Reflections on Life Thus Far

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


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Day 27 of 30 Day Challenge

Question: A problem you have or have had in the past?

Well I am late again answering this one because I saw my counsellor yesterday and didn’t have

Counseling Service

Counseling Service (Photo credit: Andreas_MB)

much energy for writing. Guess I’ll talk about the problem I mentioned to my counsellor. Recently I found some photos of my mom from earlier in her life where she looked much healthier than when I knew her. My problem was blaming myself for this turn of health in my mom like I was responsible for her becoming psychologically unwell. In a sense I wanted to take responsibility for her behaviour and what happened so I could have a bit of control. But my counsellor got me to reflect on this reasoning and realize its problems.

I was a child and didn’t have control over my mom. Her health was her responsibility and she frequently neglected looking after herself. So I was able to feel better knowing it was not something I could have done anything about. She wanted to have me and I didn’t cause my twin to die or anything else that happened after my birth. These are all things I knew anyway but the photos triggered uncertainty in me in spite of what I already knew and had made peace with at an earlier time (or thought I’d made peace with!).

It’s a complicated situation and I feel too tired today to elaborate. Ultimately, I have gone back to realizing what I already knew prior to finding those old photos and feel acceptance once again. Triggers can be tricky since you usually don’t see them coming so this has been a good lesson for me. I am not immune to triggers and need to be mindful of what my triggers are so I can try preventing them in the future (or at least mitigating some of their impact on me).

*The picture of the door is more institutional than I was looking for but I figured it would suffice.

©Natalya, 2013.

 

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Reviewing My Life

Artist unknown. Found on Pinterest.

Tomorrow’s portfolio workshop session I am attending requires me to have some homework done. I’m supposed to start from the year I was born and finish with the present year. Each year should have something next to it like an event or some type of memory you have or have been told about that year. Yesterday I started with the year I was born (1982) and got as far as 2003 before having to leave the rest for today. It was really overwhelming seeing all the things that had happened in my life. I’ve got my own memories from age 2-3 and on so only had to use stuff that was told to me for ’82, ’83 and some of ’84. Most involved trauma of some sort so the process of chronicling my life year by year was not fun or easy. Apparently the process must be to have us examine what’s occurred over our lifetime in a compact, tidy manner. Perhaps we’re supposed to see everything we’ve lived through and realize we have resources we didn’t realize we had, or skills we didn’t know of until we wrote it down. The only thing I’ve discovered, at this point, is I have had a number of sh*tty years with very few decent ones. Lets just say this timeline won’t be going with me on any job interviews!

©Natalya, 2013.


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From Intellectualization to Depersonalization: A Spectrum | After Psychotherapy

Another great post from Dr. Burgo on his site, After Psychotherapy. This time he deals with defense mechanisms and how intellectualizing is a way to escape pain we don’t want to deal with at one end of the spectrum; at the other end is depersonalization, where we are outside our body watching ourselves as a more severe defense mechanism. He states it’s more important to recognize your painful feelings than worry about which specific term fits your experience.

From Intellectualization to Depersonalization: A Spectrum | After Psychotherapy.


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The Importance of Community

Interconnection Yes, that’s right folks. Community is important. A radical concept if you’re a North American or perhaps Westerner generally. Why is community important? It is a check and balance on our collective psyches because you can’t get too “crazy” if you have a solid formation of people close to you who are willing to check in on you. I don’t mean a community of ‘busy bodies’ or gossips, but a genuine group of people who look out for one another and generally care about them. If you’re not in a community it’s easy to isolate yourself with the belief individualism counts for more than having others around you. Now I can hear the introverts getting worried-I’m a strong introvert-but don’t panic. I’m merely advocating we reach out to other people and find a community we feel a sense of belonging in. You don’t have to be around them 24/7!

How are you?

As a child growing up my family was dysfunctional and isolated. Anyone from a dysfunctional family will tell you there’s always a level of isolation involved in keeping family secrets, be it alcoholism, sexual abuse, addiction, abuse of any kind etc., or else the abuse would stop. It’s pretty hard to abuse your family if outsiders are regularly checking in to see how you are because they care about you. The problem is there’s often so much shame involved with abuse that the victims have a hard time confiding in anyone. Even so, it becomes harder to keep abuse hidden when you have a community to support you. My family had no such community. I was isolated at home and at school because I had no social skills. Surviving mother-daughter sexual abuse damaged my core sense of self. I was enmeshed with my mother and didn’t know how to make friends or keep them. The only thing I knew was to be submissive and give whatever was asked for. An ironic caveat here is I was warned(by my mother) about male sexual perpetrators so managed to avoid falling victim to that form of sex abuse.

Had I grown up with lots of caring people around me I likely would have developed a better sense of self independent of

Someone to care!

my mother. But isolation is difficult to break free from when you’ve also never learned what it’s like to be part of a supportive group of people. Thus, I had nobody I felt I could turn to since trust had already been eroded early in my life.  What I needed most was to have someone see me and tell me I mattered. Unfortunately, I can remember no such person in my life early enough for it to have impacted me significantly. The people in my life who were positive were not met until I was in my adolescence and by that time my self esteem was thoroughly diminished. So where did my resilience come from? Inside myself. Without anyone early in my life to positively influence me I learned how to survive using my own qualities. Perhaps, not surprisingly, it took me longer than normal to develop a full sense of who I am and know where I began and someone else started (boundary wise).

I’m not going to write about the mother-daughter sex abuse I suffered; I merely wanted you to see how a community of people, or lack thereof, can affect a person’s development and well being.

Not the community I would join! lol

Community can be any mixture of people grouped together. It is not just about proximity or geography, but the values and interests collectively shared. As long as you have a group of people willing to share in each other’s lives on a regular basis much of the damage due to isolation can be avoided. If, however, your abuse began as an infant(as in my case) it does become more challenging to counteract the damage. Still, all hope is not lost. One can always recover to varying levels of success depending on individual circumstances. It’s a rare individual who can’t recover at all when given the right support(s). The issue is more about how we can access those supports and build a community, or join one, if we are not connected socially.

How has community played a role in your life? Have you ever needed support but didn’t know how to find it because of social isolation? Did becoming part of a community enrich your life in an way (if you didn’t always have one)? I welcome your thoughts on what you think of community as a concept, as well as more practically and its implications/influences in your life.

©Reflectionsonlifethusfar, 2012.


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Learning to Stand Up For Myself

Okay, I know assertiveness is an issue for a lot of people but for me it’s been a life long struggle. I’ve fallen prey to ‘the

No friends except my imagination.

No friends except my imagination.

disease to please’ at times and been unhappy for denying my true nature. This started in childhood, as most troubling issues tend to, where I was taught my thoughts, wishes and feelings meant nothing. A child can only hear so much criticism before they decide it’s not worth the pain of continual rejection and being ignored. For me, this came from my own mother. At school I was often picked on and bullied because I was not conventional in my interactions and looked like an easy target, I suppose.

The thing is I never made friends easily either. I had a few ‘frienimies'(friend+enemy) who would pretend they were friends with me but just used me for homework/class work. I wasn’t even very good as a student back then but I had this one girl who copied my journal entries in grade one during class then told the teacher I’d copied off of her! Then in second grade (I was 7) the same frienemy got my favourite pencil sharpener taken away because she was playing with it and talking so the teacher took it. I didn’t have the courage to ask for it back explaining that it was mine. In fact I lost a lot of personal items sharing them with the frienemy never returning them. Yes, I could have asked for the items back but I had learned from my mother I wasn’t worth listening to. So I never did anything. On my way home and to school I’d get bullied too being called names and made to feel unwelcome. It was very uncomfortable.

I think when I developed my eating disorder in junior high I was trying to take up less space and go unnoticed. Of course

My true self slipped further into the recesses of my mind.

My true self slipped further into the recesses of my mind.

there were many reasons I had my eating disorder but trying to be small enough so people would not notice me and leave me alone was in there too. The bullying didn’t stop in my teen years but it was more covert through social exclusion than overt mean comments, although there were still some of those as well. I guess I was trying to be as little bother as I could possibly be so people couldn’t find reasons to pick on me. The two friends I had in junior high were a combination of a friend and a frienemy. Each I tried to avoid but had so little backbone you couldn’t tell I was trying to avoid them(the friend was nice but not very bright and annoyed me).

By high school I’d managed to acquire a few friends from the older grades whom I got along with. But we weren’t close really and I had trouble feeling like I had the self worth to ask them to keep in touch with me after they’d graduated. It was lonely. I had my frienemy from junior high still and a few friends I chatted with and hung out with, yet I had such low self worth I couldn’t envisage any of them wanting me to hang out with them after school hours. The frienemy I’d have gladly left behind but she was like a parasite and I couldn’t tell her to bug off.

Well I won’t bore you with more details from my elementary-high school years in terms of bullying. The general pattern was I would be stuck either having no friends if I spoke my mind, and no

Silenced and alone.

Silenced and alone.

friends (except frienemies) if I didn’t because I didn’t want to be around the people who were drawn to me. It was a difficult time for me. Any kids I hung out with were usually ones who’d decided to be buddies with me. Seeing as how I had no social standing what right did I have to act better than them and tell them to go away? The kids I tried to be friends with were ‘out of my league’ so to speak, proper geeks, whereas I was a loner and outcast. Social groups never mix in schools, do they?

Thank goodness I made it through those years because university was much better. My friends were mainly from the hospital though, as I’d been in for mental health treatment when they were. We became friends and it seemed that, as unhealthy as we all were, at least it felt like they were easier to be with than those I’d been with in pre-university years. My self-esteem was still in the basement and I tolerated Narcissistic behaviour from people, essentially repeating the relationship I had with my NPD mother. But I had intelligent friends to talk to and hang out with finally.

After years in therapy I’d acquired a bit of self-esteem and awareness of what was and wasn’t healthy from my childhood

Where had I gone?

Where had I gone?

home. Progress had been made! Yet other problems remained. I don’t want to go into it all today because it would take quite awhile. So instead I’ll wrap up by telling you I’ve begun to feel I have the right to my thoughts, feelings and wishes like anyone else. All those years ago when my mother first started silencing me from the inside out got thrown out allowing new space for my healthy new thinking patterns. It’s taken some time to adjust. I’m not 100% yet but I am getting there and feel I have the right to be heard and listened to finally.

Bullying gets a lot of coverage in the media here in North America so I’m aware some of you may be tired of hearing about the issue. Well that’s fine as you needn’t read if you don’t want to! My concern has been with getting those memories out of my head so I could be free from their influence on me. I’ve never actually talked about being bullied before. In fact I’d largely repressed a lot of it. But it wanted to come out so I gave it it’s due here in a post. Hopefully you won’t mind another piece on bullying if you’ve grown tired hearing about it in the news as of late. Anyhow, I feel like I got ‘something off my chest’ by writing this. So I feel a bit better. Like there it all is, suddenly I’m stark naked mentally. What’s left cowering in the crevices of my mind now? I wonder, I wonder….

The light of hope and a healthier me.

The light of hope and a healthier me.

©Reflectionsonlifethusfar, 2012.

 


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A Documentary Tribute of Sorts to My Mom

Bourbon at Crazy in the Coconutshared this video(about DID) on her blog-a clip-and I found the full version. After

dissociative identity disorder 2

dissociative identity disorder 2 (Photo credit: hunnnterrr)

watching it I felt I’d been watching my mom and felt so sad for her. Hilary, the woman in the video, died at the same age as my mother did (60). The documentary is called When the Devil Knocks. It’s a Canadian film so I found it easily through the CBC website here in Canada. Anyway, I wanted to share it here because it made me think of my mom and I felt a lot of sadness for the little girl she once was going through trauma. Hilary had the same kind of face my mom did in her later years. They both had the same propensity for more masculine than feminine clothes too. My mom’s hair was longer than Hilary’s but otherwise they were very similar. Of course my mom never went into therapy so that’s a big difference. I don’t know what my mom would have been like if she had gone into therapy to the point where she integrated her personality like Hilary did. I do wish she had sought therapy though. It might have spared me from having to go through a decade of personal therapy.

http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/Shows/The+Passionate+Eye/ID/1767552887/?page=2&sort=MostPopular

 

*Mom, I forgive you. I know you didn’t mean to hurt me and were too traumatized to go through therapy. I’m sorry you were abused and traumatized by your family and wish you had a better life. If you were still here I don’t know that I’d have reached this place of acceptance so soon. But I want you to know I love you and forgive you. I hope you are at peace now and are able to live a happier life in your next incarnation.

©Reflectionsonlifethusfar, 2012.


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What It’s Like to Have Three Near-Death Experiences

I have to share this because it reminded me so much of my 3 NDE I had-all at the age of 18. Being an Atheist from childhood I had no frame of reference in my belief system to consider my experiences as having anything to do with “God”. To me, God means a Universal Source, rather than a man with a white beard in the sky. Incidentally, I didn’t see “God” as a person during my suicide attempts, nor white pearly gates. Unsurprisingly, or perhaps surprisingly, I was even more convinced there was nothing beyond this life. Well fast forward a few years and an interesting thing had happened to me. Suddenly I was receiving messages before sleep that were full of worldly wisdom. No, I’m quite sure I wasn’t schizophrenic or psychotic at the time. It happened regularly before falling asleep, these transmissions of information to my brain. Everything transmitted to me was about the universal nature of our consciousness and other pearls of wisdom. You can be certain I kept my mouth shut on this as I didn’t fancy being locked up in a psych ward or on anti-psychotics. Anyhow, to make a long story short I went from being an Atheist to Agnostic, then finally Buddhist(Zen mainly). I don’t share my story often because I do have a fear of being medicated for my beliefs. Perhaps I am worrying over nothing but the experiences I had could very well be misconstrued to fit me into a state of pathology. Hopefully you don’t all think I’m totally ‘off my rocker’ now!

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4975/What-Its-Like-to-Have-3-NearDeath-Experiences.html

©Reflectionsonlifethusfar, 2012.


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Final Confidence Session Was Anti-Climatic

Fred Wessel artworkYesterday was my final confidence building session and I have to say I found it disappointing. Our facilitator didn’t exactly get us to do any activities besides reading a lot of things on our own. It was not the kind of experience I hoped for when I signed up for the workshop. In my mind I thought there would be various activities we’d do to build our confidence but the bulk of our sessions focused on information sheets. I could have read the information anywhere. The only positive aspect to attending the workshop was meeting others in the same boat. Realizing I am not the only person with questionable confidence made me feel better. However, I didn’t feel the facilitator was very helpful.

I do, however, feel my confidence has improved in spite of the poor facilitation of the workshop. Meeting other people helped me the most as I isolate myself so much. Having to be around new people did me more good than the actual sessions themselves per se. What I had been hoping for was for the facilitator to get us to stand up and maybe do different activities that would get us out of our comfort zone. Yet all we did was take turns reading information sheets. We did one role play but with only one other person and we didn’t have to perform it in front of any of the other people. So I felt under challenged and under stimulated.

Even though I am being negative I think the experience itself was positive for me. In the sense that I was forced to get up early on a schedule to attend the workshop was good since I generally don’t have a schedule. Besides that I met a couple of people I’ll likely chat with again as we exchanged e-mail addresses. It’s doubtful all of us will meet up together again because we had quite different personalities but a few of us may for coffee or something. We’ll work on our confidence and see if we can help each other….maybe.

My plan now is to try and go out more so I am not so avoidant of other people. I have a bad habit of keeping to myself for the most part and not trying to really be part of anything. It feels lousy when thinking about how much I avoid other people because I told myself I’d be judged for being unemployed since I don’t look particularly ‘impaired’. Some people have the idea that if you look reasonably ‘normal’ you ‘should’ be doing whatever it is so called normal people do.

Well I am finished with giving a darn about other people’s opinions of me.I have imprisoned myself for too long with that way of thinking. There’s just no way I’m continuing to keep letting other people’s possible reactions or opinions toward me matter. They do not know me and I have a right to be who I am without apologizing. I feel very liberated. This isn’t me saying I don’t care about what others have to say it’s me saying I’m not letting it affect me negatively. The thought of others’ judging me caused me to close in on myself avoiding interaction with people (in the real world-not online). I’m not an extrovert but I do enjoy seeing people on occasion for a bit of socializing.

So I guess the confidence building workshop caused me to reflect on where I’m at now and question whether it’s where I want to stay. It kind of forced me to ask myself if I like being so isolated and cut off from everyone and I found myself answering it with a no. Maybe the confidence building workshop didn’t live up to the expectations I had but it gave me a different perspective on things. I think that in itself is valuable.

© Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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What Makes Someone Resilient Even After Abuse/Trauma?

Assuming you grew up in an unstable environment where you were regularly abused but you manage to grow up and become reasonably well adjusted, resilient would be the first thing that comes to mind. What allows someone to be resilient though? What factors go into making a resilient person emerge less damaged than expected under the circumstances (compared to someone abused lacking resiliency)?By all accounts most who find out my background agree I’m a resilient person. Sure it took me awhile in therapy but I never fell into any of the common traps a lot of abused people fall into (i.e. alcohol misuse, substance abuse, sex trade work, negative relationships with partners etc.). When I ask myself how I managed to come through what I did and be the person I am now I offer you these contributing factors in no particular order:

  1. independent personality with a strong mind of my own

    Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

    Mental Health Awareness Ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  2. a sense of humour and ability to laugh at life
  3. intelligence
  4. insightful
  5. intuitive
  6. in possession of more wisdom than most for my age
  7. education
  8. met the right people at the right time, i.e. therapists, mentors
  9. access to resources, including information, mental health services,people…
  10. Spirituality

By giving you a list of the factors I view as comprising my resiliency I’m not merely trying to bolster myself up, rather, I’m attempting to shed a bit of light on what makes a person resilient. Yes, I realize many of these factors that went into my own resiliency are internal and likely there are other factors that help too, but the ones I listed are what helped me. My list probably won’t help anyone to become resilient but it might make someone understand why some seem to ‘make it’ and others don’t.

Never blame a person for their misfortune. You can never know their story unless you ask. So the maxim “judge not, lest ye be judged” applies. What destroys one person might have little effect on someone else but that isn’t an invitation to ‘bash’ the person who fared in a worse manner. At some point we will all face a time where we realize we could have handled things differently and that moment will be the one where you hope for compassion, not judgement.

How have you experienced resiliency in your life? Or have you witnessed someone who has displayed resiliency?

Thanks for reading.

© Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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Trauma and the Effects of Inter-generational Abuse

Oil on canvas

Oil on canvas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I learnt about First Nations/Aboriginals being abused through residential schools here in Canada the concept of inter-generational trauma surfaced. It’s basically the idea that one generation’s abuse can be ‘passed down’ to the next even without having the subsequent generation experience everything the previous did. So in the case of residential schools Aboriginal children were taken away from their families and denied their culture through harsh punishment. Often the children experienced every type of abuse imaginable in addition to loosing their culture and a sense of identity based on heritage.

The effect was a generation of children who grew up to become parents but who didn’t know how to be parents, as they were taken away from theirs.The children of the residential school survivours also suffered because they didn’t have parents capable of caring for them properly. They did their best with the tools they had but not every problem requires the same tool; thus you had children being neglected, often growing up with alcoholism in the family and other issues centering around cultural identity.

I’m not here to give you a history lesson on First Nation/Aboriginal residential school abuses though. The intro was illustrative for what happens in any family suffering inter-generational abuse/trauma. My family is a good example. For instance my mother’s mother grew up without her mother in her adolescence and served in the British army to escape a home life I can only imagine wasn’t terribly pleasant if war seemed attractive. She then emigrated from Britain to immigrate to Canada where she settled with her sleezy, pedophile of a husband. They had too many children (any is too many around a pedophile) and lived in poverty. My mother grew up abused in every manner conceivable by her parents then had children of her own.

To my mother’s credit she didn’t abuse my sister and I as terribly as she’d been abused- but we weren’t exactly children of “mom of the year”. The point is that you can’t parent if you’ve never been parented properly or didn’t try to learn from the profusion of material available now telling parents how to raise their kids. Even if you try to follow some “expert’s” advice you won’t have the internal tools necessary. This has lasting affects on children. My mother did her best, I know that now, but it still wasn’t enough because she couldn’t give what she didn’t have.

(I apologize to anyone if you take offence, these are only my opinions)

Unfortunately, my mother loved children and looked forward to having her own. I say unfortunately because if you’ve read my other posts you’ll know she didn’t exactly do a wonderful job-resulting in my decade + of therapy. In my opinion abused people often want children because they think they’ll finally have someone love them unconditionally. It should never be a child’s responsibility to ‘parent’ a parent, however.

If you’ve had lots of therapy to heal before having children it’s different but my mother never went to therapy. In fact she didn’t think she had any problems besides the abuse she’d suffered as a child/teenager. Now if you ever met my mother whilst she was still alive I think you’d agree she had a few more problems than “just” the abuse she’d suffered.

Growing up with my mother was admittedly better than growing up in certain other situations but nonetheless unpleasant. She didn’t have official diagnoses because as I already mentioned she never went for therapy. It’s my belief though that she had a variety of mental illnesses at different points in her life. Narcissistic Personality Disorder I would put at 100% probability, DID/MPD likely close to 100% as well, Depression and Bi-Polar Disorder I’d wager 95%+ on, Multiple Sclerosis 90% at least, and when she was older she developed a diagnosis of Early On-set Alzheimer’s disease.

I bet you’re thinking how the heck does a lay person know what to diagnose someone with. Well, it just so happens I have an uncanny ability to “diagnose” people just by seeing them generally. Psychiatric disorders are a special interest of mine so I know quite a bit about them despite holding no credentials in the area. I’ve got superb intuitive abilities and I am guessing this is how I can usually tell what someone has. Just so you get an idea of my accuracy I’ll tell you I have always “guessed” correctly when given the opportunity to know what someone’s formal diagnosis is afterward. It’s an ability I don’t usually tell others about in person though because some, understandably, are ‘creeped out’ by it!.

Anyhow, I went off on a tangent there. I guess I won’t prolong this post much further, though I do want to reiterate my assertion trauma can be ‘passed down’ to subsequent generations. The fact that abuse happens is undeniable, few people would dispute that, but not everyone makes the connection between being raised by an abused person often resulting in further abuse. It’s quite difficult to not feel the lasting effects emotionally and psychologically even when the person doesn’t perpetuate exactly the same cycle of abuse on their children. I’m not going to share specifically how I or my sister were abused today. Perhaps in another post.

Thank you for reading. Your thoughts are welcome 🙂

***Edited to allow for easier reading via shorter paragraphs.

© Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.