Coming up for Air: When Self-Help Becomes Self-Abuse

Reading self-help and attending counseling for a lifetime can start to feel like abuse-of-self after awhile. With each new book I crack, my body asks, “When are we going to be okay the way we are? Why are we never enough? Why is that we have to change?”

I thank god for the privilege I’ve had to self-help books and counseling throughout my lifetime, even when I was poor and on welfare.

But, excessive reading and searching for something outside our own inner knowing only reinforces our less-than opinions that others have liberally applied to us, and not always in childhood.

So, I chose to read for pleasure. On a pool day.

Self-help and growth as a human is wonderful, but it should also involve play and coming up for air from time to time. Constantly rolling in the deep, and diving deeper and deeper with little rest doesn’t make us stronger, faster. It can weaken us and take us under, drowning us.

Some myths about a water drowning:

*Drowning people yell for help.
*Drowning people wave and thrash about wildly like in the movies.
*A drowning person is capable to assist in their rescue.
*Drowning takes a while.

These are also fitting signs for other types of drowning.

— Drowning in trauma we rarely talk about.
— Drowning in self-doubt, we’re embarrassed to bring attention to.
— Drowning in grief that society expects us to “get over already.”
— Drowning in fatigue from a lifetime of trying.

Trying is good. But, excessive trying can make us weaker, sicker, and can take us down faster. ILL health is the result.

So, on days your body is asking you, “When are we going to be enough?”

Say, “Today, sweetheart, today.”

Float. Find pleasure. Play.

It’s all part of the process of becoming.

Maybe even do a handstand?

Your Stories Will Tell You What Time It Is

Think back to all the times you’ve been called, “difficult,” “overly-sensitive,” “dramatic,” or “bitch.”🖕🏻

O.k. Who were those people? Write them down. What was happening between you two? Defending yourself? Someone else? Going toe to toe with a bully? Rising above the bullshit? Write that down. 🤩🥳😎

Do that a couple of hundred times in life and you have a lot of enemies. — Good for you. That means you’re not a doormat for others to wipe their feet on.🦶🦶Love yourself enough to be odd woman/man out. 💗💗💗🥰🥰

Now, who’s dismissed and invalidated your feelings, shushed you, implied you were “crazy,” and “too much.” What were you trying to express to them? Write that down. 😤 Use your anger for fuel.

Dismissed and invalidated a couple of hundred times in life and you have anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and physical pain — also known as C/PTSD from the psychological mind-fuck that is narcissistic abuse. 🤯 Undo the damage they’ve caused and write your truth. ✍️

Who’s ignored the core of who you are, mocked you, threatened your attempts at telling them what hurt and punished you for your “no?” Write that down. 😡🤬

Write all these stories out and you have a memoir. These stories are your gold. Your power. And they are more for your learning about yourself than they are for outing others. 💪🏻💥🎖

What are the patterns that keep playing out in your life? What’s your childhood conditioning? What role do you play in perpetuating these patterns? What could you have done differently then? What needs to change now? Have you changed over time? If not, why not? 🧐

Those names you wrote down? Abusers. Both overt and covert.

And there is both a time to stand and fight 💥🥊 and a time to walk away. 🏃🏻‍♀️

Your stories will tell you what time it is. ⏰

Looking at Old Photos: An Exercise to Help You Reconnect To Yourself When You’ve Forgotten Who You Are

My 2001 interview with Oprah, Lol!

I’m going through old photos while working on my second memoir and found this memory today.

This one is from a trip to Las Vegas in 2001 where I visited Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. I am a huge fan of Oprah, so when I ran into her that day, of course I let her interview me for my upcoming best-selling book. Lol! 😂

I was writing my memories out by hand back then for the book I wanted to write someday and was filing them away in my 3-ring binder.

I used to sit and watch The Oprah Show every chance I had at 4pm and still have the notes I took on the episode where she interviewed authors of memoir on how they approached their writing process.

This exercise of looking back at old photos is helpful for reconnecting to our old selves to see how far we’ve come, and to see how much further we have yet to go. It’s also helpful for abuse survivors who have endured decades of psychological abuse to help us reclaim who we’ve always been at our core, before toxic people projected who they are onto us.

This photo reminds me what I’ve known all along. I’ve lived authentically and genuinely from my heart. I’ve approached my big, convoluted, noisy, messy, busy life with a huge sense of humor, a love of life-long learning, the strength and dedication to keep my word to myself and follow through on my commitments, while showing up for my roles and responsibilities and continued to dream big!

And here I am. Still smiling and laughing. Still learning and growing. Still strong and doing. Still keeping my word. Still showing up. And still dreaming big!

I’m also still very realistic about what a long way I have yet to go, to get to where I dream of being. But, the most important thing about this is I kept my word to MYSELF to write that first book! How is that for learning self-trust, self-love and self-acceptance on your own?

Don’t allow the community that teaches about narcissistic abuse tell that you don’t know how to teach yourself or can’t. If what you see is good and you’re happy with that, keep doing that. If it’s not, have the guts to change it.

And, don’t let narcissistic family project onto YOU who they think you are, or should be, in order to make them comfortable and to keep you in learned helplessness. Be defiant! Be a force to be reckoned with! They’ll get over it. Or they won’t. It’s their choice to make.

Dream big or go home, baby!

projection #protection #dream #do #create #laugh #learn #grow #loveyourself

Use Your Pain for Fuel

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When I sought counseling after being discarded by my mom, the counselor asked what my goals were for my sessions with her. I said,

“Help me grieve the death of my parents — who are still living.”

It’s been sixteen years since I was discarded by my dad and brother, and three and a half years since being discarded by my mom. All of these discards caused tremendous damage, but being discarded at age forty-six by my mom, dredged up everything for me. Absolutely everything. Things I thought I was completely over, now sent me reeling into the abyss.

This is an article about how the death of a parent impacts the adult child psychologically and physically. The pain and torment of narcissistic discard is no joke.

Even as a nurse; someone well aware that the grieving process isn’t a linear, chronological undertaking, and is something that looks different for everyone, I think I still naively hoped for a process that would be something I could just breeze through like steps one through five, check, check, check, check, and check. Like homework.

I was in so much pain from being discarded by my mom, that some days I thought I might die from the sheer weight of the pain I carried within my chest. Other days, I wanted to die just to be done with it all. I couldn’t get my head from spiraling, “What did I ever do to deserve this?” — As all this was happening, I also had a few long-term friendships that were falling into disrepair, marital problems, and ‘other’ family issues I’ll get around to discussing with you all some other time.

I thought the counselor could give me some tool to help me get through the pain I was grappling with so I begged her for reading material and homework on anything she thought would help me. I needed answers.

I told her one day as I arrived with my homework in hand that I wanted to stop writing my memoir and focus solely on the grieving process and heal this shit once and for all. She smiled and let me tell her what I thought I needed as she sat quietly with her hands folded in her lap.

Oh, how funny that is to me now.

And I did stop writing my memoir. For a while. I had to. I was advised to stop when I started to stutter in counseling as I did in childhood as I sat and talked about what had hurt me. I was reeling with emotions I had buried for four decades. I had to get out of the tailspin I was in and regroup and refuel.

So, with some time and a few months worth of sessions under our belts, my counselor led me to the conclusion that within the rubble of my despair I wanted to put aside, lay the rubies and diamonds I needed for the long haul. I needed to put “that” together with “this” and tether it together somehow into a meaningful life. I had to integrate what I was learning there, with where I had been, and where I saw myself going. I had to stop compartmentalizing. I had to stop disassociating. Wounded child by night. Extra Super Do-Gooder by day. She reminded me that letting the dream of writing my book go in order to process yet another discard would only hurt me and stop any progress I had made in my self-discovery and recovery of my strength. So, with her encouragement, I decided to use the pain of my mother’s discard as fuel for my journey to write Steel Town Girl. 

Grieving the death of parents and a sibling while they’re still alive is a hell I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It’s confusing grief. Even this far out. Even with writing a childhood memoir about it, it’s still a muddy pit of despair I have to dig through alone, sometimes daily, in order to survive.

I find myself asking, “What is this I’ve found? Why does it feel this way? Is this mine, or does it belong to someone else?” I’ve definitely found some jewels to keep, but I’ve found a lot of rocks I had to throw back in.

It hurts to be rejected by the very people who made us. How do we trust others in a world like that? How do we learn to love others with role models like that? How do we believe in a god after being handed this lot in life to carry? 

The answer is, “I don’t know?” My question is: “What else can we do?”

With the tools I was given in counseling, I now know that healing this abuse pattern is a lifelong journey, not something we do once and we’re done. Just knowing that provides a sort of acceptance I didn’t have before. We will grieve now, and grieve again at the time of our parents ‘actual’ death and at various points in between. There’s no way around it, really.

Another tool I was given that has proven to be invaluable in feeling your way through the convoluted mess that is the narcissistic abuse cycle of idealization, devaluation, and discard is trusting yourself and your intuition regardless of what others tell you. If you feel abused, you are. If someone tells you otherwise, ask yourself if they could, in fact, be one of your abusers. 

Turns out, that once you know about this spectrum, you see it everywhere; some people in your life will be high on the spectrum and will be unreachable, while others will only have traits. But, you’ll be delighted when you’re able to go back and see old behaviors and people with new eyes. You’ll see why those old friendships crumbled and people left your life. Hint: You’re growing, they are not.

Somedays I think I’m closer to healing than ever before. I’ll feel like a snake that’s shed its old skin and I’m ready to take on the world. Other days I can barely breathe from the black pit of sorrow that still lurks in my chest. 

I am not the same person I was when I started this memoir writing journey. And, if writing my memoir has taught me anything about myself it’s this: 

I’ve done a lot of grieving in my lifetime. And I’ve done most of it alone. And I’m still sifting through. A day at a time.

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Looking for rubies and diamonds