Posts tagged ‘Reality’

Dealing with Fear: Walk; Don’t Run! – illustrated reflection

The painting illustrating this article is an original painting created by using a computer simulated oil brush and pen which were manipulated on the screen by moving my finger on a 1 1/2 inch by 3 1/2 inch touchpad.

Throughout our lives, we face times where our primitive urge to fly, fight or freeze kicks in. We are terrified. Sometimes we don’t know of what. Sometimes the fear is buried so deep, we don’t even realize we are afraid. Many, gasping for breath and reaching blindly into the dark, don’t even realize they’re running. Most often, when I’ve been afraid, I’ve tended toward flight. We think we are in danger and when we truly are in the bodily sense, these responses serve a purpose to protect us. And even when our bodies can’t escape danger, we have inborn ways of escaping mentally. However, whatever the reason, when we take flight in fear, we run full force toward nowhere and often in circles. Mentally, we escape to the desert of our soul where we slowly wither under the glaring sun of Truth. Some never find their way back.

I spent many years running away. I tried to self-medicate with alcohol and sniffing. I hid in a flurry of white lies, ashamed of minor mistakes. I ran to the arms of flattery, not believing in my own self-worth. I mumbled feeble complaints, assuming any request for help would be answered only with judgement. I got caught in a cycle of binging and starving to gain a false sense of control. I absorbed knowledge to avoid opinion. I had break-downs, collapsing into hospital care to avoid taking responsibility for helping myself. I tried over and over to drug myself into oblivion, an ultimate escape. Some roads I have barred myself from, but some are paths that I race down out of habit.

I have overextended myself to the point of serious illness, hoping beyond hope to prove that the walls of my personal limitations would somehow crumble under the force of sheer will. I have tried to save others because I felt powerless to save myself. I have sought perfection in rituals, unconvinced within my depths of my inherent adequacy. I have intellectualized to avoid feeling my emotions, certain they had the power to destroy me. Yet I’ve claimed ignorance when faced with the possibility of being wrong, or of making a “wrong” decision. While ready to collapse, having nearly exhausted my ability to cope, I’ve teased smiles and laughter from stoic professionals. These are my demons. Over-committing, rescuing, perfectionism, intellectualizing, fence-sitting and misplaced humor are still tendencies difficult to resist when panic sets my feet in motion.

Repeatedly, I’ve managed to find my way back, but I must be aware of those patterns of flight if I wish to chart my course toward more fertile ground. I must not only resist these tendencies, but counter them. I must proactively apply strategies which reduce the likelihood of the need to run. When anxiety inches into my heart, I soothe it with a side road jaunt. Instead of getting ready to run, I slow my pace. I talk to family, friends, my treatment team, and my Higher Power. I lose myself in the magic of music. I feel the beat, rewrite the words, sing at the top of my lungs. I read what uplifts me, inspires me. I write, sometimes for release or distraction, sometimes to increase my mindfulness of the present moment. And sometimes, sometimes I write to remind myself of what I’ve learned – where I’ve been and where I want to go. Today, I’d rather walk, walk the path that will get me somewhere. I know that, even if I’m not sure exactly where I want to go, if I want to arrive in a better place, I must heed the command “Walk; don’t run!”

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I Listened to a Book Today – poem

Cover of "A Wind in the Door"

Cover of A Wind in the Door

I want to tell you that this poem is a true testimony to perseverance and friendship. I rewrote the poem 11 times with the help of generous and constructive feedback – not just on this poem, but my writing in general – from my forum friends at Poetry Here And Now As may be already apparent, I write much of my poetry under the pseudonym Callisse J. DeTerre. Besides, those special friends I’ve mentioned above, I’d like to dedicate this poem to all the people who helped instill in me a love of reading and those like my good friend and youth services regional librarian, Krista Rakers of Saint Louis Public Libraries, who aim to do the same with the young of today. Reading redefines reality! Read, read, read and use your library to save a few trees!

I Listened to a Book Today

From a volume my mother
bought for me, More Tell Me Why,
I learned, at eight, my cat
could be frozen by a centipede.
By ten, The Narnia collection complete,
I traveled through A Wind In the Door
to lose myself in the Tao Te Ching.
Then Again Maybe I Won’t
unlocked the mysteries of men
but it was just the seed.

Filled with my search for connection –
Scripture, Jung and Chemistry –
my prep school book bag weighed in at
thirty pounds, with texts alone.
At twenty, reality struck –
people kill trees to answer me!
Now, at forty, I can hardly breathe.
So, today, as if to atone,
I listened to a book,
but it didn’t speak to me.

~Callisse J. Land, copyright 25 April 2011, revised 27 June 2011

Imagined Reality – image

Reality, you seem so true, but I know I only imagined you. Tomorrow, I’ll imagine a brighter hue. Indeed, we are co-creators and tomorrow is another day! Be mindful of the present. Believe in the power of a positive attitude. Be willing to dream and create. Perception is quite the artist, but attitude is its muse. Hope. Live. Love.

The Power of Visualization

plasma lamp

Image via Wikipedia

The inner world of our psyche is ever seeking homeostasis just as is the outer physical world.  By placing ourselves in the past in a visualization, we are able to give power to ourselves where none existed.  However, if we were to envision ourselves with greater power in the present, we risk upsetting the balance of energy within the world of our psyche.  By doing so, we would create a need for the expenditure of that energy.  In other words, we would eventually act on our visualization unless the energy were rebalanced in some other way.

If the nature of our visualization is positive – enhancing, creative, productive – we recognize our ability to act as “courage”.  When the nature of our visualization is negative – limiting, destructive, violent – we label the internal catalyst “loss of inhibition” or “impulsiveness”.  Hence we may embrace visualization as a highly beneficial tool, but need also to acknowledge it as potential energy and handle carefully how we use it.  In a very real way, our thoughts indeed have the power to create reality. In this way, visualization – using our imagination – can help us heal from past trauma if it is properly applied. Misapplied, though, visualization can lead to act with vengeance, further harming our psyche. Persons in recovery will benefit from seeking out psychotherapists who understand this delicate balance.

A Letter to Sexual Offenders

Sexual Offenders,
No matter who you abused or how, you created pain and a lasting mark.  The wound scabs over and gets ripped open repeatedly until finally, at some point in active recovery, it becomes a scar.  I used to feel I didn’t belong, that people could see I was different.  Regardless of the circumstances, I was ashamed I didn’t fight back more, that I didn’t stop it from happening.  I didn’t think I even belonged in a victim support group because my story of abuse was different, not so bad.  But I discovered our story after the abuse is what bound us together.

When I first started remembering the abuse and started in consistent therapy to deal with the issues, I was having the panicked feeling of being followed almost all the time.  I started only hanging either in large groups or by myself.  I began having body memories of pain in my genital area and other areas I later discovered were related to the terrifying visuals that soon after began to destroy my sleep. Sometimes I disassociated, losing all awareness and memory for a length of time.  You can imagine the impact on my safety, daily routine, and relationships.  I also had no memory of my childhood at all, only recalling the still photos of our family albums.  I felt so incomplete.

So, what about the scab-ripping?  One way it occurs is through re-experiencing the abuse when triggered by sensory cues. Another, more subtle way is the ingraining of self-destructive beliefs and patterning of self-destructive behaviors.  I honestly can’t verify some memories of my abuse, but they emerged without any suggestion or prompt and my “experience” of them is very real.  Other memories, some I can verify, are so horrific that my mind still doesn’t want to believe.  Likewise, other people also don’t want to believe.  Thus, years after starting recovery, I still struggle with doubting my reality, even beyond my memories of abuse.  Consequently, I sometimes feel disconnected and insecure.

I lived in a household where personal boundaries weren’t respected much and the earliest of my abuse occurred when I was just a toddler.  I internalized this, believing it was normal to be violated, and was sexually abused by a few more people over a few years starting about 5 years later.  I growingly felt “dirty” and powerless.  Another 5 years later, I agreed to degrading sexual acts with a peer under the manipulative promise it would stop if I cooperated.  When it didn’t stop, I told and my freaky peer was firmly scared off, but I wasn’t given opportunity to say anything more.  He wasn’t punished.  I wasn’t comforted.

Yet another 5 years later, I was acquaintance-raped.  I laid stiffly without word or reaction, disassociated most of the time.  By that time, I had deeply repressed all memories of former abuse.  At one point during the rape, I had the opportunity to yell out to persons passing by not far away, but my mouth was covered and I was restrained by my abuser’s body.  I realized afterward that someone might have heard my muffled yell for help, but in that moment, I had thought only, “He’ll kill you… and you deserve it.”  Then I left my body again.  In the few years after, I entered into two brief but emotionally abusive and physically threatening relationships because I reveled in the moments I was treated as if I was special and I felt so very lucky that someone said, “I love you.”  I didn’t feel lovable anymore.  I stuffed everything more and more until one day, about 3 years later, the wall started to bust open.  I entered therapy to begin dismantling that wall, intending to rebuild it as a proper retaining wall with a gate I could control.

I started writing this letter to you about four years into recovery.  I’ve since added.  At that time, I thought the wounds had mostly become scars.  My perspective had changed to seeing myself as a survivor rather than a victim.  I had been in a healthy relationship for over a year.  I had learned how to trust and build meaningful, interdependent friendships.  At that time, my panic attacks had become few and infrequent and remained so for years.  I had learned and practiced incessantly how to define and defend boundaries, how to identify and share my emotions, and how to recognize and assert my rights.

Nonetheless, I remained afflicted with recurrent bouts of depression lacking clearly identifiable causes.  I was still easily triggered, almost always on edge, and felt as if the wall was crushing down on me anytime I tried to let my emotions through. Less than a year after finishing this letter the first time, I decided I was recovered enough and chose to not continue therapy when I relocated to another state.  Even when I did start therapy again, I glossed over my abuse history, unwilling to feel too much, to feel victimized by my own lack of emotional control.  I lost touch with myself, ignoring unpleasant feelings so I could deny them.

Recovery is a long process that requires active, committed participation.  I had quit recovery.  For a number of years, I carried on – but only by expending a tremendous amount of energy to stay “in control.”  In actuality, I was losing more and more control.  My life became increasingly consumed by obsessions and compulsions into which I channeled my anxiety.  While I fell in love and much of the time managed to relate in a healthy way, I made choices that deeply impacted my life out of fear that expressing my feelings would crush me and the relationship.  I continued to doubt my reality and my worth, but denied that unpleasant reality as well.

One night, I ignored clues of something askew.  I put myself in a vulnerable position.  I had lulled myself into believing I was so in control that when confronted with needing to be in control, I instead once again became mentally impotent.  A person in an authority position touched me in private areas, directed me to do the same, and held onto me when I tried to pull away.  Instead of summoning my strength and persisting to free myself, I shrunk in fear.  Like the nearly powerless toddler I once had been, I drifted in and out of awareness.  I didn’t want to believe what was happening, so I had tried to find humor in the situation.  Now I couldn’t laugh anymore, except cruelly at myself.  In one instant I illogically feared further harm if I resisted, while in another I felt I deserved all the pain I was enduring and more.  Someone I trusted was taking advantage of me.  I hated stupid, stupid me.

I was at last able to talk myself out of the situation, but left still locked in a behavioral fantasy of “everything is fine.”  I felt an incredible self-loathing.  All of my memories re-emerged full force.  My emotions alternately hid well-cloaked in denial and spewed out like vomit.   All the symptoms that I had been struggling with and the ones that had previously dissolved now preyed upon me endlessly.  I found no relief until I committed myself to recovery again and began the difficult process of acknowledging and accepting my reality and myself.  I’m still struggling, wanting the relief of recovery but fighting the process.

I’ve discovered more of who I am and who I want to be.  I’m developing courage, a passion of the heart.  Sometimes I despise my therapist because she makes me work so hard.  She pushes me until my own anger breaks away that unhealthy wall, but she’s there to help me rebuild – mainly by helping me grasp that I am capable.  When time stretches between sessions now, I feel the momentum of my self-discovery lapse.  I’m going to start seeing her more for the very reason that it terrifies me, but staying the same terrifies me more.  I don’t want to be a victim again and I don’t want to hurt others by my refusal to become the better me I’m meant to be.

Recovery is a choice.  I know many if not all offenders were victimized in one way or another themselves.  I forgive you.  I give you your guilt back for my peace of mind.  You hurt me and you have no excuse.  We are adults.  We each have a right and a responsibility to be the best person we can be.  I won’t blame you.  I won’t give that power away.  I am not powerless, even if I sometimes feel that way.  I will choose as many times as needed to accept MY reality, including you and my “experience.”  I will choose – as often as needed – to change, to grow into the me I’m meant to be.  I choose to believe I am worth it and to believe you are too.  When I can see me for who I am, my wounds will only be scars.  And when I can see that those scars do not define me, I will at last be the me I’m meant to be.  I am committed.  I won’t quit again.  I will succeed.