Poetry: Sole Survivor

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For my own poor health
the truth must be told –
my mother, I remember,
was heaviest, the faintest –
sinking the small pulse
of life within me.

I later roused myself –
dreaming over the cool
night air in the suburbs.

I turned again to
my mother, my sister –
but I was the sole
survivor
of the family.

(Poetry by Maranda Russell)

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Poetry: Unspeakable Childhood

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‘Twas horrible to think
that she suffered
an unspeakable childhood.

Every day they reopened
the contentions –
old ones
that she could not
tear away.

Mischief and dread
became more likely
than right and wrong –
causing heads to hit
hard against circumstances
almost as good
as she once was.

(Blackout poetry created from a page of “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens)

Christmas and Family Forgiveness

Yesterday my husband and I traveled over to Indiana to meet my mom and her husband for Christmas dinner. We all decided to meet at a truckstop that is about halfway between us, so that neither of us would have to cook, clean up, or drive too far:

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I genuinely had a good time and am glad I’ve been able to spend more time with them recently. Those of you who have followed my blog for a while, may remember that there has been a lot of water under the bridge between my mother and myself over things that happened when I was growing up. She made some huge mistakes, and as is often the case, my sister and I had to pay for many of those choices just as much as she did…maybe more in some cases.

She genuinely seems to be regretful and is trying to make things better between us, so although I am always going to be cautious and protective of myself, it feels good to be able to embrace forgiveness for my own peace of mind and well-being. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what we went through was ok, or that the damage wasn’t done, but it does mean that it doesn’t have control of my life, my mind, or my heart anymore. I can move on.

I am somewhat a believer in the saying “When we know better, we do better”. Some of us take a long, long time to “know better”, but healing and wisdom are ours once we finally do face the truth.

 

Reincarnation: Remembering Past Lives?

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I want to start this post by saying I am not implying that the experiences I will reveal prove that past lives are a thing or that these were definitely my past lives, however, they were interesting experiences and I thought you guys might enjoy reading about them. I do not ascribe to any particular religion or ideology, although I do tend to favor new age spirituality concepts over religious dogma. Reincarnation makes sense to me in many ways, so I do consider it a possibility and enjoy reading about it.

I have had two very emotional, realistic dreams that made me wonder if they may be tied to my past lives. In both dreams, I think the strangest thing was that I was in an entirely different time and place, surrounded by people I do not recognize from this life, but I felt that I intimately knew these people and places, just like I do my own family and home now.

In the first dream, I was in a Celtic land, it felt medieval or earlier to me, although I don’t know the exact era. I was in a wealthy family, maybe even connected to royalty somehow. The dream wasn’t particularly exciting that I remember, just kind of mundane day to day life as a wealthy young lady, but what stood out to me was how emotionally connected I felt to the dream and how deeply I felt connected to people I do not recognize at all from this lifetime. I do have Celtic family roots and have always felt drawn to that culture, but perhaps there is even more to my love for that era than I thought…

In the second dream, I was a young man (really weird for me to dream that!) and I was fighting on a battlefield. I’m not a war historian by any means, but it felt like it was around WW1 from the uniforms and what I saw on the battlefield (I’m not sure what country I was from, but it felt like I was on the side of the allies). I ended up dying in the dream, which is always an interesting experience. I remember most the feeling of camaraderie and deep love I felt towards my “brothers” in uniform. I was almost glad to die if it meant maybe my friends could live. It was a sad and somewhat scary dream, but also full of love and friendship.

I also had one other experience that wasn’t a dream but was very curious. I was meditating, definitely not asleep, when I was suddenly in a foreign but very familiar place. I was in the desert, in what looked and felt to me like ancient Egypt. I saw a young girl climbing a large sand dune and instantly knew that I was that girl, and yet, I was watching events from a distance, outside of her body.

Suddenly, a gang of what I felt were robbers and criminals appeared. This group assaulted the girl and did horrible things to her (I’m sure you can imagine). The odd thing was that even though I felt that girl had been me, I wasn’t emotionally reactive to what I was seeing, at least not in the way you would expect. I didn’t feel fear, anger, trauma, or anything like that, I just felt deep sadness for all involved, both the poor, innocent girl and the deeply misguided men. I actually felt compassion towards these men who had abused me.

I want to say that this meditative experience was only the second time I have ever had something like that happen while meditating. The other time that I suddenly found myself somewhere else, it was simply a field of wildflowers I found myself transported to. I don’t know what the heck that was about lol, but it was a beautiful place.

I hope you enjoyed reading about these odd dreams and visions. If you enjoy this type of stuff, let me know. There are plenty of other odd “woo woo” type of experiences I can share if you are interested!

Can Abusers Ever Be Reformed?

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This is a question I struggle with myself on a regular basis. Can abusers really ever change or is it just theater to try to pull you back in so they can mistreat you again? Should you ever let a prior abuser back into your life if they seem to have changed for the good?

None of these are easy questions and there are certainly many contributing factors that should be considered as well. Perhaps abusers who once had drug or alcohol addictions and have now gotten clean for a significant period of time will have changed enough to give them a second chance.

What about those who lived for years with undiagnosed, untreated mental illness and finally get the help they need? How much of the abuse was who they truly were and how much was the influence of the untreated mental illness? This scenario is one I personally have experienced to some extent with my own family. How much responsibility should they hold for the abuse, especially any times they may have actually dipped into psychosis?

I know many abusers find religion at some point in their lives and claim to have been completely changed. I must admit I am suspicious of this claim. Perhaps religion truly does change the hearts of some, but much of my personal experience has taught me that if someone is a bad person before they find religion, they will likely be a bad person after they find it. Superficialities may change, but does their behavior/attitude/actions?

Unfortunately, I have no real answers to the question of whether abusers can ever change, but I hope that they can. I would warn everyone to be cautious in extending an olive branch to anyone who has deliberately hurt you again and again, but I do understand the desire to believe in the power of change.

 

Why Did I Watch the Abuse?

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Last night I was thinking about my history of abuse and how I grew up seeing so much of it. As far as physical abuse goes, I did endure some growing up, but it was much more common for me to see someone else physically abused in my family. There was a “scapegoat” in our family who seemed to be the target of much of the worst of the abuse.

Thinking back, I remember how when this abuse would happen, I would scuttle into the corner or hide in a nearby alcove, but I never tried to actually leave the room. Common sense would seem to dictate that when violence is happening, you would want to get as far away from it as you can, but I didn’t even try.

I questioned myself last night why this was so. I came up with several possibilities. First, perhaps I was afraid to leave the room because I thought it would draw further attention to me. My main goal when violence would erupt was to try to become invisible. Sometimes the rage would boil over and the physical and verbal abuse would extend to me if I happened to get caught in the crossfire, so I naturally tried to fade into the shadows. Sometimes, early on, I would try to distract and please the abuser in hopes of calming them down, but that never really worked.

Another reason I think I stayed to watch was because deep down I feared for the safety of the scapegoat and I wanted to make sure they didn’t die. There may have been some morbid curiosity tossed in there too, the way that human nature makes us crane our necks to see what happened when driving by a car crash.

Lastly, I think I stayed and risked my own safety because I felt responsible for trying to make peace after the explosion. I hated to see the division in my family and the anger and pain created by these confrontations. After the worst of it was over, I would often go to the victim and try to comfort them, and then I would even go to the abuser and try to comfort them. I would try to mend the rift between them, although obviously looking back with adult eyes, I see the utter futility of my efforts and sometimes feel anger that I felt responsible to hold the family together in the first place, as I was so little at the time (elementary school age).

Depression and Gun Ownership

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For at least a year or two now, I have been debating with my husband whether we should get a handgun for home protection. You see, I have an intense fear of home invasions. I often have nightmares about it. I think part of it may stem from being robbed at gunpoint when I was 17 years old. Or maybe some of it comes from living in several areas over my lifetime that were crime ridden in one way or another. A history of physical abuse and c-ptsd certainly doesn’t help either.

That is why I believe that I might feel a little more safe with a handgun in the house (most likely locked up in a safe). My husband worries about keeping a loaded gun in the house though because of my intense periods of depression. I have bipolar type 2, and while I have never had a psychotic episode, have never tried to commit suicide, and do not think I am generally a danger to myself, my husband has seen me go through some extreme emotional lows that worried him. He fears that if we had a loaded gun in the house there is always the possibility that in a moment of intense depression I might make a rash decision.

I am thinking that perhaps I should discuss the possibility with my therapist and psychiatrist. I know both of them have said they do not think I would ever actually commit suicide. Personally, I agree that I am very unlikely to commit suicide unless my husband died and I was somehow left all alone without any help in the world. I do not think I could kill myself unless the prospect of living genuinely became worse than death. I also would not want to cause anyone who cares about me pain, as I know first hand what it is like to lose someone close to suicide.

Thoughts on Growing Up With Autism

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This post will contain a collection of short journal entries I wrote recently about what it was like emotionally to grow up with autism. These thoughts specifically dealt with bullying and (for me) the most confusing time of adolescence, which was middle school and the beginning of high school. By the last couple years of high school I had figured some things out and learned how to “pretend” to fit in a bit better, even though deep down I still felt like an oddball.

Here goes:

I hated always being the butt of the joke – even among friends. I was naive. I was gullible. I was trusting. Too many times I was set up for humiliation or embarrassment.

In an effort to avoid this embarrassment, I quit trusting anyone. I quit taking anyone at their word. I became suspicious. I struggled to identify sarcasm, so I started assuming ALL was sarcasm unless I knew someone well enough to tell the difference. 

Due to this struggle with recognizing sarcasm, how many “mean” comments did I take to heart that were meant in jest? How many cruel words that cut me to the core, were never even meant to be cruel? When boys would say they liked me and I would take it as them mocking me and choose to ignore them or laugh at their “joke”, did I instead end up hurting their feelings in an effort to save my own? 

Bullied for my weight during middle school, accused of having a lack of “feeling” or frustrating others who thought I didn’t care about anything because I suffered from selective mutism under stress, constantly feeling reminded that I wasn’t “feminine” enough – this was much of my teenage experience.  

The common thread throughout was that I unknowingly made myself a target for abuse. The way I dressed. The way I talked. The way I acted. I was so desperate for acceptance and approval, but I reached for them in ways that were socially unacceptable to those around me and ended up only painting the bulls-eye larger on myself.