Don't take life too serious., Life can be serious business.

What I Know for Sure About the Healing Journey.

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.

We all have what it takes.
We all have what it takes.

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.

Life can be serious business.

Silent Roots.

My family tree is not tall nor strong, but gnarly, with roots that weave, bend and hide. There are blank pages and missing words in my heritage. And now, there is no one left to fill in the gaps or unearth the secrets.

I learned last night that my uncle, my mom’s brother, died back in January. I never knew him. Yet, I felt oddly stricken at hearing he was dead.

family roots

They’re all gone.

I never met my grandmother. I believe I was around the age of four when she died. All I really know about her is that she had her first child, my mom, at the age of 14, and she was a respiratory therapist that died of lung cancer in her 40’s.

Only a few years after that, her youngest son committed suicide. A son, brother, uncle, husband and father to four young children. He was 35. The same age as his youngest daughter is now.

Fast forward to 1995. I’m 14 years old. After a young lifetime of day dreaming what it would be like to have a mom that didn’t disappear– a “normal” mom, I got to live with my mother for the first time since I was two. She was finally of sound mind and heart. But her story began to lie too heavy on her chest. She died of lung cancer a year and a half later. She was 46.

I was 17 when my grandfather died. I arrived in Florida after his funeral. I have a bullet shell from the 3-volley salute he was honored with at his funeral. Other than him being in the navy, being an avid outdoorsman and a talented saxophone player, I know nothing about him. He was 67 when he died.

And now, the last son and only remaining member of that family of five is gone. He was 62. He had no family near him. No one knew where he was. Nor did any one go looking. From what I know, he was often times delusional and only reached out when he needed money. Last anyone heard from him, he claimed he was working for NASA.

Dissolution of the chase.

My uncle’s death has hit me hard. Not because I was ever emotionally attached to him, but because he was the last one. I don’t believe he could have ever filled the hundreds of missing pages from this family’s story, but knowing there is no longer a living connection to them–it’s sad. It hurts. There was so much pain wrapped up in the short time they all got to live. Alcoholism, physical abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, mental illness, domestic abuse, and eventually failing hearts and bodies.

Our identity is more that who and where we come from, but it’s a part of it none-the-less. The lack of connection I have to either side of my family, especially the maternal side, causes me a lot of grief. I’ve tried to put pieces together for years, in hopes of “solving” the mystery. In hopes of understanding where the pain originated, why it manifested it’s ugly face with abuse, broken lives, mental illness, aching souls and young deaths.

Our fate is not bound by the legacy of our families, but a level of understanding who they are and what contributed to the choices they made, offers a degree of insight I’ve craved most my life. My uncle’s death sent my wheels spinning yet again, with this mission at the forefront of my brain. I feel, at times, addicted to the chase. As if some day, I’m going to stumble upon a record or piece of information that is going to make it all make sense.

I’m starting to learn that my pursuit for a linear family picture, is just a way to avoid processing the grief I carry. The particulars don’t matter. I’m probably better off not knowing anymore details than the few I have learned. The option to connect the dots, is not really an option at all. The story is as broken as the people within it, and I need to accept that. That is difficult to come to terms with, but necessary.

Change of shift.

I think my determination to investigate my family has always been fueled with love, fear and sadness. Love for a family I crave, fear of becoming like the family I am a part of and sadness that their story can’t be told. I don’t know that my curiosity will ever dissipate, but my focus is shifting.

The shift is in how I view my family–that gnarly tree with roots that bend, weave and hide. I’m coming closer to an understanding that I don’t need to prove anything, or make excuses for their choices with explanations. Searching for reason will not change history or prevent history from repeating itself, nor will it avoid predisposed genes from running wild. Only I, and the other children of this broken family can do that. We can both honor our family and grieve them by turning the focus to the roots we are responsible for lying down.

It’s time for me to accept the pieces I know, honor the few stories that can be told and allow my grief to help me move forward.

Life can be serious business.

A Loss That Lent Itself to Life.

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Grief is such a peculiar emotion. It is ever present and takes many different forms and tones. Time doesn’t heal it, only changes it. It’s a wound that scabs but never scars. I lost my mother 18 years ago today. And now, I am pondering if that heart wrenching loss is what ultimate gave me life.

This anniversary creeps up on me every year and every year I experience it differently. This year I feel like I’m running from it. Twice today (so far) I’ve fought back tears. Instead of just letting the grief out, I pushed it to the side. A “not now” moment. As I was making lunch for my son, he decided it would be a good idea to climb on his little table so that he could stand on the four inch window sill. As I was telling him to “Get your crazy butt down, you’re going to get hurt!”, he fell. I dropped the peanut butter jar and ran to scoop him up.

As I sat holding my baby boy, he stopped crying pretty quickly but seemed to tighten his grip around my neck. He nuzzled his head in to that perfect nook between my head and shoulder and just hugged me. It’s like he knew. He knew I was the one that really needed to be held. He gave me permission to feel my own hurt and I couldn’t hold back the tears pooling in my eyes. He didn’t even budge as I squeezed him harder, cried and rocked to soothe us both.

Eighteen years ago I lost my mom to cancer but since birth, I never really had her. My grief is deeper than the physical loss of her body. It is a loss of her presence in my life. My grief is shaped around a hole that a constant maternal love never filled. Her name, Constance, is incredibly ironic for that reason. For reasons that I will never truly understand, my mother wasn’t able to fill the role of mom to me. Drugs, alcohol and mental illness all played a part in that, but I know there was more than just those at play. I know there was a hole in her own heart, I just don’t know why.

wpid-img_20150108_153948554.jpgI only know what I know and that is that out of three children my grandparents raised, one committed suicide, one stepped out on her family and even reality at times and the other is living a life so full of dysfunction no one wants him within a ten foot radius. I’m not mad at the grandparents I never knew or my mother. I can look at myself and my own siblings and understand the power of being born with resilience. She, unfortunately, just didn’t get that gene. My mom was a survivor, but never knew which fights were worth fighting for.

My grief has changed over the years. Reaching milestones like graduating highschool and college and getting married shaped it and caused me to miss her in many different ways. Nothing has molded my grief more than having children of my own. Becoming a motherless mom. Raising them, being present in their lives, understanding the importance of being a role model, planting empowering seeds and even letting them see me fall — all of these things trigger grief and love and heartache and hope. It all stems from the relationship, or lack thereof, with my own mother. The anniversary of my mother’s death brings all that to the front of my heart and mine. I was 15 when she died. No where near old enough to become her friend yet, but ready to finally get to know her. It was a place in time that it could have finally been possible, had fucking cancer not taken her away from me.

Time doesn’t make grief easier. It only changes it. Sometimes, it can even make it harder. Time offers growth. Growth forces you to look at the events that have played out in your life, and face the connections that they created.

The string of events, including Mom’s diagnosis of cancer played a part in my removal from a toxic, abusive situation. Her sickness, may have in fact, been my saving grace. It put her in a stable environment and gave my guardian an excuse to send me away, to Mom, after I disclosed her husband had been sexually abusing me for the past eight years. Off I went, to live with my mother for the first time since I was two years old. Thankfully, my sister (who is 12 years older than me) was a part of this plot. She was the rock in my mother’s life at that time and she soon became mine.

When Mom died, my sister was left to raise me. A lost and very damaged 15 year old girl. That end result, however sad and difficult as it was for both of us, set the foundation for the blessed life I have today. I sometimes wonder, in my mother death, was I given the chance to finally live? As I type that out loud, my stomach is twisting, my heart is racing and my mind is truly overwhelmed. It’s a thought I can’t bear to keep but can’t seem to erase.

Perhaps it is the craziest and most cruel thought I have ever had, but it is the only sense I can make of her death, and the cruel timing in which it happened. They say everything happens for a reason and I fucking hate that saying to be honest with you. Even so, I can’t help but feel that her death is connected to an act of love. The kind of love only a mother can have for her children. A love that I didn’t understand then, but do now.

Today, at 33 years old, I sit in silence and let my fingers work through my grief. It will continue to wear many faces today. I will continue to have moments of strength and moments of raw heartache. My grief, a scab that feels ripped open, that hurts and heals me, has once again transformed. I know it will continue to do so. As does my acceptance and understanding of this day, every year.

Life can be serious business.

A Mother Comes Undone.

falling apart

“Motherhood pushed open a door that I thought I had managed to close for the last time. I, like most I believe, thought that a baby would be placed in my arms and I would be filled with so much love that the pieces of my broken heart, pieces I worked so hard to glue back together, would finally solidify. I didn’t expect new cracks to form.”

This is an excerpt from a new post I have up today on the Trigger Points website. I hope you decide to head over and subscribe to follow along. Click here to read the full article.

Life can be serious business.

The Gift of an Imperfect Mother.

“Momma, I feel sad and I don’t know why.”

Startled to find my daughter so upset, I walked to her bed and put her on my lap. She nuzzled her head in to the crook of my neck and cried. I pulled her away a bit so that I could see her face. There it was. Pale lips and dark circles under her eyes. She was just tired. I told her to take a few deep breathes with me, close her eyes, and I rubbed her back until I heard that familiar rhythm in her breathe. I kissed her cheek and headed downstairs.

My daughter is so much like me. An old soul full of heart and fury. She digs deep to find the funny in life, but easily trips over frustration. I watch her get stuck on sad and overwhelmed when she’s angry. She loves deeply. She is persistently after a purpose. She is all or nothing. A trait that I know first hand can break you, if you never learn how to bend.

I walked from room to room, picking up toys and clothes and dishes. I couldn’t stop thinking about the very real possibility that my children will be at battle with their emotions and thoughts the way I have always been. Mental illness and trauma run rampant through my blood line. I am a product of generational dysfunctions, mental illness and addictive personalities. Raised on a foundation like that, how can I not fear that my children will feel a ripple effect.

Truth is, I’m scared as hell. Of myself. That I am only going to encourage the ripple, simply by being me. That my faulted inner dialogue will start to become theirs. I am damaged goods, and it’s only a matter of time before I wear off on them.

The weight of thinking this way pushes the air right out of me. It’s so familiar. A usual game-over for me, to which I fall defeated in to a funk. However, there is something different about this moment. I’m am less accepting of this way of thinking. This scenario that has played out in my head over and over seems to have lost some of its power.

imperfect mom

Maybe it is because of my inherent broken pieces, my sorrow, my personal fight, that I am the mother that they need. If and/or when that ripple reaches them, I’ll notice. They won’t get lost in a wave of unbalanced chemicals like I did. I see invisible red flags everywhere I go, because I’ve been the one waving them. I know how to keep my children from being vulnerable to the real predators. I know the importance of trusting my gut and can teach my children to do the same.

I understand the value of validating a child’s words and actions, because mine never were. I know how dangerous it is to neglect a child’s mental health. I have the scars to prove it. It’s because of those invisible scars that I can love, nurture and protect my children with empathy. I have to remember that although wounded, I have succeeded at breaking a cycle. I did that. That holds more power than any cracks in my or my children’s foundation.

Embracing our imperfections for what they are and what they are not is the only way to ease this kind of fear. We can’t change the building blocks our children have been given, but we can accept them with grace. We don’t have all the answers but what we do know, they will be better off for it. We need to stop tearing ourselves apart and harboring so much unnecessary guilt. Most of us would never advise a friend the way we advise ourselves. So why do we value others self worth more than our own?

Isn’t this true for most parents? That we all have these self doubts and moments of “not good enough”. The reasons are different but I truly believe it is because we just want to get this one job, raising our children, right.

Perhaps these imperfections are my tools, gifts really, that allow me to raise, protect and love in a way that fits my children’s mold. We all want the next generation to do a little better than we did. We have to be in tuned with our own glitches in order to make that happen. If we never accept and examine the glitches, we may never see them for what they really are–advantages.

My children may turn out like me, but they are not me. I can only hope that it is the best parts of me that they absorb. They will benefit from what I’ve been through, hopefully without ever having to experience it. But if in fact they do grow to have demons that knock on their own door, they will be equipped with the most perfect, imperfect tools I can give them…and they will thrive.

Life can be serious business.

Working To Fill A Void.

light workers1

As I sat down to write today, I could think of nothing other than how excited I am about the submissions for the Trigger Points anthology now starting to trickle in. This is really happening!

Since Joyelle and I began this project, I have continued to research on this topic. I can with confidence say, there is nothing like this out there. I know this will be a resource that could possibly change lives. That’s what happens when you learn you are not alone in experiencing something to this magnitude. It changes you. I know this because that is exactly what happened to me, when I received the outpouring of support from the initial article I wrote on the topic, and from the several I have written since then.

Joyelle and I are determined to put this book, this lifeline, at arms length for anyone who may benefit from it. I know that isn’t just parenting survivors but also those that love them. Throughout my years working in the field of mental health, I have made strong connections with therapists, educators, community resources, etc. It is my goal to make each and everyone of them aware of this anthology, so that they have something to offer a mother or father who needs this type of support. I will make sure that the heart and soul that is being poured in to this project is worth it.

The deadline for submissions is fast approaching. One of my personal concerns is that we have yet to receive any submissions from fathers. More than anything I want this project to portray perspectives from mothers and fathers. I’m working hard to reach out to both, but we could most definitely use some help.

Please continue to help us spread the word. If you haven’t already, like and share our Facebook page. Follow our WordPress site. Reach out to those you believe can help us make this dream a reality.

Thank you to all that have supported us thus far. I’m not sure that I have the right words to encompass how grateful I am. If you are considering submitting an essay but are struggling, reach out to us on the Facebook page with a post or private message. Also, I’m including links to the essays I have written in hopes that one may spark ideas for your own submission.

Much love ~Dawn

Raising a Girl as a Survivor

Parenting-An Unexpected Trigger

On Being a Mother and a Survivor of Abuse

Parenting Survivors of Childhood Abuse Need a Voice co-authored with Joyelle Brandt

 

 

Life can be serious business.

Survivors Deserve Support as They Enter Into Motherhood.

raising a girl

“A discussion on the effects of the abuse that resurface, or suddenly arise, when we become mothers is something we need to talk about. I feel like it’s vital to our ability to raise healthy children ourselves.”

I am thrilled that Huffington Post chose to feature this article. Mothers and fathers who are survivors need to hear that they are not alone in the struggles they may face as parents. Even if you have never experienced abuse yourself, you know someone who has. I hope you will help me in starting a discussion on the topic of parenting as a survivor. Share, share, share my friends. You never know whose life could positively be affected when you do. Much love ~Dawn

Raising a Girl as a Survivor

Life can be serious business.

A Featured Article With the Bad Ass Indie Chicks Today.

Photo courtesy of motivating-words.blogspot.com

Want to find out what I think about those who whisper to their BFF’s about what I have the guts to say? You may just be surprised. The Indie Chicks work hard to empower women on the daily, and I am so proud to be a part of it all today.

“Survivors understand the value of an, “OMG! Did you see what she put on Facebook?” person. You lovely individuals will spread our words quicker than any other platform available. We may not like your tone, but we know that when we are gossiped about, it just may be to survivors who aren’t ready to let go of their own secret. That person then becomes aware of the support she is probably aching to grab a hold of.”

Click here to read the entire article, featured on Indie Chicks today.

**photo source

Life can be serious business.

Giving Shame the Middle Finger, One Post at a Time.

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Cheers to all of you! For your support and love in helping us #breakthecycle

Those SisterWives…they are a bad-ass gang of women, that practice what they preach. They see hope and believe in the cause and project I am fighting to make happen. So much so, they have allowed me a second spot on their beautiful blog this week. Today, I get personal, and a little angry about the struggles we survivors face and also the obstacles in bringing other survivors out of the dark.

Reading my words is enough. Giving me feedback is awesome. But remember, sharing is caring people. Help Joyelle and I spread the word as far as we can. Every share so far has reached more people, telling us Thank You for bringing to light something they felt alone in feeling. Help us shine that light so freakin’ bright it blinds the fear holding others back. So much love to my readers!!!!  xoxoxo ~Dawn

Parenting – An Unexpected Trigger.

**If you would like to help us strengthen this community of survivors and/or promote the upcoming Trigger Points Anthology, we would love to write for your platform. Just ask!

Life can be serious business.

Tattered Soul.

self preservation

I open the medicine cabinet to grab some Tylenol for a headache.

If I took this, it wouldn’t be enough to kill me. I can’t do that.

With a cold chill chasing up my spine, I pick up the bottle of Flexeril. There are at least 50 tabs in it.

This would work. I could call Stacie and have her watch the kids for me. I’ll leave a note on the front door that she will see when she brings them home, telling her to take the kids to my sisters and to call the police and my husband.

I hear the kids playing downstairs, but it has no affect on me. It’s an emotional muteness, a stale sound. I’m not sure how long I’ve stood here, seeing only the bottle in my hand – my heart vacant, engulfed in despair so raw, that death felt appealing.

Should I call someone? Maybe I should start counseling again. We can’t afford it. No. Just put the bottle down.

I put the pills back and sit on the edge of the tub.

I am so fucked up. No normal person goes to get Tylenol for a headache and instead, starts planning her suicide. Why is this my life. Why can’t I just cry and feel better. I’m so sick of this. I want to end it but…the kids. I know in my heart they are better off without me, but they will never understand that.

My daughter bursts through the door.

“Mommy, what are you doing?”

“I’m just sitting here, baby.”

With begging eyes, she asks “Will you do a puzzle with me?”

“No, baby. Mama just doesn’t feel like it.”

“You never want to do anything with me.”

“That’s not true. I’m just tired today.”

“You’re always tired.”

“I just don’t feel like doing a puzzle right now, honey. Maybe later.”

Why can’t I just sit with her and do the fucking puzzle? All she wants is my attention. Why can’t I give her that?

***

This was my Monday morning. It’s my Tuesday nights and my middle of the days. This scene plays out whenever the fuck it feels like it. This isn’t my every day, but my any day. I don’t want to live this way, but my brain doesn’t give a shit. Depression is a narcissistic disease. It doesn’t care that other people are depending on me, that people love me, that I love them. Depression is spiteful. In spite of medication and my beautiful life, I struggle with suicidal thoughts.

My awareness of what suicide does to a family is almost a curse in itself (My uncle committed suicide when I was 6 years old). It imprisons me in this revolving state. Because I have seen first hand what suicide does to those left behind, I won’t make the conscious decision to end my life.

People say live life to the fullest. I feel cheated of that concept. I can’t erase the neurons that collided in my brain, due to the trauma I endured as a child. I can’t undo the damage responsible for feeding my predisposed genes.

I’ve worked on working around them. I’ve talked it out, I’ve medicated to balance life and I’ve just trudged through. I love my children with all my heart and soul. But it is with that tattered soul that I fear the damage I am doing to them. People say, “Just look at your beautiful babies.” I know how precious they are and how strong their love is for me. That’s what hurts the most.

This is my depression. This is how depression has manifested in motherhood. This is the challenge of living my day to day, surrounded by love, while being encompassed with sorrow and despair. I don’t wear a scowl on my face, as a sign that I am broken. I lace up mental combat boots and march on. I try to be the woman, the wife and the mother that I want to be, and I am most days. Not only because I am trying to protect those that love me, but myself as well.

I must have a light that shines somewhere deep inside me. It’s dim, but enough to keep me alive. It’s enough to keep me moving forward. That is what I will continue to do. That’s all I can do. I don’t know how I am going to win this internal war, but I will. I just pray there will come a day, when I will no longer be my own worst enemy, and finally be able to live fully and freely.

~Originally Published on SisterWives Speak