Monday, December 28, 2009

What Was I Thinking?

Ha! I told you I'd be back with day nineteen soon... I'm so silly! I just realized I've got another week of having both of my boys here at home instead of sending them off to school each morning. Finding time to write is just not feasible at the moment. We're having too much fun! School starts back up on the 4th of January... I'll probably see you then.

In the mean time, if you're in a safe place on your healing journey, you may want to check out "Incest: A Family Tragedy"... It's a documentary. Lynn C. Tolson (author of "Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story") donated a DVD of the film to our BOOKSHARE/MEDIASHARE program over at the We Support Mackenzie Phillips group on facebook. (Thank you, Lynn!) I believe this film is just as important as "Searching for Angela Shelton" in many ways. Both documentaries are filled with truth and both open our eyes to things we may not have seen before. "Searching for Angela Shelton" features interviews with survivors of rape, incest and domestic violence. "Incest: A Family Tragedy" features interviews not only with incest survivors and professionals, but also with the perpetrators of this horrific crime. I highly recommend it. It's very informative. It's very haunting. It's very sad. It's very real.

Moving on...

I don't normally make New Year's resolutions, but I'm making one for 2010. In 2010, I resolve to continue SPEAKING OUT and to learn about and spread the word about child abuse prevention.

We as survivors hold in our hearts and our hands the potential to change the world by being brave and continuing the fight for victims everywhere. Will you resolve to join with me and speak your truth? I can promise you from experience... someone is waiting to hear it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Once Upon A Time: The Video

"Finding Angela Shelton" - Day Eighteen...

You might have noticed there's no blog entry for yesterday. That's because yesterday I was suffering from a migraine that was so bad I almost had to go to the hospital for treatment. I'm recuperating today. Today I feel as though I've been hit by a Mack truck. I don't feel like talking to anybody. My head still hurts and I feel like being lazy. It's taking everything I've got in me to stay out of bed. But as lazy and icky as I feel, I still want to keep moving forward on my journey, so I opened my email this morning to find out what day 18 had in store for me.

Day 18's task was another one that really challenged me: Share your light. I was instructed to tell my story to someone new, someone I haven't told it to before. Lucky for me, Angela gave me a ticket to do this however I wanted to do it. She wrote, "If you do not feel up to speaking, you can be creative about how you tell." I definitely didn't feel like speaking, so I tried to think of a way I could tell my story, and I came up with the idea to make a video to share on YouTube. I took the story of my rape and turned it into this:

As soon as I'm finished with this blog, I'll be uploading my video to my YouTube account. Many people who know me "in real life" and online don't know my story yet, so it's pretty much a given that someone new will see this when I post it. I don't know what kind of reaction it's going to get, and to be honest with you it really doesn't matter. What matters is that I've found another way to tell my story... another way to speak out... another way to purge.

What matters is that I am continuing this journey and I'm giving myself the chance to explore new outlets along the way. Since I started this journey, I've tried lots of new things. I've written, I've painted, I've screamed, I've played, I've moved, and I've been still. I've learned to think out of the box and I've learned never to dismiss the opportunity to try something different. I've learned so much that it's difficult to put into words how lovely this whole thing has been.

Have you been taking the journey with me? Perhaps just following along? I'd love to know what you've learned along the way... Enjoy the next few days. I'll be back with day nineteen as soon as our Christmas festivities have come to an end.

As we inch a little closer to 2010, I'm eager to see what the future holds, because I know the past is the past... and the present is definitely the best "present" I could have given myself this year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Saw the Light

Dear Angela Shelton,

Thank you for teaching me how to step out of my little box and into this beautiful thing that I can't even find the words to describe!

"Finding Angela Shelton" - Day Seventeen...

Today's task is something a few of my Christian friends may have issues with. Before I go any further, let me assure you all that I'm not selling my soul to Satan, sliding down a slippery slope to Hell, denying my Christian faith, or anything of the sort (although if I were doing any of those things, it would ultimately be my problem and not yours - I'm just sayin')...

Today's task is to practice a "light-wrapping" technique:

"Picture a long band of light (golden or white) like a long band of gauze. Picture wrapping it around yourself snugly like you would wrap a wound."

I've been doing quite a bit of running during the recent holiday rush, but I've balanced it out with my fair share of sitting on my patootie once things have calmed down in the evenings. It's not like I haven't been relaxing at all. Trust me, I've been relaxing (maybe a little too much), but this "light-wrapping" thing is one of the most relaxing things I have done in the last few weeks.

Since the day I inadvertently started a facebook support group ("We Support Mackenzie Phillips' Decision to Speak Out Against Abuse") I have become convinced, through the validation and encouragement of others and through some dreams I've had, that I am now somehow walking in my ultimate "purpose" for this life. Anybody who knows me "in real life" knows that I am a Jesus-loving crazy lady... so it's only natural that I would turn this exercise into my own personal "God moment" by meditating on one of my favorite verses of Scripture from the New Testament while I imagined the light: And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. -Romans 8:28 (New Living Translation)

Focusing on that healing, wrapped-in-light feeling was really nice. But doing it while meditating on Scripture which reassures me that I cannot fail, allowing me to release any preconceived notions or expectations regarding this journey... well, that was downright beautiful!

Upon realizing what a great experience this was for me, I decided to try to find some information on meditation and its effects on the brain. I searched online and I came across a great little article from Psychology Today which discusses how neuroscientists have discovered that meditating shifts brain activity from one side to the other, and actually decreases the amount of activity in the areas where stress, mild depression, anxiety and fear are processed. Interesting, huh?

So, even if you're a little freaked out by the idea of meditation, light-wrapping techniques, or deep breathing exercises (I will definitely admit I was), do what I did and try to tailor the experience. Find your own personal comfort zone and see what happens. Make the choice to try something new if what you've been doing all along isn't working out for you. Remember, if the new stuff doesn't work for you, you don't ever have to do it again. Give it a shot. You might be surprised.

Whatever choices you must make today, remember that one of the best decisions you can make is to en"JOY" your day! Happy healing!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

No More Merry Stressed-mas

The last week or so has been very, very hectic. I went to funerals, parties, cantatas and plays. I ran errands to pick up everything from dried beans to passing party gifts to warm gloves and winter hats for the wee ones. I made sure the kids had red shirts for their school programs. I made 23 Christmas gifts for the people who work with my children when they're at school and for the staff at their doctor's office. I mailed out our Christmas cards. I had to drive into town so many times I lost count. I've officially been caught up in the whirlwind that is the pre-Christmas break rush. If you have kids in school, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about.

Holiday stress. Gotta love it.

Every year when Thanksgiving's passed and Christmas is on its way, I become unbelievably snippy, ready to pounce on the next poor person who has the misfortune of inadvertently interrupting my frenzied train of thought. You would think I'd be able to kick back and relax for Christmas, because I don't do big Christmases. Rather than buying hundreds of dollars worth of stuff we don't need, our family focuses on the celebration of the birth of Christ and the story of Nicholas of Myra (the inspiration for our modern-day Santa). Yet when Christmastime arrives, it never fails - my stress level hits the roof... then it bursts through the roof and continues its trajectory all the way to Mars. It comes back down around the time the kids head back to school in early January. Don't get me wrong, I look forward to Christmas... but something about it usually stresses me to the max! (I still say it's got to be the ridiculous amount of school craziness the holiday tends to bring.)

Although I have had my hands full, I've noticed something significant during the rush of the past week: I'm busy as a bee, but I am not stressed beyond belief! Sure, there's stress... there's always stress. But this year, I'm doin' alright. I'm handling it just fine and I've been able to actually relax (gasp!) during what little down-time I've had.

I can't help but wonder if this calm has anything to do with the fact that I have committed to being aware of myself and my surroundings and letting go of unrealistic expectations. I have a feeling that there's no way I could have maintained this level of "I can deal" had I not taken the challenge to find joy with the help of Angela Shelton and her 30-Day Healing Journey. I can't explain it. I'm barely halfway through the 30 days and already I can honestly tell a huge difference in my overall attitude. I was a generally positive person before I started this, but sometimes it felt kinda forced, like I was trying to look on the bright side but I didn't really believe it was there. Not anymore. This kind of peace doesn't just happen. I've found the bright side. I believe it comes from waking up every day and choosing to live joyfully. Let's just hope I can keep it up. Ha!

I'll be returning soon with my take on the remaining 14 days of the 30-Day Healing Journey, but today I want to say that I appreciate the well-wishes and prayers that I've received during my "hiatus" (I love that word). Thank you. I'd also like to take time to thank the 30-plus people who have decided to support me by following my blog through NetworkedBlogs on facebook and my 100 fabulous twitter followers and friends! I'm so glad to have your encouragement as I feel my way through this newly discovered purpose. You are amazing, wonderful, patient people and I thank God for each and every one of you.

Until next time... happy healing!

P.S. The laughing kid who can't stand still in the video is my son. Enjoy!

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Time To Cry

"But in my mind’s eye I can see a place
Where Your glory fills every empty space.
All the cancer is gone,
Every mouth is fed,
And there’s no one left in the orphans’ bed.
Every lonely heart finds their one true love,
And there’s no more goodbye,
And no more not enough,
And there’s no more enemy."
-Lyrics from "Heaven is the Face" by Steven Curtis Chapman

I may not be blogging for the next few days. A family friend is very ill and has been moved to our local Hospice facility. She's been battling cancer for quite some time. She will be leaving behind children and grandchildren who love her very much. One of her children is a beautiful 13-year-old girl. She's my niece's best friend. I want to be able to be there for the family if I'm needed... and I want time to process this and time to pray for everyone who will be affected by the changes that are sure to come.

My priorities are straight at this point in my life. This blog is definitely a priority, but it is not number one. When I come here to write, I want you to see that this is real. It wouldn't be right for me to come here and blog when I'm not able to focus on the day's task at hand. I don't want to waste your time (or mine) by sugar-coating things and pretending that I can muddle through something when there are more pressing matters to attend to.

I will see you soon, when my priorities allow me to focus on daily tasks once again. I'm still here, and I'm still healing. I'm still taking the journey. But for me, part of the overall healing journey is taking time to deal with things as they present themselves, rather than shoving the feelings deep down and denying the pain.

If you pray, please pray for my friend.

Thank you!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Let it Snow! Joy to the World! God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (and Women)!

I woke up to this today:

That's what I see when I open my front door. That's what I see from my couch while I'm sipping on my coffee, all bundled up with my favorite blanket and a good book. Might not look like much to you, but to me this is breathtaking!

I'm home alone this Saturday morning. My boys are visiting with family, my husband's off helping one of his friends move into a new home... I get the whole day to myself, so I'm taking a pit stop on my journey to enjoy my little Kentucky town's first official snowfall this winter.

My mother and I have decided to go out to dinner tonight. After dinner, we're going to see my cousin dance in The Nutcracker at the local theater. I am so excited about the prospects of this weekend, I can feel the positive energy flowing through my body. I feel electric, but relaxed at the same time.

There may be no real accumulation of snow on the ground, but there is an accumulation of abundant JOY in my heart. This is true beauty, and I'm going to sit here and enjoy it. I am gonna take this day in one moment at a time.

May you find joy this weekend! See you soon.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Inventory and Invitation

"Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

"Finding Angela Shelton" - Day Sixteen...

Today is a day for reflection. Today's task (Take an Inventory of Your Feelings) is devoted to reviewing my writings, adding some things to them, and assessing the progress that I've made thus far. This phase of the journey is so important because it serves as a reminder that the past is the past, and that this very moment - the present - is now my reality. My reality is that I am a victor, no longer a victim. My reality is that I am moving on, no longer stuck in the past. My reality is that I am confronting my fears, no longer hiding from the world. My reality is that I am finding joy! How exciting is that?!

Today I'm asked to add two items to the list I made on day one. I don't believe I'd ever have trouble coming up with something to add to the list of ways trauma has affected me in my life. The deeper I dig into the enigmatic world of trauma and its effects on the brain, the easier it is to see how I've been letting the trauma run the show all these years. The two items I've chosen to add today are:

1) OVEREATING - I have struggled with my eating habits since I was a child. I have never had a healthy relationship with food.

2) SELF-INJURY - I have burned myself, hit myself, beaten myself, smacked myself, and cut myself since as far back as I can remember. (For the most part, I have conquered this problem, but I still struggle at times.)

The second part of today's task calls for me to take these two items and write affirmations for them. Remember "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough" from day three? As far as I'm concerned, these two affirmations have already been written. I've decided not to write new affirmations because I feel these issues are already addressed by the following affirmation from day three: I can take care of myself.

The third part of today's task is to notice how I feel in my body when I say my affirmation(s). I've already addressed how I feel about saying my affirmations in a previous blog. In the beginning, I always feel silly... but then it hits me. These things are true. I really can take care of myself! I don't want to overeat or hurt myself. I want to take care of myself because I have worth, and I'm beginning to really get that.

You know what? You have worth too. That's something I want you to realize. This blog is not about me. It never has been. From the beginning, I have shared my journey with you because I know how it feels to be stuck. I know how it feels to be afraid. I know how it feels to want to reach out, but to be too lost or too scared or too timid to do it. I know how it feels to be silent. I remember how it felt when my cries for help fell on deaf ears. Sure, I'm taking this journey for myself, but I don't write this blog for myself. I could just as easily do the daily tasks and keep my thoughts to myself, tucked neatly away forever... but I devote my mornings to this blog in order that you might catch a glimpse of the joy I am finding and want it for yourself.

You have been through enough. You don't have to stay stuck. You don't have to stay afraid. You have been hurting far too long. You are not alone. You can take this journey too. It might be scary or it might seem strange or even selfish to take the time to do something like this for yourself, but I would love nothing more than for you to jump in the game with me. Make the leap of faith from spectator to participant. Join me on this journey. Get off the Trauma Train and jump on the Joy Jet. The view's much better from up here!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thankya Very Much

"God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say 'thank you?'" - William A. Ward

"Finding Angela Shelton" - Day Fifteen...

When's the last time you thanked yourself for doing the right thing? When's the last time you said to yourself, "You are awesome. Thank you for taking care of yourself. Thank you for being strong." Betcha haven't done it... I know I haven't... until today.

Today's task: Send yourself a thank you card.

Excuse me?

Send myself a thank you card?

HAHA! That's nutty!

For real?

Well, okay. If you say so, Miss Angela...

This is another one of those things that you never would have gotten me to do ten years ago. I would have looked straight at you and said, "You go do your little self-help crazy thank-you-card sendin' weirdo stuff and I'll just watch ya. How about that?" But guess what? I'm not too proud to try something new nowadays. Nowadays, if you were to tell me that jumping out of an airplane had the potential to help me get past the effects of my traumatic experiences, I'd more than likely find a way to do it (even though I am terrified of extreme heights).

When I made the decision to heal this time around, to be honest and to listen to my therapist and to read and study certain books that would aid in my quest for peace of mind, I knew there were going to be times that I would not want to follow the advice I was going to get. But with each new technique, each new idea, each new day, I find that the more I let go and just sort of go with the flow, the better off I am.

So, I did it. I mailed myself a thank you card. Here's what it looks like:

Here's what it says (the words were copied directly from today's task bar in the 30 day journey email):

I'm not gonna lie, it feels kinda silly... but in a way, that's what makes it work. I'm stepping out of my little box and trying something new. I'm taking the time to acknowledge that this hasn't been easy. I'm reminding myself that I'm making a difference in my own life by taking this journey. By making a difference in my own life, I'm making a difference in the lives of many others. What I do effects everyone around me, and it gets passed on in one way or another. It's like a ripple effect. I'd much rather be spreading joy than wallowing in sadness and spreading ick... so I welcome the silly. I welcome the weird. I welcome whatever comes my way.

Because of the healing process I'm seeing the world in a whole new light. And you know what? By golly, I do deserve some thanks for all this hard work!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Art of Joy

"It is essential to our well-being, and to our lives, that we play and enjoy life." - Marcia Wieder

"Finding Angela Shelton" - Day Fourteen...

TWO WEEKS! Technically, it's taken me more like three weeks to get here, but HOORAY for me! I've made it two weeks. Today's task is to simply feel joy.

There are a million ways to express joy, a million things to do to help you along when you need to create joy. For example, I love pretending to be an artist. I don't really know why I enjoy it so much. I don't really have any particular skill. I just enjoy making art. I'm sure the critics would be repulsed by my creations... but here's the thing... I don't make my art for others. I make it for myself because it makes me feel good. So when I read that today's task was to feel joy, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to be creative!

After I put my boys on the bus this morning, I knew I had at least four hours to do whatever I wanted to do before my preschooler would be returning home, so I grabbed an old sheet, my paints, brushes, glue, some fabric scraps, and a piece of cardboard I had been saving for my kids (no worries, they'll understand - haha)... I purposefully searched my music cabinet for something I hadn't listened to in ages. I found a really relaxing CD of storm sounds and classical music and popped it into the CD player. I was ready to create!

This might get really boring, but I want you to get inside my head so that you can really understand how I felt joy during the process:

I had no plan, nothing particular in mind. I just picked up a brush and grabbed a color I liked and started painting the cardboard. It was a nice blue color that makes me think of the beach, which is one of my favorite places on earth to be. Thinking of my favorite places to be lead me into memories of being at my grandmother's house when I was a child. I felt safe there, and my grandmother always had things for me to do while I was there. She kept a button box and always had spools of thread on hand, and I don't remember many times when I left that house without some amazingly gaudy button jewelry creation. I keep my own button box now, so I dug into it and glued buttons on the cardboard. As I was rooting through my button box, I remembered that I had a little baggy of stick-on letters in my sewing box. I stuck the word "JOY" on the bottom of the bright, buttony cardboard mess. I noticed that there was a sort of wavy pattern to the buttons I had glued on, which brought my thoughts back to the beach. I mixed about six different kinds of paint together to create something with a muddy color and a sand-ish feel (yay glitter!), and painted over everything. The texture and the color of the paint reminded me of the mud pies I used to make when I was a kid. Making mud pies reminded me of digging in the yard with my mom's old spoons, so I grabbed one of the paintbrushes and started randomly raking it (digging) through the paint, making swirls that revealed that beautiful blue color I had started with... When I sat back to admire my work, I noticed that there was this sort of empty space at the bottom. I couldn't decide what to do to fill it, so I just sat back and thought about the joy journey. One of my favorite things about the journey is the list of affirmations I wrote on day three. I realized that if I stuck a couple of clothespins in the empty space, I could write those affirmations on index cards and attach them to the artwork. Clothespins have a special place in my heart too because I used to love helping my mom hang the laundry out on the line in the summertime. I left the clothespins alone, simply because I like them just they way they are. As my creation dried, I wrote my affirmations on blue index cards. Then I cleaned up my mess (with a smile on my face).

You see, I am one of those people you hear about who has repressed memories. Sometimes, I mourn the loss of the childhood I don't remember. But today, while allowing myself to just flow through the creative process and allowing myself to feel joy, I recovered some great memories. That's a major breakthrough for me. I reminisced the entire time I was making my artsy mess, and it was wonderful! Now it's hanging in my bathroom, right next to the mirror. My "art" may look like trash to someone else, but when I see it I will think of hanging clothes in the warm summer sunshine with my mother, making button necklaces at the dining room table with my grandmother, and walking on the sandy beach with my beautiful big sister. When I see it I will be reminded that I have lived through good times as well as bad. I will be reminded that there is beauty in my life, and that it's always been there. I just might have to dig a little deeper than some people do in order to find it.

Joy... it's a beautiful thing! I hope you feel it today.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It Rhymes With Glitch

"We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them, or build with them." - William Arthur Ward

"Finding Angela Shelton" - Day Thirteen...

Again, Angela Shelton brings us a great analogy: the hamster on the wheel. Have you ever gotten to a point in your healing where you feel like you're stuck? Like you're running on a hamster wheel?

The "stuck" phase always reminds me of the dreaded "Blue Screen of Death" that pops up when my desktop computer decides to shut down on me. My brain gets overwhelmed, I can't stop dwelling on things, and WHIRRRRRRRRR!!! My system overloads... and up comes the blue screen. It looks a little something like this:

Today's task: Have Another B*tch Session.

Ms. Shelton's advice for today is to have my "b*tch session" support person(s) help me by pointing out when I begin to repeat myself during the purging process. She tells me not to worry about trying to fix the repeats... just to be aware of them and make notes on them because I can use those notes as a place to start changing behaviors and patterns.

I will complete this task with my journal by my side. I know the things that I get stuck on, the things that I constantly repeat when venting, are the very things that I am holding on to with all my might. They are the things I need to let go of most. They are the things that get me stuck on the proverbial hamster wheel. They bring up the Blue Screen of Death in my life. The things I keep repeating are the "glitches" that are capable of shutting me down.

My notes from today's task can do one of two things: they can give me something to work on or they can give me something to dwell on. Work on it or dwell on it... Should I continue to b*tch or ditch the glitch and move on? It's my choice. I choose to work on it, because I don't want to spend the rest of my life on a hamster wheel, or constantly rebooting my brain when that blue screen pops up. I choose to work on it because I don't just want to exist, I want to LIVE!
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