Category Archives: Joy

Nosce te ipsum: Know Yourself

*Author’s note: Before I get started here, I would just like to say, I love it when you come to visit.  Yes, I mean you.  I would love to sit down and have a chat with you.  I would love to hear what you have to say on whatever I write about.  So, if you come by, why not leave me your calling card, or a nice little note that let’s me know you were here?  Frankly, it encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing.  In other words comments are welcome and encouraged here.  I generally leave a little question at the end as a prompt to get a discussion going.  You can answer it, or not, as you prefer.

I had a powerful experience on Saturday that got my juices flowing and the wheels spinning for my little bloggity once again.  The sucky experience that I am having is still sucky and I am still experiencing it.  But, I feel the need to talk about something that I feel is very foundational to overcoming emotional difficulties: knowing yourself.

In “The Matrix” Neo  goes to visit the Oracle to find out if he is “The One” (i.e. the savior of their world).  She points to her little sign in her kitchen (which says Temet Nosce, by the way.  This is just a variation of the phrase) above the doorway and explains to him rather bluntly that if  you are something, you just know it.  You don’t need to be convinced by your friends, you don’t need constant reassurance, you just know it.  I know that I am a good mother.  I know that I am an artist.  I know that I am gifted in counseling others.  I know that I am a Christian.  I don’t need other’s to affirm this, I just know.

I truly feel that I am meant to do this blog, and to write books.  But, one thing I have had a hard time convincing myself of is that I AM a writer.  As in, “this is my identity.”  As in, “Hi.  I’m Stephanie.  I’m a writer”  (Not that I would actually introduce myself that way.  But, I think  you get my point).  I feel a little surprised when people praise my work here on this blog.  Sometimes, I almost don’t believe them.  Silly, I know.

This is mostly because I find writing to be a difficult, sometimes agonizing, experience.    I’m not goo-goo eyed over writing like some authors.  It takes me twice as long as normal people to write anything of worth or significance.  I find it excruciating to get started most of the time.  I find it difficult to maintain my focus once I get going.  I feel guilt for spending 2.5 hours writing 600 words.  I have to manage my ADHD and other learning difficulties to finish my task.  In other words, I just don’t LOVE writing like I love doing other things.  I have asked myself more than once, “How can I BE a writer if I don’t LOVE it?”

This question has stopped me from moving forward in doing the things that I am meant to do.  I just couldn’t see myself doing the things I am meant to do because I couldn’t (or perhaps wouldn’t?) believe in my identity as an writer.

But Saturday changed all of that.  I met with about 4 other people.  2 of whom I have known a really long time, 1 I knew fairly well, and 1 I sort of knew a little.  We met together to encourage each other.  To help each other overcome the log jams stopping us from flowing in our gifts.  I spoke for a while about where I was on a few things, including the I’m-supposed-to write-books-but-can’t-get-started-because-I-don’t-believe-I-am-an-author problem.  The leader of our group (Rob Stoppard.  A great guy, you should check him out) said to me people get stopped up in doing what they are meant to do because they believe lies about themselves.    Lies like “I don’t love writing so how can I be a writer”, or “I am never going to change”, or “I can’t change”, or “I will always be (fill in the blank)“, or whatever you say about yourself.

The only way to combat this is to change your habit of lying to yourself, and start telling yourself the truth.  I think if you look deep in your heart you can find your gifts, your talents, and your identity.  It’s like a treasure box just waiting to be opened, and you hold the key to open that treasure box.  And, if you open it you have to decide what you believe about what’s inside.  You have to decide that the treasure is who you are, or not.  But sometimes, even we do this, we get lost on our way back.  Parts of the treasure get lost and never make it home.  Like me and this writing thing.

The group had me do an exercise that has forever changed my life.  They first asked me to look in the mirror and say out loud to myself, “I am a writer.”  I felt more than a little shy about doing this.  So, they offered themselves up to act as a sort of mirror.  I had to look people in the eye and say out loud, “I am a writer.”  They took it one step further and had me say, “I am a famous writer.”  And although it was a little difficult to look people in the eye and say these truths out  loud, I did just that several times.  I stated a few other things I have had a hard time believing lately as well.  As soon as I said these things, it’s like a spotlight was suddenly focused on my poor, lost treasures.  I could find them, and bring them home.  I could take them within my psyche and revel in the simple pleasure of knowing myself.  It was like being born again.

And now, I feel free to do what I am mean to do.  I believe that I am a writer.  That even I can be a famous writer.

And you are free to discover things about yourself you never knew.  You can go on a quest to find your treasure, to change your life into something better, to become who you are meant to be.

It’s your turn now…

Tell me something you know about yourself…

Don’t clam up. A blog post on taking risks in relationships…Part 1.

Author’s note: As I write this blog, I am finding that there is really two parts to this topic: taking risks in relationships in general, and the process of choosing a person with whom to take a risk.  In the interest of not writing a REALLY long post on both parts, I am going to break this into two parts.

A dear, sweet friend of mine, whom I have known since childhood, has been hurt quite a bit lately by relationships.  As a result of her pain, this appeared on her Facebook page:

While can appreciate the reason for the sentiment, I’m not sure I agree with the idea behind it.

I got married at the age of 20, mostly because I was pregnant and I needed the father’s health insurance to cover the related health care costs.  We had convinced ourselves that we loved each other and that we could make marriage work despite the true reason for marrying.  Little did I know that that marriage would end in disaster.  While I was no angel in this marriage and contributed to the failure of our marriage, I felt I was treated horribly, including, but not limited to, adultery on his part at least once, probably twice. Then, I was left, and divorced, by the person who had pledged to stick with me through thick and thin.

Relationships are risky.   The potential for being hurt, or hurting another, is huge.  People often present the best of themselves at the beginning, then the worst of themselves comes out as time goes on.  Often, the worst of ourselves, and the other person clash, causing chaos in our relationships.  Unless the chaos is effectively worked through or controlled, the result is generally a split (or a divorce if one is married).  It has to be said than in some cases, there is no hope for the relationship, no matter how much work goes into the relationship.  Splitting up with someone you committed  yourself to can cause intense emotional pain.  This pain is akin to having a limb ripped from your body, even if the other person was horrible.  The suffering can go on for years afterwards.   Self-doubt can creep in.  Fear of being hurt again becomes the new paradigm.  Any potential future relationships are affected by past hurts. One can be come overly-cautious in their attempt to try out this new relationship while avoiding true risk.  Which makes the new relationship more likely to fail.  Like I said, it’s risky.

When my marriage failed, I was at the beginning of the long healing journey that I have been on.  Frankly, at the time my marriage failed, I was not capable of managing the hurt associated with ripping and tearing that was going on.  I did not understand myself, nor the reasons that my marriage didn’t work.  I was single for about 7 years before my current husband decided he wanted to date me.  During that 7 years, I had to do a lot work in counseling, and with God, to overcome the terrible feelings of loss, anger, and sadness.  For 7 years, I was a single, working mother struggling to make ends meet, and trying to manage my volatile emotional state and a child who severely struggling as well.

The idea of adding a husband, and stepfather, into the equation was downright scary.  Like so many situations I observed, adding a man into my, and my son’s, life was extremely risky and likely to result in chaos.  What if my son and husband didn’t get along (they didn’t for a long time)?  What if my husband committed adultery like the first one?  What if he left me?  What if he couldn’t deal with the emotional baggage that came with marrying me (he does with a ton of grace)?  What if we just couldn’t work out our problems?  What if one of us gave up hope (I’ve been close a dozen times or more)?  What if my marriage failed?  Taking that step toward marriage again was a huge risk.  It could end in disaster like the first one.

The desire to close oneself off to the world, to potential love, to other people becomes intense after a split with someone you once loved.  Wrapping yourself up in hard shell of safety really only results in a life half lived.  Sure, you are safe from harm, but you are also safe from joy, happiness, fulfillment, and a good, lasting relationship.  This hard-shell reality affects how you react to other people, how you make decisions, how you behave in relationships.  You cannot fully commit to another person when you live your life this way, even if the person you found is the best person for  you.

The heart of the matter is that while putting yourself in a position to not “be let down” feels safe, I believe you are actually risking more than if you allow yourself to take the risk of being hurt.  I think I have made that the point that taking risks is dangerous,  BUT (with capital letters no less), I believe that taking risks is a necessary part of living life to it’s fullest.  Sure, the potential for hurt is there, but the potential for joy is there too.  The hurts described above can eventually heal, if you allow that to happen.  That’s right, you can heal from the hurt.   I would like to add an addendum to this statement: I think that one can make poor choices in partners and end up going the healing process over and over again.  If that’s what’s causing you so much pain, I would question how you choose partners.  So, we are gonna talk about that in part 2 of this post.

You are not forever tainted by your marriage’s, or relationship’s, failure.  You can rise above the associated pain and suffering.  You can place yourself in someone else’s hand again.  And, if you get hurt, you can  heal, again.  Unless you allow yourself to take that risk, you don’t know how something is going turn out.  You can live a a full life with someone by your side.  You can put your trust and hope in someone else’s hand.  Let yourself out of your shell.

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It’s your turn: do believe you can be healed from the hurt caused by failed relationships?

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?

How well do you tend your garden?

This is the beginning of a new series.  I am pleased and thrilled to start this with a post from my Aunt Barbara.  She is my mother’s older sister.  I have several fond memories of my Aunt Barbara from my childhood, but my favoritest of all was the day she gave me some earrings in a little porcelain box for my birthday that had a rose on it.  She told me that I was created to be unique and special.  No one else is like me.  I don’t know if I still  have that little box, but the memory is still with me.  Even after all these years.  

Aunt Barbara agreed to share her experiences with alcoholism with the world.  So here you go…


I believe we are all born as a new, fresh garden. The ideals and morals are taught, from our parents, dictate how our garden will flourish and nourish. I, unfortunately, was raised by two practicing alcoholic parents. Their disease became so bad that I and five siblings were placed in foster homes and torn apart.

To this day I have no idea where my siblings are, except my younger sister who passed away with her addiction. In this environment, my garden was not well-tended, but trashed and told that I had no rights to protect or defend the boundaries of my life. This carried on into my adulthood, and I allowed anyone and anything in to my garden that became trashed and a toxic waste site. I lived with abuse, guilt and anger strewn all over my yard, and the only escape was with what I knew best, alcohol. Now, not only did I allow the wrong people in my yard, I got to the point that alcohol would ease the pain and I did not care to tend my garden, I could survive in a blur.

Four years ago I was lucky enough to have survived a car accident that totaled my car and a fire hydrant, but allowed me the opportunity to look at my yard. What a mess. Waste and lack of care was killing my garden, I had no idea how to clean out the weeds and life with any control over my garden. I was fortunate to check into a six month alcohol recovery program, and now I can look at each new day with surprise and gladness in my heart that I can trend my garden. I have a choice what I grow, and I no longer need to tend other people’s garden or allow weeds or garbage in my garden.

This is what ‘Boundaries” are all about. I suggest if you are struggling, look around your garden, are there weeds of distrust and fear, lack of responsibility, addiction or inability to live life fully in your space? If so, you can learn to heal your soil, yank out the weeds and live life so much more fully. You may not even know what you want to grow; fear can let you stay at the comfortable junk yard.

 

But, with some work, you can proudly life in a beautiful garden. There is a book “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend that explain how we can” learn to say yes, how to say no take control of your life”. I wish all a chance to recover their yard and be the beauty God intended you to be.

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My Aunt Barbara and her family…

Barbara Light is a senior citizen with six beautiful, wonderful adult children and eight grandchildren, with another on the way.  She is finally going to college as a fulfillment of a long ago dream.  She is also a recovering alcoholic. This is her story, and she hope it helps just one other person out in their garden.

And now…a little bit about me

Everything is a process.  I am still in the process of overcoming a multitude of sins on my part and my parents part.  It is really difficult to say out loud things that might hurt other people.  So, I sit here and struggle with how much to say, and how much to reveal about myself this early in the game.  Sometimes, I even doubt myself, my story.

And then…

…well, I look back at all of the work that God has accomplished in me.  I look back at who I used to be and who I am now.  I see the differences in my personality, my thought patterns, and my way of relating to others.  And I ask myself, how can my story NOT be real?  How can I NOT share the things that MIGHT hurt other people?

I need to share for your benefit, and for mine.

I was born in 1970 to two hurting people.  My mother gave birth to me carrying her own issues.  Some of those issue were passed on.  Some of which she continued to act out for the rest of her life which ended in an accidental overdose in her early 50s.  My father I know less about, he is more of an enigma.  My parents divorced when I was about 6.  My mother remarried when I was about 9.  I really liked my stepfather, and I’m pretty sure he liked me.  I grew up confused and full of self-doubt.  My mother did a pretty good job of contributing to these two elements.  By the time I graduated from high school I really had no clue who I was, what I wanted from life, or anything else for that matter.  I sunk into my first deep depression with a touch of dissociation.  I spent the whole summer after graduating depressed, and conflicted.

I eventually got a job and met my first husband through a mutual friend.  My mother and I got into an argument, she tried to hit  me, so I left home suddenly at age 19 and moved in with my boyfriend.  Unbeknownst to  me, I was pregnant with my first son at the time.  Not long after this sudden change in my universe, I started to experience flashbacks.  I would get “stuck” in a frame of mind that was both completely foreign and completely familiar.  I had no clue what was going on.

Fortunately, I started into counseling right away.  I have been at it for 22 years.   With the help of God, and other people, I have changed.  I have been through many different kinds of counseling, individual psychotherapy, group counseling, inner  healing, deliverances, to name a few.  As a matter of fact,  I just finished yet another turn at counseling with a wonderful person.

My life has been an uphill battle.  I have struggled with Dissociative Identity Disorder (a total of 7 personalities of which are now fully integrated), sugar addiction, self-doubt, low self-esteem, flashbacks, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, anxiety attacks, clinical depression,  ADHD, and few other things.

I have been on Prozac, Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, and a couple of other medications I can’t remember over the years.  All helpful and useful tools for helping me with my struggle to overcome.

Right now I am not on any meds and am not in counseling.  I feel pretty good,  most of the time.  I still struggle madly with anxiety and depression at times, but God and therapy gets me through.

I am almost done my Bachelor’s program in psychology and will be moving into a Master’s program for counseling at a local university.  The goal is to professionally help others the way I have been helped.  I now know that I was born with a gift of counseling and teaching.  I must be what I was meant to be.

Annnnnd, I think I will stop here for now.  I will reveal more information about myself as time goes on, especially as they pertain to what I am talking about.

Thanks for reading!

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Tell me your thoughts…

Of washing machines and a better tomorrow

Look familiar?

I don’t think it is any coincidence that I found this quote in my Facebook feed today: “Problems are like washing machines, they twist us, spin us, and knock us around, but in the end, we come out cleaner, brighter, and better than before” (Author Unknown).

If we are really (and I mean brutally, fist-in-your-face) honest with ourselves, this is a very true statement.

And now, I will say something bold:  Problems just are, whether we like it or not.  Stuff happens.  Life sucks. Often, circumstances suck.  Sometimes, people suck )(I admittedly suck sometimes).  And more importantly, we have a choice (Wait, did you know that?).  We can respond well to these problems, or not.  We can overcome the problem, or not.  It’s. All. Up. To. You.  It’s up to you how to respond.  It’s up to you to make a change in how you deal with the things that come your way.  You are not forever doomed to be a victim of your circumstances, your childhood, your bad relationship, your anger problem, or your “whatever”.  That’s right darlin’, you CAN change.  Yes, you heard me right.

You may ask me, “How do YOU know?”.  And I would respond with, “Cuz  I been there done that.”  I am changed-from-the-inside-out person.  I used to be shy, I’m not anymore.  I used to have multiple personalities, now I don’t.  I used to lack confidence, now I am a fairly confident person.  I used to totally suck at relationships, now I suck less (hey, nobody’s perfect).  I  used to respond to everything with anger and fear, now I take the time to really try to think through the reality of the situation, check my resources, and respond as appropriately as I can.  I used to be bossy know-it-all, well I…ahem…I guess I still am that way.  (If my sister reads this, she can verify what kind of person I used to be, and what kind of person I am today.  Right sis?  *clears throat* RIGHT, sis? Come on, be nice!)

This blog is about the process in between getting in the washing machine and coming out cleaner and brighter and better than you were before.  You, and I (and the kid down the street whose mom MAKES him wash his own clothes.  The nerve!) both know that when you put clothes in the washing machine it takes time for the clothes to come out clean.  First you have to put in the soap, then you have to choose the right settings (you know, “Normal”, “Perm Press”, “Hot/Cold” “Cold/Cold”, and etc.), start the water, and wait for the machine to agitate, spin, rinse, and spin again.  Like I said, it’s a process.  Changing behavior and thinking patterns is a process, you start with Step A, then move to Step B…I think you get the picture.

More than anything, I want you to succeed in life.  I want you to be who you are meant to be (Haven’t got a clue?  Contact this guy, he’ll help you figure it out).  But, you have to be willing to see some things differently, you have to be willing to knock down the walls of your little self-imposed prison.  You have to be willing to work at it.  And, it ain’t gonna be easy.  But, if getting knocked about a bit means you will be cleaner and brighter and better able to handle life’s problems, then the pain of the process is worth it, right?  Right?  I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.  RIGHT?!

I thought so.

Okay, so let’s get started:  Choose one thing you want to work on…I’ll give you a minute to think about.

Go ahead, it’s okay.

Just one thing, however small it may be.  It’s worth changing for a better tomorrow.

So, tell me, what would you like to change, starting today?

Looking forward to the journey with you,

Stephanie