Reflections on Life Thus Far

My life. My story: Exploring mental health, spirituality, meditation & random thoughts I have


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Feeling of Disbelief

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A family member (relative through marriage) died over the weekend. At first this was the upsetting news that left me feeling sad; that was until I read the obituary later and learned he had remarried and never mentioned it. So not only did I find out he died-but also he had gotten married and never told anyone besides his closest family. It just feels so surreal. I didn’t expect for him to die so soon despite being ill and I certainly never dreamt he would have gone and remarried. There’s nothing wrong with him remarrying. That is not the issue. What I am having trouble with is why he would keep that information from his extended family.

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Image credit: Pixabay

Isn’t getting married (even if it’s a second time around) good news worth sharing? Did he think we’d be upset since his first wife (our blood relative) only died not quite two years ago? We kept in touch but we hadn’t visited since the same year his first wife died close to two years ago. Anyhow, I know it isn’t earth shattering he got remarried and never told us but finding out the same day I learnt he died has been a shocker. It kind of feels like a betrayal-I know it is not-but that doesn’t stop the thought from entering my mind that he obviously didn’t think enough of anyone outside his closest relations to share the news.

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Image credit: Pixabay

 

So I feel hurt. I think he should have told us. It sucks learning about something through a person’s obituary. I feel discombobulated. We weren’t terribly close, I suppose when it comes down to it, but he felt we were family enough to know about how ill he was, so why not him meeting someone and remarrying? This is all fresh news for me so I am still processing it but maybe it will be less painful in the days to come. I’m not sure if I ought to attend his funeral or not given we aren’t blood relations nor close friends. It might be awkward to have to meet his wife and I don’t want to cause conflict or tension for his family that was around him regularly (especially since we never were introduced to them).

 

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Image credit: Pixabay

You know, I kind of feel angry now that I’ve had time to digest the news. It’s like suddenly I have to change the narrative of the relationship; okay, so I think it’s actually more that I am being forced to confront the fact we weren’t as close as I tried to tell myself. I was aware of the parameters of the relationship and it being lacking but still… When someone dies it forces you to confront the stuff you tried (I tried) to push down and not think about. Now that I am facing the redefinition of our relationship I feel all the emotions associated with the five stages of grief circulating through me.

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Image credit: pixabay

He was my last connection to the relative I was blood related to. The fact he remarried p*sses me off because it ruins the way I viewed the couple and I kind of feel cheated. Yes, it’s immature but the blood relation (his first wife) and him were my godparents. So even though they never acted in that capacity I am annoyed and hurt. Perhaps he wanted to avoid dealing with people (including myself) who would be conflicted over his choice to remarry. I sort of wish he had told me while he was living though because then I would not be dealing with shock over him dying AND remarrying.

Okay, I guess I am through for now. This writing has helped me in a cathartic way. That’s why I like writing when I am super upset because it acts as a catharsis so long as I am totally honest with myself.

Thank you for reading.

©Natalya Lyubov, 2017.

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Feeling Overwhelmed

So I had lunch today with my dad and aunt at a restaurant nearby; it went okay as far as the food went but the conversation was less pleasing. My dad decided to run by my aunt a few things he’s been fixated on over the past year and I have had to hear about from him regularly. Honestly, I don’t know if I believe all that he says because it sounds like paranoid thinking to my mind. That being said he believes it and I have no way to verify what he said as true short of confronting the people thought to be involved and asking them what they said, which would be horribly awkward and offensive considering the content. Legal advice might solve the issues but I don’t know how to approach the topic since I only heard what my dad said and not the other people involved. Much of the discussion is really awful and makes me feel disbelieving.

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I would like to consider the legal counsel route but I have trouble thinking on the situation since it involves some ‘touchy’ topics. The situation makes me feel quite ill really. I hate thinking about it all. If my dad is wrong and actually delusional than is a lawyer going to be able to help?

At first I was angry with my dad for being fixated on the subject but now I just feel overwhelmingly helpless and sad. Yes, I can maybe contact a lawyer or someone like that but I don’t feel like I have the right to interfere. My dad might be okay with me seeking legal advice for him but it makes little difference in how I feel cornered and pressured to be dad’s champion. My aunt asked me and I couldn’t think of a way to say no. It would be better if my dad was willing to address the issue himself but he tends to communicate poorly. He has a few learning disabilities and his ability to express himself is somewhat limited in more complex situations. Hence, the reason my aunt wanted me to talk for my dad. But I am not sure I can do it.

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The main reason I feel a desire to help is I figure it might give my dad some concrete facts instead of what he believes was said orally between him and the others involved. I’m skeptical of the events occurring as he said they did but I don’t have any proof for either side of the claim. Also, I am concerned that any inquiry made by the lawyer (if I go that route) may alert the other people involved since it’s an argument over a will. All I want is to have the lawyer say whether there’s a will or not and if my dad was included in it as a recipient. Then I can figure out if more needs to be done or not. As it stands, I don’t have confirmation of anything so any facts the lawyer could give would help. Beyond that I am not looking forward to because I hate confrontation and conflict.

I wish I could hibernate for the winter and avoid any conflict until Spring when it’s not so dreary outside. Maybe I would have a brighter outlook by then and my dad might actually have figured out the situation wasn’t as bad as he believed. If only.

Thanks for reading.

©Natalya L., Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2016.


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Final Writing Exercise (Day 4)

Day 4 of my writing exercise was Tuesday but I didn’t get around to updating on here how it went. I saw my counsellor on Tuesday and told her I’d finished 3/4 of it but needed to still do the final day. Surprisingly I am one of the few who completed it or tried to anyway. Lots of her patients find excuses not to do it and she thought it was positive I managed to recognise why I procrastinated doing it and still managed to tackle it. It was a productive session so I am pleased that I made the effort to do as much as I could. I completed the final exercise when I got home. To my surprise I found myself expressing gratitude for the people I’d met who made a positive difference in my life. Initially I thought I might have some resentment to get out of me but I didn’t. Gratitude can help give an experience in your life that redeeming quality previously overlooked.

Have you experienced something emotionally painful that later filled you with gratitude?

 


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Avoidance…

When it comes to avoiding I am a master of sorts. For the purposes of this post I’ll stick to one issue though. My counsellor gave me an exercise to help me get started writing in a way that includes my emotions. I’d mentioned I wanted to write a memoir but I have a tendency to write from my head instead of my heart so she gave me a writing exercise. But I’ve been avoiding it since I saw her last (May 20) because it requires me to write about something traumatic then reflect on how I feel after writing it. There’s four days of exercises I’m supposed to do and each day requires me to monitor how I am feeling but I just can’t seem to do it. Also, I’m supposed to do it consecutively so no breaks between the four days. That is probably another reason I’ve been putting it off because I dislike the thought of having to write about painful experiences from my life in a concentrated manner with need for focusing on my emotions.

Another reason I am probably avoiding the writing exercise is because I feel reasonably well and don’t want to feel miserable because I wrote about something traumatic and had to stay with my emotions. It’s perfectly normal to want our positive feelings to last and our ‘negative’ ones to be short lived; but avoiding our negative feelings regularly isn’t healthy. For the most part I don’t ignore my less favoured feelings it’s just the idea of having to illicit them intentionally isn’t really appealing. Of course I might not experience the glut of negative emotion I’m anticipating yet I could also experience much worse and be ‘knocked flat on my back’ so to speak. So what to do? Bite the bullet and be done with the exercise before my next counselling appointment this Tuesday, or put it off and get around to it when I feel ready? The second option is kinder but my natural impulse is to simply do what needs to be done and ignore the detrimental effects on me.

Perhaps I’ll sleep on it and have a clearer idea in the morning on what to do.

©Natalya, 2014. Reflections On Life Thus Far®


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How Do You Show Love?

My aunt has been on my mind a lot lately since she phoned last week to announce she was planning a visit. As usual she passed her judgement on me and gave her unsolicited advice on what she thought I ought to be doing. This is pretty much standard procedure with my aunt. She was my mom’s favourite sister so her opinion of me maybe mattered more to me than I thought. Upon reflection I realised she is not a cold b*tch trying to hurt me but rather a woman attempting to show she cares about me. This realisation made me feel a bit less defensive because I know she was not shown healthy love growing up and was exposed to a lot of ideas that devalue authenticity and emotion. How then could she express her concern for me and show she cares in any other way than she has been doing all along? I expected too much and didn’t consider the place she is coming from. None of this makes her behaviour acceptable though and I will be absent when she visits unless my counsellor has a good reason for me being in her company to share with me. There is no reason I should have to be subjected to her judgemental attitude and be made to feel unaccepted for the person I am.

It isn’t easy to have compassion for her when I am hurt due to her behaviour but understanding goes a long way. Once I realised she cares about me but doesn’t know how to show that in a healthier manner I felt less hurt. In fact, I am feeling a great deal better than I was an hour or so ago before my realisation. Just as it is easy for my aunt to judge people it is easy for me to feel victimised and not bother to feel compassion. It’s hard to feel compassion for people when they’ve hurt you but very often they are the ones needing it most.

Do you have people in your life similar to my aunt? They care about you but don’t know how to express it in a healthy manner? What is the approach/tact you take with them?

©Natalya, 2014. Reflections On Life Thus Far®


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Forgiveness

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz (Photo credit: Nutmeg Designs)

The Blogging for Peace topic this month is ‘forgiveness‘ so I’m going to write about how I forgave my mom and what it did for me. The Bloggers 4 Peace badge is on the right hand side if you want to click on it to be a part of this new development.

I never thought I could forgive my mother for the abuse she’d inflicted on me when I was a child. The very idea of forgiveness used to upset me and make me irritated, if not defensive. I did try to embrace the concept at various times but they never took hold for me. Instead I’d just get more angry. How does one forgive someone when they won’t acknowledge their wrong doing and the hurtful impact it had on you? This is something I wrestled with for years. People I heard or read about forgiving people who’d done terrible things to them always baffled me. How did they manage to find it in their heart to let go of the anger, hurt and pain their abuser caused?

Well, as some of you know my mother died four years ago, that is when I started healing. The forgiveness though took longer. It wasn’t until she’d been dead for two years I could even imagine forgiving her in any imaginable way. So I meditated on my anger, hurt and sadness until I found compassion for MYSELF. Once I’d found compassion for myself I started to notice less anger inside of me. The indescribable feelings of rage toward my mother slowly started diminishing over the next year or so. Then there came a point when I noticed I didn’t feel anger or resentment toward my mother for what she’d done to me when I was a child. Nothing had changed from my past but in other ways everything had changed. My mother was dead and I had managed to develop a very real sense of compassion for both myself and my mother.

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Forgiveness lesson from flowers (Photo credit: juliejordanscott)

Not having my mother around anymore gave me perspective and freedom to take an objective view of my mother’s actions, including the severe abuses she’d suffered as a child herself for which she never got treatment for. I saw my mother as a child and imagined-then felt the fear she must have felt experiencing the abuse she experienced. None of this diminished my own abuse or suffering in any way but I felt empathy for my mother. She was a child once and didn’t deserve to be abused anymore than myself or another child. When I was able to actually put myself in my mother’s shoes I found it difficult to retain my anger and resentment I’d felt toward her. How could I HATE a person who had suffered so greatly that she developed severe dissociative symptoms, including widespread amnesia for events and things she did and said?

I fully understand how people will perhaps wonder why I forgave her and maybe think I let her off the ‘hook’ for her actions. But that isn’t what I did. I have not erased the memories of abuse I endured but I have learned to adjust my perspective. I’ve re-framed the narrative of abuse I had constructed around my mother and my suffering to include her own suffering along side mine. We both suffered. She had the theoretical ability to get treatment but in reality her ability to go through therapy would have been disrupted to a large extent by her pervasive amnesia around events in her life; as well as a widespread sense of mistrust toward authority figures. I had a large dose of mistrust toward authority figures also but managed to persevere with therapy for years until I felt a degree of relief.

We can’t compare ourselves to other people though. I’ve learned it does nobody any favours when we compare our experiences contending that because we were able to do xyz, thus so and so should also be able to do xyz. But we are all different and have so many variables between us that it’s unfair to say someone is less than us if they couldn’t do something we managed to do. We will never know 100% of what someone else’s life has been like so what gives us the right to think we can judge another person? Perhaps we can judge the behaviour but NOT the person themselves. That is not fair.

By holding onto the anger after we’ve been wronged by someone we are allowing them to continue wronging us. We’re giving up our personal power by holding onto our resentment over whatever someone did that hurt us. Maybe they will never apologize or think what they did was harmful. That means the onus is on us to release ourselves from the pain. No, we aren’t excusing the behaviour when forgiving or letting go of our less positive emotions toward someone. We’re simply allowing a space to emerge where we can view the situation with greater clarity. We can stop hanging onto everything negative connected to the action(s) of the abuser/wrong doer. When we let go of unwanted emotions we are giving ourselves a gift. The gift is emotional freedom. A great weight is lifted from our shoulders and we get to feel lighter from the inside out when we totally release ourselves from resentment, hurt, anger and sadness.

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Mother-Teresa-collage (Photo credit: @Peta_de_Aztlan)

I felt that I had forgiven my mother last year, yet on the anniversary of her death in October I felt anger, and feelings of heaviness. It seems forgiveness hadn’t taken place totally. So I experienced a period of darkness for a month or two. Then I emerged feeling greater awareness and empathy for my mother. These feelings signaled to me I’d released myself totally from resentment. Prior to her anniversary I’d felt I had already forgiven her. I felt lighter and didn’t feel constantly angry when I thought about her. But I still held onto some rather natural and understandable anger considering the situation. This unsettled me but I explored the feelings and did my best to offer myself compassion for not being a Saint! It eventually worked as I gave up the need to be Mother Teresa and embraced my flaws. Three months into the new year I can honestly say I don’t feel resentful or angry toward my mother for her actions toward me. I think I needed to face the fact my mother wasn’t capable of being the mother I wanted her to be. She couldn’t even be close to it but I recognized she had strengths and qualities that were admirable. She wasn’t pure evil. Nobody is PURELY evil. Even dictators, fascists, and war lords have redeeming attributes if we overlook their immensely disturbing behaviours. My mother was never a dictator or fascist so she already had something positive going for her there!

There is much to be gained in the process of forgiveness. It is a process much like grief is. We are grieving a loss of sorts too when we accept we are unlikely to ever receive an apology for what was done to us. But if we can remind ourselves that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily have to involve letting the person who hurt us know we forgive them then it is not as bad. After all, who wants to tell someone they forgive them if the person doesn’t even care to acknowledge they hurt you somehow?

The only necessary step to forgiveness, in my opinion, is allowing yourself to be free. You don’t need to forget what was done to you either. I believe the phrase ‘forgive and forget’ is not terribly helpful in cases where you’ve been badly hurt by someone and they don’t apologize for it. Rather, what I see as forgiveness is letting go of negative emotions that keep you connected to the abuser/wrong doer. Having compassion for yourself and realizing you did everything you could at the time to avoid the mistreatment or abuse is helpful; or perhaps you need to forgive yourself if you feel you didn’t do everything you could have at the time. Again, have compassion for yourself. Once you find that deep well within yourself of compassion directed toward YOURSELF first and foremost, extending it to whomever hurt you will come much easier to you.

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forgiveness (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

As with anything new to us forgiving will likely take time and not be accomplished tidily or quickly, that’s okay. Just continue being kind to yourself. Continue showing yourself the love and kindness you would your best friend or a small child or cherished furry companion when they’ve ‘messed up’. Forgiving is as much about us as it is the other person (s). We did not ask to be abused or hurt but we can choose to release ourselves from any lingering feelings of resentment, malice, or pain. Our abuse happened in the past-or if it’s still present in your life make every effort to remove yourself from the situation to the best of your ability, then let it stay there in the past. Forgiveness is not easy when it involves major traumas, heck sometimes it’s hard to forgive little things if we aren’t overly charitable! Nonetheless, it’s totally possible and does your mind a world of good. You’ll feel so much better once you have fully moved forward from the suffering. It will allow you to have more energy for more important areas of your life too once you aren’t consumed by your negative emotions.

Be gentle with yourself when you attempt forgiving someone for a past hurt. If you haven’t been able to get the response from them you hoped for it is your job to move on. Don’t allow someone to keep hurting you when you are away from the situation. Show yourself the loving kindness (compassion) you deserve and release yourself from the pain. Forgiveness is for you, as you are the one living with the hurt, the abuser likely feels nothing. Take your power back. Compassion grows the more we practice giving it to ourselves and others. Water the seeds of compassion and watch them grow.

©Natalya & Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2013.


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Why Sex Abuse Continues: Focus on Female Perpetrators(Potential Trigger-Read With Care)

It occurred to me today, as I sat looking over a book on female sex offenders, that we may be ignoring a large reason for sexual crimes happening. The book gave accounts from those who had suffered from sexual abuse at the hands of mothers, grandmothers, sisters, babysitters and other females. These aren’t your usual suspects when you hear about a sex crime in the news. Females are largely ignored or downplayed for their role in sexual crimes and abuse towards children. Males have tended to get all the attention and women have been ‘let off the hook’ due to the belief women don’t harm children. Furthermore, there is the belief that women are not supposed to want sex, let alone be aggressive and hurt children sexually. So we’ve let many females go ‘Scott free’ because nobody has been willing to face the ugly reality of one’s mother or sister, etc. being capable of sexually abusing a child.

Why do I care so much about this issue? Well for one thing my mother committed ‘moderate’ sexual abuse against me all through my childhood beginning by 2 or perhaps earlier. I will spare you the details of what she did to me and how I endured it. What I will tell you is we have gone long enough as a Society(in Western culture) believing women can do no harm when clearly that’s not the case. The news is only just beginning to scratch the surface with their coverage of women committing sex crimes against children. For years nobody touched the subject. It was too taboo to even think about, let alone utter out loud.

When you hear about sexual crimes, such as rape and child molestation, people assume the perpetrator to be male and for the male to be disgusting. But what do you think when you hear a grandmother or babysitter has been sexually abusing a child? Is there equal disgust and revulsion as there ought to be? or is there the thought that since it was a female offender it couldn’t have been too horrible? Well let me demystify any illusions lingering on the subject. When your mother, sister, grandmother, babysitter, or any other female, sexually abuses a child-male or female-damage is done. That damage is long lasting and creates confusion for the victims. We are taught to think what has happened to us is either ‘normal’ or not a big deal. Guess what? It IS a big deal! Especially considering most sex crimes against children done by female relatives are carried out over long periods of time. Even if the event happened ‘only’ once that’s enough to cause distress and life long trauma for the child.

People think if the victim is a male child that it is not as serious because boys ‘want it’, thus it’s just early training. Bull Sh*t! Grandma raping her young grandson isn’t training him for future sexual encounters, at least not any of a healthy variety. Likewise, mom fondling her daughter or getting her to perform sex acts on her isn’t okay either. We have to stop sugar coating reality and making victims feel like they are crazy for feeling bad or damaged. You’d feel bad, crazy and damaged too if you were made to believe horrible things done to you were nothing or insignificant. What I want you to understand is when we downplay/minimize these awful crimes against children we are creating generations of misery to follow. Sound like an exaggeration? Well not if you consider most people who sexually abuse others have been sexually abused themselves.

What if we told every child sexually abused by a female they were harmed in a serious way and needed help? Wouldn’t that lead to a more positive chain of events? Little Johnny doesn’t grow up to hate women and rape them and little Suzy doesn’t grow up sexually abusing her child(ren). We think if someone has been abused they would surely want to avoid perpetuating the cycle of abuse on the next generation; however, when it comes to trauma many children repress the memories. Some dissociate or use fantasy to cope. As adults the abused children ‘forget’ what was done to them fully and feel compelled to do bad things to their own children. Not in every circumstance mind you, I am aware there are those who seek treatment or therapy and avoid harming their own children, but many more avoid therapy believing they’ll be okay without it. Or maybe they couldn’t handle therapy because someone heard their story and minimized it so they went away believing they were making mountains out of mole hills. If that is the standard response from those who are supposed to be helping the victims how can we expect them *not* to abuse? If you don’t acknowledge something as harmful you can’t treat it as something to be abstained from. It gives the false impression that the damage isn’t real, or at least not significant enough to be concerned about.

I titled this post as I did because I believe you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. You can only treat something once you’ve identified it as a problem. Until then you keep believing what happened was minor or you somehow deserved it. If you, as a child, were brave enough to tell someone about what happened to you and all you got was ‘poo pooed’ what is there left for you? Repression if a single incident, or dissociation and fantasy if more frequent. My mother was sexually abused by her father and other male family members yet her mother did nothing. I believe my mother repressed certain traumas and dissociated heavily due to the abuse. When she had my sister and I we were subjected to various forms of sexual abuse. I got the more physical side of it, whereas my sister was used as a trusted confidante concerning sexual matters from age 5 on. I can’t say my sister got off lightly because she didn’t and we both had to endure a lot of similar secondary sexual abuse in the form of listening to my mother’s sexual experiences. We were children once but I don’t recall having much of a childhood.

So why do sexual assaults happen? If you want my opinion/theory it has to do with revenge. Unconsciously sexual abuse  victims learn to silence their hurt and anger through any means they can. Drugs, alcohol, prostitution, becoming a pedophile, and committing rape. You learn you are not worthy of love and care so you end up self destructive and/or becoming an offender yourself. Men who rape women aren’t simply sick or demented, in many cases they were sexually abused by a female when they were a helpless child with no opportunity for justice. The anger and hurt build to the point where women are representative of the original female perpetrator. Rape becomes an escape valve for the pent up emotions never allowed to be acknowledged or taken seriously. Women, on the other hand, end up sexually assaulting or raping children if they’ve never dealt with their feelings. Again, not EVERY woman sexually abused will rape or abuse a child, but there will be a significant number who do because the same was done to them.

We can’t afford to continue making female sexual perpetrators a taboo subject. It was once taboo to talk about males sexually abusing children yet we all accept it as fact now. The same needs to happen with female sex offenders committing sex crimes against children. If we keep burying our heads in the sand the abuse will continue. But if enough of us stand up and shout “STOP” maybe we can face an uncomfortable reality. Maybe if enough of us are brave and willing to challenge cultural stereotypes of women as incapable of harming children sexually we can begin the healing. Those of us who have endured sexual abuse at the hands of our mother, sister, babysitter, or whomever, deserve to see justice. We have suffered enough and it’s about time females were held legally accountable for their crimes against innocent children. I support women’s rights and am a woman myself but I was also sexually abused by my mother. For that reason I can’t stay silent and pretend nothing happened. Abuse is abuse no matter what the gender of the perpetrator. Trauma doesn’t discriminate based on gender either, meaning if your abuser was a woman you are still going to have emotional scars. Please take my message seriously and educate others if you have the will to do so. It’s not your job but I feel it’s mine to get on my soapbox and tell you about female sexual perpetrators. Isn’t it time we used some of that equality for the sexes in the justice system?

©Reflectionsonlifethusfar, 2012.