God give me courage . . .

A friend of mine who has experienced a severe form of bipolar disorder just sent me several private messages wherein he declared his intent to release and publish nearly two decades of mental health records, reports, and documentation of what he has experienced with his Bipolar Disorder. When asked what his intended purpose, he stated:

“Simply because of the existence of prejudice . . . “

He went on to discuss whether or not he would include his juvenile record and the two periods when homocidal ideations occurred during the manifestation of symptoms of his disorder. Initially, he stated intent to include it all. After a little reflection and consideration, he rescinded that intent and stated he would opt not to include those things for the following reasons:

”  . . . cuz idiots will use it globally. Most people are simply too stupid to understand that thinking about something doesn’t mean the same thing as doing it. Condemnation of people for having certain desires and thoughts makes those doing the condemning the creators of those condemned. Truth is it doesn’t matter what a person’s thoughts are at all and the “thought then action” connection is a lie.”

This was my reply:

Complete transparency and destigmatizing means not omiting or editing, unapologetically taking ownership of all content, desires, thoughts, and actions. It means being willing to stand firm and fight the idiots and stop letting them decide the truth

You’re likely wondering by now where I’m going and what the point of this post is. Perhaps you think I’m making this another post about mental health destigmatization and awareness – which is only partially true. What is really going on is me working through all the issues of stigma in myself and my life at one time and realizing that the only way for me to fully and truly to move into healing and recovery, grow into my dreams and potential, and live a happy life regardless of what feelings and circumstances may be telling me, is to get naked – figuratively speaking of course.

Keith and I had another conflict tonight. One that has been building up over the intervening weeks and months since I took the initial step to leave back in December. It has been rapidly getting closer over the past couple of weeks and I fully believe that the past two days have been preparing me to face this moment, not without fear, but in spite of and because of it.

My granddaughter was born six weeks too soon according to her anticipated due date. On Friday of this week she will be three weeks old and has yet to leave the hospital. The job her dad had gotten just before she decided to come early fell through due to logistics, bad health, and bad luck. Her mom is on maternity leave from her part-time, minimum wage, tip supplemented job as a Dutch Brothers Broista, so while she’s still got her job, if she isn’t working, she isn’t getting paid. Their shared housing plans with others, younger than themselves, have fallen through as well. So, at this time, Luna and her mommy and daddy are basically homeless.

Despite the difficulties and complications it will create for all of us, I am not willing to let Luna be without shelter. Therefore, at this point in time, it seems inevitable that the three of them will land here with me until we can figure something else out. Which is partialy why they have started the Go Fund Me project to raise money to help them get into a place of their own, pay for two or three months rent, and give them a chance to return to work and find a job.

Keith has been increasingly agitated, angry, and vocal about his displeasure that I have not let him fully move back home. He seems to have completely forgotten the original agreement after I came back here with our daughter, formerly known as Luna whom I will now refer to as Pony Girl. He was to have his weekend time here with her, until he had saved up enough money to get into his own apartment. During the first three to four weeks of the arrangement, I would pack up my things for the weekend and go stay with a friend for two nights, returning on Sunday when he would leave. Then, that arrangement stopped working for my friend and I wound up having to stay here during his weekend time.

When he did his taxes and got his refund, he reasonably and justifiably put the money toward purchasing a used vehicle, getting the title and registration, and paying for six months of insurance so that he would be able to continue to go to and from work and be able to maximize his time with our daughter by not having to borrow his mother’s car all the time. He also replaced the thoroughly broken down and busted furniture in the apartment I live in full time with our daughter.

In February, a week before our snowbound experience, he began staying over from Friday nights through Monday mornings, also to maximize his time with our daughter. Ever since that time, he’s been reverting back toward active coupleship during his weekend stays: all three of us attending church services together, eating out, grocery shopping, shopping for our daughter, taking our daughter to movies together, etc. . . . and I’ve been letting it happen because I’ve been overwhelmed and overloaded emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Since I left in December:

  • Pony Girl has been sick and missed school three times, the last time for almost three weeks because she was so ill that during a ten day period she barely ate or drank anything, went to the hospital twice, and finally got diagnosed with pneumonia on top of a severe upper respiratory viral infection.
  • I reconciled then rifted three different times with my son and am currently in reconciliation.
  • Had my son announce he and his wife were pregnant to be told almost two weeks later they had miscarried
  • Had my daughter go into premature labor and my new granddaughter live the first few weeks of her life in NICU
  • Had confirmation that Pony Girl qualifies for educational support services based on characteristics in four differentiating categories which identify as Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Get diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, Thyroid problems, and cholesterol issues, comprising three of four qualifying characteristics for Metabolic Syndrome
  • Get confirmation from my therapist that the self-identified Bipolar and PTSD diagnoses are not in my psychosomatic imagination
  • Discover that my mother was likely undiagnosed Bipolar Schizophrenic and that at the very least my grandmother experienced Trichotillomania

So, self-care and boundaries have kind of, sort of, in really big ways not been happening consistently or well for myself or with anyone I care about.

whoops! I just noticed the obscenely large word count and my eyes are drooping. To be continued . . .

I’m officially a grandmother . . . and my family needs help

Mayhem appears to rule my life on earth. I should be an Allstate commercial. Life has come at me fast my whole life, but especially so in the past several weeks. My head is spinning and my heart is full. I am exhausted, exhilarated, grieving, and grateful. The joy of new life and the hope of a new legacy in the making abound in and around me. The people in my life are miracles and blessings. Even if we are all conflicted, messy, toe-steppers, if I had the chance to go back and change even one event, experience, or outcome I wouldn’t do it because it would change who we all are and have become together and I’m figuring out that we are all pretty awesome people who are moving through and overcoming a lot of truly daunting and devastating histories.

That was what I posted as a status update on my Facebook profile a week ago, after the most recent reconciliation between my son and myself. This was a big one and I have the newest member of my family to thank for it.

My granddaughter chose to enter this life six weeks ahead of her projected due date of April 6th. She arrived when none of us were most definitely NOT ready. In some ways, her early arrival could be seen as a bit of a blessing, or several blessings.

  • Even though she was so early, she was 6 lbs 2oz. Had she gone full-term she could have been of a similar size and weight as her mother was when she was born: 9 lbs 8 oz, 20 1/2 inches long. So, it’s possible she had fewer labor and delivery complications than she could have had otherwise.
  • She was born at one of the most reputable and newest Children’s Hospitals in our area, with state of the art equipment and truly caring and well trained staff. The amenities and services are phenomenal.
    • The NICU rooms are set up so that parents can sleep in the room with their babies. My daughter has slept in the hospital for the full seventeen days and counting that her daughter has been under medical care. Daddy has spent every night, except for a few nights when he was ill after experiencing food poisoning or contracting a flu. The hospital is walking distance to where I live, so he’s been able to stay with me and I’ve been blessed to be able to see them frequently. The sad fact is that their housing situation and his employment situation have both fallen through, so they are essentially homeless.
    • They have a strong commitment to supporting nursing mothers and, because of their extended stay, my daughter has received on-site, one-to-one lactation support and education as often as she has needed it.

I will have to choose a different psuedonym for my youngest daughter, since my granddaughter has been named Luna. The reason for not assigning a psuedonym to her is that my daughter ahs started a Go Fund Me account in order to try to raise the money her new little family needs in order to have a home of their own. On my sidebar, you will see an image of baby Luna and her first three days of life. Clicking on this link will take you to their GoFundMe page. You can also visit directly from this post by clicking here.  For those of you who pray, please do so that they get the provision they need in order to get on their feet and give baby Luna a home and a healthy, stable start when she is released from the hospital.

As you can imagine, this has been a high stress period for me, almost as much as it has been for them in different ways. Baby Luna was not actually due until April 20th, yet she took her first breath, with medical help, on March 7th. It was scary and stressful for everyone in our lives who loves and cares for her and her parents, especially those of us directly related to her. One thing which made it more stressful and scary is that less than two weeks before, my son had shared the news that he and his wife were pregnant only to go through the personal tragedy of a miscarriage within a week of sharing that news.

The day he shared that news with us, my son and I had another rift in our relationship due to an interaction he’d observed between my youngest daughter (formerly known as Luna) and myself. I’d not given her the attention and validation he deemed appropriate in that specific moment and it triggered his memories of the way I’d treated him when he was her age. The emotionally neglected and abandoned little boy rose up and lashed out in her defense. I could see the genuine pain in his eyes and it mirrored my own internal pain, both from my own inner child who’d experienced similar emotional neglect and abandonment, but also my mother’s heart which recognized the fact I’d been the source of his pain.

I had only spoken to him briefly, over the phone once in the time between our last meeting and the day his sister went into labor. He was still very much raw with grief and sorrow over the loss of his child and the mere idea of interacting with me was too triggering. Therefore, when I called him to find out if he knew his sister was in the hospital, we wound up in an argument – partially because we were both on the defensive. He was at the hospital. He and his wife were the ones called when her water broke and she needed a ride to the hospital.

Thankfully, five days later, he and his wife and I all had a chance to really spend some time talking with each other and working through some really tough things. His wife is a beautiful and amazing person and we are fortunate to have her in our lives. I’m happy that he has met and married someone who is his equal in faith, intellect, and sense of self. I’m grateful she was willing and open to helping us bridge our relationship and communication gaps.

For now, we are all working on breathing and taking life one day at a time, focusing on taking care of ourselves and ensuring that baby Luna is cared and provided for.

The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church

You are invited to The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church, a one-day event designed to encourage individuals living with mental illness, educate family members, and equip church leaders to provide effective and compassionate care to any faced with the challenges of mental illness.

I found out about this event a couple of days ago and the thought of it both excites and scares me. It scares me because I have had very counterproductive conversations with people of faith over the years regarding the depression I have experienced throughout my life. Even people who have been healed of depression through their faith, perhaps even especialy them, have spoken to me in ways which were more hurtful than helpful, at least to the way my brain and perceptions were at the time. It excites me because it gives me hope that mental illnesses and disorders are being lifted up and examined within the context of faith and this is a huge opportunity for people of faith, professionals and laity alike, to educate themselves, examine how the way things have been done do more harm than good, and begin exploring new ways of relating and reaching out to people experiencing mental health issues.

This is a very important conversation. If you live in the Orange County, California area and can take Friday, March 28th off to spend the day attending this, low-cost event, please consider doing so. If you don’t have the $20, the website states scholarships are available. If you cannot physically attend, they will be live streaming the event. Even if you can only attend or view part of the event, I have a feeling it will be worth your time.

Find out more information at http://mentalhealthandthechurch.com/

Blog For Mental Health 2014

Why it’s hard to be a Christian online

My friend and spiritual teacher, Marc Alan Schelske, posted this blog post by Jon Acuff from Jon’s site, Stuff Christians Like,

There was a lot of stuff this Christian liked about the article:

The ideas I share are received with more grace, acceptance and discussion in the business world than they are in the Christian world.

When Christians disagree with your idea, they critique your soul.

dropping a fake money tract on the ground is an incredibly effective use of my time. That saves me all that hassle of actually having a relationship with someone and telling them about God in that context. Relationships take forever, ugh.

Well, perhaps “liked” isn’t the correct word. Maybe related to or identified with would be more accurate. This is probably the one that hit closest to home for me:

But when we as Christians attack each other’s souls we forever lose the ability to get better. When we can’t debate without it turning into a soul attack, we can’t grow. 

In this post, Jon referred to an incident where other publicly known Christians had chosen to openly criticize and misrepresent something he’d written.

My fear is that we’re missing something pretty powerful in this type of situation. My fear is that no one in the history of mankind has ever said, “I saw two Christians on twitter attacking each other and that made me want a lifelong relationship with their Christ.”

So often I see posts from my fellow Christians which contain critical, mean-spirited, hatefulness towards other believers, as well as non-believers, or followers of other faiths. Attacks on the people and their very souls and identities – the very souls and identities that the God we share and claim is a God of love, compassion, grace, and forgiveness created and cares for as much as we are cared for and loved. It saddens me and sickens me.

I want to protest, publicly and loudly against these people. My instinct is to judge and criticize them for being so hypercritical and judgmental. Then, I realize what is happening within me. I understand that I’m afraid of being judged and criticized by association with them and that my identity and being will suffer an attack and backlash because of their words and actions.

My identity is not in my association with them. It is in who God has made me to be and the love, grace, mercy, and compassion I have received from Him. This is available to all who are able to receive it. Since I have received compassion instead of condemnation, compassion is what I offer to others, whether I agree with them or not, whether they have hurt me or not, whether they deserve it or not. I have received compassion, forgiveness, grace, and mercy though I have not been deserving or worthy, but because I am loved regardless.

So, it is not my place or position to decry and denounce my fellow believers, no matter how misguided or misplaced I believe their attitudes, words, and actions to be. It is not even my plac to publicly name, shame, and blame them if their words and actions have caused myself or others I may care about to experience pain or suffering, as counterintuitive as that may seem.

Romans 12:19 ~ Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

I’m not in control of them or their journeys. Instead, wherever I encounter those who have been wounded by my spiritual siblings, I am to offer whatever aid and comfort I am able, without justifying or rationalizing or criticizing those who came before.20130709-173104.jpg

Who’s The Bully Now?

Who’s The Bully Now?.

I’ve been out of the blogging fray, but have seen the fringes of it and some of the impacts/effects it’s had on people I have come to care deeply about from the blogging community.

There are a number of bloggers who I am getting to know in other social media forums and partially based on some of those interactions, I’ve made a choice to avoid reading some of their blogs because I have enough drama, trauma, and conflict, in my personal life to willingly choose to engage in it online.

I generally find myself at odds with people I respect and care about because I am in the unique and minority position of being the “victim with a bleeding heart for her abuser.” There’s a diagnosis called “Stockholm Syndrome” which means that this is considered to be an abnormal coping mechanism which develops into a maladaptive mental health condition where the victim can identify with the perpetrator to the point that he or she can then turn into a perpetrator on the guidance and behalf of the one they’ve been captivated and abused by. At least that’s my understanding of what that means.

Perhaps that is a maladaptive coping mechanism for me. But, what I can say at this point is that I agree with Cate -

“many people they hold in their heads the idea that there are a some people who don’t deserve compassion. “They’re not human beings, they’re monsters“.  I struggle with that one because I believe that those ‘monsters‘ (a human being is never a monster in my mind) are simply people who have been on a different journey.  And who am I to judge someone else’s journey?”

Responding to hatefullness with hatefullness only spreads hate.

If we want a better future for ourselves, our children, and our world, we have to learn to move through our pain filled experiences of the past with other people and recognize that someone has to start responding to the unforgivable with forgiveness, the unacceptable with acceptance, and the unlovable with love because to continue to take an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind, an arm for an arm leaves everyone maimed, and the scorched earth policies of the victors defeats us all.

What I didn’t know I’d learned from childhood sexual abuse

*Warning: this post discusses my early experience of childhood sexual abuse by a step-parent. I do not go into graphic detail, however, the subject itself is disturbing and the detail I do go into may be triggering or traumatic for readers. Please practice self-care and self-love and do not read past this point if you feel you may risk your mental, emotional, or spiritual health in continuing to read.

Blog For Mental Health 2014

I had a grand plan to face and confront my past and achieve “true” healing and recovery from the codependency and self-harm of compulsive eating behaviors. I created a schedule of groups, therapy appointments, and processing work with spiritual and secular programs which serve people who have experienced abuse and neglect including domestic violence and sexual abuse and who experience PTSD and/or substance abuse issues. Six and a half weeks into 2014 and I’ve wound up cancelling more often than I have attended, for a variety of reasons (multiple episodes of upper respitory viral infections for Luna) and excuses (fear-based activation of physical symptoms associated with the fibromyalgia, depression, and codependency).

That being said, I have been in daily attendance at online meetings of Overeater’s Anonymous and have kept two therapy appointments, attended five group meetings, and followed through with two sessions with Davonna Livingston of Changing Perceptions to work on writing through my story of childhood abuse and neglect. The latter things have brought up some incredibly disturbing and intense realizations for me. Realizations I have been in denial about for at least 32 years.

My codependency is rooted in my experience of being sexually molested by my mother’s second husband.

My experience was not overtly violent or obviously traumatic – at least not to my understanding and recognition. It was indidious, emotionally and psychologically seductive and manipulative. The manner in which I was groomed and inculturated into sexual relationships between myself and men by my stepfather was foundational to my first domestic violence relationship with the sexual and social predator who became my first husband and father of my my first child at 17 years old.

My mother met and married her third husband by the time I was six years old. I don’t really remember what he was like or my interactions with him. I do remember pictures of me, dressed in pink, smiling and happy at their wedding and reception held at his parents’ home in what must have been late Spring or early Summer during my sisth year. If memory serves, I was happy and excited to have a daddy and grandparents. It looked like we might get to have a home and stay in one place for a while. “John” was going to be our hero and stabilizing force.

He moved into our apartment. He bought me a puppy that Christmas. He was an adorable little dog that looked like a miniature Lassie with a curlycue tail. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have my own bedroom and that I slept on the sofa in the living room. I had a puppy and life was good.

We were living in Houston at the time and there were reports of “streakers” in the news. Men going around town wearing trenchcoats and exposing themselves to people, especially kids. It was the era of latchkey kids and kids being free to play, explore, and congregate wherever they could to play and have fun. We didn’t have child care providers, we had babysitters who would sometimes not be home right on time to let us in when we arrived after school, but that was okay and we knew she’d be right back.

It was during this time period my initial grooming began. At six years old I was educated about sex, good touches, bad touches, and that even family members weren’t supposed to touch me in ways that were uncomfortable or in my private areas. All in the interest of teaching me how to stay safe and take care of myself.

Then, John got transferred to help open a new Picadilly Cafeteria in the rural town of Longview, TX. For some reason, we moved out in the middle of the night, leaving behind a filthy, disgusting mess of dirtied newspapers from my puppy, and discarded items we either didn’t have room for in the moving truck or didn’t have time to finish loading. I’m not really sure which. I just suddenly remembered this detail and recall feeling icky about the mess we were leaving behind.

When we got to Longview, we lived in a motel for a little while until John and my mom found us a place to live – a two-bedroom, single-wide mobile home in a mobile home park. That Summer, mom found a church and she and I started attending. She joined the choir and helped teach Sunday School. I attended my first ever Vacation Bible School, learned that Jesus loved me, and got saved. Mom got a job as a part-time school janitor/part-time school bus driver while John worked on hiring kitchen staff and organizing the kitchen he was the head cook/chef in.

I wound up spending more time with John than I had with my mom because of her work schedule and my school schedule. He helped me with homework and tried to show me how to cook. One day, he brought out the porn comics to share with me. I was excited to be treated like such a grown up and have a grown up secret to be trusted with.

One Sunday night, George C. Scott was on the television portraying Patton. Mom was in the kitchen while John and I were on the sofa in the living room. I don’t remember what John said to me, but I wound up agreeing to go to a slightly hidden corner of the living room, the entry alcove, and try oral sex on him. The sense of danger and excitement of possibly having my mom come out and catch us loomed large. It wasn’t forced and I wasn’t upset about it, that I can remember. I don’t actually remember any of this, I just know these are the facts of what happened.

For the next year and a half or two, John continued to invite and persuade me to become physically intimate with him. Each time there was a sensation of pain, he would stop and go no further. Nothing was ever fully consumated because my body wouldn’t receive it. I was left feeling inferior and inadequate. I know there were times when I chased after him pleading to be allowed to try again because I somehow felt like I was causing him disappointment and not loving him the way I was supposed to.

Then, he transferred jobs again and I had turned ten years old. We moved back to Houston and the attention stopped. I was feeling abandonded and desperate for the affection and love which had inexplicably stopped happening. My best little Lolita efforts didn’t have any effect except to be pushed away and ignored in disinterest.

I have recently realized that the way I can’t handle Keith’s silences when he’s angry or upset, or really being shut out by anyone I love when they are unable to share their thoughts and feelings with me, is reawakening that lost, desperate, lonely, and unloved little girl who has been inside of me all along.

At this point, I can recognize a response and reaction for what it is and where it comes from, knowing what it means to the me I used to be who still wants to drive the me I am now. But each and every time I’m triggered in this way, it’s like I’ve never been anyone other than that emotionally bereft and abandoned little girl with a completely distorted sense of self-worth and value tied up in my sexual performance or lack thereof. I can choose to act as if that is not who I am or how I feel, but who I am and how I feel on the inside still is what it always has been.

Maybe, one day, that won’t be the case. I can hope.

Related Article:

What does Healing from Abuse look like? Is it all about talking about memories of abuse? ~ Trauma and Dissociation, http://traumaanddissociation.wordpress.com/

Food Insecurity Graphic

Canned Food Drives and What Families in Need REALLY Need

Lillian Moffitt:

“What if those of us who can afford to donate the kinds of healthy foods we are committed to serving our own loved ones committed to donating that same kind of love and nurture to those in need? What if we stopped trying to decide if people are worthy of helping and just decide that helping others in need was worthwhile regardless of why they may be in need? What if we served people instead of statistics and populations?”

Originally posted on PDX Social Safety Net:

My daughter is a Dutch Broista and today, Valentine’s Day, she made the following announcement:

It’s Dutch Luv day! If you bring three cans of food to any Dutch Bros location you get a free coffee!!

According to “Household Food Security in the United States in 2012,” a report published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, in September 2013 (Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Mark Nord, and Anita Singh, ERR-155), 14.5 percent of American households were food insecure at least part of the year during 2012, with 5.7 percent of them experiencing very low food security “- meaning that the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food

Food Insecurity Graphic

So, almost 6 of every 100 households in the USA wasn’t able to ensure that every family member had enough food to…

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