Day 152 – Looking Past the Past ~

Looking past the past

Looking ahead doesn’t mean that you no longer see the past.  Some parts of your past are good and filled with love and joy.   Other parts of the past are buried and quietly put away because they are too painful or disturbing.

All of us have both types of past.  But, adults who have survived child abuse, sexual abuse, or abandonment have a special kind of buried past.  We survivors blame ourselves for other’s actions.  We hate to trust in the future because we are afraid it will be more of the same. So, we are stuck in this limbo between moving forward and forgetting the past.  Neither direction is possible when you have unresolved trauma.

Your past always informs the present of what is or was reality.  If there are no resolutions to the trauma, the past becomes the present.  You can’t separate what was from what currently is.  You can’t separate the child from the adult.  The emotions and reactions to the emotions are the same as that small child that never learned to explore healthy ways of handling emotions or turmoil.

Obsessive “hoping” for your future can prevent your from appreciating the here and now. Life passes by while you are regretting the past and hoping for the future. You never real learn to live in the moment. Acceptance is a good substitute for the hope obsession. Accepting your past and letting go of the anxiety of the future makes the current days more pleasant. Making more pleasant days in the here and now will make positive memories for the future.

The wounds of the past may not have been your fault, but the healing is your responsibility.  Sounds harsh but as adults, no one is going to heal your wounds except you.  The road from dysfunction to wellness may not be easy or pleasant, but the payoff is rewarding.  If you don’t learn from your past you will bring it into your future and probably repeat it.  You cannot change what happened to you, but you can change how you react to it.

I’ve been working on talking about the memories, but still not confronting the emotions.  For now, I can accept this path of healing and know it’s not going to be easy.   If anything, it is the most difficult challenge of my life. And it’s one I frequently want to quit.  But I don’t because I want to feel different in my heart and soul.

If you, as a survivor, are open to grieving the past, and letting go of the pain, you can make the present as good as you want it to be. It’s a risk worth taking.  You have to accept the emotions rather than struggling or fighting with them.

My personal history does not have to be the legacy that I leave behind.  I can make a new history. (at least this is what my self-talk should be).

MJ, you must allow the negative emotions to flow and not eat the present or future. Make the decision to let it go. Forgive the others, but mostly forgive yourself.

If you knew today were your last day, would it change what you are going to do today?

Until next time – I am being MJ every day!

Day 152 – Dare to Dream ~

The last few weeks, I have been gathering a bucket list of things I want to see and do before my time is up. Before this year, I was afraid to dream. Mostly because my dreams never came true and life always changed my plans to do the things I really want to do. For that reason, I quit dreaming and started just trudging thru life out of obligation and desire to please others.

Isolating and not dreaming made me feel safe and like I couldn’t fail.  But, Oh, how wrong I was.  In spite of my self-protection efforts, I failed at many things along the way.  When I did realize a dream, I did not give myself credit for my successes.  

The ability to only see your failures, causes you to lose your self-esteem and makes you vulnerable to control by other things like drugs, drinking etc. Although I don’t have addictions, I struggled with my need for self-protection.

Regularly indulging in small pleasures, getting absorbed in challenging activities, setting and meeting goals, maintaining close social ties, and finding purpose beyond oneself all increase life satisfaction. It’s not happiness that promotes well-being, it’s the actual pursuit of happiness that’s important.

I’m still learning who I am and what I want out of life. I just dont want my life to take away who I am.

I’m super scared to risk to dream and fail but if I don’t try, I’ll never reach the impossible.

Until next time, I am being MJ every day.

Day 151 – Looking Fear in the Face ~

Fear has not been my friend lately.  In fact, it is one of my biggest obstacles to recovery. I worry about things that I obviously cannot control.  Control is something I was never given growing up.  I didn’t have control of my body, my voice or anything else.  

Every day, I lived in fear of abuse or someone finding out about the abuse. The thought of someone finding out I had been abused was probably worse than the actual abuse. I couldn’t imagine how people would react, but in my mind it would be completely shameful and I would be in “trouble” for allowing it.

The fear of not being in control has been with me to this day. So to combat that fear, I would just block feelings and experiences. That way I was “in control”. No one could hurt me because I didn’t take a chance on that fear becoming real.

I have learned that fear is a reaction to thoughts that may or may not be realistic. But fear is what keeps me from moving ahead.  Sometimes the feeling of fear is so strong that we look for ways to dissociate or ignore what it is we are dreading.

But courage is a decision.  It’s not the absence of despair, but the capacity to move ahead in spite of the despair.  Courage is being able to say to yourself, “I have lived thru this and I can take the next thing that comes.”  If you risk nothing, you gain nothing.  Courage is like a kite.  Only an opposing wind can cause it to raise higher.

There are 6 characteristics of a courageous person.  

  1. Feels fear but chooses to act.
  2. Follows their own heart.
  3. Hangs on in the face of adversity.
  4. Stands up for what is right.
  5. Expands their own horizons.
  6. Faces suffering with dignity and faith.

Courage is better than confidence.  Confidence is the eventual outcome of experiencing successful acts of courage.  Everyone is afraid of someone or something, but it’s how you deal with the fear that matters.

Emotional courage is gained by being open to negative and positive emotions.  It is gained by asking forgiveness and offering forgiveness to others.

I saw an acronym that I thought is helpful in learning to use courage.

C Compassion for yourself and others

O   Overcoming fear and self-doubt

U Understanding and using your own strengths

R Recognizing all that you have accomplished

A Adapting to situations and being flexible

G Growing and learning

E Endurance and strength to keep going

I mostly write about my fears in order to try and come to terms with them.  I share my fears with Mrs. A and I also use my faith.

One scripture comes to mind when facing fears and trying to be courageous. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7).

No matter how afraid I am, I can trust that God has got me and He wants me to have a “sound mind”.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience you have that causes you to stop and look fear in the face. You can avoid the suffering and sorrow but you simply cannot learn and feel what you need to, in order to change and grow and live and love.

Until next time, I am being MJ everyday.

Day 150 ~ Grow Your Muscles

I was thinking the other day about how weak I feel at times. I keep wondering when I will ever feel strong enough to conquer the memories that haunt me from time to time.

How are muscles built and how I could apply that to my life to feel stronger? So, I started to read about how to build muscles.

The first article I came on said that there are three things that build muscles and make them grow bigger and stronger. 

The first is muscle tension. You must apply stress to your body and lift heavier things in order to change the chemistry of the muscle. This causes cell activation and growth factors.

The second is muscle damage. When you feel sore after working out, you have experienced localized muscle damage.  This causes a release of inflammatory molecules and immune system cells.  The damage from the workout has to be present in your muscle cells to trigger this response.

And the third thing that must happen is Metabolic stress.  This means you feel the burn of the exercise. This causes swelling around the muscle and causes the muscle to grow.

This really drew my attention because emotional growth requires the same things.  Emotional muscle requires activation of strong body response and feelings.  You may feel like punching something or have butterflies in your stomach.  You need to have healthy ways of releasing the huge currents of feelings that you experience.  As you release those feelings, you are gaining emotional intelligence and growth.

If you allow the feelings and don’t contract or shy away from them, you will learn new responses.  Maybe you hate feeling sad, but you can think of it as rain.  You may hate going out in the rain but your life would be very limited if you never did it.  

If you are trying to be promoted in a job, but you aren’t willing to learn new things or accept new responsibility you can’t activate growth factors.

The emotional damage may come from a broken heart, or grief, or a job loss. But with this pain, you will cry or write, or run, or hit a punching bag.  This releases a safe healing response to the pain.

I have often thought of my own abuse my heart would explode and I would never be able to handle any type of emotional reaction. So, I would just withdraw or disconnect instead of trying to figure out a healthy way to vent that pain.  If I just stop to cry and not talk negatively about that response, I would grow emotional muscle.  Instead of thinking that I’m acting like a baby, I should say to myself that I feel “hurt and insecure”.  Negative thoughts and words, whether spoken out loud or internally, can damage your self-esteem and cause you to question your own sanity.

When you are in an emotional storm and drowning, you must have muscle to swim your way out of it. Swimming out of it doesn’t mean you are weak or scared of the storm. It means you had the courage to get out.  Afterwards, you feel more confident and a certain exhilaration from surviving.

Experiencing feelings and choosing your actions and response causes emotional muscle growth.

I’m still in the healing process but learning and growing every day.

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.

Day 149 ~ Tunnel Vision

This past week I have learned so much about the way I look at things.  My biggest problem with my vision is seeing thru a narrow vision; otherwise known as Tunnel Vision.

When you have Tunnel Vision, it’s difficult to see because the light is dim.  The only bright light you can see is at the end of the tunnel.  This makes walking and moving forward difficult and slow.

The main reason for Tunnel Vision is fear.  It’s the inability to see the big picture.  Asking yourself questions and replying to yourself with unreasonable answers, causes you to stay in the tunnel because it is safe.

As an example, we may ask ourselves something like “If I take this day job, will I ever get the job of my dreams?”  or “If my marriage ends, will anyone else ever love me?” or “If my child moves to another state, will they still love me?”   Typically, we answer those types of questions with an unreasonable answer, simply out of fear. Then we decide to just stay in the tunnel because it’s safer.

As you are driving thru a tunnel, all you see is cold and dark, with a long-distance vision of a postcard view.  You are blind to the opportunities around you.  Rather than making progress, you get stuck.  Stress and anxiety narrows your vision. 

Determination and passion are not enough to get you “unstuck”.  You must shift your perspective. You will begin to discover new solutions.  When you spend less time in an introspective mode, you become less “self-aware” and more focused on your goals and desires.  Thinking about yourself constantly doesn’t make you more in tuned with yourself.  You have to look outside of yourself also.

Tunnel Vision is a trap. Once you are stuck in it, you may have a very difficult time getting out of it.  You tend to be self-critical and feel as if everything is your fault. All you see is what is right in front of you.  You can miss clues that are critical for survival and success.

It really does make sense.  And it’s where I have been.  So, as advise to myself, I must start walking forward to get to the end of the tunnel.  I see the dim light, but I want to see the picture-perfect postcard view.  

While it doesn’t mean there will never be negative experiences and outcomes, My vision will be much clearer and brighter. I look forward to that view.

Until next time – I am being MJ everyday.

Day 148 – Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!

All of my life I’ve been moving.  Literally, moving and searching for what will make me feel better about my life and about myself.

I’ve tried to help others, both financially and emotionally.  I’ve tried to be a good person, with goals and aspirations.  I’ve tried to find love and peace.  I’ve tried to work hard and accomplish respect in the workplace.

What I have never done, is nothing.  I don’t know how to stand still.  I don’t know how to wait. I want to see the future now.  I want to know the answers now.

The truth is that COVID-19 has stopped me in my tracks.  I’ve had to just sit and be with me.  I’ve had to think about life and death, and everything in between.   I’ve had time to think about my past, my future, and the here and now.

I realized that in the past, even in love, I’ve tried to force others to be emotionally involved with me.  I’ve chased love as if I wasn’t worthy of love myself.  Even with family, I never felt good enough to be a family member.  I always felt that if I just did that one more exceptional thing, that would make others love me.  If only I could give a little more money, time, etc, I would be deserving of love.

One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 46:10 – Be still and know that I am God..!  No matter what your religious beliefs are, believing that there is a higher power is necessary to find peace.  The truth is that we are not in control of our own universe.  We are not in control of the weather, catastrophic disasters, death, Corona Virus, etc.

Standing still and being comfortable with someone else being in charge is the hardest thing I will ever have to do.  And that’s where faith comes in.  Faith that everything will be ok.  Faith that even if you make the wrong decision, in the end everything will be ok.  

The biggest thing that I’m learning in all of this, is that “this too shall pass”.  While sometimes it is said off the cuff, it really does hold true.

If only I could remember what I have survived, it would make the here and now much easier.  I have to remember that I am strong and resilient.  I have to remember that I am able to overcome even the toughest of circumstances.  I have to remember that I am able to be what I want to be and do what I want to do.  That in itself is empowering. 

So thank you COVID-19 for making the world slow down and causing me to be still. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.

Day 147 ~ The Resort – Part 4

At the age of 15 1/2 I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for depression.  My mother’s psychiatrist told me that he could send me to a place to relax, be happy, and have fun.

Links to previous Resort stories below –

Day 42 – The Resort

Day 43 – The Resort II – The Inside Story

Day 44 – The Resort Part 3 – They Know

Previously I mentioned the daily review of our symptoms, diagnosis and treatment plan.  In my last meeting with Ms. A, we discussed how this may have affected me.  Reciting the negative things about yourself twice a day had to have an impact. Until this session, I did not realize just how much.

Even talking about the hospital makes me feel sick.  This 4 months of my life may, in fact, be a pivotal changing time in my life.  The truth is that the people who were supposed to help me, probably did more harm than good.

I learned how to behave like the rest of the children.  I gathered a  myriad of diagnosis and behavioral issues from the other children.  I was just trying to find myself and my own security, in children who were also searching for the same thing. We would compare our messed up home lives, our abuse, our drugs or alcohol usage, fighting, suicide attempts, etc.

Anyway, as I’m reciting the diagnosis and symptoms, I can’t help but to think how messed up I really am. I thought I was being admitted because I was sad.  My symptoms that I recited daily, included; loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, anger, withdrawn, hopeless, helpless, worthless, Irritability, anxious, suicidal idea, suicidal attempts, etc.

To conclude, we would recite our treatment plan, which was the list of things we had to do in order to have visits, passes, etc.  Those things were not related to emotions or recovery. They were merely completing a task.  For me, I had to eat all meals, interact with others, and complete all activities in the unit.

At the end of my stay, I was a changed person.  Not only did I have the trauma of sexual abuse to deal with, but now I had to keep the memories of 4 months of living in a hospital that I called hell.

As I’m sitting in this session, I say to Ms. A how I suddenly realized how much these negative labels affected me.  She says, she knew it long ago, but was waiting for me to get to that conclusion on my own.  For a minute, I wanted to scream and her and ask her why she didn’t tell me sooner.

For the last three days, I have cried off and on. I just despise those days still haunting my  memories.  And maybe that’s the problem.

It is MY life.  It is MY story.  It is MY success.  Now I just have to own it.

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Until next time – I am being MJ every day.