Check out my NEW website!

Hey there everyone!

So at long last, after years of procrastination, dreaming, overwork, dreaming and more procrastination, I have FINALLY started my own website. Officially. With a blog this time.

Check it out at: labringle.com . Follow me there!

While I’ve had several blogs throughout the years – the one about my travels in Paris about a million years ago, the one about healing after a lifetime of abuse, and one about searching for what comes next – I’ve decided to combine all my various interests under one header. The only thing that describes how it all comes together…

Me.

Moi.

Myself.

I.

Narcissistic? Really hoping not. Just simplest I believe.

The other blogs provided me with opportunities to hide myself behind my writing. To take shelter behind my words. To not really admit that it was me saying those things. Me writing those things.

They provided me with beautiful opportunities to spread my wings. To test things out. To push myself further. To open up my voice without all the fear of rejection and recrimination that comes sometimes when you really attach your own self to something.

They were my blogs for crawling. But now I’m ready to walk.

Don’t worry, you’ll still get to read my stuff – I haven’t changed and yet I’m completely different all at the same time.

I’ll still try to post the struggles, the inspiration, the yoga and the triumphs of life. I haven’t forgotten you.

It’s just time to start spreading my wings. Time to start trying to turn this whole writing thing into more than a side hobby I sometimes can’t seem to make time for and into something that actually supplies…dare I say it?…an income? 

Ooo that word gives me chills.

The truth is, we writers need to eat too y’all!

So join me on my search for food – through words.

See you there.

Lauren

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Be Kind to Yourself

Recently in the blog, I’ve been exploring the idea of forgiveness.  Of forgiving yourself, and of forgiving the people who’ve hurt you.  Here’s something to keep in mind as you struggle with the issue of self-judgment:

“My beloved child

Break your heart no longer.

Each time you judge yourself you break your own heart.

You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality…

Let go.

And breathe – into the the goodness that you are.”

Post that above your bathroom mirror, so that every time you see yourself, you’ll view yourself with kindness.

Forgiveness

I spoke in an earlier blog about the need to forgive yourself.  In terms of healing, forgiving yourself is the most important thing.  As I spoke of already, the biggest challenge and most radical change we can make sometimes is just to love ourselves.  So if you haven’t already read those blog posts, I recommend you start there.  If you have, or if you are exploring the idea of forgiving someone else, read on.

If you’re anything like me, you were raised in a conservative church atmosphere that preached forgiveness as a necessity to being a good Christian.  Growing up, I was taught that I am required to forgive someone, no matter what they did.  No matter how they wronged me, or how sick and messed up they are.  In this version of forgiveness, I was told that it was my job to tell that person that I forgave them, and then it was their decision whether or not to accept my forgiveness.  That view was then supported by my abusers.

“You have to forgive me, or otherwise you’re a bad person,” my brother would say after he’d hurt me.  No wonder I viewed forgiveness as a terrible, horrible thing.  Forgiveness was essentially a license awarded to my abusers that allowed them to continue hurting me with a cleansed conscience.  No wonder I, for the longest time, refused to forgive.

Well guess what?  I’ve got a bone to pick with that type of forgiveness.  Maybe I wanted to explore my confused views about forgiveness.  Maybe I wanted to know if that’s really all there was to this big, overused, misunderstood word, “forgiveness.”  I couldn’t shake the feeling that some people really found peace through the action of forgiveness though, so I had to look into it.

The following is what I discovered in my search for forgiveness:

The most important was the radical idea that forgiveness is not for someone else.  It’s not so that my abuser’s conscience can be assuaged.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean that I give someone permission to hurt me again, permission to be in my life again, or permission to do anything at all, honestly.  Forgiveness is for myself.  Forgiveness is a way to let go of the past a little bit, to find some peace, some release.  It’s something I will never let my brother know that I’ve done.  I will probably never tell him that I forgive him.  Because again, my forgiveness is not something for him to accept, it’s something for me to let go.

Forgiveness is not easy.  It’s NOT required.  And honestly, if you’d like, you can go your entire life without ever forgiving someone or some situation.  But that’s not how I want to live.  I feel like if I cling to something my entire life, whatever it is, a bitter thought, a tragic flashback, my childhood abuse, anything negative, that I will allow that negativity to permanently have control over my life.  And I don’t want that.  I choose to take control over my own life.

But forgiveness didn’t come naturally.  Like I said, I had to forgive myself first.  I had to find healing within my own life first, compassion for my situation, kindness to my body, mind, and soul.  I had to go through counseling, support groups, yoga therapy, travel halfway across the country, start dating again, read countless self help books, and talk to what seems like a hundred other survivors before I could even consider the idea of forgiveness.

So what made me finally decide to forgive my abuser?  It was the blinding knowledge that I knew he couldn’t defeat me.  The realization, again after years of healing, that what he did to me would not control the rest of my life, because I wouldn’t allow it.  It will not ruin the rest of my life either, because I refuse to let hurt and bitterness govern the rest of my days on this planet.  I am confident now that my life from here on out will be ruled by love, by compassion, by my ability to set boundaries and stick to them, and by my ability to recognize red flags and avoid allowing negative influences into my life again.

Ultimately, forgiveness is my way to finally, finally, be free from his control over my life.  Forgiveness does not mean that my brother is back in my life.  It does not mean that I will ever allow him to hurt me again, because I most certainly will not.  It doesn’t mean that I trust him, that I’ll talk to him all the time.  In terms of outward manifestation, my decision to forgive him will not change how our relationship of hardly seeing each other or ever communicating works.  But that’s okay.

Because I have forgiven myself.  I have forgiven him.  And the feeling is one of beautiful, sweet release.  My life is now completely my own.

Acceptance

Acceptance. It’s a funny thing. It can be so hard to accept yourself. To accept who you are. In this day and age, when the ideas of perfection are just a mouse-click away, and you are bombarded with images from the media, movies, etc., it can be so hard to look at life as it really is and say, “this is me.” “This is it.” Simple and unadorned.

With these stories of so-called “perfect” lives abounding around us, it can be so infuriating to look at your life and recognize that it’s not that. A life marred by abuse, by self-loathing, by anxiety, depression, anger, bitterness, hurt. The list could go on forever. And there are times when I’m so angry that my life doesn’t match what I feel like it should. There are times when I’m so upset, because I feel like this shot at perfection; this chance at being popular, having healthy relationships, etc., was taken away from me, or marred by abuse.

If I focus too much on these things I don’t have, it is easy to spiral down into depressive thoughts. Into self-loathing actions. The thing to keep in mind, that I have to keep telling myself, is that perfection does not exist. The idea of perfection is different for everyone. And if you do achieve this vision of “perfection,” then the vision changes to incorporate something else you don’t have/can’t look like/can’t do, or whatever it may be for you.

Acceptance of ourselves is one of the hardest questions life can ask us to solve. And it doesn’t have an easy answer. Especially if you have been trained not to accept yourself by those who have abused you.

But in my opinion, it eventually comes down to this, to a choice. The guts to choose to accept yourself. To accept the battle to accept yourself. Because it can be a battle; every day you might have to remind yourself that you are worth accepting. But God, doesn’t it feel good when you finally reach that state? When you finally say, all right, these are my limitations, these are my hurts, these are my flaws…and that’s okay.

Healing Imagery: Soothing the hurt child

When others don’t believe you, the pain can be real. You can feel lost inside yourself, trapped by a swirl of chaotic emotions that you don’t know how to deal with. In my case, at least, I often feel the need to “fix things.” To find whatever kinks there are in my machine and repair them. To dig through all the layers and analyze, piece by piece, what needs to be done to make things better-to make things perfect-again.

But sometimes we all just need to sit with the pain. We just need to acknowledge that we are hurt, and that we are having these emotions. My counselor gave me an interesting visual exercise to think on today during our session, and it goes a little something like this:

Sometimes, nobody believes you. Sometimes, others can’t give you the justification you feel that you need. Sometimes, and maybe all your life, there is no one who will simply gather you into their arms, hold you close and softly whisper that everything will be okay. Sometimes, nobody will even notice that anything is wrong.

This is when we need to step in and parent/comfort ourselves. My counselor today brought up a very interesting exercise. Imagine a child inside of yourself. Not in a pregnant sort of way, but just imagine the visual image of a hurt child. A little, weak, vulnerable child that has experienced pain- that could possibly be crying, whimpering, etc. Imagine a small, innocent YOU, at your rawest and most base form of emotion, and picture yourself as that hurt child.

Then imagine yourself comforting that child. Say to that hurt child: everything WILL be okay. I believe you. I know you are hurting right now, but it won’t always be that way. I will take care of you. I will listen to you. And everything WILL be okay.

The point here is not to create multiple personalities for yourself, but rather to be in charge of comforting and believing in yourself. To take a moment to feel the hurt, to feel the pain, or whatever you might be feeling at the time, and accept and love yourself for that. Comfort yourself like you would comfort a small child, crying from a scraped knee. And be as gentle towards yourself as towards that small, hurt child. In psychology, this technique is called “reparenting.” Whether you had bad parents, or simply need to retrain how an abuser warped your perspective, this can be a helpful tool for visual/imaginative learners.

As someone once said to me, believe in yourself, because if you don’t do that, who else will believe in you? In my experience, I find that we are often more harsh with ourselves than we are with others. We try to hold ourselves to higher standards than we would ever ask of someone else. The same holds true with how we view our healing process. I try to push it, try to force myself to be better, to deal with a situation, to “fix” the problem and “get over it.” But sometimes, it takes just being that small child, and comforting yourself, with the knowledge that the scrape on your knee (the pain, etc.) will pass eventually.

The effect of abuse on my self-esteem

It is hard enough to recognize and accept the signs of being abused as physical or verbal actions taken by the abuser. However, I think it is even harder to recognize the effects that a person, as a victim, suffers internally.

The way my abusers made me feel was awful, to put it simply. They were both guys and were controlling, overbearing, perfectionistic, manipulative and lying. They both became violent, often physically, when they didn’t get their way. And when I was out-of-line with their wishes, my personal safety would sometimes be threatened.

I didn’t realize any of this until I had my aha! moment and even for sometime afterwards.

Aside from the obvious, what these people did, and the way they treated me, made me feel worthless. They were overly critical, and constantly accused me of not being good enough, not being pretty enough. I didn’t do my hair correctly, dress the right way. And ultimately, they brought me down in any way possible, to a level where they could be in control. If I didn’t feel good about myself, then obviously I didn’t know how to live my life. This made me believe I needed someone to direct me, because I wasn’t good enough to direct myself.

As for my younger years, once the sexual abuse ended, the physical and verbal continued. And I feel like the verbal abuse was the most difficult of all to cope with, and is the most lingering in my healing process.

For me, the hardest part of suffering from abuse is the way it makes you feel about yourself. It made ME feel bad. And for a long time, I never thought that the blame did not lay with me, but with him.

In my mind, that had been warped by the way I was conditioned to view myself, I was not good enough. I couldn’t do anything right. I was a ridiculous, over-exaggerating, clumsy Klutz who was flaky and couldn’t be trusted. I was incapable of taking care of myself. I never felt pretty, or loved, or respected. And what’s worse, I never felt like I SHOULD be any of those things.

This is my battle. This is the hardest part in dealing with what happened. How do I change my mind and see myself as beautiful and wonderful? How do I learn to trust myself and believe that I am worth it?

This is my current struggle, and I open this post to comments, feedback, and advice from any users. What has helped you the most to regain what your abuser took from you? How do you build your self-esteem again once it has been so demolished?

My AHA! Moment: the crushing blow of realization

Even though the abuse itself lasted nearly my entire childhood, the full realization of what happened to me did not arrive until much later in life.  Perhaps it was because the abuse had become everyday; a “normal” experience for me, I thought.  Perhaps that is the reason it took so long for the truth to arise.  It took 23 years, in fact.  And last March, with the realization of what happened, came the crushing blow of that reality.

I always knew something was wrong with me, I just didn’t know what exactly.  It felt like I had a constant ache in my stomach, and constant uncertainty haunted me.  For the longest time I repressed those feelings and dismissed myself as being ridiculous/crazy.  I thought it was something normal that happened among adolescents.  I tried to reason it away.  I decided that whatever was wrong with me had to be my fault. Somehow.

I spent most of my life causing some sort of trouble.  I acted out, hated authority figures and rules, I was hyper-active, terrified to be touched, anxious, depressed, scared of relationships, and suffered severe separation anxiety when away from my parents.  My fault, I thought.  Others thought so to.  Some inherent flaw in my character, right?

Wrong.

The moment of realization came during a random phone call.  During what turned out to be one of the worst weekends of my life.  I called my mom when I was walking home from work one day.  There had been financial problems in my family and times were a little tough (as they were for everybody).  My college expenses weren’t helping much either.

I was particularly worried about my dad.  He had been pretty down recently and for my usually upbeat dad, that was a worrisome sign.  When I mentioned this, however, my mom brought up a new worry.  She told me we didn’t need to worry so much about my dad.  But rather it was my sister who was in the most danger.

I asked why, and my mom wouldn’t respond.  My usually talkative mom zipped her mouth.  Now, to understand my response, you have to understand my relationship with my baby sister.  I was never jealous when she was born.  Rather, I was so excited to have a little friend, and she would be my best friend ever.  I love my sister deeply.

I panicked, convinced she had been raped or something.

Not quite, my mom said.  Not raped.  But still bad.  My mom finally buckled down and told me.  My sister was sexually abused for several years, by someone very close to my family.  My mom then asked; did this happen to you?

And I…lied.

I couldn’t say yes.  I didn’t know myself.  My world turned upside down.  I was walking home from work and I just collapsed onto the nearest bench, cradling my head in my hands.  I felt the blood drain from my face as the realization came crashing down.  Realization of what my sister experienced.  Realization of what happened to me.

Waves of guilt that perhaps, if I had spoken when I was younger, I could’ve prevented the abuse from happening to my sister.  Followed by the realization that I didn’t even fully realize it had happened to me until that moment.

The week crawled by and I realized I had to come clean.  I had to admit to my parents what happened to me.

Luckily, my parents were really supportive of me.  All contact was severed with the perpetrator to allow healing.  But healing comes slowly, and takes time.  And effort.  It takes crumbling and rebuilding yourself; brick by brick.

The crumbling of my illusions fell away, piece by rotten piece.  All the things I thought were my fault; the inability to be close to people, the fear of being touched, the anxiety and restlessness, the acting out; they all made sense now.  But chipping away at the layers of illusion takes time, and finding positive things to fill in the scars can be difficult.  But it can be done.  Realization is only one of the first steps to healing.