Tag Archives: abuse

Breaking Point: #18

I have been busy writing my novel during this Breaking Point series and so I’ve handed over this platform to you brave souls.  Though I haven’t been responding to your comments, I’ve read every one and I love how people are reaching out to each other with such love and support.  It’s such a testiment to the power of sharing our pain.  You are all amazing human beings.  Hamlet talks about The thousand natural
shocks that flesh is heir to… 
Natural shocks.  Pain is natural.  Normal.  When we resist it, we make it worse.  A deep breath for us all, from this Montana morning.  Thank you to Joy and Karly for today’s brave Breaking Point stories.  yrs. Laura

Here’s an affirmation for you from a GREAT book by David Richo called:  “The Five Things We Cannot Change”:

As I say yes to the fact of suffering, may I accept the dark side of life and find a way through it, and may I then become an escort of compassion to those who also suffer.

Submitted by: Joy Weber

I was 22 years old and lonely as hell. I had moved from Minnesota to upstate New York in hopes of a geographic cure for the pain in my heart.

I was a new RN, working a new job and scared to death that I couldn’t do it. I had very few friends and those I had, I thought I would lose if they ever knew the real me. So I hid in a world of lies and pretended to be whatever I thought they wanted.

And through it all, I drank.

I had been a daily drinker most of my life since I was 15. Sometimes I had to drink in secret. Now that I lived alone, it was easy. I came home from work, closed the blinds, and drank until I “fell asleep” into that desired oblivion.

I drank so I wouldn’t be afraid, I drank so I wouldn’t feel lonely, I drank so I wouldn’t remember my childhood, I drank because it hurt too much to be alive in this world. I drank because I hated myself, I drank, well, because I’m alcoholic. I was completely lost.

And then one night, the alcohol didn’t work. It didn’t take away the pain. I was raw, aching, and desperate. I paced the floor. My chest ached so badly I could hardly breathe. I wanted to die but was too frightened to kill myself. It was 2 in the morning, pitch black in the country, and I was more alone than I had ever been in my life. Morning was still much too far away. My pain and anxiety escalated as I paced. Finally, I stumbled and fell to my knees and something inside of me broke and I began to cry. “Please!” I half-cried, half-yelled to a God I didn’t believe in anymore, “Please!! Help me!!” and the flood of tears finally came.

I wept from the very depths of my soul. Wept all the tears that hadn’t come for years. I cried for the little girl I was who grew up too fast in the face of physical and sexual abuse. I cried with the pain I wasn’t allowed to speak when Daddy left. I cried for all I’d lost and all I’d never had. The sobs wracked my body and the waves kept coming. I cried out my self-hatred, I cried out my fear. I wept for my lost faith which had once been so precious to me. And still I cried through the night with the tears ebbing, flowing and finally, at last, quieting.

The morning dawned with gentle birdsong, glorious orange sunrise, and my heart, for the first time in my life, beginning to know peace.

I went to my first AA meeting that morning.

I am 26 years sober.

 

Submitted by: Karly Pittman, who blogs here.

For most of my adult life, I’ve suffered from various forms of mental illness – over 20 years of eating disorders, 15 years of on and off depression, and lifelong challenges with anxiety. I also cope with several other traits, that while not mental illness, are often shamed by our culture – like high sensitivity, distractibility/ADD, insecurity, and low self esteem.

I’ve felt terribly guilty about these traits, as if I should be able to will myself into being different. (To put it another way, I’ve felt insecure about feeling insecure.)

Yes, I’ve made progress; I’ve seen growth. And yet as the years go by, I’ll be honest – I don’t like the fact that I’m still – after all this work, and all this time – having to cope with anxiety, or depression, or a spinning, stressed out brain. I’m frustrated that I’m still, well, me.

If I examine my beliefs, I see that I approached my healing journey with a very closed fist and rigid, high expectations. My expectations went something like this:  if I do all the right things (forgive and let go and take the high road) and undertake this healing journey (God knows it isn’t easy), then I want a reward. I want a guarantee that all my pain will just go away; that I will be wealthy and happy and healthy and loved.

When I didn’t receive these things, I blamed myself. My pain was proof that there was something very wrong with me. This, my friends, is suffering.

I thought if I did all the “right” things – that if I pray and do yoga and meditate and look at my stuff and surrender and forgive – that I could turn myself into a being of pure light, pure radiance, and all my human messiness would fall away.

It is a subtle, perhaps the most subtle, form of control. In the wake of this control – or rather my lack of it – I feel ashamed. I feel perhaps the deepest shame, a spiritual shame, that I’m failing life 101 and it’s all my fault. I feel like I’ve flunked some spiritual test because I haven’t created my life in the way that I’ve wanted.

We feel so, so ashamed because we can’t control. We can’t control the challenges in our lives, the pain that needs healing, we can’t even control our emotions – they just arise. But this shame is based on a false truth:  that we should be able to control. We were never meant to control life in this way.

Perhaps viewing my mental health challenges, my inherent sensitivity, my humanity itself as something I can control with enough spiritual practice is unkind. Perhaps if I surrendered to it, instead, I may find a much gentler – and wiser – way of relating to it. And perhaps in this kindness, I will find a freedom, a peace even in the midst of anxiety, or sadness or sensitivity.

If I’m honest, I can see that my spiritual seeking was about trying to banish my pain, not care for it. I just hated it. I hated the dark muck of depression, the panicky spiral of anxiety, the wobbly feet of insecurity. I have come to see that as long as I’m relating to my pain from that place – a bargain of, “If I care for you, will you go away?” – I will suffer. I will feel guilty, like I’m being punished, and ashamed, like it’s all my fault.

But to release this suffering means to let go of control. To open my heart and release my expectations, my focus on how my life looks on the outside, my need to have a guarantee for a positive outcome. Big, deep breath.

So as I sat last week, with fresh grief in my heart and tears dripping onto my keyboard, I bowed to my pain. I surrendered. I said, “It’s okay anxiety, I love you. It’s okay depression, I will care for you. It’s okay sensitivity, I’m here.” I stopped fighting against my pain and turned towards it in love and care, allowing it to be.

I think there is no greater love than this – to open to all aspects of ourselves, even our deepest, muckiest, ickiest, most shameful parts, and to wrap them in our arms and say, “I will not abandon you. I will stay with you and I love you.” Maybe my deepest pain, all the mental illness and suffering and food stuff, is just that:  something to learn to love. If I don’t love these parts of me, who will?

When I stop judging my insecurity, my anxiety, my depression, and just allow it to be, I feel free. I feel free because I’m not so tense, fighting against myself. I don’t blame or punish myself for feeling sad or lonely, I reach out for support. I don’t feel so caught in, “It’s all my fault.” Instead, I surrender to the wisdom of detachment. As my friend Deidre says,  “It couldn’t have happened any other way.” Another way of saying this is, “You did the very best you could.”

This morning the Beloved whispers to me, “Dear one, you were never meant to be in control. You were never meant to take on so much. You were never meant to carry so many burdens. Let go, dear child. Let go.”

There is so much about life that is not in our control. Do we have the courage to let go, to accept this, and to open to grace? This journey, as all journeys do, comes back to love. Can I love all of me – even the dark, most painful bits? Even my very, very messy humanity – humanity that may never go away?

Rumi put it this way:

Learn the alchemy true human beings know:
the moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given,
the door will open.

Perhaps our brokenness – our humanity – is the call that brings us back to love. We fight against it, try to evolve out of it, hide it, overpower it, and then, exhausted and discouraged, we return to love. Can we just love ourselves, right now, in this moment – where we’re feeling afraid, or anxious, or distracted, or lonely, or depressed? Can we care for our pain, just to care for it – and not for any other reason but that it’s simply a very kind thing to do for ourselves?

May we all remember who we are:  fully valuable, enough and worthy with all our tender humanity. The New Testament says, “the truth shall set you free.” This is what I know to be true:  that each and every one of us is lovable, is worthy, is precious, just as we are – with all our human muck, all our challenges, and all our pain.

We are wonderfully and beautifully made, and we are good; very, very good.

 

9 Comments

Filed under Breaking Point, My Posts

Breaking Point: #17

These Breaking Point stories are twin in their theme and have me wondering about the thin line between a “normal” functioning human in society, and what is considered mentally unstable enough for hospitalization.  I think we all have times when we are so broken open that we feel like we can’t do it alone.  We need help.  And I deeply respect people who go out there and get it.  Thank you Michelle and Daniel for sharing your stories.  yrs. Laura

Submitted by: Michelle Roberts

“You’re not allowed to share food!” the attendant barked.

I shrugged at the patient seated across from me then sat quietly without eating. He had offered me his salad when I explained that morning sickness made it impossible for me to eat my gravy covered turkey. It wasn’t the first time a fellow patient showed more kindness than the employees of the mental ward.

Sorry, they don’t like to call it that. According to the sign outside I found myself in a “Behavioral Health Facility” for the first time. That was my biggest hurdle since everyone was treating me like I’d been there half a dozen times. The rules were second nature to many patients so they assumed I must know what was going on. My meal was the first lesson and I should have ordered that morning. Instead, I was three months pregnant, nauseous and eating nothing for lunch.

The horse tranquilizers they prescribed to rein in my mania were making it impossible to sit still. My legs and arms felt fidgety and I still couldn’t sleep through the night. When I left my room one afternoon only to return a few minutes later, a scary blank faced female patient followed me and held my door closed from outside. Maybe she was as tired as I was of my pacing up and down the halls.

So I spent my days listening to the stories of pain and loss from other patients, making promises to contact the husband that didn’t understand and the son withholding forgiveness. Since I didn’t belong here I might as well make myself useful by helping the ones that did. I came across the names and phone numbers recently along with a poem I wrote about the stress and strain that landed me in the hospital.

In the span of six months I was married, lost my grandfather, changed jobs, moved into our first home along with the weight of our first mortgage and tried through it all to process the tragedy of September 11th. My newlywed husband married a capable, intelligent, compassionate woman and was instead visiting someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He brought me a milkshake that I had to spit out into a sink because overmedication made it impossible to swallow. He signed the stack of paperwork as my advocate but must have skipped the pages about side effects.

When I met with my doctor on the third day, I explained that they were giving me too much Thorazine. He nodded and made notes with the same blank face as the scary door holder. I was called over the next morning to take my meds and was strangled by anxiety, unable to ask the nurse if they lowered the dosage. She mistook my reaction for refusal and said, “If you won’t take the pills we’ll have to give you a shot and it will be worse for the baby.” My anxiety turned to panic but I somehow managed to sign “lower” to her. She nodded that the dosage had been reduced and I took the pills.

All I could think about was the phone call with my father years before. He was thanking me for being the easy child that no one ever had to worry about since my brother and sister had both been hospitalized in the past.

“I reserve the right to fall apart one day, Dad!” I proclaimed jokingly.

He laughed, too, but never expected me to cash in my ticket. This was not the role I was meant to play in our family and no one took it well.

 

Submitted by: Daniel Jacob, who blogs here.

The hardest work out there is changing for the better; it takes a tremendous amount of effort, sacrifice, risk, discipline and much more. However, when you commit to your well being you are able to see and feel many wonderful positive outcomes.  I am so strong, so empowered, and so aware of how to manage my well being these days, and it took an intense moment to show me the way.

In February of 2009 I was working for the second largest school district in the nation as a school social worker.  It was a job that was creating a lot of stress for me, and as a result I was not taking care of myself in a healthy manner.  I am going to direct you here to understand where I was.  My work week was typical, although this week I was taking a red eye to NYC after work on Thursday for a family celebration, set to return to Los Angeles on Sunday, back to work on Monday.  New York represented some defining moments for me. It was the place that I escaped to from my abuse (physical and emotional) when I was a teen. It represented reconciliation with my father who over the years was distant and absent. It represented getting to know a brother and sister who shared the same blood, but not much else.  I wasn’t fearful or nervous about going, I was excited to go. By this time in my life I had done some serious self work and had evolved into a healthy well adjusted man. I was all about creating positive new memories with my family and my wife.

What I didn’t see coming was 6 days of no sleep, a trip to the psych ER for a 5150 (code for a 72 hour hold) assessment, several days of the most extreme anxiety that I had ever experienced (the kind where you can not physically move), and a return back to the hospital for a 6 day stay. Sometimes the unknown has its way of showing itself when it wants to, not when you do.  What happened to me happened because it needed to, and I was ready to deal with it, cope with it, and peel back the layers.  By addressing and understanding a past (that exposed me to much pain and suffering) in a manner that I never knew, it created a new me.

The experience itself was intense, but by breaking open I was able to make some choices and decisions that have truly changed the quality of my life for the better.  I resigned from my job and committed to a new job, getting healthy and well.  I survived on my savings, and when that was used up, I went on unemployment so I could continue on.  You see, you can’t put a date or time on your wellness.  To be well you must commit to every day for the rest of your days.   What you have read is obviously the abbreviated version, and there is much more to be shared.  In fact, my “Breaking Point” greatly influenced my decision to go out on my own (professionally) and that is a good thing.

10 Comments

Filed under Breaking Point, My Posts

Breaking Point: #6

I am hosting an end-of-winter series featuring stories from the trenches of pain.  My hope is that in sharing these breaking points, we will feel less alone.  Thank you all for your bravery.  You are helping the world to heal.  To participate and for more info go here.

yrs. Laura

Submitted by Alison Bolshoiopera singer

The days staring at the plain white ceiling were so many that I’m surprised I didn’t go mad.  I didn’t want so much time to think about what had happened to me, and too often that white ceiling became a movie screen where horrific images flew at me, playing and replaying themselves like demons.  Because they could.  Because I couldn’t get away.

The people who came in and out didn’t help me at all with the struggle I was having.  They couldn’t.  The only part of my face that was still visible was an inch of forehead over my eyes, and my eyes themselves.  My great grandmother, at 93, came and sat on a high stool, to be able to reach.  Everyday.  At the time this great feat was unremarkable to me, though her two fingers, which she traced back and forth over the one bare inch of my forehead, brought me more comfort than any single act anyone has every done in my lifetime to make me feel better.

I couldn’t tell her.

There are days now that I wish for those cool fingers, and sometimes I wish so hard I can feel them again.  Almost.  There was a mylar balloon, which was new back then.  One of the aunts had written in black marker, “This Too Shall Pass Away” on it.  Because it floated so high, I could see it.   The weird thing about one’s first experience with mylar balloons is how long they last.  This one made it from the seventh through the eleventh surgery.  Yet instead of being a comfort, it made the strangeness of it all much deeper.  Like I was suspended in time, stuck forever with this white ceiling movie screen and this balloon, and no one was going to come and get me out of here.  Balloons only last a day or two.  This was endless weeks.  If the balloon is there though, isn’t it still the first day?  What day is it?

My mother came every day, and I dreaded it.  I wanted her so much.  I wanted her to hold me and stroke me and smile.  To tell me it was over and that we were never going back.  To comfort me.  But she couldn’t.  Instead she would walk in with a smile that never made it to her eyes, which were already crying by the third step.

“This is just terrible.  It’s just terrible.  And I’ve spoken with your father, I’ve fought with him.  He won’t come.  [sobbing]  He just won’t come.  I want you to know that this is wrong.  That he should be here.”  She would turn her back and wipe her face.  And then I would comfort her.  I would tell her that it was all right.  That I understood she tried, and that I understood he wouldn’t come.  Because I couldn’t stand to see her in so much pain.  She couldn’t tell, since she never touched my face, that the bandages around both my eyes were completely soaked, because I was crying too.  I cried because she cried, I cried because I was in so much pain.  Most of all I cried because I knew that the next time I would be dead, and that she actually expected me to go home for that next time.  I was so glad for those bandages.  Glad that she didn’t know.

After awhile she would leave, and I would feel so much worse.   I didn’t know why then.  I didn’t know that she was supposed to be comforting me, rescuing me, or that the way I twisted myself in half to comfort her was more painful than watching him, feeling him smash my face in, over and over, on my white ceiling, which became the orange carpet of my room stained red, which became the white ceiling, which became the orange carpet of my room stained red …

But this place, this blank room with the many roommates who came, healed, and left, this time out of time where I had too much time to think, gave me a gift.  The gift came after I heard the boy down the hall who I thought was in worse shape than me.   Who would start to scream at the beginning of the second hour for the morphine that he wouldn’t be given until the fourth.   I couldn’t take his screams.  They hurt me in my chest.  I asked who he was, and my nurse told me he
was a boy my age who had tried to commit suicide by jumping off a five story building.  Problem was he lived, and broke every bone in his legs multiple times.

When I finally could be upright, I asked if I could go see him.  Walking down the hall to his room was a terrible journey of nausea, of the hallway spinning even after I stopped and waited.  But I got there, and I sat with him, and I gave him my teddy bear that my brother had brought me.  It was a Gund and I really liked it.  I told him to hold onto that bear when the pain got too bad.  It turned out that he was seventeen too, and I was told later that he heard me in a way that the doctors and nurses said he didn’t hear them.

I told him he didn’t need to go back to whatever he had lived in that made him want to jump off a building.  That he could go somewhere else and be happy.  And then I realized I wasn’t just talking to him, so I went back to my room.

That night I stared at the white ceiling and I broke away from everything I knew.  I made myself look at a different movie, a movie of a happy life.  My life.  And when the demon movies came, I let them, I bought them a ticket for the seat on the train next to mine, and as soon as I could I replayed my new movie of happiness.  And somehow I knew I was never going back.

9 Comments

Filed under Breaking Point, My Posts

Breaking Point: #3

 

I am hosting an end-of-winter series featuring stories from the trenches of pain.  My hope is that in sharing these breaking points, we will feel less alone.  Thank you all for your bravery.  You are helping the world to heal.  To participate and for more info go here.

yrs. Laura

Submitted by: Elin Stebbins Waldal

Two Excerpts from Tornado Warning, A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect on a Woman’s Life

Breaking Point: 

What started it was the picture I drew of myself. I decided to draw a
self-portrait, after I literally stared at my reflection for almost thirty
minutes.

I pulled the mirror off the wall and put it down on the ground and without
really examining myself I just started to draw. It’s when I finished that I was
startled enough to stop, put the paper to the side, and stare.

I hardly recognized myself.

Last fall I checked out one of the cameras from school to try taking
pictures. The one thing I noticed back then was looking through a lens is
really different from just looking. The lens is so small that it forces the one
eye to choose what it sees. Then, with precision, the hand needs to focus the
lens so that the camera actually snaps what you want it to. This is what it was
like for me today looking in the mirror. While I was drawing I was just part of
the reflection but once I put my pencil down and looked at the drawing, then
the captured image all came into focus.

The girl I drew…I don’t know her. She is worn like leather, joyless, spent,
ancient. I forced myself to look at the mirror. The thing of it is…it’s not as
if I am frowning and angry. What is scary is I look vacant, gone, dead.

And that’s when it crept into me…he really can’t kill me…well, he could, but
that’s not what I mean. What I mean is, he actually already has, because he’s
killed my spirit. This is what it means to be alone, really alone…because there
is not a living soul who I can tell.

I hardly tell myself. He must feel me slipping because he has asked me a
million and one times if I really understand he won’t live without me.

Now that I know I am dead, how can I care about his life? After all, he is
the creator of what I see staring vacantly back at me.

I had to stop. I found a small blanket in the hall closet and covered the
mirror. Then I had to leave my room. I was trembling. I walked to the kitchen
and grabbed a snack, then I mechanically went into the living room and sat down
by the huge window that looks down the Mianus River. I drank in the view…all
the deciduous trees are bare naked. And that’s when it hit me with full force.
All those beautiful trees, they shed everything that makes them gorgeous and
they endure the long harsh New England winter and then just when people almost
give up hope, they sprout their tiny little buds. A month or so later they have
leaves; some have flowers too.

I am 19 and I am the tree. I am almost unrecognizable, yet underneath the
twigs and sticks and bark there is a strength. I can feel this strength. I
don’t want to be dead among the living. That tree would no sooner refuse to
sprout then fall over if I pushed it. Maybe….at the core….maybe I am still
here.

So I got up and went back to my room, pulled away the blanket, and sat back
down and again gazed into the mirror. My eyes are green…somewhere in the pool
of black squarely centered in all that green is a path back to me. If I stare
at it long enough maybe just maybe I can see deep inside and find my core, my
strength, my light, my spirit. It’s winter but sure as day will turn to night,
spring will come.

“I am alive….I am alive…I am me and I am alive.”

 

On Healing:

“New questions skip through my bloodstream like a pebble on still water. Do we really “get over” wrongs that have been done to us? How do we know we are healed? The diameter of the rings created by the stone grows wider in my blood lake. I can almost see the ripple beneath my skin. Maybe “healed” isn’t the objective. What if it is “healing”—as in ongoing, like the ocean in a constant ebb and flow? The rolling of the waves begins to settle over me, giving way to a more lucid view of the past that has shaped me. It is as if introspection serves as a ceremonial ablution and through that ritual the choke hold of shame is rinsed clean and makes room for me to see that I am not a victim. I am a survivor but there is more. I need to thrive, share, prevent. I can no longer stay quiet in this world. I have a voice and I feel it reverberate off my internal walls, making its slow climb upward until its melody can be heard all around.”

8 Comments

Filed under Breaking Point, My Posts