Honor and Delight for Your Past Self

Oh that we could start to realize that we are not our own enemy who is to be pushed aside and discounted. Will you give space to your past and start to soften your heart towards how you treat your past self?

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I have been sitting staring at this blank white screen for quite a few moments. This topic is hard for me because a mere three months ago I had no idea it was even an issue. And while it’s hard, I know it’s important to talk about. We all walk around with this notion that we are one being. One mind. One body. We try to convince ourselves that our previous trauma has not fractured us in any way. Maybe you don’t see it at all, and this talk about multiple selves is hogwash to you. Maybe you know deep down that all the pain you have endured had to have some sort of impact on you. Maybe you are well aware of the fractures that trauma has caused you. It’s a continuum, but everyone is on the path. The path toward realizing there is more going on under the surface than many of us are willing to admit.

We in the church try to name all of these voices in our head as the evil one. And I give to you that some of it is. I believe there is an enemy out there who is actively working against your healing. BUT…I offer to you that some of the inner dialogue that you hear is also your inner self who has not been given room to express herself. Who has been locked in the time and space when the trauma occurred. Who is hiding as a result of immense pain that has not been given words. Oh that we could start to realize that we are not our own enemy who is to be pushed aside and discounted. She is hurting and just wants to be heard. It is in this vane that I appeal to you today: will you be curious about yourself? Will you begin to open the door to noticing your thoughts? Will you give space to your past and pray about how to soften your heart towards how you treat yourself (especially when you think about your past self who has been through trauma)?

Can you begin to think about what it would look like for you to honor and delight in those little ones who need a voice? Come beside the one who acted out of pain and shut everyone out. Begin to thaw your heart towards the one who made impulsive, stupid decisions. See the one who has been so rigid that she has kept you from enjoying your own life to its fullest. Be curious about the thoughts that you immediately push away or you name as the enemy or that you rebuke as a lie.

We are all hurtling towards healing. If you are available and willing to go where you haven’t gone before you will reap rewards. Jesus is busy preparing a place for you to land. May Jesus give you courage to turn toward your inner self. May He give you supernatural grace for yourself as you navigate those deep dark caverns of your heart. Your toil is not in vain. Your bravery and courage will not go unnoticed. Let’s journey together, warriors. Peace to you.

Disney Pixar Shorts and God’s Creativity

The Lord said to me: “that’s all it takes. One touch from me and you will be changed. One touch and you will explode with beautiful healing…”

We are big fans of Disney in our house. Recently we have been watching our DVDs of Pixar’s animated shorts. They are all so amazing and creative and inspired. I am always in awe of people who can create stories like these. One that I have always thought was really cute is La Luna. If you haven’t seen it, you should watch it here now!

La Luna is a great short. After watching it, I always thought, “oh that was cute!” It’s not even my favorite one. But during my last counseling session the Lord used it to both bring me comfort and remind me of his ability to bring me further than I could ever think to go on my own.

There is a part in La Luna where the little boy (whose Dad and Grandpa are showing the ropes) touches a star and light ripples through it. It just takes one touch. I think he thought that the star’s reaction was normal. It was his first time up there. But, turns out it is a gift. My counselor and I were praying and I immediately saw this image in my mind. It takes just one touch from my Father to change me.

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Later in La Luna, the family was trying to dislodge a giant star that landed on the surface of the moon. They worked late into the night using all of the tools they had on hand that they knew to use. They couldn’t make it budge. Meanwhile, the little boy was watching, waiting for his elders to figure it out. Suddenly he realized he had an idea. He crawled up to the top of this giant star and struck it with a hammer and it explodes!

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The Lord said to me: “that’s all it takes. One touch from me and you will be changed. One touch and you will explode with beautiful healing. You have worked hard, long into the night with all of the tools at your disposal, and all you need is a strike from my hammer. You are capable of more than you know. You have so much in you that you haven’t even tapped yet. Just wait, you will be free to be who I made you to be.”

I imagine myself falling, comfortable, at peace because it is Jesus who exploded me in his mercy. I am safe. I have been healed. I am being healed. And I will be healed.

When Self-Preservation turns into Dysfunction

To say that I have regrets about my reaction to my trauma is an understatement. I have many things I wish I could change about those years.

Let’s talk about coping mechanisms. Everyone has them. They all come from some degree of trauma. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you have grown up in this world, someone or something has wronged you. Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes not. You can have “Big T” trauma or “little t” trauma. It doesn’t matter what type of trauma you have been through your brain creates ways for you to survive.

If you’ve had Big T trauma your brain is desperate for safety. It isolates those memories and puts them in a specific place in your brain. They are locked there for the foreseeable future. Just because they are placed in that special compartment doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect your everyday life. Your subconscious is always surveying the environment, anxiously awaiting a perceived danger. Your brain is in hyperdrive even if you aren’t able to identify it.

That is what happened to me. My trauma got placed in my trauma center so I could survive both during the acts perpetrated against me and also afterwards. I survived many years before the Lord graciously saw fit to notify me that I had some things to address! These coping mechanisms serve a very important purpose: survival. They also cause a lot of damage.

The biggest thing my brain did (does) to me is dissociation. I numbed out. I couldn’t feel a true emotion. I never felt truly connected to my body. I ignored emotional and physical signals my body tried to send me. I went through much of high school nauseous and underweight. I threw up multiple times per day. My body was crying for attention. As I became further and further removed from the actual years of abuse, my nausea subsided and I started having headaches.

It was during high school that I perfected my “don’t mess with me” persona. One that to this day I am not proud of. I developed a look and a way that dared people to cross me. I could tear anyone down with just a look and a couple words. I became very perceptive. I was skeptical of everyone and their motives. I treated almost everyone as the enemy; I had to reject others before they had the opportunity to hurt me.

In college I felt like I was living outside of my body most of the time. I felt like I was watching myself live my life, like a movie. I didn’t know what I believed. I didn’t have anywhere to place the memories I had. Dissociation helped me to isolate. I wasn’t able to engage in normal activities like other college kids do. My brain was so concerned with protecting me relationally that I wasn’t able to maintain lasting relationships with friends. Disconnection and isolation led to depression. It’s all a vicious cycle.

I have also dealt with dissociation in my marriage. I have unknowingly disconnected from my husband more times than I’m proud to admit. The first few years of our marriage was spent him trying to reach me and me not getting the clue. I was just surviving on auto-pilot.

To say that I have regrets about my reaction to my trauma is an understatement. I have many things I wish I could change about those years. I have been learning that I have to accept those things that I did for survival. I have to honor my brain for reacting that way. If I would not have developed those coping mechanisms, I never would have survived; I believe that. I need to save room and grace for my response in the midst of my pain. I had no other choice, I did the things that I felt would help me navigate this world.

So to my survival techniques and coping mechanisms I say thank you. Thank you for keeping me from further trauma. Thank you for helping me not implode. Thank you for making me successful. I am forever indebted to you for your strength of mind and perception. BUT! You are no longer serving my needs. We’ve reached the end of our road. The things that have kept me safe are now causing pain. So today I am choosing to rewire my brain. I am choosing to honor my past while pressing into the darkness. I am saying thank you, now it’s time for change. It’s time to be more the way Jesus made me to be; not the way the world has made me.

Depression and Stay at Home Motherhood

I have had varying levels of depression for my whole adult life. I’ve taken antidepressants and I haven’t. I have had times of isolation and times of community. Before I had my kids I had the freedom to act how I wanted. I had a good distracting job that I could dive into. Or if I didn’t feel like that I could lay in bed all day and numb out on TV or a book or whatever. My husband was busy with his Master’s degree. It’s not that my depression didn’t effect people, it just wasn’t so apparent. (Until we were on the edge of divorce, but that’s for another day 😉 )

When I had my Maggie Rose I quit my job and started a new journey of staying at home. It took a good 9 months before I was kind of okay with being home. Part of it was because she was a challenging baby and I felt like my hardest day at work was nowhere near the hardest day at home alone with baby Maggie. Another was it was very isolating. I got pregnant with Maggie almost immediately after I was “done” with my first phase of healing; so I was practicing being in community and engaging with friends, etc. Quitting my job and having a colicky baby helped me to isolate, which continues to be my default. It always feels more comfortable to stay home and not return calls/texts than it does to put myself out there in any way.

Right now I have hard days and I have days that are a little easier. Today has been a hard day. I have been depressed. It’s one of those days that I would definitely just lay in bed, open the window, and stream football. I can’t say that I have done much more than that, but now I have that mom guilt that creeps in. Everyone has had more screen time than I want (how much is too much anyway?), I have kind of laid in a heap, letting the kids destroy the house.

Maggie asked to go outside and I told her no!! Who does that? Me. I do. Especially when I’m depressed. I hate these days when I feel like it’s all I can do to throw some hot dogs on the table for lunch. Then I remember that these times are thankfully fleeting for me. I don’t feel like this everyday. The kids hopefully won’t remember me this way, and if they do, I will apologize profusely, but it’s all for the good of our family. These emotional ups and downs are for a purpose. I have an unending hope that one day I will be better than I am today.

Hope in the Journey and EMDR

Alright, y’all. Let’s just dive right in. I’m not gonna spend a whole lot of time talking about what I’ve been through leading up to this. I am going to start in my present moment and I’m sure we will discuss my past as I try to explain how I got here. If you want to read a little more about me visit my about page here. What I want to do with this blog is to give you a view of what I am working on right now. A more refined, edited (thankfully for you!) version of my personal journal. I will process through on my own and then let you read a little of my insights here.

I have done a lot of work around my own personal trauma, by myself, in counseling, and through church groups. Right now I am actively attending counseling sessions weekly. To say that it is hard to balance being a mom, wife, and digging deep into my story would be an understatement. It is not something that I would necessarily choose to do myself without the underlying hope of wholeness and redemption that my counselor, my family and I have.

One of the most helpful tools I have found that has helped me process trauma is through eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). If you’ve never heard of it I encourage you to read more about it here. A lot of my healing breakthroughs have been a combination of hard work and choosing to go into dark places, Jesus, talk therapy, and EMDR.

If I have learned one thing on my journey towards wholeness I know that “name it claim it” approach to healing does not work. While I believe that Jesus has the ultimate power to heal once and for all, I don’t think that’s the story that most of us have. Do I want to be plucked out of my pain? Definitely. Do I want to be rescued? For sure. But I know through experience that the mountain top view is so much better when you have battled through the valley, up the mountain, across all the switchbacks–the thirst, hunger, and desolation–to reach the top.

It is not for the faint of heart, but with a support system and hope, anything is possible.