Day 38 – I’m on Fire!

The summer after 3rd grade I was at home, packing for a trip to visit my biological father. He was coming to our house to pick us up for the summer.

We had moved to Florida about 9 months earlier. I remember, even at that age, being depressed and withdrawn.

There was always so much turmoil in our home. Drinking, drugs, loud voices, cursing, and physical altercations.

My mother was not well in those days. Both physically and emotionally.

When we bought this property in Florida is was covered with tall pine trees and palmetto brush. Every day all of us children had to go out and pull roots and weeds. Saved our parents a lot of money. At the back of the property we would take the yard brush and burn it.

This particular evening, my mother yelled at me to go throw some things on the burning pile of brush. What she gave me was in a plastic bucket. (Or garbage pail. I really can’t even remember what was in it).

I took the pail out to where the fire was and attempted to throw the contents onto the fire. (Yes I was 8).

As I am heaving the pail, I accidentally let go of it. I stood there in disbelief. I started crying. I knew I would be in so much trouble. I was always in trouble.

At that moment, I made the decision to go after it. After a couple of steps, I sunk in hot ashes. Almost up to my knees. I didn’t realize there were hot spots from where the fire had previously burned.

I didn’t feel anything, but I pulled myself out and when I did, I could see that my bare feet were charcoal black and the skin looked funny.

I ran up to the house crying to my mom that I dropped the pail. And then I said, and I think I’m burned.

My step-dad came in and confirmed that I was burnt. He said that they had to get me to a hospital. In usual style, my mom said she would wait at home.

I arrived at the hospital with 2nd and 3rd degree burns. The wounds were washed and dead flesh cut off. Both feet were bandaged up to my calves. My step-dad took me home a few hours later.

I remember the shame I had in my inability to do anything right. I knew I couldnt complain about the pain.

My biological father was a medic in the military, so he picked us up the next day and I went home with him. Thankfully my mother did not have to be burdened with me.

That whole summer I had to be carried around. The day bandage changes were excruciating. But at I took it like a soldier because I felt so bad for burdening everyone.

Looking back, the whole scenario is unbelievable. But it really did happen. And it happened to me.

Thank God, I have no physical scars from that day. But the shame of making that mistake was always with me.

Today, I can forgive myself for being 8. I can forgive myself for being human. With the help of God, I’m working on forgiving those that didn’t protect me.

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.

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Day 37 – Is that your Final Answer?

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.  I chose to cover the subject because it has affected my family and my own life in such a profound way.

When I was 25 years old my grandfather passed away.  A few months later my Aunt passed away. She was 37 years old. Her death was ruled a suicide but the family  felt it was an unintentional over dose.

Following these two deaths, our family was really in pieces and trying to heal the best we could.  About 4 months later, my cousin (the son of my Aunt that passed) committed suicide.  He was 17 years old.

When Ryan passed away, it truly was a shock.  No one in our family suspected that he was that depressed.  At my Aunt’s funeral, he seemed to hold together so well.  I’ll never forget him telling us, the day of the funeral, what a beautiful family he had  and how much he loved us.

Having already been thru numerous attempts of hurting my own self during my teenage years, and then years of suicidal thoughts, I wondered if it truly was the best way to end my own pain and suffering.  I know now that it is not an answer  to pain and suffering and often doesn’t go as planned.

I used to go to Ryan’s grave whenever I was at my lowest and talk to him.  I would tell him how much I could relate to his pain.  Thankfully, I always came away feeling like that wasn’t a good solution.

Let me try to explain the darkest feeling that you can ever feel.  The feeling is much like having blinders on.  You literally cannot see anything around you.  You can only see that you need to get to the final answer.  You feel dead inside.  You feel like you don’t matter. You look in the mirror and don’t know who you are. You feel so exhausted, like you just can’t fight any more. You feel like  you are drowning and can’t breath.  You feel numb because the pain is too much.  You feel like everything is so dark.  Like you cannot see any light at all. Not even a glimmer. You feel like you finally have a little bit of control over your life that no one can take away.  It may be one or all of these things at once.

My point in telling you this is because awareness is 95% of the problem. We see people hurting and suffering every day,  and the majority of us are interested only in our own pain.

Earlier this year, when I felt those old haunting ideas coming to my mind, I reached out.  It took 5 failed attempts before I finally reached that one person who was meant to be my Angel.

I’m so grateful for my friend,  Shehalis, who literally saved my life in April.  She was selfless and kind enough to put her own needs aside and give me love.  She met me where I was, in the middle of the night. She helped me find hope in my darkest hour.  She cried with me.  Hugged me.  And just listened.  Yes, it cost her time and energy,  but she gave me a glimmer of hope.  She gave me attention.  She gave me the gift of life.

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Hopefully, I will never ever be in that place in my life again.  And I hope I can help others to equip their selves to handle life’s darkest moments.

I’m telling my story to stop the shame.  I’m telling my story to give thanks to God for all the important people he has placed in my life. I’m telling my story because it’s not uncommon.  It’s reality. It’s life.  It’s a problem we must address as a society.  It’s happening in every nation.

Let’s be more understanding.  Let’s love others.  Let’s care about where people are emotionally. Let’s pray for one another.  Let’s offer help to those in need.  Let’s just be nice to each other.  Believe it or not, these things matter and could be the one expression that saves a life.

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.

Day 36 – Safety Deposit Box

Memories are held in a vault for all of us. Wether good or bad, they are stored until you pick them up.

For me, they have been held in a very small safety deposit box at an unknown location.

This year the bank found me. They tracked me down and said come and get your rotten eggs out of the vault. They have swollen and are bursting out of the box.

I knew how awful it would be to pick up those memories so I ran from them.

They have been put away for safe keeping for so long that I was hoping I wouldn’t even recognize them.

As soon as they found me, I knew I had to not only open the box, but I had to take them all the way out. I had to bring them home with me.

This analogy may sound strange but these memories are horrible and they cannot be left to fester any longer. I opened them up and I can’t take them back.

The question is, do I really want to? Shouldn’t I replace them with valuable memories? Shouldn’t I load up my box with jewels and precious keepsakes?

Then as I pick them up, I’ll be happy to open the box and see them again.

As a child, we may not always get to choose the contents of our safety deposit box. There was definitely nothing safe to go in there for me. I had to store things there that were unbearable to think about or feel.

Once I get all the rotten eggs out of my box I’m going to be proud of how I held them. I’m going to be proud of who they have made me to be. And I’m going to be proud of my strength and courage to get them out.

I’m not ashamed to say that I have needed help with this journey and I couldn’t have done it on my own.

I’m so grateful for those that have gone back to the vault with me and kept me safe.

Thank you to my precious friends who have become my family. You’ve given me diamonds and love letters to put in my box. I’m forever grateful.

Until next time – I am being Mj every day.

Day 35 – Blind Faith

Every day, as I’m being abused and living in so much dysfunction, I’m praying for it all to end.

Since I was about 8 years old, i knew there was a God. I wasn’t sure how He could help me. I wasn’t sure if He even knew who I was. I wasn’t sure if He could fix my situation. But what I did know was that I had to keep asking Him to help me.

I couldn’t see any way out of my situation or even a reason for living. At 12 years old, there were times that I thought suicide was the only way out. And still, I kept praying.

I went to a small bible study group in 9th and 10th grade. No one there knew what horrible things I was going through. I’m sure they thought I was just quiet and shy. I lived for that bible study. It literally kept me alive until the next week. It was one of the few places that I could feel safe.

At the age of 18, I joined a church. No one there had any idea how much I was hurting. I felt like they were my new family and there was no way I could tell them my shame. Still, I prayed for God to end my heartache. Even though the abuse was over, I hated myself. I hated my scars. I hated my lonliness.

Those prayers saved my life. Those prayers gave me hope. I didn’t understand God or faith but I always knew that I had to keep trying.

Over this past year, I’ve had to go back to that same blind faith. I wasn’t sure how to survive PTSD and I couldn’t see my way out. But I had to keep praying. I had to have hope.

It’s been hard. I’ve had to do a lot of work on me. I’ve suffered and hurt as if it was happening all over again.

And still I prayed.

I don’t pretend to understand how God works or why He allows things to break us at times. But I do know that where there is even the slightest bit of faith, there is hope. And hope is why I’m alive today to tell my story.

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.

Day 34 – If I cry…

Today I went to therapy. I walked in smiling and left smiling. Normally that would be a good thing but the truth is that I wanted to cry the whole time.

For me, smiling and pretending everything is ok, is a natural reflex. I don’t understand it but I fight crying and tears until I break.

Most of the time, if I feel like I need to cry, I run. By that I mean that I have to get away from whatever situation makes me uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s hard to do that so I zone out. I look at a distraction and focus on that.

I guess that behavior should make me happy, but it really works the opposite. After you stuff it for so long, it comes out unexpectedly and usually not good timing.

I’ve been reading a lot about emotions and crying. I found this article very interesting.

Emotional tears have special health benefits. Biochemist and “tear expert” Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis discovered that reflex tears are 98% water, whereas emotional tears also contain stress hormones which get excreted from the body through crying. After studying the composition of tears, Dr. Frey found that emotional tears shed these hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress. Additional studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer and “feel-good” hormones.

I’m going to work on being authentic and crying when its appropriate.

But, If I cry, will I be judged? If I cry, will I make someone angry like my parents used to react? If I cry will I be able to stop? If I cry will I hurt the ones I love?

I want to change my self-talk. I’m working on it. I’m taking baby steps.

But if I cry? Is it ok? Is it really ok?

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.

Day 33 – Brave And Scared

Sunday morning I went to church with one of my very best friends and her family. I typically don’t go to church alone because I always feel like people are staring or they feel sorry for me, etc.

The sermon was centered around family and home. With all the things I’ve been feeling lately, it was hard for me to just sit and listen and try to get something out of the message. At the end of the service there was a special prayer for families. At that point I just had to leave.

Did I have to leave? Maybe not. But I did. The truth is that I felt an emptiness and sadness that was overtaking my thoughts. I was afraid I would break down and cry.

I wish I would have or could have cried instead of running from those crappy feelings.

I’m trying so hard to replace family members that aren’t supportive. I truly have the most loving caring friends.

The truth is that I need to feel sad and cry. I need to be angry that they chose to love a child abuser and not the child.

But all of those feelings scare me to death. What if the feelings are bigger than me? What if the sadness is much greater than the happiness? What if I’m not strong enough to survive?

Being numb is so much easier than being brave. Not feeling is so much easier than crying.

Thinking over this past year, I realized that I have been brave. I have been strong. And I have grown.

I always thought being brave was not being afraid of new things. Or the unknown. But being brave is taking a step even if you are scared to death. Being brave is letting people know that you are human. Being brave is caring enough about yourself to continue on your journey.

Even world class athletes are sometimes afraid of losing, because they too are human.

Being brave means you are not afraid to fail. Being brave means that you have to let yourself be vulnerable.

As I try to find and grow a new me, I’m so scared. But I’m Brave.

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.

Day 32 – The Blame Game

I was not the first child in my family to be sexually abused. The uncle that abused me, had previously abused two other girls in my family. It was well known that he was an abuser. I guess the only person that didn’t know was me.

But when he was arrested and spent a brief evening in jail, everyone in the family blamed me. He blamed me. His wife blamed me. His kids blamed me. All of the relatives agreed that since I allowed it for so long, I must have liked it. His story was that I approached him and he just went with it. Which I guess in their eyes, meant that they couldn’t hold him responsible for his behavior because he was just being a man.

The day he was arrested, I cut myself. I truly wanted to accept all blame and relieve the family of this problem child.

Why would all of the people, who said they loved me, just turn their backs on me? It was as if I had given the whole family some terrible disease and getting rid of me was the cure.

Until this past year, I just accepted that they were all right about me. The easiest thing for me to do was to accept that I was an awful person and just keep trying to do better.

Looking back, his wife had to know. He did so many blatantly obvious things in front of everyone. He used to rub my back under my shirt in front of everyone. When we took group trips, he always wanted me in his truck or car alone while the rest of the family followed us. And I was not sleeping while I was riding with him. The family would always joke about me laying down or falling asleep in the car.

But that’s not the reason that they couldn’t see me. Most of the time I was being held down with one large hand.

I blamed myself for every event. I blamed myself for being a child. I blamed myself for breathing and being born.

Why didn’t they ever blame theirselves?

The truth is that all of these people who never held him responsible, are responsible. They could have protected me. They could have warned me.

They are all guilty of protecting a child molester.

Yes, he did get away with it. Yes, he did it again after me. Yes, he does have money that keeps people happy and quiet.

Today, my biggest struggle is blame. He never had to struggle with it. He had support. He had love and forgiveness. I got neither.

To be honest, I was jealous. I wished for one day he could experience blame. Maybe for one day they can all feel blame.

Regardless, I have to decide that I did the best I could.

Or did I?

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.