Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Choice to Make

Growing up in an abusive home has a tremendous effect on how one views the world. I've known this for years, but recognizing warped places in my thinking is a process that takes time. Periodically, an awareness would surface that I did not love myself, and I didn'tt see how that was going to change. It was just the way it was.

I was trained to ignore my wants and needs. As a child, I often felt like I was being bad if I dared to have any needs. There just wasn't time, emotional energy, or empathy available to address a child's emotional needs.

For example, when I was eight years old I became terribly ill. I instinctively knew that something very serious was wrong. I was told that I was fine and to stop being a baby. When a doctor confirmed three days later that I was very ill and needed my appendix out as an emergency surgery, I was left at the hospital without any parental comfort. The nurse explained to my parent that young children often benefited from a parent staying in the room even during the nights, but I stayed in the room alone. I remember trying not to fall asleep too deeply so I could push the nurse call button if I became worse in the night. My surgery was scheduled for first thing in the morning, but the nurse said a doctor would do the operation in the middle of the night if I couldn't make it until then. The nurse was kind. She came to my room a couple of times. She patted my hand, wiped the bangs out of my eyes, spoke about my surgery and comforted me more than my absent parents had ever done.

I buried the intense feelings of loneliness and abandonment with many other buried feelings of fear, worry, and anger that there was never room for in my home. I apologized the next day to my parents for being sick and I entered surgery without a parent kissing me, hugging me or reassuring me. They came and I appreciated that. They waited and they were there when I exited surgery. They stayed a little longer before they said they needed to go. They gave what they had--but comfort, emotional sensitivity, or emotional support weren't part of the package.

As I've processed many such memories and other darker memories of blatant sexual abuse, I've been able to experience some of those long repressed feelings, I've been able to feel compassion for my parents and their struggles with addictions, I've been able to feel sympathy for my younger self. I've had greater understanding about my internal motivations.

And then, last week, a moment of decision was suddenly and clearly upon me. Was I going to continue hoping for the day when my parents would understand me, accept me and cherish me? Was I going to continue choosing to squash self-care and self-love in order to live by my parents' rules? Or was I going to choose to fully commit myself to being responsible for my needs in a loving, nurturing way? Was I going to start treating myself with the full measure of love and respect that I lavish on my children and step-children? Was I?

I discovered in that moment that I am ready. I am again at another new and exciting place of healing thanks to God's leading. I can now accept and embrace giving myself loving, respectful care for both physical and emotional needs.

The work of facing more painful memories and repressed feelings was worth it. With Him, we can reach levels of healing that seemed too far out of reach. With God, all things are possible.

Reader, where are you today with your healing process? Do you believe yet that you are lovable and that it is more than okay to take care of yourself physically and emotionally?

Wherever you are on the journey, keep on looking to God with trust. He can and will help you. He'll help you find and unfurl your own set of dazzling wings of grace, hope, and love.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Thank You

Thank you to those readers who prayed concerning my computer problems and health. It took awhile to recover from the flu followed by a sinus infection but I am back to being well.

Thank you also to those who posted comments and wished me well.

You are great readers!

But I Love Him/Her!

Your reaction to today's post title will vary tremendously depending on how long you've been away from abuse and how much recovery work you've done so far. When someone is in abuse she or he feels an extremely strong (super glued to the max) connection to her or his abuser. Sometimes this emotion is labeled hate, but in the vast majority of cases it is called "love."

How does one recover from being betrayed by someone that says "I love you" before and after abuse? How does one heal a broken heart that gave love freely and received back love tainted by abuse in one or more forms? How does one ever learn to trust or love any other after the shame and treachery of abuse has ripped one's soul to shreds?

Some of you who are well down the road of recovery have answers now to these questions. Others of you near the beginning of the journey can hardly imagine or hope that there is any life worth living after being abused.

Psychologists and sociologists have studied the bond that occurs between an abuse victim and the abuser. They don't call it love, but rather it is named the Stockholm Syndrome. It is a condition in which the person being held captive by a controller ends up feeling strong positive, protective feelings toward their captor. It is a situation that abusers foster with small acts of kindness mixed with threats and abuses. Isolation, sleep deprivation and control of finances can be used by abusers to heighten the abused person's sense that their whole well-being, or total lack thereof, is completely within the control of the abuser. The Stockholm Syndrome that leads to us believing that we love our abuser too much to leave him or her is a testimony to the survival instinct. It serves a purpose while we are trapped and feeling threatened. It is our best attempt to stay safe--or as safe as we can in a horrible situation.

But once we are contemplating leaving an abusive relationship or a relationship has ended and we are needing to heal, we will be much healthier after we recognize that the powerful emotions that we felt and the intense relationship we participated in wasn't about love. It is essential that we be able to sort out the differences between love and the psychological trauma that we've endured. If we don't do the hard work of untangling the experiences we thought were love, we are prone to become another statistic. Many abused people enter multiple abusive relationships because they don't know what love is. Too many abused people die every year before they can figure it out. And countless others suffer daily indignities and never reach anything close to their potential because they are trapped under mounds of emotional and/or verbal abuse that they have been taught by circumstance to believe is love.

When I first learned about the Stockholm Syndrome, I didn't know whether to be even more ashamed or whether to be relieved. Relief won out. There was a name and descriptions that matched the intense, crazy, all-consuming relationship that had held me captive for so long. Other men and women had done some of the same "crazy" things that I'd done, too. I didn't like remembering how I'd worked so hard to please someone who was intentionally abusing me, it felt degrading--but it is the reality of how I worked to survive. I sort of liked remembering how intense things felt at times, how flowery some of the compliments were in the beginning and how "sweet" some of the early gifts seemed, but I hated remembering how frightened I felt at times, how helpless I felt for years, how small and dumb I felt on a daily basis. There are many tangled chains in the "love" an abuser chokes his/her "beloved" with.

God's love is radically different and freely available. God doesn't offer love with heavy hidden chains. God can help each of us with love that refreshes our souls, binds our wounds, and heals our brokeness. I am sure about it. He did it for me and he's helped many other abuse victims. He cares. His love is real--it is not an illusion used to control us. Try to trust God even just a little and see what good things will happen. You have an eternal friend who loves you in a way that is healthy and wonderful.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sorry about Interruption

Between lightening zapping my computer ethernet card and flu zapping my body, I haven't been able to blog this week.

I'll hopefully be well and back to blogging next week.

Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft