The Trauma of Charlottesville

The Trauma of Charlottesville

Anxiety has been my lifelong companion.  While it has been debilitating at times, my recovery work has helped me so much.  I don’t have the same responses to life that I did in my younger years.  I don’t get paralyzed in the same way.  I can breathe through oncoming panic attacks.  I can write from the emotions under the surface.  I have come to a place in my recovery where I can stop anxiety before it overtakes me.  I am proud of that.  I love how anxiety is not always in charge anymore.  But I have to admit, the past two days, it has been in charge.

I am paralyzed.  I have a mile-long “to-do” list and none of it is getting done.  I just keep scrolling through my Facebook feed reading articles and watching news streams.  But here’s the thing.  I know with all my being this is the wrong thing to do.  I know all the ways to break out of anxiety and this is not it.  But I do it anyway.  When I do break away from my computer, I feel like I am on the verge of grieving all the time.  That makes sense.  The anxiety is meant to keep the grief away.  Grief is about the uncontrollable and my controller wants this to be controllable.  My inner rebel feels trapped.  My inner children feel scared.  And my inner mean kid wants to punch someone.  So I scroll.  I look for answers to make everything okay.  But it isn’t okay.  It was never okay.  This is the world I live in.  My controller can’t pretend right now.  And that is terrifying.

I live an hour from Charlottesville, Virginia.  I live in a town called Richmond, Virginia which might become news for similar reasons in the future.  But 23 years ago, I graduated from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  I lived there for four years.  I loved Charlottesville.  It is one of my favorite places.  Maybe it is because of what it represented.  It was my first taste of freedom.  I had escaped my family.  I was living on my own.  But as you might imagine, all was not rainbows and unicorns.  I was terribly dissociated and my trauma manifested a ton of messy situations and relationships.  But in my mind, I was free of that family and I was never going back to that house (and I didn’t).  Charlottesville and I have a special connection.

Needless to say, I was heartbroken by what I saw on Friday and Saturday.  Watching those terrorists walk through my college town around my Rotunda and down my lawn was horrible.  And I didn’t realize until just now what that represented.  It represented my family coming to my safe place and messing it up.  It felt like my safe home was invaded by my abusers.  It felt like that other shoe dropping like I always knew it would.  And now my system has hit the ceiling, and honestly, this might take a while to calm down.

You may be asking (or it might be obvious to you), why would I equate the terrorists with my family? read more…

“You Are Too Intense.”

“You Are Too Intense.”

I have spent several months walking through my past with my inner rebel runner.  It hasn’t been easy.  We have felt so much futility, grief, shame and fear.  And countless memories have been shared.  All of these memories are different in their own way, but they have one very important message in common.  People suck.  Every memory has involved someone telling me how something is wrong with me, something is wrong with my plans and dreams, something is wrong with how I express myself and basically how I am just wrong.  My inner rebel runner believes that people are not worth my time because all they do is tell me what I need to change to meet their standards.

On a cognitive level, I get what’s happening here.  I was attracting people with serious self-esteem issues.  They were projecting their need to perfect themselves on to me.  They wanted to change me the way they wanted to change themselves.  I know that I attract a different type of person in to my space now.  There are so many amazing people around me.  But my inner rebel is not convinced it is safe to connect on a deep level and I understand her hesitation.  I get it.  And we will change at her pace.

But my most recent revelation was a particular phrase that hit me hard.  “You are too intense.”  It was something I heard mainly in intimate relationships, but sometimes in working relationships and friendships.  It was always men who said it.  I feel anger about it for a couple of reasons.  First, of course I was intense!  After all that I had been through, I was trying to survive every single day.  The world was a very scary place.  Survival requires intensity.  Second, it brings up the societal issues of how women are expected to portray themselves.  Men get to be intense.  Women need to be happy, smiley people who know how to have a good time.  “You are prettier when you smile” is a phrase most women have heard. read more…

Five Forms of Rebellious Self-Sabotage

Five Forms of Rebellious Self-Sabotage

Our rebellious inner freedom fighters are absolutely critical to our success as human beings.  They exist despite horrific experiences that taught us to conform and seek approval no matter what the cost to our integrity.  They are the keepers of our true selves.  They hold our purpose under lock and key.  They refuse to let us be lost forever.  The inner rebels represent the true spirit of humanity.  Almost everyone in the world who has made a name for themselves or changed the world has been in touch with the spirit of their rebel.

It is sad that I have only learned of my freedom fighters in the past year.  I always knew they were there and even spoke of them on occasion, but I did not have conversations with them until recently.  They were buried under years and years of traumatic experiences and their devastating emotions.  It took me years of working with my traumatized inner children and my fearful inner defenders to finally break through to my rebellious parts under all that trauma muck.  And while I now recognize their power to make me whole, I also see another side of them.

They bring with them a self-sabotage of epic proportions.  In a way, it’s good.  If the controller could do their job without any trouble, we might not find it necessary to explore our inner world and heal our trauma.  It is also a good thing because the road our controller takes us down is one of survival.  And while survival is certainly important, it isn’t why we are here.  We are here for so much more than that.  Taking the path with the least visibility and effort is not okay with the rebellious parts.  Before this work, I gave all this credit to the inner child, but I have awoken to a new reality.  These parts are older and more powerful and they are not backing down for anything. read more…

I’ve Got This

I’ve Got This

I’ve hit a creative wall.  This is not unusual.  I have times when my controller pushes through something with the mind because the mean kid or inner rebel has shut down my ability to do anything useful.  It hits me when I decide to create a new program or create something for a client or update my website.  But this is new tonight.  I usually don’t hit the creative wall with my blog.  I always seem to have something to say on the blog.  The topic comes to me and magically, the content pours onto the page from a place that is beyond my intellect.  It almost feels like cheating.  I hear from my fellow bloggers who struggle with creating enough content and I don’t want to tell them it isn’t a struggle for me.

But it is a struggle tonight.  There is no topic tonight.  There is only the blank page.  So I did something I have never done.  I just started typing.  This isn’t something I do.  I have always been substantially enmeshed with my controller, which means everything has to have a plan.  Everything has to have a direction before I start.  “Go with the flow” is not something I say on the regular.  But tonight, out of desperation, I am giving it a try.  I am trusting in the universe to take me where I need to go.  That never lasts long, but we will see.

It isn’t surprising that I am struggling at the moment.  It has been a tough week.  I have been processing my inner rebel and she is taking me down some exhausting emotional roads.  My son had his third surgical procedure (albeit minor) from a toenail accident that happened 2 years ago which refuses to resolve itself.  And my daughter now has strep.  Even my dog started randomly limping for one night just to keep me on my toes.  It all feels a bit overwhelming sometimes.  I love what I do, but running a business isn’t easy.  I love my kids, but being a single mother is … well … impossible.  Managing everything with no help from family can sometimes pile up and pound me over the head.  It is in those moments that creativity leaves me. read more…

Moving Past Stuck

Moving Past Stuck

Recovery work is definitely a journey.  And while the traumatic emotions and memory recovery feel awful sometimes, there is nothing worse than feeling stuck.  In this work, “stuck” is a technical term.  It means our defenses are winning the inner battle at the moment.  Why?  We have hit a new threshold in our recovery work.  It might take the form of a new emotion, memory or belief, but it feels too scary to process.  Of course, we don’t consciously know any of this.  If we did, we would take steps to change it.  So we spend far too much time in the phase of “stuck” before we develop awareness of what is going on.

For those who have not embraced trauma recovery, they may spend their entire life in this phase.  But for those of us who have started this journey, feeling stuck can feel extremely uncomfortable.  And it is amazing how good our defenders are at explaining this discomfort away.  They are really, really good at it.  And so we sit in our uncomfortable “stuckness” for much too long.

But we can build our ability to identify that stuck phase.  When our defenses are high and our inner battle is in overdrive, those blocks show up in three ways.

The Body

When we are stuck, our body is not in a good place.  There is no flow.  Not only do we lose the energetic flow, but anything that is supposed to flow can get stuck too.  Our blood gets marred with cholesterol.  Our digestion slows down and gets stuck.  Anything that is supposed to rid the body of toxins stops working like it should.  And our muscles get tense and painful as they block whatever we don’t want to feel and see.  There is nothing like a chronic illness to identify our “stuckness”. read more…

Expendable

Expendable

Over the past few years, I have come to understand I have lived an expendable life.  Before you lecture me, I want to be clear that I don’t believe my life has been for nothing.  I mean I have lived a life that was expendable to others.  The people in my childhood saw me as a commodity.  I was something to be used up and thrown away.  This was a literal interpretation of my experiences.  I was sold to others for the purpose of making money.  I was completely expendable, even to the very people who were supposed to love me unconditionally.

This explains why I have spent my adult life trying to prove to others I was worth something.  I have always wanted people to believe I mattered.  And I have done almost anything to convince them of it.

In relationships, I have worked hard to matter to the other person.  I have done whatever it took to keep them around.  I have worked hard to provide everything they could possibly need.  And it always ended the same way.  I got angry and exhausted, while the other person grew tired of using me up.  In the end, I became expendable once again.

In my parenting, I have hovered over my children.  I had to make it clear that they needed me to protect them and care for them in every way.  I wanted them to know how much I cared for them and I wasn’t sure how else to show it.  Deep emotional connection wasn’t available to me, so I would take care of all their needs.  Unfortunately, this left my children with anxiety and a lack of confidence about their own abilities.  And honestly, it has taken tremendous effort to turn that around.

At work, I have gone above and beyond my duties in every job.  I have worked so hard at times, I didn’t remember to eat, sleep or go to the bathroom.  The more appreciation I got, the harder I worked.  Because my inner parts related work in adulthood to school in childhood, this makes sense.  School was the only part of my childhood where the rules made sense and I could succeed.  So I poured everything into it.  And I did the same with work.  And while I did succeed on many levels, my bosses had a tendency to ask for more and more until I felt my only option was to leave the job. read more…

Recovery is a Lifestyle

Recovery is a Lifestyle

We live in a results-oriented society.  And since we have learned to adapt to our surroundings, we often develop a mask that seems to be results-oriented.  Just like society, we tend to become focused on living a life full of nice things and without noticeable pain.  We learn when we veer from these goals, we are rejected.  We hide the pain of our trauma deep within where nobody can see it.  And we strive for the next best external thing that will make everything okay.

It is not surprising that the recovery world has followed suit.  There are quick fixes everywhere.  There are 6-week programs.  And if 6 weeks isn’t enough to fix all your problems, there are 12 week programs that will surely do it.  There is a pill for every possible symptom you could have.  And if you have more than one symptom, that’s easy.  Just take more than one pill.  It doesn’t matter if they have been tested.  As long as they work, that is what matters.  And if medication isn’t your thing, that’s okay.  You can find foods, supplements and special energy drinks that will fix you right up.

Sound familiar.  I’m sure it does.  I don’t know about you, but I have chased so many quick fixes.  I have looked and looked for the panacea to end the pain, the thing that will finally make me feel good or normal.  But they don’t work because they can’t.  That isn’t how recovery works.  Trauma isn’t healed with a quick fix so we can move on with our beautiful life waiting on the other side.  Life is meant to be messy.  We are meant to feel our emotions.  We are meant to feel unsure and a bit lost (or a lot lost).  We are mean to struggle.  Life can be beautiful, but it is never easy.

When we believe in the quick fix, we get stuck in some beliefs that keep us in an extremely unhappy place.  We might interpret this in three ways. read more…

There is Only Rejection

There is Only Rejection

As a survivor of childhood trauma, I have spent my life surrounded by “all or nothing” people.  And unfortunately, it made me an “all of nothing” person.  I have spent years undoing the belief systems that come from a childhood like mine, but sometimes it feels endless (or maybe that’s my “all or nothing thinking again).  I have had to unravel beliefs like:

“Everything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

“Nobody will ever love me.”

“Everybody who is nice to me just wants something.”

And believe me, I am far from finished with the rewiring process.  These beliefs still come up, but I am much more aware of them now.  I know where they come from.  I have seen the evidence.  And I know how to question them now.  I know they aren’t as true as I once thought.

As I deal with my latest inner part, the rebel runner, I am facing another aspect of the damage done by the people in my life.  And this wasn’t the occasional experience by a random person.  This was a consistent message from countless people which permeated my entire childhood.  And that message was:

“If I make one mistake, I will be rejected, ridiculed, bullied and abandoned (in that order).” read more…

Life Isn’t About the Fight

Life Isn’t About the Fight

I am a fighter.  I have spent my life fighting.  I have heard the phrase “go with the flow” and I used to hate it.  It reminded me of a jelly fish, sitting in the water doing nothing but stinging people and eating.  It sounded lazy.  I never got the point of the flow.  Why do we exist if we are just flowing?  That said I knew there was a good chance I was wrong.  I had a deep sense I was looking at it wrong.  And over the past ten years, I have been learning what it means to go with the flow.  It doesn’t mean what I thought when I didn’t know how to do it.  Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t really know how to do it, but I am getting better.

There is no better example of going with the flow than how I have built my life coach business (or maybe how the flow built it).  I have pushed hard.  There is no doubt about it.  I have had to push through countless obstacles, but to be fair, most of the obstacles were my own inner parts and their beliefs.  And to overcome those, there is a willfulness required.  But when it came to taking action, it wasn’t about fighting.  It was about going in the direction I was pointed.  And the flow was doing the pointing.

You may be wondering what I am talking about.  Honestly, so many of us have not experienced the flow.  Until recent years, I hadn’t.  If I didn’t make it happen, it didn’t happen.  I saw myself as the only one who was going to get me through this mess of a life.  I assumed support was something that happened for others.  How could there possibly be a flow for me?  So today I will shine some light as to how I stopped fighting and started flowing.  Today I will tell you about three people that flowed in to my life, three people who showed up just at the right time. read more…

An Inner Conversation about Relationship

An Inner Conversation about Relationship

Dear adult person who always does what she’s told,

This is your inner rebel speaking.  Let me explain some things.  You are playing with fire.  You are getting too close with people.  You are letting people in.  Don’t you understand what that means?  They will stomp all over you.  When you try to do what you want and express who you are, they will be right there to insult you, ostracize you, treat you like a worthless piece of shit.  Don’t you get it?  It isn’t safe to let people in.  It isn’t safe to commit to people.  It isn’t safe to get excited about being with other people.  You don’t know them.  You don’t know what is in their heads.  You don’t know their motivations.  What’s going to happen when they figure out who you are?  What’s going to happen when you stand up for yourself or speak your mind?  Disaster.  It is best to go it alone.  It is best to avoid commitments to others.  It is best to avoid closeness of any kind.  Avoid the inevitable disaster.  Be safe and walk through life on our own.  I know what you want and you don’t need anyone to squelch it.

Sincerely, Your Inner Rebel

 

Dear irresponsible person who won’t listen to me,

This is your controller speaking.  And for once, I agree with the inner rebel (although not for the same reason).  It is best to play it safe.  It is best to keep people at a distance.  Keep life small.  Keep life simple.  If it isn’t complicated, bad things are less likely to happen.  You really don’t know who to trust out there.  Do what you need to do to make a living, but don’t connect with others outside of that.  Why would you want to let anyone in?  They might create chaos that you have to clean up.  They might be unpredictable or mess up your schedule, your house, your life  Let’s just sit at home and watch TV.  If you feel like there are some emotions coming up, that’s fine.  I have all sorts of ways to numb those out.  I have been doing it for years.

Sincerely, Your Controller read more…

Beating Trauma

Stepping Up:

3 Steps to Overcoming the Awareness Challenge

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