Sunday, March 27, 2016


Say what you need to say as the song goes. It's happened again. A few acquaintances responded as if I'm depressed at the mere mention of my personal history. I tend to ignore that talk because it tends to be a subtle form of bullying.

I know they don't mean to bully, they're just uncomfortable with the topic. I've found that life story becomes history on the continued telling. Both the people who are hearing and my own heart finds some major lessons in the accounting. They say in recovery, "the only way out is through."

Surviving abuse has its own set of problems. It is in fact depressing. We have a 12 times risk for committing suicide. Though I am not sure that's entirely a depressive thing as much as a desire for the pain to stop. A lot of us don't realize there are ways to think out of emotional pain. By no means would that ever be called EASY. It's rough painful work.

I often came from therapy wiping away tears. Much of the trauma from my painful past had scabbed over and knitted into large knots of scar tissue. Taking proper medical care of a wound years after that condition causes lots of pain and its own set of traumas.

Us humans cry for lots of reasons. Grief and happiness both produce tears. And people will ask you to stop crying. Though not on this blog.

The joy of therapy or conversations about a painful childhood, comes from the making it be a concrete reality to face. An infected scar needs help to heal. Part of that comes from a simple awareness. "Oh, you have a scar."

I do a number of things when I talk about my past. First, I uncover the wound and see what is going on under the scar. That airing out feels less painful each time. Second, I give other people permission to see their own pain and if they wish, tell their story. In addition, I give people a chance to show their caring side.

One thing abusive people do is confuse their victims. They hurt you and then blame you for the pain. They often use guilt as a follow on weapon. Even going to far as to deny that any harm was caused.

I want to dance in the sunshine of my beautiful soul. I can't do that if it's clouded by denial. How can you help? Let me know you see me and my scar. Let me know that a cloud passing by moves off eventually.

You can be part of the healing. Make a choice to listen for a few minutes. It'll mean a lot to those you know.

Kind comments welcome.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Wasting All These Tears

I'm physically sick as I write this today. I have something that resembled a cold, but could be bronchitis. I have a regular doctor appointment so I'll have her listen to my lungs and see if she can tell me what it is.

First, I hate going to the doctor. This new one seems pretty good so that helps, but my last two sucked a lot. The irony is this whole series I'm working on, about the ACE score and how it relates to health in later life tells all kinds of stories about our relationship with the medical profession. Maybe I can talk to her about that.

Okay, now for this ACE story. Being sick brings up a lot of the past. For some reason I started thinking about all the cruel things my mother said to me. Here's the ACE question:

1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?

I've talked about Attila the Mom before. I call her that because my husband said people might stop trying to tell you you "have to" love your mother if she was Hitler. I thought, no, she's not Hitler. It's more like she was just trying to fight for her own stuff and I got in the way. So I started calling her Attila the Mom. 

Mom didn't want me. Well, she did, but she wanted me for a prop in her plot to "save her marriage." I didn't work and that pissed her off. My 15 year old sister Kathey took care of me until she left to have her own life.

My parents divorced when I was four and I lived with daddy and a babysitter until the end of first grade. Mom didn't want to take me back, but she didn't think she had any other choice. I lived with her and her third husband for a year then she found a way to pawn me off on Kathey for a while. 

Mom could never just be kind to me. While brushing my hair she regularly pushed me around and smacked me with the brush. Her and her husband would leave me home alone at night on a regular basis and they were often drunk. 

Mom and her husband fought all the time and he knocked her around. They moved out of town and that's when I went to live with my sister. Everyone made it pretty clear it was my fault. After they eventually divorced, I went back to live with my mom. 

She worked in the evening and left me alone. I went next door and played with the neighbor kids. When she got home, she pulled me around the house by the hair and yelled at me about how "worried" she was when I didn't answer the phone. 

My 12th birthday mom promised to take me and a group of friends horse back riding, but she got so drunk the night before she refused to get up. I felt such humiliation at having a bunch of friends waiting. I saved the day by taking us all on an adventure into the desert and over to the convenience store for candy. 

Before I started seventh grade, mom bought a brand new mobile home and we moved into a nice new park. The three years I spent living there were the longest stretch I lived in the same place during my childhood. To expand the space, mobiles often feature lots of mirror walls and opening the front door to this house you first saw a full length view of yourself.

Age 14, I stood staring at my face in that mirror. I mused outloud that "I'm pretty." I was thinking, why don't the boys pay attention to me. Mom heard me and from across the room slammed me hard. "Pretty ugly, and pretty apt to stay that way," she said. 

I get it, lots of family tease each other from a loving place. And I know that "It's just a joke," and still it smarts. In these times of sickness lowered resistance, it leaves me weeping for my tender insecure self. 

So true to flaky Attila the Mom style, the year i turned 15, mom totally flaked and started missing house payments and going out carousing with a new guy. I don't know how long it was, but she moved out entirely for a time. Dad, my brother and a friend of his moved in and I didn't feel all that safe. Brother and his buddy weren't very nice to my sister Cokie and me.

I ran away, but I didn't know what I was doing so I just walked for a long time until an officer picked me up. Mom happened to be home and she didn't yell at me or anything. Not long after that she flaked totally and the trailer got repossessed.

Sister Cokie and I went to live with oldest sister Kathey. Since Cokie and I are both legally blind, and mom flaked out, we applied for disability for me and Cokie and I started living in our own apartment. Life got a whole lot better. 

Mom came around now and then mostly to eat our food and crash on our couch. She took me to a play audition once and in retrospect I wish she hadn't. Coming off the dance floor from the worst audition EVER, mom laughed at me and said, "You looked like a fat cow." This is the person who gve birth to me. My mom. The person who is supposed to always love their kids. Evidently, I don't have " a face only a mother could love." I have something worse. 

Okay, so I've told a lot of this before and it's very sad. Even sadder for my mom really. I'm this cool, creative soul that she could have got to know. We made a kind of peace, though it didn't last beyond a mere five years. 

So here are my resilient reactions to my mom:

12. As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.
13. I was independent and a go-getter.
14. I believed that life is what you make it.

All definitely true. Lets start with being a planned but unwanted baby. I figured out that I didn't have a hand in those plans. My dad treated me as though I were a gift to him. My sisters took care of me even though they did make it clear they weren't thrilled with the idea. Especially when I was older.

I found joy in rich friendships and safe school times. During the time I lived with my sister Kathey as a little girl, one of my teachers saw me riding my bike past her house. She called to me and gave me a glass of water. 

I observed that other people's moms didn't fly off the handle and smack them. They seemed to listen and talk to them like they cared what they thought and tried to show them how to do stuff. I realized, that the problem was with my mom, not me.

I took my friends on that adventure. I used to cry about it until one day Jess just out of the blue brought it up and said that was a great day for her. Mom gave me lemons and I made lemonade and we all drank it. 

After the difficult dance audition, I went to the vocal audition for the very same play. I sang well. The next musical to come up, I auditioned again. I had a much better dance audition and sang for both the youth and adult parts. I got grit. 

I learn new ways to love myself all the time. A few months ago, I started telling every bit of my body I love it when I'm in the shower. I even kiss the parts I can reach and kiss my hand and put it on the places I can't. 

I give myself permission to grieve as much and for as long as I need. I lost the chance to have a calm, secure and loving childhood. Parts of my personality are still in the angry phase of grief and that's okay. Parts found their way to acceptance too. 

Now it's your turn. Look over the ACEs and pick one that relates to you. Then go to the resilience list and see if you can connect how you used them to how you coped. If you couldn't find any, can you give those things to yourself now? What kind of parent are you to your inner child? 

Kind comments encouraged.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Nobody Loves Me

Over the next few months, I hope to explore the concept of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how they relate to resilience into adulthood. I started with the ACE test in a post I called The Gambler, I moved on to the resilience test in a post I called My Father's Eyes because my dad showed me love.

Today, we're going to get into the nitty gritty specifics of how resilience turned an ACE into a mere past experience. Since the mitigating effects of coping with adversity don't match in a one to one ration, there are 10 ACE questions and 14 resilient aspects, I intend to combine them with what I see as their likely counterparts. More than one ACE may may relate to more than one helpful strategy.

Starting with ACE number 4. Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn't look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?

My father did indeed love me as I've said many times. His own demons took him out of my life for far too much of it. He raised me until I turned five and then I went to live with a babysitter for a couple of years. It took 10 years before he spent any regular time in my life. After that brief time, about a year off and on, my mother and oldest sister made him stay away.

I understand their reasoning now. Though at the time, I felt quite hurt by the sparse contact. My dad could be a mooch. My sister, Cokie, and I were living on our own and my mother and sister didn't want him to take advantage. So much deep irony in that with my mother and her selfish ways.

Though I spoke to him on the phone, I didn't see my father in person from 1980 to 2000. My family wasn't very big on the holiday thing and so we just drifted on the river of disconnect all those years.

These factors helped me figure out how to overcome that sense of neglect and abandonment:

2. I believe that my father loved me when I was little.
    1. Definitely True
6. When I was a child, neighbors or my friends’ parents seemed to like me.
    1. Definitely True
7. When I was a child, teachers, coaches, youth leaders or ministers were there to help me.
    1. Definitely True
12. As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.
    1. Definitely True
13. I was independent and a go-getter.
    1. Definitely True

My friend Jessie's mom let me play her piano. They also as a family would play Scrabble and encouraged everyone to try their hand. Her mom helped ferry us to school events and treated me like an extended member of the family. No, I wasn't like a kid, but definitely like a cousin. 

I did well in grade school academics and only once had my ability to learn questioned. One grade school adult listened when I had ideas and we did several projects based on my suggestions. In high school one teacher traded vocabulary words with me for fun, not an English teacher too, and another would talk about every subject in a broad assortment. 

I decided to graduate from high school early and took a summer school class to accomplish this goal. When the school registrar heard this, she ordered my diploma before I even started the class. She knew I'd pass and wanted to be prepared. She even ordered my tassel. I was kind of bummed that they wouldn't let me walk to stage because my grade hadn't posted in time and I didn't get an extra gold tassel for having a higher than 3.0 GPA. OH WELL. 

All these little things add up to an amazing array of different kinds of confidence boosters. 

How about your life? What ACE jumps out at you? What factors helped you survive? Kind comments encouraged.