Category Archives: emotional strength

Take Your Time

I read a piece this morning about how ‘managing long-term metal health effects poses unique challenges in each town touched by tragedy, but experts agree that isolation is a red flag’ (credit to Terry Spencer, Kelli Kennedy and Colleen Slevin of the Associated Press). A mass shooting survivor talks about how she went to talk to therapists at her school after the shooting, but spoke to a different person each time she went (thus rehashing her traumatic experience) and how she was expected to “get better” a year after the experience.

Whenever we endure a traumatic experience, no matter what the circumstances, the details are seared into our psyche. A sound, a sight, a smell can trigger painful memories and we relive the incident all over again. I’ve had family members who have been in horrible car accidents. It doesn’t take much for them to relive the trauma.

When we break a bone, it has to be immobilized. After we experience trauma, we need to be immobilized – to stop and process what happened. When we break a bone, we need to have physical therapy so our muscles don’t atrophy and we can continue the use of the limb. After trauma, we need counseling to help us to continue processing and healing from the experience. When we break a bone, we may need crutches or a cane to help us move forward. After trauma, we need compassion from others to help us move forward.

Many uninjured victims of mass shootings end up later taking their own lives due to the pain they feel from the experience. Those people who have experienced any kind of trauma need: continuity in counseling, compassion in relationships and time to move on and find their new ‘normal’. If we have never experienced trauma, then we have no right to tell those who have experienced trauma to just get over it, or just move on. It’s not that easy.

We must allow trauma victims time to move through their experience. They will never be the same – we cannot expect them to be. I experienced PTSD after my divorce. The counselor I went to allowed me to cry and process what I had experienced. I am so thankful for her compassion. Be kind and allow victims of trauma to take their time to process the incident, even it takes years. Stay tuned . . .

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Too Much Makeup

When my daughter was growing up and experimenting with makeup, I told her, “Makeup should enhance your beauty, not be your beauty.” I work on a college campus where I see a lot of young ladies wearing a lot of makeup. Granted, sometimes there are reasons for wearing makeup – scars, port wine stains, or other disfigurations on one’s face.

Sometimes people wear makeup to hide blemishes, like acne or pock marks. Sometimes the makeup is the very reason someone wears makeup – their face is broken out due to the makeup and they need to wear makeup to hide the breakout. Actors wear makeup to get into their character, to portray and be another person.

Just like we can wear too much makeup to hide who are, we can wear too much “emotional” makeup to hide who we are and to hide the scars or blemishes on our psyche. I found myself doing that after I divorced. I am not a person who is promiscuous, yet I was that way after I divorced. I am not a person who drinks a great deal, yet I became that way after I divorced. I was hiding behind someone I wasn’t. The only reason to slather on all that emotional makeup was to hide – mainly from myself and the pain and anger I was feeling.

I eventually settled down and settled into the person I am today – without all that emotional makeup. Yes, there are scars and there are blemishes, but I don’t want to hide them anymore. I don’t want to be someone I’m not. With me, what you see is what you get. I’m not a super model, but I am comfortable in my own skin. I am grateful for people in my life like Cycle Dude, my best buddy and my sweet Christian friend.

We are beautiful as we are – even though we may not always feel like it. We don’t need to hide under layers of makeup to be someone we’re not. Know that there are people in your life who love you. My oldest grandbaby has learned to say my name, “Nonnie”. Her little voice is the sweetest music ever! I am my grandbabies’ Nonnie and I don’t need to hide that! Stay tuned. . . .

Another Season

My youngest niece will graduate from high school tomorrow. She is the last of my siblings’ children to graduate from high school. Her graduation represents the end of an era – no more nieces or nephews in K-12 school. Earlier this month, my youngest sister’s oldest son graduated from college. My little sister doesn’t look old enough to have a son that age!

Both my niece and my nephew are moving on to another season in their lives. My niece will go to college clear across the country on a diving scholarship and my nephew will move on to get a graduate degree. I am excited for the adventures that are ahead for these two young people. I can’t wait to go watch my niece dive and hear about my nephews studies.

Getting divorced and walking forward as just me was another season in my life. It was scary and I was anxious. I had a great support system to help me along the way and I had my faith ion God. Each new phase of our lives is another season. How do we handle those seasons? Do we wither and fall or do we weather and flourish? Do we succumb or do we succeed?

This may be a time-worn cliché, but I think it’s worth repeating. The mighty oak tree grows from a single small acorn. The tiny seedling grows stronger with each passing year. Soon, it is home to birds and other animals. Oak is a tough wood that has been used for centuries to make homes, furniture, and tools. As we enter new seasons in our lives, we need to look to the oak tree as an example and stand strong. Stay tuned. . . .

Dogwood Winter

Here in Mytown, we are in the throes of Dogwood Winter. Before June 1 rolls around, we’ll have also gone through Blackberry Winter and several others. What that mean is that it will start to warm up and we’ll all think winter is over. Then, we’ll get into the lower 30’s again for the nighttime lows and not make it out of the 40’s or 50’s for the daytime highs. Eventually, though, winter will finally leave and we’ll enjoy a short spring and a long, humid summer.

Healing after a divorce or other traumatic life event can be like Dogwood Winter. You may find that you are well on your healing journey and may be filling pretty good about life. Then you experience a temporary setback – finances, ex drags you into court again, etc. Life may be blooming all round you, but in your particular neck of the woods, it seems like winter will not let go. What do you do?

1. Don’t put away your winter clothes: In other words, be ready for anything. You know how when the doctor will say of someone, “They’re not out of the woods yet”? Well, you’re not out of the woods yet. Be prepared for anything.

2. Keep your eyes on the forecast: What’s the long-term outlook? Are you in a place where you need to begin to establish your own credit? Do you have a 401K and how much/how often do you contribute to it? Get help in getting a hold of your finances. The long-term forecast is that you need to be in control of your own finances.

3. Adjust your thermostat accordingly: Even though it may be cold for a few more days or weeks, it will eventually warm up and spring will really, truly be here. You may be going through a rough time at the moment. Don’t be afraid to seek out professional help. More and more companies have EAPs – Employee Assistance Plans. These plans include mental health and financial services. If your employer has an EAP, take advantage of it! Your employer pays into the services so that you can take advantage of them for free.

4. Protect your tender plants: You’ve made a great deal of headway over the past few months and years. Don’t let a temporary setback freeze out those tender advances you’ve made in your healing journey. If you don’t already, journal so that you can see where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. Journal the progress you’ve made in your healing journey. Remind yourself of where you were several weeks ago, several months ago and look where you are now.

Blackberry winter will most likely hit Mytown sometime in mid-May. We’re ready – it happens almost every year. Be prepared for setback in your healing journey. Sometimes, they are the best way to gauge where you are and how strong you’ve become. Stay tuned . . . .

Learning to Walk

I am so excited that I get to see my grandbaby over Easter. I am flying to where my son lives and will spend Easter weekend with him, my daughter-in-law and my grandbaby. My sister also lives in the area, so I will spend time with her and her family as well. The fun thing about having a grandbaby is watching her grow and watching my son and his wife marvel as she reaches her developmental milestones. One of these days, my grandbaby will learn to walk. (Not quite yet, though. She was born in at the end of 2017.)

Learning to walk is a huge milestone for a child. There is so much involved – balance, gross motor skills, muscular and skeletal development, hand-eye coordination, etc. Learning to walk is no small feet (misspelling and pun intended!). Many adults have had to learn to walk again, too. They have had to progress from that infant-like state as well. One must learn to stand before one can walk. And one must learn to walk before one can run. There’s no skipping the proper physiological progression.

Life can  be difficult after a traumatic experience – divorce, an accident, etc. It is tempting to want to curl up in a ball and hide under the covers. We all know that’s not practical. In order to move forward in our lives, to heal and become stronger, we must learn to walk again. What does that look like?

1. Don’t be afraid: When a child is afraid to walk, she will sit down and cry. A child who is eager to walk will pull herself up and walk around the coffee table, then walk as you hold her hands, then she’ll walk to you and then with you. Yes, she will fall, but she keeps trying. Fear kills dreams, adventure and even life. Fear not. Move forward.

2. Don’t look back: The past is the past for a reason – because it’s done and over with. Look forward. Set and achieve goals. Dream big dreams. Laugh at your own silly jokes. Experience the freedom that comes with moving forward.

3. Don’t dwell on it: Whatever “it” is – a divorce, an accident, a death – let it go. We will grieve for that which is lost, but the grief cannot and should not last forever. Grief, despair, depression, anger and bitterness – these are all soul-destroyers. Don’t let the negative emotions and thoughts destroy you. If you are stuck here, seek out professional help.

4. Do stop and take a deep breath: Trauma – whatever it is – saps your energy. From days spent in court to days spent in the hospital or in counseling – you feel drained. Stop. Take a deep breath and know that you will be okay. Give yourself the grace and the time to heal – to renew your energy.

5. Do have a grateful heart: There is always something to be grateful for. Your support group, the medical personnel, your friends – these are all the ‘scaffolding’, if you will, who held you together during the trauma. Be grateful for them. Be grateful for your life.

Sometimes, it hurts to walk. Your muscles may be sore. You may have a misshapen limb. You may have fallen and bruised your knee. Walking is a milestone in your healing journey. It represents months of hard work. Soon, you will be running and will never look back. Life is an adventure! Live it! Stay tuned. . . .

 

A Journey of a Thousand Miles

Before I was divorced, I remember waking up in the morning, dreading the day and thinking, “What am I going to find out about today?” It seemed that each day brought a discovery of yet another thing ex had done. I was worn out. Then came the decision to divorce. That was not a difficult decision at all. The hard part was getting ex to do anything – sign papers, pay alimony (of which he still has not completed, 7 years later), etc. I guess he thought that if he ignored me, I’d go away.

Life immediately following the divorce was almost as bad as life prior to the divorce. The worst thing was not ex (although he was pretty bad), but the emotional untangling of myself from him. I felt as if I was being ripped apart. His actions didn’t make it any easier. Many days, I just wanted to go hide under my bed until it all went away. But I couldn’t do that.

I knew that I had to keep going, to keep living my life. My daughter was still at home, so I had to keep going for her sake. One day, I read the quote that said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. I felt beat down, knowing that my journey had just begun and it was going to be much longer than a thousand miles. Yet, I knew I had to move forward. I knew I had to stand up, take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other. I could do this journey one step at a time. I didn’t need to worry about the next 999 plus steps.

My mom often told me to take it one day at a time. There were days when I had to take it one hour at a time. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when we see the big picture, when we see the long road ahead. It feels like we have to cross Death Valley in the middle of July! The journey doesn’t seem to bad if we take it one step at a time. Stay tuned. . . .

 

Early Spring

It’s been rather warm and rainy here in Mytown. That means that anything that can bloom will bloom. And that means allergies are beginning to act up! This has happened in Mytown before – early spring. We’ll have a warm February, then a cold snap comes along in March (or even a blizzard in 1993) and everything that has bloomed ends up freezing.

I’ve discovered that my post divorce life is sometimes like that. A couple of years ago, ex moved out of Mytown. I was so glad I no longer had to worry about running into him and his girlfriend when Cycle Dude and I went downtown for anything. Ah, spring! But then, I found out he had gotten remarried to a woman with a young son – five years old at the time. Drat – cold snap. I didn’t care so much except that one of my children was upset by the marriage and stepson.

We can often find ourselves in places like this – life seems to be going great and we seem to be doing well on our healing journey, but then something happens that stops us dead in our tracks. How do we react? We can be like the wisteria that freezes and looks like it has died. Or we can fight our way back and bloom again.

One of my favorite photos is of a dandelion pushing up between a crack in the sidewalk. That’s how I often felt in the years following my divorce. Ex would flaunt his girlfriend in my face. I would stand strong and show him that I really didn’t care what he did or who he hung out with.  I am my responsibility and I choose to continue to bloom, no matter what life throws at me. Bloom where you are planted, dear one – in spite of the cold snap! Stay tuned. . .