Hello darkness, my old friend…

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

Until today, these lyrics from the song Sound of Silence had a completely different meaning to me. I’m not sure how I could have listened to it a million times and related it to PTSD, but I completely missed it. This morning, however, the first two lines came to me as I started thinking of a moment I had last night before bedtime.

I have been living in recovery with PTSD for almost two decades now, and for the most part, it has faded into a light haze rather than a menacing darkness.  Still, there are moments that always catch me off guard and and make me worry about what is to come. Last night, something triggered a thought, a question of when something happened, and even though, as most of us do, I immediately told myself that’s not something I even want to know, the fear crept up that my brain would not let go.

Sometimes I feel like my mind and my trauma scarred brain are often at odds. My brain says it needs to tell me things, while my mind says I really don’t want or need to know. All these years later, the two still fight like children about who gets to sit in the front seat of the car. This struggle between the two left me wondering before bedtime if I would have a nightmare about what I didn’t want to remember, or if I would wake up with a new memory. It was so unsettling that it was hours before I could make myself try to fall asleep.

Fortunately, I woke to find my fear had not come true, but there is still this nagging feeling that my brain is just dying to tell me what it knows. I know the longer I ignore it, the more horrifyingly dramatic ways it will present my story when it finally breaks out into it’s performance though. So I wait for a moment when I can cuddle up quietly and allow it to speak softly with me about the things it needs to tell me. I will listen and allow it to get all the negative it’s been holding out, and I will grieve anew and give myself time to accept the feelings that I should have felt and dealt with long ago…

Hello darkness, my old friend…

Advertisements

Who Is Responsible?

As a child, I learned to take responsibility for a lot of things.  Sometimes, these were the things that most youth learn in order to become responsible adults.  Yet, there are other things that I learned to take on that are clearly not my own – or at least it is becoming more clear that they do not belong to me.

I remember thinking that it was my responsibility to protect my mother from the wrath of my father.  He said ugly things, lots of ugly things, about her, and I did my best to hide them from her.  Not only this, but after I was molested by my grandfather, I remained silent because I wanted to protect her.  I knew that if my father found out that her father molested me, he would find a way to blame her – even though it was his fault for leaving me with that man instead of with my mom.

As a teen, I took on a new responsibility, that of the secret keeper.  I kept the secrets of my grandfather locked away inside because I was afraid that if I told, I would bring someone else pain.  My greatest fear was that someone else (especially my mother) had been molested by him, and sharing my pain would bring back ugly memories.  I knew what it felt like to remember, to loathe, to feel shame, so I did anything I could to shield others from the past.

What is even worse is that I even learned to protect my abusers from their own shame. For many, many years, I protected them out of respect for what is most people call “family.”  I felt it was my duty not to sully the family names by bringing out the ugly secrets that lay within.  I believed that bringing their offenses to light would destroy the world that family members considered safe.  I even felt, and still to this day somewhat feel, that to point out their shame would somehow be unfair because, they are “family” after all…

In my blindness, I enabled my family to pretend that nothing was wrong.  I was, and am still, fairly certain that my father would not believe that anyone in his “loving, Christian family” would be capable of causing such harm.  I believed that my mother’s family would turn a blind eye to the ugly truth, because they have a history (in my opinion) of sweeping things under the rug.  “Talking” is something they never truly do.

Where does this leave me?  I have not the slightest clue.  Sometimes, I want to call them all together and lay it all out.  I want to tell them about the dark and ugly secrets of which they are not aware.  Yet, my mind keeps coming back to the question, “What good would it do?”  I fear that my voice would not be heard – that their collective propensities for blaming someone else would end up making me look like the bad one and once more minimize my experiences.

I guess deep down, what I really want is for someone else to shoulder the responsibility for this entire mess for a while.  Yet all my life, all I have received from others are excuses.  Excuses as to why it is not their fault and why they should not be expected to bear the burden as well.

So, I keep shouldering the responsibilities, even if they are not my own.

Afraid to Dream… *Trigger Warning*

I’ve been here before.  I’ve felt these emotions, and I’ve fought to quell these fears. Yet, knowing I can overcome it just is not enough.

I went to sleep last night praying I would not dream of questions that are on my mind. Somehow, it seems it would be more terrifying to remember in a dream.  I really do not want to travel down this path.  I’m not even sure there is anything at the other end, yet the possibility of finding something terrifies me.  I’m not sure why it still scares me so much.  Haven’t I been dealing with flashbacks since I was fourteen?  Shouldn’t I be prepared for that queasy feeling that everyone gets when approaching the dangerous unknown?

In my mind, the answer is, “No, Kylee. No matter how long you are on the path, this part of the journey will always feel the same.”  Still, I keep wishing there was a different answer.  I know I have the tools.  I am strong.  I have conquered the darkness many times before.

I guess, even though the memories are mine alone, I’m just a little afraid to do this on my own…

Balancing the evil with good…

Sometimes I just wish that I could say their names out loud.  I wish I could just point them out to others and say, they are the ones who abused me.  Sometimes, I just wish that the rest of the world knew the kind of people they are.  Yet, I still hold back.  Why?  I am not sure.  At times, I think it is self-preservation.  I fear that if I speak their names publicly, then I will bring their wrath, opening myself and my character up for more abuse.  Yet at other times, I wonder if I am still doing it to “protect” them from my anger.  I still worry about skewing the perception of others against them, I feel like pointing them out would be asking others to judge them.

Then I have to ask myself, why do I want to say their names out loud?  Most times, I just want to say them because they are a SECRET that burns inside my mind.  Other times, I feel that, although I know they will never admit to the wrongs they have done, I would like for them to still be responsible for them.  While I keep their names secret, they go on with their lives.  They do not have to live with the burden of having done something wrong, because no one is openly telling them they did wrong. Maybe sometimes, I just want them to feel a fraction of the pain I have felt.  Maybe I would like for them to feel what it is like to be shunned, misunderstood, and disliked. Yet, the one reason that concerns me most is, how many other children have been/are in danger because I have not spoken the names of my abusers?

While this conflict tears me apart at times, I think about my list of abusers and their enablers.  It is a fairly short list.  It amazes me to think how such a few people could have had such a negative impact on my life.  Their actions have haunted, hurt, and tormented me for over 20 years, and it has taken twice as many positive people to overcome the damage they have done.

Positive people.  I can list those.  There is no stigma attached to the people who have supported me, nor is there shame in saying their names out loud.  Saying their names reminds me that there is hope, and it also reminds me that there is good.  With that said, here is a list of the people who were a part of the major turning points in my healing journey:

John*
Paulette*
Ott*
Kim*
Sandy*
Lisa*
Gary*
Lynn
Brittney*
Denise*
Matt*
Mike*
Bryan*
Ryan*
Ronnie*
Horace*
Carol
Bill*
Kyle
Alana
Natalie
Michael
Sharika
Joanna
Karen
Anne
Erin*

While those listed may never have known what I was going through, I can remember exactly what they did to change something in my life.  The ones who are starred, either were the catalyst for one of my blog posts, or have been mentioned anonymously in the posts or journal entries that I have shared. Whether it be linking me to new friends, giving me a chance to express myself, giving me the courage to speak up, or fueling an emotional breakthrough, they have each done something extremely important in my life.  I am thankful for their presence, and I know I would not be the person I am today if it were not for their support.

I’m Not Who I Was…

While putting together my book, I spent a bit of time revisiting the person that I was during the time period that the selections included were written.  I can vividly remember the feelings and thoughts, and often events, that prompted me to write each entry, and unfortunately, most of them came from a very dark place in my mind.

However, a few years ago, I finally reached a point in my life where I was able to begin living in the light.  While there is still a great deal of darkness inside, I am now able to keep it from overpowering the light that I have found.  I see the world much differently, and I am thankful every day that life is about change.

In honor of the person I have become, I am revisiting an old post from my Btrflywngs (Kylee Jones) MySpace blog, entitled “I’m Not Who I Was.”  The “friend’s profile” I mention in the first line was my real (Erin) profile (see, now I do not even have to be anonymous anymore).

July 19, 2009

Recently, I was checking out the music list on a friend’s profile and ran across the song “I’m Not Who I Was” by Brandon Heath.  This song is such a wonderful expression of transformation and healing and it reminded me once more of the beauty of the transient experience.

Many times, I have said that I have been shaped by abuse, but I refuse to be defined by it.  Yet, that is not the way I have always seen myself.  There was a time when I believed that I was an abused, abandoned, emotionally-scared, unlovable, unforgivable, worthless being.  As you can imagine, it was often very hard to live with myself knowing that these things defined the person I was and who I would become.

Somewhere along the way, a beautiful thing occurred – I learned that there is a difference between who you are and the things you have experienced. Labels are the words people (including ourselves) use to define what they do not know or understand.  However, once you look deeper, you will find that labels are superficial and can in no way fully describe the person inside.

Another beautiful truth I learned was that experiences are transient.  Yes, I have been abused, but I am no longer abused.  What does that mean?  It means that I was an abused person, but now I am a person who has experienced abuse.  However, even that statement is incorrect.  Even while I was being abused, abuse was the experience, not the definition of my inner being – I was a person who was experiencing abuse.

In the moment that we learn to separate the actions and circumstances outside of ourselves and our control from the person that we truly are, we are made whole.  We no longer see ourselves as incomplete, but as fulfilled.  Our perspective changes, and we begin to understand that while we may have experienced many things, the most important part of the experience is the journey to find who we are.

Who am I?  I am Kylee Jones, someone who as experienced abuse and emotional abandonment.  I am happy to say that these experiences have been transient, and while I may have experienced them in my past, what I do with today and tomorrow is what matters most.

Could It Be Stress??

Recently, I experienced a severe allergic reaction, which once again sent me off to the doctor.  During the visit, we were reviewing some of the possible triggers, he asked, “Could it be stress?”  I thought for a moment and responded, “No, things are pretty good at home and work right now.”  He went on to explain that stress can sometimes cause allergic responses.  I assured him that, other than having this very stressful mystery reaction, I was much less stressed than I had been for quite some time.

Then last week, a friend posted a link to an article, Effects of sexual abuse last for decades, study finds.  While I’ve seen several studies about how brain function and body chemistry can be dramatically altered by childhood sexual abuse, the information presented in this article really resonated with me:

As children, they had higher levels of cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone,” which is released in high levels during the body’s “fight or flight” response. But by about age 15, testing showed that cortisol levels were below normal, compared to the control group. Lower levels of cortisol have been linked to a decrease in the body’s ability to deal with stress, as well as problems with depression and obesity. Lower levels of the hormone have also been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder.

…“That tells us they are in a chronic state of stress, and never feel safe.”

…their cortisol levels remained lower than the control group, on average. “That tells us their stress response system is burned out,” says Putman, which could explain why some are doing so poorly in life.”

Once I read this, I really started thinking about how much stress I carry with me day to day.  While my response to my doctor was correct, I was less stressed than I have been for a while, it was still somewhat incorrect in the grand scheme of things.  I’m always stressed.  I live in a state of hypervigilance.  I am so used to living with this level of stress, that I’ve never seen it as stress…it’s normal.  Yet, now that I really look at it, I realize that the amount of work my brain and body have always inherently done to protect me has had it’s toll on me.  While did find that the reaction was not stress-related, I do now realize that my resting tension level is well above what it should be for most.

Something I also realized is that my doctor is missing an important piece of the puzzle.  I’ve never shared with him what I have experienced, simply because he is not a psychologist or counselor.  However, I realize now that in order to understand how to best treat me, he needs to have all the pieces of the puzzle, not just a few of them.  If my blood pressure is high, and all my blood work is normal, then my doctor is doing a lot of extra work if he does not know that my tension level could be causing the problem.  Does it mean I will spill my entire life story to him?  No.  However, it does mean that I will share one brief sentence to sum it all up, as well as a brief summary of what I found in this article.

Even still, as many know, I’ve never been one to rely solely on traditional medicine to solve my problems.  After reading this article, my brain was bursting with questions about cortisol.  I did some searches and found a wealth of information.  I found that many of my problems, like high blood pressure, never being able to lose weight, being tired all the time, my brain never switching off – they could all be connected to my body’s stress response.  Not only this, but I found there are several herbs that may prove helpful in reducing my stress levels and restoring balance to my system.  As with any medication, I am always very careful to research natural remedies carefully before trying them, but I have found them helpful in the past and am willing to try again.

So, if you haven’t thought about it before, stop and ask yourself, “Could it be stress??”  Think for a moment and truly evaluate if your resting levels of tension are “normal”.  You might be surprised at what you find.

Once again, I am off to do some work on me…

I’m ok…

There was a time when it took everything I had just to get through the day.  When I would wake in the morning and hope to get through just one day without having flashbacks on continuous loop in my brain. When I would simply just blank out and shut down because I couldn’t take the overwhelming feelings of disgust, hatred, and betrayal.

Before I learned about grounding and redirection, I learned to tell myself, I’m ok.  At first it was a way to remind myself that, while for that moment I was in a state of panic, I was really not losing my mind.  It helped to quell the attacks by grounding me more in the reality that there was not anything wrong with me, but that I was momentarily experiencing something that was hard to deal with.  There were times when I could be heard repeating to myself over and over, “I’m ok.  I’m ok.  I’m ok.”  I’m sure I sounded a bit crazy, but it was all I could do to regain some control over my run away mind.

Over time, however, “I’m ok.” became a personal mantra.  It became my way of saying to myself, and to the rest of the world, that there was really nothing wrong with me as a person.  By saying these words to myself, I learned that  I wasn’t crazy.  I wasn’t wrong for feeling the way I did.  My inner being wasn’t misshapen, disformed, or unlovable. I was really ok.

Sometimes it is important for us as survivors to remind ourselves the fundamental things like this.  Even though we may not really believe it at first, in time, if we say it enough, we start to open up to the possibility.  For me, “I’m ok.” was just the start.  Over the years, I have learned to tell myself quite a few things – such as I am a beautiful person, I am worthy of love, I am not unlovable, I AM good enough.

Some people may think that a bit silly, but abuse teaches us that we are not any of these things, including ok.  Sometimes it is our abusers who say these words.  At other times, it is the perception about ourselves that their actions leave behind.  Whatever the case, the lessons we learn from abuse are hard wired into our brains.  We believe them because it is what we have been shown.  We, in many ways, have been brain washed, and in order for us to break the never ending stream of negative thoughts we have learned to repeat to ourselves, we must train our brains to question everything we have ever learned…even if that means we have to start with saying, “I’m ok.”