Writing Submission for MEND

I belong to a support group called MEND, which helps families who have experienced the loss of a child. They put out a newsletter, and they take submissions from readers. The next newsletter is about Holidays, and that is something that really resonates with me, so I want to submit a piece.

It’s is a modified version of something I wrote last Christmas, and it means a lot to me. I hope it touches someone’s heart and helps them heal. Even if it doesn’t get published, I hope it helps someone here.

 

Today is Christmas, but it’s not how it is supposed to be.

You’re supposed to be here.

We were supposed to make cookies together, get to watch you unwrap presents, and take you to see Santa. We should have gotten to help you decorate the tree, hang up the stockings, and unwrap your presents. We were supposed to get to hear you laugh at all the Christmas fun and see your eyes light up at all the wonders you would be understanding for the first time. We were supposed to feel our hearts fill with love and joy when you ate the frosting and candy toppings while decorating cookies, when we helped you hold your candle at the Christmas Eve Service, and when we all snuggled up to read The Night Before Christmas together.

But that’s not how it is.

Because you’re not here.

Instead we try and hold it together when we see the kids at the mall, excited to see Santa. Kids that would be about the same age as you. Instead, we feel an ache in our heart because the traditions we wanted to share with you make us miss you even more. They just remind us that you’re not here.  Some days are easier, and some are so much worse, and so to cope with the holidays, we cling to each other. We tell each other that’s it’s okay to struggle, that Christmas never will be the same, but some years will be easier–maybe even almost ‘normal’–and this just happens to be a rough year. We know you are having a wonderful Christmas in Heaven, and it soothes our hearts to know you are there, but oh, we wish you were here. So we spend time together, just the two of us, because even though it’s been years, the loss of you still hurts as much as it did the day we lost you.

Because we never stop missing you.

God’s Timing- Nov 2013

The same week we began ‘Unglued’ I started a new type of intensive therapy called EMDR. EMDR is specifically designed to help alleviate and even reverse the effects of PTSD. For me, I planned on Unglued being more of a time for fellowship than growth. After all, I’m not an ‘unglued’ person, so how much was I really going to get out of this study?

But every week God surprised me. It seemed as though He was personally tailoring my EMDR and Unglued sessions to fit perfectly together.

When I was struggling with the fear to start EMDR I read this passage “…I don’t know how to get a handle on this. But God help me if I don’t get a handle on this. I will destroy the relationships I value most and weave into my life permanent threads of short-temperedness, shame, fear and frustration. Is that what I really want?” And I found the strength to walk into the office.

At the time I started to become frustrated with myself, telling myself that I should be able to handle therapy ‘better’ we started a session on self-defeating labels and grace, and I started learning to give myself a little grace.

As the memories of the trauma started to consume me, and made me feel like I was losing control, I completed my procedure manual for Unglued Moments. Those 5 steps helped me to feel as though I had a bit of control, a little bit of power, and so I kept going.

And when I had to start identifying the beliefs about myself that the PTSD had trapped me in, I found comfort and guidance in the study. The line “…Where you come to believe you belong is where you will stay” awakened me to the fact that I don’t want to stay in the PTSD reality.

Negative Inside Chatter and the related discussions helped me to realize that I am not alone in seeing the worst in myself, and that these wonderful women don’t see those terrible things in me at all. But even more importantly, it helped me to see how important the EMDR is, because after all, how a woman thinks is often how she lives.

And the ‘Good Words’ exercise revealed to me that my lingering words don’t have to be the ones that have haunted me my whole life. I no longer have to carry the thoughts “I did something wrong”, “my feelings don’t matter” and “I don’t deserve love”. Instead, God showed me that I can be—that I am—compassionate, friendly, generous, patient, playful, and—most of all—thankful.

Not a Man

There were several times in my life when I told myself that I was going to get over the abuse. That from this moment on, it wasn’t going to affect me any more. One of those times was back in 2007. We had just adopted my first little sister and I was laying in bed and I wrote this poem. I told myself that this was it, I was going to be okay. It didn’t work, but to this day this poem is still one of my favorite pieces.

I was young and naive

You knew all the right things to say

Before I could blink you had me wrapped up in your arms

I loved your smile, your touch, your kiss

I was addicted to your charm

I’ll never forget how you sang to me

or the way you said

.

‘Come on baby, what’s your worry?

You should do it cause you love me.

Come on.

Let me.

Don’t wimp out.

It’s what you owe me,

I’m your man.’

That’s when you were my man

.

And that went on for months on end

You owned my life

I never said anything to all our friends

even when you pushed me too far

I thought that you knew best

because you were experienced

and I trusted you when you said

.

‘You have to let me, I’m the guy.

I know men do this all the time.

Relax.

Hold still.

Don’t walk away.

It’s what you owe me,

I’m your man.’

That’s when I thought you were a man

.

Then one day in the car listening to the radio

I heard a song that maybe saved my life

(saved it from you at least)

it said “You have to tell ’em when you’ve had enough”

and I finally realized I’d had enough of you

so I looked at you and said

.

I don’t ever want to see you again.

You used me and abused me.

So I’m gone.

Good-bye.

I’m walking away.

You never would have touched me

If you were a man.

Letter to Rob

When Robby and I started dating I (obviously) had a lot of issues to work through. One of the boundaries I had to overcome was being able to admit my feelings. Being me, I tried to analyze my feelings scientifically in order to validate them, as well as protect myself. I thought that if I could fill out a check list then I would know what to expect, what to feel. I thought my feelings had to fit a universal definition in order to be ‘real’. While I was trying to sort all of this out I started to pull away from Robby, but I finally wrote him this letter around the end of April/beginning of May of 2009.

This is the other half of why I brought up the fact that I can feel myself protecting myself because I’m expecting you to leave. I could feel myself putting that wall back up. These are basically some things that I didn’t want to tell you because I was afraid of opening up to you, but I recognize that part of a relationship is opening yourself up to the other person. I’ve just worked on the assumption so long that if I keep things that could complicate a relationship (any relationship, friends included) hidden, then the relationship won’t be complicated. But the thing is, I know that that is not how life works, and that hiding things will only make our relationship more complicated, and I don’t want that. I’m writing this to you because I want to break down that wall I’ve been trying to put up. So here goes:

I’m trying to find a way to say the things that I’m scared of the most. I want to say things that in the past I’ve always run away from, but for some reason, I feel as if I’m going to lose you if I don’t say them. I don’t feel pressured to say this, but I don’t want it to come out wrong. I’ve always been frustrated by the phrase, ‘I love you’ because it can mean so many things. It’s too ambiguous. And it’s so frustrating because I don’t know how to say what I’m feeling. The thing is that when I think of you, I can’t stop the words ‘I love you’ or ‘I love him’ from popping into my head. But I don’t know what that means!!! I know that I miss you when you’re not here, that I smile when I think about you, that I feel like every situation would be better if you were there. That when I think of home, I think of being with you, in your bed, in your arms. That I want to wake up next to you every day, that I want you to be there next me when I graduate, when I go to grad school, when I’m happy, when I’m sad. Whenever. Quite possibly forever. And while that scares me, I really do want to be with you, and I’m going to fight with all my strength to keep us together. I think that Becky had it right, that I finally found a good thing, and I really can’t imagine finding something better, and I don’t want to try. I am so happy with you, and I’m sorry I have to write this, but I’m still a little too scared to actually say this to you. Today, when you said that you were also preparing yourself to get hurt, my heart just broke. I don’t want you guard yourself against me. I never realized how much it must hurt you to hear me doubt us, or you, until you said that. I never want you to doubt us. And I know, sometimes I doubt us, although it’s not really doubting us per say, but more of a ‘this is too perfect, it can’t be my life, so there is no way that it will work, my heart is going to get broken’. But the thing is that I trust you. I really do. And that’s huge. For me to say that and actually mean it, really means a lot, and I never would be able to trust you if you hadn’t been so patient with me and worked with me on my issues. You have no idea how grateful I am to you for that, and I know it can’t have been easy, and probably still isn’t easy, so I just want to say thankyou. Thank you so very much Robby. Basically, this entire rant was to say that……..I love you…..I don’t know if it’s the dictionary definition or not, but it’s what I feel. In my own messed up, weird, confusing kind of way, I really do love you. I’ve wanted to say this for a few days, and have actually been holding it in because I wanted to say it when I wasn’t scared anymore. But I think that I’m just going to be scared until I actually say it. Or write it in this case.

Through the Dark

An old poem written while on break at the bookstore I worked at from Feb-Oct 2011

If you get through the wall it will all come spilling and I won’t be able to pretend I’m okay

Masks and mirrors have kept me safe this long, watching my life pass as a reflection, free of pain and fear—believing if you think I’m fine then I can keep pushing through, walking through this nightmare

Keeping the demons in me trapped behind these glass walls, staring ahead. Not seeing I’m surrounded I pretend I’m fine. What you don’t know can’t hurt you but what I refuse to see is killing me.

These monsters are there, they’re real and so I fight to stay looking ahead, protecting myself from what’s inside

But someone appears from out of the black nothing that make me up, telling me there is a light in this dark, a way out of the torture hidden behind my eyes

I’m still surrounded by not-seen demons, still walking straight ahead. But now there’s something—another way of seeing the shadows that make me believe there must be a light somewhere creating them

A comfort comes from knowing these shadows aren’t consuming. Not Hope, not that strong, but Knowing. Knowing what I’ve seen, where I’ve been isn’t everything. Knowing there’s another layer gives me the strength to look for it.

Now I’m watching, looking to find a light, a door, a way out. No long walking resigned.

Push

I feel like if I rub at it,

Scrub at it

Make it bleed

This poison will come out of me

If I can feel the pain,

The hurt,

The rage,

The fear

I can choose when to cry my tears

 

This wound inside of me, this thing that won’t let me breathe

I want to pull it from my brain,

Rip it up like a child’s note and

Shove those words back down his throat

That wasn’t love you showed me

That was Pain

And Hurt

And just plain Wrong

And that’s not what made me strong

My strength is Me

My Choice

My Voice in this, to keep my head above the sand

 

But I don’t know which way is up, it’s like I’m fighting

Searching

In a cloud of dust for

Hope and

Light I still can’t find

Just pull it from my mind. Lock it up and throw the key

So it can’t keep its hold on me

But every box I put it in just makes the problem grow

Til it crashes down on me again

And I Push

And I Fight

Someday I will win this fight

 

The anniversary I wish I didn’t have

Last Thursday was the one year anniversary of losing our baby Jamie. Needless to say, it was a very emotional and trying day. Part of me didn’t even want to acknowledge the day because I was worried that if I let myself remember the pain then it would consume me. Last year after losing Jamie I lost several weeks. I have vague memories but the first thing I truly remember was August 4th, one month after losing Jamie. I was scared that would happen again. It was the most difficult time of my life and I did not want to repeat it. At Robby’s urging I did allow myself to break down a little. Robby held me while I cried, and I wrote a poem which I would like to share with you today

7/4/13

If you look at me and see that I’m overweight, do you judge me?

If you ask me what I do and I say I don’t work do you look down on me?

If I brush my hair out of my eyes and you see my tattoo do you label me?

I can see it in your eyes when you’ve found my category. When you’ve decided who I am.

Do you know the weight,

the stigma,

the shame I feel?

Because you don’t really see me

 

You don’t see that the weight is from overeating as a child, trying to protect myself.

Trying to turn into someone no one would want

Someone no one would molest again

 

You don’t hear that I cannot work because of the PTSD, all you hear is that I don’t work.

That I don’t ‘earn my way’

You don’t hear that I wish I could work,

wish I could control it,

wish I could ‘get over it’

But I can’t.

 

You don’t know that my tattoo is the heartbeat of the baby I never got to hold.

You don’t know that when you ask me if I have kids my heart breaks a little more.

 

You don’t see me

hear me

know me.

Please don’t judge me.

 

I am so much more