friday night – sitting with a book

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Lately I have been on this “Brene’ Brown” kick, by reading some of her books (again) and watching her new video on “Soul Sunday”.

My therapist actually just started to watch some of her TED talks, and listening to her podcasts, and we have been incorporating some of her wisdom in our sessions together; which has been really healing and open.

I love Brene’ Brown! I have been reading and watching her stuff for a long time, and the first time I saw her video “The Power of Vulnerability” on TED Talk .. I was in complete AWE!

I was inspired by her wisdom around vulnerability, because I struggle with this in my healing – Vulnerability is scary, and shame is something that may as well be my middle name – both hard to hold onto, and let go of.

Today I decided to go to Barnes and Noble and get her latest book “Daring Greatly”. I have read all her books, and am now just about done with this new one – yes already – until I put it down for a moment to write.

I decide to take a break from the book because something hit me when I came to a part of the book that stopped me in my tracks, and that was – disappointment, maybe even a little anger.

There was a part in the book that caught my eye, and I got excited for a moment, she started to talk about “Trauma” and the small outline was called “Trauma and Daring Greatly”.. and I thought to myself  “YAY, finally she is incorporating what vulnerability and shame looks like in a person who has experienced a great deal of trauma; because lets face it, people who have been through extreme trauma and suffer PTSD have a different level of the norm on vulnerability, shame, and fear.

I started to read and much to my disappointment – it was less than a page long, and I thought to myself  “was it too vulnerable to talk about people who suffer extreme trauma, sexual abuse, physical abuse, rape, and neglect that it only deserved less than a page?” – that was my sarcastic anger coming out!

It starts off in a direction to where it explains how hard it is for people who have experienced “trauma” do have a harder time letting go of their “survival strategies”, and out of all the things Brene’ Brown talks and writes about, finally she is adding people like “me” into the equation and how hard vulnerability is for someone who holds a lifeline called “survival mode” and how vulnerability is 100 fold.

Well . .  it pretty much dropped off at what a few trauma related participants do and gave a few bullet point ideas like “getting professional help” “acknowledge the problem” “work through the shame” etc…

NEXT!!! . . . . and then it dropped off to another subject

That is when I put the book down and I was a bit disappointed. Dont get me wrong, I love everything about Brene’ Brown and I will continue to embrace her wisdom – but this part of the book really disappointed me.

I felt as if the “vulnerability” to talk about people who suffer or suffered from extreme trauma only deserved a small part of the room in this book.

I wanted to read about how people like me (who suffered such trauma in my past) open the door and to let go of the “survival strategies” of being vulnerable and letting go of that shame.

Being vulnerable today is still extremely hard for me, because in the past, being vulnerable was danger! I was forced to hold shame. I was forced to numb out, I was forced to push away joys because the moment I felt joy, there was a backhanded fist to meet it.

Brene’ writes

“How can we expect someone to give up a way of seeing and understanding the world that has physically, cognitively, or emotionally kept them alive”

I feel I was labeled as “whole-hearted” and a “thriver”, and although that is really nice to know –  I still have no clue on how to welcome vulnerability fully due to the extreme trauma I went through for the first half of my life.

I will agree, my skin is a lot tougher to thrive, and my heart is a lot softer for being whole hearted because of the life I had, but I truly would like to read this book and feel I am a part of this too – where do we fit in?

How do “I” embrace vulnerability when that was DEATH and not just a fear for me?

I guess you would have to say I am taking that risk right now by writing this blog writing tonight, and the blog I wrote the other day  – “truth be told“. But I still would like to feel a little less alone when it comes to others just “knowing” what it’s like to be me and how hard vulnerability is for someone who lived with abuse both sexually and physically and raped at the age of 12.

I think I got excited when I saw “Trauma and Daring Greatly” I was ready to read something that pertained to how hard it is for people like me, and maybe a small solution to Vulnerability and me.

And I was disappointed.

One of the things that my therapist has said many times through the years so honestly and gently is: “I know what you feel, but I dont know” “I know what you have been through, but I dont know” “I know how much you hurt, but I dont know – but I can support you and stay connected to you through it”.

being vulnerable is my biggest struggle, and everyday I take that chance – but not without heavy breathing, anxiety or sweaty palms.

I will continue to read the book, because it truly is a great book, and I am enjoying this time for me tonight  .. but I really think there needs to be more hope for those who suffer or have suffered extreme trauma, abuse, rape, physical abuse, neglect, and mental abuse… because vulnerability and shame is on a whole different level for us, because those were things we shut out to survive, and now we have to learn how to embrace it outside of the trauma? – NOT easy – not even close!

Sometimes I wish there was this magical potion that held all the answers to how to overcome the kind of abuse I went through; that all I have to do is tap my heels 3 times, drink the potion and POOF .. but there isn’t, and that is why this healing path I have been on is so important and so empowering moving forward in my life.

I am not the same person I was 6 years ago before therapy . I have worked hard to come as far as I am today, and I will continue to work hard knowing and accepting that – I have to accept that there is no easy answer, it has to come from within . . . .

Back to reading . . . . .

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the truth about {shame}

I was watching a video spoken by “Brene’ Brown”. She is a researcher on “vulnerability. She speaks on so many levels about shame and how that is a huge part of disconnection in our lives today.

When I watched the video, I could totally relate. I understand shame. I live in shame. I live in shame to the things that were done to me, even knowing it wasn’t my fault.

Being sexually abused as a child leaves a feeling on your skin that you cannot wash away – shame almost acts in the same way. Shame is something that you cannot take off your skin, or just make go away by talking about it, or hearing that you are worthy; it’s something you need to feel within.

I think the work in therapy that my therapist Andy and I have been working on for so long is not taking the shame away, but allowing the “worthiness in”.

Taking shame away is not the answer. You can’t just convince someone not to feel shame because they are worthy. I think the work is finding the worth and connection to self and others.

I think when we feel connected and start to feel more worthiness; the shame starts to fade. It becomes a distant memory of a feelings that took over us for so long.

Today in my work in healing, each day I am becoming more and more aware of my worthiness, and connection – and feeling less of the shame that resides me every day.

Being sexually abused as a child, the shame is not understanding why it was done. The shame is trying to make sense of why I couldn’t “tell”. The shame is allowing the abuse to continue and not understanding why I could not speak the truth.

I am slowly learning more and more of the reasons why I couldn’t speak, and understanding that “not” speaking was my survival, and I am learning the shame I feel today is a projection of how the abusers feel about themselves projected back on me to feel.

I have this habit that alot of people know that I do, and I think in the past month I am becoming more aware that I do it. I put a pillow on my lap when sitting down. I cover myself up when sitting. That is a part of the shame from when I was a child; covering and protecting myself in the areas that were abused – almost to cover up so people won’t know what happened to me.

In therapy I am really taking note that I do that, and taking the pillow off my lap and letting myself be vulnerable to the shame feelings inside. I am learning to be with those feelings, understand those feelings, and talk about those feelings.

When I talk about them and realize they are there, it helps me to be more connected to myself and to find the worth to be connected to others around me.

I think Shame is a huge emotion that people ignore because it’s hard to understand. Brene’ Brown quotes “shame loves secrets, shame needs secrecy to grow, shame cannot stand being spoken”.

Every day I am working more towards connection and worthiness – that is the way to my healing, that is something I do have control over, and eventually the shame will fade, and worthiness will rise.

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shedding the shame . . . .

This blog entry “Shedding The Shame” has taken me almost a month to write and post. I think deep inside my heart, there was this fear of revealing what it is that I deal with on a daily basis. I think I feared people seeing the vulnerability inside.

Shame is a hard emotion to touch on, it’s one of the hardest feelings inside to talk about, or to understand.

I recently last week received an email from a huge organization that helps abused woman and men, and I have been asked to post my blog in their magazines and website. What an honor and a great fear at the same time. Part of my healing recently has been about opening up about my story, and what it is that I go through in this healing process.

Me being asked to do this honorable thing, gave me the courage to come back to this blog entry that I started a month ago after a visit back home in NH.  It has been sitting in my drafts for weeks now, behind fear. I then realized, I shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about the very thing that silences people when being a victim of abuse – so here I am, shedding the shame.

It has taken me 5 years in this remarkable journey of healing to come to this point today in realizing that the abuse done to me was not my fault, and I am no longer owning the shame. I spoke these very words out loud when I returned home from New Hampshire after this past Christmas break.

I walked into session after a week and a half break, plopped myself down in my usual seat on the couch along side my therapist, reached out for connection, didn’t even give the fear a chance to own a place in that room, and said “I am ready to heal for me, and this was not my fault!” I said these words with no fear, no weight (silence), no anxiety, and said it with complete desire to go forward for ME!

For the first time ever, he was speechless. I think his words were, “I have no questions” with a big smile and teary eyes, and a bit of a shock look to him. Even though I had kept in contact with all my support down in GA during my trip home to NH to face my past, I don’t even think I, (myself), knew that I would come home and hold these very words, or even have the courage to say them out loud.

After saying those words, the room got so quiet that even I was taken back. But the shock wasn’t that I didn’t believe the words I was saying, it was that I said those words with strength and courage, and I didn’t let fear hold me down. I was shedding the shame at that very moment, and I felt the movement in my healing.

The abuse, neglect, physical abuse, and rape was NOT my fault!  The abuse done to me was them. I had no choices of my own. All I had was to survive and protect myself from the threats put upon me. I have lived in shame my whole life, and finally the shame is shedding – piece by piece, little by little, each day it’s fading and fading, and I am overcoming the very feelings they put on me since I was 5 years old.

Going up to NH and seeing the very people who abused me, made me realize that I am healthier, I am stronger, I am more free because I have the choice to heal and move forward on my path, not theirs. I have the choice to tell the story from ME, and I will no longer be a prisoner in their chain of lies. I have support, I have love, I have God who gives me strength, and the biggest thing I have is “the truth”.

When I went home to NH, I stood there and looked at my brothers right in the eyes, the very same brothers who abused me from the age of 5 till I was 13 years old. I actually went up to them and gave them a hug and asked them how they were doing. I knew in that moment that I had power over them, and they no longer had the power over me. I knew in that moment that I was FINALLY leaving the shame where is belonged; with them.

For me, shame was put on me in order to keep me quiet and silent. Me being a vicim of abuse for all those years, I was always told it was MY fault, they made me feel as if it was my wrong-doing. When you are threatened from the age of 5 until you are 13, you dont know anything different, you continuously feel it’s your fault; that you are at fault because you let them do it. Shame is ugly and a feeling that takes away your self worth deep inside. Shame is their sin put on you, and you feel it’s yours to hold.

What I know today is that, this was done to me, not by me. I was surviving to stay alive through it. if anything, the shame belongs to them. SHAME ON THEM for taking advantage of an innocent child sexually and physically. If I know anything today, I am the HERO; a person who survived a war and lived to tell about it. A child should never have to endure daily sexual abuse, neglect, rape and constant shame, guilt, fear, and hurt.

I read about shame once, and one of the things that was written about this horrible emotion is that, “Shame is the most disturbing experience individuals ever have about themselves; no other emotion feels more deeply disturbing because in the moment of shame, the self feels wounded from within”.

For all those victims out there that feel shame from something that was done to them – the truth? You are the HERO! You survived, and you stayed alive to get through it. It is so important to know, that feeling shame, is nothing to be ashamed of !! This was put on you! you do not OWN this feeling, they do! This is why I decided to post this entry, the shame does not belong to us, it belongs to THEM.

A close friend of mine, Ross Wiseman once said to me –“God will restore what the enemy has taken”.. I have held onto that for years and years, and today I finally understand what it means. It means I had to honor what was done to me was not my fault, so that god can restore what they took from me. It means I had to stand up and take the step in healing, so that God can restore what was taken from me.. and today, I am doing just that.

I am working on the timeline as a healing tool. By me doing this timeline, its giving me MY choices back that I never had as a child. It’s allowing me to feel whatever it is I need to feel without the threats and the shame. It is giving me the chance to LIVE without the chains of lies, and the shed the shame once and for all, and give it back to those who wrongfully gave it to me!

I used to think that my body was never mine, that it was owned by them, but today, I am slowly starting to believe that I am healing, and my body is becoming mine. I am restoring back not only emotionally, but physically, and I know that God is restoring me, day by day, hour by hour, layer by layer – SCAR by SCAR!

My biggest realization when I went up to NH and faced my past was that – I, Karen; a victim of abuse am the hero in this story – SHAME ON THEM!

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