Reflecting back on 2016 <—

Thinking too much about the past isn’t always so helpful in terms of the future especially when you’re hoping to move beyond certain issues that have held you back for far too long. We can get so caught up like a fish stuck in a net and make life harder for ourselves. Imagine being a fish for a moment………. fish never know when or where a large net is going to silently pick them up against their will and take them from their environment. Ironically that is what happened to me this year!  I was suddenly put into a position in which I had no choice but to leave my marriage of 27 years and move states all within a matter of hours. Had I been compliant perhaps I could have stayed however being in a marriage only to be compliant was no longer appealing.

It’s natural at this time of the year to start reflecting back!

With good intention we set goals for the New Year however we cannot guarantee what the future holds as much as we cannot change what has taken place in the past year of which we are on the verge of leaving behind us.

Goodbye 2016!!!

It’s useful to reflect back and consider what we do or do not want in our future. We may decide to do things a little differently to how we would have done them previously.

Albert Einstein in his simple yet powerful quote says:

Insanity  =  doing the same thing

over and over again

and expecting different results!

In reflecting back on this past year with breath in my lungs and hope in my heart,  I consider what I do OR do not want for myself in the New Year. I can use this past year as a guidebook to keep me from losing myself and ending up in situations that I don’t belong in.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in this past year is that my self-worth and value does not need to be compromised. I don’t need to lower my standards and accept any sort of treatment. The fact is that not everyone on planet earth is going to treat you right. As I reflect back it concerns me that I allowed myself to be treated so badly for so long.

What was I thinking?

The trouble was when I was younger I had little value in myself. This meant that I didn’t need a net to come out of nowhere and take me away. I was the fish that swam into the net having no resistance thereby reflecting my low self-worth. As much as I dreamed of being treated with respect, love and honesty I continued gravitating towards harsh treatment.

The less you value yourself the more opportunity there is to be in relationships with people that do not value you either. It feels comfortable, you feel like a fish in your own man made environment.

The circumstances that took place of the night that saw me walk out of my marriage were not ideal in any marriage breakup story. It was rushed and painful not only for myself but for all of my children. There are certain parts of that night that my 9 year old will always remember along with my adult children. While I wish that the night of the breakup were a lot less intense my hope is that in time the kid’s hearts will heal along with mine and we will all be able to move forward into the future. Even with all the scars my hope is that everyone will find their place in this world and have clarity about what they do or do not want in their relationships.

No one deserves to be in a relationship that is damaging. In my previous blog I introduced the topic of ‘emotional abuse’. Emotional abuse is quite silent. It generally happens in such a way that you are not even aware of what is exactly going on. The relationship keeps you full of questions only to provide the same answer each time which tells you, you’re the fault! This results in continually having to attempt fixing the problem as you are led to believe you are the problem. When you are trapped in this type of relationship the other party leaves you with no rights to question their behaviour. No matter how many times I had tried to get to the bottom of the real issue my words, feelings and thoughts were always twisted around to be turned into knots that couldn’t be untangled.

Emotional abuse creates a controlling relationship. The person doing the abusing has power over your emotions. They create situations or conversations that set your emotions into a spiral. When your emotions are all over the place you are easily manipulated into whatever it is that the abuser has in mind for their own purposes. It is always about them! They are not in the relationship because they love you; they are in the relationship as they have power to abuse you.

To others the abuser can seem like the most Christian citizen that walked planet earth. The person being abused knows what they are really like. The abused watches on and lives a life filled with contradiction and heartache. Nothing about their life makes sense. Constantly questioning why life feels abnormal and insecure. The worst part about the whole scenario is that no matter how hard you may try to be the best wife that walked planet earth it will not change your relationship with an emotional abuser.

For Christian women in particular this can be extremely difficult. The amount of times over the years that I had tried to get counsel or advice from other women in church left me more confused. Unless someone has ever been in an emotional abusive marriage they will not understand the way it works.

You need to talk to someone that does understand and a professional counselor in this case is very important.

In a normal healthy marriage advice on how to be the good Christian wife can be helpful. However in an emotionally abusive marriage the advice can leave you stuck in that damaging marriage for years.

In the New Year my hope is to continue healing from all of the damage caused while being in the unhealthy relationship. This means to continue going to counseling and allowing myself all the time necessary for recovery.

Life can hurt so I’m keeping it real.

Happy New Year…. ♥

Anxiety is the pits!

Over the years I have had people say they feel a sense of calm around me or that I portray being calm. Often that statement has surprised me given how much I’ve battled with anxiety due to high levels of stress. It makes sense that people wouldn’t see what’s going on inside me as I have learnt how to interact with others regardless of any internal situation I might be feeling at any given moment.

There was a time in which worry and anxiety interfered on a daily basis. At times when it was really bad I struggled to leave the house for fear of having a panic attack. I was anxious about what was going to happen to me when I was away from the comfort of my home. Home was the place that I retreated to and built as my safe place. Time and again when I was out running errands or buying groceries, anxiety was my shopping companion. Anxiety liked to dictate how I was going to feel whilst walking through the busy shopping mall. On very bad days when anxiety was waiting to pounce I would get my shopping done quick smart so as I could get out of crowded places. I often felt as though people around me could see my struggle as it was so strong, powerful and scary. On many occasions I felt as though I was going to collapse when waiting in a queue. It felt hard to breathe which then resulted in feeling dizzy and shaky. The fear of making a scene in front of other shoppers almost made the anxiety worse. I knew that if I could get myself home then eventually the anxiety would settle and I would be safe again.

Anxiety really is the pits!!!

The battle with anxiety started after a very intense season of stressful circumstances when I was in my mid-twenties. I had gone through stressful events many times over previously however anxiety only really hit me later. I don’t think our bodies are made to cope with too much stress on a regular basis. We often hear about good stress and bad stress. The good stress gets us motivated to get things done however the bad stress sends us into a flight or fight mode. It is inbuilt so as we can respond to dangerous and threatening situations immediately. For example this inbuilt flight/fight switch would go off if you were walking across the road and suddenly a car came towards you out of nowhere. Your body would get you responding as quickly as possible to get you out of the way to prevent serious harm.

The truth is that most situations are not dangerous (such as myself walking through a crowded shopping mall) yet panic attacks happen as a result of the inbuilt flight or fight switch that triggers off at the wrong times. So your body kicks in with adrenaline telling it to start fighting or running away. This is when you feel all sorts of different symptoms in your body, from tingling shaky hands to difficulty breathing. It is like a surge or a rush of intense panic.  As you stand there experiencing all of these symptoms in your body knowing full where that  there is no real dangerous situation you then feel as though you are going to die as why else would you feel like this? In books panic attacks are often described as a feeling impending doom!

panic-attacks

How do we avoid the bad stress which causes so much anxiety?

It took me years to figure out the cause of a lot of my stress despite the fact that it should have been obvious. One of the biggest issues that I had was keeping emotions bottled up. I didn’t find it easy to talk about them. These bottled up emotions were usually a result of an argument with my ex. I wasn’t aware how much unhealthy interactions were affecting me as it was usually on a subconscious level. Consciously I was aware that we were having serious issues which I was always trying to resolve with my ex and in the back of my mind I wondered why the (resolving part) often made me feel worse.

Most people know that relationships have arguments and tension. This is normal!!! Little did I understand that what is normal was not my normal? What I was experiencing was very different. It was so subtle and difficult to recognise which made it impossible for me to truly understand. This is where the topic of emotional abuse is introduced for the first time on my blog page.

It isn’t easy to write about emotional abuse for fear of being seen as the bad person. People that have been emotionally abused would understand this issue, the issue of always blaming oneself for everything. In the relationship it was all too easy for me to continue believing that it was always my fault when things went wrong. That if I would just try hard enough things would be better. That perhaps if I wasn’t so sensitive to how I was being treated then things would be ok. That I should just keep quiet and leave things as they are. The trouble was that keeping things quiet may have caused fewer waves for a time yet it produced anxiety.

Anxiety was always present.

When we are in a relationship with someone who is unstable emotionally and creates crazy circumstances to live through it can result in anxiety together with depression. All of your senses are heightened and at a level that is not healthy. You may see things with your eyes or feel things that are wrong yet your trapped in the situation believing it’s your entire fault.

When we hear about domestic violence everyone knows that the person doing the hitting is the bad person. In more subtle forms of abuse such as emotional manipulation the true culprit hides behind lies and games. It isn’t visible or tangible physically which makes it so hard to see clearly. The abuser leaves you feeling as though the problem is YOU. They don’t take responsibility for their actions. They don’t feel your pain. It is always about them winning and gaining control and power.

While I am no longer in that relationship, thank heavens, I’m working on myself with the help of a counsellor to bring the heightened anxiety level right back down. This will take time of course considering how many years I lived in that state of threat. I suppose this blog is not so much about all of the details on emotional abuse but rather a thought provoking piece to help others recognise what areas of their lives might be causing the bad type of stress that can lead to excessive anxiety.

Feel free to add any comments about your experience with anxiety.

 

Wisdom in the Ordinary

If you were to grab a set of scales and measure how many ordinary days exist compared to the extraordinary what would you find? I have no doubt after spending over four decades on planet earth that the scales measuring the ordinary days would far outweigh some of the extraordinary times of our lives.

Life is jam-packed with ordinary moments. Grocery shopping is but one of them.  A lot of people I talk to express a certain dislike towards shopping, especially for the groceries.  We all have to do it, unless of course you have escaped it with the convenience of online shopping. Grocery shopping is one of the most ordinary weekly tasks we accomplish. Not too much thought is given for this vital and ordinary chore and until recently I hadn’t thought too much of it myself.

If you have been following my blogs in the recent months you would be aware of how much my life has changed. I live in a different state with my nine year old son as a single mum. All of my adult children live approximately 16 hour’s drive away. Given this huge adjustment everything about what my life previously was no longer exists. No longer can I simply hang out with my adult children. No longer can I pop over to my favourite shopping mall to do the groceries. No longer do I go to the same church. No longer do I go out for coffees with my daughter and have laughing fits enough to provide a serious abdomen workout.

A few days ago I saw a t.v. commercial which reminded me of the vegetable and fruit shop I used to go to. The ordinary suddenly held meaning!!!  All of a sudden I was transported to that particular shop in my thoughts and began picturing all the aisles filled with fruit and vegetables. I could picture the checkout that I would stand at to pay for my groceries. I remembered life as a complete family and re lived a moment as I carefully choose all the ingredients to cook a meal for dinner. My attachment to that fruit and vegetable shop is from a time when we were a complete family.

The fruit and vegetable shop is only one example of many ordinary moments that have recently invaded my thoughts. It isn’t easy to let go. Despite all of the hurt that I have been through in my marriage it amazes me how my mind can wander to everything that once was! It is difficult to let go of a family that once lived together sharing special moments. I loved being a mum to my children and I still do.

It seems that regardless of the hurt or pain of the recent past I often remember the ordinary. Little did I know that my usual grocery shopping would not only change location but would be downsized for feeding two? All of the ordinary moments hold extra meaning for me today. Perhaps remembering the previous ordinary moments helps me to adjust to the loss I have experienced providing a moment of connection to my adult children whom I miss a lot.

It seems that the ordinary days are just as important as the extra ordinary. In any given day the common thread connecting Monday to Sunday are people! People hold value, which is why it hurts so much when a relationship breaks down. I don’t think anyone intentionally sets out to ruin a relationship. Unfortunately life happens! People make choices. Those choices have consequences whether good or bad. It is the bad consequences which are very difficult to un~do.

The ordinary days provide opportunities to build trust and connection with the people in our lives. Often people forget or don’t realise there is consequences to what they do in the ordinary moments of a relationship. Consequences have a way of sticking around no matter how much you want them to disappear.

TRUST is a big one!

When a person’s trust has been broken too many times there is no magical super glue to put it back together. If I am in a relationship with someone who continually breaks my trust it won’t matter how desperately I try to trust them again, the consequence is broken trust. There will be reservation on my end. I will not open myself up to the other person completely. A relationship without trust is a disaster waiting to happen. It creates distance.

Relationships need trust, respect, honesty, support, love, care, appreciation, value and forgiveness. In the ordinary moments relationships are built on these qualities. Families fall apart when in the ordinary moments the essential values are neglected.

A healthy relationship or family need more than vegetables and fruit to thrive. Each person in the relationship must provide the qualities needed to keep it thriving. A relationship takes two people. Let’s face it we have more ordinary days than extra ordinary! What we do every day either builds or tears down. When one person in a relationship puts in and receives nothing but emptiness and hurt in return it is only a matter of time before a break up completes the struggle.

Wisdom tells us that since there are more ordinary days than extra ordinary we shouldn’t take them for granted. Ordinary days are the building blocks for the extra ordinary. What we do or say today will matter tomorrow. We need to take the time to consider what we want our tomorrow to look like?

Time is precious and we don’t get another practise run. People should be the focus of our ordinary days. Our relationships and families need to be on top of the list. While we can’t do anything about how others prioritise the most important people in their lives we can choose to do something about our own choices and priorities. Occasionally it can mean losing someone from your life. It’s never easy losing someone yet if there is anything positive that can come from it, is finding out what you do or don’t want in a relationship. In my young days I was broken and hasty! Now that I have lived life a little I’ve finally realised what it is that I do need. What I need is to live a life that doesn’t move away from trust, respect, honesty, support, love, care, appreciation, value and forgiveness.

When you finally figure out what you need then it’s time to hold onto those values tightly. Don’t let them go or be trampled on by anyone. There is nothing more painful than being in a relationship with someone who holds different values.

Choose wisely in the ordinary moments.

The Bitter & Sweet taste of December

The most sentimental month of the year is upon us…. December….

December sneaks up quickly every single year. Most people tend to shake their heads in disbelief that the year is nearly over. As you consider the other eleven months of the year it is December that succeeds at building anticipation into the lives of people. The anticipation begins in the shopping malls. Christmas decorations create an atmosphere of joyful celebration. Individuals visiting shopping malls may be battling all sorts of issues in their lives or their families yet the Christmas spirit provides a tiny distraction from the reality facing them.

Boxes marked ‘Christmas deco’s’ are pulled out of storage cupboards. These boxes are filled with Christmas treasures collected over the year’s. Some of the decorations may hold special meaning especially the ones handed down by someone in the family or the ones handmade at school by young children. The inside and outside of homes are decorated and tell a Christmas story unique to each family.

Over the years life changes and life happens. These changes can affect our families and lives drastically representing various joys, challenges and events. Depending on the types of challenges and events we each face determines the various emotions we have to deal with.

The intense and difficult events we face, the ones that take the wind out of our sails can leave us hesitant at facing the month of December.

December represents family, celebration, giving, sharing, holidays, laughing and fun. It also represents the end of the year. Most people begin considering what the next year will look like while others go a step further and make plans.

If you have been blessed to have had a relatively pain free year then Christmas is always a great way of winding it up. A good year lays the foundation for excitement to build in the home. Family members begin thinking about which gifts to buy each other. Christmas presents are stashed in secret places to keep them hidden. The smells of Christmas cookies or cakes send out signals from kitchen windows signifying the arrival of this special anticipated day.

I’ve had some difficult Christmas’s in times past in which the lack of money made it difficult to relax. Or the crazy Christmas house move that invaded all of the typical traditions that would have normally taken place, leaving everyone feeling as though Christmas didn’t really happen. Those types of Christmas’s although challenging were lived through as one family unit, a family of seven.

We all hear about families that break down. Sometimes we hear about it and gasp in shock at the news.

The shock and surprise is even worse when it is your own family that has broken apart. This is the reality of my year.  My recent blogs share about this journey filled with more downs than ups.

Christmas time marks five months of being a single mum to a 9 year old. All four of my other children are adults and live in Queensland. This Christmas I will be celebrating with my parents and sisters including their families. We won’t be alone. Knowing that I won’t be celebrating with my adult children is daunting. Just the thought alone has sort of been put to the side for the moment as I don’t want to feel the hurt of that too early.

On a normal Christmas month I would have already put up all of the decorations in the house and around the house. In fact that always happened on the 1st of December. I was never one to have had the presents purchased early. This would normally happen about a week before Christmas. I would spend hours with my husband shopping for all of the kids. We would stop for coffee on regular intervals just to keep our energies up as we navigated the shopping crowds. It was fun in a crazy way. I would also purchase all the ingredients to cook up a Finnish feast for our large family to enjoy!

Given the massive changes this year my Christmas is very different. No crazy decorations around my small two bedroom unit, just a small tree. No crazy Christmas shopping for all of the kids. Just a little shopping for my 9 year old as my peanut budget restricts me. For my adult children it will be equally hard and difficult as they spend Christmas without their mum and young brother. That thought alone breaks my heart in two.

As others plan and consider the New Year I can’t even fathom the year ahead. I’m still dealing with loss and hurt. While the pain has lessened it hasn’t disappeared. Some days I just hurt. It is no easy task to have had your identity as a mum of a large family switched to a mum of one 9 year old. My identity has changed and my responsibilities. I’m also my son’s only provider financially and emotionally. He is the one I am focusing on for the time being.

When you are in the middle of heart break the anticipation of Christmas becomes diluted. It is diluted in pain and hurt. My story is one of many. Many families experience breakdowns, tragedies and loss.

If you are one of the many who happen to be experiencing heart breaking events leading up to Christmas I only hope that my blog has a way of letting you know that you are not the only one. You are not alone. Others too are facing a Christmas not quite the same as previous ones. And that’s OK. There are no rules for how to feel. Allow yourself to feel the pain and the hurt. Talk about it with your family and friends.

As I consciously repeat to myself over and over again that “this pain will pass”, I’m aware that there are no short cuts through. I acknowledge my pain and have come to accept that this Christmas will be different…..

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥