The Gift of Friendship

I watched an interesting program this week on PBS. It was the story of a group of friends who had met while still in school. Instead of parting ways after graduating, they began a little tradition that spanned six decades! Once a month they would get together to have tea and enjoy some goodies and catch up on what was going on in their lives.

What fascinated me was not only the friendship they shared, but their faithfulness in making time to be with each other regularly. They thoroughly enjoyed one another’s company! “How special”, was my thought, “for them to share such a bond.” Is this what true friendship looks like? It’s one thing to read about it, and another to see it in action.

You would think making friends is not a difficult thing, but I’ve been scared of forming such bonds with others since childhood. Our family was never in one place long enough for any of us to form meaningful friendships. People would come in and out of our lives. I never knew who was temporary and who wasn’t. And being shy and socially awkward certainly didn’t help either. Plus, growing up, I couldn’t really identify with the majority of my peers. I felt like an old soul, I still do. I liked being with older people instead, but they didn’t view me as a “friend”. I was simply a curious girl who liked listening to their stories. So seeing others go about easily forming friendships was intriguing. Being friendly with people wasn’t the problem. It still isn’t. Taking it a step further was (is). As I get older, I recognize more and more the value and benefit of good friendships. Simply surrounding ourselves with people doesn’t make us feel fulfilled.

What is it that sparks that kind of connection? Is it simply having the same interests? Personalities clicking? What makes personalities click anyway?! It isn’t like learning math, where the principles never change. Adding is adding, subtracting is subtracting. People, on the other hand,  grow and change. Sometimes they become better people, sometimes they don’t. They can like you one day and not acknowledge you the next. They can meet someone else who is more interesting, and leave you feeling left out. Yes, we’re complicated beings!

I’ve learned that if that kind of drama characterizes our friendships, then we still have some maturing to do (I include myself in here!). Good friends are those who help us grow. They inspire us to become better. Their connection to us isn’t one of extreme neediness, they give space. They won’t call you only when they need something, or do all the talking either! Making friends isn’t science, but if we make observations, these will help us know if the relationship is a healthy one; if it is, it makes us better, if it’s not it exhausts us.

Going back to that group of old friends, I can see why they wouldn’t let anything interfere with their get togethers. They truly appreciated the value of their friendship. It had helped them endure the death of loved ones, the stress of raising a family, and loss of health. The widows among them didn’t feel lonely. They even reached out to another woman who had been a former classmate, when they realized that her group of friends had all succumbed to death. They didn’t want her to feel alone!

That’s not the kind of friendship I was able to offer until recently. I had to mature in order to have something genuine to offer others. I can now seek out those who in the past offered me that kind of friendship, and those who I’ve yet to meet, and reciprocate it.

There’s no substitution for that kind of connection. It’s a blessing,… a gift.

Love you guys ; )

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Self Imposed Anguish

The darkness that envelopes you is not absolute.

It feeds off of lies, and grows with fear.

“You don’t have the courage” 

“You’re a failure” 

Negativity consumes and destroys.

Isolation confirms the belief

That you are unlovable.

What you don’t realize

Is that the darkness ends

When you decide to open your eyes

And see the lies for what they are, baseless

Light allows us to see things as they are,

not how we imagine them to be

This truth gives you strength and determination

Now you don’t let these lies beat you down

Little by little, the courage you thought nonexistent,

Begins to flourish

And the darkness that surrounded you becomes relative

Because it can not dominate the light you let in.

An Adjustment Period

It’s been over a month since I got back from Texas, and things haven’t gone the way I thought they would. I don’t feel like the same woman I was before our trip, yet everything around me remains unchanged. It’s brought about feelings of frustration and surprisingly, guilt too. I thought I was done with guilt, but…yeah.

I honestly don’t know what I expected when I got back home. It’s like the courage I mustered up to do what I did was left behind. I don’t feel any braver. Having confronted my past made a whole other set of issues, bubble up to the surface, which brought on new fear. Some of these are new, but most of them old. Before leaving Texas I made a mental list of things I wanted to start addressing as soon as I got home. I’ve only checked off one so far. I feel like I’m chipping away on a rock the size of a mountain, with a spoon! Not going as planned!

For the first couple of weeks I couldn’t understand why I was so frustrated. First with myself, then with my husband, and finally my kids. I hadn’t given any thought to the process I would go through after the whole ordeal was over and done with. I was so focused on being ready to face my family, that I assumed everything would be fine if I survived it. I would be fine. I remembered feeling this way before…after giving birth to my children. 

When I had my first child, the toughest part for me wasn’t the labor, it was the emotional turmoil that came afterwards. Don’t get me wrong, the physical pain is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, but not understanding why I was sad, made me feel like a terrible mom. Although I was holding a beautiful, tiny being in my arms, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of emptiness and sadness. This wasn’t what I was supposed to be feeling! It felt like my body was grieving. It had nourished and protected this little invader for nine months. So when it was finally gone, the feeling of loneliness was overwhelming. So how does this tie in with this past month? 

I realize how I had “carried” the memories of trauma up until that moment of confrontation. They weren’t there because I found delight in them. They had remained with me all these years because I didn’t know how to purge them. I had never liked the thought of being labeled a “victim” and receiving pity from others, but this kind of thinking is what led to the silence that kept all those memories trapped inside me. Finally ridding myself of them left a space I’d never experienced before. It was new, and yeah, scary. It was a signal for me to keep growing, and growth is one thing I resisted too long. Now that I wasn’t resisting, I was puzzled by these feelings, which weren’t new, but the situation definitely was. 

My family may not be going at my pace, but this isn’t their journey. I did begin it with them in mind, thinking about how much happier they would be if I was “okay”. It was a good incentive to start, but in order to keep going I had to think about myself too. That’s where some of the guilt came in. As a mom and wife, weren’t their needs supposed to be above my own? But I too needed (need) nurturing. I had denied myself the self care I needed for too long. And since I was moving along, I also wanted them to join me. They may,…but when they’re ready. I also had to remind myself that this kind of journey isn’t about leaving anyone behind. Its more like replacing old decor, with beautiful new decor. They may not think much of it right now, but it’ll still be there when they’re ready to appreciate it. That’s all I can do.

It’s time time to shake it off! The frustration needs to go! 

Love you guys ; )

Out of the Mire

 I began this blog almost a year and a half ago, with the purpose of letting my mom and sister know my thoughts and progress as I began dealing with my depression. It was the threat of my marriage ending, that finally brought me to seek help from a therapist. Never did I imagine where I’d be a year later, and what obstacles I would face and overcome. One of those being my sexual abuse as a child. It was something I never planned on sharing, but the more I spoke of my current issues and how they were affecting my life now, the more I realized that the abuse was at the heart of many of my problems. 

The more I talk about the subject, the more I learn that, sadly, this is more widespread than I could ever have imagined. I can’t save anyone, or undo the damage, but I can continue to talk about it with others. If perpetrators lose the protection of silence, victims start to heal, even if they never get justice.

A few months after I started therapy, I knew that the next step for me, was to revisit a couple homes I had lived in  as a child. I would allow myself to feel the emotions I had as a girl, and grieve, then give myself the comfort I needed. This past January, after my trip to New York, I also decided that I had to talk to the women in my family. I knew there were other victims aside from me, and I also wanted them to get better. That, of course, was wishful thinking on my part. The fear victims feel, hinders them from voicing their pain or looking for help. Perpetrators are good at continuing to shame and control. They can look you in the eye and give a smirk, confident that no one will ever speak up and expose them. Even so, I decided it was time for someone to say something, and I asked my mom to help me get the women together to talk. 

Me and my sister made our way down to Texas a couple weeks ago. I was aware of the seriousness of what I was about to do. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I hadn’t dealt with all that anger and sadness beforehand. My friend Janet was concerned, and lovingly warned me about how not everyone was gonna be happy to hear what I had to say. It had the potential of ending badly, and me having a setback, if I went having high expectations about what I wanted to accomplish. I took it all in, printed articles about the subject to look over and share, and talked to my therapist about my plans. She gave me some feedback and advice. Never did she express that I wasn’t ready, and this gave me reassurance that it was time. Everything was falling into place to make that trip. I wasn’t coming in as a savior, or protector to anyone, I was simply there to speak about how it had affected me, and that I was no longer gonna be quiet about it, and neither should they. 

Although I had played out different scenarios in my head, I could never have imagined how things turned out. The plan had been for the women, not men to be present. Four perpetrators happened to be there when we arrived. I couldn’t stop now, simply because they were there, I now had a voice, and they were gonna hear it. Although the women who were present were informed about what we were there to discuss, the men weren’t. So I started a conversation with one of them. I talked about how I had suffered all these years and how I was now getting better. He was sympathetic, and didn’t deny anything I was saying, he was sorry. He wasn’t my perpetrator, but I knew who he had harmed. When I spoke to my grandma and two of her siblings, they denied knowing anything about the abuse going on in the family, her father being at the center of it. She felt we were trying to get her to hate him. That, of course, was not the goal. During my conversation with her, one of her nephews came up to us, and was visibly upset. He accused me of being psycho for daring to come and talk about such a subject. I replied, that yes, I had been crazy, but only when I was silent about the whole thing. He refuted that by saying that I had dreamed it all, it was all made up in my head. I didn’t let his accusations intimidate me, because he had fear in his eyes. He felt exposed. His control method wasn’t working, and it made him angrier. 

In the end I walked away leaving them with the shame I had carried for so many years. Now it’s theirs. It’s finally where it belongs. I have no feelings of hatred towards any of them. If anything, I feel sorry that they have self destructed by abusing drugs and alcohol, and it saddens me that they dragged other people, children, with them in a vicious cycle of abuse. 

All I could keep repeating was for them, the women, to not stop talking about it. None of them may have been ready to hear what we had to say, but someone may be, in the future. That’s all I can hope for. And if any of them decide to reach out to me, I’m more than happy to hear them out and reassure them that they’re gonna be okay. As victims, the most powerful thing we have is each other. We shouldn’t view each other as enemies. Our enemy is the one who harmed us when we were helpless. They aren’t gonna help us get better, it’s us, as we come together and learn to comfort one another. 

This has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my adult life. It’s taught me that I am strong, and that I’m no longer a victim. It’s given me the ability to feel greater empathy towards those who are still suffering. No one should live in survival mode. Life can be enjoyed after suffering something as terrible as sexual abuse. And there are people who want to help, me included.

Thank you mom for the support and help in getting everything started down there. Thank you Celeste for joining me in this journey, things will get better ; ). We’ve come out of the mire, so to speak, and have done some cleansing. It’s time to take good care of ourselves.

Love you guys ; )

I Wasn’t Here

I was remembering something I used to do as a girl when ever I had a pen and a flat surface. I would write “jovanna was here”. Everyone else was doing it, and it seemed like the cool thing to do as a kid. It was a statement to others who would come after me. It let them know I had been there at one time before them.

I wonder if it’s because we have an innate fear of being forgotten, but if there’s physical evidence then it’s proof of our existence. Hmmmm?

I no longer write those words, I left that phase behind a long time ago! I was thinking, though, how when I would  do so, I may have been there physically, but not mentally. I was always somewhere else. And even though I’ve written about this before, I couldn’t help but think about how it’s affected my kids; to have me here, but emotionally checked out.

My kids never had a chance of seeing me fully present when they were little. I was emotionally exhausted before I even had them! I’d cook, clean, read them bedtime stories, but the warmth they needed was lacking. I didn’t know how to have fun with them. I didn’t know how to play. And I just couldn’t allow myself to relax and enjoy the moment. I felt like I didn’t deserve to enjoy my life, and family. There was this sick belief in the back of my mind that if I did, it would all disappear, and I’d be left with nothing.

Now I see how this negative belief is self fulfilling if not corrected. Not because my family is gone, but I’ve noticed how they in turn have become, to a certain extent, emotionally unavailable too. I know adolescents go through the phase of detaching from their parents, so it could be a mixture of both. There is a healthy middle ground, I know it, I just haven’t gotten there yet. I want them to find it too. Going through life without emotionally connecting to others is a lonely existence, and I don’t want that for them.

Now if I write, “Jovanna is here”, it actually has meaning. It’s not just me and my thoughts, or me and my imaginary world. This life is actually enjoyable to the point that I don’t want to escape it anymore. I’m not afraid of being here emotionally and enjoying what surrounds me. What’s more freightening to me now, is reaching the end of my life regretting all those missed opportunities and moments. I can have them now, and now is all I really have. It’s what any of us have at any given moment, and it’s more than enough, when you are fully present.

Love you guys ; )

What Am I Worth?

I was in a funk this past week. A year into therapy and I’m still susceptible to my dark moods! It’s like everything turns gray and the joy is sucked right out of me. I’m left feeling parched and like I have nothing to offer anyone, not even a smile. I couldn’t shake off the thought, “you’re worthless”. Not a new feeling here, and it made me feel hopeless. I’m slowly dealing with old wounds. The kind people say are “long gone and in the past so you should get over them.” I don’t doubt some are able to do this without letting them become issues. That’s awesome. These are strong people who don’t let others determine their own value. They know their worth and don’t let anyone diminish it. I have to remind myself that unlike them, I’m building myself up from the ground, where I felt I belonged. I can’t just “get over it”, without first dealing with whatever has upset me.

I delved into one specific memory this past week with my therapist, and it brought up these feelings of worthlessness and pent up sorrow. 

It was the summer when I was 12 yrs old, and our family had traveled up to Michigan to work for the summer. Other members of our extended family also came up. All together there were about six separate families sharing a five bedroom house (yikes, I know). I didn’t look forward to it, not just because of the work, but because I hated that house from the minute we arrived. And even though we young ones had plenty of interaction with one another, I didn’t know an older cousin had already set me apart.

I had no memory of meeting him prior to this, but from the moment he and I were out of hearing range, he called me a b****. I remember feeling so ashamed and at first confused as to why he was calling me this. I didn’t want to hear the things he was told by the other male family members who had abused me. So I pretended like I didn’t know what he was talking about. I also pretended that being called a derogatory word didn’t bother me. I didn’t tell anyone about his behavior towards me. I was the perfect victim; afraid to say anything for fear I would have to disclose the other shameful events. So I kept silent. 

The adults in the family noticed how much time we were spending together, but there wasn’t much of an effort to supervise, or join us to hear the conversations. I felt like it was on me to behave properly, because he was a young man, and young men can’t control themselves. I fought hard to not give in to his constant advances. He told me a couple sad stories so I could feel bad for him and want to comfort him. He made demands, used threats, constantly name called, and finally made a confession of love. I didn’t know what “love” was at the age of 12. But he wore me down to the point that I gave in. I had let him determine my value as a human, and he saw me as worthless.

When the adults found out, I had to face my mom and the other women in the family. They were upset at me. Disappointed, to say the least. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure. My value in their eyes had diminished. I was tainted and it was all my fault, because I had allowed it.

So after sharing this I had a good cry to release the sadness. I also shared the story with my daughter and warned her about the tactics some young men will use to get what they want. They won’t target girls with a healthy self esteem. They’ll look for those who already think they aren’t worth much and continue to crush what little is left. 

Feeling worthless is deeply entrenched in me, but if I want to overcome it I can no longer let others determine my value, whether it’s in memory or now in the present. We all posses qualities that make us valuable. We just need to polish them until they shine, because we are worth it. 

Love you guys ; )

A Trip to Remember

Last month my sister and I made a trip to New York. We braved the wintry weather and drove out there with my four year old son and five year old nephew. There was never a dull moment, to say the least, and the boys for the most part enjoyed the trip. I didn’t have high expectations, for myself or my son. I packed my anxiety medication and a bottle of lavender essential oil, thinking that being out of our routine would trigger plenty of anxiety! And we were on our way; two women, two preschoolers, a map and plenty of excitement! I was in for a big surprise.

I’ve mentioned before how living with depression has led me to have many superficial relationships. Yes, I’ve talked about the weather, our families health (including mine), any interesting bit of information I’ve read, or just shared complaints (trying to move away from this : /). This has been changing as I’m learning to open up to people. I’ve been selective in who I share my vulnerable side to. Not everyone deserves to hear my story. Some won’t appreciate it, others will not understand, or worst, won’t care. So if I’ve shared this blog with you, it’s a personal invitation for you to be a part of my journey. And you can’t feel like a part of something unless you understand it.

Anyway, the difference about this trip as opposed to others we’ve made, was that we stayed with the mom of my sister’s friend. It was not something we normally do. When we have stayed over at someone’s house it’s been that of a relative. It’s something deep rooted from our childhood (a whole other story). I was nervous about how my son would behave and if it would be too much for our hostess to endure. I soon realized it was unnecessary stress on my part. She was welcoming from the moment we walked into her home. She greeted us, offered us something warm to eat and helped us get settled in.

I used to think I was a caring person. But there’s more to it than I ever imagined. People who truly care have a special way of communicating it to others. It doesn’t remain a feeling they keep to themselves. They manifest it in action. Not simply by giving or sharing what they have, but by showing personal interest. And you can’t show personal interest without asking questions, but in such a way that it doesn’t intimidate, or make the other person feel uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but open up to her. And in doing so felt a connection that, until recently, I’d only had with family. This was my surprise!

In planning for this trip I never expected to come away with a wonderful friendship. Having listened to her experiences and insight, I learned a lot more about myself that week. I also had many heart to heart conversations with my sister. Confined spaces and no where to go can do that (just kidding)! I truly enjoyed it. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about our trip. It’s amazing how people can come together, and come away encouraged. I learned that if I want to, I can steer things in a more positive direction. There’s enough negativity out there already. Why would I want to add to it and weigh anyone I’m interacting with down? I can encourage them instead!

I’m not there yet. I’m still climbing, but as I get further along, the view is becoming more beautiful. Life doesn’t seem like an endless sequence of tragedies as it once did. My friend assured us that we are strong women for having overcome what we did as children, and not letting that part of our lives destroy us as humans. We have thrived so far. Yes, there’s still much more to work on, but we have each other to lean on.

Janet, my friend, I’m glad we made that trip out your way. I’m so grateful for everything you did while we were there, but above everything else I’m thankful for your honesty, caring spirit, and hospitality.
Sensei! (Wax on, wax off!)

Celeste, I’m glad you convinced me to make this trip in the middle of winter, to a place that was just as cold and snowy as Michigan, and not some hot tropical place! It wouldn’t have been the same with any other person. But that’s what sisters are for! Thank you. ; )

Life is too short to sit around waiting for the “perfect time” to make a special trip with loved ones, or waste time worrying about the impression we will make on others. If we show them our true self, we give them the option of either wanting to get to know us better, or not.

Love you guys ; )

What my Husband has taught Me

I’ve shared many of my personal struggles and insecurities over the past year and I wanted to share a list I put together along the way, about the things my husband has unknowingly taught me. After twenty years of marriage it’s easy to take each other for granted, unless we stop and focus on the good qualities. There’s nothing more rewarding for a couple (in my opinion) than to grow together.

So here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. There is such a thing as unconditional love and I CAN be at the receiving end of it.

2. There’s no such thing as too much patience, especially when the one you love suffers from a mental illness.

3. There are boundaries we all need in order to show those we love the proper respect they deserve.

4. To never give up on those I love. If they are valuable to me, I should never see the effort and hard work as a waste of my time.

5. To always be sincere and honest with myself.

6. The truth, no matter how painful, is better than the temporary comfort of a lie.

7. Adulthood shouldn’t mean the end of growth and maturing.

8. It’s better to face my fears, than to try to outrun them. (I can’t run fast anyway!)

9. I have his support in my journey to heal. He’s on my side and wants to see me triumph over my depression.

10. I can’t just take. I also need to give. This will keep me from developing an ungrateful, unthankful, and selfish attitude.

11. The best place to be is in the arms of a man who is aware of all my imperfections and still chooses to see my good qualities, even though these are few!

We should cherish and hold on to those who choose to ride out the storms with us, and don’t allow us to give up on ourselves. I didn’t know how much his inner strength would one day help the two of us. If he had sunk with me, it would probably have taken twice as long to come out of it, but I won’t go there. We’re a team of two imperfect people who want to see each other thrive, and pass that on to our children!

For those of you who are married: go give your significant other a warm hug!

Love you guys ; )

Communication

Family relationships! They can be a source of joy or frustration. In most cases it’s both! Now that I myself am a mom, I’ve come to understand how hard of a task it is to raise children. It’s not simply about providing shelter, food and clothing. It’s more involved than that. Especially in the area of maintaining a good relationship with each one of them.

Growing up in a broken home, I thought all that was needed to have a happy family was for the marriage to remain intact! That was naive thinking on my part. I can say I was clueless about what was needed for a relationship to truly function. My perception of a happy marriage was based on “happily ever after” stories and movies. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, there’s a problem, it gets solved, they marry and it’s all good. Anyone entering a marriage with these expectations is bound to be disappointed. It makes for a bad foundation to build a family on, because it’s based on illusion not reality.

I’ve now come to realize that one of the best gifts I can give my children, is to have a good relationship with my husband. It’s not simply about avoiding arguments. It’s about being sensitive to each other’s feelings. Listening to understand one anothers’ thoughts and opinions. Our children are growing up in the space between us. If there’s toxic energy in that space they will feel it. This may not be new for anyone out there, but it may as well have been rocket science because I wasn’t “getting” it.

What about our relationship with our parents? Does that affect our spouse and children? Why do I ask? Well, how we communicate was learned from them. How effective is it? Do we find that we have a hard time expressing ourselves and understanding others? Do we avoid conflicts at all costs, resolve them peacefully, or instigate them? Do things get swept under the rug to maintain peace? I never thought it mattered how well or how bad my communication with my parents was, much less how it affected my family.

After reading an article on this subject I began asking myself some hard questions. The article mentioned that there’s a direct link between how we communicate with our parents and how we communicate with our own family. It sounded interesting. I myself never had a good relationship with my dad. I was terrified of him. His anger was unpredictable and explosive. I’m aware he isn’t gonna punish me now that I’m grown, but that fear hasn’t completely gone away. This has affected how I interact with my husband. When he’s upset, I don’t try to understand the reason why, I simply retreat in fear. Just like I did with my father. I’d never realized how unhealthy this was for our relationship. Not that I want to go the other way either (fights and arguments), but my goal now is to find a healthy balance.

What about with my children? Well, that’s even harder to face. I find I mirrored both my parents in this area. I’ve been that parent who has held their child to a higher standard than I myself was willing to follow. I’ve let them see disappointment in my eyes. I’ve judged them harshly and been overly critical. This may not have been so bad if I had used more praise; been more patient and understanding. I could’ve openly shared my mistakes and apologized too. I have a lot to make up for. They may, or may not choose to forgive my mistakes. But that shouldn’t keep me from maturing and learning as a mother. I don’t have it all together, but I love them enough to show my vulnerable side.

Being proud led me down a dead end road. There was no growth there. It kept me from searching for better ways to do things. I figured if it wasn’t broken there was no need to fix it. Well, I didn’t want to wait until my family “broke” in order to start changing unhealthy habits, my communication included. Making mistakes is unavoidable. Admitting and working to correct them is courageous. Not acknowledging them or placing the blame somewhere else is cowardly. Our kids deserve better than that!

Who doesn’t want a happy family? Unfortunately, it doesn’t automatically happen, not without work on our part. We will fall into comfort zones, hit plateaus, but we don’t want to stay there. When we want to advance in our job, we keep learning. Some people will invest in college courses to move up in their career. How much would our family benefit if we put forth the same effort for them, for us?

To say that my communication skills needed some updating would be an understatement. Breaking old habits and ingrained thought patterns has been my biggest challenge yet!
I’m a work in progress, but some progress is better than no progress!

Love you guys ; )

Anxiety

Why is my heart beating so fast? The pain in my chest is radiating towards my shoulder and up my neck. The sensation of what seems like cold blood travels up to my face. I feel a terrible urge to run, as if in doing so I could leave the symptoms behind. The feeling of desperation is so intense I feel like I’m gonna pass out. Reality seems unreal, and I feel like I’m gonna lose my mind. Other than the glazed look in my eyes, I look fine. I’m not hurt, I’m not sick and I haven’t experienced something traumatic. Still, my body is in full flight or fight mode.

I’ve experienced this before. I’m aware that it’s not a heart attack and that my life is not in danger. I know what it is. Yet, that fact, doesn’t make me feel any less scared. I’m experiencing a panic attack. This one is the worse yet. I pace our living room floor in search of relief, repeating to myself that everything is okay. When the feeling loses intensity, I pause, but as soon as I stop moving it comes back with a vengeance. I continue walking around in circles until the early hours of the morning. Exhausted, I make my way to bed, and tell my husband what happened. He doesn’t make a fuss (which I’m so grateful for), but asks’ if I’m okay. I assure him I am, and fall asleep.

I’ve lived with anxiety since I was very young. I didn’t know it at the time. I just thought of myself as extremely nervous and shy. I always felt safest and relaxed when I was alone and either reading, or listening to music. My social skills were almost non existent, and because of this my teachers loved me and my family considered me a good girl. I was a quiet, attentive, and hard working student. Learning was an outlet for me. It didn’t require me to be social, athletic or popular.

I thought I’d left that part of me behind when I married. As if marriage had given me super powers! But marriage required me to gain a whole new set of skills I didn’t have and then some! This made for some very interesting and turbulent years in my life, a girl with bad communication skills, and an anxious disposition. Little did I know how much this, and what I carried from my childhood, was chipping away at my ability to remain in this reality.

I began to breakdown.

I use the term breakdown because that’s how each panic attack felt. I wasn’t dying, my heart was still beating, but my mind became lost and disoriented. I had to bring it back and assure it that everything was okay, because I wasn’t in a dangerous situation. I was running from psychological, not physical danger. My brain was trying to protect itself from what I was putting it through each day: mental torture.

When things are left unresolved they go around in your head day after day. They rob you of peace. Without peace to calm you, your body is always on high alert. That alert brings with it fear. When there are layers of unresolved issues it’s difficult to know what you’re trying to protect yourself from. So you never relax! Not even when things around you are fine. For all you know, danger could be around the next corner, and you’re always anticipating the next “punch” from a panic attack. I didn’t know what was setting them off, and that disconnection within me made things worse.

This past year, I began linking my panic attacks to memories; ones I thought I’d left buried in the past. The reality though, is that I had only been suppressing them, which required an incredible amount of energy on my part to do so. I now had to face each one of those painful memories if I wanted some peace in my life. Instead of denying and repressing them, I began to vent, either by writing or talking to someone I trusted. I also allowed myself to mourn. Pain signals something is damaged, and mourning allows you to comfort yourself and seek it from others if needed. If the memory brought up anger, I didn’t  channel it towards myself anymore. Now I channeled it toward the person who hurt me, and let it go. I gave myself the needed consolation and encouragement, and then gave that memory a proper burial.

Doing this continues to help me rid myself of fear. Fear of being hurt again, not by others, but by my own self. Because every time I had a flashback I was putting myself through the experience all over again. My anxiety was always either high or higher. I didn’t think I had the strength to break the cycle because I was beyond exhausted! It was like asking someone who just finished running a marathon to run another one! (And my family knows how much I dislike running!)

I’m not cured of anxiety. I may continue working on it for many years to come, or I may beat it sooner than I think! I don’t know. One thing I’m sure of; I’m not gonna worry about the amount of time it takes. It’s worth all the time and hard work I’m putting in to become whole again.

Love you guys ; )