Monday, November 28, 2016

Getting to know me

Learn about each other….
1. Are you named after someone? Yes. My grandmother.
2. When is the last time you cried? I don’t keep track any more. Crying can be for happy reasons for me. I think yesterday when I watched a video about helping each other.
3. Do you like your handwriting? Sometimes. It changes from time to time.
4. What is your favorite lunch meat? Peanut butter and banana. (This is my friends answer and I happen to agree.)
5. Do you have kids? Yes. 6 amazing people call me Mom. 15 delightful grandkids…that is awesome.
7. Do you use sarcasm? Duh….try to curb it but some situations just beg for a sarcastic answer. Put my hand over my mouth more than once to keep it from popping out.
8. Do you still have your tonsils? No. Long gone.
9. Would bungee jump? Absolutely not. I have enough thrills without any desire to jump off anything.
10. What is your favorite kind of cereal? Hot 6 grain cereal with fruit and peanut butter.
11. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? Nope, ruined more than one pair of shoes this way. Prefer sandals as much as possible…no ties.
12. Do you think you are strong? Yes and no. Started karate when I was 56 and getting stronger….then old age does something nasty to me and I’m sitting on the couch barely able to move.
13. What is your favorite ice cream? Plain old Chocolate.
14. What is the first thing you notice about people? Kindness.
15. Football or Baseball? Sewing, crocheting, Happy Acres
16. What is the least favorite thing you like about yourself? I keep messing up the same way….some days I feel like I am running in place.
17. What color pants are you wearing now? blue.
18. What was the last thing you ate? Medication so I can eat later.
19. What are you listening to right now? Quiet….which I hear most of the time, being partially deaf, lots of quiet.
20. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Blue, the blue of Arizona sky which is not the sky blue in the crayon box.
21. Favorite Flavor? Chocolate. (Didn’t need to change this answer.)
22. Who’s the last person you spoke to on the phone? Friend but had to hand the phone to my daughter because I couldn’t hear her.
23. Favorite sport to watch? American Ninja. Is that considered a sport yet?
24. Hair color? Real or fake? Mouse brown and occasionally my niece assists in covering the increasing levels of gray.
25. Eye color? Hazel. Changes with emotions or what I wear.
26. Favorite food to eat? Cookies – school makes super yummy ones.
27. Scary movies or happy endings? Happy endings, I’ve had enough scary in real life to last me the rest of my life.
28. Last movie you watched? A Christmas one on Hallmark channel. We’ve been watching them since Halloween.
One of the questions not on this list is how did I function?  For over 40 years I lived with 5 personalities, each one taking control of their part of my life.  Counseling helped me solve the mystery of why I would go to sleep on Monday wake up on Wednesday and wonder what happened to Tuesday?  My husband would tell me to write notes to remind myself.  I would put the note in my pocket, switch and the other personality didn't know there was a note in my pocket.  I washed lots of notes before figuring out I needed to hold it in my hand until I got to where I needed to do the task and hope I knew what the note meant.  I wondered why someone kept hiding my clothes in the back of the closet.  I was confused by Flylady telling me to lay out my clothes for the next morning.  I would look at the clothes in the morning wondering why they were left out or deciding I didn't like those clothes.  Friends would ask me why I was different at school verses how I acted outside of school.  There were so many confusing things in my life.  Ten years of counseling, helped me bring down my inner walls and allowed me to work as one person now.  Some days I miss that ability to compartmentalize  so completely.  Life gets overwhelming I have to back up and find an escape route before I would switch to whoever could handle that type of situation.  I enjoy the continuity and discovering that my memory is actually fairly good.  I am an advocate for integrating but I also understand this is not always possible.  I learned a lot over the years and write my blogs in the hope of encouraging others that life after trauma can be beautiful and amazing.  

Monday, November 21, 2016


Made it through.  Thanksgiving was lovely, delightful, and wonderful.  I also got a nap that morning.  Plans did not go perfectly.  I shopped on the way to my daughters for dinner because I slept through the time to make the cherry pie.  I did make yummy brownies then relaxed when grandkids ate them without the appreciation they deserved.  No worry.  They were eaten.  Grandkids were happy and appeared to be delighted with everything.  I didn't stress about what I did or didn't do.  I relaxed, visited, and help put in a few pieces to a puzzle.  I didn't need to prove anything to anyone.  It was a wonderful day.  I hope your Thanksgiving was doable. 

I survived Thanksgiving. 

Get your tool box

This is a reprint from 2014 - information still applies: I added to my list

It comes every year, like clock work or calendar work. First, Halloween with hauntings and triggers galore.  Followed by Thanksgiving with demands for the perfect meal and a 'happy family' without resolving old hurts.  Then infamous/famous Christmas with expectations bigger than the National Christmas we even get a national tree any more? 
Prepare my toolbox of coping skills I've my box I have:

Acceptance that I am not perfect....I don't need to be.  In fact, I can't be.  That is OK.

Best laid plans can fall apart.  I will survive plans falling apart.  

(NEW) Someone else can plan things and they can do a wonderful job without me being less because I didn't do it.  

Have an exit plan on hand for different situations.  Practice exit phrases...."I loved being here but I am leaving now."  

Or don't go in the first place..... "The evening sounds lovely I am sorry I won't be attending."  I don't need to explain that I am sitting in front of my Christmas tree sipping hot chocolate.

Prioritize activities.  Not all activities are #1.

Skip some traditions.... It doesn't stop being a tradition if I don't do it one year.

Not having some detail completed is not the end of the World. 
NO is a complete sentence.

I do not need to explain my choices unless I choose to.

Breathe.....feeling blue breathe.

MMV (learned this from my sister) Mental Mini Vacations.  Emotionally escape to a deserted island where there is no holiday madness. Picture myself on a beach sipping coconut juice. 

Letting go means I don't need to fix it or think about it any more.

Some people will flip out during the Holidays and it is not about me.  NOTHING I do will stop their behavior because it is not about me. 

Remember that emotional black mail is still black mail.  I am not 'mean', 'cruel', or 'going to hell' if I don't meet someone else's expectations.

Crawling into bed and pulling the covers over my head is an acceptable activity as needed.

Call a friend or have a text buddy to check in with during stressful events that I choose to attend.

Change all my 'can'ts' and 'have-tos' to I choose to do___________________.  I don't enjoy ___________________but I am choosing to do it anyway because some other need is being met that I may not understand myself.  No one is holding a gun to my head.  It may feel like it but that is probably emotional black mail...refer to emotional black mail above.

Christ is my Savior and as far as historians can figure out He was born in April any way.

Make choices with my happiness in my mind.  I enjoy doing things for others and I am happy doing things for them....that is part of my happiness equation.

(NEW) I am not responsible for other people's happiness.  Happiness is an inside job and I have enough on my plate teaching me to be happy during the holidays. 

(NEW) It is OK to be super excited and dread Christmas at the same time.  I call it being bi-North-Polar. 

I can add to this list at any time.....anyone want to share their coping techniques?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gratitude, one of the steps out of hell

I spent 3 years in bed due to not understanding the symptoms of PTSD and doing all the wrong things to cope with it.  I slept on the average of 5 nights out of 7 and then only 3 or 4 hours of the nights I did sleep.  I worked hard to stay awake.  Severe sleep deprivation prevented night terrors but wrecked havoc on my body.  When I prayed, I begged to die.  The Lord told me no.  Fine, how do I get out of this hell?  Over the previous 15 years I had seen several doctors and taken every test they could think of.  Everything according to those tests were normal.  No answers from the 'experts'.  I started studying on my own.  

One of the books I came across was Life's Uncertain, Eat Dessert First.   I learned two things from this book.  In the midst of frustration and hard stuff, take time to have fun.  The other I learned the power of gratitude.  That is right, the POWER of gratitude.  I believe that changing my attitude to one of gratitude helped me start to get out of the mess I was in.  I couldn't control my nightmares, I didn't have means to change my circumstances, however, I have 100% control over my attitude.  I new it was important to be thankful but I didn't grasp the power of feeling grateful.  Gratitude can turn a gray sullen cloud cover sky into a master piece painted just for me.  Challenges became blessings.  Difficulties created diamonds.  I started looking at my world differently.  Same perspective.  Many of my photographs are about hidden treasures in the desert.  Taking time to see the bits of color hidden among the thistles.  When I am feeling overwhelmed and out of sorts, I remind myself that I am in control of my attitude.  How can I reframe the picture of my life. 

 Bloom where you are planted.

Same area as above, I changed my perspective.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How deep is the wound?

TW - Abuse goes beyond skin deep, beyond bone deep all the way to the cellular level.

More and more research documents the physical damage caused by abuse and trauma. Brain imaging is revealing what scientists suspected...something terrible happens to the body when experiencing all kinds of trauma.  Repairing extensive damage takes times.  In this process, I am still an amazing person, I can help others, I can contribute positively to society and I am still a human being seeking whatever other human being wants, happiness. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Twisted and manipulated

TW comments from time to time and often when I need a different perspective.  This is her comment on yesterdays post.

Yk Ruth, I wonder if what you're feeling is based more in Servant Complex than Savior Complex. There is a huge difference: A servant is one perceived as having lesser status, a savior is one who is perceived as having a greater, more knowledgeable status. I know I could be very wrong about this because it's just my perception, but you feeling "more than?" An "expert in..?" It's not that you place yourself above, but that you place yourself below. We can't be a doormat and an steeple concurrently.

It seems when you think of your mother in any situation she is somehow "above" or more powerful than subordinate you. In every situation. She whines, wheedles and otherwise emotionally blackmails to get what she wants. But what would she do if you weren't around? Believe me, she'd be fine. There are plenty of adults who are not able for a variety of reasons (not all nefarious!) to assist their aging parents.

You become in your own words that CHILD once again when she demands something. There are no ceremonies, no Rites of Passage in typical western society that indicate to others and introduce individuals to their communities as an adult. Traditional societies have rituals for major milestones and to some extent we do-except for one exceptionally important change in status: "You are now an adult." And as such we are EQUAL in status to every other adult. No DNA exceptions.

Your relationship to your adult children no doubt has changed over the years. There is an evolution from how we engage with our minor children and how we engage with our adult children. Our relationship becomes far more equal, far more one of peers. One of the most challenging and unexamined areas of my own life was recognizing I *was* an adult. (And I had been one for a decade plus before I finally caught on to that reality.) But it reframed how I viewed myself and the rest of the world radically: Equal status, equally powerful, equally deserving. Those were words, concepts for awhile before they became actions. Do you know, I was too embarrassed (and to some extent still am) to tell anyone that my "mother" was still physically abusing me as an adult? Push, shove, pull, grab etc. But that embarrassment I was wearing? That rightfully was HER dress out of HER closet that she stuck on me. I "felt" the shame because she didn't. Why was I hiding that? Why was SHE? I hope you understand how wearing "Servant" Glad Rags is not, nor was it ever the uniform of YOUR choice. You just never questioned it or shoved it back at it's rightful owner or better yet, cremate the thing!

Anyway, I so get the anxiety, the guilt, all the emotional battering we get into when we're just giving into them (because it'll never be enoug/ the right thing etc.) as short term bandaids and the equally excruciating NOT falling back into those old roles. And of course they unleash lightning bolts and thunder over the word or the behavior that says and does "NO." Please remember, that is SUCH AN ACT as you already know-remember her peeking through her fingers to assess the effect of her behavior? She isn't suffering-but you are. You anguish, she's delighted. Can you imagine getting off on hurting/manipulating your own kids? The inherent dishonesty, the moral bankruptcy...ugh.

I needed TW pointing out how my mother is manipulating me yet again.  I checked in with my sister and she reported the differences in how each visitor is treated.  For my Dad, she pours on the helplessness-you-have-to-help-me.  My brother gets all is great and going well.  For me, it is tears and you-are-the-best-thing-that-happened-to-me.  When I asked her about Dad visiting she totally dissed him by saying, "He comes everyday."  She expects his presents. Full stop.  No appreciation or a hint of gratitude.  WOW.  With TW's insight, I am looking at the situation far differently. 

TW pointed out, "We can't be a doormat and an steeple concurrently."  But what my mother does do is set me on a pedastal of "Only-you-can-read-my-mind-and-serve-me."  I feel special and she uses that to manipulate me to do her bidding.  Putting me in the position of steeple to use me as a doormat leaves me reeling and confused.  Now if I reexamine her praise in the form of complimenting to manipulate things are put in a very different perspective.  She creates the illusion that I am the only one that can 'save-her'.  But the reality is she does very well without me.

I also appreciate mulderfan's encouragement.  From her I learned so much about setting healthy boundaries with aging parents.  It is not an easy task at all.  A lot of wear and tear on my soul.  Hours spent soul searching to see if I can handle things differently.  However, one toe in the pot convinces me she will cook my goose if I get any closer.  Thanks mulderfan for teaching me that distance doesn't hurt them.  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Savior complex

I've been out of sorts.  The weird thing was the answer was staring me in the face and I didn't put the pieces together until Friday.  Then it took two days to wrap my mind around what I am feeling and doing.  I am working on the questions presented by James Ryan to a Harvard graduating class.  I read the caution he tacked onto the question, "How can I help?"  I'm going to quote him because however I rephrase it in my mind it doesn't come across like how he said it. 

“How can I help?” You are at HGSE, I presume, because you are interested in helping others. But you also know, from your time here, to be aware of the savior complex, of the stance where you are the expert or hero who swoops in to save others. We shouldn’t let the real pitfalls of the savior complex extinguish one of the most humane instincts there is — the instinct to lend a hand. But how we help matters as much as that we do help, and if you ask “how” you can help, you are asking, with humility, for direction. And you are recognizing that others are experts in their own lives and that they will likely help you as much as you help them. ~James Ryan

 From the time I was 5 years old, I was expected to take care of my mother.  I was given responsibility way beyond my years and abilities.  Now, with my mother in an assisted living home with a broken hip, I am feeling that same anxiety that I need to swoop in and save the day by helping mother no matter what havoc it causes for myself.  Oh dear.  Talk about text book example of the savior complex gone awry.   (If you are not familiar with this complex, this gives a short explanation: I can't fix my mother's broken hip.  I'm not the only one visiting my mother.  I can't make my mother happy even though she tells me that my visits bring the sunshine into her miserable life, she says that shortly after someone else left from visiting her.  Quitting my job and caring for my mother 24/7 would wear me out but mother would still be living through healing after breaking her hip.  This is not my problem to solve.  I don't need to swoop in and save the day...there is nothing to save.  I believe in service, don't get me wrong.  I am learning the value of the request from Jesus, "Love thy neighbor, as thyself." 

Mark 12:28-31King James Version (KJV)

28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

He didn't say love my neighbor more than myself.  He didn't say love my neighbor and neglect myself.  I am on equal footing as my neighbor, my mother, the teachers I work with, the students or anyone else I choose to help.  Their needs are not more important than mine.  Service is important to me but neglecting my health to serve others, serves no one.  Now what?  Today, I stayed home and rested.  I am fixing dinner for my grown children that live close by and their families because I love doing this.  I am putting myself back on my chart for self care.  I am a work in progress.  Jump in where I'm at, don't play catch up.  Start where I am and move forward. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Forced distance

I am worried about being enmeshed with my mother again.  She is using every emotional trick she taught me.  I watch her performance and remind myself that she is so good at it because of years of practice and she believes it in the moment.  Emotional blackmail works best if there is a grain of truth to the statements.  Every so often I throw out a hard truth and watch how she responds.  She recoils from truth.  Timely reminders for myself to not believe her manipulations.  Some days I feel awful that I distrust her so completely.  The inner child wants to believe.  Then I remind myself about the story of walking down a road and falling in the hole. 

“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.”

Portia Nelson, There's a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery

I'm not walking down another street yet.  Thanks to my very hectic schedule I am taking several days off from visiting.  I am walking around the deep hole.  I know what I am looking at.  I feel sad.  I am thankful for the forced distance I am placing between me and my mother.  It will be my fault if I allow myself to be sucked in again.