Mentoring


I have had severe writer’s block, for weeks, with this idea/post. I’m tired of it swimming around in my head. So, although it might be incomplete or disjointed, I’m publishing it now.

I had an epiphany last night. Oooo, I love those. I realized that if I would stop having expectations with other people, then they wouldn’t let me down. If I stopped expecting things from people or for them to act a certain way, then I wouldn’t be disappointed in them.

I realized that that must be what defines unconditional love. Then I realized that that is how I needed to start viewing myself. I judge myself quite severely.

For most of my life I’ve felt defined as a singer. Not as a person who loved to sing but as, just a singer. If I messed up in singing a song, I failed in who I was. It was a horrible place to put myself. If I wasn’t singing, I wasn’t fulfilling who I was meant to be. If I wasn’t at the top of my list of accomplishing “all things I want to do and places I want to go” with singing, then I wasn’t complete.

I feel closest to God when I’m singing on stage at church and most complete when I’m singing, anywhere. However, I was getting to the point, before and after singing, of being unnerved with how I did because it wasn’t the best.

Being ONLY a singer was killing the value that I should have placed within myself. Having unrealistic expectations was killing the unconditional love that I should have had for those around me.

Once I realized that my problem resided in the expectations I had on myself and others, I quickly learned how to dissolve the issue.

In this seemingly simple act of change, I’ve lifted another incredible burden off of my shoulders. The difference I feel, in singing (whether it’s at home for an hour or at church), is tremendous. I’m not held captive to the feeling of being a failure if I make a mistake because I’m not just a singer. I’m a person that loves to sing. I’m a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a mentor… that just loves to sing. This change has also lifted a burden off of people around me, whether they knew they were carrying this burden or not. If my family and friends failed in my expectations for them, then they were failing me. Now that I’ve dissolved those expectations, I feel I’m now free to love unconditionally.

No expectations = Unconditional love.

My counselor wasn’t available yesterday so we moved my appointment to today. Last night, I felt like canceling. I panicked and once again, felt that the money being spent on counseling might possibly be a waste and the freedom from the pain of my past and bad flashbacks might never happen. I couldn’t cancel at 11pm last night so I decided to give it another shot.

The session today was the most significant meeting I’ve ever had with any counselor. Ever.

She began talking about wanting to try a new exercise with me, “Breathing, Integrating and Grounding.” She mentioned that those suffering from PTSD usually have detachment issues. Detachment is a defense mechanism to protect the victim from further abuse. What she described was nothing short of a waterfall of enlightenment.

Just the fact that she brought this term (detachment) up, clued me into so much of who I am. I have a problem with being apathetic toward people, my children included. Jase and I have often said that I would be a horrible counselor because my advice would be to “get over it.” I have a hard time keeping close friends because I have a hard time letting others in below the surface and/or I don’t feel like keeping friends and wearing their pain. However, more often than not, I severely ache for hurting people. In one respect, I deal too objectively with people and in the other, I’m too empathetic. Both seem to be on overdrive. I have no gauge in figuring out when I’m opening myself up too much or not enough. As I type this all out now, I wonder if my empathy turns on when I feel safe and the detachment/defense mechanism turns on when I feel threatened. I can’t even describe the elation I feel with finally thinking we’ve hit the nail on the head with the core negative issue that drives me. This detachment issue is what allows me to not be dragged down by people and the problems they need to share with me. However, it’s also the issue that prevents me from letting Jase (and others) close to me at times. This detachment is what closes me off from some people and situations. If I feel threatened, I shut down. My brain goes somewhere safe, while my body “takes” on whatever I feel is a threat. It’s the reason why I shut off from society and hole myself up in my house. Obviously, in most cases, becoming detached has hurt me and has hurt relationships I’ve been in. However, in cases where friends and family or teenagers I’m mentoring or have mentored have vented/complained/freaked out OR when a family member/friend/acquaintance has hugged me, or touched any part of my body and I felt threatened, this mental state has served me well. Better to detach rather than punch them out. 🙂

The detachment really comes on strong when I have flashbacks. The flashbacks are triggered by different things, either when I’m alone and there’s no understandable reason to have them or when Jase and I are intimate, whether it’s sexual or not. During the session today, I realized that when I start having flashbacks while around Jase, I shut down.  Now that I have a word for it, I know that I detach from Jase but it’s not complete. I start feeling like a victim and my brain tries to escape and detach while a physical connection is made but I fight back on that further because I feel like I’m being taken advantage of and being used. Since Jase and I have been together, almost 12 years, I’ve reacted the same way when I have flashbacks or feel threatened. I’m quiet. As was every single time I was violated while growing up, I recreate the same atmosphere. It’s quiet, dark and I shut down. My counselor gave me the most beautiful homework ever. When these flashbacks happen with Jase, I have to communicate with him. I know it sounds like common sense but it hasn’t been. I completely recreate my violation atmosphere and then am despondent. So, I have to tell him that I’m having a flashback and then have him tell me: “Open your eyes and mirror my hand in yours” then while being gentle AND strong (so important for both to coexist) he needs to bring me back to reality by asking, “What’s your name? What’s the date today?” Then tell me, “You’re safe.” I couldn’t stop crying when my counselor told me this because, instantly, I knew it would be the most beneficial advice I’ve ever had when dealing with my PTSD. For the first time since being violated I will start creating a new pattern when in despair or in fear.

I recognize when my detachment is well-used but I also now know when I’m using it incorrectly. Now that the problem is visualized, the correction can be made.

I first heard about Invisible Children (IC) in 2004. I was living in Alabama at the time and since this was a hometown (San Diego) organization, I thought that I could only help from afar, by word-of-mouth.

Living in Colorado, I first got involved with Invisible Children in April 2006. The event was called Global Night Communte (GNC). I had been wanting, so desperately, to actually do something that I jumped at the chance to spend the night, in some strange downtown Denver park, with only my six year old son, Malakai, and our sleeping bags. I don’t feel I’m making a legitimate change in this world unless I can bring my family, my own children, with me in the plight. My children have such an amazing road of change before them. They learn best when actually experiencing change.

Me and Malakai, making an effort for change: IC's GNC, April 2006. (Denver, Colorado)

Me and Malakai: IC’s GNC, April 2006. (Denver, Colorado)

Early morning rise in front of the State Capitol, IC's GNC, April 2006. (Denver, Colorado)

IC’s GNC, April 2006. (Denver, Colorado)

The second time I joined in an event with Invisible Children, it was for DisplaceMe in April 2007. This journey was a little more interesting, given the fact that I was now almost eight months pregnant with Cali and we would basically be hiking about a mile to our final location, while trying to balance water bottles and crackers, cardboard box “homes”, sleeping bags and my humongo belly. The numerous middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom to pee, a quarter of a mile away from our “home”, through a field of potholes, in the dark, was very humbling. This time my nephew, Clay, came along with me and Malakai.

Clay, Malakai and me (with Cali protruding from my belly).

Clay, Malakai and me (with Cali protruding from my belly): IC’s DisplaceMe, April 2007. (Parker, Colorado)

Just a small portion of those that attended our displaced camp. (Parker, Colorado)

Just a small portion of those that attended our displaced camp. IC’s DisplaceMe, April 2007. (Parker, Colorado)

Our rationed water, handed out when organizers saw fit.

Our rationed water, handed out when organizers saw fit. IC’s DisplaceMe, April 2007. (Parker, Colorado)

Our rationed "dinner", handed out when the organizers saw fit.

Our rationed “dinner”, handed out when the organizers saw fit. IC’s DisplaceMe, April 2007. (Parker, Colorado)

Our shelter for the night. IC's DisplaceMe, April 2007. (Parker, Colorado)

Our shelter for the night. IC’s DisplaceMe, April 2007. (Parker, Colorado)

Invisible Children is doing again. On April 25, 2009, thousands of people in 9 countries and 100 cities take part in abducting themselves and calling attention to over 300 children abducted to fight in a murderous rebellion army.

If you have a heart to change the world. I highly suggest you start by watching this video**. Jase and I don’t have money to help out every organization we attach our heart to.

However, we DO have time.

We have a voice.

We have limbs / a country /vehicles / freedom to actually take action with.

We have our own children and other youth, that look up to us to lead by example.

We have our own children, and other impressionable youth, that won’t ever have to fear being abducted by gun-toting rebels who pierce into camps and rape, pillage and kill in the middle of the night, or day.

I dare you to watch this video**. I dare you to take action. I dare you to spread the word as far as you can.

Let’s teach our children, the next generation of leaders, about those that have become Invisible. Let’s help those who have no voice / no country / no freedom of their own.

Put your apathy on the back burner.

**Disclaimer: The video is amazing and life-changing in and of itself, but it’s full of graphic imagery/audio/photos surrounding the effects of war. In regard to younger viewers, do with that as you will.

Does your past bury you or carry you?

In my life, for the most part, I’ve let my past carry me. I’ve let it be the fuel for my passion for life and people. I’ve let situations that would normally smother someone, breathe life into me. Since 1996, when I gave my life to following God, I’ve seemed a champion, a conqueror, of my unpleasant (sometimes horrendous) past. If I felt memories starting to drown me, I’d just absorb myself into something new.

Lately, something is changing in me. I’m realizing that I’m not so much a champion as much as I am a survivor. I’m still learning how to survive my past and not let it bury me. There have been times that my past has been a hazard, a hurdle, that has seemed too difficult to leap over, too tough a task to overcome. Guilt over a friend killing himself and another being murdered, the trauma of having been taken advantage of time and time again can sometimes reduce me to nothing but a shell of a person.

Would I change anything from the history that now seems to define the passionate, loving person I am today? I don’t know. There is so much that is ingrained into the foundation of who I am. So much of what I consider trauma allows me to empathize and understand people that others would walk on and ignore. So much of what disgusts me from my past allows me to protect my children in ways I never would have originally dreamed of needing protection. So much of the guilt from my past pushes me to never give in, never give up, never surrender in the fight for my own life and the fight for the lives around me.

Would I sacrifice the momentary pain, that sometimes still lingers, and the extraordinary love and compassion I have for people by changing my past? I think not.

I choose to allow my past to pave a path for my future and in the legacy I leave behind in the generations of life to come.

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