I actually toyed with naming this “Hiding From The Proverbial 2×4”, since I am usually slow on seeing the signs around me, but I am working on that! Ever a work in progress!!
Originally published here at “Inner Critic To Champion” at Weeds and Wildflowers, I talk about my struggle with my inner critic and how the past couple of weeks I have been inundated with signs to speak out about my journey. Hoping my journey can help you on yours ❤
I’m starting this year with that whole “clean slate” deal for the first time here in 2017. And I’m able to do so with a little (OK, maybe a lot) of help from my friends.
I have spent a lot of my youth and adult life living a duality. Working to mirror on the outside what I thought was expected, that which would keep questions from being asked: I was happy, smiling, smart, shy, responsible. I kept my temper in check. I was a good example.
All the while, inside I roiled in pain, anger, fear, and darkness. I was constantly worried the truth would come out, that when it did I would prove to be unlovable. I lived my life in near panic. I considered suicide as a teen, became a cutter to deal with the emotions I couldn’t deal with or express.
The idea, and then the reality, of becoming a mom was my saving grace. Sounds cliche, I know, but it’s true. It was the one thing I was sure I would do well. It IS my skill set. My Trinity makes all that I have been through a lesson for their benefit, something to spare them from. My silver linings.
As I have slogged through some truly awful, dark, and dangerous times, I have in the last year emerged on the other side with a small army of loyal skeletons ready to bask in the light. They are facts and facets of my life, but they no longer chain me down. (They do, however, make some people really, really uncomfortable). The more the light bleaches the rot from them, the more I realize that I would not be who I am without having survived them. There can be a certain peace found in seeing beauty in that tragedy.
The first to emerge was the the admission that the “perfect couple” that the outside world saw did not, in fact, exist. I suffered from financial, emotional, and mental subjugation. I had lost myself in a quest to protect my littles, given up my sense of self and self respect to keep them safe behind closed doors. Eggshells and fear were the constant companions. Let’s call him Uno.
Skelly made his way out when I refused to deny being sexually assaulted as a teacher. I suffer from PTSD from that experience, and it brought back to the forefront issues from past abuses. I regained a sense of power through counseling and from introducing Skelly to the world. I was (am) a sexual assault survivor, and I am damn proud of what I have managed to live through.
I think the most frightening one to come through the closet door, the one who had needed the most coaxing, has been Lily. She has suffered the longest in silence, the one that was the most afraid to come out to the light. From the moment she listened to “want to see what my mom did last night?” (made cookies? a new hairdo? danced?) at 8 and then realized that she was mired into a 3 year reign of sexual molestation, followed by 6 more years of daily bullying and torture with “if you don’t do X, I will make sure (your mom, dad, neighbor you idolize, friends) knows what dirty scum you are. Then who will love you?” It wasn’t until this summer that I was able, with the innocent comment of my youngest to coax me, to bring Lily out, to introduce her to my parents and tell the story.
I can’t express to you the freedom I have felt after flinging that closet door open fully. And I don’t want to make it sound like it was some easy process, and that you should find it so. It was agonizing, to be truthful. It has taken years. And I had the help of counselors, family, and wonderful friends to see me through the process. To hold my hand and assure me at each step that I was, indeed, still worthy. Still loved. Each hidden truth that escaped, big and small ~ each thing that cracked the facade of who I had built up as that image I thought I had to be, has been terrifying; gut wrenching. But as I have torn down that outer layer, bit by bit, the person I have discovered, that core of Me, is someone I am proud to be.
Through Lily, Uno, Skelly, and others that now dance in the sunlight, I became the person I am. Though I would never wish these experiences on others, I learned strength, resiliency, faith, and compassion. I recognize pain in others and aim to help soothe their suffering. I have been able to give my pain purpose and can look back and see how it has served to help others already. And that makes their sunlit romps and dancing all the more enjoyable!
To anyone on a similar journey, May God Be With You, and please know that you are not alone…
On Saturday evening, I sat thru a fantastic talk given by Justin Lee. Justin is former military that runs a foundation called Project UnBreakable and is alumni at my high school.
Justin talked about his struggles with mental illness, his dad’s suicide, being left by his mom at a young age and in turn, his own thoughts of taking his own life.
The moving talk captured the attention of everyone in the room as Justin paced the stage in obvious nervousness over speaking to the room.
As he discussed the days prior to his dad’s passing and the guilt over not being able to help, the expressions of his emotions at the time gripped even the young man next to me. The feeling of abandonment he held force by his mother leaving and his fathers suicide spoke volumes to this 19 year old young man.
That young man is my son. Due to some circumstances outside of his control, he has some of those same feelings. As Justin discussed his fears and anxieties, my son was moved beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Even as he avoided and deflected the listening, he still did and for a young man to hear the emotion within the words was truly motivating.
Justin’s story is filled with tragedy. He’s from a hometown that’s seen murder, death and more. His past impacted his reactions to situations but the end result is he stood proudly on that stage to openly discuss something very personal.
Justin Lee is an Inspiration in HIS field. As an elite military, that lost his position for his mental health, he’s UnBreakable about speaking out, sharing his story, encouraging conversations about mental health and helping others.
To assist Justin and his wife, Kim, to speak out and help others, please visit their website. They also have a private help line for military personnel and first responders.
Justin spoke as part of a series called Behind the Mask brought to us by Lion Legacy and the hard work of Rhonda Kowalski. The series will discuss many difficult topics of discussion, including sexual abuse, discrimination and much more. Follow the link to the Facebook page for updates and future live feed videos.
I read once that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Can that really be true? That was was a pretty sobering idea at the time; I was in a particularly stressful job situation (though many of my coworkers were lovely), I was mired knee deep, and still sinking, in a custody battle, and other than my beautiful babies, the truth was that those who would filled the other two slots in my average were not really happy, nor positive, folks.
My three kids are my world, they bring me so much peace and joy among their chaos and I know that they look to me to steer their own internal moods. So that five people average really scared me. I started paying attention a whole lot more closely to those I interacted with, realizing that I had allowed a lot of people to come into my little world and really bring down my “Happy Average”, but I really hadn’t quite figured out what to do with that knowledge yet. But, the first step is admitting there is an issue, right? So, I was on my way to figuring this out… and then my little world blew apart. An incident at work left me without the ability to continue in that capacity, leaving me as a shell of my former self. I gathered my children, my sister, and my one friend close and closed down. For a quite a while.
I began counseling and was diagnosed with PTSD, not only for that current incident but it turns out that I had lived with it from the issues in my past. One of the things that my counselor and I discussed was this whole idea of the average. My fear at that point (I was really good at coming up with a list of them, but this was weighing heavy on my mind) was that was that I would allow my current fears and angers to sully my children’s chance for happiness. He reminded me that I had a choice in who I allowed into my inner circle, that 5 was not a magic number, but a rule of thumb, and that being happy is a chosen response. This gave me back a piece of hope; I could make changes and rise again like a Phoenix as I regained myself. I’d found my silver lining.
As I have progressed in my healing (an ongoing process, to be sure), I have realized that the “average” can be in flux daily, weekly, monthly. I have learned to keep track of how I react to different personalities, those that I feel comfortable with and those that, for one reason or another, grate on me. I may like someone, but if I need to limit time with them, I do. Protect your happy. When you do find those people, places, experiences that bring
you joy, be sure to average them in, increase that happy for yourself.
I am learning to build those healthy boundaries now, and my experiences have provided lessons for my children. Together we have reframed our outlook to search for the silver linings, seek the adventure in adversity, and ferret out the joy in each experience. As I have extended out my circle to bring in new perspectives and new joys, so have my children. In a quest to create the list of my best 5, I ended up creating a more whole, well rounded version of myself.
So, in honor of school staring here tomorrow, welcome back to math class … Happy Averaging!! 😉