parenting

God Doesn’t Waste A Wound

Everyone has a story. Chances are that story has a time of crisis or trauma. That moment may be the worst, most terrifying, darkest, lowest time you’ve ever been in, in your life. Often, it becomes a defining moment…a quickening. It becomes an opportunity, an invitation, to do more than survive. It is a moment of learning and growth  . . . or it can be.

That’s what last night’s message and discussion was about, within my faith community. How these times of crisis often present us with a question which causes us to examine ourselves, our lives, our priorities, and cause us to decide who we want to be in our lives and in the world.

Just about everyone has at least one…possibly more.

The Bible is full of them, starting from Adam in Genesis, through to Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, on and on through to the disciples and Jesus himself.

In those moments of trial and pain, many of us, if we are persons with a spiritual faith, question whether or not God is real. We may come to believe that we are being punished for some sin or that he is causing our trouble and pain in order to accomplish something. I personally believe that everything we experience is part of a cause and effect cycle, even if we can’t identify the cause.

The initiating cause doesn’t have to be ours, it can be that of someone or something else, we just happen to get caught in the effect. It is especially in those times when we can’t identify the cause that we may think we have been abandoned by God, believing that he should have protected us against and rescued us from the painful situation.

The reality is that we have a God of redemption and restoration, as well as a God of salvation, refuge, and protection. This means that those crisis moments can lead to us spiraling and spinning into a life of crisis and reactivity. We can feel shattered and completely broken. We may feel as if we’ve lost everything and have no reason to move forward. We wonder why God did this to us or allowed it to happen.

My experience has been that he is present all the time, including in those moments of painful crisis when we feel lost and alone.

Last week, I shared with you about one of those times for me. It was a brief overview of one of the defining relationships in my life and a time fraught with crisis moments, culminating in a near death experience. You can read about it here.

A brief recap: When I was 16, I was a victim in search of a predator, but didn’t know it. I was seduced and manipulated by a man 14 years older than me. I spent 3 years hitchhiking across the country and living out of cars with him . . . before, during, and after my pregnancy with our son, who was born when I was 17. When I was 19 and our son was two, he almost killed me in front of our son. He stopped at a moment when there was no reason or sanity to intervene. I felt as if there was a second between when I was alive and when I would die. In that second, he got up and moved away.

In that previous post, I said that he stopped short of killing me for some reason. I believed then and I believe now, that God was that reason.

There were consequences of that moment. The effects of it weren’t just in me, they were in my son. He was an angry child. I didn’t understand why throughout his childhood. However, once I started my healing process, five years ago, I came to understand that the root of that anger was planted in that moment of crisis.

Several months ago, my son and I had occasion to talk. During that conversation, we touched on his anger and I told him that I knew why he had been so angry as a child and why it continues to affect him. He wanted to know why, so, I told him about that crisis moment when he was two.

About two months later, he called me and told me that he needed to tell me something. He’d experienced a revelation while he’d been in prayer, asking God to show him a more complete picture of what happened and where he had been during the experience. God showed him where He had been in that second between life and death.

My son told me that God showed him that He had been present in my body, my bones, my muscles, my ligaments and tendons, protecting me from the physical effects of the attack. That I had been saved so that I would be here, now, in this moment.

I believed my son, because I knew that there was no earthly reason why his father would have stopped himself and allowed me to escape and get to a place where I could call the police. I just didn’t understand why my life had been saved. I didn’t know what was so special about this time of my life that I would have been saved then so that I could be here now.

Now though, I think it has to do with the career trajectory I’m on. I have a compelling desire to become a Mental Health Peer Support/Wellness Specialist. Not just because of my experience of living with Bipolar II, but also because of the PTSD and how it has manifested in my life. I want to help others navigate through it in ways I never had anyone to help me.

The deep wounding of that event will not be wasted.

 

Mama Dear

Sundays are always my busiest day of the week, so, I’m just now getting to today’s post and it’s 8:08 pm.

Yesterday, I had my Peer-to-Peer class then went to a friend’s barbecue. She and her wife have been strongly encouraging to stop dragging my feet about putting a book together. So, I asked the wife if she would help me “curate” from my previously written content. She told me to pick 10 of my favorite things.

That’s a difficult task. I don’t really have favorite things. I have things I’ve written that, if I go back and read, I don’t like. But I don’t have favorites. I don’t remember the details of most of what I write.

I decided to start by just gathering some poems. I found one I had completely forgotten about. The note said it was a draft and it looked like there was going to be at least one more stanza. But, I had no idea what it was going to be. When I read through it, it seemed pretty complete to me.

Let me know what you think:


Mama dear
This shed tear
Transformed from fear
Is making me clear

Mama love
My mourning dove
Absent gift from above
My life devoid of

Mama me
Never been free
Always tried to flee
Broken memory

Mama dear
You are my peer
Your spirit near
This time of year

Mama knows
How to bear woes
Keeping faith close
As the heart slows

Mama’s pains
This daughter gains
Release from the chains
My hope remains
©️ 2018 lem

I got nuthin’ – free write

I had no cohesive thoughts about what to write for today’s post, day 16 of The Ultimate Blog Challenge. I know daily prompts are emailed, I just don’t get them, for some reason. So, what you get is a brain dump. Continue reading at your own risk. I have no idea what’s about to come out.


I’m on new meds…rather different meds. At least I’m supposed to be. I keep forgetting to take the iron. Liquid iron is an interesting thing. I need to figure out where to put it to where I’ll most likely remember to take it.

Or, maybe I forgot to take it last night because I subconsciously don’t want to take it because I was nauseated most of the day after taking it for the first time the night before.

Anyway, different thyroid med, different iron med, and brand new vitamin D. These changes are supposed to help mitigate the fatigue I’ve been experiencing.

Sleep would help with that, I’m sure. But, 30 years of disrupted sleep catches up to you.

Yes, I have sleep apnea…but not 30 years ago. Yes, there’s often a 10 year old Cling On, in bed next to me…but not for the first 20 years.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia when I was 20, and one of the symptoms the doctor used to identify it was sleep disturbance.

My hands are tingling from holding the phone…yes, I mostly use my phone to write my blogs. That’s because I usually write in the middle of the night, when it’s dark and I can’t sleep, but the child who cannot sleep alone is asleep next to me. Also, for about three years, I didn’t have a computer. Now that I have one, I forget about using it a lot.

Anyway, the numbing and tingling has been happening for as long as the sleep disturbance has been a thing. Yes, I have diabetes, but, I wasn’t even pre-diabetic when I was 20. It was another symptom used to diagnose fibromyalgia…as was the fatigue, and seemingly rootless aches and pains.

My research found that often people with a history of trauma developed it. I also found out that, at the time, it wasn’t usually diagnosed until someone was in their 40’s. Of course, I didn’t do the research until 10 years after the initial diagnosis.

Why? Because I was a single mom, in college, trying to change my life and my destiny. So, I forgot about it. Poor memory is another fibromyalgia thing. Except, it’s also a trauma thing.

Something I’ve noticed is that my fibro symptoms have greatly diminished over the past five and a half years, as I’ve been in therapy and actively working on my mental health, including getting a diagnosis of and getting treatment for PTSD.

I wonder if, in my case, maybe the fibromyalgia is primarily trauma-based. I know that isn’t always the case for everyone who is diagnosed with it. I mean, I’d experienced plenty of trauma by the time I was 20: sexual, emotional, psychological, and physical. It wasn’t all at once and it wasn’t the same people for each kind.

It makes me pause and question if I had been diagnosed and treated for PTSD back then, would I still feel like a mental and emotional basket case most of the time. I mean, what’s past is past, I know. I’m just curious if there’s a connection between trauma and fibromyalgia, then couldn’t doctors screen for trauma and refer for mental health services.


Ok. I didn’t expect that. Now, I’m sleepy again and dozing off. So, I’ll close for now.

Scattered Goal Setting: Just Do It

I suck at structure and routine. It’s my kryptonite.

Every day planner or daily journal I’ve ever had, was lucky to be utilized for more than a couple of weeks. Organized goal setting? Forget about it. I’ve tried. I’ve taken classes. I’ve been mentored. I’ve learned strategies and used templates. Nothing sticks. It’s just beyond me.

Maybe it’s a Gemini thing. Maybe it’s a Bipolar thing. Maybe it’s a PTSD thing. Whatever it is, it’s a ME thing. I have felt like a failure because, no matter how hard I try or how much I want to, it’s just not something I have been able to achieve and maintain. I’ve had people who have done their best to teach me and guide me into doing this, give up on me, with the false belief that I am not interested in growing and achieving success . . . or their idea of success.

I’ve had mental health advocates and therapists explain and teach methods and techniques, stressing the critical importance of structure, order, and routine in the recovery process. Service providers for my daughter, who experiences the world through the autism spectrum, have campaigned for me to do these things for her well-being.

I’ve tried. I really have.

I’m coming to a realization: I’ve been doing the things, just not in recognizable ways. I have a loose routine and keep a schedule, sort of. Every appointment, class, and commitment goes into my phone’s calendar. If it isn’t in there, it doesn’t happen. So, I show up to just about everything I say I’m going to. There’s one thing that’s a constant. Every Sunday, I go in early to help set up for the worship and teaching service with my faith community. The rest of the schedule varies from day to day and week to week. But, it’s all in my phone.

My personal care routine revolves around those appointments. The ADLs (Activities of Daily Living): specifically the personal hygiene ones revolve around the things in my phone. If there’s an external commitment where I’m going to be around people, then it happens. If it’s just me, myself, and I staying home . . . well, it may or may not happen. I’m working on that. Definitely room for improvement. Baby steps.

As far as goal setting goes, I’m not so SMART. Do you know what SMART goals are?

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

Written down, with steps and actions laid out, in small, manageable bites.

I’ve tried. Haven’t been able to keep up with it. I get overwhelmed with the planning, my brain starts spinning, I lose focus, and get lost in the details.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been recovering anyway. Guess what else? I’m on the right path and trajectory for what I want to be doing.

I decided that, after five years of focusing on my mental health recovery and eight years of working to stabilize my youngest child, who is on the autism spectrum, that I’m probably ready and able to hold down a job. At least, I hope I am.

Get a job. I didn’t write it down, exactly. I’ve written about wanting to get one, but, it’s not in a diary, journal, or planner. I got a little specific – Peer Support Specialist. Not written down, but continuously on my mind.

I didn’t write an action plan. I just decided that, after seven years of not being employed, I needed to refresh and update my office computer skills. After all, there really isn’t a job in many industries that doesn’t require knowledge and ability to use some computer skills to document the work being done. So, I went where I knew to start the process because it’s where I’ve started in the past.

There was a calendar of classes and for updating those skills. It also had job readiness activities listed: Workshops for Resumes, Job Search, Interpersonal Skills, Interview Skills. So, I signed up for all of them and plugged them into my phone calendar as appointments, so they would happen. No concrete plan going in; just find out what was being offered and take advantage of it.

I figured if I want to do Peer Support work, I should probably continue and increase my participation in mental health group programs. So, I signed up for NAMI’s Peer to Peer class. Through that process I discovered they have a training for the job I want. I applied, but didn’t get in. Since I hadn’t planned and counted on it, not getting in didn’t derail me. I just looked at the reason I didn’t get in: I needed to be currently engaged in a job or volunteer position doing the work. When a volunteer opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it. No planning. I just did it.

I heard about another training opportunity and called about it the next day. Heard back the following day and discovered I have less than a week to submit and application and a letter of reference. I happened to run into my therapist while waiting for one of the groups and asked for the letter. We’re doing it later today when I see her for my appointment. I submitted the online application yesterday.

The point is, that I haven’t done any planning. I just decided and followed through with steps that made the most sense in the moment they presented themselves. I’m not going to lie and say that none of the things I have been taught and told about goal setting, time-management, planning, and organizing haven’t helped the process along. They absolutely have. Just not in ways most recognizable to the gurus of goals.

If you’re anything like me and planning for a goal or developing a structured routine don’t work, then, as Nike suggests . . .

Just Do It.

 

Advancing ahead

I made it to and through my Advanced Word class on Friday and didn’t nod off once! Yay, me! I was kind of shocked considering the fact that, between fireworks, physical discomfort, and my brain, I didn’t sleep much or well.

I think a major difference is that I wasn’t already familiar with much of the material. So, I was actually learning and not just rehashing what I already knew.

Interestingly, it was my lowest assessment score of all seven MS Office classes I’ve taken so far. I’m kind of an intellectual perfectionist (trying to let that go). So, less than 100% causes an internal twinge and tic. Which is absolutely ridiculous because my score was over 90%.

Enough about that.

I’ve got two more computer classes to take, then I’ll be done with what Goodwill has to offer. Power Point is scheduled for Monday. Google got moved to the 24th when I went to the doctor about the sleep issues, which I discussed here.

I’m feeling antsy, like I’m kind of spinning my wheels. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I really want to work as a Mental Health Peer Support Specialist…which requires certification through the state. Certification classes usually cost money…of which I have none.

I had applied to the local NAMI affiliate, which offers a free certification class. Unfortunately, there were only 20 spots and 80 applicants. Preference is given to those already volunteering or employed in peer support work. So, I was part of the unfortunate majority.

Fortunately, I had already signed up for their Peer to Peer class, designed as an educational and practical class for those experiencing mental illness, led by those experiencing mental illness. I was already familiar with a significant amount we went over yesterday. However, it’s only the second class and I missed the first one – which I’d arranged when I signed up.

Towards the end of class, one of the leaders made a plea for volunteers to speak and share their stories at schools, businesses, and out in the community. There are also opportunities for training to become class leaders. They need leaders for the Peer to Peer class, which I’m in. They also need leaders for two other classes I plan on taking: the Family to Family class for those who have loved ones who experience mental illness and the Basics class for parents actively parenting children with mental health issues. Since both of my adult children experience their own mental heath issues, as does my 10 year old, who experiences life through the Autism Spectrum, I feel these classes will be helpful to me on a personal level and, potentially, on a professional one.

So, after class, I had a brief conversation with the leader who is in charge of speaker recruitment and got the Volunteer Interest Form. I explained to him what my employment goal is and he enthusiastically asked if I was taking their certification program. When I explained I’d applied but not gotten in, he looked slightly surprised – as if he felt I should have been accepted. I explained why and he seemed to have an objection to my exclusion, but said that I was in his class now, which supports my goal. I agreed.

I completed the Volunteer form and pretty much checked off all the things – including the office/admin support roles. So, we’ll see where things go from here.

Wish me luck!

Not Alone

I seem to be straying from my original intent to focus on my job readiness journey this month. But, perhaps not. Today, I’m talking about mental health.

Here’s why: If you’re struggling with mental illness or emotional instability OR you have a loved one who is OR you have experienced trauma OR any combination of the aforementioned, you need to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I want you to know that, despite however weak, fragile, overwhelmed, and incapable you may feel right now, you are one of the strongest, most courageous people you know.

Feeling the way you feel, experiencing anxiety, depression, hyper-reactivity, mania, having compulsive self-harming behaviors, experiencing suicidal thoughts, or any other “wrong” thing does not mean you are “less than,” unworthy, insignificant, or “damaged beyond repair.”

You see, I’ve been there. Some days I’m still there. I have friends and family who have been or are there. I’ve known those who didn’t make it and know those who make it one day at a time, if not moment by moment.

Last night I had the privilege to speak with another mom, who is facing and navigating challenges similar to those I have experienced – some of which I’ve come out on the other side of and some that will ever be with me. A history of physical and mental trauma, mental illness, and parenting a child with mental health and behavioral challenges through childhood and into adulthood.

Feelings of loneliness, isolation, despair, and thoughts of permanently packing it in are all things I’m more than familiar with and gave me the empathy she needed. I was able to listen with understanding. I had knowledge of resources and professionals better equipped to help her than I am to offer her. I was able to share some of my stories, giving her hope and shoring up her faith.

By the end of the call, we had established a rapport and a bond borne of shared experience and the knowledge that neither of us is alone in our struggle. She seemed genuinely hopeful, a 180 degree turnaround from where she was when we first began talking.

My lived experience of surviving trauma and mental illness has equipped me to be of service to others who are living through similar things. Even though I still have my struggles and even though I’ll never be “fully” healed and recovered, I’m far enough along that I have something good to offer.

I have a friend who says, “God doesn’t waste a wound.”

While I am not of the belief that God punishes and wounds us by causing trauma and devastation in our lives, I do believe he is present in and with us throughout these things. Furthermore, I believe that, if we are able to participate in the healing process, he redeems our personal tragedies in ways that can bring good.

This is what I want to do with my life. I want to walk alongside others on this healing and recovery journey, bolstering them up when they’re walk is shaky and help them stand back up, dust off, and get going again.

That’s what it’s about, right?

We all stumble. We all fall. We all get exhausted, worn down, and overwhelmed. We all need a little help getting by.

Now, due to several factors, prior student debt to a private institution being chief among them, going back to college isn’t a feasible option. Especially if I want to start working ASAP.

What I CAN do is get a certification to be a Mental Health Peer Support Specialist.

I didn’t get into the certification training I wanted to, this go around. But, I’m only getting started and there are other things I can do while I figure out how to access the training I need.

Today I start a Peer to Peer class put on by NAMI – the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It will help me be less isolated on my own journey and add to my toolbox of coping skills.

Wish me luck!

30 Day Writing Challenge – Days 10-13: 4 Day Catch-up

Day 10: If you had 3 wishes…
Day 11: If I were 16 again, this is one decision I’d change.
Day 12: I’m going to do this amazing thing today. It will…
Day 13: What is something you’ve said that you wish you said differently?

Four days’ worth of prompts. What happened? The prompts for days 10, 11, and 12 were a little late and I was otherwise occupied. Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I wrote a letter to my mom, who committed suicide when I was 12. It was a day of grieving. I let the tears flow and didn’t try to stifle them. It was a difficult thing, but, I did it. Today has been a day of recovering from a week caught in the limbo land of my ex – too long of a story there. Someday I’ll tell it . . . maybe. I also collaborated on creating a Numbers spreadsheet for a game app I play. That was fun and felt somewhat productive. I also dealt with some medical service issues for my youngest. Another long story that I will be telling sometime soon, I think. I dozed a bit off and on, washed accumulated dishes, and that’s about it. So, here I am looking at these prompts and feeling a bit overwhelmed and stymied.

However, I am reminding myself that I don’t have to write profoundly or perfectly. Nor does it have to be a pretty little package of poetry or prose. The writing itself is what’s important, right now, as I work toward developing my writing muscle and mental habit. So, here I go.

Day 10: If I had 3 wishes…

  1. I had a couple of people who would come in and help me deal with ALL the clutter, mostly paper, that I’ve accumulated over the years. I moved into the place I’m at now almost nine years ago. I still have unpacked boxes and crates filling my bedroom and hall closets and completely filling up the space under my bed. I want to have all the stuff sorted into the donate, discard, and keep categories. Then, I want all the “keep” stuff totally organized . . . I just don’t want to be the one doing it, or at least not doing it by myself. Just the thought is overwhelming and my brain starts shutting down at the thought of it all.
  2. I had a personal trainer/nutritionist to work with me until I could get my kitchen and schedule overhauled to enable me to take better care of my health by developing habits, establishing routines, and learning how to meal plan, prep, and shop for myself, while also dealing with the Binge Eating Disorder/Depression that make self-care in these ways so challenging.
  3. I had a life/writing coach and editor to help me figure out the steps and process of gathering, organizing, and editing my writing in a way so I can write some books. I have been told I need to publish my writing and that I should write a biography. I want to do these two things, I just really don’t know where to start.

Day 11: If I were 16 again, this is one decision I’d change.

I’ve really been thinking about this one a lot. 16 was a pivotal year for me. Pretty much every decision I made led me to be the person I am today and led to the children and grandchildren I have. If I could make changes and still be guaranteed to have the same family I have today, just with fewer difficulties and more functionality, then I would stay in school and not run away from home with a man who was 14 years older than me, a con artist, and the father of my first child. I’ll have to write about this at more length in the future. Suffice it to say, any change I would make would wipe out the life I have today and the people in it. That’s not worth making things look the way I wanted them to back then.

Day 12: I’m going to do this amazing thing today. It will…

I did the amazing thing yesterday. I wrote the letter to my mom. I grieved for her and for myself. I hunted for and found a poem I had written to her at a time when I was struggling with my own mental health as a young, single, depressed mom. It eased some of the emotional weight and pressure I’ve been harboring for a very long time. I felt better for it.

Day 13: What is something you’ve said that you wish you said differently?

I wish I could say things to my youngest daughter in ways that don’t trigger her fears and anxiety. She experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum. She’s very literal. She’s scared of the dark and when she’s exposed to things in our culture that most people can differentiate between reality and fantasy, she can’t. She fully believes that Chucky, Pennywise, and Momo are real and will come to get her in the dark. She also has behavior issues from emotional dysregulation. During those times when she acts out in extreme ways, she attributes them to an aspect she calls Moonlight. She speaks of it as if Moonlight is in control of these destructive behaviors and actions. I struggle with understanding whether Moonlight is an actual manifestation of something additional going on with her mental health or if she’s a construct she uses to scapegoat and avoid taking responsibility for her actions. Both of these things often frustrate and exasperate me and I speak dismissively, with impatience, doubt, or frustration. None of those things are helpful in any context with neurotypical people. With her and her autism, they are really detrimental and get in the way of us being able to have constructive and positive interactions.

How was that for a four day catch-up wrap-up?