Saturday, May 25, 2013


People tell me I am a strong person. I have heard it from a number of sources, from people who know me well, some who know me a little and others who hardly know me at all.

I don't feel like a strong person. Sometimes I give in to the urge to hide from the world, to bury myself in my life and forget about others. Sometimes the energy it takes to reach out to someone, to speak honestly about how I am doing is too much for me. Sometimes the energy to do more than the absolute necessities is more than I can do.

I'm trying to allow myself to rest when I need to, be at peace when I need to and let things slide a bit when I need to, but honestly, it makes me feel like an absolute failure. I feel weak. I feel as if I am not enough, like it wouldn't matter if I had all the strength in the world, it's not enough. There is so much that feels overwhelming... emotions, appointments, children, eating, school, housecleaning, and that's just the stuff I'm forcing into my schedule, not even the things I want in my schedule or dream about for the future. Where do I fit work in? I want to start speaking, I want to go back to school someday, I want to make sure my children are healthy and happy. I need to take care of me and make time for friends.

I don't feel strong. Maybe strength is not in what I cannot accomplish, but rather in what I can. Maybe strength is in the deciding each day that I will move on, that I will continue to work hard, that I will not succumb to those who would see me fall. Maybe strength means just staying alive.

I think that strength has a different definition for so everyone. Let's face it, we are all our own worst critics and I am no different. I am hard on myself. I expect more from me than I would ever expect from someone else. I guess that's the way it is. I've always looked at life from the perspective of "this is my life. I'm just living it" and not really stepped back to look at it the way someone else might look at it. Strangely, I fear that if I take that step back, I will still not see things the way others do. I think I am hiding myself from them enough that they can't see the real me, the way I really live, and if they saw that... they would agree with me about my weakness.

I have weaknesses. I am human. Maybe it's just okay for me to not be strong in every area of life, even though I have striven to do just that. In a dance, there are usually two partners and they take turns supporting each other. I all too frequently feel alone in the dance of life and yet I know that God is leading me... I need to trust that when I feel weak, His strength will come through and hold me up so I don't fall.

I need to learn to be comfortable with my weakness... To just fall back and know HE will be there to catch me and not let me hit the ground.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Lack of Contentment

I don't want to be where I am. That's not even a figure of speech, there are so many places that I'd rather be. First, Spokane, or BC, even Manitoba, or anywhere. I don't feel like I belong here. I want to be with my friends, with the people who love me and accept me and need me.

I don't even want to be here emotionally. I want to jump ahead to healthy, skip the healing and go straight to the end.

I know it doesn't work that way. just as much as I know that I live here, I live in this place and it's home for now. In so many ways I am where I am and there will be no where else until I decide to move on. Some things may be out of my control, dependent on other people's choices and actions but most of the time where I am is up to me. When we're talking emotions, it's just a path we have to take.

It isn't all bad either. Some days I'm so happy with my life and with where and who I am that it's a touch scary! There's a conundrum for you!

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Even if I trip over myself ... or someone else, God is leading this dance and He'll always pick  me up so we can keep dancing. The other good news is that sometimes, when I fall, it hurts so much I don't want to move for a few minutes. He'll sit down with me and wait til I'm ready to dance again... and then He'll carry the weight to keep me from reinjury and excess pain.

Gotta love a God like that! I do. I hope you join me on the journey with Him.... He never lets us down or leaves us alone.

Remembering Sometimes Hurts

Tonight is a night of memory. Sometimes that isn't a good thing, or doesn't feel like a good thing. Sometimes I'd rather have the memories stay at bay and just let me sleep, sometimes I'd just like the memories go away completely.

The anniversary of my brother's death is coming up. It makes me remember what was happening all those years ago. The day he went missing I was in Banff, enjoying a band festival. When my family found out he was dead, a week later, I was out having dinner with friends, it was the first time I'd been away from a phone for a week. It felt wrong, it still feels wrong that while his life was ending, mine was celebrating.

Ironically, it's not my brother's death, however, that weighs most heavy on my mind tonight. Tonight I was reminded how valuable sister's are, how much that relationship is treasured and sought. How close sister's can be to us, no one else can be a friend like a sister.

You know, I had to look up the date of her death. I can never remember what day it was... It just was. I still don't really know what date is was that morning.. I think it was the 23rd of December, but it might have been the 22nd, it depends on if they put the time of death before or after midnight. I was dancing in the kitchen with my almost 2 year old son to "Six White Boomers". We were getting ready for Christmas and it was a happy day. The sun was shining and the snow was glistening when a police officer knocked on the door. I've never had a reason to fear the police. I've always looked up to them and honoured them so when they knocked on my door, I didn't even think about it until they asked if one of them could take my son to the other room and I saw the looks on their faces. I knew then I wasn't going to like what they had to say but I was totally unprepared for the news.

My parents were out of town and I honestly thought I was going to hear that they had had an accident. You're supposed to lose parents. No one wants to, no one is ever truly prepared for it, but it's the natural course of life. You aren't supposed to lose siblings.

So many thoughts ran through my head. A selfish one "I'm the only one left", a determined one "I want to bring my nephews home", a horrified one "How can this be true? How can it have happened?", and a controlled one "Mom's not here, I have to find Mom. There's so many people to call, so much to do".

I don't know how to recover from this. Even after all these years, I don't know how to live without my siblings. I still want to run to them, to talk, to be their sister.

Tonight, I close my eyes and I see those policemen at my door. I now fear their presence... not because they'll hurt me, or punish me, but that they'll be the bearer of bad news. That they'll be coming to tell me someone else I love has gone. Tonight I'm reliving the morning after my sister died. It hurts. Seven and a half years later, the pain is just as strong, the missing her is still so intense only now there's nothing to distract me from the moment, the emotion. There's no one to find, no one to care for, no one to need me in this moment. There's also no one here to catch me as I fall.

Except my Savior, my Jesus. He's gently leading me. He knows tears heal, that I need to face these things and He gently leads me in the dance... It's painful though. I don't want to be found. I don't want to be found. I don't want to feel this pain, this intensity that I can no longer escape from.

God hold me up. Carry me through. Heal my heart and make me new. How do I go on? How do I embrace the pain of losing my friends, my loved ones, my siblings? I've survived by shutting down... How do I survive the pain of restarting? Can I?

I want to dance the dance of joy. I want to be alive, I'm just afraid of the path to get there.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Taking care of me

Alexis McDonald at The Wunder Year has inspired me today to share with you my battle with depression and anxiety. Thanks Alexis for bravely sharing your story and your truths with the world. You are an inspiration to me and to many others who follow you, I'm sure!

My last post I shared my personal story of domestic violence. I confess that, next to my sister's story, mine seems very insignificant even to me, but it's not. Because it is my personal story that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I was surviving, not necessarily thriving, but surviving until I realized what was happening in my marriage and then I began to slip. See, I have never truly believed that I was worthy of love - or even loveable. I even thought that maybe, just maybe my life was supposed to be one of suffering and abuse since everywhere I turned that is what I ran into. It was as if God, in that moment, spoke to me and told me that was NOT His plan for me... it was that moment that He told me to leave.

Yet... I have been overcome by anxiety and depression. So much so that one day I had to call 911 for help because I was having chest pains and difficulty breathing. I knew it wasn't a heart attack, but an anxiety/panic attack that severe is a sign that I had to reach out for help, that I just wasn't making it on my own. I have two little boys who need their mother and that day I had another child in my care too. I can't afford to fall apart, I'm all they have right now, 24/7 they depend on me and if I fall apart, what happens to them? Where do they go?

I took help. I went to a specialist who diagnosed me with general anxiety disorder and mild depression... and he prescribed 3 medications for it. I come from a family where medication is just not used to treat mood disorders. Anti-depressants are for those who don't have enough faith in God to keep going. If you need medication, you must not have enough faith, your relationship with God must not be close enough... all you should need is Bible study and prayer to get you through. It wasn't working for me. I've had to reconcile that God has given us science and medicine because sometimes our bodies just fail us!

I've stopped feeling guilty about needing meds, but at the same time I want to hide it. I don't really want to tell you that I rely on my daily anti-depressant (I'm down to one and a second for occasional high anxiety) to get through my days and I notice if I miss it. It keeps me sane. Until I went on the meds, I was beginning to have suicidal ideations... not thoughts or desires to harm myself or take my life, but desires and thoughts of wanting my life to end. It's different than not being afraid of death, but desiring it - to a degree. I would never have done something to make it happen, in case you're wondering... I've faced that demon and refuse to go that direction, but I could see the blessing in it.

I don't feel that way anymore - I never wanted to. My anxiety is slowly improving and I go to counseling every week to combat it and hopefully, one day, I'll walk free. In the meantime, I know that some people just don't produce the chemicals we need to stay depression free... If I'm one of those people, I'll find out and I'll accept it because it's better than the alternative. I started the journey of meds for my children's sake... now I continue it for my own because I am learning that I am worth being healthy for myself, not just for them.

Some days are harder than others, some days I just put one step in front of the other and other days I feel like I can leap tall buildings. That's a positive sign, because I never used to feel like I had the energy to dance, let alone leap.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Silence... No more.

I realize tonight that I have stayed silent too often, for too long.

I feel guilty for coming out of an abusive relationship and... I feel guilty for leaving it.

Those are some pretty powerful statements because in my head I know that I have no guilt here, I am not responsible for the abuse I and my children experienced. I know that by staying silent I feed into the problem yet I fear speaking out. I have spoken out publicly. I have shared the story in front of crowds, yet I find it difficult to speak out with my story to people I know. It's easier to share it with strangers. I've been cautious about who I share with and how much, but I realize that it is time to just speak out.

Domestic violence, in any form, is dangerous. I watched a TED Talk today by Leslie Morgan Steiner "Why Domestic Violence Victims Don't Leave". She reminded me that silence only heightens the problem.

My abuse was not greatly physical. Instead it was emotional and verbal. In that end, he has accused me of villainizing him by simply stating the facts. He has refused to admit that there is any abuse or that he has caused harm to the children or I, and certainly that there is not ongoing abuse. Even the day he hit our youngest son on the top of his head with a full Pepsi (personal size) bottle his response was to turn to me and say "That wasn't abusive by the way". It wasn't the first time he'd done something like that. When I returned to him after a six month separation the first time he hit me, he grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. Immediately after, he said "I guess you're going to leave me again". I should have. I didn't. I felt trapped by not leaving in that moment.

His physical abuse of me ended after that. He still hit walls, still hit our vehicle when he was angry, still yelled and cursed at me, still blamed me for every fault, everything that went wrong in his or our lives. I spent so many months protecting our children, justifying their behaviours, downplaying the problems, walking on eggshells. When he started hitting our oldest son I knew things were headed downhill. He would be angry at me, but it would be our son he would hit. In September, I told him that I saw it as abusive, that I wouldn't allow our children to be hit, that I would leave him if it continued... it improved for a bit and then, it escalated. It was December before I reached out to the Women's Shelter and began counseling. They reported him to Child Family Services who responded that I was protecting the boys and that was enough. It wasn't enough. I didn't feel sufficient. I was there, I was doing my best, but my son was being hit in the head almost daily. I couldn't watch it, I couldn't bear it. I decided I would leave after Christmas. I was putting together a plan, figuring it out, but no one wants to ruin Christmas with a separation unless they have to.

Christmas Eve I received a number of gift certificates for Christmas shopping so I left him with the children for a couple hours while I went out for presents and groceries. We had nothing that year - I had only been able to purchase one dollar store item for each of the boys and they needed things. I spent almost all of it... it had been earmarked for Christmas, it was an extra unexpected bonus. I filled our cupboards, bought presents for everyone (I didn't go overboard), except myself and brought it all home.

He was vacuuming when I got home. I offered to finish for him if he would bring it all in because I was suffering a shoulder injury. He was angry because the boys wouldn't help him clean (they were 3 & 5) and they kept getting in his way. He slammed his fist into the wall on the way to the car and I quickly pulled the boys together and got everything organized. He went right back to his computer when he was finished bringing everything in. That's where he spent his days, ignoring us, living as he wanted and only coming out when we dragged him off of it or when the boys got too rambunctious and he got angry.

It was the next day before he realized I had spent all the money we had been given. We were on our way to my cousin's home for dinner when he figured it out. He slammed on the brakes, throwing us against our seat belts. He railed at me the entire way, then continued with completely inappropriate comments during dinner. On the way home he yelled at me, and criticized me for starting an at-home business to help with our family budget, accusing me of starting it only so I could afford to leave him.

By the time we got home that evening and put the boys to bed, I was a mess. I was broken inside, devastated and terrified. For the first time in our marriage, I slept on the floor in the boys bedroom. When we got up for church in the morning I tried to get them ready quietly so as not to awaken their daddy, not knowing what to expect. He woke shortly before we were ready to leave and readied in record time, angry at me because I did not wake him up earlier, when for so many other weekends he had refused to rouse in time for church.

At church I sat away from him while he told anyone who would listen that I had not awakened him that morning, that I didn't want him there. I wasn't talking about it, I didn't want others to know how bad it was. During the service our eldest son was snuggled up to him and put his feet up on the back of the pew in front of us, he was told to put them down and when he didn't respond fast enough, my ex punched him in the legs to force his feet down. That was the last straw for me. I couldn't handle anymore. I was finished. I asked a friend to come home with me and when we got there I told him he had to leave.

He took his time packing. He was angry, accused me of having another man, accused me of planning this. Said good-bye to the boys like he was never going to see them again and thanked me for 10 wonderful years of marriage. He had threatened to commit suicide if I ever left him and I didn't know what to expect in the coming days, the way he said good-bye scared me, but I needed to stop what was happening, I needed to protect our children.

My heart broke that day. I knew our marriage was over. I knew I could not and would not continue living that way, I would not and could not continue to expose our children to abuse. They deserved better, I had promised they would not grow up in a family like mine was.

So, why do I feel guilty? When I look at my story, I realize that it is not the life and death story of so many other domestic violence survivors. In my perspective, it seems a fairly "mild" case of abuse ... because I left early on. I feel guilty sometimes for not sticking it out, for not finding out if he was capable of change... but to be able to change one must be willing to change and there were no signs of that. Sometimes I feel like I didn't have the right to leave because we weren't in life-threatening danger.

Do you know what else? I've had people say that to me in subtle, back-handed ways. I've had people blame me for the abuse. There are many who ask why domestic violence women stay and one of those reasons is that they are not believed until, for some, it is too late.

For domestic violence to be reduced and eventually end, there must be two things. First, as Lesley Morgan Steiner says, we must end the silence. Silence is killing women, children and men across this country, this world! Secondly, we must put up a zero tolerance for domestic violence. We must place emotional and verbal abuse in as severe a category as physical abuse. We must stop negating it's deadly power in our lives. We all know words can hurt, imagine what happens when the one person who has pledged to love you and care for you for the rest of your life uses words only to harm you and to break you down. To speak lies about you to you, themselves and others. How can one fight against words? Words that will be denied if you ever try to defend yourself against them.

Words kill.
Fists kill.
Domestic Violence kills.

It starts in our hearts, our souls and it ends with our bodies. Where do we draw the line?