Sunday, August 3, 2014

"September" by Daughtry

Daughtry is one of my all time favorite bands but every time this song comes across my iPod I now skip it because it's just too painful. It has reminded me of my brother and sister from the moment I heard it because it reminded me of the bond we had as siblings and became one of my favorite songs. But since needing to remove them from my life it only represents a death to me and makes my soul ache.

Has it all gone to waste? All the promises we made
One by one they vanish just the same

The title itself is ironic. September. It's when the abuse started. I've always hated that month. But God has truly changed that by replacing that hatred with a blessing and creating a celebration for the month of September. My grandson was given to me and he is such a joy to my heart!

It was a Friday in September. Great way to start the weekend, right? The only reason I remember it was a Friday is because the Dukes of Hazard had been on and we had watched it with our dad.

Of all the things I still remember
Summer's never looked the same

I wonder what we did that summer? I wish so badly that I could remember playing hide and seek, playing kickball, walking to the little store to buy penny candy, playing car-light tag….I wish I could remember how that last summer of being carefree and just a child felt. I wish I could remember how we laughed with each other- completely unaware of the thief that was right around the corner. I wish I had the memories from that summer so I could hold them tightly and protect them. So I could pull them out and relive them when the awful memories surface.

The years go by and time just seems to fly
But the memories remain

Time is moving so quickly as an adult. I can't believe it's already been a year and a half since I last spoke to my brother. It feels like just yesterday. Each day all we do is create memories for tomorrow and, in the end, it's all we have to hold onto. I don't have many memories from my childhood. There are huge chunks missing all over the place. Most of what I remember about my siblings is from our adult lives.

Now the days are so long that summer's moving on
We reach for something that's already gone

We knew we had to leave this town
But we never knew when and we never knew how
We would end up here the way we are
Yeah we knew we had to leave this town
But we never knew when and we never knew how

It's funny. I always believed that it was the past 5-6 years of the abuse becoming public that changed us. But it was really that day in September. We were forced to conform to a life in the darkness, living in fear of anything that resembled the truth. Choking on words that could have had the power to free us from the talons of demons. Shamed into pretending we were a healthy, happy family so that nobody would see we lived on the very same street where hell was built.

But the truth surfaced as it always does and a wound that was over 30 years old was violently ripped and slashed open. In the public eye. Friends, family and strangers gawked at the train wreck and whispered behind their hands. Oh. My. God. We were like the Emperor walking through the streets believing he was wearing clothes. We. Were. Buck. Naked. We were uncovered and the world could see the ugliness we came from. The shame, guilt and complete horror sat like vomit in our throats as we clawed at anything that would save us.

Initially, we clung to each other but as the dust began to settle and the nakedness became more 'comfortable' we turned on each other. We had to. It was in the script. The Ugly Family from Hell Street: Part XII. We were ordered to play our parts and we played to a standing ovation. Here we are at the curtain call….

Now it all seems so clear.  The nakedness, the guilt, the shame, the pain were all necessary for me to get to where I am today.

There's nothing left to fear. So we made our way by finding what was real.
 I lived in fear. Fear of the darkness. Fear of the truth. Fear of people finding out. Fear of all the threats becoming reality. I feared EVERYTHING. Not anymore. There's no fear in the Truth. There's no fear in the light. I stared death, abuse, horror and shame in the face when I was a child. As an adult, I laced up my boxing gloves and went round after round after round with every memory, fear, belief and emotion. I went the distance and I conquered each and every last one. I know the accumulation of all that has transpired is a result of my prayers to God when I was little and then later as an adult. He is a faithful God and will answer when the time is right.

I hope to have the chance to create a real relationship with my dad one day. Not one blanketed by lies and drenched with unspoken words. Not one that has any attachment to Hell Street or anything that ugly life entailed. Will I ever have that? I have no idea but I know I have hope.

Will my mom ever come around and admit her role in the whole script? Will she ever acknowledge what I said, stop talking bad about me to cover her own ass and offer an apology? Who knows.

Will I ever have a relationship with my siblings again is probably the most important question in this entire post. When I was being abused, my dad threatened if I told that my siblings would be taken away from me and I'd never see them again. It was my greatest fear as a child. You could not have told me that as an adult that threat would become reality. I would never have believed you. Yet here we are.

I've lost my entire family because of something one parent did and the other allowed to continue. In a normal family, the siblings would have stuck together and shunned the parents for destroying their lives. We weren't handed that script. Sometimes when you live where hell was built it's hard to adjust your eyes away from the darkness and see the destruction around you or even pinpoint the source of your pain.

Reflecting now on how things could've been
It was worth it in the end

Yes. It was worth it. All of it. Every. Single. Moment. And if I had the chance to rewind the last 6 years and do it again, I wouldn't change anything. Even knowing that I would lose my brother and sister. I know that sounds weird to some of you because you're in the same boat and would kill to have your siblings back in your life.

When I think of where I would be right now had none of the abuse come out- I want to cry because I am so thankful that I am FREE and healed. That freedom and strength and completely new life outweighs everything I've lost. It doesn't matter to me one way or the other if any of my family members are part of my life again. I have hope, of course, but if it never happens I know it's because it's part of His plan. The reason I can be at peace even in the midst of pain and loss is because I am trusting His plan, His timing and His wisdom.

And as we peer out across the landscape as another September looms on the horizon, the memories remain. The pain returns once in awhile. But I'm not longer reaching for what's already gone. I'm now reaching for my grandson's hands that are full of hope and love. They are symbols of the strongholds that September no longer has.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Change of Heart

"Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself." - Mohsin Hamid
I heard some things the other day about someone that is not one of my favorite people. She is everything you would never want to be. 
Judgemental. Two-faced. Jealous. Vindictive. Rude. Just a really mean person.
I could go on and on. But, just like everyone, she has another side to her that is good. She's talented and creative. Loves her kids. She's smart. What I heard wasn't good and for a split second, I felt a surge of happiness that FINALLY she had gotten what she deserved. And surprisingly, that feeling went away as quickly as it had come.

Instead, I felt sadness for her and her situation. Her childhood sucked. Really sucked. And her adult life has been spent running, hiding and otherwise trying to deal with it without actually facing it. Those demons have chased her and taunted her and she has finally been chained to the "fate" of those before her. I feel bad that those childhood demons and the sins of her parents have created such a painful spot in her life that she became who she is today. And it makes me sad that she's not only losing herself but those around her. 

At the end of the day, I realized that the past few years have changed me more than I thought. If this had happened to this woman 4 years ago, I would have felt giddy and smug that karma had kicked her in the ass and paid her back for every mean and bitchy thing she ever did to me, said to me, and lied about me. I would have floated higher than Cloud 9 for MONTHS. But I've grown and changed. The fact that I can feel compassion for my 'enemy' is beyond amazing to me. I can put myself in her shoes because I had a childhood that could very well have destroyed me had I not dug deep and dealt with it. I could be her right now but I was given the choice to walk down a different path and I took it. 
I thank God that my heart is different. I would hate to walk around wishing and waiting for Karma to strike those that have hurt me. What a miserable existence.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Les Misérables

Do you know someone like this? Or are YOU that person? People who are happy with themselves and with their lives do not have time to spend energy on spewing lies and crap about others. They're busy chasing and living their dreams. 

The one thing I've noticed about these miserable people is that their negative energy is like a black ooze that permeates into every area of their life and, if they're lucky, affects those around them. This is what they want, after all. These gloomy, sad souls want nothing more than to drag everyone down to the level of despair that they feel. They will spend their time pointing out the faults and failures of others to anyone who is foolish enough to listen. Why? Because it makes them feel superior, smarter and better about themselves. If they can drag someone down, trample their name and paint a horrible picture about that person to the world it gives them a rush and a feeling, for a very short time, of satisfaction. The result, of course, isn't that people think any less of the person whose life and reputation they are trying to destroy. Instead, the miserable gossiper is the one who looks like a fool in the end. People begin to associate their name with someone who can't be trusted and who is malicious and ugly inside.

Don't be that person! Stop and ask yourself why do you want to hurt that person? What part of their life are you envious of? What characteristic do they have that you want? Are you just so bored with your life that anyone who comes along and is the least bit happy with themselves becomes your target?

Then do something about it! 
Go begin a new hobby, change jobs, get a job, go back to on yourself! Start making yourself into the kind of person you dream about. Begin living your dreams and setting goals instead of tearing someone else down. If you're the one who is being trash talked and there's someone who can't seem to stop talking about you ......
Be thankful and count your blessings!
Number one- you already know you're happy, content and feeling fulfilled in your life so you should be giving thanks on a daily basis already.
Second, someone sees something so inherently good in you that not only do they want it for themselves but they want to take it away from you. Don't let them. Ignore the sad, pathetic people and what they are saying. Remember, it's not you who will suffer anyway. Negativity and unkindness always ricochet back to the source and do more damage on their return then the initial hit on the intended target. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

I Can See Your Dirty Laundry!

Hopefully you don't have piles of your dirty dainties lying around your home for guests to gawk at! But that's the general idea for the term "airing your dirty laundry." Nobody wants to see it and you should do everything you can to keep it under wraps.

Dirty laundry= dirty secrets

This has been the main topic in discussions with several of the victims I’m working with lately. Why is it that when a victim or Survivor tells their story - their LIFE experience - it's considered dirty laundry? This reference to dirty laundry is really offensive and hurtful because it is telling that person - "Hey. YOU don't matter. Your story isn't important. I don't care what happened to you. Your life is nothing but dirty rags."

Car accident victim
911 terrorist attack victim
Family of a murder victim
Someone with a terminal disease
Soldier with PTSD
Children of alcoholics

They are all allowed to share their stories, pain and ways they made it through the trauma. None of them asked for the mess. These things were done to them. Yet society completely accepts and listens to this part of who they are. But when a victim of childhood sexual abuse begins to find their voice and share what has happened to them they are forsaken by family, called names and told they need to shut up. For some reason, the victim is bullied into believing that what was done to them is somehow their guilt and shame to carry.

Shhh! Don't tell! This is our secret.

Abusers go to great lengths in order to get their victims to keep quiet. In my own experience, the threats made to me if I told were:
  • I would be arrested
  • My mom would be thrown in jail
  • I'd be sent away and never see my family again
  • Since he was "in" with the cops, they would believe him over me
  • My siblings would be taken away and I'd never be allowed to see them again
  • He had ways of making me disappear so no one would ever find me

In addition to threats, abusers will groom the victim and give them a false sense of being special. They'll buy them presents and treats followed by words such as, "See? I love you. You're special to me. Nobody will understand. That's why we have to keep it a secret." The victim is then torn because they feel shame, guilt and fear accompanied with an intense desire to protect the abuser. This is especially true if the abuser is a parent.

I lived my childhood in complete fear that someone would find out. Partly because of the threats and partly because I was so embarrassed and ashamed at what was being done to me. The one part of me hated him with a passion and the other half would defend him to the death to anyone that had a bad word to say about him. One part wanted to scream and tell and make it stop but the other half withered inside out of shame and hoped nobody would ever find out. This started when I was 9 years old and went on until I was just about 16. Do you know a 9, 10, 11 year old? Do you remember being that age? Can you put yourself in their little shoes and imagine what it is like to have very adult things done to you- things you should know nothing about- things that hurt physically and emotionally and at the same time live under the threats, fear and shame? And then be so twisted up inside because you can't stop loving and protecting this person who is doing such awful things to you?

I remember going to great lengths at one point to get someone to realize what was happening without actually saying anything. I spent a few weeks visiting my aunt in Colorado and did things in order to get her attention like stealing money and makeup. It got her attention all right because she knew that I wasn't that kind of person. She went to her pastor and then brought me in to talk and I began crying because I felt such relief! They knew! They knew! And I didn't say anything! It wasn't me that told so none of the awful things he threatened me with would happen. But they didn't know. They thought it was because my parents had just divorced and I was having a hard time with it which just made me cry harder because I was still stuck in hell.

There was also the day I molested my little brother which still makes me cry to this day because my brother and my sister were my world. And not that this excuses it, but as a child who was being abused myself, it was a 'natural' thing to do. Many children who are being molested will act out and molest other children, especially siblings. I didn't do it to hurt him yet that was the outcome. I did it because my little child brain believed that he would tell on me and then the truth would come out - again without ME having to tell because if I told I already knew what would happen. As an adult, I see why he never told but as a child I was unaware of just how dysfunctional our family was or even aware that my siblings were having issues, fears and feelings of their own - many of which revolved around what was being done to me.

Oh no! Did I just hang a pair of my dirty dainties out in public?! No. And here's why. Sexual abuse continues to happen BECAUSE we keep it a secret. It happens in secret and victims are threatened to keep it that way. It lives and breathes because nobody will acknowledge it is there so it roams freely, injuring the souls and hearts of children who grow up and become dysfunctional, hurting adults. Family secrets that are kept hidden do not keep families intact. They destroy them from the inside out. These secrets and abuse will continue from generation to generation until they are exposed. Abuse doesn't stop until we speak out. We cannot heal until we use our voice and share our story. When a person is possessed with a demon and the pastor is trying to cast it out, most of the time the pastor must name the demon (blasphemy, confusion, pride, etc.) before it will flee. It is the same way with sexual abuse. We cannot be free of the pain, shame, anger and the million other things that go along with it until we can name it, speak out and share what has happened to us.

Victims, no matter what anyone tells you - it is not your shame or guilt to carry. You did nothing wrong. Nor are you doing anything wrong by speaking out about it. Your life and your experiences are NOT dirty laundry. God certainly doesn't see your life and traumatic experience this way at all so there's no reason anyone else should, either. You matter! What happened to you matters! How you feel matters! And your healing journey is important!

Keep speaking! Keep healing!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Be Still.....

If I could show you a picture of my soul right now it would look a bit like this......

For the first time in my life I feel peace and calm. Oh, yeah - there's still stress filled days, endless homework, deadlines, the occasional missed bill or empty gas tank when I need to be somewhere right now. But it's so weird because even in those hectic times that peace is still inside. It's like a warm, fuzzy blanket all wrapped around my insides.

A few years ago I asked God to show me what this verse meant -

"Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

It took many, many lessons before I finally grasped what it meant. I've always been the type of person that has to have A Plan. I've got to know what's going to happen and when it's going to happen. There needs to be alternatives to The Plan and if something goes wrong I feel that I need to find a way to fix it immediately. The summary of that? I needed to be in control of my every situation because it made me feel safe. I controlled what was going to happen. I controlled what the outcome was. I had an escape plan in case something went wrong. That strong need for control goes back to the abuse and I know many of you understand how that vicious cycle works. But I'm not that person anymore. Partly because I've dealt with those issues and partly because I learned to Be Still.

I first started to develop an understanding when my brother was in Iraq. It scared the living daylights out of me because I had no control over it. There was no way to protect him. Well, there was no way for ME to protect him. I prayed every night and all day long for his safety and the safety of his unit. I would wake up in the night feeling fear and an urgency that he needed prayer. One night, I had a vision that he was being shot at. No matter if I closed my eyes or opened them, it just kept playing out. I dropped to my knees and started crying because I had no idea what was going on. About two days later, my brother Skyped me and told me they had been crossing a bridge or something and that's exactly what happened. When he returned from Iraq, he showed me pictures of the vehicle he'd been in. There were bullet holes everywhere. What grabbed my attention the most was when he showed me the "glass" that had surrounded him because he was one of the guys that sat up at the top of the vehicle. He pointed out the bullet holes that were created and aimed right at his face but never touched him. God is good and faithful.

I remember crying over and over to God for his protection that night. And through my frantic cries I heard a voice say, "Do you trust Me?" What? Yes! Yes, I trust You! But You need to....and please....and do it now! Another voice, "Be still; and know that I am God." Ugh! Ok, ok! What does that mean?! "Remember the double rainbow?" I had begun praying before my brother even left. I was a nervous wreck and had God on constant FaceTime. At the same time, kept asking Him to show me what Be Still meant. God had spoken to me and promised me that my brother would be safe and he would come home. Yet, I kept questioning Him. The night I said good-bye to my brother, a double rainbow had appeared in the sky. God told Noah that he would make a rainbow appear in the sky as a token to man that God was remembering His promise. God had given me TWO rainbows! TWO perfect, full rainbows. Now here He was asking if I remembered those beautiful symbols because He did. As that began to slowly sink into my head, I realized I was losing my mind for nothing. He'd already promised and was now reminding ME of that promise. I heard that voice again, "Be still; and know that I am God." 

OoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooH! You are God. YOU. ARE. GOD. YOU have it under control. Oooooooooh!

I finally understood what it meant. But I hadn't learned it yet. This past year has been horrible. I confronted my mom about not only knowing about the abuse but walking in while it happened and never doing anything about it. Her response was, instead of talking to me, was to bad mouth and complain about me to my brother. There was no acknowledgement of what I'd said. No calling me a liar. No apology. Nothing. Except behind my back. Next, my brother decided that I no longer was worthy of a place in his life because I refused to be quiet about my story and now I was "picking" on our "innocent" mother. A few months ago, I removed my sister from my life also. And this is where I learned the full lesson of Be Still.

I began having a horrible gut feeling that she was being one person to my face and another behind my back and I started hearing and seeing things that strengthened that feeling. So I started praying and asked God to either A) show me that it was all in my head or B) give me proof that my gut, ears and eyes were telling me the truth. I already have lost my dad, mom and brother. I didn't want to lose my entire family if I didn't have to. He began showing me proof but I'd ask for more because I didn't want to believe it. The more He showed me the angrier I got. Not at Him but because I knew what I needed to do and I also knew there was no way around it because my family isn't ready to come out of their dysfunction and lies and truly heal. I spent many months just being furious about the whole situation. My narcissistic, lying and play the victim mother. My brother who thinks that dealing and talking about things is 'drama', who refuses to deal with his own demons and thinks he can just bully everyone into doing and believing what he wants. And now my sister, who I had actually begun to trust and thought we had gotten through our issues and had moved onto a new relationship. It all irked me day in and day out to the point it was making me crazy. 

One day I just screamed, "What do You want me to do?! I'm sick of this! I'm tired of the lies and backstabbing. I'm sick and tired of my family!" And there it was again. "Be still; and know I am God." Uh, seriously?! Right now?! Did you not just hear what I said? What about that?! "Be still; and know that I am God." As I sat there and pondered that, I realized that He had given me the proof I had needed. He was giving me permission and telling me to let go of my family. They weren't any good for me and it doesn't matter that they're my blood. They aren't willing to talk about anything. They continually tell me to get over everything I have to deal with on a daily basis. They accuse me of being the problem in the family and the reason we aren't a family anymore. Oh- hey! Just for the record....Our DAD made this mess and our MOM allowed it to continue for years. It's THEIR fault. The three of us are the victims and should have stuck together. Instead, they both cling to the abusers and remove me. Oh, well. BE STILL. God reminded me of the burden and desire He's put in my heart to use my story and experience for the good so that I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. I can't remain healthy and healed with that kind of negativity and abuse still in my life. I can't bring this dream to fruition if I don't trim those dead limbs off. So....I did it. I deleted the final piece - my sister. Three family members in less than a year - gone. It wasn't easy. But as soon as I did it I felt the peace. Not peace because they're gone but peace because I'm doing what I need to do to stay healed, keep helping people and moving towards that dream. 

Peace because He is God. He will fight those battles for me. I don't have to do anything except give it to Him and trust. 

Peace because I learned to Be Still.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The one thing I've learned....

The one thing I've learned in the past few years is to love myself.

Believe me......

After a lifetime of hating, harming and blaming myself for what I was forced to endure, it was extremely hard to finally reach this point.

I've gained Freedom from my past and Love for myself. That's worth more to me than anything in this world.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A little Panda Love.....