5 Things We’ve Learned in the last 4 months: Jumping back in

So the last 4 months have been complete radio silence. We go through those cycles, unfortunately. Somewhere along the line one of us decides that we’re wasting everyone’s time by writing things they read when they have much better things to do. Isn’t that nice of us, to decide that for people we mostly don’t know? This, friends, is called either denial or control issues, not sure which, possibly both.

On that note, let’s jump into 5 things we’ve learned during our 4 months of silence.

  1. Our feelings are always valid, but often untrue.    This was a hard one to realize. Did you guys know that you can feel worthless and unwanted and have that be completely not true? Well, you can. And it’s most often not true. This doesn’t make the feelings invalid. On the contrary, it means you have some soul searching to do in order to root out the cause of the feelings, or you need sleep, food, or water. Lack of those three things can cause intense emotional instability that you may not even realize is irrational or unstable.
  2. A diverse support system is entirely necessary. When we first began our healing journey we surrounded ourselves with friends, mostly online only, who thought and acted pretty much like we did. When we were upset about something they were quick to tell us how awesome we were and how awful whatever we were upset about was. We had our own cheerleaders. Guess what? That wasn’t helpful to healing. Sure, it was helpful sometimes to have people validate us and be there with compassion and kindness, but it didn’t teach us anything about diversity, overcoming conflict, or learning to change things we don’t necessarily like about ourselves. It inadvertently told us we were fine the way we were, no growth was required. Fast forward to us taking our Peer Support training and then add to that Celebrate Recovery and finally listening to Mom and we learned that our healing comes best from having friends who aren’t afraid to say, “Hold up, that’s not cool”. We’ve learned how to surround ourselves with people who aren’t going to tell us what we want to hear all the time.
  3. It is entirely our responsibility to meet our needs.  It’s no one else’s job to chase us to eat right, exercise, find out if we are okay, sooth or calm us, or take our medication, manage our diabetes, or build relationships with us. It is our job to ask for what we need, as for help, and follow through on what we’re given. It’s up to us to reach out, make choices, and learn from our mistakes. Equally so, it is not our responsibility to do these things for others, but we can be pretty good at supporting others if they ask.
  4. Change is necessary for growth.   Sometimes we have to take a step back to things we didn’t want to, couldn’t , refused to do in the past. When we re-evaluate these things, we realize there may be some real benefits to trying them. This could be new foods (orange salad, anyone?), new behaviors, new routines, or even new options for life in general. None of this is bad. As a matter of fact, it’s necessary. We learn by trying. Which leads to number 5.
  5. Trying and making mistakes is not a bad thing. For the longest time we have often refused to try things for fear of failing, getting it wrong, or making mistakes. We have lost so many opportunities because of this. We are now willing to try most things, at least once. We’re running visuals at CR and doing Just Dance with the kids., and knitting. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn and that is exciting.

Life is exciting. Growth is fun, and looking back on where you were even 4 months ago is huge. Looking back 4 years ago is sobering. We will continue this path and also come up with some fun blogs because we want to share our learning journey with the world, and have something to look back on for ourselves.

  • Kaysie
Not mine, we found it online somewhere. Facebook I think.
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bananas

Tackling Learned Helplessness – With Bananas

bananas

Yes, you read that right. With bananas.

Bananas are okay. I wouldn’t call them my favorite fruit or anything, but I like them alright. I will eat them if they are available without a problem. We usually have bananas in the house. For some reason, we didn’t get them all eaten this week and several were over-ripe to the point that no one would even try to eat them.

This was a problem. No one here knew how to, or cared to, make banana bread and Mama is out of state. So what now? Just throw them away? I thought about it. It would have been the easiest step to take but I decided to try something. I’m here alone with a kid who’s recovering from being sick and 3 dogs so why not? If it came out awful I could still throw it away.

I googled and found a recipe that looked simple enough and off I went. I had no one to ask questions of, no one to tell me I was doing it wrong, no one to assure me I was doing it right. I just did it. I realized that the risk of failure wasn’t the end of the world. That I would learn what not to do next time. I remembered what Rachel says a lot, there’s no learning without being uncomfortable. We can’t learn or grow confidence without risking a failure.

Is my banana bread perfect? Nope. It’s a bit mushy from too many bananas I think, but it’s good because it’s mine and I did it and no one had to hold my hand. It’s perfect because we are growing. It’s perfect because it’s still edible. Next time will be better, maybe.

A Side of Learned Helplessness?

For so much of our “adult” life, we were constantly told we couldn’t do these things. We had to ask for step by step instructions for everything and weren’t allowed to deviate from those instructions. Any failures we had were proof to our husband that we needed to follow his rules all the time. We lost any sense of independence. We had started to cook and bake before we met him, but forgot all of it during that marriage. One of Mama’s biggest frustrations with us is our learned helplessness.

Learned helpless is a serious pain in the butt. It slows down your progress in a way no one sees coming. Most of us battling this don’t see it in ourselves. We think we are behaving in a way that ensures no one gets mad. It’s true that when we are asking a thousand questions about how to do something we are usually looking for the way the other person wants it done so we don’t make them mad. Not following instructions exactly leads to trouble. Avoiding trouble is what we’ve tried to do most of our life. I would think to some extent that’s true of everyone.

For those of us with learned helplessness, we are taking it too far. We aren’t giving ourselves a chance to figure it out. Questions are okay. Clarifying is fine. Trying it ourselves without someone else close by is priceless. Terrifying but priceless. The more we do and succeed at, the more confidence we will build.

Success!

Banana bread was a success for us. Next time we decide to try something new we will remember the banana bread and remember that success. There will be a next time and it will be sooner rather than later because building successes feels good.

Reclaiming life is fun.

How are you reclaiming your life?

 

 

Learned

10 Things We Learned This Week

Learned

1.) Red Robin will soon be going strawless, as was proclaimed by a large button pin on our server’s chest yesterday. We will have to bring our own straws if we intend to use a straw at Red Robin. Our server said he has friends who carry around metal straws when they go out to eat so they always have a straw. I’m not quite sure what I think of this yet, but I do know it’s something we learned.

2.) Our fitness classes make us very sore. Hey, its proof they are working, right? It’s not a complaint but if we stay in one spot too long we can’t move easily. Encouragement to get up and move more often? Fitness is becoming a lifestyle. If only we could move our food choices to the better range more often haha.

3.) Brisk Green Tea is really good. Especially with citrus or peach. It’s a bit carb heavy, but it’s still really good and isn’t green tea supposed to be good for metabolism? It’s good, and I’m going to say it’s healthy. Maybe we will keep it as an every-so-often thing. Walmart makes a carb and sugar-free water green tea and mango peach water flavor. It’s so yummy.

4.) Sometimes what looks like rain is really not raining. It’s like a mist, a heavy fogy weirdness that comes and goes and looks like something out of a horror movie.

5.) Dentists are weird here in Washington. We had to wait 5 weeks to see a dentist that could handle a crown issue and when we got there all he could do was extract the tooth. So why couldn’t another dentist do that sooner?

6.) Sometimes people need time to process and think about things. Other people’s actions and reactions are their concern. It’s up to us to regulate our own actions and reactions and to love ourselves and others through their own struggle. It is not up to us to fix someone else or to move our boundaries to accommodate someone else.

7.)  Our emotional support dog is a complete moron at times, and we love that about him. He’s goofy, funny, sweet, and a cuddler. He’s neurotic and afraid of the strangest things, but we are pretty sure that if we were in trouble he’d protect us. We spend most of our time emotionally supporting him haha.

8.) Having a tooth extracted sucks a lot. The pain is stupid. The hole where the tooth was is stupid. The fact that it was necessary is stupid. And having it hurt 3 days later is stupid. It’s all just plain stupid.

9.) Writing here has a profound effect on our mood and how we process our life. Not writing is harmful to our emotional state and our processing ability. Not sharing on our blog takes away our ability to help people.

10.) Boundaries must reasonably set and respected all the time. Boundaries keep you safe and healthy. There will never be another time in our life where a person gets to railroad us and run all over our boundaries. This is our time to shine.

 

 

emotions

Feeling Feelings: Allowing the Emotions

emotions

Feeling feelings is not always fun or easy. Trust me, this much I know well. It’s so much easier in the short run to stuff them, ignore them, dissociate away from them. It’s easier to deny the feelings and pretend we’ve processed them. It’s something we do very well. And something that Mama never fails to catch on to.

Yesterday was the anniversary of our marriage. It would have been 15 years had he still been alive and we had still been with him. For the bulk of the day, we felt unsettled and out of sorts. Focusing was hard and admitting we were struggling was nearly impossible. We did manage to admit it and reach out to two people outside of our home. Thank God, literally, for our accountability partner and our sponsor. Cadie talked about it a little with Mom, and we were able to admit later to Dad that it was an emotional day.

But in almost all of those cases, we brushed off just how hard. Not because we didn’t trust them, but because we weren’t allowing ourselves to actually feel it. We just let the sadness touch us a small bit and siphoned off the rest.  We woke up this morning feeling better, but also realizing what we did yesterday. We opted to not feel it. We opted to not be a bother, or a distraction, from other people’s day and tasks. We opted to shut it off.

The healing isn’t going to happen until we start dealing with the pain. More than that, however, we need to start feeling all of our emotions. Feeling them, identifying them, and accepting them. We’ve been through enough therapy, and we have a degree in psychology, so we know that we have to do these things in order to heal. We also know that we have decades of pushing the emotions to the side.

In order to do these things, you have to be able to identify your emotions and learn to let them out. That’s a bit hard to do when you aren’t fully aware of blocking them. I think, in our case, we need Jenna to help point out when we are blocking them. We also have to put the effort into being mindful. Each of us has a responsibility to do that. We have to be aware of ourselves and each other, and we need to focus less on being in the way of other people.

We’re going to have to work on being as kind to ourselves and each other, as we are to others outside of the system. I’m fairly certain that most people need to work on being as kind to themselves as they are to others. Maybe that is the starting point for feeling emotions.

What can you do to be more aware of your emotions?

Self-care

5 Ideas for Good Self-Care

Self-care

When thinking about self-care it seems like the options are endless. There are so many sites talking about self-care and listing things in a very rushed way. I think we’ve all seen lists of 50+ things you can do for self-care. That’s not entirely what I want to discuss here. We, all of Brilliant Chaos, write this page for ourselves as much as, if not more than, for others. This list of 5 ideas for self-care is going to serve as a reminder to us and hopefully, help out others. Please be in touch with yourself so you know what will help and what can harm you.

Get Out of Bed and Shower

So for some, this may seem like two items. For others, this doesn’t look like self-care at all. I can assure you that almost nothing feels as good as being clean and washing away the grime. Showers are also a symbolic thing for us because they wash away the negative feelings we have about ourselves and our body. We always leave a shower feeling safer, more centered, and happier. When we are feeling really bad, we often forget to take a shower. Stinky and smelly do not make us happy.

Easy Resistance Exercises

We all enjoy exercise. For the last 4 months, we have been doing Zumba and/or Pilates (but mostly Zumba until this week) regularly. We always feel better after working out. At home, we have light hand weights and we can even use canned food if we need some weights. Just a few minutes of working our muscles helps a lot and it helps regulate our blood sugar too!

Craft

This one can be tough to do when we feel awful. It’s hard to bring yourself to get the stuff out and actually come up with something creative. It’s a struggle but it’s a struggle that helps in the end. When we accomplish something, it feels good. Yarn is our therapy a lot of times and lately cross-stitching. We haven’t done much scrapbooking or card making in a while but that always helps too. We need more stamps.

Go Outside

Being outside helps raise the mood. The sun, even the rain for us, the breeze, it all helps. With or without the dogs, being outside makes a huge difference in how we feel after a while. A walk gets the body moving and being outside just feels good sometimes. Get in the dirt, weed something, plant something, help make something grow. Being dirty is tough but you can follow it up with a shower.

Read a Book

I’m not kidding when I say we have a library in our house, not including the Nook. Grab a book, any book. Read a kid’s book. Read anything. It will help separate yourself from them the emotions. Good books take you away from yourself and immerse you in a new world. Pick up the bible and read stories in there. I thought the story of Jacob and Esau was really captivating. I didn’t expect the bible to have so many interesting stories and thought-provoking situations in it.  Not really sure what I expected there, to be honest.

There you go. A few realistic and important self-care steps.

proud

Proud, Finally.

proud

It’s been a long time since we, any of us, could say that there was any reason to keep going in life. Just as short as three years ago we knew we were only alive to keep the kids safe. We had no purpose at all, and no reason to exist beyond the kids.

While to some extent that’s still true, our purpose now goes far beyond just keeping the treasures alive. Growing in our faith, growing with God, we are understanding that His purpose for us is far more than just the kids. The kids were absolutely part of our purpose, there’s no denying that fact. They are amazing kids who will one day do incredible things. They have purposes of their own.

Our purpose is not going to be found dwelling on our inequities. It’s not going to be found living in the shadows of our past and in the judgments of others. Our purpose is coming from God. We will follow His path for us and do the work He wants from us. It’s not something we can do alone, but with Him, we will be successful.

Honestly, I didn’t expect us to find any real relationship with God. I was skeptical and thought it was simply a case of us trying to fit in somewhere, again. (Notice the again? We have a habit of trying to modify ourselves and each other in order to fit in.) However, it’s been about five months and our relationship with God is getting stronger. Our praying is more consistent, and almost always mostly done when we are alone.  It’s not something we do for show or in a way that could gain us any friends. It’s simply what speaks to our soul.

Having only a few of us active now helps too. The inside chaos has quieted. The words I want to write come more easily and more clearly. The desire to write never left, but it’s only now that it can be acted on. There’s so much less inside drama that we can finally think now.

I’m proud of us. All of us. Of the ones who are currently inactive, of those of us who are active. I’m proud of how we are growing, becoming, and learning. I’m proud of how we are gauging our emotional reactions, praying before reacting, and devoting time to finding out who Emma is.

I’m proud of who we are becoming.

Made to be Used

***This post was originally posted on our first blog, and then 7 months ago transferred over here. It’s raw, intense, and mentions some sexual abuse. I no longer feel the relationship with these words that I felt when I first wrote them. I know now that I don’t ever have to do anything sexual that I don’t want to. I know that life is worth living.

-Annie***

TEXT

 

Over and over again I hear voices from the past. I hear the voices speaking the words that cut me, heart and soul, as clearly as if they were standing right next to me. One of the phrases I hear often was spoken by several different men over the course of my times out front. The men who spoke these words didn’t know each other, never spoke to each other, and in most cases weren’t even aware of each other. Somehow they still managed to speak the same words. The words that now, something like 8 years later, still haunt me.

You have a body that was made to be used.

I have no idea how old this body was when the sexual abuse started. Memories and conversations with some people lead us to collectively believe it was somewhere between 2 and 4 years old. I don’t know what part if any, that has to do with our body’s sexual response system. I do know we were around 9 years old the first time those words were said. We didn’t understand them. We didn’t ask.

The words appeared again at age 17 when a man in his 40’s raped us causing a pregnancy and later a miscarriage. He performed his acts on the body, leaving it bruised and bloody while saying those words. We still didn’t understand, and we still didn’t ask. It didn’t seem like the time for questions.

At 21, the man I married said those words. This time, I did ask. I asked what those words meant. He explained that the body responds to sexual advances quickly and easily, with very little effort. That the body is always ready to serve someone sexually, whether I want to, choose to, or not. He went on to explain that I was born to serve and the body was made to be used.

Born to Serve and Made to be Used

That was a tough one. I think that was the moment I resigned myself to my fate. I tried. I gave it everything I had to live up to those expectations. My body cooperated well enough, but my heart and my actions never seemed to meet his goals. Eventually, I asked a male friend, someone I considered above reproach. Someone I saw as a guardian. Someone I trusted with all of my heart. I asked him to tell me the truth about my purpose. He did. He told me I had the heart of a servant and that my body was made to be used.

He didn’t stop there though. He told me that I was ruining the body’s children and I was a terrible mother. He told me I would only ever be truly happy on my hands and knees crawling to serve a household. That no one would ever keep me around if I wasn’t providing them with a service or a reason to keep me. That I acted stupid, didn’t try hard enough, and the best place for me was on an island inside somewhere.

I believed them all. The body never failed to react sexually when I was scared, terrified, sick, hurt, and just plain didn’t want it to react. The body refused to acknowledge the word no, and the men in my life chose to listen to the body instead of the mouth, the eyes, and the heart.

Please… always understand that how your body reacts doesn’t change your answer. No means no. No means no. No means no. And you have the right to say no.

Now, if I can keep reminding myself of that. Because I’m back, for the first time in 8-ish years. I find that I need to keep everyone happy. I need to do the chores, anticipate the moods, and keep myself and everyone else safe by meeting everyone’s expectations of who I should be.

I don’t know who I am, not completely. For now, I’m Annie. I’m 15. I love buttons, my twin sister Paisley, and our dog Howard. My favorite authors are Mary Higgins Clark and Nora Roberts. My favorite colors are teal, purple, pink, and white. I love butterflies. I do NOT want to be used. I do NOT want to serve anyone in a sexual manner ever again, please.

 

Annabelle Lynn

 

 

***This post was originally posted on our first blog, and then 7 months ago transferred over here. It’s raw, intense, and mentions some sexual abuse. I no longer feel the relationship with these words that I felt when I first wrote them. I know now that I don’t ever have to do anything sexual that I don’t want to. I know that life is worth living.

-Annie***