Thursday, 27 October 2011

Kreativ Community

Alicia at the blog McCrenshaw recently honored The Honesty Conspiracy by passing along the Kreativ Blogger award. Thanks, Alicia! The rules of accepting this award say that we must:

Share seven things about us. This is a bit tricky since this is a community effort, but we admins got together and came up a few things about ourselves.

Pass the award on to ten deserving bloggers. Should be easy! This will be a great opportunity for us to honor some of the great writers who have supported this effort by sharing it with their communities, and just to link you to some content we think is valuable.

Here goes!

Seven Things About Us:
1. There are currently three admins for the Honesty Conspiracy, all of us women.
2. Between us, we have five beautiful children.
3. None of us is currently living in the same country where we grew up, and all of us are currently on separate continents.
4. All of us have personal blogs, and together the titles include ever letter of the alphabet except for: F, J, K, P, Q, X, and Z.
5. We are two brunettes and a blonde.
6. We have never met in person, or spoken on the phone.
7. We are all lovers of dessert, and could eat chocolate any hour of the day or day of the week.

Looking back, this sort of reads like a riddle, but is not to be taken as an invitation to do detective work ;)

For more Kreativ Blogging, please see:
Raising My Boychick
Momma Jorje
Mom Grooves
Uniquely Normal Mom
Hybrid Rasta Mama
Hobo Mama
The Natural Parents Network
Peace 4 Parents
Monkey Butt Junction

Friday, 21 October 2011

Losing My Virginity -- and My Self-Respect

Growing up, I considered myself a Christian and was about as devout as they come really. I had plenty of friends and was generally well liked, but everyone knew me well enough not to invite me to parties. As far as I knew, the students at my high school didn't have them, and they certainly didn't have sex. Of course the beer cans in the woods and the teen pregnancy rate proved otherwise, but I happily lived in my bubble of "good morals" right up until graduation.

The following summer, I moved out of my parents' house and began dating someone I knew through friends. I wasn't particularly interested in him, but liked that he liked me, so the relationship continued. That summer, in my first apartment, I had my first real kiss. Of course there were no fireworks, as often there aren't, but especially because I didn't really have feelings for this guy. He went off to college and I went on my way, slowly beginning to question my beliefs and moving away from organized religion.

Another summer came and I found myself dating someone I really was excited about. My religious beliefs had shifted enough that I had allowed myself to discover, and even begin to enjoy, parties, but there had not been a great deal of change beyond that. I was still a virgin, as I had always planned to remain until I married. One night I went to a party with my much older boyfriend and had far too much to drink, so he took me home. That night I lost my virginity shortly after vomiting out his car door in the parking lot outside his apartment building.

I had not planned this at all and apparently had very little respect for myself, because instead of feeling violated and upset, I figured "what the heck, it's done now, may as well do it again." I was not at all ready, but I also wasn't in tune with myself enough to realize this. In hindsight, I think he was, and that he felt guilty for taking advantage of the situation. I think it was for this reason that he immediately distanced himself from me. Before long our relationship was over, and I heartbroken and humiliated. Even years later, when he would call my place of work to ask a question, and I would happen to answer, a co-worker and mutual friend of ours would jokingly ask whether I had told him I wanted my "V-Card" back. Not funny.

Over the next two or three years, I would have half a dozen more partners, only two of whom I felt had any respect for me. Only two of whom I would sleep with because I wanted to. The others wanted me, and I wanted to be wanted. The others took advantage of post-party situations when I had let myself lose some degree of control. None of these encounters were enjoyable, and nearly all of them I regretted on some level. Rather than standing up for myself and being in control of my body, I allowed it to be controlled by men. I let them take what they wanted as I remained completely out of touch with my own desires. I never had a chance to develop new thoughts and beliefs regarding sex, as I had with faith and religion. I was too busy bouncing from one man to the next.

In the end, I found someone I truly want to be with, and someone who truly wants to be with me. We enjoy one another in nearly every sense of the word, most of the time anyway. I feel respected, I know what I want, and I am comfortable asking for it. I am thrilled to have found my husband when I did, and to have found some self-respect along the way, but I feel a deep sense of disappointment when I reflect on my past experience. I am saddened that I didn't love myself enough to be my own advocate in these situations. I hate that I allowed these men to decide what my early sexual experiences would look like. I wish I had become the somewhat sexually liberated female I am today on my own timeline, and not theirs.

I can't change my past, and really it all came together to make me the person I am today so I do my best not to live in regret. My biggest concern, now that I am raising a daughter, is that she will follow a similar path. If I have not learned to hold myself in high esteem, regardless of who is around me and what they think, how will I teach her to value and respect herself? How do I help her become a person with boundaries? A person who can respect herself? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I sincerely hope that I find them along the way.

Photo Credit: Glen Loos-Austin on Flickr

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

I Want to Be Free

Photo Credit: apdk
My daughter is one of the sweetest, most beautiful little girls in the world (yes, I can say that because I'm her mom ;) ). In the past few months, she's started walking. She jabbers and talks almost non-stop. She's always up for adventure, never shy or unwilling to try something new. People stop us all the time to compliment her or say hi to her.

Half a dozen times a day I just have to look at her to find my heart hurts with this insane love I never knew existed. I have been given this amazing, joyful gift...

...and it makes me very, very bitter.

Over the past few months, I find myself thinking over and over again about my own childhood. I look at my daughter, and I wonder how any parent could treat their kid the way our dad treated us. In spite of all the years of trying to forgive, I find myself feeling active hatred for him once again.

I don't like it. I don't like thinking about those days. I don't like feeling this way. I want to be free of this. I'm just not sure I know how.

In many ways, it would be easier if I could just say, "My dad was a very bad man." Of course, I can't. I do have good memories of him. I know he has regrets. I think if he had it to do over again, he would do things differently.

I can give him credit for all those things - knowing too that I am far from perfect. But I find I can't keep myself from coming back to the bad. That seems to be always where my focus lies.

I can easily justify my attitude. We grew up in a house defined by anger, violence, and uncertainty. We never knew if good dad or bad dad would be home - he was two different people really. I think in many ways that made it all the worse - that not knowing what to expect; always trying to prepare for the worst.

A few weeks ago I found myself in a flood of tears, telling my husband stories from my childhood, none of them good. By the end of my outpouring, he was in tears himself. I knew he was imagining someone doing those things to our daughter...the same as I have been.

It would take a book really to detail everything my siblings and I went through, but the ultimate result is that in our different ways, I think all three of us feel worthless.

My dad was not happy with his life. In that unhappiness, he punished his wife and children over and over and over again. We were spanked, in anger, many times. When the age came for spankings to end, the emotional abuse escalated. We were told, multiple times, that having children so young had ruined our dad's life. He put it in terms of a warning - wait until you're older to have children! But in case there was any doubt, he made sure we knew he was referring to our situation.

I know he felt worthless himself - dead end job, 3 kids, no money, angry all the time. He had his own bad childhood - divorced parents, raising his 3 brothers, a dad who did beat them. He passed that legacy on when he lectured me for hours on the ways I fell short...whether it was a constantly messy room, being overweight, or even believing in God.

There were the lectures, and the yelling. The breaking of dishes and holes punched in the walls. He even frequently wrote us letters filled with vitriol - it was like he saw it as a way of controlling his temper when he could calmly write something about whatever shortfall it was he felt the need to address. Those letters are some of my very worst memories even now...

There was much more than that. And there was the good, too of course. Over the years I've pushed it away and gone along with the current family story that nothing was ever that bad. We don't see each other more than once or twice a year and it's always been fairly easy to be civil and even enjoy his company.

But lately, I can't get it out of my mind. The past few visits home have stressed me out so much it's taken months to feel normal again. And they haven't even been bad ones. Any criticism I get or perceive from the people around me now just destroys me. It's like I'm right back in that place of feeling constantly powerless and distressed - the same place I was as a kid and teenager and thought I'd left several years ago.

The thing is...I used to be the same as my daughter. I was full of laughter and joy - completely fearless. I actually remember my very young years more than most of the years intervening, when I had the same beautiful spirit as my daughter.

I think what I can't get over right now is the powerful, suddenly in my face realization that it was my own parent who destroyed that in me. I turned into a shy, introverted, frightened, overweight girl with no confidence and little self worth - because the constant message I grew up with was, "You are not good enough."

In many ways, I've been reborn. I still struggle with my weight. I still feel like I don't measure up. But in my logical mind, I know I am an amazing person. I know I am a good wife and a good mother and intelligent and even pretty.

I think maybe I'm scared. I have the power to do what was done to me to my daughter. I have a legacy that goes back generations in my family and I think I'm scared to death that I could continue it. In spite of doing everything differently so far (than my parents did) and seeing amazing results from it, I continue to feel trapped in this cycle.

There's a saying that I've liked for a long time - it says: "Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

For many years, I've wanted to forgive my dad. He's not going to ask me for forgiveness - I know that. I don't think I need that. I don't really feel like I need anything from him at this point. I don't think I need to forget about it all either - good or bad, those things shaped me to be the person I am today.

But still, I'm bitter. And until I cannot be, I won't be free. I want to be free of this. I'm just not sure I know how...

I know this was really, really rambling. Thank you for listening, whoever you are.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Waiting to come - a personal history of orgasms

My husband and I were each others first lovers thirteen years ago. We were nervous and clumsy. I hated my body and thought myself fat and ugly. I had never had an orgasm.

It was with him that I had my first orgasm with his beautifully gentle tongue. But never through intercourse. I felt embarrassed that I couldn't - surely every one did and could. I remember talking about sex at school with friends. Before I had ever "done it" and they talked about coming together - having orgasms together. This is what you see in the movies, so that's what happens, right? When I was twelve I was called frigid by a boy who wanted to put his arm round me and I said no. He must have been right - I was frigid.

My husband-to-be kindly gifted me with my first vibrator. With that I learnt to create beautiful orgasms for myself. And then I learnt to do it for myself without any electronic aids, that was a really proud achievement. But still I "couldn't" do it with him. I did a lot of reading - according to the research a large percentage of women cannot orgasm during intercourse, it is not unusual at all.

Our sex life became tense - I felt under pressure, he felt under pressure. And then I just gave up. And almost gave up on sex all together. It wasn't how I wanted it to be. He didn't get what I needed, he couldn't hear me.

My first child's birth was orgasmic, quite unexpected. But between that birth and the next nearly three years later he just seemed to give up. His tongue never came to visit any more. Sex was boring. He did it to my body, not to me. It was perfunctory, not pleasurable or personal.

And then after the birth of my second child, I felt under pressure to perform my services very soon afterwards. Just ten days after birth. I felt cross that I was under pressure. But he was so gentle, so loving, he made love to me, the whole of me, every part of my body. And my womb, remembering the pulses of birth, began to throb, and waves of pleasure came over me. After nine years of sex with him, I orgasemed with him inside me. I sobbed with pleasure.

It didn't happen again until after the next birth. Almost two years later. Again ten days after birth. Again a ground shaking orgasm. And since then it is a regular occurrence.

I am so excited about our sex life now. After three children it is the best it has ever been. We know each other. We are closer. There is a level of trust, openness, and connection from having gone through three births together. Nothing is hidden or shameful. Through the ups and downs of parenthood and mental fragility we have found each other physically. This is not how people tell you that it is. You are "supposed" to know how to have orgasms naturally. You are supposed to have hot sex in your teens and early twenties. Your sex life is supposed to get worse over the years of marriage. It is supposed to decline after babies, stretched vaginas and saggy boobs. But this is not true, not for me. And I am so happy for that.

If this is a topic of interest for you, get your hands on a copy of The Hite Report by Shere Hite. It reports the research of thousands of women talking about their sex lives - women young and old, straight, gay, mothers and not.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Parenting a Child with a Sensory Processing Disorder SUCKS!

Photo Credit: Tostadophoto
By Lioness Mama 

Yep – you read that right. And I will even say it again just so you know I am serious. Parenting a child with a sensory processing disorder sucks. It sucks hard. It sucks ass! It makes motherhood a rather unenjoyable experience a lot of the time. It makes it hard to want to get out of bed and face the day because you know it will be one challenge after another. It makes life seem like one freaking big chore. 

Everyone on the planet has some sort of sensory issue. Some people dislike certain types of noises. Others cannot stand to be touched a certain ways. Others have aversions to certain textures. The majority of the population can navigate their sensory preferences quite well and it does not become an impediment to daily life. For others, sensory issues become an actual disorder affecting the quality of their life as well as those around them.  

For the first year of my daughter’s life, I had no clue that she was developing (or possibly already struggling) with a sensory processing issue. I just assumed that she was ridiculously attached to me, needed comfort in the form of physical touch (including breastfeeding), and that she experienced separation anxiety more than most other babies. I chalked it up to being an attached parent and stay at home mom.  

Once my cub turned one, I started to realize that she was “different” than other children. She had major eating issues, major elimination issues, and major sleep issues. In addition, she showed signs of anxiety, a strong resistance to change, and monumentous separation anxiety. She was also becoming increasingly clingy and her emotions began to go all over the map over what I considered to be regular life occurrences.  

By the time my cub was 18 months old, she displayed some pretty concerning behaviors and reactions to life. At that point I knew that I was parenting a high needs child and quite frankly, I was drained beyond belief. I could not get any “alone” time. My cub was ALWAYS with me. She came to the bathroom with me, she bathed with me, she slept with me, she cooked with me, she cleaned with me, she did everything with me. She could not be away from me at all. If I moved out of her line of sight for even a nanosecond, a complete and utter nervous breakdown would occur.  

Sleep became a joke. Seriously. My child could not sleep unless I was with her and she was touching me. I became a slave to HER need for sleep. Naps would not happen unless I was lying in bed with her. Night time sleep was restless at best but non-existent if I tried to sneak away. 

My cub is 2 ½ now and is a very, very, very exhausting child to mother. I have become someone I do not like because of it. I am irritated all the time. I am stressed out all the time. I am overwhelmed all the time. I am resentful. I am negative. I am depressed. I feel alone and isolated. I am exhausted. I am bitchy. But most of all, I am worried beyond belief about my little cub’s future. And it doesn’t help that my mother and father are the ONLY people who believe that my daughter has a SPD. My husband says it’s a crock and that she will grow out of her issues. He also blames me for everything saying that if I had never let our daughter sleep in the same bed as us and if I would wean her from my breast, then she would completely change and become this different child. Yeah – don’t think so. 

So what exactly is life like for me and my daughter (remember she is only 2 ½)? What exactly am I bitching about? Well...since you asked… 

  • My cub has emotional hypersensitivity. When she is sad she is inconsolable. When she is scared she is inconsolable. The tears and the wailing can go on for an eternity. When she is angry or frustrated she bites objects, purposefully hurts herself (think hitting her head against a hard object of biting her arm hard enough to draw blood), or forcefully discards the object of her frustration.
  • She has amplified mental processing speed meaning she can take in her surroundings much quicker than the average adult. She deeply FEELS the mood and is uber aware of every minute detail going on around her. This is overwhelming her and makes it difficult for us to take her anywhere that is outside her comfort zone. It also takes a long time for her to become comfortable at places like friends’ houses, parks, or grocery stores. I pretty much have to take her to the same places over and over again. It is not worth her stress (which comes out in her sleep and in her overattachment to me) to force her into a new and unnecessary situation.
  • My cub has a heightened awareness to the mood, emotions, and atmosphere around her which makes it tough for my husband and I to have any sort of conversation. We have some communication issues and my daughter gets extremely stressed out and acts out whenever my husband and I engage in anything more than a casual conversation. She also has difficulties with my having a phone conversation with anyone (mostly because she is reading my emotions and not understanding what is going on with the person on the other end). She has difficulty when I display another emotion other than a positive, happy, lighthearted mood. If I speak to her in a harsh, irritated, or angry tone, all hell breaks loose. She becomes very withdrawn and then completely loses it, sobbing uncontrollably and then asking me again and again and again and again for days on end if I am mad, frustrated, or sad.
  • She experiences social introversion and does not enjoy playing with children she does not know. She really only has three “friends” whom she is comfortable with and it has taken a year for that to happen. My cub prefers to be an observer on the outside and away from the group.
  • My daughter has extreme difficulty adjusting to a temporary or permanent change in routine. She HAS to do the same thing in the same basic order every day. Now that she is 2 ½, she really knows what we typically do and it throws her completely off kilter for the rest of the day if things get altered. Visits from the in-laws, visits from friends, unavoidable errands that are NOT carried out on their typically designated day, changes in weather than affect our daily routine, and changes in my husband’s work schedule are just a few of the things that cause all hell to break loose. It not only affects my daughter on that day but she will struggle for up to a week. A week long visit from the in-laws keeps her off kilter and acting out wildly for weeks! She will also inevitably end up sick after a major change in routine.
  • My cub is over anxious – a worrier. After something happens that causes her distress, she will ask about it and brood over it for days on end. For instance, we gave a friend one of our dishes when we brought over some baked goods. My daughter asked about that dish every day until we got it back. She was consumed with the dish being gone. Imagine how she deals with seeing a cat get hit by a car. Oh yeah – that has happened twice now while we were walking to the park. We also saw a dog get hit. And we have seen a wide variety of dead animals including skunks, rabbits, foxes, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, moles, birds, rats, and snakes. Words cannot express how much of a struggle this is for my daughter. She understands death but nonetheless, worries over the well being of the dead animal. She will say “bunny gone” every few minutes for hours and then bring it up again the next day. And the next. And the next. Infinity.
  • My daughter is only soothed tactilely and she cannot self sooth at all. When she gets upset about anything or has been away from me for any period of time (minutes to an hour or two), the only way she can calm down and settle herself is through touching me. She either rubs my sides, my belly, or kneads me like cat. She has to have skin on skin contact. She breastfeeds for comfort a TON. She typically breastfeeds 16 times in a 24 hour period. Remember – she is 2 ½. 16 times per day is in line with a newborn’s needs. She has to be worn in my Beco carrier a lot or else I am holding her. If anyone (whether she knows them or not) comes within close proximately, she is asking me to nurse her or she has to be held. She needs lots of cuddling, snuggling, and hugging. I’m sure it is no surprise that I am beyond touched out. This little person is physically attached to me a good 20 hours per day. Which leads me to…
  • Extreme separation anxiety. Oh lordy lord. I pay dearly when my cub is not with me. My husband takes her to the park on Sunday mornings for 2 hours so I can attend to household duties that are difficult with my cub “helping.” Not only does she not want to go but she begs me to come. She has a good time with her daddy but upon return typically loses it and heads right for the boob and rubs my skin ferociously. My mother watches my daughter a total of 6 hours per week broken into two days. I use that time for my own doctor’s appointments, paying bills, running errands that are not worth bringing my daughter along on, catching up on email or phone calls, tending to my animals, etc… There is no “me time” during these breaks from my cub. I am basically running around like a chicken with my head cut off, catching up on life. I also use some of this time to sit down with my husband to have the conversations we cannot have in front of our wee one. When our cub returns it is a crisis of epic proportions. I’ll leave it at that. And again, the extreme separation anxiety leads me to…drum roll please…
  • Extreme sleep difficulties. My daughter cannot settle into sleep without me and cannot stay asleep without me. She has to be breastfed and rocked to sleep both for nap and for nighttime. She will not stay asleep if I am not with her in bed. She has to either hold my hand, cuddle next to me, or sleep on top of me. Yes, my 23 pound toddler sleeps on top of me a lot of the time. During nap time, I have no chance of sneaking away. She is a light sleeper if she naps at all. On days that she has been away from me, naps pretty much do not happen because she is worried that I will disappear. So I take her nap needs very seriously and lay as still as possible and let her sleep. I am not kidding when I say that if I take a deep breath she will wake up in a complete panic. Night time sleep is also an issue. She has to be breastfeed and rocked then she has to lay on top of me until she falls asleep. On days when there has been no separation, she falls asleep within an hour. On days when there has been a separation, it can take hours for her to feel safe enough to fall asleep. On those nights, I do not even try to sneak out of bed. On nights when she is in a slightly deeper sleep, I have one opportunity to sneak away for about an hour. However, I had better get back into bed and cuddle up next to her as stealth like as possible BEFORE she wakes up. If she wakes up and I am not there she becomes a freaked out screaming banshee and will not sleep the rest of the night. As it is, she wakes up every hour looking for me (even though I am right there) and then needs to nurse back to sleep.
    She obsesses over my presence. Before we settle into the rocking chair she constantly asks me, “Hold hands, cuddle, on top?” “Mama stay. No go potty. In bed. Me?” She gets so anxious over my physical presence in bed with her. And she freaks out if I close my eyes. Freaks out!  
    She talks all night long in her sleep. That is how she processes her day. She talks about everything that happened basically.  
    She thrashes, tosses, and is very restless all while in physical contact with me.  
    She senses when I am annoyed or want to slip away, even to just go pee. And she freaks out.
    I clearly do not get a lot of sleep. Which pisses me off. And makes me mean. And makes life difficult to cope with. Not many people I know could live on the 3-4 hours of sleep I get in a 24 hours period. And that sleep is interrupted sleep.
I have sought help for my cub and found some great support both online and in a wonderful naturopath pediatrician who deeply understands SPD. Because of him, my cub has actually improved just a wee bit and trust me…a wee bit is HUGE. He has steered us in the direction of several homeopathic remedies that do help take the edge off. We use Aurum Lavender Rose Oil/Cream to help my cub with overwhelm and sensitivity to environment. We use Bryophyllum Avena Tension Relief liquid to help settle and ease my daughter in general. It helps with sleep too. We also use Rescue Remedy as needed to help my cub deal with extra stressful situations as well as during times of meltdown. He has us incorporating the Wilbarger Brushing technique along with joint compressions which help with anxiety and to aid in relaxation after a meltdown. We recently incorporated a weighted blanket which helps give my daughter more security when she sleeps allowing her to be a little less restless.  

We just started cranial sacral therapy but after one treatment I noticed a difference in my daughter’s general stress and anxiety level. After we got home from the session she was able to play by herself while I fixed dinner. Pretty unheard of in our house. Cranial Sacral Therapy is a non-invasive hands-on, gentle technique that evaluates and enhances the function of the craniosacral system, which includes the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Cranial sacral therapy is especially beneficial for children with SPD in that it helps reduce stress and brings about greater relaxation. It also improves tolerance for sensory stimulation and awareness. It helps bring about sleep and eases restlessness. There are a lot of additional benefits but these are the main ones I am hoping to see.  

Is anyone still reading??? I know that this post got long but apparently I have been needing to write this out for quite some time. 

I would not trade my daughter for the world. I love her more than life itself. When we have fun, we have FUN. I love her snuggles. I love her generous spirit. I love her despite how difficult it can be to be her mother. Some days are better than others. Some days it is easier to be positive. Some days I am calm and easy going. But it seems like these days are few and far between. I hate that. I hate not getting enough sleep. I hate being clung too. I hate how I have to really consider the impacts everything I say and do will have on my daughter. Deciding to stay home and clean house instead of going on our obligatory trip to the park could have lasting impacts on my daughter’s emotional state for the remainder of the day. Spontaneity is out of the question. However, I carry on and do the best that I can, one day at a time. But the worry over my daughter and her future consumes me at times. And so does my need for some personal space.  

And to end this post… 

Websites I Value
Thank you for reading…this felt good to write!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Black magic

Somehow when I was growing up, my friendship with my dad seemed stronger and truer than that with my mum, which was often tenuous, strained and tense. I couldn't tell you why. Maybe it was because she just seemed so uptight about life compared to him, often about really petty things. She was utterly and unhealthily obsessed with what people thought, how things looked, keeping up appearances. Which I never understood because in her heart I knew she was really a gypsy, a free spirit. From an early age I think I could sense that she just wasn't happy in her own skin somehow. She was very particular about certain things that I couldn't understand and neither, it seemed, did my Dad. He was an ally I knew I could depend on, when she took ages and ages to get ready for things we raised our eyebrows conspiratorially together and would kind of take the mickey a little behind her back. It all seemed quite harmless, and normal and reasonable - after all she really was quite unreasonable, emotionally aloof, and petty - to my girlish way of thinking.

My friendship with my dad was solid. He just seemed like a fun- loving, charismatic guy, who knew how to relax a bit and enjoy life. When I became a young woman and started having periods and so on he still just seemed like my goofball happy-go-lucky dad. Harmless and innocent. He'd never acted inappropriately with me before and I trusted him completely.

The summer of my 14 th year was spent on my grandparents smallholding overseas. It had been a very hard year on my Dad. His best friend died in a drink driving accident. His beloved older aunt who he was very close to also died. And perhaps most importantly, his brother-in-law and very good pal died of cancer which broke the whole families heart. His cousin, the daughter of the aunt who had died, came along with us that holiday.

It was a busy household during the summers at my grandparents. There would be feasting and drinking, several families staying there together at once, and parties that went late into the night. Many an evening the adults would drink too much vodka and be up half or all the night, singing downstairs, mucking about, going off for walks in the forest ( my grandfather was a forester ) and generally having a good time.

This particular summer my dad and aunt seemed to casually talk to me a lot about magic. It was normal for the whole family to gather round of an evening and play games of cards, with the adults drinking shots throughout the evening. My dad would play his cards and predict what was coming up with a spooky accuracy. He seemed to have a touch of Derren Brown kind of magic. Occasionally my mum would add credence to this, telling of how they went to a seance once and things went haywire, as well as some other paranormal little bits and bobs. My young mind was equally drawn to this magic as it was terrified.

Over that summer, my chats with my dad about these things seemed to get more frequent. He confided in me that in our family bloodline, some members had a 'gift' for magical things. He told me the aunt who had died had had this gift of clairvoyance, that he had it, that I too had it, although my sister didn't. He said that when I was 24 it would become fully activated, and continued to elaborate on his powers. He said reality was two- fold, that this reality we can see with our eyes is an illusion, that this everyday reality was in his words 'bullshit'. He claimed to be able to slip into the other reality at will, go and speak to dead people, and appear to everyone here as if he were still present. That he could astral project and see into the future.

Now I was pretty dumbstruck by this so called dual reality - until now my world had only been this one. this solid, flesh and bone earth and all the people herein. I was scared - but also wanted to know, to understand what he meant by all this.

One evening there was a bit of a party going on as some extra relations had shown up after dinner. I was really finding my mum very hard work, she seemed to be upping her control freakery on me somehow. I was really wound up by it generally. The adults were talking inside the house and I sat down on the porch outside in the dark with the porch light on. My dad came out and started chatting about something or other. I can't remember what he said exactly or how it happened but he started to tell me how lovely I had become, that I was a growing up, that I had breasts now. He asked to feel them which I thought was a bit excessive and he was marvelling at them as if I were some kind of goddess. No forcing or anything, just acting like Wow! You're amazing! And for some reason I didn't stop him.

The evening spun my head and I really don't know why I thought it would be a good idea to go for a walk with my dad, into the dark night, into the forest, knowing he had already cupped my breasts. Curiosity? Pride? Fear? The issue of the magic stuff and my supposed gift of shamanic nature had been playing heavily on my mind. I guess I wanted to know what it was all about. Plus I didn't totally fear my dad - even at this stage, I guess I still felt somehow that he was actually pretty safe, pretty harmless.

So off we walked, into the dark night. on our own. He full of Vodka.

His senses seemed to be on high alert. As he walked he would make a big thing of the noises going on in the forest, and he would freeze on the spot and kind of say shhhhh. And sneak around a bit, talking about evil spirits on the prowl, that he had to fight off. I forgot to say that a weird little circle of red dots had appeared on his head just a few days before, which he claimed always happened when he was entering a warrior phase - mentally battling against demons. So we walked. We reached a point in the woods where my dad said we should sit and rest for a while. Which we did. And a little conversation started up. He was back to talking about me again. He wanted to kiss my mound. Very weird, but alone in a forest, I let him do it, after protesting a bit and he saying don't worry he's not dangerous he is just wanting to appreciate my blooming new body. He seemed respectful and reverent of it, as opposed to some crazed sex mad rapist who was brutal in some way. Then he confided in me that he and my mum had an unhappy sex life, that he 'needed someone younger'. He asked me if I masturbated, that kind of thing. He made no more physical advances on me, nor did he force me to do anything to him, but he quite calmly said that I should save my virginity for him. that when I was 21 it should be with him, that this was a the only was to ensure I would remain pure. That he would know how to be gentle with me.

Well my head and heart we're in a total state of shock. We made our way back towards the farm, throughout the forest. More moments of stopping to fight evil energy fields that were roaming the forest. And when we got back to the front yard of my grandparents, he saved the grand finale moment - saying he was going off into the other world for a moment and to wait till he came back, and he seemed to dissappear into thin air, vanished, poof!

After that weird night I withdrew into myself, to process the very series things that had happened and been said. I absolutely was in no doubt that my dad was involved in some kind of sorcery, and pondered on the repercussions. Whenever I was alone I wondered if he could pop into the other world and just watch me whenever he felt like it. I grew very nervous thinking about this. I became especially paranoid about mirrors thinking they were like a portal perhaps. I began to feel unsettled that perhaps my dead relatives were watching me all the time, that I had no privacy, that my 'psychic' field was permanently open to whoever might fancy looking down on me. After that summer I became more and more worried about what had happened, about the prophesies that lay in store, of my dad's expectation that I should lose my virginity to him.

I felt violated mentally, I didn't feel I could share it with anyone, that it sounded ridiculous, utterly mad. That I brought it on myself, that I was stupid and vain and had courted this terrible state of affairs and that I couldn't expect any other outcome. I began to really fear my dad, even though he was not physically touchy with me outside the context of that summer holiday. But he kept hinting about the magic, kind of nudge nudge wink winking about ' our secret powers'. I felt absolutely out of my depth, lonely with the knowledge of this weird freakish experience, panicky that he was right. That it was all true. That actually he was a perfectly sane and right and as he said, it was the rest of the world who were mad fools, who were blind.

My head and my heart hurt. I couldn't bear it any more. My friends were having a normal fun teenage hood and I was feeling totally fucked up and scared. When I met a charismatic Christian at a party and he sold me the idea of salvation from all sin, from evil, of protection from a heavenly father, I grasped the sanctuary of that safe place and held on for dear life. I became a born again Christian that night, along with two friends, and felt like I finally had a barrier, something that would be strong enough to protect me from my father and his weird occult stuff. I felt like I could relax again because I now had a relationship with Jesus who would protect me, whose light and glory would glow so brightly there was no room left for anything dark or scary any more.

And that was my life for a couple of years. I was the most devout Christian you could be. I was absolutely devoted. And somehow after a while things shifted for me. I felt stronger and wiser. I started to think about some of the christain ideas that bugged me. Why would buddhists and other good, gentle folk be sent to hell for not believing in Jesus. What about tribespeople just minding their own business, living sweetly in the remote jungle - how could their lives be pointless just because they weren't Christians? What kind of god would send good people to hell? My belief in this religion started to unravel further as I saw how Christians seemed to abuse their so called protection and forgiveness agreement with god, and live mean, stingy or even cruel lives. I couldn't be part of that movement any longer. So I broke free.

Without the sanity of an organised religion to guide me, My sixth form years were a time of feeling a lost soul. I knew I was not like others, that no other person in my entire school could ever understand or be able to relate or empathise with the weird thing that had happened between me and my dad. I went off the rails a bit. Tried sleeping around to erase the sexual memory association with my dad and replace it with something else. I genuinely thought I was in love many times, with a lot of very short term boyfriends. I didn't think I was being promiscuous, simply unlucky in love....

I met my husband at university after a term of taking intense cocktails of all sorts of drugs, including LSD, speed and ecstasy, several times a week. I was a druggy mess. I hated myself. I really hated my family. I had tried to tell my mum what had happened a couple of years earlier and after a big dramatic showdown I was made to apologise, to feel like I had been a Lolita, that I was to blame and my dad was just an innocent man really, misunderstood... He denied everything and then sort of conceded then denied any guilt on his part and it was neatly swept under the family carpet and they all got on with forgetting about it and moving on. Which I don't believe for one minute - but thats the official party line.

My husband was the first man who showed me unconditional true love, forgiveness and acceptance. To thank him I was a bitch in our first couple of years together. I couldn't handle his love at all, I still hated myself. - I hated my past, I wanted to erase it, I thought he would tire of my working class fucked up self and go for a sassier, middle class, younger prettier version so why bother? I was convinced he'd only leave me anyway, or cheat on me or some other terrible thing, so I didn't look after him with the care he deserved. I had a couple of flings, and we went through a few split ups. Every time he would say to me "I love you with all my heart, I want to be with you forever, I just want it to work and to make you happy'.

And so I stopped jeapordizing everything and started to believe him when he said that I was worth loving. That I was a good person. That what had happened with my dad was not my fault. That I was an equal to him. It took a long, long time, and endless encouragement. He needed to pick me up a lot when I'd get thinking about it all again.

It has been the best, most healing decision I ever made - to stop fighting against him, and accept that I can live a normal life. Having children has also been tremendously healing - they live so much in the present - and that is a lesson for me - to try and live in the here and now, not to keep going back to that dark forest. To build up lots of happy memories and experiences, to be warmer and closer with my children than my own mother had been with me.

I may never know if my dad was mentally ill, that he just needed counselling and it was taboo for a northern working class fella to go get help. But separating the sexual element from all the supernatural stuff is difficult for me.

To this day I cannot decide whether his disappearing was some trick of the light. Whether he really did have some magic powers. Whether he even regrets what happened or is secretly unapologetic. That scares me more than anything. What if, in spite of his inappropriate sexual behaviour, he was actually right about the spiritual warfare stuff?

Where the fuck does that leave me?

Monday, 10 October 2011

His Selfishness Vs. My Dream

Photo Credit: Chicago Parent
I have always wanted a big family, so because my husband doesn't want anymore children, should I have to give up my dream? Am I selfish or is he? That's what I am faced with everyday.

I want more children, always have, always will. He has always known this about me. He knew that not having children would be a deal breaker.  He had agreed that we would have children. We never decided on how many. I just figured we would see what happened.

He's a great dad, but he doesn't want any more, and he's pretty adamant about it. I am resentful towards him over this. He thinks I am on birth control but I am not. I am hoping for an oops. I know this doesn't sound like the right way to bring a child into the world, but why should I give up my dream of a big family?

I love being a mom, being pregnant, nursing, raising my child; it has been the most amazing experience of my life.  I want my child to have siblings. Our marriage is obviously flawed.  I love him, but I am not in love with him. I love the way he loves our child, but if I could go back and do it differently I would. I would not have married him.

I know this all sounds horrible, but it's my reality. I don't have one of those marriages where my husband is my better half or my partner in crime and that I couldn't live without. I feel like we are more like roommates.

Again, I know that bringing another child into the world with him doesn't sound like the right thing to do.  But what do I do? Accept that this is my life and be ok with it; be happy with just one child and stay with my husband? Continue to hope for an oops? Leave him, start over, and hope to find someone who I am completely in love with?

I really don't know.

What I do know, is that I love being a mom and that I am pretty good at it. My husband is a great father. We made one beautiful baby, who is happy and loved beyond words. Will my husband love another child just as much? Or will he then resent me? Where do I go from here?

This is my confession. This is my life. I want more from it. How I get there I don't know. I do know that I will have more children one day. With who? Who knows...

Friday, 7 October 2011

Weighing on My Mind...

Photo Credit: Tobyotter
Not a day goes by that I don't think about being fat. In fact, hardly an hour passes without some self-deprecating thought coming into my head regarding my weight.

You would probably never guess I feel this way. A friend once told me I was the most confident person she ever met. I appear to be cheerful, helpful, funny. I have a wonderful family and good friends and some influence in my small corner of the world.

But in spite of all of it, I continue to feel worthless.

I was 'the fat one' of my two siblings. Though the diet we grew up on (mostly entirely processed foods) was the same, though our level of activity (relatively high) was the same, they maintained 'normal' bodies while I packed on the pounds.

My mom was always going on one diet or another. As I grew into my teens, she and my dad tried different ways to 'help' me lose mom suggesting that we diet together or promising gifts if I were to lose a certain number of pounds; my dad lecturing me on how I just needed to have more willpower.

I was both shamed and mortified, especially by my dad, and my teen years were when the constant thoughts began circling through my head...worthless, ugly, fat, disgusting. Every time a boy I liked didn't like me back, I knew it was because I was fat. Every time I saw a girl wearing a crop top, I seethed with jealousy that I could never wear something like that.

After I left home at 18, I began to develop more confidence, but the self-hatred continued, a constant background noise that I accepted as normal. I occasionally shared my feelings with a friend, but never really felt anyone understood.

For the most part, I did not feel loved by anyone - not my parents, not God, and particularly not by the boys I befriended and then fantasized over...I wanted so badly to be part of a couple, and believed my body was what held me back. I didn't know if I wanted to lose weight so I could get a man, or if I wanted a man to love me as I was. It was a constant debate in my mind.

At 24, for various reasons, I finally began to value myself a bit more. I came to a point that I knew I did not need a boyfriend or husband to complete myself - I really knew and understood it and became OK with the possibility of never marrying.

Of course, it was not long after that that my husband and I started dating - a cosmic 'accident' that was in no way orchestrated by me - something that gave me a huge boost of security. My husband was the first person in my life who made me feel truly beautiful. He not only loved my personality; he loved my body. He loved my face. He made me feel beloved.

It was not long, though, before the thoughts came back. My husband has never made me feel bad about my weight, but I can't keep from doing it to myself. He has supported me in various dieting and exercise crusades. I've lost weight many times, only to gain it back.

I've come to believe it's my relationship with food that is the problem. I've always been active and never had any issues with exercising, but food - instead of being a pleasurable, healthful experience - is my nemesis.

I can eat amazingly well for weeks at a time, make everything at home, control portions...and then something clicks and I'm back to filling up on junk. I turn to food when I feel particularly stressed. I've tried to change these habits for so many years that it has started to feel impossible.

I know what I need to do. I have studied and educated myself. I know that fad diets aren't the answer; I know how to maintain a healthy, well-rounded diet.

But I just can't do it. 

And in the meantime, I am OBSESSED with providing a healthy foundation of eating for my child. It's not an issue that I would care whether my child is fat or thin - I would not judge them or love them any less either way. But I want so to equip my little one with the right tools for eating well...the ones I was never given and struggle so badly now to learn.

My parents raised us on crap, fake food; we rarely ate fruits or vegetables,  and it has taken me years to learn how to expand my palate. In one way, I  know and trust that they really didn't know any better; in another way, I  hate them for it (especially because they are the ones - outside myself -  who continue to judge me the most for my weight).

I have never told anyone all of this - to this extent - before. I have been shaking throughout the writing of this entire post. In a way, it helps to get it out...but I still don't see any answers. For so many years I have tried and tried and tried to do's getting to the point where it just seems hopeless.

I guess what I would like to hear is that there is one person who felt the same way as me - and who managed to pull themselves out of this cycle. That there is a way to beat this wretchedness.

I am 5'5". I weigh 260 pounds. In spite of all the good things I know and believe about myself, this is what stands out to me every day, every hour.

Will I ever do better?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Letter I Had to Write

I recently had to write this letter to a friend who wanted me to stay silent about the sexual abuse and lack of parental protection I experienced as a child. The attempt from this friend to shame me into silence was a complete betrayal of my trust. She was the one person aside from my husband that I chose to trust with my truth and with my heart. I'm still reeling from this experience. I think it will a long time before I'm able to trust another friend again. I am choosing to share this letter because I believe that keeping silent, and being shamed into keeping silent, is hurtful. It is difficult and isolating to be truthful. Some people, even those most trusted, may turn away or react in anger. My hope is that in sharing this letter anonymously, it will not harm those involved in this situation, but could help someone else struggling with walking the path to freedom from past abuse, knowing that they walk it alone at times. It will still be alright.

Dear Friend,

It is good to have support when you have done something wrong.

I have publicly shared that I recently uncovered memories of being abused as a child. What I have not shared are the exact events. Nor have I shared the role my mother played in them. I have been struggling with walking the line of speaking the truth I need to in order to heal without causing harm.

I write this to you for the same purpose. Not to cause harm but to bring healing.

I hope you will read this essay. I wrote this last May and shared with a blogger I trust, who was kind enough to share it anonymously (there is a trigger warning on this post):
Taking the Long Way Home

So now that you have that past, this is toward the present:

Five years ago, I found someone who needed me. And not because he needed someone to act as an adjunct for their will. He just needed me to be his mother. And I was no longer willing to remain wholly subsumed in my mother’s life.

Yet, I did not have awareness of what that meant. For the past five years, I have been setting up boundaries that she fights against constantly. When I was finally able to get her a professional diagnosis, it was of narcissistic personality disorder (which she has completely rejected.) I finally had some answers. I was able to come to terms with what was happening.

I have anger. I have sadness. I have many feelings. I’m not those things at her. I’m feeling those things mostly about the gap between how I wish things were and how things are in my relationship with her.

Still I continued to define boundaries and she began escalating her behaviors. The worst was her taking it out on my sons. DS1 and DS2 would come back from seeing her and say things like, “I’m a bad kid.” “I’m bad boy. I no cry.” This tore my heart out. So my partner and I agreed to limit her time with them while we worked to gently move her toward positive parenting. She still refused professional help. We sent books, articles, and recommended classes, among other things. We got our own professional support specifically for this situation. For a long time, I thought we might get there. I felt, and still feel, that a relationship with their grandmother is important-as long as they were safe.

But things with the kids grew progressively worse until I witnessed her belittle DS1 as a way of lashing out as me for saying, “no” to her. We only allowed supervised visits in our home with the children after that.

Then my partner and I witnessed her have a break from reality. We insisted on professional help and shortened, supervised time with the children. She refused and began lashing out at me. I broke off contact with her and began having flashbacks as I mention in the essay above.

Growing up with a narcissist parent makes me especially susceptible to relationships with narcissists. It’s comfortable for me because it’s familiar. To use the psychological term, I’m entrained for it. At the time of my friendship with [private], and its eventual end, I was not aware of any of the narcissist labels or identifiers. I just knew eventually that I was tired of being manipulated by her. When I refused to do as she wished, the bullying and threats began. Some of which I shared with you in trust. I believed her that it was my fault. I believed her threats and was afraid. So, I remained silent and accepted blame. Just as when I was a child, I took in the pain because I felt I deserved it.

All of this leads me to explain that when you tried to blame me for causing “drama” and that in talking about narcissists, that I was “talking about myself,” the tortured, unprotected 12 year old girl responded. She screamed in pain at you. The utter betrayal I felt in those words I know came from an uninformed, but altruistic place.

What you said was wrong.

It also came from a place of goodness, albeit misplaced. I can understand that.

I felt your anger and disappointment in my lack of ability to respond to your recent reaching out to me in the way you wished. I felt your projection from the experiences you had with such a difficult, heart-breaking family situation that clouded what you read and didn’t allow you to really see the truth in the need for healing. And that you saw rather some form of control or manipulation. Mingle those with the lack of information, and that’s not going to make for a healthy place to be.

You can google Narcissistic Personality Disorder, if you wish. It’s incredibly complex and difficult for me to really fathom how nuanced it is in one NPD person’s life. The pervasive opinion is that it's best to cut the NPD person out of your life. I’ve chosen to keep trying. It’s probably pointless, but I just can’t write her off. I can’t blame her for the protection she had to create with what she had to deal with in her own past (which respectfully is hers to keep private.)

Whatever you decide to accept about this information and whether you are able to really see it is frankly of little concern to me. I expect no response and probably wouldn’t read one from you anyway lest it be more blaming. This letter and anything else I choose to write about this in the future is for my closure.

I wish that you will find peace in the truth whenever you can see it.


Photo from korafotomorgana on Flickr.
Used by Creative Commons License.