abuse

I Will Bloom Where I'm Planted

A couple of summers ago, Bertski & I took the boys to the Grounds for Sculpture garden up in Hamilton, New Jersey. It's an expansive garden full of lush vegetation, intriguing contemporary art, and some amazingly creative sculptures. Camera in hand, I was inspired to snap away while Bertski & Brennan ran around exploring and Alex slept in the stroller. I took close to a thousand pictures that day, so many different aspects of the garden captured my attention. My favorite part of the whole trip is evidenced by the large number of pictures I took of a pond in the corner of the garden....it was full of  some of the prettiest flowers I had ever seen, I couldn't take my eyes (or my camera) off of them. They were tall, with long, strong-looking and thick stems that seemed to push them straight up out of the water and above the surface...boldly standing out from the lily pads and thrushes that surrounded them. Their petals seemed to unfurl as they bent themselves back and curved their way up toward the sun, leaving their innermost part, their circular seed pods, exposed to the sun, wind, and eyes of the world around them.

I'm quite illiterate when it comes to plants & flowers, so I had no idea what they were until I did a google search later that night. I had no idea that what I learned about lotus flowers that night would wake me up two years later, shouting at me to pay attention to an important life lesson.

20120601-133525.jpg

You see lotus flowers are gorgeous. As they stretch themselves up and over the water, your eyes gaze upon the beauty and unique design of each one-whether they're in full blossom or just starting to open up. What you don't see, are the conditions they grow in. Lotus flowers are admired and loved because they can grow in the darkest and harshest of conditions and survive. Despite having to grow in a less than ideal environment, these flowers thrive and bloom where they are planted.

Bloom where you are planted....

I woke up with that thought and this information about lotus flowers shouting in my head this morning. As I laid there trying to understand why today of all days this was on my mind, it occurred to me that it's June 1st.

A new month. New season. 6 months until a new year arrives (can you believe it?! ) and 5 months until I turn the dreaded 30.

Or do I have to dread turning 30? Let's go over this again: new month, new season, half of the year left, and 5 months away from having lived 30 years on this Earth.

30 years. Of pain. Of abuse. Of brokenness. Of not knowing or understanding who I am, of living my life under the rule and control of others and their expectations, their standards. Of living my life based on the opinions of others, trying like hell to please them because I thought I needed their approval. Of having my life dictated by circumstance instead of choice.

30 years. Of heartache. Of shame. Of disappointment. Of misplaced guilt. Of misguided decisions. Of regret. Of loss. Of hating myself. Of wishing I could be like the women I secretly envy. Of compromise. Of insecurity. Of lacking confidence and believing the words of those who said I'd die or they'd kill me before I made it to becoming anything of worth and value. Of illness. Of excuses.

30 years. As I laid in my bed this morning I made a choice.

"I will not spend the next 30 years of my life like I have the first. I won't spend the next 5 months like I have. No I won't.

I've been through a lot of things in my first 29 years of living. I've had to see and endure things no one should, and yet I'm still here, I didn't have it as bad as others. People have looked at my history and expected me to be a drug addict, an alcoholic, or dead. My psychiatrist says the fact that I only have a mental illness as a result of my genetics and trauma is something to be grateful for....and as illogical as it sounds, she's right and I am. It's not ideal, and I don't like it, but in the grand scheme of things, I could be far worse off than I actually am and that's nothing but a testament to how graceful God truly is.

30 years. I can't change how the first 29 1/2 years of my life have gone. I can't do anything about the darkness I've had to live in, or change the fact that I have to live with a darkness from an illness that threatens my well being daily.

But I can make a choice to grow above and beyond the environment I was forced to grow in up until this point. I can choose to live above and beyond the dark, murky waters of the last 29 1/2 years. I can choose to let go and push past. I can decide to stand tall like a lotus flower and bloom for others to see. I can choose to use the environment I've grown in to reveal what lies within my innermost parts-a woman with an authentic, compassionate, and whole heart to connect with others who are hurting and struggling to make it out of their own dark waters.

Yes. I can choose to let it all go and break forth and embark upon the next 30 years with fresh determination to live my life and not just survive it.

Today I'm choosing to bloom right where I've been planted. My beauty may have been broken by what happened beneath the surface, but my hope is that it brings something out of me that encourages and inspires others to reach toward the sun, like I am.

Self-Love Saturday: A Dose of Euphoria to Mask the Pain

It's self love Saturday. It was a good day. I started off feeling rather good about myself.

I laughed and played with the boys.

I danced. A lot. To my favorite songs.

I spent the day helping my ex run errands (you'll find out why during Tuesday's post).

We shopped for necessities.

It's self love Saturday. It was a rather great day.

It's funny how just shopping for what you need can lead you to toeing the line that borders euphoria....

Well....

I didn't just toe it today...I stepped right over and into it with glee in my heart.

I wish the glee were authentic...

It wasn't until an hour ago that I realized it was just my soul's way of protecting me from the pain that's eating at me like cancer. It shielded me long enough so I could have a pretty awesome day.

And even though I've cycled into a low, I'll take the euphoria that shields me any day....

Because this pain...

Having to deal with the hell that is sexual abuse.....the flashbacks, the hurt, the shame, the ripping off of bandages that close unhealed wounds....

Is too much to bear at the moment. My therapist...she told me this might happen...that opening the box would illicit Pandora and all of her buried emotions...

It's self love Saturday. I had a really good day....until a few hours ago when I realized how unprotected and alone I felt....when I realized that the only way to be made whole and to allow love, real love into my heart and life is to endure the pain of the past so I don't reject my future.

It's self love Saturday...it was a rather splendid day....

Until I got that phone call...

(please remind me to be kind to myself)

NaNoWriMo, Life Lists, & Coffee Beans

Man things have been CRAZY 'round here the past month, especially the last 2 weeks. Alot of it I've written about but haven't published because...well, considering where I've been mentally the past few weeks, let's just say alot of what I wrote was dark, angry, painful...hopeless...and even though I'm all about transparency, it's not always easy to hit the "publish" button. Suffice it to say that I'm not ready to share those posts yet....and when I am, I still might make them password protected so only certain folk can see them... Other things I haven't written about but will in another post hopefully later this week/weekend. A few things have changed for me in terms of school, I've had some breakthroughs in therapy, I've had some crazy racial incidents occur which have me at odds with Bucks County, PA, and some other good stuff has happened...but like I said I'll get to that in other post.

My last post dealt with a story about Carrots, Eggs, & Coffee Beans. At the end of it I mentioned that I am trying, with all of my might, to be a coffee bean and change the property of the hot water I'm in, break out of the mold, so to speak.

When I went to therapy two Saturdays ago, I spent most of it like I had the previous ones: bawling my eyes out and lamenting the fact that I feel robbed of  a normal, healthy life & existence. I had been telling my therapist how painful it is to realize that my illness (Bipolar Disorder) was brought about (for the most part) through no fault of my own. From what I've been learning through reading and just reflecting about my life & my family, genetics, environment, and exposure created the DNA for this disorder to exist and manifest in my life. Looking back I can see that while I may have started struggling severely with depression and anxiety as a teen, I've at least had anxiety since I was a child...probably between Alex & Brennan's age. Generalized anxiety? Intrusive thoughts? Panic attacks? PTSD? Living in fear? Chronic worrying?  Abuse, neglect, and other circumstances were the the breeding grounds for all of those and the set the stage for what I'm living and struggling my way through now. And it hurts. It angers me. It makes me angry with my parents, with my family, it makes me isolate myself from them even more than I already have. Their inability to own the parts they played in creating this mess of my life both infuriates and saddens me. The parts I played in creating this mess of my life infuriates and saddens me as well....but at least I can acknowledge that I'm also to blame for some of this-they cannot and probably never will. And that hurts me ya'll. Not as much as it did when I first started to realize it a few weeks ago, but it's still there like a dull ache.

And so two Saturdays ago, I was hysterically babbling  explaining this to my therapist, and asking her what the hell I was supposed to do with this...this...pain, this anger, this resentment, this...STUFF that had erupted like Mt. St Helens within me. "IT'S NOT FAIR! IT'S NOT FAIR FOR ME TO BE THE ONLY ONE LEFT TRYING TO PUT ALL THESE PIECES TOGETHER!' I screamed at asked her. "I WAS JUST A CHILD! WHY DOESN'T ANYONE GET THAT? WHY DO THEY ACT LIKE IT'S ALL MY FAULT THAT I'M LIKE THIS?! F---!" After a few years moments of silence she looked me dead in the eye and said, "This is not your fault. You need to know that. No matter what mistakes you've made as an adult that may have contributed to this, understand that this is not your fault. You couldn't control this. And the ones who could have at least tried their best to prevent it didn't. They failed you as parents. As family members. They didn't protect you, they didn't get you the help you needed. They subjected to you years of abuse and even sexual abuse. They can't own it because that would mean they would have to acknowledge what they've done and they can't. So they leave you to deal with it and deflect it all on you."

"Ok...I get that. I could try to wrap my mind around that and accept it. But what do I do? Why is this so hard? Why is it so damn hard for me to just SURVIVE, let alone LIVE? Why do I feel like I've been fighting my whole life just to claw out some meager existence? This is insane! Who would want to live with this? Seriously? I'm going on autopilot because anything else is just too damn hard...I'm tired."

What she said next hit me like an artillery round to the temple: " A'Driane....it's hard because you're doing something that no one in your family has made strides to do. First of all, you're seeking help. REAL help for what you're facing. You're not hiding behind faith, you're not hoping that prayer makes it all better, you're getting professional help. You're accepting a part of you and doing everything you can to not let it destroy you or make you "check out" on life. You're breaking patterns, you're refusing to recycle the garbage that's been dumped on you...Mental illness runs in your family on both sides and you're the first one to really seek help and medication and treatment.... and guess what? Breaking out of something like this, of anything really, is hard, hard work. It's like breaking ground for a new building-you have to break up and overturn what's there so you can lay down a foundation to build upon. That's what you're doing. You're breaking out and you're breaking ground-so you and your boys can have a better life. So your boys will have a better chance of fighting this than you did. You're different. Doing something different is always a struggle. But you have to keep going, because as much as it hurts, and as lonely as it is, the reward is going to far outweigh the cost. Promise me you're going to hang in there and keep fighting...."

And this ladies and gentlemen is the exact moment when I knew I had found the right person to work through this stuff with. She got "it," she got me....She understood...and she reminded me of something I had forgotten. Ever since I was a little girl, I've always said to myself, to God, I'll do things differently. I won't do what was done to me, I won't repeat what I had to go through. When I was pregnant with Brennan, I reiterated that promise, telling God I'd keep Brennan if He would just help me not recycle the garbage, if He would help me break the generational patterns from BOTH sides of my family. Until two Saturdays ago, I didn't fully understand what that promise meant. Now I do.

It means I'm a coffee bean. I've been in hot, boiling water my whole life, surrounded by circumstances and situations that were less than ideal and bred a lot of pain and dysfunction in my life and the lives of those around me. I could be a carrot and get soft, weak, mushy...or I could be an egg and let what I've been through harden me...I've seen examples of both of these in my family and in people I've met. But I've also met coffee beans-people who take what they've been through and allow it to change them in a way that changes the environment around them, breaking out and creating something new, something that smells amazing, something that can be useful. And I'm one of them. I understand so much more now that I really understand that I am a coffee bean.

So, with that knowledge I'm tackling the first item on my Life List: Write Book #1. I'm writing about my childhood, my mental and sexual abuse, how that has impacted me, and set the stage for now having to live a life with a beast of a disorder. I'm writing about my experience living with Generalized anxiety and how it led to my experience with Postpartum Anxiety & depression as well. I"m writing about how I'm trying to balance faith, motherhood, & mental illness. Why? Because I want to destroy the stigmas surrounding mental illness in the Christian & African American cultures. I want my voice, my story to be out there so someone else can know that they aren't crazy and that they aren't alone. I don't care about money or anything like that-I care about helping people. I care about removing shame & empathizing with others. So I'm writing my first book.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo's 30 day writing challenge and will be spending the entire month writing. The goal is 50,000 words, 175 pages of unedited, raw content. I'm not writing a fiction piece so I probably won't submit it (I'm considered a Nano Rebel) but I'm still using this challenge as a guideline to get the bulk of my story (or at least a huge chunk of it) out.  Not sure what I'm going to do with it once it's written in terms of structure or publication, but I'll cross those bridges when I come to them in December. For now, for November, the goal is to just write it out....write out everything that's coming to the surface as a result of (finally) being medicated and in therapy.

I started tonight, and got my first 5 pages and 1100 words done....even had one of those clarifying Oprah "aha!' moments while writing them out....

Here's to the next 170.