Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Camp Scabs: The Warriors

I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend Camp Scabs last week. When Scabs told me I was the recipient of a scholarship, I cried. At the time, I didn't even know how much I would need this. I was also planning on attending Togetherness Project, but I have since decided not to due to the state of our finances (*tear*). Thus, Camp Scabs became my only source of real connection with women in my same situation, and right now my healing is in a very fragile place. I know many women applied for a scholarship, and I am so, so grateful I was one of the few recipients for this round.

Every women who has suffered betrayal trauma needs a safe place to go. We need connection, and that connection is so healing. Even though many people know my story and know I am dealing with this, I still can't openly talk about it like I can with my warrior sisters. Unless you've gone through it, chances are you don't know how to empathize with me. Because of the way our society is built, there is so much I have to keep inside.

With my warrior, there are no boundaries. We can develop friendships much faster, we develop trust more deep, and we develop a love so strong because of what has brought us together. We can openly joke and talk about sex and porn. We cry. We laugh. We "burn shit" and cry and laugh while doing it. My most vulnerable and safest friendships have formed because of the hell Ben's addiction has put me through.

Camp Scabs was simply beautiful. Each woman in attendance is full of grace, beauty, and strength. Each woman is a warrior. We have all been through so much pain, and sharing that pain with one another brought our group strength to carry on together.

It's hard for me to write about the specifics of Camp Scabs right now. I have so much on my mind, and the experiences I had over the weekend are so near and dear to my heart, that I just can't share it in detail with the world (although I'm positive that with time, little pieces of my thoughts and pain will come out as I process my walk through this mess).

I hope and pray that every woman suffering in the way we have suffered can find the support, love, and laughter she needs.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Relapses, Processing, and Recovery Music

Sometimes the sucky things happen first thing in the morning. Sometimes you just can't deal and other times, you can see clearly and choose to take the necessary steps to help the day move along a little happier. I'm grateful I am currently in a place that is relatively in between. I know the moments I just can't deal, and in those moments, I take a little break from life to either numb (not the best option, but it happens), or process.

This morning I processed.

That processing happened as I reached out to friends who helped me see clearly. I wrote my thoughts and feelings. And I prepared things to burn at Camp Scabs this coming weekend.

As I got ready for church, I listened to my favorite recovery songs. Music is my soul food. My recovery music ALWAYS helps.

And I think until I leave for Camp Scabs, I am going to post recovery music that lifts me. Hopefully it will lift you too.

First, watch this video by Katherine Nelson. Her album "Born Brave" is one of my favorite albums ever. This album is dedicated to women and the hard things we face. In this video, she talks about the album, why it was created, and reads her statement that goes with the album.

The whole album is great, but my favorite songs are: Born, We Are, Soldier Girls, Good for Me, What's Mine Is Yours, and Brave [the bolded ones are my double favorites!].

If you click here, you can read a back story behind each song, listen to a clip, and read the lyrics. If you're in the mood for some good stories and pick-me-up music, I would encourage you to do this :) I would share some of my favorite lines from the songs, but I think that would make this post really long. And besides, everyone has different parts of songs that stick out and are meaningful to them. You can find your own parts in her songs.

Seriously. DO IT!

Most of them are not on YouTube, but these two are. So, enjoy these full songs!

Soldier Girls

What's Mine Is Yours

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shouldering pain

Something weird happened.

Last week was overall pretty amazing. I was happy, and my pregnancy sickness almost completely disappeared. It was like I was living a completely different life. Almost.

I talked to Ben about it on Saturday night. I expressed how happy I had been and my fears that it wouldn't last. I'm really trying. I'm really trying to live to my fullest potential. I'm really trying to turn my hurts over to the Savior and not let the pains I experience bring me to a complete downward spiral. I've been a lot closer to the Savior, and I have felt strength and progress in the way I handled an extremely hurtful situation that happened last Wednesday and how that strength carried me through every day as I battled my depression.

Last week was like a dream. I felt depression coming back on Saturday night. As I talked to Ben, I said, "I think I remember it always being like this. I think I remember being a generally happy, loving, and forgiving person. But I don't really remember. My memory is foggy. It's like, I know I can live like this because it was that way once. If that was reality and not just a dream." He kindly reminded me that I did live a joyful, loving life once upon a time and that I could have that again. The Savior was showing me the light in the darkness. It's joyful weeks like last week that keep me going.

I reached a really high point.

But then, on Monday, the weird thing happened. I woke up and threw up almost all day (among other pregnancy awfuls). It was one of the worst pregnancy sickness days I have experienced. In the morning, I was doing pretty good. I had a positive attitude and every motivation to make it through the day with joy even though my body was trying to tell me it was experiencing anything but joy. However, by mid-afternoon and especially early evening, I was a complete mess. My sickness got worse throughout the day, and in what seemed like the flip of a switch, I was bitter and angry.

I begged God to have mercy on me. I expressed how much I was hurting (my body was hurting everywhere) and how hard it was to go on. I cried and pleaded, and nothing. No pain was taken away. I tried for so long to have a positive attitude, and when my body went to complete crap, I gave up and allowed myself to be bitter and angry at God for throwing that hell day at me when I had been working so hard to make big changes in my life.

After I explored the bitterness for a while, I finally humbled myself enough to pray and dig deep within myself to ask for help through the Atonement. I had voiced to Ben, "I know the Atonement will help me feel less alone and that God hasn't abandoned me. But I'll still be in pain. I don't care if I'm alone. I just want to have less pain. He may give me strength to bear the pain, but I don't want that. I want less pain." [There was probably some swearing in my head].

I honestly didn't know how the Atonement would help me in that moment. I almost didn't believe that I would feel any different. However, I changed my prayers from the begging for mercy and asking for help to asking for help understanding how the Atonement could change me through this or how the power of having the Savior by my side could really help me bear the pain.

Relying on the Atonement to bear the pain, rather than begging for the pain to be taken away, changed the whole situation. It's hard to explain, but I really felt some kind of physical lift of my pain. The pain was lifted just enough that I could think a little more clearly and know I wasn't going to die because of the pain. Ben stayed by my side, holding me and offering comfort, but I felt the presence of angels around me and lifting me up as well. And whenever I took my heart away from the Savior and focused too much on the pain, I lost focus on the Atonement. Thankfully, we have a picture of Christ on our wall, which happened to be in my direct line of sight while I was bedridden. Looking at Him and searching for understanding of the Atonement helped me feel lighter when I felt too weighed down.

It's amazing how light and happy I felt last week to the huge switch in my physical health that caused me to fall into bitterness. But it's also amazing how I can learn time and again lessons about the Atonement. I don't want to ever forget that experience because it really showed me how Christ can help shoulder my burden in a way I haven't experienced before. It's something I can carry with me in all my pains.

I really hate physical pain. I've experienced so much physical pain in my life that it's starting to take a huge emotional toll on me. And physical pain combined with emotional pain seems to hurt exponentially more. But I know that no matter what, I can bear any pain with Christ by my side.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


It's amazing how the trauma resulting from situations in my life can continue to have an impact on my life. No matter how hard I try to deal with my life appropriately.

I've lost a friend because of my depression. Score 1 for Satan and trauma. *sigh*

However, I've been working really hard on my recovery this week. On Sunday, when I had that realization that I don't know how to live a "normal" life, and I don't know how to be happy, I told myself that I will learn. I will find happiness and joy again. I've been taking baby steps this week to regain what has been lost.

I've given myself tasks every day. Things that need to get done. I even write them down so I don't forget (pregnancy brain/foggy depression brain have kicked in a cause me to forget in an instant what I should be working on). I spent time with some friends on Tuesday. I've been working on keeping the apartment clean and in order, something that Ben has put in more than his fair share of doing while I've been in a depressive slump. Heck, I've even cooked dinner EVERY NIGHT THIS WEEK. That is huge for me :)

I have permission from my bishop to find a counselor. The ward will help me pay for it.

Today, I'm going to work on my to-do list. And I'm also going to read a book. Or two.

I've turned to God every day.

And when I was really lost in trauma because of a situation that happened yesterday, I stood back from the moment and looked at the options, "I can lose myself in the depression of this situation. I can be angry and choose to be prideful. Or I can ask God for His help. I can ask for His hand to hold mine as I mourn this situation, and I can ask for Him to speak to my heart and guide me in handling this situation appropriately."

I chose the latter.

It's amazing what reaching out to God first can do. I reached out to Him before anyone else. And I've felt His presence lifting me up when I feel like I'm falling down.

So even though this trauma has had far-reaching effects and have caused a friendship to almost vanish before my eyes, this trauma has also taught me. I've learned how to search my soul. I've learned how to turn to God. I've learned what of the power of gratitude. I've seen beauty in so many ways.

Satan got one point this week. But God is on my team, and with Him, my team has so many more points. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is this God's will?

During my Sunday support group, a woman shared something that really hit me.

She said something along the lines of, "I don't think our lives (being married to a sex-addict) are God's will. I think our husbands, through their own agency, have messed up God's plan for us and now we are in a position where we have to trust that God will heal us and help us through."

Can anyone else say WOW with me?

I've spent my fair share of time being bitter and angry with God for saying yes in answer to my heartfelt prayer asking if Ben is the right person to marry. I know I'm not alone in that. Ben was active in his addiction in some ways when we were dating/engaged. He lied to me when I asked about pornography (he may not have felt he was lying at the time, because of the twisted addict brain). God knew what was going on and knew what could happen if I married Him. I felt that I was supposed to marry Ben. So, yes, I've been angry with God for guiding me into this marriage.

However, I hadn't considered the possibility that maybe this isn't God's will. Maybe God saw Ben's potential as a human being, as His son, when He said yes in answer to my prayer. Maybe God chose to let Ben use his agency and prove himself. Ben could have chosen differently many times. And maybe the situation I have been in is actually NOT God's will.

I know I have grown through this trial. I have grown as a person, as a wife, and as a daughter of God.

I have gained strength. I have learned what true beauty is and been able to see that beauty in myself.

I don't know if this is God's will. Sometimes I have come to terms with it because of the growth I have experienced, the strength I've gained, and also the idea that maybe Ben needed me in his life and God knew that. And I know I accepted my trials before I came to earth. So maybe what I'm facing IS God's will for me.

But maybe there is some odd combination between this being God's will and it not being His will. I don't know.

But what I do know is I can't change the past. I can only accept what has happened, where I am now, and God's guiding hand. I can accept that He will be there for me and help guide me through this life and this mess I'm living. He won't let me down. He loves me.

So I'll try to take his hand and keep pressing forward.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fear? FEAR.

Lately, I've been paralyzed by fear. I've been living in this dark place, allowing the darkness and fears to rule me because I don't know how else to live.

Yesterday, I had this brief moment of true happiness. It was during sacrament meeting. People were bearing their testimonies, and I had this powerful moment of bearing my testimony to myself, in my heart. I felt true joy. I felt God's presence, and I was reminded that I am not alone. I am never alone. He sees me and knows my pain, and I can get through the hard things because of Him. In that moment, I also noticed that I was completely free of my pregnancy nausea, and I had this thought: I don't know how to live anymore.

Not that I don't want to live or am feeling suicidal. That's not what I mean. I mean, I really, truly don't know how to live. I don't know what to do with these moments of joy and peace I feel. I don't know what to do with the moments free of pregnancy nausea. If these moments became my daily reality, I don't know what I would do. Right now, I know depression. I know exhaustion. I know the feeling of giving up and feeling defeated. I don't know how to feel joy and make it last through the day. I don't know how to do the things I once used to love when my physical and emotional pains are lessened. I don't know how to live life without fear or pain.

It's sad.

I have so many fears:

  • I'm afraid of future relapses. 
  • I'm afraid Ben will give up and leave me.
  • I'm afraid I will be a terrible mom.
  • I'm afraid I will always be depressed, and that will have a negative impact on my mothering ability.
  • I'm afraid I will always feel alone.
  • I've decided not to go to Togetherness next month. I'm afraid I will lose all my Togetherness friends because I'm not present and making connections with everyone who is there. 
  • I'm afraid of working as a substitute teacher. I'm afraid I will be a terrible sub, and I'm afraid I will never make enough money to help us out of the financial hole we are currently experiencing. (And since I'm pregnant, I'm afraid I will have to go to the bathroom all the time and not be able to...)
  • I'm afraid to busy myself with things I used to love (painting, reading, exercising) because I'm afraid they will take up too much time and I won't make friends where I currently live.
  • But I'm afraid to try to make friends because I'm afraid I don't know how to be a real person anymore and I'm afraid people won't like me. Or I'm afraid I will share too much about my life, thus scaring any potential friends away from me.
  • I'm afraid I am or will be too needy with my friends and become a burden on them.
  • I'm afraid to exercise because I might throw up.
  • I'm afraid Ben resents me because I've been so depressed and putting a lot on his plate because of my inability to cope with life.
  • I'm afraid I will never feel whole again.
Whew. The list could go on, but I'm afraid if I keep addressing my fears, I will never recover. Writing those out was emotionally draining. And I'm afraid to finish this post and let people see the (possibly irrational) inner fears I am experiencing and attempting to work through.

There was a time when I chose not to let fear rule me. If I had a fear, I challenged and faced it. I owned my fear and showed it who was boss. That's not me anymore. I've become so paralyzed by my fears and depressions that I just don't know how to live without them anymore. And I'm afraid to make changes because change is uncomfortable.

I'm studying step 2 in Healing Through Christ. This is a powerful step where you come to believe the power of God can restore you to spiritual and emotional health. Today, as I looked over the questions I'm supposed to answer, I scrolled back up to the reading the questions cover. In that reading, it has "Steps we take to surrender fearful emotions."
  1. Identify our fears. Done.
  2. Face and own our fears. "...fear literally robs us of our faith and hope in Christ. We understand that 'God can heal a broken heart, but [we] have to give Him all the pieces.'"
  3. Prayerfully surrender our fears to our Savior. "Rather than allowing ourselves to fall back into painful emotions, we continue to choose to fall to our knees and surrender all of our emotional struggles to our Savior, allowing our tender mercies and grace to bless our lives."
Even though my trust is fragile, and I give pieces to my Savior and take pieces back, I have developed enough trust in Him to know that He really is trustworthy. I know He can heal me. I know He can save me from these fears, pains, and depression that is taking over my life. I have to give it to Him, though. And because I'm stubborn, it's really hard to give these pieces to Him constantly. 

Life is a constant struggle. Some days are easier than others. Some days the hard hits like a ton of bricks and I don't know how to move. But I can move because Christ is by my side lifting me up and carrying me. I am trying to remember that. 

I am trying to work through these fears. I am trying to face and own them. I am trying to surrender them to my Savior. But it's a hard, emotional process.

I know I'm not alone in living with silent struggles (I once became fairly vocal, but I've become more silent lately). We all have silent struggles. I hope and pray that everyone is gentle with one another as we fight the things we are fighting.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Lesson learned from observing the elderly

Yesterday, I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting. For those of you who aren't a member of the LDS (Mormon) church, that means I was asked to speak on a specific topic during the main meeting. We don't have one person who gives the big sermon--it's just members of the congregation who are asked to prepare something, usually to speak for 10-15 min, on a specific topic.

While I sat on the stand, I observed the other members of the congregation, especially during the hymns. My eye was caught by a group of older men and women sitting at the front of the chapel. As they sang, they faces were turned up, as if they were looking at God, truly singing praises to Him. Their eyes glistened with tears, and as I watched them, I could truly feel their love for God and testimonies being borne to the hearts of all those around them. It was such a beautiful experience to watch them.

I love singing hymns. I love music that teaches gospel messages, and especially music that teaches of Christ. I like to listen to various arrangements of hymns at home, and I love playing hymns on the piano. It soothes me. Usually when I'm at church, though, because I love singing, I get caught up in hitting the right notes (so I'm not a painful-sounding companion to my husband, who sings so beautifully) and don't focus on the lyrics as much as I should. After observing this group of people who truly sang to God from their heart, I decided I really need to focus on the lyrics of what I'm singing. As I sang the closing hymn, I closed my eyes and sang the lyrics from the heart. I could feel the tears swelling up in my own eyes as I sang:

The Lord is my light; then why should I fear?
By day and by night his presence is near.
He is my salvation from sorrow and sin;
This blessed assurance the Spirit doth bring.

The Lord is my light;
He is my joy and my song.
By day and by night he leads,
He leads me along.

The Lord is my light; tho clouds may arise,
Faith, stronger than sight, looks up thru the skies
Where Jesus forever in glory doth reign.
Then how can I ever in darkness remain?

The Lord is my light; the Lord is my strength. 
I know in his might I'll conquer at length.
My weakness and mercy he covers with pow'r,
And walking by faith, I am blest ev'ry hour.

The Lord is my light, my all and in all.
There is in his sight no darkness at all.
He is my Redeemer, my Savior, and King.
With Saints and with angels his praises I'll sing.

Need I say more how much I love hymns? Sometimes the lyrics to hymns can do more for me than scripture study or prayer.