The child informs the adult

I came across this image on my Facebook news feed the other day. 
Now, for transparency’s sake, I confess that I haven’t done my due diligence to research the statistics. The main reason is that, for anyone experiencing PTSD, statistics don’t mean a damn thing. It doesn’t matter to the people who live with a person experiencing PTSD symptoms, whether their loved one is in a larger percentage category or a smaller one. The fact of the matter is that PTSD (and other mental health issues) impact our relationships with ourselves and others. Period. Dot. The End.

The reason why this image resonated so strongly with me is because I was diagnosed with PTSD a year and a half ago. Subsequent counseling has helped me to understand that I, more than likely, entered adulthood with PTSD. While I’ve experienced more than my fair share (as if there IS a “fair share”) of traumatic events which could trigger PTSD, those events probably both reinforced the PTSD I unknowingly already had and were exacerbated or amplified by pre-existing PTSD symptoms. Additionally, there is an extreme probability that both of my adult children entered adulthood with PTSD, primarily as a result of having me as their mother. No mommy guilt, just a statement of fact.

Over the past few years I have found out more about my mother and her life’s experiences, primarily through a first cousin of hers who knew her as a child, adolescent, and young adult. One of the things I discovered was that not only did she grow up almost as rootless as I did, she also grew up living in the volatility of domestic violence, the kind where a wife feels the need, for whatever reason, to pull a gun on her husband. I also found out that she displayed many behaviors, starting in early adolescence, which are indicative of Bipolar Disorder with Schizophrenia. Based on this knowledge, in combination with what few memories I have, and what we are learning about mental health disorders like Bipolar, Schizophrenia, and PTSD, it’s very likely that she did experience PTSD, in addition to the other things she experienced throughout her 28 years on this earth. 

She was an emotionally unavailable person, as a parent. So was I. She often made drastic and dramatic changes, such as in relationship choices and “running away” from her life in one location to another. I did this as well. She experienced low self-esteem and extended periods of depression…another thing we had in common. 

The childhood I experienced was one lacking in emotional nurturing, meaning I never formed healthy and secure attachments with consistently “safe” people. This is the same kind of childhood my two oldest children experienced. So, as might be expected, the choices and experiences my children made and had in their adolescence and early adulthood were as chaotic and crisis driven as those of my mother and myself, sometimes to greater extremes and with worse consequences.

The three of us, my children and myself, are all in much better “places” in our lives than any of us ever have been before. My son is surrounded by and grounded in the center of two very loving families who are committed to loving and accepting him, no matter what. They have already proven that multiple times. They consist of his adopted family, who adopted him as an adult, and his wife’s family, which he’s been part of for two and a half years. My daughter has two healthy and thriving children, almost 16 and 4 months, respectively. Both of these babies have formed strong attachments to both parents. My granddaughter, who is the oldest, has also formed a strong bond with me. My daughter has also gone through a long and challenging process to turn her life completely around from what it was three to five years ago. She’s working two part-time jobs, one with a traditional career track and the other with a proven track record for enterprising entrepreneurs who are interested in franchising. She and her boyfriend have worked through and are continually working through any relationship difficulties which arise. These aren’t insignificant due to similarly difficult and challenging histories. However, their commitment to each other and their determination to do differently and better for their children than what they experienced are their driving forces.

As for me, the thought of permanently losing relationship with my children and never having an opportunity to be in relationships with my grandchildren was profoundly motivating for me. Before that, though, the determination to raise my youngest child, who is now six and a half years old, in healthier ways and with more stability to, hopefully, give her a better fighting chance to not enter adulthood with as many of the same kinds of issues that her sister, brother, and mother did was also a driving force in my life.

I had advantages my mother didn’t. I grew up in and entered adulthood in an era where things like child abuse and domestic violence were becoming less accepted as the societal norm of what goes on behind closed doors staying behind closed doors. Counseling services for survivors of childhood abuse and sexual abuse were available. Research and understanding about mental health issues was advancing and growing. New kinds of medication to treat Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Schizophrenia have been developed. We now have healthcare available for those experiencing poverty which enables us to receive mental health services and treatment. Faith systems and communities are recognizing that, while there may be spiritual influences and factors involved, mental health issues have biological and neurochemical components which can and should be treated medically. These things are advantages for my children, as well. 

However, two of the biggest advantages for me (and for them) is that the degree to which I have experienced Bipolar Disorder is less than what my mother experienced, by all accounts. I also have never experienced a schizophrenic episode. I believe these are two of the biggest factors in me living past the age of 28. Being able to live long enough to experience the access to mental healthcare and the beginnings of the destigmatization of mental health illnesses and disorders in our society have played a huge part in my recovery from my past and in my increasing ability to engage in healthier relationships with loved ones and strangers alike.

Now, please imagine how the effects of unidentifiable, undiagnosed, and untreated PTSD from childhood abuse, sexual abuse, and trauma manifest in the lives of those children once they become adults. What kinds of interpersonal and professional relationships do they experience? How does it show up in ways our society judges and ostracizes? What kinds of self-harming behavior are engaged in? Do they get medicated by a physician for depression and/or anxiety instead of referred to mental health treatments like CBT/DBT? Are addictions and compulsive behaviors become part of their future?

Will they be judged by their symptoms?

Haters Gonna Hate

Lillian Moffitt:

I couldn’t have said it any better!

Originally posted on Doree Weller's Blog:

Roatan, Honduras Photo Credit: Doree Weller Roatan, Honduras
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Last week, as I’m sure everyone knows, the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality.  I saw a lot of celebration on my news feed. There was also an article shared about a pastor who stated that he would set himself on fire if gay marriage was legalized, and many of the comments I saw were things like, “Has he done it yet?” “Fire! Fire!” and so on.

I feel bad for that pastor.  How much hatred does he have to have inside him for him to threaten to light himself on fire because of something that has nothing to do with him?  How much must he hate himself to make those statements? We’re a culture that’s easily angered.  We’re intolerant of his hatred and intolerance, and our knee-jerk reaction to such stupid statements (because yes, I think it’s stupid to light yourself on fire because…

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Who am I to talk about relationships?

First off, let me say this: I’m not an expert or a professional anything. I don’t have a high level of education and have not acquired any defining letters to include after my name. I haven’t been trained to be a peer counselor, nor have I been employed in a therapeutic setting.

I  am a 46 year old mother of three, two of whom are adults, 28 1/2 and 22 years old. I’m parenting a six year old with special needs. My mothering has been good, at times, damaging at others, and almost always clueless while I tried to figure it out. I’m still figuring it out. I’m a grandmother of two: a toddler and an infant. So far, the grandma gig seems easier than the mom gig. I’m better at it than I thought I could be. I’m a cousin who helped take care of my baby cousin in her infancy and offered her a “safe” space as a child and adolescent. I’m a friend who’s been both a good one, a bad one, and everything in between. I’ve been an employee and co-worker. I’ve been a wife, a girlfriend, a long-time partner, and a one night stand. I’m the stranger on the bus who talks too much.

I didn’t grow up in a family that did relationships very well, if at all. My mom had me at 16. She and my dad, essentially, did the shotgun wedding thing when she found out she was pregnant in 1968. Shortly after I was born, during the Summer of Woodstock, in 1969, they were divorced. She married two more times by the time I was six. Her longest marriage lasted until I was ten. It ended after I told her about the two years of sexual abuse. By the time I was 12, our relationship had broken down to the point where she signed custody over to my uncle and went back to where we’d come from. A month or two later, we were told she’d killed herself. Many, many years later, within the past couple of years, after multiple conversations with an extended relative who knew her throughout out her brief 28 years I have come to question her cause of death. I also believe that she had undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder with a side of schizophrenia – so suicide is not out of the realm of possibility.

Oh wow! My son is about to exceed my mom’s lifespan. Deep breath.

Throughout it all, my grandmother was part of my life. However, my relationship with her really just consisted of her buying me bits and baubles, letting me eat whatever junk food I wanted, and either telling me what to do or leaving me to my own devices. My relationship with my aunt and uncle primarily consisted of me being told what chores to do, get criticized for not doing them. My grandpa was a jolly, old soul who held forth and held court while sittin’ in his draws, drinkin’ Hamms, with multiple overflowing ashtrays. I never knew which stories were true, which were hyperbole, and which were pure blarney. 

Side note: My uncle’s first wife was the younger sister of my grandpa’s second wife. My uncle and his wife were married first.

My mom only had two friends, in between husbands two and three, that I can remember. My grandma had one and she never remarried after she and my grandpa split, before I had any memory of either of them. My aunt and uncle had limited and specific friendships, as they were involved in things from the swinging 70’s not discussed in polite society.

We moved around, frequently. We changed addresses multiple times in both California and Texas. So, peer relationships weren’t part of my early childhood. By the time we landed in Portland, Oregon, when I was twelve, my social and relational skills were those of a child raised amongst proverbial wolves in an urban jungle.

It’s taken me 34 years to learn and understand what it means to be in and have true and deep relationships. Most of that growth has happened over the course of the past three and a half years, with the majority occurring in the last year.

If you read back through, from the beginning of this blog, you’ll get a good idea of how bad I’ve been at relationships. Which begs the question, “Who am I to talk about relationships?”

I’ll tell you. I’m a mother whose relationship was so broken with her son that he decided to get legally adopted, as an adult, by another family. We now engage in deep and true conversations. I have become an accepted member in his faith community, which primarily consists of his wife’s family, his adopted family, my cousin’s family, and a few others. My relationship with my adult daughter was so broken that I was terrified I would never be allowed to have a relationship with my grandchildren. Now, their faces light up when they see me. She and I have a mutually respectful relationship. 

Despite the breakdown and breakup of an 18 year, mutually toxic relationship between me and the father of my six year old daughter, we are putting aside (for the most part) the acrimony, bitterness, and angst of our past in order to co-parent her and learn how best to serve as her parents as we all learn about High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I’m risking more and starting to build deeper friendships in more face to face people. Whereas the majority of my friendships have been built through online connections, even the ones I’ve known in person. I have mutually supportive friends, online and irl. We share our lives, laughter, passions and peeves. We learn from each other. We encourage one another. We celebrate the victories, small and large. We mourn the losses. We allow and create safe space for ranting, raving, and disagreements.

I’m growing in relationship with myself and my God. Learning how to be loved and how to love myself. For the first time in my adult life, I was actually excited and happy to celebrate me on my birthday, three and a half weeks ago.

It is my hope that, by sharing my journey and what I’ve learned about relationships, that others might discover hope and healing in their own lives and relationships. My journey is not yet complete and there is still much work to be done. God isn’t finished with me yet. 

Isn’t that true of us all? Let’s learn and grow together, shall we?

I’m Back: July 2015 Ultimate Blog Challenge 

It’s been awhile since I’ve written on a consistent basis or with an internal sense of cohesion and cognition. It’s been about a year and a half since I’ve written more than five posts and two years since I’ve written and posted consistently. Although, there are quite a few partially written drafts.

Life’s been challenging and I’ve been working through a lot of things . . . mostly regarding relationships. As a result of this process, I’m realizing that everything in our lives is about relationships, how we interact with others in the world around us, and how those interactions are informed by the relationship we have with ourselves. Whether it’s online, in our homes, on the job, in our cars, or on public transit, our interactions with others – even if they aren’t aware of those interactions – come from how we feel, what we think, what we believe, what we expect, and how we view the world in relation to ourselves.

This means that every interaction is also about all of those things from the other person’s or people’s side of the world, real or virtual. 

With so many horrific, dramatic, and critical things going on in the world around us, which are also all about relationships, I think exploring various aspects and settings for relationships is something worth looking at.

Don’t you?

I had grand plans a couple of weeks ago, when I first decided to do this challenge and write on this subject. I was going to write out a schedule and plan an outline. I was going to write as many posts as possible ahead of time, so that I could consistently publish at the same time and so that there would be an organized progression in the content.

Yeah. That didn’t happen. Here’s the way it’s going to to work, instead.

I’m going to do my best to write and publish daily. I’m going to do my best to support my fellow UBCers during this challenge. I’m going to conform and adhere to the rules and process of the challenge, as much as possible. I’m going to make every effort to do these things. 

However, I won’t be sacrificing my relationships in order to do so. I won’t stress myself out, criticize myself, or otherwise beat myself up if it turns out that I bit off more than I can chew. At least that’s one of my goals.

My ultimate goal is to get a real conversation going about what it means to be in the different kinds of relationships we find ourselves in and what it takes to grow and change in relationships.

I will share some of my personal experiences and what I’ve learned or am learning about them. I’ll write about topics relating to social media and relationships. I hope to have a guest or two join the conversation. I will include my thoughts and responses to a book I’ve been invited to help moderate a study on at my home faith community in the Fall.


Mostly, I’ll wing it and see where this journey takes us. Please join me by commenting. Invite others to join us by sharing. Let’s explore this world of relationships together.

Too Little, Too Much

Blurry eyes

Burning hands

Foggy brain

Tired body

Torn emotions

Weary soul

No time to rest

I’ve given my best

Nothing left for me

Nothing left of me

A mothering grandmother who expresses frustration and anger more easily than love and tenderness. 

Learning to be domesticated

Putting on my own straitjacket, all for the sake of love.

I want them to know I love them. I can’t change how much I couldn’t love in our past.

I can’t make up for that loss and lack.

But, now, it’s so important for me to show them I have their backs.

Yet, it feels like all I do and am lacks…so much

I long to feel, just a touch

Of compassion and love

Is asking for gentleness too much?

Exhausted and tapped Out

I’m now in my sixth week of nonstop sciatic pain…

The level of this pain has triggered an ongoing flare of the pain and chronic fatigue of the fibromyalgia…

In turn, it’s wreaking havoc with the depression symptoms of the Bipolar II and the anxiety symptoms of the PTSD…

So I’m continually on edge and frustrated by everyone and everything, including the uncontrollable aspects of my six year old’s behavior and her impossible to soothe tantrums around her sensory sensitivities and incomprehensible frustrations triggered by her inability to cope with the disappointments when life can’t meet her expectations and desires.

Last week she told me that I scared her, hurt her feelings, and looked like Cinderella’s stepmother. Which didn’t feel good to me, but is actually a good sign that she is learning and growing despite the limitations of her high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It’s also compounding the distance in my relationship with my pregnant daughter, her boyfriend, and hindering my grandparening of their daughter.

Now my six year old is in the midst of a major earache that I can’t give her relief from for more than an hour or so. It started after clinic hours. I have a doctor’s appointment for myself tomorrow. I can’t cancel and reschedule again. Somehow I also need to get her in to get her ear checked out.

I’m trying not to be discouraged and down on myself for all of this and for what feels like shirking in staying caught up with dishes, cooking healthy meals, and taking care of the business I need to in regards to seeking services and pursuing vocational endeavors.

I simply cannot do more than I’m doing and what I’m doing is not enough.

I guess this means I’m blessed:

“The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted. (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭3-4‬ HCSB)

Somehow, I have to do this:

Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always. (‭Psalms‬ ‭105‬:‭4‬ HCSB)

Then I might experience this:

The Lord gives His people strength; the Lord blesses His people with peace. (‭Psalms‬ ‭29‬:‭11‬ HCSB)

Except, actually believing and trusting in these things feels impossible.

Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.” (‭Mark‬ ‭9‬:‭24‬ HCSB)

Lord, help my unbelief. I’m at the end of myself. I’m weary and overwhelmed with the burdens that keep piling up. Help me to release them to You. Show me where You are in this. Let me see Your footsteps and know You are carrying me through this.

Please, God.

Steps to Anger Management: Identifying the Triggers

In yesterday’s post, I revealed to myself and the world at large that I have a rage/anger problem. That was an extremely difficult thing to realize about myself. I think it is also one of the hardest things to accept about myself. However, accept it, I must. If I don’t accept it, then I will continue to be at war with myself. Constantly fighting internal battles leaves little room for letting other people in or engaging in relationship with others in significant, meaningful ways which let them know of your concern and love for them in emotionally healthy and tangible ways. At least, this is what I am discovering has been a truth in my life and my relationships. If anger and rage are occupying the mental and emotional space, then anger and rage are the expressions which seep out or rush out into interactions with others, including, and sometimes especially, the ones we love who may be least deserving of anger being taken out or projected onto them.

I have a lot of anger triggers, most of them having to do with my children. A portion of that anger is triggered by how they interact with me. However, the largest portion is how they are treated by others. This is especially true when it comes to my six year old. That being said, how my 21 year old daughter is treated, generates a rage which is not just rage, it is fear and sorrow so intense that, at times, I feel physicaly ill. Since she is 21, a legal, independent adult, I have no say, and little influence, in her relational transactions. It is not within my power or my purview to protect her or decide what she accepts, receives, or allows into her life. All I can do is to make myself available and find a way to become a safe and stable source of unconditional love who can be trusted. I still have a lot of growth to do in this area. For the moment, my anger and rage which are triggered when she is mistreated, in my eyes, gets rolled into the triggers with my six year old. I think that may be because she is my last child, the last bastion of innocence in my charge.

At this point, it could be written off and accepted as the way a mother loves her children and never wants to see them hurt and wounded in any way by anyone. That is a typical and natural response . . . or at least the expected response. Yet, I know there’s much more to it. The volatility of my internal and, sometimes, my external reactions is indicative of a much deeper and personal connection. I’m realizing it stems from experiences in my own life, from childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.

As a little girl, I seldom had any space that was mine. When I did have space which was mine, briefly for about a year, year and a half, between eight and ten years old, my room was the catchall for the clutter from the public areas in the trailer we lived in. I remember, at one point, I wound up sleeping on the floor of my room because all the other places were full of stuff my mother had shoved in there before company came over. Later, when my mother and I lived in a one bedroom apartment, there was so much clutter throughout our small apartment that she reacted in painful ways when she thought I was exposing the mess to the view of the outside world.

The prevailing memory of my mother was when I had barely turned 12. It was an extremely hot day. The apartments we lived in were connected to a motel in the front of the property. it was a collection of three rows of single story, stucco buildings, with two buildings in the front, which were placed 90 degrees counter to the other rows. One bulding faced the road and which was the small motel, the other faced inward and was a row of two or three apartments. That was the building in which we lived. Two other of family units we were related to lived there, as well. My grandfather and his wife lived several apartments down the first row our bulding faced. My uncle and his wife lived in the middle row, which faced the bulding my grandfather lived in and was catty corner to the building I lived in with my mother. We could see each other’s front doors. There was no shade, no grassy area; the pavement between the buildings were made of black asphalt and were the pathway and parking for vehicles. So, the heat was amplified and made going outside uncomfortable and unappealing.

We had only been in town a few months. I had entered the sixth grade at my newest school well after Spring Quarter had begun. I hadn’t made any friends whom I was connected to outside of school. As a matter of fact, I had incurred the ridicule and wrath of some of my classmates simply because I was an outsider and I was from a different part of the country, with an accent and peculiar ways of relating to my peers and the world around me. So, I was socially isolated. I was accustomed to this, as we had moved several times throughout my childhood and frequently found myself in a new school, in a new town, sometimes in a new city or state. So, I had no place to go and no one to hang out with.

Our apartment was hot and stuffy. It was too hot to have the windows open. Even if they had been open, the blinds and curtains would have been closed against both the sun shining in and the possiblity of others seeing the mess we lived in. I was restless and uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be inside, yet going outside wasn’t any better. So, I stood in the doorway, with the door held close to my body. I actually think my body was completely inside and I was holding my face between the doorframe and the door itself, so, my body would block the view of anyone passing by.

My mom was harping at me, wanting the door closed. She was anxious about anyone possibly seeing in. She wanted me to go completely in or completely out. She didn’t care which, she only wanted the door closed. I refused. Her voice became increasingly strident as I continued to resist her pleas and demands to close the door. I argued and tried to reason with her, according to my 12 year old logic. She finally became so distraught and angry that she yanked me in by my hair and pushed me over the arm of the sofa, closing the door, then sitting down on top of my legs so that I couldn’t get up and reopen the door. I honestly don’t recall what my emotions and thoughts were in that moment. I do know that the more I demanded and yelled for her to get off of me, the angrier I became. Finally, I sat up, bent forward, and bit her on the thigh as hard as I could.

Within a very short time, my uncle came over. He had seen my sudden departure from the doorway and the succeeding slam of the door.

A few weeks later, my mom and he went to a bank to notarize a handwritten note signing guardianship of me over to my uncle. Then she left to move back to where we’d come from and moved in with her mother. I never saw her again. She died of a reported suicide a few weeks shy of her 28th birthday, a month or two after our final altercation.

This cycle of instability, chaos, and out of control parenting has continued in my life ever since. I think a lot of my anger stems from all of my childhood, which culminated in this event. More of my anger is directed at myself. As much as I have attempted to disrupt and alter my perpetuation of this cycle, I have continued along this trajectory. I wounded my adult children in similar ways in their childhoods. I feel the intensity of my frustration with my youngest daughter. It scares me and hurts when I see hurt and fear in her eyes, even though I know I’ve changed how I act, she still senses it through the tone of voice, the look in my eyes, and the demeanor of my body. Earlier this week, during a huge blow out between me, my adult daughter, and her boyfriend, while the youngest was at school, my daughter stated that she sees little difference between her growing up years and her little sisters. Yesterday, my little girl told me she feels scared when I am mad at her. This breaks my heart. I don’t want to be that mom.

There is so much grief and sorrow within me I don’t know what to do with. I think it has been bottled up inside for the past 33 years, growing every time I put them through the things I went through, that it has been transmuted into the rage and anger that simmers and boils inside of me. I have to find a way to let the sorrow and grief be what it is and be expressed.

Matthew 5:4New International Version (NIV)

4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.