Stuck in Time – Roles we play

February 25, 2013
Solid Rock

Solid Rock

As I have run into many old friends and acquaintances this past week, I am reminded of how I feel stuck in a time zone. I have played a variety of roles over the years, and built many relationships. Different situations and time periods have brought out different parts of who I am or who people perceive me to be or how I perceive them to perceive me (generally not the same thing). When I run into a variety of people from different time zones, or different role periods, I find myself confused, as if I am struggling to feel solid in my identity.

Over the past 14 years I have belonged to a community of people from a place I call my “church home”. I love what the church brings – hope, love, faith, service, community, strength, and relationships. It also brings for me confusion, judgement, conflict, vulnerability, and questions about my beliefs and experiences. In my church home, I have gone through periods of sporadic involvement, little involvement, outsider, regular attendee and active leader. In many ways, the best and worst parts of me have been known in this community I call my “church home”.

As I walk the halls of the church building I feel like the wind is blowing in a variety of directions. I see teenagers and girls who are in my coaching world. The place of today, and where I spend much of my extra hours and devotion. I also run into people who were active in a mom’s group which I led, or a committee I was on, where we connected together for a purpose and passion. Then I turn around to the people who were around in the middle of my darker/addicted mind-set, watching me spin out of control. Next to them might be the person who recalls my early fibromyalgia days, and has compassion for my illness. And then, almost worse than the rest, is the new leaders and attenders, who are completely unaware of my existence and history, seeing me as “the newbie” or “nonexistent”. I can’t make sense of the history and the various feelings that emerge from within. How do I change and intersect these places, and block out the negativity that can haunt and paralyze me?

I often believe that the healing and transformation is in the process. Perhaps all my feelings are a way for me to be more graceful to myself and just step into the fears that permeate my whole being. I tend to believe that I have to do something to make up for the things I did that were destructive to my soul and hurtful to others. It is easy to simplify people’s responses, when I move into a shame based center. When I find my own place of peace, is allows me to be more centered and have a better balance of inward and outward focus. I may still feel the fear and shame, but my decision won’t come from that place. Maybe things will change for me if I look to receive the grace and love, than to question or seek to understand the complicated thoughts and feelings of another towards me.

I feel ready to get out of this zone. I honestly don’t know how this will happen – but I aim to at least see the next layer. Instead of focusing on what I perceive from others and the role I am playing, I can focus on the vision for myself and where the Spirit leads me in that moment. It isn’t a battle to win, I have nothing to prove to myself – this is about being open – about seeking to grow and build relationships with this community I am in. It doesn’t have to look a certain way, and I may not ever be “the leader” I once was, yet I can be someone with greater love and grace that continues to transform me from within.

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Memoir review: Crash Into Me by Liz Seccuro

February 18, 2013

I was deeply moved by reading Liz’s book Crash Into Me. It was an extremely difficult book to read, not because of her writing, but because of the treatment she received  during and after being sexually assaulted. She is an extremely courageous woman willing to share her story and look at the truth regardless of how dark it is. This is a highly significant book that I hope is read by students and facility in our schools and universities.

When Liz was a student at the University of Virginia in 1984, she was raped at a fraternity party. She immediately does the right thing by going straight to the hospital and to the college administration. However, most of the blame is placed on Liz and little action is done to report the incident to the police or to investigate what happened. Liz continues to fight for some sort of resolution, and none is granted. She chooses to focus on making the best she could of her college years, yet still effected by the tragedy of the rape and the aftermath.

In 2005, Liz receives an apology later from one of her rapists, William Beebe, apologizing for “harming her”. A correspondence and a search for justice begins to follow. William reaches out to her, twisting his understanding of the 9th step, seeking to make amends. (FYI, a rapist writing a letter to someone he raped, doesn’t make amends by sending a letter to the person he harmed causing more harm). Unfortunately his lack of understanding what he has done to her, his sudden appearance, and his inability to be completely truthful creates additional hardship. Liz, however, with the letter and the right support, is able to finally receive a glimmer of justice for what was done to her.

Often when I read a story, I am unable to remember much of it a short time later. I become engrossed in a story, then somehow can’t retain it. Liz’ memoir is not one of those stories. This is a book that will haunt me in the years to come as I prepare my daughters for college. I am so grateful that she was willing to share her story, to bring awareness on such a difficult topic, and to continue to stay strong in spite of all those who shamed her. The obstacles she faced were numerous, and most unnecessary. I can’t believe how many ignorant, selfish, dishonest people she had to face. Fortunately, she also met some amazing, compassionate, loving, wise people. May her future be filled with blessings as she brings a light to others facing the darkness. Thank you for sharing your story and bringing hope where it isn’t often found.


Surrender my chronic pain to something greater

January 8, 2013

Summer 09 352It can be hard to surrender my chronic pain to a higher power.  It is easier for me to seek answers in others to bring wholeness to fill the void in my life.  I often feel shame because it makes me feel weak and needy, feelings I seek to avoid at much cost. I can see that alone I am lacking, and I long for something greater to fill the voids and bring healing. 

I see that my way of controlling life and finding meaning does not work. It leaves me emptier than I was before, and separates me from the One that can bring my life back. In the moment it has brought me to see the longings that I have tried to deny, and to also see that I really don’t always believe the Spirit can meet these needs in me. I can see myself as bad and being punished by God.  I wonder if the Spirit has abandoned me when I hear nothing, and my symptoms don’t change.  When I take the time to connect, generally I can feel the peace. Often this is done through prayer and music.

When I come to the Spirit in my greatest place of need, and in my weaknesses, struggles and failures, and find love, than I become more trusting. I can become more honest and vulnerable allowing room to reveal the brokenness, and bring healing to my life. I don’t have to fear this part of myself anymore, and am willing to look at it without shame. I find that as I accept my life as it is, that I am much more humble and graceful to others. I can see the heart of the Spirit in a way I never have before. Compassionate, yet willing to guide me out of the traps I set myself in. I have many obstacles to really trusting and believing in a Spirit. Many of which for now, I just have to acknowledge and be open about. I see the distortions in my head, and it will take longer for it to sink in my heart. This is where real transformation takes place.

I believe that I live a spiritual life and in many ways feel deeply connected to the Spirit. I want to follow and surrender to something greater. Yet I still struggle to give up my desire for what I want-complete healing and to rearrange the dreams I had for myself. I still have much to understand about the bad things in life, including my illness/pain, and I know this hinders my ability to trust. I have to remember that religious people, are not the same as the Spirit. And that spiritual leaders may be godly in some areas, while being destructive in others.  I will be open with what I don’t get, and listen to what I am to do with that.

I love connecting with the Spirit in nature, and am finding this extremely valuable. Walks with the Spirit have been a source of clarity for me, as I hear a voice in the wind and trees. The majesty of spiritual things reminds me of who is in control, and that a power is greater than any problem I ever have or will face. He also is a Spirit of beauty, and wants to bless me. So much has been given, that I have not received.

I have been given so many people for the journey, lots of support and spiritual guides. I have learned so much from the people who are in my path. People who have shown me grace and love. Not all understand chronic pain or me for that matter, but I do know many love and care for me. I am grateful to have my heart open up more to all kinds of people and situations and to realize that things aren’t always as they seem. Can’t be too quick to make assessments about people and situations I do not understand. I gain much wisdom as I am able to ask with a heart for the person, and a desire to learn about their unique experiences. My life is truly about relationships, and if I didn’t have much time on this earth, this would still be where I would devote my time.

2.       Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could bring us peace and sanity.

3.       Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

 


Medication free after years of narcotics for pain

November 26, 2012

I can’t believe that I am finally off my medication.  The pain still lingers in my body from fibromyalgia, but in many ways it seems better than what the narcotics did to my body over time.  The pain is more consistent, not fluctuating around my medication doses, where the intensity would increase as my body became reliant on the drugs for relief.  Though I did experience almost pain-free moments, the overall experience currently isn’t that much different from when I was on medication.  Has my body finally started to heal itself?

The psychological part of taking medication is still active in my brain.  I feel this panic sensation at certain times of the day, thinking I forgot my medication and feel fear at the potential for great pain.  It only takes a split second for me to remember that I don’t need the medication, yet the automatic reaction still lingers.  I no longer have to hide my medication when I am out of the house, or spend time cutting up my medication.  I don’t have to concern myself with the stereotypes of opioid users, though the stereotypes still exist with people who have fibromyalgia (including my own shame around it).  It will probably take some time to get used to this new reality.

When I first began to experiment with various medications prescribed by my doctors, I was in a great deal of pain. I couldn’t imagine living my life in this type of pain every day with no end in sight.  I am grateful that my doctors were able to believe me, and give me some relief from the pain.  I have no doubt that I needed something, but can’t understand why today, my pain is less.  Perhaps my body was better able to adapt with less stress, and better eating habits.  Over the years, I have tried many things to relieve my pain, and understand that a magic cure is probably not out there that works for everyone.  If this were the case, we wouldn’t have disease.  I imagine that the process of disease and healing is a complicated one, though there are many things we know help most, there are many things we don’t know.

The beauty of my own ignorance is that I can’t make claims for other people, nor give a clear path to follow.  This makes the process a personal one, each discovering what works best for them.  As much as I would like to help others have greater healing, I am not a healer.  The blessings of a story, is that we can listen intently, and take the pieces that resonate with us.  My story is in a sense interwoven from the stories of others.  Constantly experimenting for greater health, both physically and spiritually.  I hope that as I continue to make changes to my life, that I will continue to have less pain, and perhaps be cured from what ails my body.  However, of greater importance to me is that regardless of my pain level that I will continue to grow in a way that brings me spiritual peace and hope, as well as deeper relationships with those around me.

Blessings to each of you on your own journey….


Step 1 writing on chronic pain

September 12, 2012

Today I decided to start writing a narrative of my pain story that I hope to share on the blog.  I have been putting this off because it is time-consuming and can be painful to look back at the difficult periods in my life.  I am including information about periods of my life when I had physical and emotional pain and my thoughts around it.

I am surprised at how helpful this has been.  I am able to see some links that I didn’t really think about before.  Initially I was thinking I didn’t have much pain as a child, since I rarely missed school.  As I started to write more, I can remember several situations where there was both pain and shame around the pain.

The thought of writing and sharing a personal story can be terrifying.  I can feel the vulnerability of sharing such personal information.  Even though I have been less specific in situations where it involves other people, I am sharing honestly my own thoughts and feelings.  I do believe that the healing comes from looking at the truth of a situation, and being able to think and talk about it without shame.  I hope that each of us can learn to honor and even love the parts of our stories that make us uniquely us.


Step 1 – what I can’t control about having chronic pain and fibromyalgia

September 12, 2012

A big part of step one is understanding what we can’t control, looking at our thoughts, and the losses caused by our pain.  I have created several lists that reflect on these questions.  I find that looking directly into my pain, is often the best way for me to learn to live with my losses and find hope.

There are many things I can not control about having chronic pain and fibromyalgia.  Below is my list of things I can’t completely control.  Some of these may not be directly related to chronic pain, but can impact it regardless.

  • Pain level – having pain spasms, sensitivity to touch, back pain, trigger points, myofascial pain, tingling pain
  • Fatigue level – being tired, lack of energy, not able to focus
  • Medical world – doctors, nurses, pharmacist, lab technicians, finding a cure, medication impact
  • Weather – rain, heat, humidity
  • Relationships – what others think, what others feel, how they respond to me
  • Initial thoughts and emotional triggers – overreacting, taking things personally, losses

Consequences/impact of having chronic pain and fibromyalgia.

  • Loss of number of relationships I can keep up with
  • Loss of time being physically productive
  • Loss of career options, money
  • Additional stress, harm to body because of medications
  • Intensified other problems, more difficult to manage
  • Conflict with other people who didn’t believe I had pain, or thought I caused it
  • Initially didn’t have coping skills to deal with it
  • More time in escaping behaviors
  • Loss of self-esteem and sense of value in our culture
  • Could be more self-centered in dealing with pain
  • Less stable, less predictable, harder to plan
  • Difficulty keeping up with house, young children, and responsibilities
  • More needy of others
  • Trust in prayer, impacted view of God

Destructive thoughts

  • I am not worthy
  • I caused my pain
  • People don’t care
  • God is punishing me
  • People are better without me
  • Expecting things from others they can’t or won’t give
  • There is no hope
  • I am alone
  • No one understands
  • I can’t live like this
  • I need a cure, I need an answer
  • I need to escape
  • I will do anything to get rid of my pain
  • There is no hope

Fortunately this is just the beginning.  Though it is painful to create these list, I hope it will help others recognize the struggles and losses of dealing with chronic pain.  The chronic pain may always be a part of me, but it doesn’t have to always create the destructive thoughts I have added to this list.  Though not a part of step 1 I will end with a more hopeful list.

Positive thoughts of having chronic pain

  • I can make it
  • I am valuable
  • I am stronger
  • My relationships are deeper
  • I have more compassion
  • I am kinder, more vulnerable
  • I prioritize my time better
  • I can say no when I need to
  • I have much to give to others
  • I am loved and can find the resources I need
  • I am not alone, there are many people who struggle too
  • My higher power cares and is here for me
  • I can still do what is important even if it looks different
  • I can find a new career path

Why the 12 steps for Chronic Pain

July 10, 2012

Why use 12 steps for chronic pain recovery?  It doesn’t seem to make sense that I would compare addiction to dealing with chronic pain.  Addiction seems to be self induced, self focused, obsessive, and destructive.  We often see a visualization of a drunk homeless man begging for “food” that would go towards alcohol.  We imagine the loved ones we knew who lied, stole, and rationalized their habit, while making everyone around them suffer. 

The Medical Dictionary defines addiction “as a habitual psychological and physiological dependence on a substance or practice beyond one’s voluntary control.”* It doesn’t mean that a person can’t always control the use of the drug/behavior, but they continue to use more or more often of the drug/behavior in spite of consequences and/or a desire to stop.   They often are compulsive and use the drug/behavior regularly as a way to cope with life’s demands. 

Chronic pain has similarities with addiction.  It is something that is beyond our control, can be all consuming and can drive us to do things we hadn’t thought about before.  A person with an addiction will seek more and more for greater high, and a chronic pain sufferer may seek more and more for greater pain relief. We tend to have shame, may isolate, feel alone in our experience, and may focus on pain relief as the cure to all things being good again.  Our thoughts and emotions can contribute to our addictive and pain tendencies and the intensity in which we experience them.  Most people experience addiction tendencies and most people experience pain in their life time – the degree in which we experience them is what may make us feel unique. There are consequences with chronic pain, and it requires a mind changing (and possibly spiritual) experience to make us whole again even if we still have the physical pain.  People with addictions have to learn how to live in the world in spite of cravings and/or giving up something that initially brought relief.  Outsiders may look down on chronic pain sufferers as they would with people with addiction, wondering what they did to create such hardships and why they can’t make themselves well again.  Those with chronic pain and addictions do not cause themselves to be this way.  Certain actions, genetics, experiences and behaviors might have contributed to their vulnerability, but few would volunteer for this path. 

 Chronic pain in itself is not an addiction accept in cases of self induced pain like cutting.  Though our body adapts to the pain we experience we do not need more pain or less in order to function.  People are generally not drawn to seeking pain, and we can’t make the choice of whether we will have pain.  We don’t create the habit or the compulsive activity, the pain found us.  Those who take pain medication are also not automatically people with addictions.  Though some of the patterns and physical need might be similar, they don’t necessarily develop the compulsion or obsession of the drug to give complete relief. 

When we begin to go from a person experiencing pain to a chronic pain sufferer, something changes within us.  Many people are drawn to various addictions to escape the pain, or pain relief methods gradually become addiction.  We can feel discouraged because we cannot control our pain or make it go away.  Often we find ourselves searching for understanding, evaluating our values and priorities and looking for something to hold on to.  Looking at the 12 steps offers a way to surrender to something greater and bring inner wholeness to guide us in the path ahead.  By looking into our past, our relationships, our hurts and our harms, we are able better to cope with the times of solitude and bring greater peace into our lives.  I believe the 12 steps can be used as a tool for greater awareness, joy and spiritual growth, in helping chronic pain sufferers have a more fulfilled life.  The 12 steps are not the only solution, the only path, or perfect in their origin.  Yet, as a person with chronic pain, it has offered me hope, wisdom, light and greater purpose for the journey. 

* addiction. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Retrieved July 10, 2012, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/addiction


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