Saturday, January 30, 2010

bob the fish and other random tales

we got a new fish.

it's been eight months since the passing of thor, apollo, and the-third-fish-whose-name-i-don't-remember. since i can't seem to keep bettas alive, we got a goldfish. little buddy named him bob. bob the goldfish has lived three days so far and seems to be doing well. no fungus like my bettas. this is a good sign. i'm still not getting attached to the darn thing since i cried and cried over my dumb bettas and i'm expecting the goldfish to die at any second. we will have to see how long he lasts.

i've decided winter needs to be over. yes, i know it's only january, but i am so sick of winter. i can't wait for spring and warmer weather and being outside.

little buddy, who is not quite two, now knows his entire alphabet. i, as his mommy, am busting with pride. can you believe it? what a genius my kid is. he also recognizes the ASL alphabet although he can't sign them yet. he learns new signs and new words on a constant basis now. he also knows his numbers up to ten. how many one year olds can do that?

princess is huge. i can't believe she is almost four months old now. she is very big for her age and i've got calluses on the inside of my knuckles from lugging her heavy car seat around. she is the prettiest baby i ever saw, with the biggest smile and wide blue eyes. and she sure loves her mommy. she loves me so much that i'm the only one who can calm her down and put her to sleep. it gets kind of frustrating because i have to be with her all the time and my arms get sore, but it's nice to know she feels safe with me.

i'm just starting to get over some nasty cold virus. like always, i catch EVERYTHING that goes around. (in fact, i'm pretty shocked i haven't caught the swine flu yet.) hubby gets it and is sick for four days. i get it and i'm sick for a week and a half. yucky coughing, headache, sore throat, congestion...gross. i can't wait until it goes away completely.

hubby got a new iphone and it is pretty darn awesome. little buddy likes to play toddler games on it, hubby can download books to read, and he's got some cool apps. it's nice having the internet with us everywhere we go, too, so we can look up phone numbers and addresses and such. i will hopefully be getting one in march when i'm due for an upgrade and i'm excited.

well i'm off to update our family's blog with pictures from the aquarium. little buddy had so much fun looking at the fish. i love going fun places with my family...i am so lucky to have such cute kids and such a great husband!

january blog carnival against child abuse

i know i haven't posted about the carnival in awhile, but i'm getting back into the swing of things. :) i even submitted this month, wooo for me!

check it out here. there are tons of great submissions for this edition.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

cracked: understanding why i act the way i do

hubby and i love to watch reality tv.

one of the shows we really enjoy is "celebrity rehab with dr. drew" on vh1. we also watched the "sex rehab" show that just ended. for those of you who don't know about the show, it follows a group of celebrities living in an actual rehab facility as they detox from various chemical addictions. (in the case of sex rehab, they were sex addicts.)

hubby really likes dr. drew pinsky, as do i. hubby first knew of him from listening to "loveline" on the radio. while i have listened to "loveline" a few times, it's from these shows that i really saw who he was. a doctor who really cares about his patients and tries to educate the world about trauma and addiction.

watching the series sex rehab really struck a chord with me. i am not, and never have been, an addict of any kind. i do have something in common with all of these people, though: childhood trauma. i probably would make a very good addict, if i had ever chosen to get into drugs or alcohol. lucky for me i never did.

every week hubby and i watched as these people battled with their inner demons, their past experiences, and their fears. nearly every single person on that show had been sexually abused. one particular episode stuck out to me. on this episode, the patients were taken to a facility for some art therapy. once they arrived, they were given the opportunity to throw paint-filled balloons, eggs, and dishes at a very large canvas hung on the wall. they were there to explore and express their anger in a therapeutic setting. by the end of the episode i was in tears. that was me. those people...they were me. they were just like me.

recently i started reading a book written by dr. drew, called "cracked: putting broken lives together again: a doctor's story." while this book is specifically about addicts and their rehab process, i have found much of it applies to me as a survivor of abuse. it has been very interesting to me to read it, and i wanted to pass the recommendation on to my fellow survivors, whether or not you struggle with some form of addiction. and to everyone else, it's a great book to read.

while reading it the other night i came across a passage and had a sort of epiphany. i have always struggled with handling my emotions (especially anger and frustration) in a health and appropriate way. this passage from "cracked" really stood out to me, because it was describing me perfectly. i'd like to share that with you, maybe it will make sense to some of you out there as well. this section is taken from a lecture that dr. drew gave to some of his former patients and their families. (it is a little long, but trust me, it's worth reading. i promise.)

"You want to know the common denominator among my patients?" I say, turning serious. "They all had traumatic experiences in early life that caused them to feel helpless, powerless, and in grave danger." I see some people nodding. "This feeling of helplessness creates an inability to process feelings and an aversion to exploring other minds. There's no trust. If you can't trust, you can't connect with anyone. Without the capacity to activate the part of the brain that allows for connection and exploration of other people, an individual loses the main mechanism for discovering who we are and the ability to regulate emotions.

"Think about it," I continue. "For all of us, other people function as self-regulating agents. We learn to identify ourselves when we recognize ourselves in others. We constantly think, 'Oh, that's exactly how I feel.' Or you say, 'I was thinking that exact same thing.' Our experiences of ourselves become internalized as a result of this sort of interaction. We figure out who we are.

"But my patients--many of you--automatically take the emotional posture that the abuse you fell victim to was your fault. Why? Because at least then you avoid feeling the threat of the contents of the mind of your abuser. You don't ask why Daddy hits you or Mommy's passed out on the living room floor. If it's your fault, you're more in control.

"You're sacrificing yourself in order to maintain the illusion of control in a situation that otherwise you'd experience as irrational and unpredictable. Of course, if you're at fault, you're also feeling shame. In addition, your brain kicks into an automatic biological response that becomes a permanent mechanism for dealing with interpersonal stress. This is the action your brain takes to escape these situations from which there's no escape, something called dissociation."

A gray-haired man in mechanic's coveralls raises his hand. I have treated him and his son.

"So what are you saying that I'm feeling?" he asks.

"What did I say all my patients have in common?"

"Helplessness," he ays.

"What do you feel when you're helpless?" I ask.

"Fear," he says.

"Right. The initial response to threat is fear. How does this happen? Well, chemicals flood into the brain as the flight-or-fight response is initiated. When escape seems hopeless, your brains switches into shut-down mode, releasing a flood of endorphins that provide a soothing numbness as you wait for the inevitable to occur.

"The experience that predominates this reaction is what?"

I call on a young guy seated on the side.

"I don't even get what you're saying," he says. "But I'm guessing that it's the sense that you're somewhere else, gone, shut down."

"Exactly," I say. "Dissociation. You separate and isolate yourself from the world, from feelings, from others. While such a reaction may protect you from the horrifying experience--whatever that turns out to be--the price is a long-term difficulty in integrating emotional experiences. Think back to whatever age you suffered trauma. That's when you shut down. That's when you decided you were to blame. That's when you stopped developing and growing in the part of the brain that regulates emotions. That's when you stopped connecting with others.

"So what happens? The personality that accompanies you as you mature physically tends to have a hard time in relationships. In fact, the original victimization is often recreated over and over again. It's the same problem repeated, and more problems ensue. You can't trust someone with your tender needs in a genuine relationship. Why? It's too dangerous. It's too likely to expose you to trauma again....

"So your ability to develop brain mechanisms to regulate emotions is impaired, since we tend to build these through intimate connections with others. It's a great big mess that causes you to enter your young life looking for solutions to those feelings of being, as most of you say, screwed up. You aren't able to find any peace until you find drugs or alcohol. Then, suddenly, for the first time, everything seems all right."

wow. talk about a profound wonder i act like i'm six years old when things get's that fight-or-flight, and that is also why i struggle with conflict in relationships, especially those who are closest to me.

for me, as i said, it isn't drugs or alcohol that makes me feel like everything is all right. i rarely feel that way, in fact. i've had moments of it, though. like when my husband holds me close and lets me cry it out, telling me that he loves me and that it will be okay, that he's there for me. when i hold my sweet babies. when my son says "mommy" and lays his head on my shoulder. when my daughter smiles that giant toothless grin at me. in my art. at times in my religion.

understanding why it is i act the way i do makes it easier for me to know where to start in changing it. changing it is the hard part...i am embarking on a long and painful journey, and at least i know a little better where i'm starting from.

and as a side note, i wish i had lots of money so dr. drew could be my therapist.

cracked, copyright 2003 by dr. drew pinsky

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

pooh's grand adventure

isn't it funny how when you're really struggling you tend to come across something that makes you stop and think twice?

i've really been struggling lately. my depression is out of control....and i've been having anxiety, no sleep, and i easily get trapped inside my head.

this morning i started reading a book to little buddy. it's a new one that he got for christmas that we haven't read together. it's called "pooh's grand adventure." in the story, it is the last day of summer and christopher robin will begin school the next day. after a day of playing in the hundred acre wood, christopher robin tries to tell pooh goodbye.

he says, "pooh bear, if there's ever a tomorrow when we're not together, there's something you must remember:

you're braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think."

it might be a coincidence...maybe it is...but i'd like to think it isn't. after all of the praying i've been doing, pleading for strength, and for help, perhaps this is an answer.

if i can memorize those three lines, and repeat them to myself over and over, maybe i'll start to believe them about myself.

i'm braver than i believe,
i'm stronger than i seem,
and smarter than i think.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

hot mess

stress. freak out.
stress. freak out.
stress. freak out.
stress. freak out.
stress. freak out.

this is the theme for the month of january. remember last january? same thing. january before that....i'm pretty sure it was the same, maybe not quite as bad. so why is this month such a hard one? i don't understand far as i can remember, there isn't really a specific event in my life that would turn me into such a mess in the month of january. seasonal affect disorder? i don't think so, although i guess it could be a possibility.

i'm not going to go into much detail but the past week has been an extremely difficult one depression-wise.

i wish i remembered how it felt to be happy....but then i wonder, have i ever really been happy? maybe as an infant, possibly as a toddler, but i sure don't remember that far back.

positive vibes sent this way would be mucho appreciated....for both me and hubby, because he needs them too.

january is my one hot mess month. anyone else having a hot mess of a january?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

the bell jar

since princess was born, i've been waking up in the middle of the night several times to nurse. at first i was keeping myself awake by playing brick breaker on my phone but i quickly got bored of that. so i decided to start reading again. i really missed reading but i definitely don't have time during the day, and at night i spend time with my hubby. so this was a perfect solution. i can read about 15 minutes or so every time i nurse. takes me a lot longer to get through books but at least i'm reading! i started out by rereading twilight and new moon. then i read the second and third books in the outlander series. (very good books, i've enjoyed them a lot.) finally i decided i was going to go to the library and read the books i have always wanted to read but never had the chance to. i read the poisonwood bible and loved it. currently i'm reading love in the time of cholera. but the last book i finished was sylvia plath's the bell jar.

i have to be honest, i have never read anything by sylvia plath before. i have heard great things about her, as well as a lot of comments about how depressing she is. my father in law loves her, but when i told him i was going to read the bell jar he told me it was one of the most depressing books he's ever read. so that's what i was expecting.

for those of you who don't know the story, it is actually a thinly veiled autobiography. it is about a nineteen year old girl named esther who seemingly has everything going for her. she is in the honors program at a great college, straight-a student, with a scholarship. the book starts out with her spending time in new york city. she has won an internship with a magazine, as she is studying to be a writer. after an attempted rape, and the end of her internship, she goes home and descends into the depths of depression. she stays in bed. she can't read, she loses her ability to write. in her head, her future becomes empty. she loses her desire to live and contemplates several ways to commit suicide. she sees a doctor for sleeping pills, who sends her to a psychiatrist followed by a botched session of electroshock therapy. following this, esther attempts suicide by taking the entire bottle of sleeping pills and hiding herself in the basement crawl space. there her mother finds her and she is taken to the psychiatric hospital. she is transferred between hospitals until she ends up in a private hospital, where she begins to recover. a friend from school also ends up in the hospital, and eventually she commits suicide. esther calls her depression the bell jar, where she "stews in her own sour air." she says that "to the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream."

i suppose to most people this book would be extremely depressing. i didn't find it depressing in the slightest. does that make me weird? sick and twisted? on the contrary, i found myself relating to esther greenwood in more ways than one. i understood what she was saying. i have lived in my own bell jar, which still descends at times. it was a positive thing to me, to read this book, to understand and relate. it was a positive thing to me to read esther's story, with her journey into and out of her depression. esther called it her rebirth. "There ought, I thought, to be a ritual for being born twice - patched, retreaded and approved for the road."

this is such a fantastic book and i will definitely reread it again. it's a book i'd like to own. if you haven't read it...i would recommend it. any of you read it? what did you think?