Over feeling constricted and playing by the rules, my knee took the wheel. I pulled each strap through my shirt sleeves as I’ve done since changing for gym class. I unclasped and sent it flapping and flying out the window. And then, the longest sigh of freedom.
We are so excited to offer a chance to win a free (paperback) copy of the Trigger Points Anthology!
Already have a copy of your own? Enter anyway!! You can donate your copy to someone who may benefit from connecting with other parenting-survivors, or donate it to a local organization that assist people in recovery i.e. mental health clinic, domestic violence shelter, child and family services, church, etc.
Entering to win is simple. Just click on the Enter Giveaway link below. Easy Peasy.
So many can benefit from this book (many of which you may not even realize), so be sure to share our giveaway on social media. We absolutely appreciate your support.
You’re not going to want to miss what we have in store for the month of February! The Survivors Empowering Survivors series is shaping up to be no less than awe-inspiring.
Here’s a sneak peek at just a few of the survivors you’ll be hearing from:
Amy Oestreicher – A PTSD peer-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for The Huffington Post, award-winning health advocate, actress and playwright. As a survivor and “thriver” of nearly 30 surgeries, a coma, sexual abuse, organ failure and a decade of medical trauma, Amy has been challenged with and continues to overcome extreme circumstances she calls life’s detours.
Byron Hamel – An award-winning Canadian journalist, television producer, author and blogger at Trauma Dad. Despite being raised by a violent man who got the death penalty for torturing and killing a baby, Byron is a loving father dedicated to fighting child abuse and empowering others to heal.
Learning how to tune in, and not check out, is vital to healing. Whether it be a loss, trauma, a negative experience or just a bad day, your own willingness to heal, learn and evolve is the most potent drug on the market.
I still have a lot to learn on this journey of healing, but I’ve learned a lot along the way. I have to remind myself often that “Every tool is a weapon, if you hold it right”. So for my sake and for those on this journey to heal with me, I’m going to put my own arsenal on display, as a reminder to myself how far I’ve come, and in hopes of helping others on the path they too are walking.
Our minds come with dead bolts, that can only be unlocked once we feel safe. This is grace, but it doesn’t always feel that way. On a day when you feel “put together”, you can fall apart. At unexplainable times of simple happiness, darkness can flood from your pores. It’s frustrating, but no accident. It is not a sign that you are broken or weak. It’s confirmation that you are stronger than you were yesterday. Only when the mind feels you can handle what is behind the locked door, will it allow you to experience it.
Distraction from ourselves is the false art of healing. But it is what so many of us use as a defense mechanism. Whether it be with work, kids, chores, substances or taking on the responsibility of solving everyone else’s problems. We are conditioned to use any and everything to keep our inner most truths and triggers on mute. There is power and control in coasting, but there is liberation in awareness. It just hurts more. It’s hard to be quiet and sometimes impossible to be still. Many crave both, but once gifted with it, will shut down as if allergic to it. There is protection in busyness, because a quiet mind leaves one vulnerable to self reflection. By tuning out what we are really feeling, we are denying the opportunity to heal. Tune In!
Stigma is a powerful defense against self care. It’s the hand that feeds shame. No one is immune to it’s crushing depth, even those trained to combat it. The stigma (others seeing you as living in the past, wanting attention, not strong enough, etc) that keeps us from speaking up and reaching out, is one more hurdle to fight. The good news is there is a powerful tool one can use to fight this fight. It’s your voice. You may have to go searching for it, and it may shake a little (or a lot) at first. When you first begin to speak your truths, the stigma you feel will sting like dirt on an open wound. It’s worth it. The more you speak about what was done to you, empowerment will begin to override the pain. You will find strength in your vulnerability, if you work at sharpening the tool you already own.
There is a specific alley of healing that most walk down. I call it check-out alley. To some, myself included, intoxication is key to checking out. It’s a way to create a different version of yourself. A version where the “real” you leads, and the “broken” you gets to take the back seat for once. At the tale end of a buzz, greed and despair become one. Self medicating leaves one with a vacancy of pain. A temporary relief disguised as bliss. The ease of life and laughter flowing through my viens when I check out is a survivors false paradise. But false is exactly what it is. If we don’t figure out a way to get to that state of mind, without first walking through check-out alley, healing will never be an option. Knowing this is the easy part, avoiding that avenue is something I am still working on.
Triggers are the windows to the pieces of us that still need healing. A trigger can be a smell, song, touch, scene in a movie, hearing a certain name…really anything that your mind associates with personal experiences. When we are triggered, our brains go into “loop” mode. Our body re-experiences the feelings, both emotionally and physically, of a moment in our past. These are moments worth inspecting. The only way to deactivate the trigger is to ask ourselves, why did that moment make me feel like I want to cry, punch something, run away, freeze, etc? Healing begins when we are able to recognize those moments and answer they whys.
Healing is a mind and body experience. I’ve worked in the field of mental health for almost ten years. In the trenches, always hands on with the population I am serving. I read countless charts, observe a vast array of dysfunctional behaviors and thought processes, empathically experience peoples stories and see many highs and lows on the path of recovery. I have witnessed the body as the mind’s canvas. People wear their stories and traumas. I observe, both personally and in my line of work, how making the connection to patterns of behaviors and thoughts can lead to physical healing. If we don’t accept that what happened to us affects the way we act and feel, the negative energies we harvest will manifest as illness. Often times unexplainably. There are consequences when we ignore the signs. No differently than having “just one more drink”, when we are having a good time. If we ignore that little voice and our already unsteady feet, we will get sick. It’s that simple, but never easy.
Reaching out, will lift you up. As much as we want to “do it on our own”, and prove to ourselves that we are stronger than what is holding us down, we can’t. I’ve fallen face first on the pavement many times trying to convince myself that I can succeed on this journey alone. There needs to be equal parts insight and willingness to learn from others. Find your tribe and use them. The people in your life, whether it be professionals, family, friends or someone you just met, all have something unique to offer you on your journey. Connection to those that share your experience, or are vested in seeing you smile are vital pieces to getting through the maze. Use them.
We are all faced with unfortunate experiences in our lives, whether they are horrific acts against us, unfortunate events that happen to us or because of poor decisions we or someone else makes. Regardless of the root of the pain, we need to be able to use the tools we all possess to move forward. It’s not a matter of living in the past, but rather being vulnerable enough to investigate our past, to improve our future.
Writers write to figure things out, whether that be a plot pestering them like a swarm of summertime mosquitoes, or a personal glitch that is eating away at their spirit. If they don’t map it out with words, that energy manifests in an array of negative ways. I believe the confirmation that one is in fact a writer, comes from experiencing and accepting the neuroses one suffers when she doesn’t write.
When I first began blogging, I posted nearly every day for a year. My brain and my fingers were on fire. I equated writing with being in the midst of a heated love affair. I could whip out a completed post within a two hour nap period, and I was beyond frustrated if I didn’t. I felt like I had so much to say, about everything. I easily captured my reactions to life around me and shaped them in to words with a fury.
My circumstances have changed. I am no longer in a position to have a block of time (nap time) available to me to write, nor do I have a desire to write about every idea that catches my attention. I’m back to working full time and I just feel like I have less to say. It’s different now. The high has faded. But that isn’t such a bad thing.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been coming down pretty hard on myself, because I can’t seem to finish a single post I start. I started feeling down and defeated. And then…Boom! Life turned the volume up and the whispers became full blown shouting. The question, or answer rather, became clear–Why am I punishing myself for something I don’t have to do in the first place? I realized that I can’t finish anything I start because I’m not really vested in what it is I am trying to say. It’s not that I don’t want to write. I just needed to reassess why I write and what it is that I want to write about.
Ever since I wrote A Borrowed Identity, the main character Alice has been my mosquito. I daydream about her and something is nagging at me to tell her story–who she was before she left her family, and what happened after. I don’t know where this new pull will lead me, but I know I can’t pretend that it isn’t there.
I’ve stalled long enough. Enough with the excuses and self doubt. It’s time to crawl out of my comfort zone (once again!) and let this story brewing inside my big beautiful brain come to life. I owe it to Alice and I owe it to myself.
I’ve accomplished something that I didn’t even realize I was reaching for when I started this blog–confidence. I know now that writing is more than just something I’m pretty good at. It’s my gift. More than the actual art of writing, I feel that the real gift has been learning to channel my journey through the pen. It’s my way of sending humor and truth and compassion out in to the universe that benefits not only myself, but others as well.
But there is more to this. There is more to writing than using it as a therapeutic tool for self investigation and reflecting with humor. My imagination is trumping all else lately. I’m seeing plots and twists and turns everywhere I look. When I lie down to sleep or begin my almost hour long commute home from work, these ideas are colliding. It’s time for me to start putting pen to paper and focus on where this story is trying to take me. My lifelong love of reading, journaling, and eventually blogging…it’s all led me here.
I am going to write a book. There…I said it out loud. Instead of my usual “some day” answer, I’m going to put one letter in front of another and start bringing the pages of Alice’s story to life. This blog will continue to be an outlet for me to write about sometimes funny, sometimes deep thoughts, but my focus has changed. My priority will be sorting out the story that is holding my imagination hostage, and completing the Trigger Points anthology that Joyelle and I have dumped our hearts and souls in to creating.
This is all very scary to me, but a good kind of scary. I mean I have absolutely no idea what I am doing, but I’m ok with that. It’s exciting. I just keep reminding myself that getting started is the hardest part, and I’m finally ready to take that step. I champion the idea of doing what scares you. It’s time to practice what I preach.
It’s time for me to just take a deep breathe, permit my imagination to take over…and write.
Why does my heart feel like it’s going to beat right out of my chest? I swear I feel almost naseous right now. Ok, get a grip and just make the call.
“Good afternoon, Thank you for calling STS. How can I help you?”
“Hi. May I please speak with Barbara?”
“Sure. Can I ask who’s calling?”
“Yes. My name is Dawn and I’m calling to follow up on a job offer.”
“Oh yes, I remember you! Let me get Barb for ya.”
Ok. Now I feel like I’m about to cry. What the hell is wrong with me?
“Hi, Dawn! It’s so nice to hear from you. What can I do for you?”
“Hi, Barbara. I’m excited to let you know I’ve decided to accept the position offered and join your team at STS.”
As I hung up the phone, it hit me. These weren’t the regular rattled nerves I get when I have to make an important phone call. My body was freaking out, because my mind was processing what this phone call really meant. My time being a stay at home mom is over. This is so incredibly bittersweet for me.
I’m ready. I am tired of struggling financially. Surviving on one middle class income is next to impossible, and that is a fucking shame. Seriously. It can be done, but the constant stress involved just became too much for me. That kind of stress affects everything and everyone. At times, it put a strain on my relationship that has never been felt before. I can’t live like that, especially when I don’t have to. Money is evil. What’s even more evil is when there isn’t enough of that shit. I get that more now than ever before in my life.
I am more than only a parent. I want my children to understand and witness that. I want them to see me not only contributing financially to our family, but more so, I want them to know what I am capable of. I work in the field of helping people because my heart is in it, which makes me good at it. I want to use my gifts for a purpose greater than a financial reward, and I want to model that for both of my children. My kids will know and understand they are my heart, even if I’m not standing right next to them all day.
I have been given the gift of time over the past two years. Time to be busy with things that really matter to me. We all do things in our jobs that matter, but it ultimately benefits someone else’s interests. I’ve had freedom to invest my time in my family and myself. I’ll forever be grateful for that. I’ve had the opportunity to be around for the good stuff–little man’s ‘just because’ cuddles, philosophical and/or ridiculous kid conversation in the middle of the day, putting the sassy one on the school bus and being home when her school day ends. I’ll miss that. Terribly.
Even though there have been days I am convinced I’m screwing my children up, I like that I am the one doing it. Nobody will take care of, teach and love my children the way I do. I absolutely do not want someone else in charge of all that for 8+ hours out of the day, but there is not middle ground to walk on with this situation.
My oldest daughter went to daycare for the first three years of her life and she is thriving. It’s not that I believe any less will be true for my son, but it’s different this time around. I’m all he knows. I know no one is going to sing him My Little Sunshine at nap time like I have done for the past two years. Call me a wuss, but that stings a little. Actually, it hurts like hell.
What I know now…
I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I know now what I want to do in the mean time. Live. Authentically live. Being home with my kids over the past two years and creating this blog has given me the insight and experiences to help me do just that. Not that I didn’t live a fulfilling life before, but until now, I had baggage that constantly sat heavy on my heart. The baggage isn’t gone, but put away in a room that I am more confident exploring it in. Finally, my story will help me move forward, not continue to anchor me in heartache.
I have learned that I can be both vulnerable and empowered. Any mom will tell you that being around a reflection of yourself all day will certainly strip you down, and hold your ego accountable. And like raising kids, you can’t run from yourself if you’re going to write. Being Momma full time and reconnecting with the pen has taught me to finally stop running. I needed that lesson.
I’m really a ball of emotion, as my last few weeks in SAHMville come to an end. I’m starting to notice little things that I know I’ll miss, and new or familiar things I’m looking forward to experiencing. I’m trying to stay positive and open about what this new chapter will bring. If nothing else, having the opportunity to be a SAHM has taught me to just let life happen. And that is exactly what I intend to do.
So our initial deadline has passed, and we want to thank everyone who has sent in their submissions for your bravery and your trust in us. Dawn and I have been looking through the submissions, and we have been talking about our vision for this project as a whole. We have decided on a few changes that we want to make, so here is what we are thinking at this point:
1. We are extending the deadline for submissions to May 31
We are still looking for more diversity in our submissions, and especially would like to see some submissions from Dads. So we are going to keep working to spread the word, and if you can help us with that, please let us know.For those who submitted by the Jan 31 deadline, we will still be getting back to you by March 31 to let you know if your…
One knows that if she touches a hot burner, she will get burned. I have learned the same to be true when exposing myself to certain people or events. If I don’t filter my awareness and connections, I feel the consequences for days. My skin mimics an adhesive fabric. Other’s energy, positive and negative, cling to me. This is both a blessing and a curse.
Nothing explains this better than my relationship with the media. Especially lately. On the local scene, we have had two separate stories of children being murdered. On the larger screen, there have been lives taken, possibly without justifiable cause, and a constant flow of stories covering the “exciting” rape culture we live in. I see the headlines, and then I have to make a conscious decision to look the other way. It’s not out of ignorance or a lack of concern for the world we live in, but in respect to my personal being. Like the burn left on one’s finger after barely touching the hot stove, if my eyes linger on these stories, I’m left with a broken spirit that I am not always capable of mending.
I have to use my gift of empathy wisely. Allowing too much grief in or giving to much of myself to others is equivalent to an addict ingesting one too many pills. It can leave me unresponsive or afloat in chaos. If I don’t remain anchored to the ground, my bare feet connected to the dirt, I get lost. I become unfamiliar to even myself. For introverted and highly sensitive people, learning to give of themselves but also having the ability to hold on to enough of their own energy is an art.
I recharge in stillness. I need solitude like I need air. Without it, I suffocate. Turning inward is what allows me to process and expel the energy that is constantly built up inside me. Even knowing what I need, it is never easy to obtain as a mother to two small children and a present partner to my husband. Finding that balance feels elusive at times. But I know I have to ask those around me to give me what I need or we all suffer. If I don’t put the mask on first, how will I be strong enough to keep my family safe, happy and healthy.
It’s more than “needing a break”. Quiet and time without distraction has medicinal effects for me. “Me time” is a length of time where the TV is off, I am alone, social media is not within arms length and I sit with myself. Most of the time I write. Sometimes with intention but a lot of times I try to write without purpose. Letting unobstructed thoughts pour out of my fingers is like searching through a treasure chest. Some finds are golden, some are just fillers. It usually leads me somewhere eventually, but I don’t always understand it at the time.
I am at my freest state of mind when I am outdoors. While most people hike in the woods they tend to look up and out at their beautiful surroundings. My eyes tend to gaze towards the ground. Towards the roots I am navigating over. The connectivety of these viens center me. They are reminders that nothing is without some sort of connection to something else. I’m drawn to trees that jut and twist, that seem to grow in spite of natural form. As I have. Some stand at the foot of the ocean and gasp at the greatness of it all. I relish in watching small waves run in to each other, forming larger, more massive collections of water–rising taller and building strength. I see the ocean as the parts that make it a whole.
I truly feel like I am in a sweet spot in life. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that this is the good stuff because it isn’t always easy. But it’s what matters. Figuring out who we are and how to cultivate our lives built on our God given strengths is our purpose. This past year has been incredibly transformative for me. I’ve learned more about myself than ever before. I’ve become less afraid of looking inward and the rewards have left me gratefully grounded. Now is my time to take what I have come to know for sure and just let life lead.