Flipping the Switch

He told me that if he hadn’t deployed that he would have put me in the hospital.  Even if I had tried to ignore the severity of what had happened before – there it was in my face – truth.  I had been running from it for months and months.  Alcohol, partying, loving someone different for the night just to walk away without an emotion.  It all started so simply.  I fell in love.

I was 17, he was 18.  He was sweet, quiet, a bit shy. I could always pick out the pain in a person and I saw his.  The problem is that he never realized that he could see mine too.  He just didn’t know how to look for it in others because his sadness consumed him.  We started dating, fell in love, and I was pregnant within just a couple of months.  The smile that he had on his face when I told him was beautiful.  And for that time we were a wonderful couple.

Things changed – we married, moved far away from everything that we once knew.  We were old enough to be in love but too young to know HOW to love.  I’d like to say the “switch” was a quick flip…that it just happened and I was so stunned that I just had to get my head together.  Nope…this was more like a dimmer switch.  Hints of things to come, not able to communicate what was happening – silly fights that should have ended but turned into much more.  Slowly degrading me, poking fun, a lack of empathy, a lack of understanding and all I wanted to do was turn the lights on.  You see we switched the lights off slowly and in the dark there would be a push, a punch in the stomach, then a slap to the face and then a quick “choke”.  With the lights off it is so much easier to hide things even from yourselves.  Then when you close your eyes you can dream about those times that you saw love and kindness and pretend that it never left.

Right before he deployed I was standing in the bathroom, looking at myself in the mirror and he came in.  I wanted to talk about the night before – the punches I had taken.  Never knocked me down – I was never bruised but I knew it would be coming.  So as I tried to “fix everything” before he was deployed he choked me just to shut me up. It wasn’t one of those that would have knocked me out…but it was just a teaser of what was to come…and luckily for me…never did.

He left – gone for a year – and for 2 weeks I cried and missed him.  Then realized how nice it was not to be made fun of, not to be laughed at as I cried, not to try and try to get him to see and feel what I felt.  By the time he came back I was a different person.  Hard, a bit cold, so cold that he at one point laid in the floor and cried and I just didn’t care.  I had escaped – one night at a time, one mistake at a time – I never thought I would be the same…and I wasn’t.

Over the years I worked on me and I worked on forgiving him.  That forgiveness was so that I wouldn’t be burdened with hatred for the rest of my life.  I still have a hope that he will change.  However even though I believe a person can change – it isn’t our responsibility to wait on that change and be their punching bag until they decide its time.  You see, switching the light on is a lot harder than switching it off for both the abused and the abuser.  Your eyes have to adjust, everything looks different than before – reality is in your face and even the covers won’t shield you from the light.  

My biggest regret is that I didn’t get out sooner and that my daughter ever had to feel like she needed to protect me.  It was and is my job to protect her.  It is our job as parents to put the well being of our child – not just physically but mentally and spiritually – first.  I also believe that we can choose our own destinies that we never have to repeat those horrible things from our past.  There is always hope and love somewhere.  This isn’t a story for you to feel sorry for anyone, to hate anyone, but one that I hope you can understand.   Abuse is never love and is never ok – ever.

I was the leading actress “Fatherless”.  I never got the abuse as bad as she did – but it could have been me.  I had to feel those old feelings again just to play the part.  I want everyone to watch this not because it is in a contest but because it is a damn good depiction of where this type of life can lead, or not, lead to. Watch as the little boy witnessed this insane abuse – and then watch him grow into a man that makes the choice of who he wants to be – a loving father.  When it comes down to it…we all have the choice to flip the switch.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vk3F6yY9EZo&w=640&h=375]

To go and vote for this movie click this link “Fatherless”.

The Snowball Effect

It starts really small…just a thought even.  Then without even realizing it gets bigger and bigger.  You keep just pushing along making it larger and larger but what you don’t realize is the huge, steep hill just below you.  Everything is so white, so big, these little pushes can’t amount to anything – but then it drops and the snowball is accumulating more speed, more snow and debris and becomes huge, almost unstoppable.  You are left at the top of the hill screaming for everyone to get out of the way and for the snowball to just stop before it crushes everything in its path…everything that you love…every piece of who you are.

That for me is the easiest and most precise description of a “break down”.  Yes there is that “trigger” that may set the whole thing in motion…but I promise..there were little steps to get there…little flakes of “crazy” that were at the time easy to ignore.  Once it all hits that final hill, and no one is there to slow it down…it rolls down faster and faster getting crazier and crazier.

You see life choices, DNA, environment all played into my breakdown.  Yes, my family has a STRONG history of mental illness – but the choices I was making – i.e. the bad ones…didn’t help.  I didn’t have a healthy way to communicate pain, disappointment, sadness.  I bottled it up…then drank the bottle.  No I wasn’t an alcoholic – that would be way to easy to explain away.  I was just miserable and lonely.  Then add some major hormonal changes and BAM! Off to the races of hating myself and being too afraid of what was happening to get help.  I was afraid to be around my daughter – the one person in my life that I loved unconditionally.  Then instead of making better choices…I did everything I could to run away from it.  Hoping that if I did something daring enough that I could “shock” it away.

I didn’t talk about what was really in my head.  It was terrifying.  Thoughts that I didn’t want – they weren’t mine.  So on the outside it just looked like I was shirking my responsibilities as a mother and “partying”.  I can’t blame them…that is what I was doing, but only because I was scared and wanted to protect my little girl from me…or whatever was happening to me.  You see I didn’t realize it was a severe form of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) or that Zoloft would make it stop.  Nope…just kept wishing the snowball would melt.  They take a REALLY long time to melt…so what you need is something to stop it in its tracks and bust it open.

So before you judge someone just realize that there may be things they are going through that you don’t know.  Does it make it right that I wasn’t there for her like I needed to be for that 2 years?  No.  But I have asked for her forgiveness and explained it to her.  I have fought to get better and have fought to help others do the same.  I can’t get back those years…but damn it…I will do everything possible to make sure that every year that I have matter.  And I am so blessed that my baby girl and I have the best relationship that a mother could ever wish for. Just keep in mind…I had to FIGHT for it.  I love you Lydia!

Be Strong.  Be Beautiful.

Angela

Chris and us

Lydia, Me, Chris, Nina and Anna

What If?

Jacques Thillet – a friend and hospice nurse – wrote this on his Facebook today.  He was generous enough to allow me to post it here on my blog.  Jacques…you are such a great person and great nurse!!

What If? 

What if you could see your souls reflection? Would your mirror image reflect the intention or would your actions paint a different picture? When a friend is need do you assist without condition, do you need reciprocity or do you require no demands? 

What if We walk our journey alone? In our daily walk would we be joined at different parts of our trek by friends, family and lovers? Would we walk in tandem or would our path be Still be our own. Our actions solely ours to own and to embrace. 

Our journey of a million steps that for all begin with a single step, the single first step. Through our adventures our first steps unsteady, unsure and wobbly, those steps then becoming natural and a reflex with very little thought. Through our infancy our gait, at first challenging, but developing quickly into trot. Through our life then becoming a Run through the moments, running through the stages, running through from childhood to adulthood until our steps become unsure in our older years. Again the steps unsure and challenging. 

What if, ? with each step and each breath we in our life’s travels, breathed with intention, we lived each moment not in a hurry but rather in blissful surrender to the moment. What if we lived with Compassion, not only for others but also for ourselves. What If we could walk with softness, not in leaps to get to our future but rather with mindful observance of all those things we do pass by? What if we could walk hand in hand in spiritual observance of the wondrous love that is life. Accepting of our differences and embracing the gifts those differences truly are. 

What If ?

Hard Balance of Guilt

My Dragon Tattoo
My Dragon Tattoo

When I was about 23 years old I got my very first tattoo.  It was during my “breakdown”.  I went to get an armband tattoo but saw this beautiful dragon intertwined with a Yin Yang.  It covers my shoulder blade and I still love it to this day. I wore a Yin Yang necklace – looked for anything that had a Yin Yang.  The dragon in Asian culture is a symbol of wisdom, peace and strength.   Both of these were the things that my soul was scratching to get back to.   The guilt and shame I felt for being so sick, guilt of all the mistakes I made and was still making,  guilt of failing myself, my daughter, my family….it buried me.  There was not enough sleep or alcohol to make the monster stop.  It was eating away at me – so my tattoo – was one of the first strikes I made against it…the war had started.

Now – most would think that I believe that guilt is unnecessary.  On the contrary – without guilt we would have no conscious (or we would never had made mistakes to feel guilty about but we know that isn’t going to happen.)  You see – we as human beings – lack but strive for balance in our life.  Unfortunately when our balance is thrown off – we overcompensate and then slide into the ditch.   Instead of turning into the skid – we jerk the wheel and either crash lightly or keep rolling down the hill.   What we fail to recognize is first what we really should feel guilty for and then what to do with it.

I feel guilty about many things I have no control over.  At the same time I have felt guilty over things I completely have control over – and rightly so.  I recently recognized with the advice of a very good friend and mentor – that I “retreat” when things go wrong.  If I can’t keep in touch with all of my many friends (that I am so blessed to have) on a “timely basis”  I feel guilty – so I either don’t call or just text (wimpy!)  If I fail at a project or a goal I feel guilty that I let my team or leadership down – I back away – I retreat (hiding!)  If I get my kids to bed too late I feel guilty – like I’m not a good mother – so I brush it off and tell myself it will never happen again (unrealistic!)  When I am under pressure financially because of things in or out of my control – I feel like I have failed my entire family and those that have helped me along the way – so I stop balancing my checkbook  for a while until forced to (denial).  All this is driven by guilt and I handle it wrong.

Things I should feel guilty for – if I lie to someone about something important, hurt someone for no reason, don’t fulfill a promise simply because I didn’t “feel” like it, or just over promise knowing I can’t meet that promise !  We all have the things we should feel guilty for and those things we shouldn’t.  But let me tell you what we should actually use our guilt for –  an alarm system.  That’s it.  Put the batteries in and when smoke happens guilt should be our alarm then we have to decide if we need to take action to call the fire department or if it was a false alarm that we could have avoided.

You see guilt when held onto is nothing but destructive and actually is the easy way out.  We think that if we feel guilty that it means we are actually a good person.  If we hold onto the guilt then we are really sorry.  I call bull shit (and I call it on myself).  We hold onto it because we don’t want to deal with what it was that we did and change ourselves so that it doesn’t happen again.  We don’t go to rehab because we just feel guilty and don’t want to talk about it.  We don’t talk to our partner about an infidelity because we feel guilty so why would they need to know?  But guess what – unending guilt makes us worse.  It is harder to DEAL with our problems than to let go of our guilt.  It is harder to FORGIVE ourselves than to believe that guilt will somehow hang on a cross for us to rid us of our sin.

Now to the guilt over the things we can’t control.  Things we shouldn’t really feel guilty for but do.  That is a “false alarm” but it is one that still has to be dealt with.  If we let something boil over on the stove  – the alarm may go off in your home.  Do you just let it continue to go off?  Do you call the fire department even though you aren’t in danger?  NO!  So to continue to feel guilty over something that we logically shouldn’t is like calling in the Army to deal with a cockroach.  We need to figure out why we really feel guilty and use that as an alarm letting us know we need  to change the situation in a way that makes sense.  I, for example, feel guilty that I can’t talk to all of my friends all the time.  I am letting them down.  Well, you know what?  My friends know I have a big family, big responsibilities and that if they needed me to be – I would be there for them and give them a kidney.  No I don’t have time to call everyone or even see everyone but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love them just the same.  If they don’t know that – then I just need to tell them – oh..just did.

I am sooo not perfect and everyday I realize something else about myself and you know today was the day to DEAL with my guilt and to stop retreating without warning.  Its hard – but I’m a warrior and so are you.  Use guilt as a temporary feeling, deal with the emotions, change, forgive yourself and others and let it go.  Guilt doesn’t make you a better person – it just makes you a person.