Tag Archives: relationships

Steps to Healing from Early Childhood Trauma

I’m not new agey or touchy feely, or into incense and bells. And, while I’ve bought a couple of self help books in my life, I can’t say I’ve ever read one from cover to cover. (Except Chump Lady’s book).

But the time has come to begin to heal myself and I’m just slightly aware of what I need to do. Lucky you, I plan to share this adventure here.

To be honest, as broken as I am, I am still sort of a walking miracle. I should be dead, an alcoholic, in jail. So even though I feel like a loser for just getting on my feet financially and buying my own home again, I am so lucky I was able to do it.

When the cheater ex left me penniless and suicidal almost four years ago I said to myself, “You cannot let him win. You simply can’t.” And from that moment I decided I had to pull myself up from nothing.

If you had said to me at that time that I’d be working full time, in fact get a promotion and raise at said job, and even buy my own little home, I would have said you were nuts. But here I am. Don’t get me wrong. I struggle to get buy and drive a 17 year old car. My house is only 877 square feet and is nothing fancy. But I like it and I’m here and it is mine.

So now and then I have to stop and acknowledge that, and give myself a little credit for not giving up. At that time I had been on disability. I could have signed up for assisted living and spent the rest of my life there living among other mentally ill, broken, forgotten people, but I decided that was not the life I wanted for myself.

I react badly/weirdly to things and I get very defensive. I have lots of quirks that make my heart pound and make me want to run away. These are the times when I remember that I am a damaged and broken person and need to cut myself some slack and be gentle with myself.

Other imperfect people walk this earth with me, but they don’t feel there’s a spotlight on them — they know it’s okay to be imperfect. They can laugh and shrug off mistakes and have the inner confidence to move right to the next thing without missing a beat. But for me, with all my insecurities, I get crippled and set back constantly.

I found this article from Psychology Today and actually read it:

Six Ways Developmental Trauma Shapes Adult Identity

Identity formation is an important part of normal development, and takes place across the lifespan. Identity — including one’s sense of being good enough, integration of emotion and intellect, basic awareness of emotional state, feeling secure and coherent as an individual, and even the basic experience of who one actually is — is disrupted by developmental trauma, because basic survival takes precedence over, and uses resources ordinarily allocated for, normal development of the self. Early trauma shifts the trajectory of brain development, because an environment characterized by fear and neglect, for example, causes different adaptations of brain circuitry than one of safety, security, and love. The earlier the distress, on average, the more profound the effect.

My neglect began the moment I was born six weeks premature and never stopped. My mother neglected me and physically and emotionally abused me. My parents fought violently in front of us. My mother outwardly despised my sister and I and unnaturally adored my brother, focusing all her attention on his academics and sports.

Sometimes I think if she had just treated the three of us equally, I could be more understanding. But she knew how to be a decent mother. She just chose not to be one for my sister and I.

I adored dad, but he’s not without fault. We lived in terror of his temper and violence. I think mom didn’t like that I felt close to dad. But dad could have stood up to her and at some point he chose not to. She’s an incredible bully and no one can pout for a longer period of time. I guess he chose his battles. But I told him recently that he didn’t do us any favors. We walked on tiptoes around mom so that she would not get upset when he should have stood up to her and told her to fuck off.

I also lived in fear that they’d get a divorce and I’d end up living with mom and some pale skinned Christian who would sexually abuse me. I don’t know why I had such an specific fear, but I did. Mom was the Christian who dragged me to church every week. Dad would not go near a church ever.

Dad did a few things for me that I will always be grateful for (he built a darkroom for me, for one). But I was so used to getting crumbs that I felt grateful for anything. I remember going to my parents asking if I could buy a high school class ring like all my friends were and I knew they simply would not part with money for me. There was never any money for me so there was no point in asking for it.

But it didn’t occur to me until much later, that they always had enough money for my brother’s letter jacket, class ring, sports fees, sports clothes, proms, dances, trips, and even the year he went to study abroad in college. I think my sister and I felt we had to suffer because the money needed to go to our brother — the one with potential. It was only right.

While my classmates were getting their hair done and putting on their pretty necklaces and buying blue sweaters for our high school senior photos, it never occurred to me to go to my parents and ask for anything. I just made do with what I already had.

But by then my relationship with my mother was so horrific, that I’d have died before asking her for anything.

I don’t want to spend any more time today rehashing my childhood. I do want to begin to form a plan to become more of a whole person.

  • I want to ease some anxiety
  • I want to have a couple of friends
  • I want to become physically healthier
  • I want to learn to love and accept myself

I think my list is simple and attainable, nevertheless I don’t think this journey will be quick or easy.

The article I linked to above has a follow up article:

Six Ways To Beat Childhood Trauma & Stop Self-Sabotage

The author has suggestions on self care, mindfulness, recovery groups, and cultivating patience and compassion.

So this is where I am going to begin:

  1. Taking more time to make meals that I am deserving of and then enjoying those meals.
  2. Find ways to move/exercise more both alone and with others.
  3. Go find social interactions whether through Meet Up, or Overeaters Anonymous, or church, or hiking club.
  4. Find a good therapist who knows how to help people who experienced trauma.

I’m open to any advice and encouragement and would love to hear stories of how others have found ways to thrive in spite of the neglect and abuse they endured.

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Weight is a Tricky Thing Indeed

I made brownies on Father’s Day for dad and ate a lot of them and am not losing weight. In the past I’d give up, shove the scale aside and binge for months until I decided to tackle my weight again.

Not now. I’m still getting up and weighing every day. I don’t want to have my head in the sand. I don’t want to pretend I don’t weigh 252 pounds.

I spend most nights alone, although I do spend several early evenings a week at my folk’s house having dinner and maybe watching Antiques Roadshow, so I have really been aware lately that the way I eat is similar to the way an alcoholic drinks. Without control. Helpless to it. Ashamed.

When I was in my early twenties, and not even overweight but thought I was, I went to an Overeater’s Anonymous meeting in Newport Beach, California. I was preyed upon by an older man who went to those meetings for one purpose: to pick up young women with self esteem issues. I later found out he just went from one newbie to another. How despicable.

So I don’t recall much about it, although I am familiar with the 12 Steps. I may look into it again — I haven’t decided. But I do feel that my “habit” is out of my control and has always been out of my control.

I feel my attempts to eat healthier foods is fairly successful, though — my primary issue is the between meal snacks. But hey, this is a small victory.

I looked at that scale this morning and thought I could be happy if, very slowly, I could get ten pounds off and then maintain it. My biggest fear is losing all the weight (haha) and then gaining it all back.

When I lost 70 pounds after the ex dumped me I read all I could on ways to keep it off because I knew it would be very difficult. Over and over again I read that the only way to (most likely) keep it off is with bariatric surgery and I do not want to go there.

My sister had that surgery over ten years ago, and she’s emaciated, malnourished, lost her teeth and much of her hair. I would not like her health, appearance, and quality of life, but to her, it is worth being skinny.

Speaking of The Sister, she never got back to me about getting together for Father’s Day. She wished him a happy father’s day on FB and never called him. I’m in such shock over that. This is the first Father’s Day she’s had in Oregon and she couldn’t even be bothered to call her father, let alone visit him. He’s 82 with COPD — I wonder how many more Father’s Days he has.

I said to him, “Dad, I’m mystified by her behavior, but there’s no excuse for her not calling you.” He agreed which was amazing because he’s usually so understanding. That’s sort of what made this worse — he’s the one who always reaches out to her. He’s the one she should reach out to.

I don’t know what to do about my sister so for now I’m doing nothing. But last year she dominated my Fall and Winter and I won’t let that happen again. Last year we “must” come to her house for her birthday slash Labor Day. And we “must” come to her house for Thanksgiving. And we “must” come to her house for Christmas.

So I did, but hated every minute of it. I went out of guilt and suffered through her children. By the time New Years came I realized she didn’t give a shit if I was there or not! What a relief! I won’t be missed if I decline her invitation!

Mom, dad, and I really don’t know if she’s pissed off, oblivious, too burdened with her own problems, or what, and nobody has the nerve to ask her what the heck is going on. I wish I had the nerve to say, “What they hell? You didn’t call dad on Father’s Day!” But my family just doesn’t do confrontation — we just wonder what’s gone wrong and never know the truth.

So my goal this Fall and Winter will be to learn how to handle the guilt for not going. I feel more sorry for my mother, who hates being over there, but as a grandparent feels she has to.

This is just incredibly sad because my sister did say to me she wanted to be here in Oregon because dad’s health was so bad. But I have been reminded that I have never really known my sister and never been close to her.

I wish there were a way to deal with my ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) so that I could easily get to the reason I overeat. I don’t have the money for therapy, and I don’t know that it would work anyway. Maybe I should put it into God’s hands, but that’s a conversation for another day. I haven’t been to church in nearly two months and it’s making me sad.

I welcome input about weight loss, but I am not interested in Weight Watchers.

xox

TGIF

The scale read 248.6 this morning and I thought, ‘my gosh this weight loss thing is easy’ but then I remembered WATER WEIGHT. Oh well, at least it got me into the 40s.

For a long time now I’ve been eating a ton at night, so that’s when things are the hardest for me. But right now, with just a middling effort I will probably lose weight simply because my body is used to so, so many extra calories.

It’s only been a few days but already I feel more energized and that I’m sleeping better. I woke with my alarm this morning which I never do. I’m trying to spend a couple of hours puttering around the house before I settle into to Midsomer Murders (Netflix) and that feels good too. I forget that we work nine hours and sleep 8 hours, but that does leave some time for things other than watching TV.

And I’ve started the habit of coming home on Friday and doing chores and laundry to get a jump start on the weekend. That way I don’t feel like I’m spending half of Saturday doing that. Of course I’ll probably do the yard work tomorrow, but that’s okay — it’s EXERCISE.

I discovered well after I moved in here that my walls are plaster, not drywall. I love the look of them, but I’m having a hard time hanging heavier things — I’m fearful it’ll just fall off the wall and take the plaster with it. I’ve watched a lot of youtube vids, but still feel timid. This is a time I wish I had a man in my life. But not all men know how to do stuff like that — my recent ex would not have known.

My father says, “I can help! I’m not crippled.” But he is awfully frail. I have a shelf I assembled from Ikea that I just don’t know how to get up. I feel sort of ridiculous about that.

Speaking of dad, this Sunday is Father’s Day. I’ve been acutely aware the last couple of years that every birthday, Christmas, Father’s Day, could be his last. I don’t want him to go anywhere not only because I love him and will miss him, but also because that will leave me with my mom.

My sister moved to town about a year ago. It took her several years of planning because she had to bring her other adult children with her — she has a grandchild she did not want to leave behind in Louisiana. We were never close as kids but I really did look forward to her coming here and doing things with her now and then.

Well, that’s not happening, not even a little. Last November we planned to meet at a holiday fair and I got there and texted her and started walking around. About thirty minutes later I ran into her, her daughter, and grandchild and my sister hits her daughter on the arm and declares, “I told you to remind me!”

So I was a complete and utter afterthought for her. She basically forgot she was meeting me. I can’t fathom such behavior. We are nothing alike.

I bring her up because I had at least hoped that she’d spend some time with our folks so that I don’t have to feel so guilty when I’m not over there. But no, she really can’t be bothered to do that either, and she rarely calls them. She is simply consumed with her five kids and all their drama. Outsiders can’t compete.

And my parents are pretty confused about how to deal with her and her brood. Her offspring are adults and they are jobless potheads (okay, one is on methadone), they smell, they are overly opinionated, they feel like utter strangers, and we don’t know how to deal with family get togethers.

When they come to my parent’s house, it’s awkward. When my parents offer to take them out they feel embarrassed by their appearance, smell, and behavior. I feel guilty that I don’t really want to get to know them. I can’t tell my sister that her kids are strangers to me and I don’t really care for them. I really don’t know how to handle it.

But my mom really hates them. She makes an ugly face when she talks about them. I really hate hearing her speak that way about her own grandchildren. It’s awful. So I’m sort of curious about how her opinions on my sister and her family change or don’t change when she becomes a widow.

At least I’m assuming dad will go first. It’s a miracle that a man who has smoked since he was 12 is still alive at 82. He’ll be 83 next month. Mom’s health isn’t bad, and she’s 80.

When I first moved to my place this winter I asked my sister to come over several times. She didn’t respond or didn’t feel well. I finally stopped asking her because I was beginning to feel embarrassed about it. I really feel she just doesn’t need anyone in her life. It’s not that she is envious that I have a house and she doesn’t — It’s that she just doesn’t care about anyone but herself and her kids and grandkids.

But I’m oversimplifying the situation. She does have bad health. She does have her hands full with her kids. I would not trade places with her for anything. I never should have thought we could be close since we never have been. I tell my parents that it’s not like I lost anything because she’s never been a part of my life. But I’ll admit to you that I’m disappointed. I really thought I’d have an adult friend to do something with on a Friday night.

No need to feel bad for me. I’m on my second load of laundry and I’m about to vacuum. I know how to have a good time on Friday night!

xox

Any advice on what you do when faced with relatives you don’t really want to spend time with?

 

Stop. Just Stop.

I spun my wheels again today and I didn’t hear from the imaging center. Tried to get my taxes done and that fell through. Then I had a fight with my mother and afterwards, in tears, I called my  husband.

We had a fairly long talk. He’s trying to help me bring my old website back to life. It’s not a very simple process. We bickered about things and we also were real with one another. He asked me again not to make any definitive decisions regarding my career, my life, our marriage. Just to put it on hold until his lawsuit is resolved. I said okay because I love him.

If you read that with disgust, I’m sorry. I never thought I could ever consider taking back a man who has and still is treating me so disrespectfully. He seems to be actually living with her, in my apartment, filled with my things. The slap in the face is so outrageous I can’t process it.

He is using her for rides, for sex, for who knows what else. But it’s clear he also has feelings for me. His life is in ruins in pretty much every conceivable way. He’s in survival mode.

I thought my living here was good for my parents. Almost as good for them as it was for me. I’m very helpful. I constantly do dishes and offer to shop and do errands. I do yard work. I take the dogs out. I spend a lot of money on food. But my mother is a very bitter, sad person and it’s clear she feels I’m making things worse by being here and not better.

I’m ashamed that I have no place to go. I’m also aware that there are no circumstances under which I would ever ask my own daughter to leave my home, but then I do love her unconditionally.

The problem started today when, stupidly thinking I might be able to reach her, I tried to talk to her about the silent treatment she gives to my father. I told her that I wasn’t speaking as a daughter, but just woman to woman, and that I feel she will really regret even 30 seconds of silent treatment after he is gone.

To my horror she responded, “You could have a heart attack and die before he does, or I could. You don’t know what I put up with.” And that’s when I realized she probably won’t feel any guilt at all when my father dies. She will still be the victim.

I said, “Mom, he’s dying. He uses an oxygen tank. He can’t do anything. He will more than likely be going before you or I go. This is the man who, in spite of all your problems with him, you’ve known him and loved him since he was a child.”

I won’t vomit up the remainder of the argument, but this is quintessentially my mother. She’s 100% selfish and incapable of putting herself in another person’s shoes and she is always a victim.

When she told me I had been rude to her when I told her that she was making me feel defensive about how I’m handling my health issues, I lost it. I yelled at her and told her I’d get out as soon as possible. I’d tell them I’m homeless if I have to. And I left.

Completely the wrong thing to do. But my god. Family dynamics. You go right back to those old childhood roles. I have grown up a bit, but my mother never has and never will. So now I don’t know what to do. I can’t afford to move out. And the wait lists for affordable housing is 9 to 12 months.

Oh, she did say, “Why can’t we just acknowledge that you and I can’t have these types of conversations. I get upset about what you say to me and you get upset about what I say to you.”

I said, “Actually you’re wrong about that. I have been that way in the past, but not now. If you or anybody else wants to tell me how I’ve been stupid or wrong, please do it and I will stand there with open eyes, ears, and heart and I will process it because I’m growing and changing and you can too.”

I called her within an hour of storming out and told her I was very sorry for losing control of my anger. She mumbled something and said she had to go. I was not sorry for what I said, only how I said it.

Meanwhile it hurts to sit here because my pelvis area throbs when I sit straight up.

I love my husband. I want to be back in my home. I want this lawsuit over with so that we can move on and have a life together. I need space from my mother.

I hate to abandon my father this way, but he knows it can’t be any other way. Mom is the saddest bitterest person we have ever known. My mother is the hot potato. Do I want to get stuck holding her? Her negativity truly sucks the life out of you. I’m not exaggerating.

I’ve decided to do what I can, which isn’t much. Do my taxes. Meet with the attorney about my horrible finances. Get on a waiting list for affordable housing. Write here. Get my website up and running again. Deal with all my health concerns, and hopefully keep swimming, which I haven’t done since Saturday.

I’ve decided not to decide anything since almost all of it is out of my control anyway. I’ve made so many impulsive decisions in my life and for once I just want to do the opposite. I’m going to wait and see. I’m going to stop. Just stop.

The Truth Really Does Set You Free

Last night I went to see Philomena (Nebraska is only being shown late at the art cinema now). When I was done I texted my husband because he told me he had met with his attorney and I wanted to get updated. I also hoped that I’d be able to see him.

He texted back that he was out. That he was at the store with his friend. Suddenly I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was lying, and that he was with another woman.

I drove right to his house, and as though he were expecting me, he walked out to the curb. He asked me why I was “stalking” him and I said it’s not stalking if I come by only once unannounced.

He said he didn’t want to be with me anymore, that he couldn’t “risk” it. That I may say I’ve changed, but I really haven’t. He can’t take that chance.

I asked him why he can’t be honest with me, why can’t he tell me he’s with another woman. Why, when I’ve asked him to be honest because I won’t want him back if he’s been with another woman. He wants me to leave him alone, so why not tell me the truth? Shame, I guess.

I said, “Who’s in the house?” He said his friend and his friend’s girlfriend. I said, “No, they’re not here. Their car isn’t here. Who is in the house?”

He asked me why it was any concern of mine. I said, it is a concern of mine. “I have a right to know. Be honest.”

So he looked at me, and after several more appeals he said, “Yes. There’s another woman. Do you feel better?”

And I said no and I began to cry but then I looked at him and thought of all the things he was trying to blame on me when he is the one whose heart is taken by another woman. It was strangely freeing. I felt a release that I didn’t expect.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m mortified and I’m humiliated. No doubt his new girlfriend is in her 20s. For some reason everyone he hangs out with is in their 20s. As a 56 year old woman I feel extremely old right now, but I just can’t hate myself for my age or my weight, or the number of times I’ve been married. I need to be gentle with myself. I’m not a bad person. I’ve lived a life.

The old me would have taken this news and gone right to the pill bottles and taken a good ol’ huge overdose and then spent 7-10 days in the psych ward, but that old me is gone. The new me is trying to figure out a new playbook, one that involves taking care of myself, and learning how to reach out to others. I’m tired of being lonely.

I wish things could have been different, but I know I did the best I could and I no longer want him back. I pray that he will leave the state once he gets his settlement. I pray I never run into him and his girlfriend.

I have to force myself not to think about how young and thin and pretty his new girlfriend is. It doesn’t matter. I’m glad that he has to carry around his shame like a weight on his neck. He took every penny I had, left me with nothing, and cheated on me. Wow. What a jerk.

I pray that I don’t get blindsided by horrible emotions to come and I wonder if I’m just numb right now. In shock. Yet it’s not really a surprise. In the last couple of months that we lived together he was gone seven nights a week. I began to think for the first time in our marriage that he might have someone else in his life. I felt bad for thinking such a thing and of course he made me feel stupid and paranoid. I feel like some dumb story from the true life movies my mom watches. But it happens and it happened to me.

For some odd reason, for at least this moment, I feel optimistic that I will be ok. That I will someday meet someone special to share my life with. I’m sad that I wasted eight years of my life with someone with questionable ethics (I have spared you the sordid details), at the same time he did teach me a lot about myself and I am now a better person than I would have been if I hadn’t turned to examine myself.

The other day I saw an ad for the Polar Plunge coming in February. It’s a fund raiser for the Special Olympics and I looked up their website. They need volunteers for the local event and I considered contacting them. Now I know I will contact them. I need to start doing stuff.

I will look forward to Spring and buying some hiking boots and finding people to hike with. I look forward to Summer and buying that summer dress.

The last time I saw my psychiatric nurse practitioner I told him that my husband thinks I’ll spend the rest of my life just being my mother’s caregiver. He said something interesting to me that stuck with me. He said, “That won’t last forever.” And I thought, that’s true. There’s hope for me to have a life and if I’m lucky it might involve a bit of travel. A little warm water. My dear family. And some good friends.

Meanwhile I woke up at 4 a.m. over a dream of the good husband I let get away, the one who was truly my best friend. I felt like sobbing. Then I thought about my current ex and wondered how on earth I would cope.

But I went to the pool and had a pretty good workout; better than the last two days.

I feel as though I’ve been kicked in the stomach but I have been freed by the truth.