Thursday, September 1, 2016

The story in my head....

Last year, at the Global Leadership Summit, Brene' Brown spoke, and this prompted me to buy one of her books, "Rising Strong", and as soon as it arrived, I devoured it.  It spoke to me.  It helps that Brene' is somewhat of a hero of mine, a researcher, a psychology person, someone who speaks my language.  So, it was not really a surprise that her books (and TEDtalks on shame and vulnerability) are my favorites, and show up in my work with clients, in talks with friends, and discussions with the family.  

In Rising Strong, Brene' talks about a scene on a lake with her husband, and a breakthrough thought for her.  I won't do the story justice, so suffice to say you'll need to get the book and read the passage.  
Anyway, the breakthrough thought was along the lines of the stories our minds make up for things that don't make sense to us.  Our minds like things to come to a pretty little conclusion, all tied together in a bow, and finished in an hour's time, or at least by the end of the book.  We don't like loose ends.  We don't like ambiguity.  We don't like incomplete chords and tunes that don't resolve themselves.  Our minds create their own ending if it such a resolution is not handed to us.  

This need for resolution is what made-for-TV dramas, and soap operas resolve problems in an hour's time, and why shows with loose ends continue to draw people back to watch the next episode.  We want the neatly-tied-together conclusion.  

Life is not nearly as close to reality TV as we would like.  We don't get handily crafted neat solutions.  We get LOTS of loose ends.  So, our minds imagine an ending.  

The husband that didn't arrive home when he said he would...is what?
 - - dead on the side of the road?
 - - having an affair?
 - - still busy at work?
The incomplete voicemail that promises a followup call to explain...says what?
  - - I'm going to be fired?
  - - I did something wrong?
  - - someone died?

Often, I find the stories in my head to be crazy-making.  The above scenarios are directly from my own experiences.  My imagination works overtime.  All.The.Time.  

My interactions with family members are no exception.

I imagine anger where there may not be any.  
I imagine disgust.
I imagine all kinds of things.  

The problems I have with this imaginary process is that I have no way to confirm or deny the validity of my scenarios when I have no contact, or very little contact with the people in question.  

So, tonight, the story in my head says that my extended family wants nothing to do with me.  It says that my exposure of the pain of the past has turned everyone against me.  It says that I am the only one who has attempted to keep the family from imploding, and that no one really cares if I am ever in contact again.  

Clearly, the story in my head is a painful one, and one I wish could be resolved.  Because I don't like the story in my head.  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Giving them wings

There is a lot about releasing one's children to be adults that is hard on parents.

  • There is the fear that we didn't do enough.  
  • There is the fear that we hoovered too much.
  • There is the fear that they are not prepared for the big-bad-world.  
  • There is the fear of bad people hurting our kids.

Today we took our oldest child to move into the dorms on a new college campus.  I am happy for her.  She is ready for this.  She needs to be able to finish school and move on to the next steps.

And yet...

  • She is my first baby.
  • I have thoroughly enjoyed having her home for the last 10 months.  
  • I am going to miss her help, and her sensitivity.
Our second child has been out of the nest and on his own for almost two years now.  I miss him like crazy.  We got to see him for a few wonderful days in June...and hearing from him sporadically is never enough.  He is our first boy...this man-child who is finding his way on his own.  

This letting-go thing is hard...and I have 4 more still at home, one of whom has already graduated from high school, and is taking a "gap year", working, and saving her money, and sorting through what exactly she wants to study.  

Meanwhile, this school year, we are only sending 3 back...one into seventh grade, one into 9th, and one into 11th grade.  I don't quite know what to do with myself, having so few children in school.  It has been a LONG time since that happened (um... 2005, I think...).  

Sigh.  I don't want to do this.  I don't want them all to go...and yet...I don't want to hold them back.  They each need to find their way.  I don't want any of them staying here because I am refusing to let them go.  I need to know that what we taught them was enough.  I need to know that they will succeed...probably despite our shortcomings as parents.  Most of all, I need to remember that each of them are following the paths God has for them...and that HE knows them much better than I do, and loves them even more than I do.  

That is reassuring, even in the midst of the scariness of turning loose....

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Others' pain is HEAVY

I was talking with a client yesterday about why she needed to work on her own healing, and not focus on rescuing others who are hurting, and I sat there having an internal conversation with myself about the same thing.

The facts are that I am a broken human being.
I need healing.
I need space to heal.
The way to give myself space to heal is to NOT try to fix the world, but to instead focus on working on my stuff.
This is all hard when I work in the mental health field.

Working as a counselor feels a LOT like rescuing people.

It is NOT.

Also, as a Believer, I do not want to set myself up as anyone's savior.

I am NOT.

Rather, my job as a counselor is to help people see their way through the maze in which they find themselves.  This maze may or may not be of their own making...often it is comprised of both things foisted on them during a broken childhood, and their attempts to medicate away the pain in the only ways they could figure out...often drugs or alcohol.

As a Believer, my job is to point people to the only Savior who has stood the test of time.

Meanwhile, I am working on my own stuff, recognizing that I am helping others carry their pain, and in doing so, I am lightening their load, so they can concentrate on healing the pain that brought them to see me in the first place.

And I am thankful for those who have walked along-side me, lightening my load, while I am healing. I am forever grateful.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Triggers

People with PTSD don't get to choose what triggers their reactions.

Today, I am feeling very alone here with my husband and the two children who are currently at home.

Scrolling through FaceBook today, and suddenly I am back as a young girl, maybe 10, 11, 12...and wishing I had friends...really anyone I could talk to.  Other girls from school talked about calling and talking for long periods of time...they got to hang out with friends, and cousins.  I had no one.

I was isolated.  Oh, I went to school, and to church...but I never talked to anyone about how awful it was at home.  And I couldn't bring anyone home.  The few times I got to go to friends' houses were oh-so-welcomed, but didn't happen often.

I have cousins.  Five first cousins.  All of whom are grown and have kids and significant others...most of whom I have never met.  I don't know ANY second cousins.  I know they exist.  I think I have met ONE of the many.

See, not only did my parents isolate me from others in our community, but they so limited our contact with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, that I barely know any of them, and I really don't have a relationship with them...and that makes me REALLY sad.

I remember LOVING when my mom's sister came to visit from college...we had grand plans to do things together.  We were going to hike the Appalachian Trail together.  And then she got married...and I was further cut off from her because my parents wouldn't let me go visit.

Some days I am super-jealous of friends here whose parents, and siblings, and grandparents come visit them.  I have pretty much given up on ever having a visit from anyone in my family, except maybe from my sister.

Today, I'm reeling again from the pain of being deprived of good relationships with extended family members by the effects of mental illness.  Days like today, I end up angry....a lot.

Because triggers bring back all of the hurt.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Feeling Overwhelmed

I started working as a therapist in a very needy community nearby almost two months ago.  I am finding that every day I am exhausted, and that my emotions are all over the place.  The training I went to yesterday left me feeling awkward and out of place...not a new feeling, but I thought I had THAT settled away...guess not.  

Meanwhile, there is SO MUCH going on here on the home-front.  

Child #3 graduates from high school on June 2.  

The in-laws come into town this coming Thursday.  Friday will be a day off of work for me, so I have to see all of my clients in 4 days next week, too.  Saturday we're going on a tour in the city.  Sunday is church, and then the in-laws fly back out on Monday, and our #2 child flies in that same day, to be in town through the following Saturday.  That week will also be a 4-day week for me, so 4 VERY-PACKED days.  We're also having family pictures done on Thursday, since all of the kids will be here, and Thursday night is the all-night graduation party for the seniors.  

Additionally, we're making plans for camp for 3 kids, 2 kids are being camp counselors, and 1 kid is going on a ministry trip to Guatemala this summer.  

Again, I'm feeling overwhelmed.  I am starting to wonder if jumping into working full-time was a good idea.  There are things that are not getting done at the house (cleaning, dishes, vacuuming, anyone?!?), and I can't figure out how to make this runaway freight train slow down.   

I need to get in to see my counselor.  
I need to get my prescriptions refilled.  
I need to get the dog to the groomers.  
I need to clean my room.  And the living room.  And all the bathrooms.  And pretty much every room in the house is getting out of hand.  
My truck needs cleaned.  
The refrigerator is growing things...experiments.  
I need time to go to the grocery store.  

I think I need to cry...but I don't have time...we were given tickets to a Red Sox game tonight...they're playing the Cleveland Indians...and two kids are working...and one is off at a retreat.  Mom doesn't have time for a breakdown....

Nothing new to see here.  

Friday, May 20, 2016

Spoken Word.

Poetry is so much more powerful when it is spoken aloud.

Today I had the distinct honor to be included in a training with the Asian American Mental Health Forum in Boston, MA.  There were speakers and performers, and artists, and we were able to take part in workshops, and I came away with so very much information and I am still processing it.

The workshop I was able to take part in was on the Spoken Word, a poetry workshop, lead by Christina Chan, who is a playwrite, and Princess Moon, who is a performer of spoken word poetry.  We each wrote a piece based on our own identities.  I am going to share mine here.

***************************

I am a broken hurting child, parenting broken hurting children.
I am a princess and a slave, helping free my fellow slaves.
I am a traveler and a homebody, living vicariously through my traveling friends.
I am a painter, using words and color and thoughts.
I am a mother, grieving the mother I didn't have.
I am a healer, healing others while I heal myself.
I am educated, helping educate others about pain and trauma.
I am wife to the sailor and pastor.
I am majority and minority, German and Jew, Irish and Indian (Native American).
I am loved and lonely.
I am friendly and friendless.
I am a leader, following hard after my leader.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

In a world of traditions...

...having no traditions SUCKS.

I am by nature a sentimental type of person.  I love the structure that tradition lends to time and to events.  I love special days commemorated in special ways.

I grew up in a home that did none of that.

My parents, true to their 60s roots, questioned EVERYTHING.  Oh, they didn't question it enough to totally quit and move into a commune or become gypsies.  They just questioned enough that every piece of tradition that tied them to family and community became a thing of questionable value, and they HAD TO explore ways around it.

The churches they grew up in?  Problems. Let's find one that is as far from that as possible.  And then become disenchanted and leave it, and do something equally anti-tradition, and again, and again.

Taxes? Health insurance? Investment and savings?  Planning?  Too traditional.  They went for years without paying taxes, or even filing them, with no health insurance, no investments, no savings, and no planning for their retirement.

In addition to these, they frowned on celebrating holidays (any and all), birthdays, or even special achievements.  My grandparents wanted to celebrate with us, but often we would end up at home, without any decoration, and usually only presents from the extended family for Christmas.

I am sure that in my parents' heads, all of these things made some kind of sense, but to me as a child, it was just confusing and sad.  To not be celebrated as a person, to not be able to celebrate holidays that others take for granted...it left a hole that I really didn't recognize until I started my own family.

When our kids were younger, and we lived closer to family, holiday traditions always involved Jason's family and their love of celebrations.  They made a big deal out of everything, and that helped me a LOT.  I knew I WANTED to celebrate, but frankly I didn't know how, so they helped.

Now, my children are older....the youngest is 12, and the oldest is 22, and it is awkward not knowing how to celebrate.  Birthdays are easy...a meal with the family, and some gift or activity that they want to do.  Other holidays are still very, very strange to me.  The hard part is that I am the mom, and the mom sets the tone for family celebrations, and I don't know how to celebrate.  There are no family traditions to carry forward.  The "questioning everything" tone of my childhood is firmly rooted in my head, causing me to wonder about why Christian holidays are celebrated in certain ways, and whether this is okay, or that is verboten.

I wish I could celebrate.  I wish I knew HOW to celebrate.  Because having no traditions SUCKS, and I don't want that to be what my children remember.