Category Archives: Stress

Change happens.

So here it is, Lisa-Jo Baker gives us a one-word prompt, we write on it for 5 minutes.  No extreme editing, no rethinking, no backtracking.  Then we go back and encourage someone that posted before us by reading and commenting on their post.  Today’s word is: Change

Ready, set, write! (Yes, I actually do set myself a timer)

Change is inevitable.  We can’t stop the change.  Each second, each minute something about our universe has changed.  And we can never go back to the way it was.  But, oh, how we try.  We cling to “what used to be” even when the final shreds of hope disintegrate in our hands into nothingness.  We can try and fight it, or stubbornly sit on our rear-ends, but no matter how hard we try, things are never going to be the same again.

We CAN embrace the change in it’s inevitability.  We can choose to go along for the journey and see where change takes us.  We can choose the path of destiny and fulfillment.  Hope lies not in the palm of tightly gripped hand, but in the freely thrown up palm reaching for the heavens in an accepting gesture.  We can instead hold on to the steady rock that keeps us safe in the darkest nights, in the fiercest storms, in the lowest valleys.  We can hold fast to the knowledge that change brings healing, hope, a future, a peace that we have never experienced before.  Lessons are learned when we embrace change.  Loss is part of life.  Hope is part of heaven.

Stop!

So there you have it.  Enjoy!

 

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Anger that burned deep.

Hello again! It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for another testimony about overcoming emotional difficulties.  I don’t have another person lined up, so I am going to dish on myself.  So here we go…

It’s kinda tough to pick just one experience that I’ve had in the past 22 years that highlights an emotional difficulty that I have overcome because a) there are so many, and b) they are all interconnected which makes them complex and difficult to articulate clearly.

I have mentioned that my mother was an addict.  Her last addiction was prescription painkillers, which ended up taking her life in a (presumably) accidental overdose.  She was secretive about her addiction, and it was not immediately obvious to me because I had no knowledge about addiction during my childhood.  However, the symptoms of her addiction problem were usually at the forefront of her parenting because she was either at best confusing, or, at worst, abusive.

For example, my mother would periodically become very angry with the rest of the family.  Why she was angry with us was almost always a mystery.  One of the confusing things she would do during these random periods of mystery anger was to not let my sister and I do the weekly cleaning.  She would storm around, bang things, with a face screwed up in anger doing the cleaning.  I would feel awkward and strange.  I was afraid to say anything to mother for fear of upsetting her further.  Richelle and I walked around as if the floor was made of nails (sharp side up) while giving each other furtive looks of confusion and despair.  After a few hours of this, I would be practically begging for her to let me do the cleaning.  Anything to ease the stress and tension I felt.  Then, just as mysteriously, she would get over it.  Very occasionally there was some kind of discussion that really didn’t make any sense or have anything to do with reality.

As a child, these sorts of events caused confusion and fear.  This started embers burning in my soul that would smolder into my adulthood.  As I began working through the hurts of my childhood in counseling, I began to see my mother’s transgressions with anger, hurt, disappointment, and frustration.  These emotions ignited the long- burning embers from adolescence into raging flames.  It took a lot of years, and work, before I could even consider forgiving my mother.

For me, forgiving my mother meant giving up the right to be angry with her.  And believe me, I had felt I had every right to be angry with her for her transgressions.  I think some of you may even agree with me.  However, if unleashed, my anger could be a destructive force that wreak havoc in most areas in life.  I was deeply invested in my rights.  So much so, that God, in His infinite wisdom, had to work every angle to help me to see that holding things against my mother was actually holding myself prisoner to my own anger.  He had some pretty huge mountains to move.  Fiery, raging, burning volcanos. He showed me that I would be paying the consequences for my for my self-righteous attitude, like so much volcanic ash.  I would end up psychologically and spiritually dead, like those poor people on Pompeii.

As God labored to show me the truth, the light began breaking through my eyes, which were tightly shut against it.  Truth always stand the test of time, regardless of what we think or feel about it.  I eventually knew I had a choice to make.  On one hand, my right to be angry with my mother, on the other, forgiving her and moving on.  Forgiving her meant giving up my rights, but it also meant freedom.  Freedom from the burdens of pain.  Freedom from the consequences of my choices.  Freedom to live life to it’s fullest.

As you can probably guess, I chose to give up my rights.  And, indeed, I felt freer.  The rage no longer held me captive, torturing me incessantly, burning me from the inside out.

Today, I mostly look on my relationship with my mother regret and sadness, but, I am (mostly) not angry.  If she were still alive, I might even attempt to have a relationship with her, which is saying something.

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Now, it’s your turn… Do you have something you overcame that you would like to share with the rest of the world?

Testimonial Tuesday by Richelle Knapp (my sis)

It’s time again for another installment of Testimonial Tuesday.  I am the oldest of four, and my sister is the second oldest.  She and I have been through a lot together.  Although we had different experiences and perceptions of our childhood experiences, we have been on a similar journey.  Each individual step in our journeys is invariably linked to the other person’s.  My sister describes a part of her journey in overcoming her difficulties.  So without further, I give to you my sister Richelle Knapp…

As I was growing up, my mother was hard to figure out, to say the least. She was very mean to me and my siblings most of the time. But other times, she was really nice and fun to be around. She singled me out for a period of physical abuse. She was a drug addict. She did not really know how to raise children.

I don’t think she intended to be this way. I don’t think she set out to abuse drugs. But her background was a big part of it. Her family was a mess with alcoholic parents. She and her siblings were ripped apart when she was very young. She was largely a victim of circumstance. But sadly she did become an addict. She was always in a deep grip of denial about her addiction.

Her life impacted mine in deep and profound ways. Everything that happened to her and to me as a result of her problems and our relationship resonated for years even after her death. When she passed it took me a while to figure out that I was not mourning her death, but her life. After her passing, I had many emotional and mental problems. I was losing touch with reality and regressing back to my childhood. I was having almost constant anxiety attacks.  I was also having flashbacks of things I did not understand. I had a vague feeling of ongoing fear and even terror at times. My poor husband went through it all with me and was my main support. I could not figure out how to function. I could not work or do much of anything else. My emotions were in constant upheaval. One day I would be okay, and the next I could not get out of bed. I was lost in a sea of mental and emotional problems, and I was drowning.

When things got really bad, my sister ended up coming out to help me. She brought me back to her house to stay for a month and to begin to get me the help that I needed.  I went through something called inner healing.  Inner healing is a way in which God is able to come in and make significant changes to a person’s spiritual landscape. I had Dissociative Integrative Disorder. Through the inner healing, process  God revealed the fragments of my psyche and integrated them back together again. When it was over, I felt whole for the first time in a long time. But I also felt very fragile, as if I could break very easily again.

Later in the year, I came in contact with a woman who was instrumental in helping me to become stronger emotionally, and mentally. During the time she counseled me, we did certain exercises to help me to better understand what was going with me. I realized I still blamed my mother for the majority of the problems in my life. I realized that I had not forgiven her for just about everything. One of the most important exercises we did was called The Vault. My counselor had me talk through a list of things I had made in a previous meeting that had to do with my life. I had to decide what I wanted to “keep” so that I could deal with it still, and what I wanted to “lock” in the vault and move on from. As I worked through the list I could feel myself suddenly getting lighter and lighter emotionally. It was a significant time for me, a real turning point. I left that session feeling completely different. I felt very nearly completely healed. It was finally a new beginning for me. For the first time in a long time, I felt free.

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I am 38 years old. I have been happily married for over 4 years. I live in Bear, DE with my husband. I believe that anything can be overcome if you are willing to do whatever it takes; if you are willing to do the hard stuff to be healed and ultimately be free.

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So, tell  me, do you want to write about so something you have overcoming?

Don’t poke that dragon with a stick. It’ll eat you. Or will it?

Didn’t your mother teach you NOT to poke a sleeping dragon?  That you should let sleeping dragons lie?

He looks too cute to be dangerous. Right?

Or was that dogs?

He’s definitely too cute to be dangerous.

Like all reptiles, dragons are great at sleeping.  You know, being cold-blooded and all.  Sleeping is an excellent way to conserve energy.  So, as you can imagine, something as big as a dragon needs lots of sleep.  Except when they don’t.  I mean, a dragon’s got to eat sometimes, right?

In case you’re not catching on to my little metaphor, the sleeping dragons (or dogs) that I am referring to is our emotional troubles.  Stuff from the past is like a sleeping dragon.  Some of us have lots and lots of dragons sleeping together in the dog-pile technique.  Others have one or two.  Either way, I personally, and sincerely believe that sleeping dragons are dangerous.  They can wake up at and wreak havoc on our emotional state, on our relationships, and our life anytime they want to.

Dragons are smart creatures.  They like to sleep in dark corners, letting us know they’re there, but never really fully engaging us.  They’re happy there in their comfy little corner.  Because of the shadows, we can’t really see what they’re doing.  But, believe you me, they are causing trouble.

Un-dealt with emotional problems come out various forms, and we often don’t even realize it.  Mostly because our reactions are normal…to us.  THEY run your life.  THEY decide how and when you behave and interact with your environment.  Like when my husband innocently says something that sets off an angry reaction in me.  Or, when a sudden, overwhelming fear of enclosed spaces keeps me from having fun.  Or, when I sling into a deep depression for no apparent reason.  Or, when I have (yet another) bout of anxiety at the prospect of meeting new people.  All of these reactions come from somewhere.   I learned them growing up.  All of these reactions can cause me problems as an adult.  They stunt my growth.  They keep me from fully engaging in life.  They harm my relationships.  And most importantly, they keep me back from being who I was meant to be.

If you decide to take control of the situation, you WILL have to face your dragons head on.  Sure, once you poke them and wake them up they are going to growl and stomp and threaten to eat you.  They might even throw a flame or two your way.

Remember this guy?

But, here’s the thing:  YOU are in control of the dragons.  YOU are the master of THEIR fate.  It’s not the other way around.  Because as Christopher Robin told Winnie the Pooh, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  You hold the secret weapons that defeat the dragons.  You know their vulnerabilities.  You know where that soft spot is and can drive in your sword (or lance if you prefer).  If you do, you will truly be at peace.  You will never have to worry about what that dragon will do next.  You can get on with your life and live it to the fullest.

Pretty cool, huh?

So, I say, don’t let the sleeping dragons lie there forever.  Take up your sword, your spear, your counseling sessions and deliberately, and methodically, deal that dragon it’s death blow.

You’ll then be free from it’s grip.  Forever.

I promise.

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Your turn, which weapon do you prefer?

You can stay in your little self-imposed prison, or not.

I was going to write something further about isolation, but that has fizzled out.  Sorry for the sudden left turn, but I have to go where there is  inspiration.  I was preening my ego (hey, when you  have an audience of 1, don’t tell me you don’t need an ego boost to keep on keeping on) by reading over my previous 7 posts.

As promised, I am going to beat you with my “Tough Love” bat for just a little while.

I went back to my first post and found the term “your little self-imposed prison.”

As in, “YOU chained YOURSELF to this wall.”

As in, “You have the key to get out of there you silly person, so use it.”

As in, “It’s time to move on.”

As in, “Enough is enough.”

As in, “Your only kidding yourself that this is a good idea.”

Let me explain.

Stuff happens.  People hurt us.  We hurt people.  We learn from previous experiences to react in a certain way  to a set of circumstances that have familiar features.  For example, I have always had a tough time trusting men.  I sometimes feel threatened by men who seem to be flirting with me, especially if they are significantly older men.  I would give them dirty looks, I would feel the “fight or flight” hormones coursing through my veins, my stomach would hurt, my thoughts would swirl out of control, I would feel fear.  I learned not to trust older men because my father sexually abused me.  He could not be trusted in so many ways.  I learned to fear him because he caused me significant pain.  As a child, it is normal and natural to feel fear in these sorts of circumstances.  God  made our brains to cope with painful events in particularly helpful ways (i.e. dissociation).  But what about when I became an adult?  Was feeling fear actually helpful?  Did I need to worry about being hurt EVERY single time? Every flirting, older man does not mean to harm me.  Reacting with anger and fear every, single time this occurs is not helpful to me now.  Being cautious is good, but I don’t need to overreact.

At some point, I had a choice.   I could stay chained to this emotional response, if I wanted to.  After all, I am an adult and have the right to choose (you did know that, right?).  What are the ramifications to reacting with fear and anger in this situation? Well, let’s start with the physical:

  • Production of the feel good hormone “serotonin” is disrupted leading to depression.
  • The heart is strained and leads to heart disease
  • There is an increased risk for stroke
  • The immune system is suppressed and prone to causing an inflammatory response
  • The risk of cancer is increased
  • Gastrointestinal issues arise such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Peptic Ulcers, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Eating disorders can develop which leads to weight gain, anorexia, or bulimia
  • Diabetes can develop
  • Body aches can develop
  • Sleep can be disturbed
  • Normal sexual function is disrupted
  • Memory, concentration, and learning is affected
  • Alopecia, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin disorders can get worse
  • Substance abuse can develop

(Information taken from an article located at University of Maryland Medical Center’s website)

Relationally, men in my life would constantly feel challenged and uncomfortable around me.  I would not develop any normal or healthy relationships with men.  Emotionally,  I would constantly pay the price for my poor choices.  I would be in constant state of turmoil.  I would always be uptight.

Out of an intense need for self-preservation, I could choose to live my life this way.

I could choose to be chained to my little prison of fear and anger.

Or, I could choose to take my key, unlock my fetters, and walk out of there.

I could choose change.

Change in how I approach relationships with the men in my life.

Work on being calmer around men in general.

Not give dirty looks to men.

Not overreact.

Not feel an adrenaline rush every single time.

How does one do this?

  • First you start by believing that you can change.
  • Decide that change is what you want.
  • Talk to yourself about this.
  • Talk to others.
  • Talk to God (if you believe in a helping God, like me).
  • Look for resources.
  • Work at it.
  • Don’t give up.
  • Understand the truth of the situation.
  • Use your critical thinking skills.
  • Remind yourself you wanted this change…

Believe me, unchaining yourself and moving on is the best thing for you!

Okay, I’m done beating you now.  Feel better?

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Be honest, are your chained up in your own little prison?