Saturday, October 10, 2015

Crochet and Healing [day 10]

My grandmother was a crocheter. She did fine thread crochet -- bedspreads and tablecloths. Large projects of intricate design. I wanted to know how to do it but was too intimidated to ask her to teach me.

When I was in high school (back in the dark ages!) we learned to crochet in Home Economics. We had a spinster lady who taught the class, and she was old as the hills. Rather than teach us basic crochet skills that we could build on, she taught us one rather esoteric stitch, broomstick lace. I excelled at it but had no idea how to transfer that knowledge to learning basic stitches or reading patterns. So I felt like a fraud telling people I knew how to crochet.

Fast forward many years. My college age daughter suffered a trauma of her own, and one of her friends suggested taking up knitting as a calming mechanism. I tried knitting, but couldn't get the hang of it. Did I mention I'm left handed which adds a whole different issue to learning handwork? Watching my daughter knit got me pondering crocheting. Could I teach myself those basic stitches? Could I learn to read patterns?

I found a class at the local library and did learn those basics. I took another class at the local yarn shop and learned about reading patterns, and about asking for help. I also learned it was best to explain that, yes, my hands shake terribly when I'm nervous, and yes, I'm nervous a lot. 

I watched YouTube videos and found out there are left handed instruction books and videos!

And then I was hooked! I started crocheting, at first just to have something to occupy my hands and mind. I made scarves and dishcloths. I was so stinking proud! Later I began to wonder about afghans, lap rugs, and shawls. 

Ahhh, shawls. Prayer shawls in particular. Are you seeing a theme here? My desire to create was leading me to desire to know God more authentically. 

I began to make things for myself and as gifts. I was commissioned to make some afghans, but quickly learned I don't work well under that kind of pressure. I make what I want and do with it what I want.

I found the stitching soothed my rattled mind and I had something beautiful to show for it when I was done. Crocheting also opened unexpected doors of conversation. When I wear a piece I've made it frequently leads to comments, questions, and conversation. A really good thing for an introvert like me. I'm not good at chit chat, but I can explain what I do, even if it means accepting a compliment (hard still). Most places I go these days I carry my crochet basket filled with my current project. People asked me about the basket or its contents, and the next thing I know I'm having a friendly conversation often with a total stranger. And most of the time I'm okay with that.

Sometimes we all need a bit of help and encouragement to get outside of ourselves, and that's okay. Just keep in mind that encouragement may come from the most unexpected places.

This is day 10 in Write 31 Days

Friday, October 9, 2015

Trust and Healing [day 9]

Trust is a big word for survivors of child sexual abuse and trauma in general.

Somewhere along the way our trust was shattered and we have a difficult time figuring out how to regain it.

I left on Thursday to fly to a spa in Austin, Texas. I'm spending a week on my own getting some rest, relaxation, good food, pampering, and reassessing my approach to physical activity.

I can still remember the first time I travelled on my own after being diagnosed with PTSD. I was so proud of myself when I managed to take a train from Rye, NY into the city and visit a few sites in NYC. I also remember thinking how silly it was for me to be that proud of myself.

Yesterday a lot of those feelings came back as I travelled from Nashville to Austin, found the transportation to the spa, and handled all the tipping and checking in for myself. I realize that for some of you this won't sound like much, and for others it will seem remarkable. And therein lies the issue. For years, I just assumed that no one worried about things kinds of things but me. I believed there was something inherently wrong with me that I was afraid to trust myself to handle these kinds of situations. That I worried I'd make a fool of myself. That one of those strangers I'd have to deal with would take advantage of me.

So far this trip has been lovely, not completely trouble free, but still wonderful. Maybe one of the best things so far are the notes that are left on my bed at turn down time.

Good reminders that I may not be doing everything perfectly, but that's okay!

This is day 9 in Write 31 Days

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Travel and Healing [day 7]

I didn't grow up doing much in the way of travel. My husband, on the other hand, travelled quite a bit. 

He loves to have a trip to look forward to, and even enjoys the process of planning the itinerary.

This year we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary, but we couldn't seem to get excited about the same kind of trip to celebrate. So . . . I leave tomorrow to spend a week at a beautiful spa in Texas all by myself!

Let me be clear, my husband offered this trip to me. I would NEVER have come up with this on my own. I am very grateful for this gift and looking forward to it in a big way.

It took me a long time to embrace the travelling vibe, and I still don't crave it or have the energy for it that my husband does. I have learned to navigate flights and airport to hotel transportation on my own. It's something I'm proud of accomplishing. As an introvert, I like the idea of visiting places and getting to set the schedule to please me and having a room all to myself. The downside for the introvert and travel is all of those strangers I have to interact with, but that's probably good for me.

I'll do my best to keep posting (hopefully without making anyone TOO jealous!) while I'm out of town. In the meantime, I hope to have some time to catch up on all the reading I'm behind on. 

Travel is a good method of healing. Yes, it can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be. A change of scenery gives me the opportunity to walk away from the stress and daily struggle for a bit. I can be someone anonymous or someone completely different. I highly recommend it if you have the means.

This is day 7 in Write 31 Days

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Creativity and Healing [day 6]

Yesterday I wrote about relationships and healing. I want to clarify one thing before going on to today's post. I was not hurt or disappointed by what happened in my small group. It is the nature of life that sometimes moments get interrupted. I did not feel snubbed or judged. I never intended for the post to be negative, but rather to show how difficult it still is to share my history. 

I never considered myself a creative person, and yet I have found so much healing by allowing myself to create. 

It started with coloring. I needed something to do that occupied my mind, was restful, but required little thought. I loved the idea of sketching, but I can barely draw a recognizable stick figure. I kept reading about art therapy and how so many survivors were helped my drawing their feelings. I did a few exercises, but was never happy with the results (I'm a bit of a perfectionist). 

I don't know who first suggested coloring, but I think it was my husband. I played around with it a bit, testing to see what kind of coloring books relaxed me. I tried crayons and markers, but I found that colored pencils were the most soothing. I got a fairy coloring book (I have an affinity for fairies) and began to take it with me anywhere I had to wait. At the time I was getting allergy shots, and the process had become extremely triggering for me. Walking into the office knowing I was going to let them hurt me, even though it was for my own good, was a tough pill to swallow. 

One day after getting my shots, I was waiting the required 30 minutes and using the time to color. Another lady in the waiting room complimented my picture. She asked if I was a school teacher. I realized I was going to have to tell her something. Another thing you need to know about me, I'm pathologically honest. Especially early on in my recovery I didn't know how to do evasive without it feeling as if I were lying. So I told her it was part of my therapy. I did it to relax in stressful situations. As I sat there waiting for her to mock me, I was surprised to hear her say what a good idea that was. She'd never thought of that before. She had loved coloring as a child and wasn't sure why she'd given it up. Maybe she'd get a coloring book for herself.

I was stunned! That certainly hadn't gone the way I expected.

Now I'm amused by all of the "adult" coloring books that are available. Don't get me wrong, I think it's fabulous. It's just funny to me that nearly 15 years after coloring helped to save my life, everyone's on the bandwagon. Maybe I'm a trendsetter!

This is day 6 in Write 31 Days

Monday, October 5, 2015

Relationships and Healing [day 5]

Nothing has impacted my healing as much as relationships with other people. 

Last night I was reminded of this all over again.

My husband and I were at our small group dinner. There were fewer of us than usual, with several of our members out of town. We sat around eating soup, chips, avocado, and watermelon, and talking about church and life. After dessert (a pumpkin bundt cake -- I'll share the recipe later!), we moved into the sitting room to continue talking.

I'm not sure how it happened, but people began sharing a bit of their histories and life stories. I listened as people told about their children and then the stories would segue to family of origin. One thing led to another and I was sharing my history. Not all the gory details but more than my standard quick and dirty version. I was crocheting as I talked and I never looked up from my work (a typical avoidance technique I use). There were a few comments, but mostly what I felt was stunned silence. 

Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the host's daughter, so I never really found out what anyone thought or felt about my revelations. The group dispersed and I found myself walking to the car in a daze, knotting my hands in my purse strap. Sitting in the car, my husband expressed concern that I would begin to doubt myself. We talked a bit about what had just happened. I tried to quell the rising anxiety that always comes with revealing my past to new people. 

Other people had shared difficult pasts as well, and I knew I felt no differently about them. I knew I was glad that our group had moved into a deeper level of knowing one another, but it was difficult to quiet the old tapes in my head -- the ones that tell me I won't be believed; that I'll be shunned; that the world will come crashing down.

At home, I moved into my standard coping and relaxing mechanisms, worrying than I wouldn't be able to sleep. But sleep came fairly easily with only 1 or 2 bad dreams. 

Healing is a constant, on-going process. Building and maintaining relationships are part of the path. 

I guess I placed another stone last night.

This is day 5 in Write 31 Days

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Books and Healing [day 4]

I am a librarian by profession, so books have always been my first line of defense. When I was diagnosed I went looking for books to verify the diagnosis and help me understand what it really meant. I also love to read fiction and was surprised at how certain novels impacted my recovery. Spirituality became difficult and yet incredibly necessary, and so I looked for books to help me reconnect with God in a more authentic manner. The following are just some of the titles I've found helpful.

Allen, Jon G. Coping With Trauma: A Guide to Self-Understanding. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, c1995.

Benson, Robert. A Good Life: Benedict's Guide to Everyday Joy. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, c2004. (out of print)

Claiborne Shane, et alCommon Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, c2010.

Engel, Beverly. The Right to Innocence: Healing the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse. New York: Ivy Books, c1989.
Evans, Rachel Held. A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, c2012.

Godden, Rumer. In This House of Brede. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2005.

Herman, Judith. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. New York: Perseus Books, c1997.

Lucado, Max. God Thinks You're Wonderful! Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, c2003.

Martel, Yann. Life of Pi: A Novel. New York: Harcourt Inc., c2001.

Meyers, Robert R. Morning Sun on a White Piano: Simple Pleasures and the Sacramental Life. New York: Galilee Book, c1998.

O'Connor, Flannery. A Prayer Journal. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, c2013.

Palacio, R.J. Wonder. New York: Alfred J. Knopf, c2012.

Peterson, Margaret Kim. Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, c2007.

This is day 4 in Write 31 Days

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Beading and Healing [day 3]

Yesterday I taught a friend how to make Anglican prayer beads.

I started making prayer beads over 10 years ago. 

Prayer beads and rosaries have fascinated me since I was a child. I grew up as a conservative Protestant in the 60s and 70s. At that time anything with any semblance of "high church" was frowned upon in my tradition. Nothing liturgical, and certainly nothing that could be construed as idols. But my nextdoor neighbors were Catholic and all the people on TV seemed to be "high church". I liked all the pageantry and paraphernalia that seemed to go with it.

When I began having flashbacks and panic attacks, I needed something to keep me grounded in the present. A therapist suggested holding a rock or a comb. My husband suggested a stuffed animal, but I knew immediately I needed prayer beads.

I began to investigate on the internet. A friend at work shared a book with me, Bead One, Pray Too by Kimberly Wilson and I was off. I liked the idea of making the beads myself. Picking the exact beads for size, weight, and texture made the process soothing and having the process behind me made using the beads all the more comforting.

Since then I've taught classes on making and using prayer beads. I've given them as gifts. I've even sold them. 

I still find something calming about the process of getting out my beads and feeling them, picking beads that compliment one another and stringing them all the time knowing they will help someone else. 

That process is much like praying itself.

Additional resources on prayer beads --
A String and a Prayer by Eleanor Wiley and Maggie Oman Shannon
Praying with Beads by Nan Lewis Doerr and Virginia Stem Owens

This is day 3 in Write 31 Days