“No Thanks”

“No Thanks”

Janet Lansbury published a great article on her website, Elevating Child Care. I was particularly moved by her observations about personal limits. As a trauma survivor, I struggle with setting boundaries. In recent months, I have come to see this as a two-step process. One step is garnering the strength to speak up about my boundaries. This has taken time and practice, since for so long, speaking up was absolutely prohibited. The other step is knowing what those boundaries are. This is actually proven to be the more difficult step. It requires a new level of self-understanding. For a trauma survivor in an adult relationship, setting boundaries is challenging. With children, the process of healthy boundary creation is just short of rocket science. Recently, I have realized that I spend most of my daily energy trying to stay calm as my children invade my personal space. Boundary invasion comes in many forms. As I become aware of these forms, I am getting better at addressing them in a positive manner. My physical boundaries were the easiest to address, but not because my kids respect my physical space. I am a human jungle gym like all parents with small children. The anxiety I felt about these boundaries was just easier to understand. I know my physical boundaries were never respected as a child, so my reaction made sense. I also find it easier to ask for my space when I need it. “You can’t sit on my lap right now, but you can sit next to me.” “You can climb on me, but try to keep your very sharp elbows out...
Darkness and Light

Darkness and Light

I don’t think this will come as a shock, but I could not trust my parents. My mother used to act friendly until she got whatever she wanted from me. My father only wanted one thing. Unfortunately, I could not trust most of my relatives either, although there were a couple of exceptions. As I grew up and began to embody the energy of my family, I would attract people in to my life who were dishonest. This is what I expected, so this is what life delivered. I remember the first time I discussed this with my therapist. My therapist has a brilliant poker face. It is the first thing they teach you in social work school. You aren’t supposed to look shocked. But when I told her that EVERYTHING has a double meaning, she wasn’t sure what to say. She tried to clarify. “Do you think every statement from every person in your life has a double meaning?” I said yes. She kindly suggested that this might be a belief system from my childhood. She kindly suggested that some people in the world may really say what they mean and say it for the right reasons. I logically knew she was right, but my inner child part was not having any of it. My experiences had proven that people were only interested in their own personal benefit. Sometimes, my therapist would ask me what I thought when she responded to me in a supportive way. To her dismay, I would tell her that I was paying her to do that. Fast forward through six years of hard...
The Third Option

The Third Option

I had the privilege of participating in a panel for HuffPost Live yesterday, which focused on parenting methods. It was prompted by a viral blog post about a new parenting “method” called CTFD (Calm The Eff Down). The post was written by David Vienna, author of The Daddy Complex. Although it was mainly meant as a joke, the idea that parents need to calm down and stop stressing is serious. I was asked to join the discussion because I have admitted to being a helicopter parent. I think they were expecting me to argue with David about parenting approaches, but I explained on the phone that I am not an advocate of helicopter parenting. I am interested in examining the reasons for my need to hover, and adjusting my internal approach to parenting. They still let me participate in the panel. I enjoyed the discussion immensely. I thought everyone had excellent points to make about parenting. However, there was one comment from Lisa Belkin, a senior columnist, that concerned me. She claimed that people will either parent the same as their parents, or the exact opposite. While I do think this is true for the majority of parents, I don’t think it is a given. If this were always true, there would be no evolution. We would spend eternity moving from one side of the spectrum to the other. Society would never move forward. Some may believe this is the case. Call me optimistic, but I don’t. The worst part about that comment is the societal complacency that it justifies. I don’t know how many times I have heard parents make comments that...
Have Trauma, Will Hover (Chapter 2)

Have Trauma, Will Hover (Chapter 2)

We went to the dentist yesterday. This isn’t the kind of dentist appointment with a cleaning and a sticker. This is the kind of dentist appointment with sedatives and drills. Unfortunately, my daughter was blessed with my tooth genes, and that means she will be forever traumatized by the world of floss and fluoride. As a parent, there is nothing worse than knowingly putting your child in a position where she will feel pain, and not having a choice. Until now, I have always been in the room when a doctor was with my children. It never occurred to me there would be another alternative. Imagine my surprise when I picked up my purse to go back to the exam room with my daughter, and I was told that I wasn’t allowed. My daughter started crying at the thought that I would not be with her, and I could feel the volcano starting to erupt from the pit of my stomach. The feeling is very familiar to me. Some might refer to it as “mama bear”. Some might refer to it as a protective instinct. But I know what it really is. FEAR. As I went over the scenario in my head, I had more concerns than I could count. I knew the dentist was male. I knew the dental hygienist was male. Both of them were relatively attractive, which I illogically associate with sexual aggressiveness. (Unfortunately, my father was an attractive man.) My daughter was fully sedated and could not even walk. I had 5000 thoughts in a second and a half. My first thought was that I...
Maybe In A House …

Maybe In A House …

I have been in recovery for a while now. Most days, I feel pretty good. Most days, I can keep my anxiety from paralyzing me. Most days, I function well. However, I don’t have to look far to see my pain. All I have to do is think about my parents. Last night, I was watching a TV show, and a woman was grieving the loss of her mother to cancer. It had been about nine months since her death, but since the woman was planning her wedding, she was particularly upset. I could feel the intolerance building up inside of me. I may have even rolled my eyes. I thought to myself, “at least you had a mother”. This doesn’t happen every time. My compassion has come a long way. But last night, the feelings were there. I have several primary emotions associated with my parents. First, there is the anger. Several years ago, it was rage. In therapy, I could scream at the top of my lungs. I could plot their deaths. I could beat a couch cushion with a bat until my arms wouldn’t work anymore. It was the first major emotion I reconnected with. There was a lot of it, and I was fairly comfortable expressing it. I can even say it was easy. I don’t have an issue with anger because to me, it isn’t vulnerable. It feels powerful. Unfortunately, there was some intense grief behind the anger. I am not ok with expressing that. I don’t “do” sadness. Sadness is vulnerable. To me, vulnerability was the same as death when I was a...