7 Years Ago

Seven years ago today.

Seven years ago I chose to tell someone. For the first time I didn’t feel compelled to tell, as if the words couldn’t stay in any more. Seven years ago, I wanted to tell.

Seven years ago, I opened my heart, just a little, but more than I had ever done before.

Seven years ago, I decided something- someone- was more important than my fear. I decided to listen to my heart instead of the destructive voices that had controlled me for years. I decided that the regret of saying nothing would be worse than the fear I was feeling.

Seven years ago, I received love, patience, and understanding. Seven years ago, I was accepted for the beautifully broken person I didn’t know I was.

Seven years ago, I started down a path that would not only change my life, but save it too. Seven years ago, I finally started to live.

Seven years ago, I made the best decision of my life.

Happy 7th anniversary Robby. Here’s to 70 more.

Have a Sweet ’16

I’ve seen lots of posts about how people hated 2015, or about their resolutions for 2016, but I’ve only seen one post that I like.

Make a list of things that make you happy. Then make a list of things you do every day. Compare the lists and adjust.

And I love that. It’s such a better idea than a resolution. To me, a resolution is telling yourself that you have to live up to a certain standard. That you have to be a certain way. It almost feels like you are telling yourself you aren’t good enough. As if you need fixing. But this way seems like you are working toward joy.

So I guess my joy list is something like this

  1. Art- I love art, but I don’t usually give myself the time to do something so frivolous
  2. Being strong- I love knowing that my body is capable of greatness. I love surprising others with that greatness. Gym, here I come!
  3. Robby. We spend lots of time together, which is fabulous, but I really want to work on just enjoying the moment with him.
  4. Education- I love to learn. I really do, and always have, so I want to learn things this year. Whether that means learning a skill, going to a museum, or reading a book, I want to learn things.
  5. Nature- I love everything to do with nature, and I want to spend more time in it. Plants, animals, the great outdoors, I want to enjoy it all.

And I guess that’s it. Those are the things I want to focus on in 2016.

What about you?

The Best Words

Today, one of my kids at work said the best thing to me.

I’m the homework teacher. Which means that on any given day I help 18+ kids with their homework. At the same time. It’s a non-stop barrage of “Miss Laura, I need help”, “Miss Laura, I don’t understand this”, “Miss Laura, I was next” and “Miss Laura, it’s too loud”, naturally all being yelled across the room at the same time.

But I love it. I love watching the kids learn, and helping them see what they are capable of. I love that they know that they can turn to me with their problems, and not just their homework problems. Most days, it just fills my heart.

But some days. Oh, some days.

Some days, the kids who have finished their homework can’t seem to stay quiet so the other kids can keep working, and there are a few kids who are just at each other’s throats, and someone just has to have my attention right now, and BLARG!

And today was a little bit of that. Nothing too bad though, thankfully. But there is this one little girl, M. I love her to pieces. She is in 4th grade and super smart, but also super distractable. She is in advanced placement classes, but she gets lost in her own head (yes, she has ADD) and just can never seem to focus. She has good days and bad days and man, today was a bad day. We would be working on a problem together and she would drift off while we were talking.

And I just felt that I was failing her. I knew she had homework in three subjects, and that she needed to make a significant dent in it if she wanted to avoid getting in trouble at home, but I just couldn’t get her to focus. I was getting frustrated and I wasn’t doing a very good job of hiding it, and it was finally time for me to close my room so she asked to pack her backpack back up. I told her she could, because she wasn’t going to get any more work done and that I had to leave anyway. But after she finished, she came up to me and said, ” Thank you for doing all you could to help me Miss Laura.”

It just kind of made me stop.

I had felt myself starting to go over the my time with her in my head, wondering what I could have done different, what I should have done. What the ‘right thing’ was, because I felt that I had failed. I was starting to beat myself up because I felt that I couldn’t help this wonderful little girl, and yet she still appreciated that I took the time to try.

I went over to her and put my hand on her head and said “Thank you for saying that. That really means a lot. I was just getting frustrated because I felt like I was failing you because I couldn’t get you to focus.”

And she looked at me and nodded. She went over to get something she left at a table and said, very matter-of-factly, as if that’s-just-how-the-world-works “But not focusing is my issue, not yours”

This little girl gave me a life lesson in a 2 minute conversation. Because that is how the world works. I’m not responsible for her actions, only my efforts.

I don’t know if she will ever know how much I will cherish her words.

Inside Out

“The structural decision to do without a villain, and ultimately to do without one of the easiest elements to make entertaining and marketable, means that the process Riley is undergoing — adolescence — is visualized as … normal. Her mind is not a space that’s been invaded by something that must be driven out, but a new environment to be mastered. And if other kids’ stories are there to teach kids how to be brave when they see witches and giants, Inside Out is there, maybe, to teach them how to be brave when there’s no witch and no giant, but things can feel broken anyway.”

Linda Holmes, NPR

Today, Robby and I saw Inside Out. If you haven’t seen it, go see it.

Seriously.

I’ll wait.

.

.

.

So, assuming that you watched it, I’m now going to talk about it, so if you haven’t seen it, go see it now, cause otherwise I’m going to blow the plot for you.

*Spoilers*

In the movie, a young pre-teen girl (Riley) starts to realize that her days aren’t just filled with joy any more. That she is growing up. But her mom–in an off-hand manner–asks her to keep being her ‘happy little girl’. So when Riley starts struggling, she begins to hide it, and that’s when her emotions get out of whack.

Sound familiar to anyone?

Through all sorts of adventures by her little inner-emotion cartoons, Riley starts to lose parts of who she used to be. When those pieces of herself start to be lost, she stops being goofy, she withdraws from her parents, she cuts off her friends, and she abandons the sport she has loved her whole life. In a desperate attempt to try and find herself again, she decides to run away, back to a place where she was happy.

Through all of this, Joy has been desperately trying to keep Sadness at bay, to keep Riley from being sad, but Riley is so mixed up that she ends up not being able to feel anything.

She goes numb.

Until Sadness steps in.

When she was a child, Joy had always been able to cheer Riley up, but she can’t go from feeling numb to feeling joyful. She has to feel the sadness. The pain.

Because it’s part of life. It’s normal.

It’s not fun, but it’s normal. And as she realizes that the different emotions can mix and form new emotions, Riley rebuilds the pieces of herself.

Riley’s Personality Islands at the beginning of the movie

To be honest, I cried a lot during this movie. I remember those days of joy as a kid, and I remember feeling my world fall to pieces. And going numb. Except that I was numb for years. I didn’t get to rebuild thepieces of myself right away like Riley did. I didn’t start learning about those ‘new emotions’ until I was in my twenties.

And seeing the childhood that most people had, the emotions that they went through just hurt so much. Because it’s not fair. It’s not fair what I lost, what I missed. My personality ‘islands’ broke and I was just blank for years.

Riley’s Personality Islands falling apart

My ‘Friendship Island’ turned into ‘Distrustful Island’. I shut down my ‘Athletic Island’ because people kept making fun of me whenever I would do anything athletic. And my “Girlie Island’ was completely buried under self-loathing and fear of attention. I used to love to wear pretty dresses and jewelry, and having my make-up put on for dance recitals was so much fun, but once that island broke, I ran from all of that. I couldn’t bring myself to be a little girl anymore. I hid behind baggy boys clothes in dark colors. Nothing bright, nothing that would draw attention.

And I want to open those islands back up. I don’t necessarily want to dance on a stage like I did when I was 5, but I’d like to have the confidence to take a Zumba class now and then, because I genuinely enjoy it. I don’t want to be so afraid of ridicule that I don’t go to the gym on the off-chance that other people will be

Riley’s re-built personality islands at the end of the movie

there. And I’d love to be girlie sometimes. Maybe wear a pretty hair clip. I’ve always wanted to dye streaks of color, like blue or purple, into my hair, but I’ve never had the courage to do it, because it draws attention, and that’s something I am so afraid of.

I know that life isn’t all Joy, and that’s okay. I just want to rebuild myself.

Crying in Steak n Shake

We went out to breakfast yesterday morning and I told Rob all about what I realized at Lori’s.

And when I finished talking, I looked at him through my tears and he said the most perfect thing he could have. “I never thought that for a second” And he said it with this look of shock in his eyes, this almost startled blankness that you get when you are so caught off-guard, that I knew it was true.

And the tears just rolled down my face.

“For the longest time I felt that it was my fault. That I didn’t take good enough care of you and Jamie”

I never expected him to say that, so I’m sure I had the same dumb-founded look on my face when I said “I never thought that for a second”

And we held hands and cried in Steak n Shake, because that’s what we do.

 

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.

Worth The Fight

If you couldn’t tell by my recent writing, Rob and I are really struggling. And we’ve both been coping (or rather not coping) in our own ways.

I cope either by eating everything in sight, or by not eating at all. There have been times when things were so bad that I only ate about 1 meal a day. I once lost about 15lbs in 2 weeks. It’s not a good way to cope. But it keeps me sane(-ish). My other brilliant coping mechanism is to either wallow or shove my feelings aside. For the past few months, I’ve been shoving and now I’ve gotten to the wallowing part. Basically, I cry, watch TV, and do nothing other than write, cry, and watch TV with occasional spurts of manic cleaning. Again, not the healthiest, but I’m still here, I’ve made it through every rough patch and I don’t see why I won’t make it through any future rough patches. It might not be the healthiest way to handle things, but it seems to work for me.

Rob used to cope with things by doing very destructive things. Drinking, smoking, etc. Basically any vice you could think of is what he would tun to. But over the years he’s moved away from destructive habits. There would be times when he was struggling and he would buy a can of dip, or backslide in some other way, but he has done so well the last several years, and I am so proud of him. But he is struggling more right now than he has in a long time.

Today, he was talking to me about how he’s been backsliding into one of his less-destructive habits: overspending. We have a pretty strict budget, and part of that is our weekly ‘mad money’–cash that we can spend on fast food or any other splurge items that we want. We withdraw a certain amount, and once your share is gone, it’s gone. But for the past few nights, Rob has been buying food that he didn’t have the cash for and just been putting it on the card instead of only buying what he could afford. I was a bit freaked out at first. This used to lead to bigger and bigger spending, and more and more destructive habits, until he swung manic.

But then he talked to me about how since he doesn’t want to fall back to even worse habits (he had considered buying dip and cigarettes) he is just sort of accepting the fact that he will overspend a little as a coping mechanism. He said he didn’t want to freak me out by talking about the things he was thinking about, that he didn’t have a plan to ‘misbehave’, he just knew what he was prone to and wanted to think through every possibility. So we talked about our different ways of coping, and we both agreed that neither of us have that great of coping skills. We also agreed that being aware that we are struggling is more than half the battle. He’s going to get in touch with his therapist on Monday and we have a couple’s appointment on Friday, and until then we are just going to cope as best as we can and be there for each other.

I was so glad that Rob was willing to talk to me, and I told him that. How only a year ago he would have just shut me out. And what he said back to me really made me stop. He said he was glad that he felt he could talk to me, because before with the PTSD he felt as though he had to watch what he said because he was never sure how I would react. And when I stopped to think about it, I realized he was right. I really did get confused sometimes, and sometimes I did really overreact. Granted, sometimes my responses were completely warranted, but looking back I can see where it would be disorienting to try and figure out who would be responding, me or the PTSD. In a way, it must have been like me trying to figure out if I was dealing with Robby, manic Robby, or depressed Robby. And I had never realized that before.

So I thanked him for being willing to work with me even when I had the PTSD, because he was willing. He was always willing. And I am so glad (and so is he) that I started EMDR. It’s been a long, hard fight, but so worth it.

My Post Secrets

Few people know I was abused.

Fewer know that almost everyone believed his story that I was lying, causing me to lose all my friends.

Hardly anyone knows that I’m writing a book about the abuse, the lies, the bullying, and my recovery.

No one knows that I’m scared to try and find a publisher for my book because I’m afraid people will still believe his story.

And I’m a little afraid of what that says about my recovery.

A Blessing For Us, A Trial For Her

Recently, I wrote how I was facing the possibility that I would have to say goodbye to the kids at my job because it was only temporary. Then a few days later, my boss approached me about staying on “as long as I want to stay”. What a blessing!

But then I found out why.

The woman I am filling in for, April, has been on medical leave recovering from a surgery. It turns out the surgery was a double mastectomy. Thankfully, the breast cancer was contained. However, when the doctors were running labs on the tissue they found a second type of cancer that is very aggressive. And it has already spread. So she is going to be starting two types of chemo simultaneously in an effort to fight both cancers.

So she’s probably not going to be back for a long time. And if we are completely honest, she might never be back.

And I don’t know how to process that.

I am grateful beyond belief to have a job that I love and (I hope) I am good at, but it breaks my heart that it comes at such a cost to her.

I have been through awful things in my life, I know awful things happen. I am just so used to them happening to my family, that I guess I never thought about others going through horrible things. And I would never wish this on her, but I am still benefiting from her pain, and that breaks my heart. I know logically that when I quit my bookstore job due to the PTSD getting too severe (not sure if I’ve written about that yet, if not, I will eventually) that someone benefited by getting my job, but I’ve never been in the positive position in this kind of situation. We’ve always been the ones struggling.

I guess the key is to remember that even though we are in a time of blessings, there are still people going through trials. We can’t say ‘oh, it’s their time’ or even ‘it’s not my problem’ because life happens to all of us and we only get through those times with the support of others. So I will try not to feel guilty, but instead grateful for the blessings we have, and try and pour those blessings into others.

I actually love my job

I never expected that.

Now I’m starting to wonder about my future. Do I want to stay on at T*** after the summer program ends? Can I stay on after the summer program ends? If I can’t, then what?

I’ve finally found something that I enjoy doing and I would be happy doing long-term. The thing is, I don’t know if I will be able to.  And that kind of scares me. I don’t know what I will do when I don’t have T*** in my life. I don’t want to go back to having nothing to fill my days. Having no purpose. I love getting to be a part of those children’s lives and I don’t want to give that up.

But if they can’t hire me me for the school year, I will have to. And I will just have to face that when the time comes. I don’t know how I will, but I will.