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Reliving Trauma, Part 2

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Spaghetti and Meatballs, Author John Freeman
(CC Attribution-2.0 Generic)

The Weight-Loss Battle

Again and again, you resolve to lose weight.  At times, you make heroic efforts in this direction.  You try fad diets, and supervised weight loss programs.  You try home exercise equipment and gym memberships.  You fast, may occasionally purge.

And you do lose weight, sometimes substantial amounts.  But as soon as you have acquired an attractive wardrobe in a smaller size, your weight shoots up again.  It is as if you were fighting a force outside yourself.

The pain of this is excruciating.  Giving away – one after another – the pretty items of clothing that no longer fit, you feel as if the flesh were being ripped from your bones, piece by piece.

This happens time after time, over the years, stripping you of hope.

Self-Control and a Negative Inner Dialog

Disciplined in other areas of life, you revile yourself for a lack of self-control where food is concerned, further contributing to an inner dialog which is already wholly negative.

You do your best to live a life of integrity.  But nothing you accomplish has value in your eyes, so long as you continue to have weight issues.

Scalding encounters with those who make clear their disgust at your appearance only reinforce your sense of worthlessness.

Weight Issues/Eating Disorders as a Substitute

Weight problems and eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, etc.) can arise from other causes than abuse [1].  But when abuse of some kind has occurred, they frequently serve as substitutes – an alternate focus for our shame, safer places to put our pain.

We may agonize over the difficulty of losing weight.  But, chances are, that is preferable to agonizing over the incest to which we were subjected.  The difficulty of the struggle reflects the depth of the wound.

Food as a Coping Mechanism

As children, we used food to reward and punish ourselves.  With little else at our disposal, we used it as a coping mechanism – a faulty one perhaps, but one that helped preserve our sanity.

And the weight issues which so tormented us served to keep the unwanted advances of other potential predators away.  So, at any rate, it felt to us on the deepest level.

Reliving Trauma

This is how we relive trauma.  It finds expression in our ordinary lives.  Functions like eating which  should be natural, effortless, become instead emotionally charged, the battlefields on which we fight our demons.

The emotions we experience on those battlefields – helplessness, shame, self-hatred, rage, defeat – are the very ones we experienced during our abuse.

More shame is layered thickly over our failed attempts to deal with the scars of abuse.  Often, without the assistance of trained professionals, we wrestle in the dark.

Release

We alone hold the key to our release from this torment.

The force we have been fighting is not outside ourselves.  It is, in fact, our childhood self – starved for real affection, and urgently seeking to fill her unmet needs.  She deserves better than to be reviled for her efforts (however misguided).

We will finally succeed at losing weight as adults when we find better ways to meet our needs, treat our childhood self with kindness, and allow ourselves to succeed.

Then He said to His disciples, ‘Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.   Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing’ ” (Luke 12: 22-23).

[1]  Healthline, “6 Common Types of Eating Disorders (and Their Symptoms)” by Alina Petra MS, 10/30/19, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/common-eating-disorders#other.

Part 1 in this series was posted yesterday.

The 50 y.o. “Game of Thrones” actor James Gatt was arrested last month for alleged sexually explicit online communication with a minor.  Police are now searching for other victims.

Seehttps://ktla.com/news/local-news/los-angeles-man-arrested-for-sex-crimes-against-children-other-victims-sought/.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

Reliving Trauma, Part 1

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Junk Food, Author formulatehealth, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/189590028@N07/50191150823/ (CC Attribution-2.0 Generic)

Food as Comfort

You endure a childhood of sexual abuse.  Food is a comfort, solace for this inexplicable violation you have repeatedly experienced but cannot understand.

The Roots of an Eating Disorder

By your teens, you develop a weight problem, along with an eating disorder.  Though you do not realize it, both these are related to the abuse.  You deal with all the usual adolescent turmoil and the pain you carry around inside by bingeing.

Shame and Lack of Support

You have no emotional support, no one to guide you toward adulthood.  And virtually no clothes, since there is little thought given by the adults around you to the needs of a growing child.

You try on your mother’s clothes – in part so that you will have something to wear, in part to see what it feels like to be a grown woman.  But your mother is shorter in stature than you, and the clothes are too small.

You feel ashamed, unworthy to be a woman at all.

Food as the Enemy

Somehow you reach the other side of the crevasse.  The abuse is now a thing of the past.  You do not give it much thought, as you enter your twenties.  But you continue to wrestle with weight issues.  Food has become the enemy.

Social Anxiety

Clothes shopping is a painful experience.  You need to look presentable, at least in the workplace.  But you have difficulty finding anything that will fit.

This leads to intense embarrassment, particularly in social situations. That, in turn, leads to social anxiety.  You feel as if you are bursting out of your clothes, naked, all your secrets exposed.

Yet you cannot stop eating to excess.

Food as an Anesthetic

Eating becomes a guilty pleasure.  You eat little or nothing in public, but relish sitting alone in front of the television with a pint of ice cream and a bag of chips.  You use food to numb the pain.

Once done eating, you experience shame and remorse.

Part 2 in this series will be posted tomorrow.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

VIDEO Freed From Pain and Fear

Robert Hull – 700 Club Producer

“It was always fear in the house,” says Claudette. “Hiding in the closets, it’s just that we had a man that was very dark for me and my brothers and my mother.” The pain and fear she suffered when she was young at the hand of her stepfather still brings up strong emotions for Claudette. “He was a very strong alcoholic. My mom took the bulk of the beatings. And I would always run and hide in a closet. After all that torment and trauma, and you’re hearing your mother being beat down like a dog, and then she comes to the closet and she’s like ‘come out of here, everything is okay.’ You know, and I grew up thinking that that was okay.” She says.
 
The physical and mental abuse shaped her view of herself and of the world says Claudette, “My life wasn’t worth anything. And I thought the whole world was closed off from love even though I had this love in my heart for people.”

In her teens and 20s she clung to her boyfriend who convinced her they could make good money by selling drugs, Claudette remembers, “I guess because I loved him so much, I was going to accept—I accepted it. And it went from that to using and drinking. And the house turned into a party house. No sleep and it was a nightmare.” The relationship eventually ended but her addiction to drugs and alcohol continued. She now had three daughters that she dearly loved but knew she couldn’t take care of. She says, “I would cry and pray out to God and beg Him to help me, to help us, to stop this and to the point that I took my three daughters to my mother. And I told her that I couldn’t take care of them anymore.”

Years of alcoholism, abusive relationships and drug abuse left Claudette homeless and desperate. As she begged for money at a gas station a stranger offered to help. He asked her to follow him to a nearby house. She had no idea what would happen there. She says, “Something inside of me wanted out so bad. I wanted out and I had no idea what was here waiting for me.” 

He took her to his Pastor’s house where they were having a small group Bible study. Dave and Treva Thompson welcomed her. Dave remembers, “We wanted to do our best to make her feel at home in our home. She was at a really low point and and just grasping for air, so to speak, and in need of what only God could do for her. And so we just did our best to put our arms around her and let her know that she’s in a safe place. She didn’t have to worry. Nobody wants anything from her.”

Treva says, “She didn’t have any money or anything to eat. She began to share with us that she struggled with addiction. And we began to share with her how much that Jesus loved her.”

“I don’t know all these people and they’re packing me up food and all this and she comes out of the room with $20 and she said ‘they said you needed something,’” Claudette remembers.

“It wasn’t long until she understood what we were trying to do for her was just what God had done for her on the cross,” says Dave.

Treva says, “She finally I think saw a love that she had not seen at any other time in her life. Not our love – she saw the love of Christ.”

They began to meet regularly. Claudette soon prayed to become a Christian and asked God to set her free from what she thought was a hopeless alcohol addiction. “I started crying and I was begging the Lord, begging him. I said, ‘Why won’t you deliver me? I’ve seen you deliver other people. Why won’t you deliver me Lord?’ and a voice said, ‘Walk in it!’ like somebody was standing over my shoulder and bent down and said ‘Walk in it!’ It was like something supernatural took over and I said, ‘I’ve been delivered all this time. I just wasn’t walking in it.’ He already delivered me,” she says.

From that moment, Claudette was completely set free from drugs and alcohol. She has been sober for over thirteen years. She says, “I am so grateful. I’m a changed person. God is great. I thought I was going to die that way. I thought that was it for me. That there was no other way out. There was no other option but to live my life like that.” She says.

“When she finally realized that the power of Christ could deliver her from this; oh the joy’s just unbelievable. Unbelievable. To see that realization in someone’s life,” says Treva.

Claudette reconciled with her daughters and says she finally found the love she always longed for in Jesus. “It was the love that I’ve been looking for all my life. It was real love, true love, God’s love. And there’s no greater love than that in this world and that’s the love that I was looking for. That’s the love that I was looking for. And I’m going to walk the life of God for the rest of my life. Yes, Amen.”

https://www1.cbn.com/freed-pain-and-fear

When Trauma on the Field Creates Trauma in the Home

After their son suffered a devastating brain injury playing football, Pat and Tammy McLeod saw their marriage put to the test.

JOYCE KOO DALRYMPLE| SEPTEMBER 5, 2019

When Trauma on the Field Creates Trauma in the Home

The family and friends of Zach McLeod gathered at a church in Boston for a solemn ceremony entitled “A Time to Mourn.” They watched a video of his life from birth until the devastating accident he suffered at age 16. Zach had been a gifted athlete, student leader, and beloved friend. His mother spoke of how much she missed hearing Zach’s prayers, thoughts, and dreams. Guests wrote down what they missed most about the young man they had known—the young man they would never see again.

Then, later that day, the same group reconvened. This time they celebrated a new life and watched a video showing milestones of progress. Who were they celebrating? Zach McLeod. In fact, Zach himself attended this ceremony, called “A Time to Dance.” He was elated to see so many friends and family members, to see and to hear their affirmations of what they appreciated about him.

If this sounds like a confusing day, not to mention an emotional whipsaw, welcome to the world of “ambiguous loss.” And welcome to Hit Hard: One Family’s Journey of Letting Go of What Was—and Learning to Live Well with What Is, a powerful new book by Zach’s parents, Pat and Tammy McLeod. Hit Hard deals with the messy contradictions of a life where suffering and joy are not strangers but siblings that share the same house.

The Language of Loss

Pat and Tammy were attending a ministry meeting when they received a nightmarish phone call. Their son Zach had sustained a catastrophic head injury in a high school football game. Zach survived, but today he speaks with great difficulty and requires 24/7 care. Pat and Tammy had to come to grips with the complex realities of taking care of him while parenting their other three children and juggling their careers in ministry. They both serve as chaplains for Cru, an interdenominational Christian ministry, at Harvard University. Tammy is also the director of College Ministry at Park Street Church in Boston.

The McLeods wrestled for a way to understand what they were experiencing. Alternating as authors, Pat and Tammy write about the same events from different points of view. Having and not having their son in the way they once did put them on what felt like opposing sides. Pat focused on the “have” part of that reality, while Tammy gravitated toward the “have not” end. As a result, they struggled to connect with one another in their grief. This book is as much about how a marriage survives in the wake of a crisis as it is about the ongoing trauma.

Because Hit Hard is so honest, it is also raw, intense, and messy. It is emotionally difficult and uncomfortable to read. The book takes readers through a series of traumatic events and explores how Pat and Tammy process each of them and the relational challenges that ensue. The details of their loss are heart-wrenching: Tammy gets cancer, and Zach sustains a second brain injury. For people who have endured trauma (or are enduring it still), the details of their journey may reopen wounds before providing hope.

The McLeods could not find language for what they were experiencing, which only deepened their sense of loss and isolation from their community and from one another. Their friends were unsure what to say. Should they share their joy that Zach had survived? Or grieve with them for the loss of the life that was?

Countless books and articles on grieving failed to speak to the McLeods’ circumstances. Finally they found a book by family therapist Pauline Boss called Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief. Putting a name to their experience was powerful. The words “ambiguous loss” validated their pain. They were not alone in their pain; it had a category of its own and was shared by others.

Boss describes two kinds of ambiguous loss. One is when the physical body is absent yet the person is psychologically present in the mind of the loved one. Examples of this include those missing because of war, natural disasters, kidnapping, adoption, or divorce. The other kind of loss happens when a person is bodily present but is not the same cognitively or emotionally. Examples of this kind of loss include people affected by Alzheimer’s, addiction, mental illness, or debilitating brain injury.

Boss wrote that to pursue closure is a fruitless endeavor. Fixing the ambiguity is often impossible. The goal then becomes how to live well with the ambiguous loss and increase tolerance for it. Tammy writes, “The secret to living well with ambiguous loss requires living well with both having and not having someone the way you once had them.” The McLeods needed to learn how to hold two opposing ideas in their minds at the same time. The Zach they had known was gone. A new Zach survived. They celebrated his survival but mourned what had happened to him.

Finding out that their grief had a name somehow changed things for the McLeods. It not only authenticated their pain but also clarified the source of the tension in their marriage. They realized their marital challenges had not been rooted in one spouse being right and the other being wrong. It was the ambiguity of the loss. Giving a name to their grief did not remove the debris, but it did throw light on the scene, so that they were less frequently tripping over things or bumping into each other in the dark.

Redeemed Ambiguity

In the beginning of the book, Tammy laments all of the things her son could never do again. He would never play football or sing with her, a hobby they enjoyed together. A scene at the end of the book illustrates how Tammy has made peace with their reality. Two hulking football players are holding Zach up as the three of them step onto the playing field. Zach is dressed in the team uniform, but he isn’t playing. His gait is not as smooth and his posture not as straight as the other players. But Zach is a leader in his own way. He sets an example by showing up and rising from every hard hit of life. He plays a motivational presence on the field and in the community.

Hit Hard can help those struggling with all kinds of grief, but especially those experiencing loss that has no clear end. Tammy felt understood when she read Boss’s words that living with continuous uncertainty and loss “is the most stressful kind of loss people can face.” The book can also help those who want to support someone experiencing a loss that feels complex, contradictory, and elusive. And lastly, it may assist marriages or other relationships in tension due to differences in how people process grief.

As Pat writes, “Ambiguous loss will probably always remain part of our family’s legacy. It will move in and out of the forefront, but never completely disappear. Like mountain hikers, we’re learning how to cinch our backpack straps tighter, adjust the weight so it doesn’t rub on already stressed spots, and keep climbing….Today we live in that redeemed ambiguity—incredible suffering and incredible love in the same messy world.”

Joyce Koo Dalrymple is a wife and mother, a minister of discipleship and women, and a former attorney.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/september-web-only/hit-hard-pat-tammy-mcleod-football-brain-injury-trauma.html

VA Military Sexual Trauma program enables trust

Some participate via video telehealth

Two books laid out on a table for display

Five years ago, Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator Anne Eason began facilitating a 12-week Courage Group to women and male Veteran survivors of Military Sexual Trauma. The MST program has now offered the Courage Group program to over 250 men and women Veterans.

“Facilitating these groups is such a humbling and inspiring opportunity for a therapist,” Eason said. “It is a privilege to be in the room with them and witness the precious secret they expose the moment they walk in. These Veterans are absolutely determined to process this life-changing and debilitating trauma and they come to trust each other enough to do it as a shared experience.”

One new feature that has been added to the group is part of VHA’s modernization plan and the MISSION Act to improve access to care. Cincinnati VA’s Courage Group is using VA Video Connect, which allows Veterans to attend virtually through private encrypted video TeleHealth services from almost any mobile device or computer.

Several of the Veterans who participated in a recent Courage Group chose to access their healthcare using VA Video Connect, joining in from where they were located while others chose to attend in person at the Cincinnati VAMC.

Sincerity and understanding

“I observed the relief they felt, finally being able to say out loud after so many years what happened, and to be believed by other Veterans who had been through the same trauma,” one of the co-facilitators said. “As they give feedback to each other, you hear their sincerity and understanding. They are able to encourage each other like none of us could ever do.”

“It was liberating,” said one male Veteran who attended the group. “I had been confined, imprisoned all these years. Just stepping in the room on the first day, I wasn’t undercover anymore. To have this level of freedom was like being able to exhale. I stand no longer ashamed and no longer disconnected from the mental state of being a man.”

At the end of a recent group, Veterans received courage bags filled with items provided through donations to the Voluntary Service program. Veterans wrote thank you notes to Voluntary Service Chief Tracy Butts and Voluntary Service Specialist Lori Steinmann.



Donations and Gifts

Eason added that she, “couldn’t express enough gratitude, and more importantly, their gratitude for these gifts provided.”

One of the donations was a prayer shawl from the Florence United Methodist Church.

“When you touch the prayer blanket, you can feel the prayers in your hands,” an Air Force Veteran said. “You knew it was made with love. People will find comfort in the blankets and they know it’s blessed.  My plan for the blanket is to pray with it. I know they must have spent so much time making them with us in mind. It’s a great comfort. I never had one like that before. I love it!”

“When going through what is called MST, you feel so alone in life and you question humanity and your self-worth,” a male Marine Corps and Navy combat Veteran said. “When people and an organization such as Voluntary Services take the time and attention to console us with gifts, it means the world to all of us. Thank you for your support and I hope that it continues to fulfill its purpose with other survivors.”


Lisa Hollenbeck is a Public Affairs Specialist at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center and is a Veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. She was stationed at Kaneohe Bay, HI, and served as a Trumpet player in the Marine Forces Pacific Band.

Original here

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