame we feel. I recall going in to hospital and telling my nurse what a gross, disgusting, pathetic, useless human being I was. I felt and believed that I was dirty and if anyone knew my secrets, they would find that out about me and feel that way too. I really believed that. Hook, line, and sinker.
Taking on personal responsibility for the things that had happened to me seemed right. I know I am not alone here. Not even close to alone. There is a huge percentage of the “trauma” population that carry personal guilt for things that they do not need to feel guilt over.

For me personally, it looked like this…
I should have told more people.
I should have reached out in another way.
I should have known better.
I should have run away.
I should have screamed.
I was weak.
I thought he/she loved me.
Sometimes I liked it.
I am just imagining these things.
I am gross.
I am not trustworthy.
If it really happened, I’d feel emotional about it.
I am nothing but a piece of cement. Cold and heartless.
I don’t cry therefore I must have wanted it in some way.
The list is endless but if it was negative and I could take it personally? I did.

It took me a long time to really understand that I did not own any of that shame. Even now that I know better, I still have times where I revert to that old thinking and question if it really was ME that was the problem. Honestly? After a rough week last week? I am questioning myself about it today. Don’t worry though. I know better in my head. My brain just needs a bit longer to get through to my heart. Hopefully one day I won’t even need a moment before that happens. I believe I can get there. Eventually.

Did I own the shame that I carried with me? Do you?
Did I cause the abuse? Did you?
Was I old enough or prepared to deal with what happened? Were you?
Am I the dirty, gross, disgusting one? Are you?

If you said yes to any of those? That is shame talking.
It is the voice of the abuser(s) revolving inside your head. Even if they never used those words, they are the ones that planted the seed in your heart saying that everything only happened because you wanted or deserved it in some way.
Shame is that part of you that says to yourself “I am wrong. I am unworthy. I am to blame. I am gross.” Shame is when you think to yourself that you are the one in the wrong. Without your gross self, this would have never happened.
But is that true?

If you and your shame were not in the picture, would that abuse not have happened? Would no other little girl, little boy, man or woman have been abused instead? Was it really YOU personally or was it a victim they wanted?
My abuse began at home and when either of your parents or any siblings are involved, It is hard to not take it personally but once again you need to ask yourself… if another baby boy or baby girl had been born, would they have fared any better? The answer is no.

Guilt is far easier to deal with in my opinion. Once you remove shame, guilt is just the stuff that you actually cause. Today. As an adult. Not something you did when you were knee-high to a grasshopper. Or worse? A teenager. 😉 You have to let that crap go. You were a kid and kids do dumb things.

As an adult? We feel guilty and rightly so when we do harm to someone else. Telling lies, presenting yourself as someone you are not, stealing, cheating, being an arsehole, saying something hurtful… the list is long but if you are trying to be a good person, you will not be doing these things all the time. They will happen once in a while. You need to feel badly, admit that you feel badly, ask for forgiveness, and then allow yourself to move past it. Feeling guilty is a good thing during these times. It shows you and the world that you do not taking harming anyone in any way lightly That you are a good person despite your mess-ups which we all have.

A friend of mine posted this to Facebook while I was writing this and it is so good as an addition to this blog. Thanks Debbie!
Have a good Monday, a great week and try… try very hard to start putting shame where it belongs. Do you know where that is???
It belong on the person who caused the shame in the first place. The abuser. That is where it belongs.

Shame2