Depression, EMDR, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, Love, Onsite, Uncategorized

April Is Almost Gone

April is almost gone, just twelve days to go. Usually, grief latches on as the calendar page turns from March to April. Depression soon fills all the creases and crevices from my inside out, leaving little room to breathe. The pain of knowing what April stole from me was unbearable, no matter how healed I thought I was. The pain was still there, taunting me from a far off place.

This year, my therapist and I started using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing ) therapy. EMDR is used to help people who have been through a traumatic event reprogram their thoughts, beliefs, and reactions to the trauma. This process helps remove the block a person created in order to cope with the traumatic event. Once the block is removed, healing can begin.

I had heard about EMDR, and saw it used when I was at Onsite last year. It was just by chance that my therapist asked me if I would be open to trying it. I wasn’t sure it would work, but I decided to give it a try–I had nothing to lose.

The first session was just days before April 1st. It was perfect timing to test the results. If April could sneak past me, without depression following it, I knew it was working. The first part of the session was used to create a safe space, and a feeling that I could pull up if I needed to. Then I was to think about the two most upsetting memories or beliefs about my gram’s death. That was easy, because, even after so many years, the guilt still haunted me. My first belief was that I killed my gram. A nurse at the ER even cast the blame on me. After my gram’s surgery, I had not filled her prescription; mostly as an order by my gram who just wanted to get home. The following day, I forgot to fill them after work, and then she was on her way to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. I was told it was irresponsible to not get the prescriptions filled, and it was my fault that my gram had a heart attack. My next regret was that I did not follow the ambulance to Dartmouth when she was transferred. I wanted to, but my gram insisted that I go home to my children; who were eleven months, three and five years old. I felt guilty that I listened to her. I felt guilty that she arrived at the hospital alone. I felt guilty that I wasted minutes I could have spent with her.

As I explained these thoughts to my therapist, I told her, “Logically, I know I didn’t kill her.” But logic doesn’t always come into play when there is trauma. The doctor at her bedside after she died told me it was not my fault. And, if I had not listened to her, and followed the ambulance, she would have been angry at me. I know these things, but the guilt was overpowering.

During the session I went through that day step, by step, and pulled up memories and feelings that have been swirling inside of me for the last ten years. I cried. I smiled. I felt sensations throughout my body. I was exhausted. It felt like years of pain and memories were lifted out of me, shook around, and re-positioned. I seemed to have responded to EMDR quickly, and effectively.

The following days came and floated by. The dread that usually arrives with April was not there. I was able to think back to those last few moments with my gram without the overwhelming pain, without the longing, without the deep sadness. A few tears fell, quietly, and quickly on the ten year anniversary. But, they stopped as soon as they started. I felt comfort and even smiled at some of the thoughts that came. 

She was ready, and she knew I never would be. She picked how and where she wanted to die. She was in charge, and went peacefully. There was nothing more that I could ask for. She deserved to die with dignity. After ten years, I let her go. I let her go, and accepted that she will never leave me. Her love and guidance are with me everyday. And, for the first time, I actually believe this.

Since her death happened on Good Friday, Easter has also haunted me. This year, as we approach Good Friday tomorrow, I am free. I am free, and so is she.

Hope, Resoluntions, resolutions, Uncategorized

2018 New Years Resolution Completed!

In the last few days of 2017, I made a resolution to write one blog a week. In the years past, I never even came close…not even to writing a post a month. This was a long shot, but it was something I said I would do, so I knew had to. Fifty-two posts. I hadn’t really thought about what that meant, or what it would do to me.

I started off 2018 with lofty dreams of what this would look like. The first few posts had impressive word counts. I found myself on Sunday nights struggling to get a post done. What do I write about? I don’t feel like writing anything. I don’t feel like doing anything. Who wants to read what I am writing anyway? The struggle became increasingly consistent. By mid January, I was regretting my decision to make this my resolution.

As life kept happening, the posts took the backseat, leaving guilt in their place. After a couple of weeks of not writing, I wrote a few smaller posts to make up the difference. My goal to post weekly slowly became to write fifty-two posts throughout the year. I googled what number week are we in multiple times, then counted the posts that had been written.

The amount of stress this brought me became crippling at times. As the waves of depression took hold of me, writing became nonexistent. When depression let go long enough for me to make the count again, it held on tighter. Why did I set myself up for failure?

Failure was not an option. I said I would write fifty-two posts, so that was what I was going to do.

Depression, life, kids, work, travel, Dr. Phil, a week at trauma camp…it all took its toll. It would not get in the way of my goal. I pushed through the obstacles, and I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Some posts had more of my attention than others, some longer than others, but they all came from my heart. My goal to do better–to be better outweighed everything else.

What I learned from this was:

  1. The more posts, the more followers
  2. Consistent writing brings more views

3. Hard work and dedication pays off

4. Nothing is able to keep me from reaching my goals and dreams.

If I take nothing else away from this past year, number 4 is something I will do my best to remember. We must all remember, dreams are worth reaching for. They may not always look the way you imagine, but as long as you try, you are winning.

Make the most of 2019. You are the only one that can. 

Christmas, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, Love, Uncategorized

Christmas Memories Between Mother and Daughter

In 2011, five years before my mom died, she wrote on my Facebook wall her Christmas memories. I don’t remember what inspired her to do this, but I am grateful to have this. It helps me remember the good times, and gives me insight into what was in her heart. We have a lot of similar memories…but that is what makes us family.

This is a memory of tradition of my childhood Christmas, around age ten. I am leaving out the bad stuff, it isn’t welcome here. After Thanksgiving and my birthday the local stores would deck out their windows, the lighted trees would bedeck the light poles and the crown of lights all of blue. 
Our front porch had a five foot electric candle on both sides of the door. The door was decked out with a huge wreath. 
Out front atop the snow was a lighted Santa riding in his sleigh with his reindeer. The side porch….which everyone used had a medium sized wreath and a tree decked out with lights, honking big lights, no mini lights because they were not sold yet.
In the parlor of the house was a sixteen-foot tree somebody had set up, and my Dad put the lights on it. As a family we decorated the tree with mostly hand-blown ornaments, many given to the family by friends. The lights were three inches across, and covered with colored plastic granules.
Tinsel was applied and I got the job of watering the tree.
Mom and Dad didn’t mind if we got up about an hour before them to open our stockings and this Christmas (I was about ten years old) I went in to my brother’s room and jumped on his bed to wake him up. He wasn’t keen to wake up, so I jumped and bounced, and made a nuisance of myself until he woke up.
I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but I do remember going back to my own bedroom and getting back into bed until 9am until somebody came to get me out of bed.
Our stockings were red felt with white trim and hung up on the fireplace (the fire wasn’t lit or Santa would have been scorched!). I could always count on a navel orange from my grandmother, and a book with “Lifesavers” candy in! The rest of the presents varied, but of course, there were never enough. I was also allowed to pick out one present to open before our grandparents and Aunt Marge arrived for Christmas Dinner and to open the rest of our presents.
Before the relatives got here we always had a good breakfast and got dressed. When Grampy, Granny and Aunt Marge came I got hugged and kissed way too much! They brought their presents into the parlor and placed them around the tree then Grampy would go off with my father and the women would try to help my Mom (which made her crazy) and Gram always made the gravy. She was always the last to sit down to dinner (and the last one to get up from the table). She liked to talk and Grampy would yell “Shut UP Avis!” but she never seemed to hear him.
We opened presents, except for my grandfather who said he wanted to keep his for later. Go figure!
After opening the presents we sat down to the table in the dining room and we always had cranberry juice with lemon sherbet to drink after Grace.
Then my father would cut the turkey and people would pass their plates to him and he would put the meat on, then the rest of the food would be passed around. No-one got up until everyone was more-or-less done, then Gram and Aunt Marge and my mother would take care of the left overs, clean the kitchen and do the dishes (mostly loading up the dishwasher).
Dad and Grampy kind of hung out and then as the sun began to set my grandparents and Aunt Marge would set off back to my grandparents house and we would pick up the parlor. By now we had a fire, so we threw the paper in the fireplace, gathered up our presents and took them happily to our rooms.”

A few days later, I responded with my memories of Christmas with her.

My Christmas memories are almost like the ones you posted. I remember going to bed and listening as you did your last minute things while I peered out the window hoping that I would hear or see Santa. I would run back to bed when I heard you on your way to bed and stayed there until I couldn’t stand it any longer. I don’t remember seeping….but when I knew that it was close to morning I would wake Peter up and beg him to look down stairs with me…he usually would give in after a while but we got sent back to bed until a normal time. When it was late enough to wake up (6am rings a bell), we would all go downstairs and open our stockings. I don’t remember breakfast, but I remember that you let us each open one gift before we went to Bill’s family’s and had Christmas there. Then we would go home and wait for Gram to come and open presents with her and have our dinner with her. I have lots of different memories from all of the places we lived, but these are the main ones. I remember the orange and thinking “what that heck is this,” and I also remember the Lifesaver books.
I remember the Christmas in Waterford where it was thundering and lightening and being scared for Santa that he might not be safe out delivering his gifts. As a kid it was awful waiting for Gram to come, but I am glad that we did because it was more than worth it to share it with her. Thank you for all that you did for us over the years and giving us things that were special and for giving us memories to keep. I do not remember any of the gifts (except for a few…TV with no remote!, Pamela doll, and the Bulls jacket) but that shows me that the gifts are not what the kids will remember, it is the time that we share together as a family.”

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmasperhapsmeans a little bit more.”

~Dr. Seuss

Hold your memories close, some day, they will be the only thing you have left.

Take time to love yourself in the days to come. Be easy on yourself. There is no such thing as perfect. Let go of that desire, and just be.

Be present.

Be free.

Be you.

And remember, you are amazing.

Hope, Love, Uncategorized

The Year That Made Me A Believer

Five years ago, I was a newly single mom of three.  A five, eight and ten year old depended on me for everything. This was not something new, but the circumstances had changed. When I lost my childcare, I also lost my job. In between the fear that I was going to be murdered by my ex-husband, and trying to find enough money to just feed my children, I was blessed to find a job that fit into my children’s schedules. 

The job was part-time, and I had full-time bills. Each week I was a little more behind, but I figured out how to make it work. Until Christmas came. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t have time to focus on it, or what it meant. There was no way I had any extra money to even buy one gift. My kids had already lost so much with the divorce and fire a couple years before, I could not take Santa away from them. I didn’t know what I was going to do. 

The stress of the whole situation ate at me. I felt like a failure, and times like this was why I had stayed in a toxic, abusive relationship for so long. I stayed awake nights as I thought about how I could make it work. I did not have anyone in my life that had money to help. I had already sold my gram’s coin collection to my brother, so I could buy groceries and gas until my first pay check came in.

That was when it hit me. I might not have had anything of extreme value, but I had gathered enough stuff after the fire, to replace my belongings, that were worth something. I got out of bed, and started going through my things. All my hopes and dreams of free time, and hobbies turned into dollar sings. I took pictures of the items and placed them on Facebook marketplaces, and Craigslist. 

Soon, I was getting emails, and things started selling. As my pockets became full with money, I was able to fill stockings. That was one of my biggest concerns. I didn’t want to be the reason the magic of Christmas was stolen from my children. After I had enough money to ensure they were full, I started my search for the perfect gift from Santa. One by one, I was able to find a gift suitable for each child. Some of my shopping took place at thrift stores, to make the money last longer. 

A friend knew of my struggles, and placed us on the list for the Santa’s fund. This was not something I had ever had to do before, and I hated taking the help, but I had to. Not for me, but for them. A neighbor was the one to deliver it, and as he handed me the basket, shame heated my body. This was not the life I had planned for my children. 

The ladies I worked with handed me a card before we closed for the Holidays. Inside the card was about $200. I could not keep the tears inside. This gesture of kindness and love meant more than I could express. A little while later, I received a call from my children’s school. When I arrived there I was taken into the principal’s office and handed a card and a gift. The principal told me, each year the teachers put money together and give it to a deserving family. 

When did we become a deserving family? I could not stop the shame from coming over me. This was not the life I wanted for my children, but neither was living in abuse and turmoil. This was going to be the price of our freedom and safety. 

Inside the card was a gift certificate to Walmart. I don’t remember how much it was, but I know it was enough to fill in some gifts, and make sure the kids had the warm clothes they needed for winter. Everything was falling into place, and I realized, there was a Santa Claus after all.  On Christmas Eve, I helped Santa put things into place, filled the stockings, and waited until morning for the kids to wake up. The magic in their hearts poured out through their eyes, when they saw that Santa had come. 

Their excitement, and the feeling of community that this situation had brought to us made me believe. It made me believe in better things. It made me believe there is always a way. It made me believe the impossible is always possible. It made me believe in love, and magic. It helped me see that Santa is never far away. 

When things get hard, remember to believe. In better days. In love. In yourself. And of course, Santa. 

Depression, Hope, poetry, Uncategorized

Falling Down

Sometimes I fall down, inside of myself.

Unable to get up, or out of the way.

I don’t know what I will trip on,

or what will cause the fall.

But I know I will land, in a hard, loud thump.

My body rejects any efforts of comfort,

and pushes away love and concern.

I am not sure what makes the light fade away,

and allows the darkness to creep in.

I know the pain of trying all too well.

The empty spaces growing,

while the numbness tingles places unknown.

Staying down, too long is not an option.

Pushing my way through the darkness, 

helps me live again.

Each fall is followed by my rise,

through the darkness, into the light.

With each fall,

I know one thing,

Nothing remains the same.

Grief and Loss, Hope, Love, mental illness, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday, Dad

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It has been so long since my dad died, that I do not remember ever celebrating his birthday. I do not remember sitting around the table eating a birthday meal, watching him open his gifts, or blowing out his candles. I do not remember much of anything about him.

I do not remember his smell, or his voice. I do not remember his touch –from love or abuse. I do not remember so many pieces of him.

I have one photo of him that was damaged in the house fire. I have nothing else left of him, or his. In his thirty-seven years, there is barely anything left behind to prove his existence.

Except for me, and now my children, who are his grandchildren.

The memories I do have of the short time I was able to spend with him are haunted by abuse, and regret. I witnessed him hurt my mom, and brother, and experienced his abuse first hand. I also have memories of his kindness and love toward others in need.

I remember how intelligent he was, and how he could always come out ahead. He had survival skills like no one I have ever seen before –I like to think that is where I learned to survive through the extremes of abuse I experienced. He was a pro at getting something for nothing.

He was someone you did not mess with, but also someone you went to for help. He had a kind heart, and a lot of love to give. What I remember most is how much he wanted to be loved, and accepted.

He had Paranoid Schizophrenia, and for the longest time I was confused as to who he was. I confused his illness with him, which led to fear. When I was able to separate the two, I was able to see him for who he was. I was able to see all the good he had to offer, and I was able to understand the why behind the bad.

I wish I had more time to get to know my dad. I wish that his life could have been easier for him, and I wish he could have found the true love he had been searching for. I know there was a reason he was my dad, and I am grateful for the lessons I was able to learn from him.

Loving him taught me that people are more than a diagnosis. There are reasons behind many of the things people do. He taught me tolerance, strength and perseverance.

In his memory, I ask that you find someone in need of some extra love, and love them. Talk to them. Learn from them. Give people the gift of your time.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

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Domestic Violence, healing, Hope, Uncategorized

The Well Read New Englander: The Monster That Ate My Mommy By Jessica Aiken-Hall

Source: The Well Read New Englander: The Monster That Ate My Mommy By Jessica Aiken-Hall 

Monster Ate Mommy_Front Cover_090217

 

Review by Carla Charter

What I first noticed about this book was the main character, Jessica.  She struck me as a Phoenix. Despite the horrific physical, emotional, and sexual abuse she survived as a child, with each negative she still rose again, like the fabled bird determined to rise above her circumstances.

An important theme of the book which is highlighted again and again is the importance of having an anchor. A family member, a grandmother, a friend, who will stand up and say no more. Even if the abuse continues despite the pleas and the lies of survival, these anchors provided a respite of sanity, when the childhood world around was nothing but chaos for her.

The repercussions of Jessica’s childhood abuse can be seen clearly as she grows, feeling unloved and unwelcome, she enters her adult world looking for the love she never received, through whomever will give it. Thus her abusive childhood ripples and transforms into abusive relationships and eventually even affects her children.

Still despite it all, despite her mother’s drinking and depression, despite her horrific life of abuse and neglect she still finds her way to peace and a resolution with her mother and thus becoming a shining beacon to survival.   Her life while fractured by others, in the end Jessica herself builds into a beautiful mosaic of hope for the future.

The book is a must read for those looking to understand the complexities of abuse and the long-term effects abuse can have.

For anyone who may leaving or reporting abuse, the following agencies may be able to help

Domestic Violence Hotline

www.thehotline.org

1-800-799-7233

Child Abuse Hotline

1-800-4-A-CHILD

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

1-800-950-NAMI (6264)