Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Writing under the influence. #feelthebern

I just finished my fourth oral surgery in four years, and going into it I was cranky. And I'm also aware (again) of how lucky I am.

There was a time when I didn't have money or insurance and when a tooth became infected, I just had to soldier through. I eventually had it pulled while I was awake and felt it, and it hurt and I felt panicked.

Back then, there was no talk of implants, because there was no chance I could pay for it. I couldn't really afford to have the tooth pulled, so I signed up for a care credit account (29% interest, but at least I could get the painful tooth out).

Today, I the put me under with general anesthesia. The extracted the tooth, did a bone graft and put in an implant. I felt nothing, and didn't have to deal with the panic of dentists laying me back and working on me. (That triggers PTSD for me. It's not the pain, but the laying there with stuff in my mouth and feeling really vulnerable.) I didn't have to deal with any of it - I just slept through it.

I don't expect this recovery to take very long, but still - I get to take as many days off work as I need. And I will rest comfortably on my couch in a home I love. (Even if I have no desire to spend another minute on that couch...seriously? Four oral surgeries, plus hysterectomy/endometriosis excision in four years! I'm done with all of this recovering on the couch crap!)

Once again, there is a lot more options available to those of us who have money and insurance. I'm very grateful that right now, I am one of the people who has options. I want to live in a place where everyone can get help, healthcare, and comfort when they need it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

"Don't ask me. Tell me. You're the boss." #pelvicfloorphysicaltherapy #endometriosis #PTSD

Three months ago, I had a complete hysterectomy and endometriosis excision surgery. The doctor didn't know how extensive the endometriosis was until he got in. My bladder, bowel, colon, rectum, left tube, left ovary, and uterus were all fused together in one big clump. There were several other spots of endometriosis spread throughout my pelvic and abdominal areas. It was a pretty extensive surgery, and it's taken a while to heal.

There are a lot of things that have improved since my surgery.
I no longer have pain so bad that I feel nauseated. I no longer spend a few days vomiting during my period.
I don't have a period.
The intense pain (felt like a hot poker stabbing my insides) is gone.
I don't feel the burning/urgency/painful cramping whenever my bladder is full or while peeing or after I've peed. It used to feel like I had a UTI all the time, but I don't feel that way anymore.

I still have some bowel issues that weren't there before the surgery, but since I had major surgery on my bowels, it's apparently normal. It takes time for those things to heal.
I also still feel exhausted a lot. I no longer take a nap everyday, but I feel like I still could if I had the chance.

I still have a constant aching, burning, uncomfortable pressure pain throughout my whole pelvic region. That combined with the fatigue I still have since the surgery has been discouraging. Last week, I spoke with the surgeon again. He told me I should be feeling better by now, and suggested I give physical therapy a try to see if that could help me. He also said it could help with preventing more adhesions (scar tissue) from sticking to my organs and muscles. Scar tissue can cause the organs to stick together in the same way endometriosis did. If it got bad enough, I'd have to have surgery again to fix it. Physical therapy can help break up the scar tissue and keep the organs moving in the way they should.

Pelvic floor physical therapy was not my idea of fun. It sounded AWFUL. Besides the fact that physical therapy of any kind is generally painful and difficult, I have a history of sexual abuse. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, and anything that feels anything like being sexually abused felt, triggers reactions in my brain and body. PTSD makes it hard for me to know if I am in the present (with a doctor that can help me) or in the past (with a man who is raping me). As far as my body and brain are concerned, I FEEL like I am being raped. I am in the past. I can see the things I saw then. I can hear the noises of the fan whirring above the bed, and his grunting. I can feel the pain of being raped or the suffocation of having a pillow over my face. I feel scared and alone and betrayed and disgusting and disgusted. I feel so many things that I can't come back to the present without a lot of work and usually some help.

Pelvic floor physical therapy uses both internal and external muscle manipulation. It's like a regular exam on steroids - and I have never done well with regular exams.

I was afraid to go, but I also want to feel better... Really better. I want to be able to go to work, or fishing, or horseback riding, or to sit on my couch and watch TV, and not think about being in pain. It's exhausting to be in pain, and it takes a lot of energy.  If there's a chance I don't have to live like that, I want to do whatever I can to take that chance.

Pelvic floor dysfunction can be caused by a lot of things.
Chronic pain from endometriosis can be a cause. Surgery (hysterectomy or the extensive excision) can also cause it. Sexual abuse can also be a cause.
It could also be caused by pregnancy, miscarriage, sitting too much, exercising too much, poor posture, etc.

(In other words - I have a lot of things that could cause it, and they probably all contributed to where I'm at today.)

I had my first physical therapy appointment yesterday. I was scared out of my mind. I asked Todd to come with me. I made the decision that I wasn't ready to do any kind of internal work yet. As I was filling out the paperwork before meeting with the therapist, I was trying not to cry or panic or run away.

Then I met her.
She asked me about my pain. She asked me to describe it. She asked me what has helped, what has made it worse, what other doctors and professionals have told me, and she told me it usually took a woman seeing at least seven doctors before they got to her. (I counted. I have been to eight doctors for pelvic pain. The last two were helpful. Everyone else was dismissive.)

She showed me some stretches to do. She reminded me the importance of breathing deeply (diaphragm breathing). Then she handed me a sheet and told me she liked to do both internal and extrernal work.

"Is it okay if we just start with external for now?" I asked, very timidly.

She responded, "Of course! Don't ask me. Tell me. You're the boss. It's your body - I'm just here to help you."

I breathed a sigh of relief, and gladly got on the table where she massaged my incision scars and tested to see how tight my stomach and back muscles were. She had me move in different positions as she massaged and moved different parts of me. I learned about fascia, which I was unfamiliar with before. She talked a lot about teaching my body to send new signals to my brain, because the cause of the pain was gone - but my body didn't know that yet.

I walked away feeling hopeful. I still don't want to go through the physical therapy. It still sounds awful. I still think I will have a really hard time with it, and I will probably get triggered in a way that will leave me feeling awful on more than one occasion. I also know enough about recovery and PTSD and myself to know that I can handle it... And the only way out of the pain is to go through it.

So... here I go... through pain. Twice a week for at least the next month.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Three months Post Op - I thought I'd be feeling better by now. #Endometriosis

It's been three months since I had surgery. I was amazed at how much better I felt after surgery.

And then I started moving around more.

Three weeks ago, we had a tradeshow to go to. I know I overdid it. There were a lot of things to carry and set up, and it was a lot of work. It had to be done. Ever since then, I have been in enough pain that I have yet to feel like doing much more than what I have to do. I have yet to work a full week, so I'm not even doing what I have to do yet.

Todd went fishing this morning, and I didn't even think about going because I didn't want to go.
I haven't felt much like fishing for a year. I haven't felt like riding in more than that. (I also haven't ridden much because Todd's horse has been lame, so if I go riding, it's by myself. But to be honest, I haven't even felt like doing that, because it hurt too much.)

But before surgery it felt like I could just ignore the pain if I had to... push through it... And pushing through it didn't make things worse like it seems to now.

I just thought I'd feel better. I just thought that by now I'd want to be outside with the horses again or starting to work on my garden or fishing... or if not fishing, hiking and taking pictures (because the water is still a little cold for me to think fishing is fun, even if I felt amazing.)

Today, I just feel discouraged.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

It wasn't all in my head! #endometriosis #adenomyosis

It's done. Yesterday I had my uterus, cervix, Fallopian tubes, and left ovary removed. This morning I am laying in a hospital bed waiting for the nurse to let me get up and move around. Then I will be waiting for the doctor to give me the okay to go home.

I haven't talked to the doctor yet - my surgery was schedule to be an hour and a half. It took him three hours. I had endometriosis.

My uterus, colon, left Fallopian tube, and left ovary were all covered in endometriosis adhesions and twisted and fused together. As the doctor was telling Todd all that I had cut out, Todd's main thought was, "No wonder she was in so much pain."

I went to several doctors who all told me my pain was psychosomatic. I really thought it was in my head, and I was worried I'd get into surgery and the doctor would find nothing wrong with me.

What a relief to know there was disease, and the surgeon cut it out, so hopefully once I recover from the pain of surgery, there will be no more pain.

The pain has changed a little with surgery, but it's no worse than what I was living with almost everyday. (There's an incision in my belly button, and that hurts. The other three incisions don't hurt at all.)

The other cool thing about this experience: I was able to talk about PTSD and anxiety, AND I was able to ask for help. As I was coming out of anesthesia, I was in pain and felt panicked. I was able to tell the nurse, "I have PTSD from being raped, and I'm having a hard time right now. Can you talk to me to help me stay here in the present. My brain thinks I'm being raped again."

She brought me a pillow to hug and then talked to me. She asked me about where I live and what I do for a living and told me stories about herself. It didn't take too long for me to get grounded and be okay enough.

I'm really excited to see evidence of how much better I am than I was just a year ago.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Loaded Words: Gratitude

"What are you grateful for?"
It seems like an innocent and helpful question. Nobody means harm when they ask it - however the question fills me with sadness and maybe a little anger. 

At the very worst time in my life, a time that was so dark and so painful, I am impressed with myself for living through it, I got asked that question a lot. 

I always came up with something: some "tender mercy" that made other people feel better about me or my life. 

The reality for me was, it felt like I was digging through three tons of crap to find a couple of M&M's The digging was awful. It stunk. It was hard work. I had to look so hard for the stupid little tiny pieces of chocolate, but once I'd found the M&M's, was I supposed to eat them? I didn't want them. They didn't make ME feel any better, but people around me sometimes seemed to pretend like these crap-covered chocolate pieces were a ten course meal. I was so blessed and so lucky to find them. 

My life was too painful, and I lacked the ability or the awareness to really express it at the time, but it felt awful. I felt like I was being masked over, asked to hide or disappear. Instead of feeling loved or supported, I felt very very alone. 

Todd and I have been talking about ways to bring mindfulness to our meals. He had the idea to list things we are grateful for before we eat. It sounded like a good idea, and I was all for it. And then he asked me what I was grateful for as we sat down to eat dinner, and I just cried. 

It felt like he was asking me to pretend and hide: to disappear and only show him what was acceptable and not what IS. 

In my tears, I could easily recognize my feelings are not based in the present. I have much to be grateful for, and I am very grateful for a lot. Sometimes, I still just need to cry for what was. 

As a survivor of abuse and PTSD, eating disorder, major depression and anxiety, that question did not offer me relief or hope. It offered the people around me relief and hope. It gave them a chance to escape my reality by forcing me to comfort them. I know they meant well, but it really hurt. 

It would have meant so much more for people to ask me about what I wanted to tell them, because most of the time I would have chosen to say sugar-coated sweet "positive" things to protect them. It meant a ton to me when people let me share my pain with them without expecting me to sugar coat it with gratitude s and "tender mercies".

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I took manure and leaves and I made dirt!

This might sound silly, but I am super proud of my compost pile.

My first wheelbarrow full of manure and our three horses

When we moved in in March, I knew nothing about composting (except that I wanted to do it). I got a wheel barrow and a shovel, and started gathering manure and leaves. I started researching and reading to learn about something I had never even thought about before.

The biggest it has been was 20 feet wide, 10 feet long, and 5 feet high. It's about a third of that size now, since composting worked, and I spread the compost on our flowers and garden area. (Hopefully we can get things to grow faster than the deer and rabbits eat it. This year, that wasn't the case, but the soil was not nearly as good as it's going to be now that I have beautiful compost on it.)

Guys. I took manure and leaves and some vegetable scraps, and I made dirt! 
I feel proud. I also feel silly that I feel proud. And I still feel proud.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Preparing for surgery: I feel afraid. #Endometriosis #PTSD

I'm getting ready for surgery in three weeks. It's stressing me a little bit, but the things that stress me are not the same things I have heard others worry about.

I'm afraid of laying on a table half naked while they put me under the anesthesia. That sounds like a perfect recipe for flashbacks and panic attacks. I talked with my surgeon and he told me they would do everything they could to keep me comfortable until I'm out. I also know from experience that even if I feel panicked, once they put the IV in, I'm out pretty quick.

I'm afraid of waking up half naked. I'm afraid of feeling afraid or triggered and being too drugged or in too much pain to be able to think through (and get past) the panic.

I'm afraid of staying in the hospital and not being able to wear pants and having people coming in to examine me. I'm afraid of panic and feeling afraid and alone and being unable to tell anyone whats going on. When I get panicked or have flashbacks, I can't talk. I get paralyzed.

Mostly, I'm afraid of wanting Todd's help through my recovery. They tell me I will be pretty much completely down for two weeks. I won't be able to lift anything for six to eight weeks. That means I will need help. This summer I had my wisdom teeth out. I tried to convince myself then that I didn't need or want help, but I'd wished I had done it differently.

I talked to Todd and told him I wanted his help, and I asked him to plan on being home for at least a few days after I get home. Just in case I need help getting food or whatever else I might need.

I'm still afraid that he will find somewhere else he would rather be. But more than that, I'm afraid I will tell him that I don't need his help. I feel like I shouldn't ask him to stay home with me, but I should tell him he can go fishing or go play with the grand kids or... anything really... but I want his help. I want him here with me.

He tells me to just trust him. Let him show me that he'll be here. Let him show me that he loves me, and not just when we are working together or fishing or riding. He says he also loves me when I'm tired and sick and need/want help.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

#Endometriosis. Is it okay that I admit it hurts?

Tonight I stayed home from my fly fishing club meeting. Last night I missed rehearsal. I could have gone to both, but I was in pain and felt nauseated and hated the idea of even driving across town.

In the past, I would have gone. No one would have known I felt bad - maybe someone might have noticed my pale face or the cold sweat, but probably not. I am pretty good at faking it and pushing through a lot of pain. I have been pretty proud of myself for my ability to push through.

And. I'm tired of pushing through pain. It's exhausting, so I stayed home on my couch in front of the fireplace cuddled up with my cat.

I tell you all this, mostly because I'm trying to keep myself from telling myself horrible things. Somewhere in the back of my head, I hear a voice telling me I'm lazy and weak. I'm scheduled to have surgery in three weeks. Part of me is excited and hopeful that the surgery will make me feel better (after I feel worse for a while). The other part of me ridiculously believes that surgery won't help because the pain is all in my head. I'm just weak and I need to push harder, because the pain isn't real.

It's funny that I think it's not real. I finally have doctors giving me diagnoses and telling me that surgery will help. (I have suspected adenomyosis and endometriosis. My uterus is enlarged and out of position, and my cervix is tilted and twisted. I'm having a hysterectomy and they will be cutting out any endometriosis adhesion's as well.)

I feel ashamed that I stayed home on my couch. I don't want anyone to know. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me, or to express concern or sympathy for me. The shame and the fear are getting in the way of what I want. I want to feel supported.

This blog is a nice place to start doing something a tiny bit different.
I'm in pain. Sometimes I cry because it hurts. I feel exhausted trying to focus on anything besides the pain. It's not horrible all the time, but it hurts all the time. I sometimes get really depressed and discouraged, because its hard to enjoy anything when I'm in pain. I love being a part of the orchestra. I love fishing and being with the horses and working in the house, but sometimes I can't enjoy any of those things.

Even as I write this, I feel ashamed. If anyone knows that I cry or that I feel pain, they will think I'm weak. Because my pain is in my pelvic region, everyone will think I'm gross. Maybe I'm overly sensitive, and other people don't complain or cry even though maybe they feel the same thing I do.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

My plea for #LDSConf listeners. Support those that are suffering.

I know that general conference weekend is a wonderful time for many. I have no wish to demean or lessen the experience for those that look forward to and love general conference. And I also know how my own depression, perfectionism, and suicidal thoughts increased every October and April.

I had more than one bishop tell me it was partially because I listened too closely and tried too hard to do everything that every speaker told me to do. The last conference I listened to I remember two things. 

1. God just wants us to be happy. The speakers just want us to be happy. They are doing the best they can with the knowledge they have, but they don't actually know what I need. I do. Those closest to me might have an idea too. But mostly, I do. 

2. My friend Amanda told me about an experience she had. She was speaking to college women about eating disorders. She knew some things she would say could hurt 5-10% of the people sitting in the room - those that are prone to eating disorders would be triggered, but it was important to her that the other 90% hear what she had to say. It seems to be similar for conference talks as well.

With her help, the help of my parents, siblings and closest friends, I came to the conclusion that most of what was said wasn't helpful or healthy for me.

I was very lucky to be surrounded by loving and supportive people. They probably saved my life, and they definitely helped me make my life more worth living.

I started this by saying I didn't want to demean or lessen the experience of those that love conference. I also ask you to be aware of those that have been hurt or demeaned by the words spoken this weekend. Share the goodness, please, and also support those that are suffering.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

#Endometriosis #Adenomyosis: All of these big words, and I am finally feeling hopeful

I met with a surgeon yesterday. I've been on birth control to try to treat the symptoms of Endometriosis for six months, and although I have seen some improvement, I want more. (The pain so bad I'm vomiting only happens once or twice a month instead of 8-10 days a month.) I would like to get to wear I experience little pain - or even better NO pain.

He thinks I probably have adenomyosis as well as endometriosis. (Though he won't know for sure without surgery.) He does know my uterus is enlarged and "too squishy". It's also not positioned right - the ligaments aren't holding it in place so it's sitting on my bladder and deep into the pelvis area. Not all of what he said made sense to me. But what he offered me was hope.

Hysterectomy. Excision surgery (to remove any endometriosis he might find).
And after all of that, I am still in pain, physical therapy for my pelvic floor. (In case you're wondering, this sounds awful to me, but I'm willing to go through it if it means I can finally sit in a chair without wanting to cry.)

He offered a few non-surgical options, but I'm done trying to see if something will work or not. Let's just go right to the most aggressive treatment. I will be down for the winter, but by next spring and summer, I'll be back to adventuring.

There's my really quick update.
Until I feel like writing more...

Monday, June 22, 2015

I refuse to be angry at myself for wanting help.

I had my wisdom teeth out last week.

Last year, just before I was losing my dental insurance, I talked to the dentist about whether or not I should have them taken out. He said they seemed to be fine, not coming through - pretty deep down in my jaw, so I didn't have to worry about them. Then while we were on a camping trip to Moab last month, my jaw ached. Only at night, but intense enough that I couldn't sleep.

It turns out one of the teeth poked through just enough to get debris stuck on it underneath the gums, and it became infected. So, I had to have that wisdom tooth removed. I figured I might as well get them all out.

It has been a little bit miserable. It's been more than a week, and I am still in pain, still nauseated, and have almost zero energy. This is not how I like to spend my summer.

I didn't come here just to complain about my stupid face. The day after my surgery, I felt angry.

Todd and I were supposed to babysit his granddaughter, but I was too miserable to go, so Todd went by himself. I expected him to be done and come home around 7:30. I was extremely nauseated, but also recognized I needed to eat. Standing up and walking - even just into the kitchen - made me vomit. I finally gave up trying to eat, and stayed on the couch.

I was angry, but not at Todd. Instead, I was angry at myself for wanting his help. I was too miserable to think about it much until last night. (A week later.)

I sat down on my floor. I took a deep breath and said, "I refuse to be angry t myself for wanting help."

Almost immediately, I felt a deep and awful sense of abandonment.
I have never been abandoned. I have had parents and family and friends around me my whole life. They all did their very best to be there for me, but because of circumstances, I felt very alone. I had to figure out how to deal with abuse and the beliefs that came from all kinds of abuse all by myself. I had to figure out how to live and survive through things that no one should have to live through.

I wanted help. I couldn't ask for it. I believed I shouldn't ask for or even want help. There's nothing I can do about any of that now, but now... all I can do is cry.

So, I cried. I cried harder than I have in a long time, and I cried for a long time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I'm tired of being pulled around. #horsetherapy #equinetherapy

Today was a therapy day.

This past weekend was a holiday. We spent a lot of it with our families.
For some reason, some combination of things left me feeling triggered. Alone. Used. Lonely. Sad. Angry.

So, I went to therapy. Wendy asked what I wanted to do in our session. I hate this question. I get paralyzed and don't know how to answer.

Do I work with the horse?
Do I ride her? Do I stand beside her?
What's my goal? What should my goal be?
What does Wendy want me to do?
What does Daisy (the horse) want me to do?

I finally said I just wanted to walk with Daisy - lead her on her lead rope and see where we go from there.

So, I started into the arena with Daisy nicely walking behind me. As soon as we got inside the arena, she put her nose down and drug me around.

I knew what Wendy was thinking. I was thinking the same thing.

Because I don't express what I want, I get pushed and pulled around.
And I am so tired of being pulled around.

Wendy told me to connect with Daisy. Spend a minute breathing and getting together and try again.

This time, Daisy walked behind me and pushed me with her nose.

(Wendy told Daisy, she'd give her a treat later for being such a good therapy horse.)

I realized I was not present nor connected to my own body, so I stopped. Took a breath. Concentrated on my feet, my legs, my arms, my hands, and finally my core, and then I just wanted to cry.
So, we pulled up a couple of jumping blocks, sat down, and I cried.

I feel used. Not in the present, but some of the time with Todd's family, and the way I reacted to them. (Trying to anticipate their needs and wants, serving them, doing everything his eight year old granddaughter told me to do, staying back to make sure everyone else was comfortable, etc.)
No one knew I was caught up in a trauma reaction that was leaving me feeling empty, alone and used. I was doing it entirely to myself - because that's how I used to live. For whatever reason, I got trapped in the automatic reactions before I ever had a chance to think about it. I just did it, and that is also what I did when I was being used and abused.

In the same way Daisy can act as a mirror to show me how I live the rest of my life. My interactions with people over the weekend showed me how I used to be. It gave me the chance to feel the sadness and anger over the past.

We talked about how if I don't know what I want, the only option left is what others want. I will feel taken advantage of even if that is not what others want. They have no choice if I don't know and/or don't express my wants or needs in the relationships.

I felt tired. How exhausting to have to think about, and then ask for what I need all the time.
But... What if I went through the exhaustion of thinking and asking, and it worked?

Wendy asked me to try. Pick something I wanted with (or from) Daisy, and then communicate to her what I wanted. It took me way too long to think of something, and then suddenly, I had a plan in my head.

Without thinking, we walked to specific points in the arena. I wanted her to stop when I stopped. When she didn't, I asked her to back up. I used the lead rope. I used my voice. I used my body language. She listened. By the time we got back to where Wendy was waiting, Daisy stopped when I stopped. She didn't push or pull me, we just walked together.

That was the most assertive I have ever been with Daisy. And the most calm I have ever felt working with her.

By the end of the session, I didn't feel as tired or as sad as I felt at the beginning. I felt energized and empowered.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Enjoy the rides - you never know when this ride will be the last one.

Todd's horse, Bo, the first horse I ever rode the trails on, is done trail riding. He has hurt his tendon too badly, and the vet says from here on out, Bo will only be a pasture horse. 
The first time I rode a horse on the trails: seven years ago.

The last time we took Bo and Sunny out. Shortly after this picture was taken, Todd's dad had heart surgery and we spent a lot of time staying with his parents to help them out. Then Todd's brother passed away. Then Bo hurt his tendon, and we've been trying to get him healed. Nine months later, and we now know it will never heal enough for him to go back to the mountains with us.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The real reason I was upset, and it wasn't what I thought it was.

Todd's son lives in another state. He moved there a while ago, and Todd hasn't been to visit. They've asked him to come, but it hasn't worked out yet.

A couple weeks ago, we bought plane tickets. Todd talked to them before we bought the tickets to make sure it was okay, and it was. Last night, he got a phone call: we can stay there, but we won't be sleeping in the same room.

I didn't see that coming.
I'm sure my own family doesn't love that I live with Todd, and we aren't married, but it stopped being an issue before it ever was an issue with them. We went on vacation with my parents and siblings, and it didn't seem like they cared. We have stayed with Todd's siblings, his parents, and his daughters, and it didn't seem like an issue with any of them.

I was really upset.
I am aware that asking us to sleep in different rooms isn't a horrible thing to ask.  It seemed illogical - even to me - to be so sad and hurt.
Illogical or not, it hurt.

Here's the reason. It has nothing to do with religion or intolerance or them not liking who we are or all the reasons that made sense at first. It has everything to do with what they are really asking of me (without knowing it of course).

I have a tough time at nights. I've learned to cope, and I can sleep in my own house, with Todd next to me. I learned to cope before I was sleeping with Todd - but now that THAT is my normal, it will take a long time for me to readjust. And honestly, with Todd, I feel safe in a way I never felt before. I still have some sleepless nights, but mostly his presence has changed my nightly battle completely. I coped in the past. Now, I rest.

Any new place is hard, but with Todd there, I can get comfortable. Even in my house, when he's not here, I struggle.

At night when he's not around, my body and my brain go on high alert. Hyper-vigilance is the technical term. I am aware of every noise, every smell, every movement, and they all feel like a threat. I can think it through and know I am safe, but I can't think and sleep at the same time. As I start to fall asleep, thinking brain turns off, and my PTSD brain takes over. That is a scary place to be. I stay awake all night thinking it through, so I feel safe, and morning comes without rest.

With him there, I don't have to think, I just feel safe. (Most of the time.)

Four nights in a new house with other people in it, I can pretty much plan on not sleeping at all.
(It's made worse by the fact that one of the people there is male. I'm not afraid of Todd's son when I'm awake, but there's nothing rational about the PTSD brain when I want to be sleeping.)

I feel broken. I feel crazy and stupid... and sad.
A grown woman who can't feel safe enough to sleep without someone else there. And it's just not fair... (I know, life isn't fair, so... shut up... but for just a minute, I'm going to whine.) I didn't choose this life. I didn't choose for any of the stuff that happened that left me with an inability to sleep without a lot of help. If Todd goes on a trip without me, I don't sleep. I will rarely go on trips without him, because it's not really worth not sleeping. (It turns out, now that I sleep regularly, I really like it. Even one night without it, makes me cranky and tired.) I make do with the way things are, but it sucks. It's sad. It's just really sad that I have to deal with any of this.
I'm broken. I'm crazy. And I didn't choose any of it. And I feel stupid and ashamed, as if there is something that I could have or should have done in the past... or in the present... I shouldn't talk about it. I should pretend to be fine, but I'm not... and there's a crazy battle going on in my head about what I'm supposed to do. 

So, do I talk to them? Do I tell them what's going on for me - maybe they will change their mind? Maybe they won't. (I fully support them making decisions for what they accept and/or expect in their home. With more information, they may make a different decision, but it is still their decision to make.) At least if I'm honest, I can know I was honest.

Do we just go and get a hotel room?

Do I stay home, knowing I may not sleep, but at least I will be in my own house? Todd can visit his son and his family, and I don't need to be there.

Do I do what they ask, and deal with the consequences, which might not be as bad as I suspect they will? Maybe I'll be fine...

We could always just get married to make them happy... But I'm thinking that is a bad reason to make a decision like marriage.

Here's what I know.
I want to go. I want to stay at their home. I want to have a relationship with them, which makes me want to be honest with them. I'm afraid. I don't like talking about past traumas, and I REALLY don't like talking about how it still effects me. I don't like writing about it anymore. I don't like paying attention to it (when I can ignore it). I don't like telling other people about it, and seeing the look in their face when they realize some of what I've been through. (It's a good thing I've been going to therapy, where I spend a good portion of the time letting Wendy empathize with me and the horses support me. Ugh.)

They have every right to make whatever decision they will make, and I will support their decision for their home. I also want to take care of myself, which means if they decide to still have us sleep in separate rooms, it's probably not a good idea for me to try to sleep there. There may come a day, but I'm not there yet.

Also, I'm not willing to get married just to make them happy, or so that we can stay in their house in the same room. (I also don't really think that would make them happy, or it is really what they would want anyway. Just wanted to say, if it was what they wanted, I'm not willing to do it.)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A diagnosis (#Endometriosis) and it's not just in my head.

I've had chronic pelvic pain for years. I don't remember if it was there before my miscarriage eight years ago, but I remember being in pain a lot since then.

At the time I miscarried, is also when I woke up to the life I was living. It's when I couldn't ignore the relationship I had with my husband, and how unhealthy and harmful it was for me. I couldn't pretend that I was okay with the idea of being a mom, and bringing a baby into that environment. Along with "waking up", I also finally acknowledged how much Larry had hurt me with his abusive behavior in my first marriage. When I started talking about Larry, and spousal rape, and depression, and false beliefs about sex and relationships, and all of the other shittiness that had been my life, I fell apart.

Pain just seemed like it was all part of the deal.

I believed my pain was entirely body memories, or related to the trauma, and I felt so much guilt and shame that I experienced pain that I barely talked about it.

(I don't doubt doing trauma work in therapy and in life had an effect on my body, and trauma work is painful all over. But it wasn't just the trauma work.)

I went to a doctor a year ago. I told her I had been raped many years before, and now I was in a lot of pain all the time. She ordered an exam, said there was nothing wrong, and I just needed to go to therapy.

Six months ago, I went to another doctor. She didn't do an exam, but told me she could order an ultrasound if I really wanted one. And told me to keep going to therapy.

I walked out of that appointment frustrated with Todd. He pushed me to go to the doctor. He promised they would help me. I told him they wouldn't - they would dismiss me and my pain, because that is what all doctors have always done.

At seventeen, I was told I was being selfish and controlling when I said I didn't want the doctor to touch me. And nobody cared or asked about WHY... The doctor just did what he wanted, quick, painful, and entirely insensitive.

At nineteen, I was held down while a doctor did a pelvic exam, because I was freaking out. I was shaking and kicking, because I didn't want that man touching me... So the nurse held my legs, and I walked out with a huge fear of doctors.

At 28, I got pregnant, pretended like I was fine with exams, because I didn't have a choice... At eleven weeks, they told me I would miscarry, and sent me home. (They asked if I wanted surgery to remove the fetus, or to go home and try to let it happen on it's own. I was eleven weeks, so I was on the border of when surgery would be required. I was afraid, so I went home.) Three weeks later when I was still cramping horribly, bleeding a little, but had also added a high fever and throwing up to my list of symptoms, they prescribed antibiotics over the phone. Luckily, my husband at the time talked to the pharmacist, and the pharmacist told Dann to get me to the hospital "right now".

My general experience with doctors left me feeling shitty. I felt disrespected. I felt used. I felt scared and silenced and I didn't like it. Todd reminded me of a good experience with a doctor I had two years ago, and he suggested that I see her.

I gave him all kinds of excuses: She's not a specialist, she's just a family practitioner. If the other two didn't see anything, what makes me think SHE would. They didn't even ask me about my pain, they just dismissed me... All doctors would dismiss me.

Except that two years ago, she hadn't. She had made me feel like a person, and she had made me believe it was okay to tell the doctor I was hurting. She also made me feel like she could help.

Last week, I finally worked up the courage to call and set up an appointment. On the phone, I told the office girl why I was coming to see the doctor, and she emailed me a questionnaire about chronic pelvic pain.

I cried as I filled out the questionnaire. It was not easy to describe the pain, and I still felt shame for feeling pain at all. I felt disgusted with myself for not being able to power through the pain... I felt disgusted with myself for talking about that part of my body. I wanted to hide, because deep down I knew the pain was all my fault.

If I could just relax, it wouldn't hurt.
If I was good, I wouldn't care about the pain.
If I was good, I would be quiet and submissive.
Along with many other messages that came straight from being a survivor of abuse.

Then I read the message from Larry asking for my forgiveness, and I cried a lot. By Sunday night, something had shifted within me.

Trauma, sexual assault, rape, and abuse have hugely affected my life. (Duh.)
This pain has been there for years, and the biggest effect that sexual trauma has had on this pain, is my inability to talk about it. My fear of talking, and being dismissed. The shame and the guilt that kept me silent. The fear... It was crippling.

By the time I went to the doctor on Tuesday, there was no doubt in my mind that the pain I was experiencing was not caused by rape. I wasn't going to dismiss the pain as just something I needed to work through. I was no longer going to accept "relaxing" as a way to cure it. I wanted help, and I fully believed I deserved help.

I volunteered information. I answered her questions. I didn't shy away from or sugar coat what I was experiencing.

I told her that it felt like someone was shoving a hot poker inside me and twisting. It is usually around my bladder and up the right side, but sometimes it moves. I explained that it burned and cramped when I peed. I told her that it always hurt, but got almost unbearable just before and during my period. She asked about bleeding, and I told her what I had observed. She asked about nauseousness and indigestion, which I also experience a lot... Turns out those are symptoms of severe Endometriosis too.

She gave me the diagnosis, offered a few treatment options, and prescribed painkillers for in the meantime. (The least invasive and least expensive treatment option is birth control, so I am trying that first. If that doesn't work, I can move to hormone blockers, and then possibly surgery.)

This is a huge relief. It's not just in my head. I'm not just making it up. There are ways to treat the problem, and to find even small relief from the pain.

Even though I don't feel any better at the present - finding some hope that it will get better, makes a world of difference.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Free from the Other. It is not my problem, and I won't make it mine either.

Facebook has an "Other" folder for messages. It's where messages go if I'm not Facebook friends with the person who sent it. I think I knew it was there, but I had never checked it until yesterday.

I discovered some nice messages from people thanking me for my Ordain Women profile, and for the Sunday spotlight interview I did a month or so ago. It also had a message from my ex-husband. It had been there a while, so for him this is way old news. For me, it's pretty darn fresh.

I didn't know what to do with it. I don't know what to do with it, so I guess I have decided to write about it here.

This post isn't to him, but of course he's welcome to read it. This is for me, and for anyone else who is trying to figure out what to do with past abusers, forgiveness, apologies, etc.

A couple years ago, I wrote the blog post "The Letter I Will Never Send", because I was contacted by the Catholic church asking what I thought about his getting remarried. They asked me to describe my marriage and my experiences with him. I chose not to do anything with their questions except to write my experiences FOR ME.

I guess he read it.
"Hey Jen,
I wanted to write you because there is a lot I have been thinking about for a long time. Someone alerted me to the blog you wrote and it solidified what I think I didn't quite understand before. Where I didn't think rushing you into sex so often was kind, I didn't understand how bad it was. I didn't know to you it was a forced obligation. I thought because I had your consent it was o.k. --I didn't realize how abusive that was to you. I think aside from that, we both went into things unprepared and unrealistic and hurt each other. I am truly sorry, I realize now how hurt you were. I don't want there to be any tension in the future and I hope you are and continue to do well in your life. It would mean everything to me if you would forgive me.
Since writing the letter, and the response to it, I hadn't thought much about him. I am still dealing with some false beliefs about relationships. I am still dealing with a lot of guilt and shame that is left from a lifetime of abuse - which included my life with him - but was not limited to just him. I have had to completely reconstruct my whole emotional/mental/spiritual foundation, which takes a lot of time and a lot of work. (That could be the understatement of the century.)

Reading his message, my initial reaction was fear. I was afraid that he could find me, and I wanted to hide.

Then I felt like I needed to write back and apologize for not responding sooner: to tell him that I hadn't seen it, but now that I had, give him a response that would make him feel better. I felt like I should tell him I wasn't angry and I had totally forgiven him... but I didn't do any of that.

Todd told me to tell him to "Fuck off."
I wasn't entirely against the idea, but it didn't really resonate with how I was feeling.

I thought about asking how I had hurt him and apologizing for anything I had done to him, and then I realized: I DON'T CARE

I have had to work my ass off to recover from what he did. I have gone to therapy, I have read books, I have cried, I have gone through flashbacks and nightmares. I have spent countless hours thinking and rethinking, so that I could make sense of the world around me. I have spent time talking to others about how they treat their wives, and defining rape, and going to SLUT walks, and writing and writing and writing and crying and then writing more. I didn't ask him to apologize. (In fact, if he read anything besides that one post - he would have seen that I didn't want an apology.) I didn't ask him to do anythig. All I did was to go out and do MY work to make peace with what he did and what was my life.

I worked hard, and I have created a beautiful life. I didn't need anything from him, and I don't care what would mean the world to him...  What he needs and wants doesn't matter to me. I can finally say what he needs and wants and thinks and does means nothing to me. I wish him no ill will. I also don't wish him happiness. He gets to exist completely separate from me.

(Oh, and there is no tension between us, because there is nothing between us. That is exactly how I want it.)

I don't know what prompted him to write me - maybe he was trying to repent, and apologizing to me was part of that... but that's a pretty shitty apology. If I cared about him and his repentance, I would suggest that to him: Learn to apologize and take some responsibility if you actually want forgiveness. But I don't care about his repentance, or his work, or what he needs to learn or do... He gets to be responsible for his own learning and growing, and I get to completely dismiss it. It's his, and has nothing to do with me.

I have gone through anger at him. I have gone through all kinds of emotions, and now... I am at peace.  I don't know if that means I have forgiven him. (I am not a fan of the word forgiveness - I think too often it is used to manipulate and control. In too many cases, it is used to shift responsibility from an abuser to the victim.)

I have cried a lot in the last couple of days. I am not even sure what the tears were for. I just felt like crying, so I did. And now, I feel more free than I have felt in a long time.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

I bought a house, and all of the other new stuff in my life.

I used to use writing on this blog to process things, but I haven't done that for a while. Mostly, because there are a million things I would rather do than try to process some of my thoughts.

I'd rather go fishing.

Beautiful fish - I caught this one in Wyoming on the Salt Creek
 Or riding.
Sunny and I. I like to ride him bareback, but I forgot about that for a while. (I'm glad I remember again.)
Or go to work.
Our booth at a tradeshow in Austin, Texas.
Or visit with old friends I haven't seen in SEVEN years.
Awfully nice that we could have a tradeshow in Austin, when Amanda lives just two hours away from there.

I'd rather do yard work or organize my new house - did I tell you we bought a house? It's a log cabin in the mountains with property surrounding us for our three horses.

My house in the mountains.
We have three horses now.

Three horses. Sunny, Bo, Tii
Did I tell you we adopted a wild mustang? He was born in the wild, rounded up with his mother when he was about six months, and we adopted him when he was about a year and a half. He is now two, and we are working with him to be able to ride him when he's four or five.
Tii, the "wild" horse that likes to eat hats and cell phones.
I'd rather spend time with Todd's grandkids, because they are adorable, and a ton of fun to be with.

They are a year apart, and still about the same size.

Hiking with two of the six. We spend a lot of time with these two since they are close to us.
 Or with my new nephew. Did I tell you I have a new nephew? He's also adorable, and I love him.
This kid is already super spoiled, and he's barely three months old.
Oh look - my hair is short. I cut ten inches of it off a few months ago. Side note: Do you know why it took so long for me to cut it. I had an ex-husband tell me I was too fat to have short hair, and I believed him (somewhere deep down where I didn't really think about it), so I felt like I had to keep ti longer. Faced that fear, and now it's short.

My hair: ten inches shorter than when I woke up that day.
Or play in the orchestra - Did I tell you I joined a new orchestra? At our first concert, we had five violin players (total). We've grown a little: We are up to ten violin players when everyone shows up. (Plus three violas, two cellos, and a bass, AND two flute players.)

Paradise Valley Orchestra - our first concert.
I've been a part of this symphony for five years now. I really love it.
Life is good, so when things come up, I think about writing, but I have enough other things to keep me distracted. I keep being distracted.

So now you have the update of the fun stuff... stay tuned for some processing in my next entry. (Unless of course I get too distracted and never write it.)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Five years later... CALM

Recently, BJ and I decided we wanted to go back to the CALM (Community After Leaving Mormonism) support group. When we were leaving the church, the group was very helpful. There were people there who were like me: not sure what to do, where to go, or what was going to happen. We all felt fragile and afraid and angry and sad... We could support each other.

There were also a few people who had been out for a while. They had gone through the fragile afraid place, and eventually life had calmed down. They had gone through the process of rebuilding themselves after losing their entire belief system. Most of them didn't say much, but just their presence was reassuring. They hadn't turned into murdering, stealing, baby eaters. They were still nice people - they just didn't go to church on Sunday. Or some did. They had gotten to a place where life was calm, and I desperately wanted to get to a place where life was calm.

When I said I was angry, they nodded reassuringly, listened as I told my stories, and handed me a cookie. I felt fragile, confused, scared, excited, happy, angry (again), sad, hurt, more confused, and they just listened. My story was so much like all of the other stories, but they didn't show that on their faces. They were so good to me.

I wanted to be that for someone else.
Last night I listened as people talked about feeling betrayed and deceived when they learned about issues in the church, and the white washed way Mormon history was presented. I listened as people talked about their fear that their family would disown them... or their desire for death, because they couldn't live their life to please others anymore, but they didn't want to disappoint them either... or the feeling that they deserve to suffer because they just can't be a part of the organization anymore... or the very real results of divorce and isolation because their family members did disown and distance themselves.

I didn't offer anyone a cookie, but I'm glad we went.
Life is not at all like I expected it to be, but it's turned out pretty amazing really. I don't know how to help other than to be a reassuring presence.

And as a surprise, I got to meet one of my Facebook friends in real life. Helen and I connected four years ago, but since she lives in another state, we had never met. Now we have.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Abuse and Recovery (Elizabeth Smart and Rebecca Musser as my examples)

On my mind:

Two books - one by Elizabeth Smart.
The other by Rebecca Musser.

One was kidnapped and taken against her will.
The other was given by her father to marry a man sixty years her senior.

Both were treated horribly by a man claiming to be a prophet and a religious man.

Elizabeth, it seems from her book, never believed what her abuser told her. She never bought into the idea that this is what God wanted for her, or what she deserved, or was her place in life.

Rebecca, at least for a while, totally believed that this was what God wanted for her, she totally believed Rulon Jeffs was a prophet, and that to be his wife was her place in life.

Both detested the men that raped and abused them, but only one believed that she was supposed to love and revere the man that hurt her.

In my mind, it is that belief that makes a huge difference in recovering.

If you believe it is your place in life to be used and abused; if you believe it is what God wants for you; if you believe you are supposed to take it, it is so much more difficult to recover.

If you believe you will be loved if you stay and take it, or you escape, or no matter what happens, the abuse is still just as awful, but it won't affect you for as long.

I have no idea if either of the women who wrote these books telling their stories would agree with me, but I do think that believing I deserved to be in the marriage I was in, and to be used and abused has made it harder to move past.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

#Horsetherapy: I feel better on horseback.

Sometimes I go to therapy, and it feels REALLY crappy.
I suppose it's like physical therapy - it hurts, but you do it in the hopes that you will build up your muscles and heal. I understand the process well enough that I keep going.

Other times, I go and I leave feeling better.
My last session was the variety that helped me feel better.

I started the session with a list of things that were on my mind. Some were things that had happened that week - some were things from the past that had been bothering me. I gave Wendy my list. She commented that for such a heavy list, she found it strange that I was smiling... and then she said she was going to go with her gut: Climb on Daisy (the therapy horse) and see what happens next.

Daisy has a bareback pad - keeps my jeans from getting quite so dirty.
I climbed up. Wendy walked Daisy around for a few laps of the pen, and then asked me what I was feeling.


I have felt invisible - but not because others make me feel that way, but because that is how I am supposed to be. I want to be heard, but can't handle it when people are listening.

At that moment, Wendy tied her lead rope to Daisy's halter to work as reigns. She told me to do it differently. Ask for some attention. Let someone listen and respond to me.

We rode in circles and figure eights and when I was done, we went back to the center where Wendy was standing.

I felt completely at home. Comfortable.

Wendy said (slightly awed), "To my knowledge Daisy has never ever done that before. She just did everything you asked with just a halter, and without even objecting. Why? Why do you think that was so easy for both of you?"

We were connected, and I felt connected. There was never a question in my mind that she wouldn't go with me. We were going to walk around and do figure eights, and then we were going to go back to Wendy. I didn't stop to ask what Wendy wanted me to do. We just did it.

For the rest of the session - it was Daisy and I working together with Wendy guiding us.

Wendy pointed out how different I was on horseback.
I come to session and I look rigid and "held together", but anxious and not fully present in my own body. My eye contact is limited and my shoulders are rolled forward in a sort of protective stance. I can force myself to stand differently, but it is a conscious effort.

While sitting on the horse, my posture is different. I feel comfortable and grounded and strong. 

I've tried to figure out why. What is different from the back of the horse?

I feel supported. I also feel the horse. I can sense (in a way words can't quite describe) what the horse is feeling and experiencing. I can feel their muscles tense when they are afraid or unsure. I can feel their bracing against the reigns or against my body weight, but I can also feel them relax underneath me. I can feel connected in a way that isn't possible with people.

I don't feel afraid. I feel strong. Whatever emotions come up for me, I can process them with the help of a horse. We can walk and move or just stand in place... and I don't worry that a horse has somewhere else (more important) to be. They are there WITH me.

And I guess, a part of me doesn't really care WHY it works for me to sit on a horse, because it does work. It just works and I'm grateful for it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

#Horsemanship clinic with Mark Rashid: A little bit of hero worship, and a lot of learning

Last week, I had the awesome opportunity to go to a clinic with Mark Rashid.
I have read every book he's written. A few of them more than once.  I have watched DVDs of him working with horses... He has played a huge part in my life even though we had never met.

He wrote about horses and trauma, and when I read his words, they became my thoughts. So much of what he said made perfect sense, and I was able to use his wisdom to help heal my life.

I would give him credit for helping to save my life, and definitely started me on a new path.

I was just an auditor. (Although, at the last minute, I could have taken my horse down there, because  a slot opened up. Unfortunately, I didn't have the means to pay for the clinic and getting Sunny down there. Fortunately, I learned a TON as just an observer.)

The first night we spent asking questions and just chatting.
Mark believes the most damaging myth that horsepeople believe is that we are supposed to be the "alpha" horse. We watch horses pushing each other and bossing each other around, and we assumed those were the horses in charge. They are not. In domestic horses, those are the insecure horses. In the wild, the horse in charge is a wise old mare: A horse that has been around and the other horses trust to keep them safe. Be a good leader that your horse can trust, and he will trust you and follow you.

He also pointed out that a horse is not capable of "disrespecting" people. Respect and disrespect are human ideas. A horse is a horse, and he does horsey things... If you teach him to do something (intentionally or unintentionally) he will usually do it. Be aware of what you are teaching your horse.

We also had a few hours of Mark showing us how the principles of Aikido could help us with our horses. We learned how to breath, and then we learned how to soften up ourselves and our brains so we could connect with our horses (and other people).

That clinic was hard for me. Mark put his hands on my shoulders to demonstrate something, and my brain imploded. The sad (and frustrating) thing about PTSD is that it affects me when I least expect it. His hands triggered something, and my insides collapsed on themselves. I cried. I got over it. And then talked with Mark about overcoming that. (I took some of what we discussed to my last session with Green Eyes. I love how much I am learning from the horses and the professionals in my life.)

BJ made a great guinea pig for Mark.
 The next day Mark was working with individuals and their horses. He worked with each horse/rider combo for two hours. I loved it. I was also amazed at how much he put into helping the people and the horses to get a good foundation going. One day, I want him to work with Sunny and I.
This picture made me smile...
We asked him if he was posing for us to take his picture. He just shrugged his shoulders, and then I took his picture.

This horse was having a hard time - she was really worked up and stressed. By the end of the two hours, she seemed calmer.
Also - I just loved this view.

Teaching the horse to give to pressure - it's about technique and feel. This horse/rider combo understood "feel", but hadn't gotten techniques down. I felt like this was the most helpful for me. I have the feel - horses make sense to me, but sometimes my lack of technique leaves me feeling crippled.

The clinic went for another day, but we had to rush back to be here for my rehearsal, my SIL's baby shower, and a pumpkin carving party with BJ's kids and grand kids at our house.

I haven't posted much about my life. Life is very full with fun and family and horses and mountains. It has also been good to get back to therapy. It also helps that my therapy has included horses, because horses are amazing for me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's awfully convenient to have a horse in my backyard...

Biggest lesson from today's therapy session with Wendy and her horses.

It turns out, I AM capable of feeling emotions, expressing them and being relaxed.
It also turns out, all it takes to do all of that is to also sit on a horse.

My assignment for this coming week is to ride Sunny bareback for a few minutes everyday.
(My real assignment is to release some emotional energy everyday, but since riding bareback has been so effective, my plan is to release emotional energy by riding bareback.)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

#OrdainWomen I covenanted to obey my husband, and who I was to judge when I should stop doing that?

The profile I wrote for Ordain Women was published last week. Ordain Women has limited the comments, so anything "victim blaming" has been removed. There were a few comments like that... "It was your lack of testimony," or "It was your insecurities," and a few others that I never read.

I appreciate the Facebook administrators at Ordain Women censoring out comments blaming me for the abuse I experienced. I am a lot better than I once was, but it's hard not to be thrown back into old beliefs about abuse. Or about myself and how I deserved abuse, or it wasn't really abuse, or... other things that are inaccurate but I believed for a long time.

There was one comment made (and left) that has been playing with my head for days. I thought about commenting on Facebook, but decided I would rather write my thoughts here.

First, the comment. It was in response to me saying that the bishop quoted the covenants I made in the temple to obey my husband.
"Have you been to the temple? We covenant to obey our husbands AS THEY OBEY THE LORD. Abuse is not of the Lord. Nor is blind obedience to a man who is clearly not living by the spirit or honoring his covenant to love and care for you as the Lord loves and care for us. Your experience and the experience of many sister is terrible, but not the result of church doctrine. Unfortunately your Bishop's counsel was lacking and left you feeling unprotected. That is really sad, but that is not the fault of the church. We can always question our leaders counsel if it doesn't seem to fit within church guidelines and abuse or coercion are not. Holding the Priesthood would not make you anymore equal or powerful then you already are in the Kingdom of God. The idea that women are unequal or less because they don't hold the Priesthood is false doctrine. Go to the Lord in honest prayer and He will reveal the truth of it to you."
And now my response:
Yes. I have been to the temple. Every week for a three year period, and every month at the time of the conversation with the bishop. I understand what the covenant says - obey your husband as he obeys the Lord. That seems to say that I could be the judge of whether or not my husband is obeying the Lord, and then I can make the choice... but it just isn't that simple.

I had a bishop telling me he was speaking for God as our judge in Israel. He was telling me that Larry (husband at the time) was doing his part and obeying the Lord. I was the one that needed to repent. I was not doing my duty and my responsibility as a wife. I could not have the spirit with me because I was not spending the time at home that I needed. I was working two jobs, going to school, doing public speaking about eating disorder recovery, and trying to spend time with my family of origin. I was also committed to my church callings as choir accompanist and nursery leader. The bishop told me I needed to stop spending so much time away from the home, because all of those things were taking away from my real responsibility of being home and keeping my husband happy.

When I told him I didn't agree with his advice, he took my temple recommend. He told me that I was not worthy to go to the house of the Lord, because I wasn't sustaining my local leaders. I needed to go home and repent and pray. I went home angry, sad, scared. I also went home feeling sick with guilt and fear that he was right. I was sinning. I needed to repent. What he said FELT so wrong, but if he was right and I was sinning and the spirit had left me... how was I to know what was right and wrong?

Also... I had been taught all of my life to trust my priesthood leaders. I believed that priesthood authority came from God, and the bishop spoke for God... I hated what he said, but I believed he was right, because he HAD to be right.

Several months passed... My brother was going through the temple to take out his endowments. I wanted to be there. I wanted to share that with him and with my family. (I also didn't want them to know I was a dirty sinner. I had done so much work and tried so hard to prove that I was worth all of the time and money spent in my recovery - I owed it to everyone to stay good and clean and pure and WORTHY.)

I still didn't believe the bishop was right, but I believed that by humbling myself and telling him he was right, maybe I could show God (and the bishop) that I was repentant. I set up an appointment. He started right into the temple recommend interview questions... When we got to sustaining local leaders, I answered with a yes. He asked me specifically about being willing to follow the counsel of the Lord that came through him.

I told him I didn't know how I could quit one of my jobs. We needed the money. I told him I didn't know how I could quit school. I was hoping that if I worked hard enough and fast enough, eventually I could get a job that paid more, so I wouldn't have to work 60+ hours per week. I told him I would quit doing the public speaking, and asked if that was enough.

He reminded me that my duty and responsibility was to be home and keep my husband happy. If I could say I was doing my best to fulfill my true calling, then he could accept that... and he gave me my recommend.

I went to the temple with Jeff. A few months later, Larry told me he wanted to move away. I did what he said, because he was the husband. I found a way to transfer schools. I found a new job. We found a nice apartment and we went. That also removed me from my family. I no longer COULD spend time with them, so I didn't.

It's hard to describe the mind-fuckery that was the sexual and emotional abuse from Larry combined with the spiritual and emotional abuse that came from church doctrine and church leaders. I'm trying, but if you have never been there, I don't know if you CAN understand how much that combination could affect you.

It's been nearly fifteen years, and of course I no longer believe the bishop spoke for God. I don't believe that he had any knowledge or authority over my life - despite the doctrine teaching that bishops can receive revelation for the people in his ward. But I believed it at the time.

And like I said in my profile... the basic doctrine combined with all of the things that men have said and done to me have combined together to tell the story of my life. It is a sad story. It is full of horrible shit that no one should ever experience, but I did. Any number of little things could have changed to change my story. The doctrine on women and the priesthood is just one thing that could have made a difference. If I didn't believe that men had more authority in my life, and I had a right to authority over my own life, I wouldn't have allowed Larry or the bishop or anyone else to treat me the way I was treated.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#OrdainWomen: My profile.

I wrote a profile for Ordain Women. I wrote it a few months ago - but they've been swamped with new profiles, so it was just published a few days ago.

You can read it here:

Also, feel free to comment on the Facebook page here:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My #IceBucketChallenge without the Ice Bucket

I was challenged to the ice bucket challenge. I was also challenged to donate to my favorite charity, rather than dump ice on my head. That works great for me... Except that I don't have a favorite charity. I have many causes that mean a lot to me.

Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund. I have a friend, who I have known most of my life, but have really only kept in contact with through Facebook. Her daughter, Darci, has Type One Diabetes and has to deal with so much. I would love to find a cure for her and all of the kids that have to deal with this. (Also, my roommate in college had Type One Diabetes. She is now an adult, but I imagine a cure for Type One would help her too.

Glycogen Storage Disease. My cousin has two children with this disease. I know a little of what they have had to deal with, but not enough to really understand. Learn about it here. (I couldn't find a place to donate to... My cousin gave me a link that didn't work. I will update this as soon as I have one that works.

Scleroderma I'd never heard of this auto-immune disease until a few months ago. It's effecting the life of one of my favorite people, and it scares me to think there is nothing that will cure her right now.

ALS Association BJ has a cousin with ALS, and his aunt died from ALS. Also, I watched the video of the young man talking about how seeing people dump ice on their heads made him feel less alone...

Diabetes My brother, my parents, my grandparents, my friend Ron, and many other people I love have (or had, Ron and my Grandfather passed away in 2006) diabetes. Awareness and research to find a cure is pretty important to me.

After Silence, a message board and chat room for rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse survivors. This message board was a life saver. I found people that understood what I was going through. I found others that were hurting and struggling, and I felt less alone.

RAINN This organization does research and has supports for those who were raped and sexually abused. Rape and sexual abuse is a huge problem that needs more attention.

The Wounded Warrior Project I ache at the thought of soldiers coming home who have no resources to deal with the emotional and physical traumas they have been endured.

Project Healing Waters This is a cause I have actively participated in. We take disabled veterans fly fishing, or they have fly tying classes.

So... I donated to Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund
I also donated to RAINN
And to Stop Diabetes
And finally to Scleroderma
I will continue to participate in the boards at After Silence and to volunteer with Project Healing Waters. And, I wanted you all to be aware of the other causes that mean something to me.

#PTSD and Feelings of hostility, guilt and fear

I volunteer for a group called Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. (They have a local chapter in Utah.) They recently posted an article about how fishing makes you a better person. I paid special attention to this quote:
"A 2009 study shows that fishing can lower PTSD symptoms and increase the mood of those who suffer from the disorder. After three days of fly fishing, participants reported a 32 percent reduction in guilt and a 43 percent decrease in feelings of hostility. The feeling of fear was also reduced by 30 percent, and sadness dropped by 36 percent. A portion of these positive effects remained even a full month after the fishing retreat."
PTSD that they are talking about is the kind that comes after serving in the military. At first, I was thinking about how their symptoms are different than mine... I kind of chuckled at how fly fishing will help PTSD. ("See. I have to go. For my recovery.")

But then... I felt really REALLY sad. I have no feeling of hostility. I experience deep and debilitating guilt and fear. Occasionally, I still feel really sad for (seemingly) no reason. ZERO feelings of hostility.

I read the article last night, and it's gotten inside my head.
It would make sense if I felt hostility. It would make sense if I wanted to lash out. It would make sense that I would be really angry.

So why don't I?

Why do I freeze up at the thought of asking anything of anyone for any reason?
Why do I believe that it is my responsibility to take care of everyone else? Why would I rather hurt myself than to ask anything? Why do I think that asking anything of anyone will hurt them?
WHY am I so afraid of hurting someone that I ignore the facts and think if I speak, move, breath I am somehow causing someone else pain? (I'm not hurting anyone by asking for love, attention, or anything else.)
Why do I feel paralyzed and anxious? 

And why do I feel so sad today?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Therapy Makes my Muscles Hurt

I had my second session with Green Eyes and her horses today.
By about 45 minutes in, I actually felt calm and relaxed and present. That's when I realized how sore my legs were. My legs were sore for about two days after my last session. I assumed it was from running around the turnout... or maybe from something else... it's not.

About ten minutes into the session, I felt anger. Thirty seconds later, it was gone. I didn't feel angry. I felt happy. I felt fine. I wouldn't even say I felt numb or shut down, but for my emotions to come and go so quickly seems a little... numb or shut down. (It seems most people feel angry, or sad, and it's not easy to just change and be happy all of a sudden. That is just how I operate.)

My legs and stomach muscles were really tight and sore though... I mentioned that to Green Eyes, and she chuckled. (I'd say that was rude, except that is one of the things I love about her. She chuckles when she sees something that will help - even if it sucks right now.)

We talked a little about the idea that going back to therapy is a negative thing. She pointed out that many people go their whole lives and choose not to be aware. I am not in therapy because I am in a bad place. I am in therapy because I want more out of life. Life is good, and I want more. If I have to be a little sore or hurt a little more or work a little harder or go see a therapist, that is worth it. I know there is more to life, and I can have it.

A few things we decided to work on:
  • Getting unblocked - especially since we know exactly where I block my emotions and where I store it.
  • Asking for what I want - it seems I am no longer comfortable not acknowledging that I have needs and wants. I am no longer comfortable waiting for others to tell me what to do. I am also not comfortable asking for what I want; acknowledging that I have wants; or trusting myself to do what I think is best.
  • Getting present in my body - I think a lot, about a lot of things, but there is a definite disconnect between my brain and my body.

I haven't been in therapy for a long time, and I have forgotten how good it can feel to process things and work through things. I haven't experienced getting present in my body much either, and it was nice to get there. Even though I "lost" the feeling within an hour of leaving. I also have hope that I can learn to do it better and for longer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy: My first session

I had my first equine assisted psychotherapy session yesterday.
Boy howdy - it was intense. Partially because I get pretty intense in therapy. (I want to get whatever work I need to get done, DONE, and move on to something less painful and more fun.)

As I pulled up to the barn, I saw Green Eyes (human therapist. At least her nickname as of right now on this blog) with a horse. Then I saw the horse, who was tied to the fence, rear back and rip the whole fence out. She took off running around the barn with the boards that used to be the fence catching her and anything in her path as she ran. Green Eyes caught her, calmed her down, and I could see the left front foot was red from her own blood.

I waited at my car until I saw Green Eyes coming back with a different horse. This horse seemed anxious and nearly ran Green Eyes over in between the barn and the turn out.

Strange how chaotic horses made most of my anxiety go away. I was stressed about therapy. Nervous about how it was going to go, and what work it was going to take on my part. Horses being horses - even if it's a wreck - make sense to me, and I feel pretty comfortable in that world. At least I felt comfortable, until Green Eyes came back and asked me what I hoped to accomplish in therapy...

She gave me the speech on horse safety, and joked about horses tearing fences down. Then she told me how with horses, in order to get them to engage with you, you have to be totally present in your body. I KNOW that, but somehow her telling me that, brought up all kinds of emotions.

One thing I have always appreciated about Green Eyes, is her power of observation. Some people would have missed the look of panic in my eyes, but she didn't. I haven't seen her in six years, but she didn't waste a second getting started.

I'd love to give you a play by play of the whole session, but I can't remember it. The thing about being totally present in the moment is that it moves quickly from one thing to the next.

She asked me about any medical issues, and I told her I had none, but then she said something like, "Anything related to why you're here today?"

I have chronic pelvic pain. It never stops hurting. It gets worse every 30 days or so. I've been to doctors, and have been unimpressed with their medical advice. (Not to mention the terror I feel at the idea of exams!) I have just figured it is something I have to live with. I don't think about it much, and I definitely don't think of it as a "medical issue".

But... maybe with a little therapy work... and mind body work... I could find some relief.

I'm pretty tight and rigid in my core and hips. Green Eyes said we'd work on that.

I have been in a lot of therapy. I have sat on couches and talked, and it was all helpful, but this was perfect for where I'm at now.

By moving around, I was constantly feeling something.
Having the horse there, I felt pressure I wouldn't have felt if we were just sitting and talking. The horse also played different roles at different points in the session.
Green Eyes said this horse is sometimes an asshole. Something in me shutdown, but I couldn't have put words to it until Green Eyes made observations about what happened when I approached the horse.

I wanted her to like me. I didn't want to do anything wrong. And I didn't want to touch her, nor (really) have anything to do with her. We had a quick discussion about how interracting with anyone (including a horse) is entirely my choice. (WEIRD! I still forget I have choices like that.) And then it dawned on me:
"You said this horse was an asshole, and why the HELL would I want to engage with an asshole?"
At which point, the horse ran away from me and to the opposite corner - as far away from me as she could get.
Then we talked about learning to judge who will be safe. Trusting my opinion over what others say. She told me to find what I could trust about the horse. That was easy. She showed no signs of aggression whatsoever. I could see she was paying attention to us - even when she was far away from us.

I approached her again, and this time I told her (the horse), I wasn't sure how I felt about her yet, but I wanted to get to know her. She put her head in my chest and we stayed there for a minute. Then she turned and put her head over the fence (away from me).

Green Eyes pointed out that her (the horse's) body language was not that dissimilar from my own when I first came in. I was aware of the horse, but I was standoffish and wouldn't let her get close. Green Eyes pointed out how this horse will always make you work for a connection. She doesn't want you half way.

I'm kind of like that horse. I don't let just anybody in, and I wait to know I am 100% safe before I let you all the way in.

I also kept flinching. Green Eyes asked if I had ever had to defend or protect myself from my left side. Nothing that I recall, but since my session yesterday, I realized that I pull my left shoulder up when I feel afraid. And if I'm really afraid, I pull my hand up. It's not something I think about, it's an automatic reaction that I just do. I imagine my chronic pelvic pain could also be related to some automatic reaction.

There was more, but I can't remember it all now. All of that in one session. And yet, I didn't leave feeling drained or overwhelmed.
I left feeling excited.

I've been in pain for a long time. I've felt sort of stuck for a little while.
Life is so much better than it once was, so I hadn't thought much about trying to make it even better. Since I wasn't dying, and I wasn't thinking about dying, and life is really good and full of wonderful things, I hadn't thought much about the possibility that there could be more. Life could be even better.

In this first session, I can see that life can be even better. I can feel even better.
That's really exciting to think about.