Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NEW BLOG LOCATION

Hello everyone
It's official, I have a new 'blog' website! My hope is to impact even more people with a better site, easier to navigate, 'follow' me etc.

Please wind your way over to http://www.healingjourneyblog.com/ and 'follow' me there.  Thank you for your continued support and encouragement!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gratitude as a Healing Tool

I've been thinking about gratitude as a healing tool a lot recently. Mostly because I've been struggling with my depression as my doctor adjusts my meds (going off one pill) and we are monitoring to see if a higher dose of a single prescription will do the trick and not have the side effects of the one I am being weaned from.

So.  Gratitude.  It's not a natural state of being; it's not an easy place to be in when the kids are screaming, traffic is snarled, bills have to be paid, and work pressure is off the charts.  Gratitude is an emotional state of mind that can so easily be buried or shunted aside by the frenetic pace of life nowadays.

I find it so easy to be angry and stressed, and forget to be grateful for what I have. And anger and stress for me is the 'victim' state of mind.  it's a habit I had for over 40 years, so the roots go deep in my psyche.  I've dug out a lot of the roots, added a lot of fertilizer (love and forgiveness), but it's like one of those weeds where, if you leave one little section of root in the soil, it can pop up again and start crowing out healthy plants (thoughts) so very quickly.

So I use gratitude as a way to kill the poisonous roots of anger and pain.  Gratitude is like one of those non-toxic weed killers you can get in the garden center nowadays.  it's harmful to weeds but doesn't kill the plants you want to nurture, nor the pets or children you have in your life.  Gratitude is something that spills over onto your family, friends, colleagues.  Used properly and in healthy doses, gratitude spreads to the world around you.



However, it's so easy to disdain gratitude, so easy to say "what do I have to be grateful for?"  That knee-jerk reaction takes very little effort on the part of your mind.  Gratitude takes work and awareness.  And many times it can seem so much easier to not be aware, not be conscious.  At least, easier at this moment.  But many moments of anger and stress and ingratitude can gather up into a lifetime of bitterness.

So I"m sitting here, waiting on my husband to finish helping one of our friends with their computer, so we can get to the office, and my thoughts were sliding downhill fast.  I didn't want to work today; I was frustrated with myself. My thoughts were playing tricks on me, trying to trip me up, take me down a well-travelled "woe is me" route that I can travel blindfolded.  It's like driving home....do you ever get there and think....did I stop at all the stop signs?  it's so much easier to be unconscious.  Consciousness takes effort.

However, as part of the healing process, I have learned over time that I can control my thoughts, if I just kick them out of their subconscious litany and into awareness.One of the most powerful tools in my healing arsenal is gratitude. 

What can you be grateful for today?  Take 3 minutes and jot down a list. It doesn't matter if you never look at the list again, if it gets lost in that pile of paperwork on your desk or gets tossed out into the recycle bin.  Just the act of writing it out will change your mental course.  Just the act of writing it down will kick you into awareness.  And that's enough to start the healing process.

Will you lose track and make a 'wrong turn' back into unconsciousness and negativity? Sure.  but you can write another list, even if there's only one or two things on it.  You could call a friend and have a discussion about what you're grateful for.  You can turn off the TV (is there really anything positive on TV?) and take a moment for gratitude.  Respond to this post here on the blog and let me know what you're grateful for.

Gratitude heals you.  it shifts your perspective to a positive slant, even if only for a moment.  But that moment is a little bit of fertilizer for your brain, and the roots of happiness will drink them up.  They are parched right now; they haven't been watered or fertilized in a long time.  And the roots of happiness get stronger if you will consciously feed them.  once you've learned that you can be grateful, even if it's just that you're alive and above ground, and hey, you must have access to computer or you couldn't be reading this...think of how many people in the world don't have that, and be grateful for it....but once you've learned that you can be grateful, you've taken the first step towards healing.

Today I am grateful that the sun is shining.  That I have a husband and friends who love me. That I have the eyes to see the beauty in nature.  That I have a car that works, a roof over my head, a choice in clothing to wear. I'm grateful for dark chocolate and pita chips. Oh, and I'm also very grateful for spellcheck. :0)

What are you grateful for today?


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Death creates a different perspective on life

One of my friend's father died today at age 69. 

This is too young to die for anyone, but it hit me very hard because her father is only two years older than my husband, and this is the second friend's father to pass away young.  The other passed away at 72.  Both passed away in their sleep, a day after seeming fine. And I think the reason this death really hit me hard is that there was a military burial, with full 21 gun salute, the honor guard, the ceremonial folding of the American flag, and its presentation to the widow.

I had a flash of me in this same situation.  My husband served in Vietnam as a Green Beret, and on his death will be afforded full military honors; I will be the one receiving this flag.  I had been dry eyed through the rest of the funeral, but this got to me, and I almost lost it when "taps" were played.  I felt like I had been gut-punched, and grabbed onto my husband's arm for comfort. Life suddenly seemed much too short.

Now, I know no one knows what the future holds, but when someone you know dies, it definitely pulls your perspective into a very different focus.  Things that seemed so important, like work goals, financial goals, will I buy a bigger house, better car, more clothes, more (you fill in the blank) become inconsequential.
Because all we have is right now.  Tomorrow is not promised to us, and yesterday is already gone.  In fact as you read this life is moving into yesterday.  I could be the first to die, even though I am younger.

And I thought to myself, have I done all the things I want to do in this lifetime with my husband?  And the answer is no.  So once again I come back to a theme I have explored in past blogs, and that is that you must live in the NOW, that now is all we have, and you need to make every moment count.  

We were going to put off a 2 week camping trip to Yellowstone because of time constraints; I wasn't sure if I should take that much time off from my business.  As if I were the sole reason the business ran.  Quite frankly the day-to-day running of my business falls to my very capable assistant.  I'm the rainmaker, bringing in new business; but she keeps the space running.  And if my business (or your job) is going to fall apart because you take time for yourself, in my opinion it's time to look for either another business or another job.

So he and I had been going round and round on this issue, wondering if we 'should' take time to do this.  We've only been talking about this trip off and on for, oh, 10 years.  It's not like it's something new.  It's something we've been postponing.

And why?  Really, in the end, why do we postpone the things that mean so much to us, and spend time on the things that just fill time, that in the end don't mean anything?  Is it habit? Fear? Laziness? Or is it, as I have stated before, "just is".  It just is. 

So I have decided that we are going to take that vacation.  And we're going to see the beauty of America's first National Park. We are going to take time on what is important to us, which is travel and spending time with one another.  Because I don't have a crystal ball, and I don't know when all the sand is going to run out of either of our hourglasses.  And I don't want to live my life regretting that I didn't take 2 weeks to live life with my husband.

Why take time for life, for love, for family?  Because 'taps' is going to play for all of us, much too soon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Emotional and Physical Bankruptcy

Yesterday's blog and the subject of emotional and physical bankruptcy so resonated within me that I'm awake at 2 am today thinking, thinking, thinking about this, and hoping I said everything I wanted to say, and not sure if I did.


Have you ever taken the time to watch a spider create a web? If you ever need 20 minutes to relax into mindlessness and peace, this is one of my favorite ways.  The spider is so methodical, so deliberate, but not rushed.  I took this photo on a dew-drenched morning in August when the garden spiders were out in full force.  I had watched the spider make this web the night before, and it just mesmerized me.

I can't say enough about emotional and physical bankruptcy.  We are a nation of people pursuing "The American Dream"....and yet for so many of us the American Dream has turned into the American Nightmare.  So many people I know work at jobs they hate because they have trapped themselves into believing there is no other way to live. They don't take the vacation time they are due because the don't want to get behind, or they are worried that if they do they will lose their job.  They are doing the work of2 or 3 people because coworkers have been laid off...So many people live in houses they can't afford, and eat fast food because it's cheap and easy to get after a long day working.  People don't cook dinner because they are exhausted from a 10 or 12 hour day.  Who has time to make dinner when you have brought work home?  It's so much easier to feed the kids and yourself prepackage pre-prepared food than to take the extra 1/2 hour or 45 minutes to make a meal.

Watching families has made me form an opinion, and it is this: the 'pursuit of happiness' referenced in the Constitution of the United States has become distorted.  We make more money yet adjusted for inflation we are living on less money than our parents made, and instead of mom staying at home, both parents work and then have to pay a stranger to raise the children.  We can't afford to have a parent live at home and raise a child with our morals and values.  It's just too difficult, or we have been brainwashed into believing we need to have the high-profile, high-powered (and yes, high-stressed) job to have a 'good life'.  So we go to work and work insane hours and our children get to be raised by others.  We live a life of stress and don't really get to enjoy our families.

Now, I don't think this is bad....it's only 'bad' if that reality makes you unhappy.  For me, I'm not parent material; so I opted to not have children.  I knew I wouldn't be a good parent.  I'm a wonderful aunt and "big sister" but the ultimate responsibility of parenthood, I knew I wasn't qualified for.  I send blessings, kudos and commendations for anyone brave enough to bring another person into this world.  That is an act of selfish LESS that to me is one of the most amazing things a human being can undertake.

People talk to me all the time about not having 'enough time'....why is that?  Is it because we are working so hard building someone else's dream that we don't have enough energy to build our own?  Is it because we are watching sitcoms and "reality TV" and using up precious time we could be taking a bubble bath or enjoying a hobby?  Does watching TV bring you any closer to happiness?  All you are doing is fulfilling an actor's dream if it takes you away from having 'time' to do what would make you truly happy.

Have you over-committed to the PTA, your church, your family and friends, the HOA, at the cost of your life?  I think it's wonderful to volunteer (I"m a volunteer Big Sister and do a lot of community work) but when the volunteer time erodes your personal happiness time, and you spend your life being so 'busy' taking care of other people, you start to kill yourself slowly because you are overdrawn on your personal life account.

When was the last time you did something 100% what you wanted, when you wanted to, without feeling guilty?  When was the last time you relaxed doing a hobby that you personally enjoy?  When was the last time you took time for yourself without feeling guilty???

In her amazing book "The Artist's Way" Julia Cameron talks about the importance of Artist Dates.  These are dates with yourself, BY YOURSELF, where you go and fill your creative-soul bank account.  It doesn't have to be elaborate, or expensive, or even time-consuming.  Take an hour a week and do something that you want to do.  Something that will refill your soul. 

Now, don't look at me and say "I'm not an artist"... we are all artists.  If you are a parent, you are painting a life for your child.  If you are a spouse, you are weaving together a tapestry of life with your partner.  If you live alone, you need to create a life=picture that makes you happy.

My "Artist Dates" were things like.....go play on a swing set by myself.  Go to a pet store and look at all the colorful and varied fish.  Go to a bookstore and browse on a subject that had always interested me.  Go to the library, find one of the comfy chairs, and settle in for an afternoon (or an hour, if that's all you have).  Instead of going out to the same restaurant for lunch, pick a place I've never been to, and fully engage myself watching people, reading the menu, trying something I would never pick out normally for lunch. Take a walk in the park or a flower garden.  Go to a nursery and look at all the flowers.  None of these things cost money.  They are an investment of time in yourself.


When was the last time you took the time to really look at a flower?  From the intense color to the delicate blossoms versus the tough cactus leaves, drenched in rainwater....it's a study in contrasts, just like life.  And like life, it can be beautiful even in its toughness.

I encourage you to write down your emotional needs bucket list, and start checking things off. Not a bucket list that has things like "climb Mt Everest" or "take a cruise" or any other 'big' item.  Start a bucket list of things you'd like to do for yourself that are small but you have not allowed yourself to do. Mine  included things like blow bubbles, take a bubble bath midweek, use the good china for everyday dining, learn to tap dance, re learn how to roller skate.  Feed the ducks at the local pond.  Make a commitment to call my best girlfriend and connect every week, make an un-birthday cake. 

Start taking care of yourself, start nourishing your soul, today.  This is the only time you have.  Tomorrow is not promised to us, yesterday is already gone, later today isn't even promised to us.  Now is the only time you have, so please, I encourage you, make the most of it. 

I close wishing you the best day of your life.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Your Highest Integrity

I  had an interesting conversation today with an friend of mine who is an attorney, and we were discussing legal issues and how they can affect people health, and he said something that prompted me to write today's blog.

We were talking about the state of the world, of people's finances and their health, and he asked me what my point of highest integrity was.  And I talked about honor and respect and doing what was right...and he countered and said "Your highest integrity is taking care of you, your health, your finances....because if you don't take care of you and your health and your finances, you can't be there for your husband, your family, your job, your community, the world."
Take time to play with animals. They live completely in the "Now"

He went on to talk about Bono and Bill Gates and how they have gone past financial concerns and health concerns and even community concerns, and how they are now having conversations about hunger, clean water, saving the planet, etc.  And he said you can't get to those points if you don't have your health, if your financial house isn't in order, if you are not facing your personal concerns.

And that reminded me of things I have read and things I learned while going through the various healing programs through Positive Choice in San Diego.  In the end, what do we really, truly have that is ours and that is intrinsically important?  Is it the big house? The fancy car?  The 401k balance? Where we have or are going to vacation?  In the end, it's our health and our happiness and our relationships.

I think about what is going on in Japan right now, with the aftermath of the earthquake and the Tsunami, and I know that right now, in this moment, whatever prestige a car, a home, a retirement account, possessions etc brought, are absolutely inconsequential and meaningless.  When the Tsunami waters receded, were people searching through the rubble and the debris for their TVs and Ipods?  No.  They were searching for one thing, and one thing only....their loved ones.

Were they wondering what was going to happen to their possessions?  Nope.  They were wondering "Where am I going to get shelter, clean water, a bathroom?" "Did my loved ones make it?"

Make Gingerbread Houses with children
Life in crisis really does boil down to the essentials, because when we are in a crisis we realize what is really and truly important.  I have talked to people after losing their homes to fire, and do you know what they regret?  Photos.  They can replace the 'stuff', but they can't replace the photos that will remind them of loving times spent with family and friends.

So if all we have really in the end is our health and our loved ones, wouldn't it make the most sense to structure our lives around that?  Is our job, even though it pays the bills, really the top priority? Is getting more 'stuff' really necessary, or would your time and money and energy and effort be better served by spending time with loved ones, or with taking care of yourself?

The main reason I decided to do the bariatric Rouen-Y gastric bypass surgery was health.  I knew the side benefits would be I would be more attractive, which is sadly what people see first, but it isn't what motivated me.  What motivated me was the first sentence in my health appraisal from Kaiser, which stated "You are so morbidly obese that we cannot determine your life expectancy."

Talk about a wake up call. 

I had been spending my life taking care of everyone else but me.  Accumulating wealth and losing health.  Eating poorly and destroying my heart.  Not exercising because I didn't have 'enough time' even though I seemed to have plenty of time to work late in the evening and the weekends.  I was focused on the truly wrong things.  I was focused on material goods, prestige, taking care of others....and my health was deteriorating every day.  My relationship with my husband was strong, but I realized after my health appraisal that there was a very strong possibility that, even though he is 22 years older than me, he might end up being the one taking care of me, changing my diapers, feeding me etc, while I was still a young woman.

I was financially and professionally solvent and physically and emotionally bankrupt.

Do you find yourself in this situation?  Do you spend little time with family because of work pressures?  Do you opt not to take vacation days?  Go to work when you are sick? (BTW, the rest of us hate you when you do that, because then you make US sick)  Do you buy things and spend no time? When are you going to take a good look at your situation and say "Enough!" and learn to refocus on yourself, your health, your well being, your priorities.

The bottom line is no one is going to care about you more than you can ever care for yourself.  No one will ever understand you and your needs, goals and dreams better than yourself.  So no one can make the decision to start taking care of your health and well being.

Start making decisions today to take care of you, to do things for you, not others.  Let others do for themselves.  Now, I'm not saying don't help people.  What I am saying is, help people as you can, but not beyond what you can.  learn to say "no" kindly.  Learn to develop boundaries and let other people handle their share of the load.  There's a great book called "Boundaries" by Whitecloud that really helps with this issue.

So are you professionally prosperous but emotionally bankrupt?
Do you give more to your job than you give to yourself?

What can you do about it, right now?  What small step can you take, RIGHT NOW, to change?  Can you turn off the TV and talk to your kids?  Can you  hire someone to come in and clean the house so you can spend the weekends with your family?  Can you stop listening to talk radio if it makes you angry?  Can you stop and smell the roses?  Walk in the grass barefoot?  Blow bubbles and watch the sunset?  What do YOU want to do?  What will make YOU happy?  Not your spouse, not your kids, not your boss, not your neighbors, not your friends....YOU. 

Find your happiness.  Find it everyday.  Find something to smile about.  Start focusing on what really matters ---- health and love.  In the end, in a crisis, that's what we are all searching for first. Your highest integrity is to you, your health, your wellness, you. Take care of you first, and the rest of the puzzle will rearrange itself into something beautiful for you.

I hope my words help you.  Please pass this forward to others you love who are working too hard, smoking too much, eating too much, gambling too much....you get the idea.  Spread love, Pollyanna sounding as it might seem. 
Enjoy Flowers.  Remember, God laughs in flowers.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Abundant Gratitude and Healing from abuse and anger

I saw a certificate on a friend's desk that started out as "Abundant Gratitude to..." and it inspired me to write today's blog.

It is so easy when we have been victims of abuse and addiction to either forget or forsake gratitude.  Why should we be grateful? would be an easy question.  What in the world is there possibly for me to be grateful for?  To heck with those of you who think in terms of gratitude, was my philosophy. 

Growing up I didn't find much to be grateful for.  All I could focus on was surviving, existing from one day to the next.  I was never sure which mother I was coming home to, was never sure what my father's mood would be coming home from work.  I walked on tippy toes on a bed of eggshells my entire childhood.  Fear was the dominant emotion.  Would I do something wrong that would result in punishment?  Would I be cut to the quick by my father's sarcasm?  It took everything I had sometimes to come to the dinner table and be near my family, and I ate as quickly as I could so I could be done with it and retreat back into my bedroom, my sanctuary.

What was there to be grateful for in a father that gave gifts like horses, only to take them away without warning or reason? (There's nothing like coming home from junior high school earlier than your father thought you would and seeing your horse being loaded into a stranger's van).  Or the day my guinea pigs disappeared, all 'going to a nice home' as my father put it.  Yes, this from the man who loved to trap squirrels in our backyard and then drown them in large trash cans still in the trap.  To this day I can still see their anguish and hear their piteous cries.  Is it any wonder I wonder to this day what happened to my pets?
Why should I be grateful for this?

Why should I be grateful for a father who moved us to an upscale neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, bought a Mercedes for cash in 1978, yet dressed me in my brother's hand-me-down Sears toughskins in a neighborhood of Sassoon and Jordache?  Let's not even talk about 'floods' for pants and a dorky haircut.  Again, why should I be grateful?

This was how I lived my life for a very long time-----angry and ungrateful; resentful of what others had.  Not even the physical things they had, their 'stuff'.  I was angry and resentful that I didn't have parents who would come to my school play, who would encourage me in a spelling bee, who would show the world they loved me.  Nope, that was not to be.

So I grew up as a very angry adult.  And anger, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, is a very acidic emotion, eating up your soul from the inside-out.  It is much like high blood pressure, a silent killer.  You don't know how much damage has occured until sometimes, unfortunately, it is too late.

So what do you do?  How do you pull yourself out of anger and into happiness?

Well, one thing I can say from experience, it doesn't happen overnight.  I have yet to see a fairy godmother or angel come down and take away all my anger in one fell swoop.  But, in an odd way, I am really glad it didn't happen that way. 

What?!?!?!? Are you nuts?  Why wouldn't you want all that pain and anger gone instantly????

Well, what I have learned is that anger is a shield, a very effective tough outer shell that can protect your fragile self from the outside world.  If you take that shell off all at once, you would collapse.  So the shell of anger has to be healed a little at a time, as much as you can handle at one time.  And how do you do that?

I have mentioned forgiveness as a very powerful healing tool in past blogs.  Another amazing tool in your spiritual warrior's bag is gratitude.  Yes, gratitude.

You might not be able to be grateful at first.  That's understandable.  Start small.  Be grateful that you are alive.  Be grateful that you have eyesight and can read this blog.  Be grateful that you have access to the amazing invention called the internet, where you can be halfway around the world and reading this blog that originated from California.

Be grateful for chocolate, or vanilla, or strawberries.  Be grateful for funny kittend and puppies.  Be grateful that the sun is shining and the sky is blue.

Now, is this going to seem a little hokey and Pollyanna at first?  You bet it is.  It's going to seem stupid and contrived and embarrassing.  Do it anyway. What do you have to lose?  Oh yeah, that's right. Anger.  Well, do you want to keep feeling this anger?  If you don't try being a little hokey.

I read somewhere that you should try to find 6 new things every day to be grateful for.  I got a little spiral book and wrote 1 through 6 in each page, and every day tried to find something to be grateful for.  Some days, let me tell you, it was hard to find anything to be grateful for.  I have to admit, those days I cheated and re-used past gratitudes.

What you are going to find is that as you find small things to be grateful for, your world will open up and you will find bigger things to be grateful for. And then when you find larger things to be grateful for, your anger will not be able to exist as easily in your soul.  Gratitude is a much stronger emotion than anger.  Now, it may not be as strong 'physically' in your body, but emotionally and spiritually it is a much happier place to live in.  And it can crowd out anger and resentment if you will only let it.

And at some point in your life, if you keep practicing gratitude, you might run across a certificate on a  friend's desk that says "abundant gratitude" and it will hit you the way it did me.

I have learned to live in abundance, and gratitude.  Will what happened to me ever change?  Nope.  But I can make a decision RIGHT NOW, today, to be grateful.  And the more abundant my gratitude, the more abundant my life. 

I know, it sounds hokey. But what you're doing right now isn't working anyway, is it? That's why my blog 'sings' to you...... try being hokey, learn to be grateful, and find happiness.

I hope my words have inspired you and healed you.  Please pass this forward to someone you know who needs to read this....or to someone who loves you who supports you.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Creating a new perspective on Childhood Abuse

"It's not what happens to you that determines how far you will go in life; it is how you handle what happens to you." -Zig Ziglar
One thing that comes up over and over again as I talk to friends about healing their personal childhood abuse issues is that as adults we hold onto hurts so much longer than we need to.  Child abuse issues must be acknowledged and the fact that the child abuse happened will never go away, but we can learn to reframe how we view what happened.
Did my mother tell me "I wish you were never born" and "I should have had an abortion"?  Yes.  Did she try to smother me with a pillow when I was three because I wouldn't stop crying?  Yes.  Did my father have an inappropriate relationship with me?  Yes.  Did horrible child abuse happen to me?  Yes.
I carried pain inside of me for a long time.  I made a decision when I was a child that I was somehow not worthy of love and happiness because my parents and family abused me.  That decision colored my life for many years.  It determined the kind of friends I had, it determined the way people treated me, determined the way I let people treat me,  it determined how much I did or did not engage in life. The decisions I made as a child, about my childhood abuse, kept me trapped for many years.
Part of me wants to say kept me trapped 'for too long' instead of 'for many years' and that's what I actually typed out at at first.  But that's the victim and abuser voice in my head, and I have learned to hear those words and have learned to reframe and change the way I talk to myself.  I have learned to stop abusing myself.
I was angry and sad for a very long time, and even to this day I when someone gets angry at me or shows me conditional love, I revert to that small defenseless child and wonder how I can change so they will love me. And anger comes up when I feel like I'm 'not enough'.  It's amazing what childhood abuse can do to your pysche.
What I have realized is that no one will love you unless you love yourself.  Again, did my parents abuse me?  Yes.  But I have the choice as an adult to forgive them and start loving myself and parenting myself the way I wanted to be parented and loved. No one can love me the way I can love myself.  And I have learned that it is not selfish or narcissistic to love yourself.  You are truly a child of God and you are worthy of the purest, best love there is ---- self love.  No one knows you the way you do.  No one will ever understand your needs, wants, desires, the way you do.  No one will ever understand how child abuse colored your world and perspective.  Only you can understand yourself in the truest sense.

Now, self-love and forgiveness does not happen overnight.  Years of child abuse and also 'childhood' abuse were ingrained in the very fiber of my being.  It had created who I was, how I viewed the world, how I reacted to slights, whether real or imagined.  It colored the way I viewed the world, and it was definitely not through rose-colored glasses. Any words anyone spoke to me were filtered through an experiential lens of abuse and conditional love.  I suspected everyone who wanted to get close to me....what did they want from me?  After all, I had learned at a very early age that I wasn't loveable, so they must want something from me.  They couldn't possibly love me just for me, could they?

So back to the quote that inspired me to write my blog today:
"It's not what happens to you that determines how far you will go in life; it is how you handle what happens to you." -Zig Ziglar

What I had to learn was that the child abuse that happened to me, happened.  Nothing would ever change that.  But I have learned, once again, to reframe it from an loving adult perspective and have realized that there is nothing wrong with me.  Actually, there was nothing 'wrong' with my parents either.  We are who we are, we are what events shape us.  My mother lived through the Nazi occupation of Europe.  She was a paranoid psychophrenic, and an alcoholic and drug addict.  Her father abandoned her and her mother and ran away to Uruguay and left them.  She married my father and lived in Texas.....an Austrian woman with a thick Germanic accent in Texas.  Right.  That must have gone over well.
So she did what she did based on her beliefs and anger and fears that were eating her up inside.  Her actions against me were a reflection of her and her world, her hatred, her anger, her sadness.  Her actions against me were just that----actions----they were not what made me good or bad.  I have learned that things really aren't 'good' or 'bad'....they just 'are'. 

So I have made a decision that I am a worthy person, and even though seemingly "bad" things happened to me, they are not who I am as a person.  Does it still hurt when I think about it sometimes? Of course. Do I wish I had had a mother who loved me unconditionally, who wanted me and who was glad I was in her life? Of course.  Did that happen?  No.  But I have a choice every day when I wake up.

I can choose to have my life reflect what happened to me, or I can choose to have my life reflect how I feel about myself.  And, after much therapy, thought and self reflection, I have chosen to love myself, and have decided that my parents did what they did, but it is not a reflection of the worthy person I am.

You can get there, I promise you.  You will need to do some serious, quiet alone-time reflection.  You will need to journal, to draw pictures (sometimes ugly), to write nasty letters that you then commit to fire or a watery grave.  You will need to learn to look at yourself and love yourself.  You will need to make decisions that you are going to win at this game called life, and that you are going to decide to be happy, no matter what.

Yes, bad things happen.  "Bad" things happen to good people.  Life seemingly is sometimes just not fair....but you know something....that's actually just a belief.  Life just is....now it's up to you to decide if it's going to be 'good' or 'bad'.  You have that choice within you....I wish you the best in the choice that you decide to make.

If my words have helped you, please let me know.  And please help me help others by passing word of this blog forward to those you love.  Maybe even to those you don't love....they need love too.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Heal your Inner Child Artist

Creating this blog has been one of the scariest things of my life.  I am tossing my words out into the universe called the Internet, and I have no idea who is reading them, have no idea whether people like, love, hate or just don't care about my words.  That is a truly terrifying thing for someone who has struggled with low self-esteem her whole life.  To put myself and my creativity, the one thing I have guarded zealously, out into the world to who knows who, has been scary.  But you know what else it has been?  It has been incredibly freeing and joyous.  I love words.  Words flow from my fingertips and my mind so quickly, and when I don't write, I find myself getting closed in onto myself.  So I give this blog to you with the hopes that you too will find your own voice, will learn to nourish your soul, and will learn that you can free yourself from the grip of addiction and pain by learning to love yourself for yourself.  Is it going to happen overnight?  Nope.  Is it going to be painful? You bet.  Will it be worth it?  Absolutely. that I unequivocally promise to you.

So here's my thoughts for today:


Growing up I was surrounded by artistic people.  My mother, off kilter in so many other ways, was extremely talented with knitting and crochet.  She could look at a magazine photo and then create an identical sweater just by charting it out herself.  And I'm not talking basic sweaters and cardigans.  I'm talking Fair Isle sweaters, intarsia, complex colors and patterns.  She was also a ballerina before moving to the United States after WWII. 

So, she tried to teach me how to knit and crochet.  I learned okay enough for the basics, but I kept getting frustrated because I would add new stitches.  It's only now that I know why I did that, and have corrected my error on that, but when I was 14 years old and in the throes of hormonal out-of-wackness, all I could think about is that I failed at the one thing she was interested in teaching me.  So, as was my defense mechanism way, I shut down and stopped knitting.  One thing I had learned as a child from my parents---if you can't be instantly good at it, you're a failure at it.  There was no room for mistakes, no room for error.  I was terrified to make mistakes, so if I couldn't figure something new out quickly, I just wouldn't pursue it.

My sister, on the other hand, was a demon with a needle, and quickly started making her own sweaters, purses, hats, etc. 

My middle brother played the piano, the guitar, painted, wrote music.  I remember taking piano lessons when I was probably 7 years old, and hating it.  I did not want to learn to play the piano, I didn't want to compete with my 'artistic' brother.  If I couldn't be as good as he was, why would I bother?  And again, if I didn't become a concert pianist overnight, then I obviously wasn't any good.  And he was the "artist" of the family, and there didn't seem to be room for another one. 

My two older brothers had a way with drawing.  Me, I could draw stick figures and could sketch a cartoon horse and dog, but nothing else.  Again, why try, I was a 'failure'.

The one thing I was good at, and wanted desperately to be since the 4th grade, was a writer.  Running off to the library and immersing myself in the peace and solitude I found there, I was able to transport myself away from my insane family and lose myself in stories.  I felt truly alive when reading, and stories sailed me far away from reality. 

So I wrote.  I wrote poetry, short stories, essays.  Never showed them to anyone other than teachers, who always were very kind and gave me good marks for my writing.  So when I was a teenager, stuck alone in a house in Valencia, I started writing a novel.  A fully fantastical make believe story in which my alter-ego starred, where I was in control, where I saved the day.  Of course there was romance, and family who loved me, and tragedy and triumph.  I worked on that novel for 2 years, from when I was 14 to 16.  Friends read chapters of it and wanted more.

Then I made my mistake.  I desperately wanted my father's approval of the one thing in the world that mattered to me, the one thing that made me feel whole, and I asked him to read my novel.  Big mistake for a fearful young girl with self-esteem issues.  My father read the book.  His response?  "Not the kind of stuff I like to read."

I was crushed, mortified, and slunk off to lick my wounds.  I didn't write again for over 15 years, although the dream of being a writer continued to chase me in my dreams.  Again I had been rejected by my parent, again instead of love and encouragement there was dismissal and disdain.

Then, I went to Kaiser Permanente's Positive Choice program, and during one of my Optifast odysseys (more on that in another blog) I discovered in the workbook I was given a suggestion to a book that transformed my perspective on what it means to be an artist, and that truly we are all artists.

That book is "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron.

I started reading it, and discovered "Artist Dates".  Dates with you and you alone, to fill your well of creativity.  Now, my well had run dry a long time ago, and I had been too afraid to dig another well.  Julia Cameron in her book guided me through various exercises and taught me to journal for three pages every day.  Three pages of stream=of-consciousness writing, to clear my head, calm me down, and get the creative juices flowing.

I learned through reading that book that I really was an artist, and that being a best-selling author wasn't the point of writing; writing was the point of writing.  Writing is what fulfills my soul's aches and pains.  Writing completes me.  Writing lets me let loose the feelings inside of me that I cannot express verbally.  Writing flows from my fingers to the paper.  Writing for me is extremely cathartic.

So I have learned through this book (and this blog, which is stream=of=conscious for me, I just write from the heart) that everyone is an artist, that everyone has something to create and contribute.  I learned to stop judging my efforts, learned to stop picking myself apart and second-guessing myself. 

You too are an artist.  There is something that you love to do that you have been too afraid to do. You have been afraid to be ridiculed, mocked, belittled.  You have worried that your 'art' won't measure up.  Well, my question is, what is it measuring up to?  Just create.  I have learned that I have to create; that I am a child of God, and God is the ultimate artist.  Just look at all the creatures in the world, with their funny shapes and colors and patterns, and you know that God had a lot of fun creating the world, and didn't worry that people were going to judge the end result.

Let your inner artist out.  Learn to play with color, with fabric, with paint, with clay.  Try something you have always wanted to learn.  Do you like to dance?  Try Zumba, or tap dance, or belly dancing (I tried all three!)....you might not be good at it right away, but you're at least trying!  And you are nourishing your soul, which is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.


"God Laughs in Flowers"

Let your inner artist out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"work" versus "play"

Today I was in a School Site Council meeting, and the principal started off the meeting with a quote that really resonated with me.  Here it is:

"When we engage in what we are naturally suited to do, our work takes on the quality of play and it is play that stimulates creativity"

So I challenge you to ask yourself.....are you having fun playing with life, or is life just something you get through? 

I ask this because for so many years of my life I was what John Bradshaw calls a "human doing" instead of a 'human being'.  All of my identity, self worth, beliefs about myself were centered around what I did.  What I did for friends and family.  What I did for a living.  What I did to take care of everyone else but me. Everything was centered around an identity I created for myself, and I was trapped in it.

When I woke up in the morning it took every ounce of my strength to pull myself together and get myself out of bed.  I hated what I was doing for a living, hated going to the office, even though at the time (and this was over 6 years ago) I was self=employed and in an industry I loved. But I didn't want to go to the office and face people, I felt like I was not being authentic to myself or them, and it was draining my life force energy to put on a happy smile and face the day.

So work was a drudgery, and it showed up in my life in obesity.  I didn't feel like I had any control over other parts of my life, but I could control (I thought) my relationship with food.  And that relationship was an illicit love affair I conducted in full view of everyone in my life.  Was I sad?  Have a snack.  How about angry about how the day had gone.  No worries, chocolate cures all ills.  Did I have a fight with my spouse?  Perhaps a drink would be in order, to help calm me down.  Did someone cut me off in traffic and I took it personally?  Popcorn was always a sure=fire comfort to me.

So I had to take control of what I did 80% of the time, which was my work.  Do you like what you are doing for a living, or are you just a 'human doing'?   Do you wake up joyful in the morning?  I do now, but I had to change what I did for a living to become free and more of a 'human being'.  If you don't, perhaps it's time to go back to school, or sign up for a community college training series.  Learn a new language.  Start a new hobby.  What do you like to do that you would do for free?  And now look at how you can actually make that your life's work.  Make work fun and life will become fun.

Do you like your friends? If not, change them.  If they aren't positive, don't hang around them.  They will keep you stuck. They don't mean to, it's just human nature.  We can only rise to the level of the people around us.  If you want to change and improve, your 'friends' are going to resist you changing.  After all, if you change, it's a direct threat and challenge to them.  They like you the way you are....stuck.  They don't want you to grow.  Now, they don't know that consciously.  But they will say things like "what makes you think you can do that?" or "my uncle tried that and he failed...." or 'why do you want to take time from your family to go back to school?"  all of these things are couched in a way that you think they are asking because they care about you.  wrong.  they want you to stay stuck, it's easier for them. 

but remember, it's your life.  And if you don't like what you are doing for a living, and it's 80% of your life....why are you doing it?

Thoughts?  Please comment, let's start a discussion.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman

Another book that really helped me along the way in my healing journey started out as a book that I read to help improve my marriage's communication.

"The Five Love Languages/ How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to your Mate" by Gary Chapman was suggested in a training seminar I attended about 10 years ago for financial services, of all things.  The speaker talked about her marriage, how it was strong, they were happy, but they were starting to slide into a rut and couldn't get out of it.

She talked about how she would do things for her husband that she personally would like him to do for her, to express her love for him....and it seemed her efforts fell on deaf ears.  So frustration grew roots in the foundation of their marriage, creating tiny cracks that weeds were sprouting up in.  The foundation of their marriage was still strong, but she realized that if they didn't pay attention to the weeds sprouting up, their marital foundation could very quickly turn into a vacant lot populated by weeds.

That really struck me, because I love my husband, but there were things he used to do in our relationship that he didn't do anymore, and I probably did things in the beginning that I didn't do for him anymore, and our relationship, while good, was not the amazing beautiful thing it had been in the beginning.  It had grown stale.

So, during this financial services training seminar, a gem of a book was planted in my lap, if I would just be proactive and go get it.  Which, thankfully, I did.

Now, the odd part of this, in a really great way, is that I started reading the book to help improve my marriage, but what I ended up doing was healing a large part of myself by finally understanding how I need love expressed to me.

There are, as the title indicates, five love languages.  They are:
1. Acts of Service
2. Time
3. Gifts
4. Appreciation
5. Physical Touch

We all need all five in various levels and forms, but what I learned is one or two are dominant, and the reason you are originally attracted to your mate (and all those around you) is that they fill your 'love bank' with your love language.

I learned that my two primary love languages are "Time" and "Acts of Service".  My husband's are "Physical Touch" and "Appreciation"

So, here's a scenario.  My husband loves to watch TV.  I mean loves it.  Has a 'man cave' with hundreds of DVDs, a huge 52" TV, surround sound, etc.  We would watch movies and TV together, and as far as he understood, he was filling my love language by spending "time" with me.  I could never explain to him that even though we were spending 'time' together, I was still frustrated, and would get angry at him.  He on his side didn't understand why I was angry and frustrated by him.

What I learned in the book is we were being in 'proximity' with each other, not spending 'time' with each other.  When I read this part of the book to him, a light bulb went off for each of us, and what we realized was that in the early part of our dating and marriage we would go out and do things together....it could be as simple as taking a walk on the beach, or even running errands together.  Now, we spent time in 'proximity'.  We were near each other, but not spending one-on-one time with each other.

So what we learned to do was this:  When I was feeling frustrated or angry for what seemed no apparent reason, I would step back and think about why I was angry, and looked inside to see if we had not been spending enough time (as far as I was concerned, as it was my love language) together.  If that was the case, I would say "proximity, not time" and we knew we needed to do something together.

Now, notice, I had to take responsibility for getting my love language fulfilled.  This was not my husband's responsibility.  He can't mind read (and if you know anyone who can, let me know!) and needed me to guide him to help me fulfill my needs.  Again, it's my responsibility to ask for what I need (not an easy thing to learn).  His responsibility was being willing to meet me and spend time with me.  And so my 'love bank' would get deposits that would hedge against the inevitable time where he would make 'withdrawals' by pissing me off or disappointing me, etc.  (and trust me, I made plenty of my own withdrawals from his love bank by my behavior, and had to be very conscious to put in large 'deposits' of his love language as well!)

But here was the really eye-opening thing for me.  When I realized that 'time' was my love language, it all of a sudden put my relationships with my mother and father into much different perspective.  I realized that all this time I had thought they didn't love me or want me....and a lot of it was because they were never able to fill my love language....they didn't spend 'time' with me. 

Sadly, they had their own demons to deal with.  As I mentioned in previous posts, my mother was an alcoholic, prescription-drug-addicted paranoid pschophrenic.  I realize now as I am 45 that my mother needed every ounce of her own energy to deal with the disease and addictions she battled daily.  Now, that allowed me to forgive her.  Will she ever be the mother I wished she could have been?  No.  Did she say and do horrible things to me?  Yes.  Did she love me?  I think so.  Can I re frame my relationship and my childhood and forgive her and heal with this new knowledge?  Yes, absolutely.  Because I have chosen to no longer live in a victim mentality, I have learned, a little at a time, to forgive her.

My father didn't know what to do with girls.  He raised me and my sister essentially as boys.  Did he love me?  I think so.  Was he there for me the way I needed him to be? Nope. The one thing I wanted from him was time, and he was not willing or able to give it.  But I could again re frame my relationship with him and make a decision for myself and my healing journey, that even though he would never be able to give me the love that I need (time), I cannot assume he didn't love me. 

This was an amazing breakthrough for me, and it helped me heal more pockets of pain in my soul.  It was like a cooling salve on emotional ulcers I had been carrying around with me for decades.  Again, was my childhood wonderful? No.  But if I re frame it and take responsibility for my emotions and make my own decision to heal, I can learn to remember the good times much easier.  Before, happy memories were always blocked by a red film of anger and grief.  Now I can pull them out and look at them and enjoy those memories.

I hope you read the book and I hope it helps you understand yourself better, and helps you understand not only your spouse, but also your children (are you filling their lives with YOUR love language, or theirs?), your friends, your coworkers, and others in your community.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grief and the WLS process

I didn't want to have the weight loss surgery.

In fact, I was extremely angry that my life had come to this pass.


THEN....
I couldn't believe that I could be so successful in every other part of my life, but in this one area, I was an abysmal failure.

Yes, I was very good at mentally kicking myself and knocking myself down.  But I'd had a lot of practice and had been trained by two masters of the game, my parents.

So how did I make the final decision to not only actually go through with this surgery, but changed my mind and embraced this surgery and the radical change in my life that it would engender?

Well, I did a lot of thinking.  A lot.  A lot of reading.  A lot of therapy, both group and individual.  I journalled a lot.  I journalled for 10 years as I worked my way from a victim mentality, then graduated to a survivor mentality, then existing mentality, to finally thriving and embracing life mentality.  Did it happen overnight?  No.  Did I get angry through the healing process? You bet.  I don't think anyone can really be as angry as a recovering addict.  I mean, you're taking away the one thing that defines them, the one thing in their life they can truly control.....and offering quite frankly not a single guarantee that life is going to be better or more in control on the 'other side' of addiction.  You are asking someone to give up a known thing, no matter how abusive it is, for an unknown.

Think of women who are victims of spousal abuse.  People ask, "why don't they just leave?"....as if it's as simple as that? Why would you leave, when you can predict what's going to happen when your husband comes home, mad, drunk or whatever?  You at least know what will happen.  If you leave, you give up a certain insane control over your life.  You have to rely on other people to help you....that's a huge yawning gaping hole of a risk!  You have to do things you have never done....your coping mechanisms might not work. You might fail.  It might be "easier" to stay than to go.  That's addiction.  It seems easier to just stay put.  It's definitely a lot easier to reach for the food than to say 'no'.

When your life and identity are wrapped around something abusive, you have to let that part of you die so that the rest of you can live.  It's like committing emotional suicide without the promise or guarantee of life.  You hope there's life after addiction, after abuse, but you're not quite sure.  After all, you watch celebrities famously go through the addiction and recovery process....and a lot of them don't make it either.

So I had to come to a conclusion, over time, and that was that my addiction had taken over my life, and I truly did not have a life anymore.  Oh, on the outside, to all appearances I had a wonderful life.  I had a successful career, people liked me and thought I was funny, I was in a stable marriage with a nice man.....blah blah blah..... Like I said, to all appearances I had a wonderful life.  But it really wasn't MY life.  It was my addiction's life.  My addiction (food) controlled everything I did.  It controlled who my friends were, where I went on vacation, what clothing I could wear, what activities I could or couldn't do.  My addiction owned my life.  It decided everything I did.

Now, everyone's process of recovery is different, and I can only speak for my own.  But I have found that many recovering addicts go through similar phases and have similar thoughts.  We all just choose the addiction or abuse that works best for us.

My final decision came down to the fact that I had a choice on surgeries.  I could either choose the time and place for the WLS, or I could wait for a possible stroke or heart attack, not under my control and not at my date and time of choosing.

So, as I said earlier, I had to let that part of me die, so the rest of me could live.

And I had to mourn that death.  I had to mourn the loss of my identity.  I had to mourn the loss of my addiction, my lover.  I had to go through every stage of grief before I was emotionally ready for surgery.  I went through the apathy, the grief, the denial, the anger...every single stage.  I had to find the courage in myself to let that addicted part of me die.  I went through terrible rage over this; terrible anger at myself and the world that I had to do this.  I played the "life isn't fair" game for a long time.  I played the "tomorrow I will be able to have the willpower" game.

But there is never enough willpower to fight an entrenched foe.  You must truly kill that foe so he can no longer harm you.  And if you can't kill him right away, you need to at least maim him so he becomes weaker. 

And so I went through a series of 'final meals' where I said goodbye to my comfort food.  And I journalled about how the food made me feel, good and bad.  And I journalled about everything that I was missing out on in life because of the food and the addiction.  I cried over the loss of pizza, pasta, bread and rice.  I cried over the thought of no more club sandwiches.  Dessert and chocolate, my most passionate lovers, took the hardest, and we had many reconciliations before the final breakup. 

Think about a friend of yours who is in a bad relationship but keeps hanging on, despite abuse or just plain incompatibility.  You can figure out why they are constantly trying to make the relationship 'work' when you can see from the outside that it is a doomed affair.  But to your friend, they need to hang onto this relationship because it's all they know, and if they let it go, then what?  And so the relationship limps along, lasting much longer than is healthy.....until finally one day your friend has had enough, and gets the courage together to finally walk away and properly mourn the ending.

That's how I finally let go of the stranglehold food addiction had on me.  I knew for myself that I had to go through this before my surgery, because if I didn't get this right in my head and my heart before the surgery, I would be doomed to failure.

And that's what I saw from people I talked to.  Those who struggled after surgery never faced the addiction before the surgery.  They said they understood that the surgery was not a 'magic pill' but in their hearts they hoped it was.  And so they didn't do the pre-work necessary for success.  So the addiction never got properly addresses and healed; now what they have is a small stomach, malabsorption and a food addiction.

You have GOT to get your head straight BEFORE surgery.  Go to therapy.  Talk to people who have both 'won' and 'lost' the WLS game.  Read books, listen to books on tape.  Go to support groups BEFORE your surgery.  Get to know your therapist....they can be a great lifeline for you.

Write down your bucket list of all the things you want to do that your addiction is not letting you do right now.  Post it somewhere visible and look at it every day.  Create a 'vision board' with things you want to do but can't right now.  Think about how great you will feel when you CAN do these things.  I looked at that every day, and when I was crying and mourning, I reminded myself that the pain does go away, and that pleasure was waiting for me on the other side of the WLS.

I hope my words have helped you.  Please 'follow' me on my blog, and please pass this blog information forward to friends of yours who want to help you, and to friends and colleagues who are struggling with addiction.  My dream is to create a community where we can all help each other and 'pay it forward'.

...AND NOW.

May your God bless you.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Suggested books to read

Hello everyone
I have been requested to list some of the books I have read that have helped me along in my healing journey.  One thing I will be doing as this blog progresses is addressing specific books and specific emotional that I did from the books, to help you see how I personally progressed and healed and hopefully help you move forward in your healing path.  But in the meantime, here are a few books and how they helped me:

The courage to heal : a guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse : featuring "Honoring the truth, a response to the backlash" / Ellen Bass and Laura Davis.

To this day I cannot say if I was a victim of child sexual abuse; my mother accused my father of it, and I now that I slept in his bed until I was about 11 years old, so if it wasn't technical abuse it was still an unhealthy situation. I do know I was the victim of other abuse, so what I decided to do with this book is approach it from an abuse standpoint, and did the exercises in the book from that point of view.

This is an amazing book, but it is not an easy book.  Be gentle with yourself as you read this; allow yourself to put it down and work through whatever you can as you can, and give yourself permission to take breaks.

The biggest thing this book allowed me to do was forgive myself for being a child and being unable to defend myself.  I realized that I was looking at myself from an adult point of view and blaming myself for allowing myself to be abused.  This book opened my eyes and helped me re-look at myself as a vulnerable child, and allowed me to forgive myself.

Another great book for me was John Bradshaw's On the family: a revolutionary way of self discovery.
This book was recommended to me by my therapist at Kaiser, and it really helped me to see where I fit within the family dynamic, and why I did the things I did today as an adult in my relationships. 

Geneen Roth's When Food is Love is another good book; it gave me a good perspective on my love affair with food.  I think it's a great 'beginning' book for the healing process.

The artist's way : a spiritual path to higher creativity / Julia Cameron with Mark Bryan
Is a book about journalling and taking artist dates and becoming comfortable with yourself as a creative person.  I have read and done the exercises in this book at three different times, even took a group class in San Diego on the book; it has helped me a lot.  You don't have to think of yourself as a creative person or an artistic person to have this book help you.

I will reference other books as I go along; a friend is going to help me refine this blog so I can provide links to these books in the future on my blog.  Anyone know how to do that and wants to comment to help me I would be greatly appreciative! I have the gift of words but not the gift of technology.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Forgiveness versus Anger

"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it." Mark Twain

This quote inspired me for my blog today.  As I have mentioned in past blogs, when you are angry at someone, hating them for what harm they have done to you, thinking forever about ways to revenge yourself, thinking about how horrible they are....you are stuck in victim mode, and you are constantly drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die.

It's like when you are in traffic and someone cuts you off.  You might honk at them or not, but either way you scream profanity in your car, or seethe inside for the remainder of the drive home, nursing your anger and your hurt for far longer than the actual event.  This is poisoning your soul, and you are the one doing it to yourself! You are the only one poisoning you.  The other person either doesn't realize what they did, doesn't care, and has already forgotten about it, because it's not important to them.  Your anger does not harm them in any way, shape or form....but it is like pouring acid on your soul.  Again, only you are harming yourself.

For many years I lived in victim mode.  I was comfortable there; I had a sob story I could pull out and make people feel bad for me.  And it was a horrible story.  But staying in the victim mode also allowed me to not live up to my potential.  I didn't have to take risks, didn't have to be vulnerable to people, as long as I nursed my victim story.  It was easier to get sympathy from people than actually live up to my capabilities.  After all, I was used to it, and I had learned from the telling of the tale how shocked people were by my abusive childhood.  So if I didn't succeed at something, I had a fall-back story to rely on for why I didn't succeed.

What I didn't realize until I read enough recovery books is that the only person perpetuating the victim myth....was me.  I had a choice whether I wanted to let my parents win or whether I was going to win and live life on my own terms.  Every time I told the victim story, my parents 'won' because I was living as a result of them.

So I had to go through anger.  A lot of anger.  I truly believe you can't get to forgiveness until you have lived thru the anger.  Anger is a hot emotion, but it is a cleansing emotion if used properly.  You can use the white hot heat of anger to burn away the victim story.  You can cleanse yourself if you will allow yourself to finally experience your anger....but then you MUST let it go.  If you don't let it go, it will consume you and leave you a pile of ashes.  Use the anger to burn off the outer defense mechanism layer of your person.  You don't have any more anger inside of you than what you can handle.  Trust me, you've lived this long with the anger simmering below the surface.  You've carried around the hot coals of hate, shame, humiliation your whole life.  You are used to the burden.  God will help you burn the pain away if you will allow it.

So, who do you have for forgive?  I started with my mother, as I had the most issues with her.  I was very angry with her....she cut me out of her will....now I wasn't angry over not getting money.  I mean, the money would have been nice; I'm not a hypocrite.  But that's not what I was angry over.  What I was angry over was that she put in a public document, for all the world to see, the fact that she never wanted me.  I had lived with the "I wish you had never been born" and the "I should have flushed you down the toilet" and "if you had been born a redhead I would have killed you" and the "Susy, you have to understand, you're strong, and your brothers are not.  I always have to love the underdog more".  All painful things, but I was able to keep moving forward because deep in my heart I had told myself, it's her disease, it's her schizophrenia talking, it's not real.  But forever she changed my life (victim story) when her will was read.

All the old anger, hate, thwarted unrequited love, pain, humiliation, shame that I had felt for 30 years and had repressed, repressed, repressed, poured out of me.  I burned with anger and hate for her.  I hated my siblings, hated my father, hated myself most of all.  What was wrong with me that she couldn't love me?

I drank emotional poison for several years, nursed the long necked drinks of anger night after night, day after day.  I so filled my body with poison I couldn't believe people were around me and couldn't see me drowning in front of them in agony.  But I had learned to hide so well behind a mask as a child that no one saw my pain.

I lived this way for several years.  And I read books.  One pivotal book was  "The Courage to Heal" by Bass.  This is a book about incest survivors.  To this day I don't know if I am an incest survivor, but I know I am an abuse survivor, so when I went thru the exercises in this book , I just substituted 'abuse' for 'incest'.  Abuse is still abuse, whatever form it takes.

What I learned from reading that shatteringly good book is this:  I had to forgive my mother, I had to forgive my father.....but most importantly, I had to forgive myself.  I had to forgive myself for being a tiny defenseless child and 'allowing' myself to be abused.  I had to to forgive myself for being a child.  I had to forgive myself for not protecting myself.

Forgiveness does not come easily; in fact I think it is one of the hardest things a person can do.  It's easy to say 'I forgive you" but it's much harder to actually forgive, to stop re-opening the scab of resentment and picking at the sores.  Forgiveness is a gift of love and life that you give to yourself.  It is a gift of true love to yourself.  And no, it doesn't happen at once.   You might start with forgiving small acts of another.  You don't have to forget, but you need to forgive.  And you need to forgive those small acts over and over and over again, until one day you can talk about whatever happened that used to hurt you, and it will be like talking about a story that happened to someone else.  It just doesn't hurt any more.

And from that platform of forgiveness of a small thing, you can dredge up the courage to tackle some wrong done to you that was bigger or more hateful.  And you will need to forgive and forgive and forgive over and over and over again on the same thing until once again it looses its power to hurt you.

And then you go on to the next, larger wrong, and then even larger wrong.  You must forgive and forgive and forgive, again until the pain goes away. 

Sometimes forgiveness happens in huge chunks.  Other times you can forgive and heal a little, and then months will go by before you are ready to go thru the cathartic anger that leads to forgiveness.  Be kind to yourself.  You didn't get to where you are right now overnight.  These pains and hurts and humiliations and shames have been festering for many, many years.  Do not think that you will release them overnight.  Their hold on you has been cemented over time with tears and grief.

But, like any other cement, you can take a sledgehammer to it and smack it really hard, and at least crack it.  And in that cracked cement water (love) can flow in, and the next thing you know a small flower is growing in the crack.  That flower is God's love for you, and that love grows stronger and stronger if you will let it.  And so you watch a small flower, something so seemingly fragile, start to tear apart the concrete.  And then you see more flowers and plants starting to grow and flourish in the cracks.  The roots of love start pulling the concrete apart, and more cracks show up.  And as you forgive and fill your soul with God's love, you will start to heal, and more flowers will show up.  And eventually, just like any deserted yard left to nature, the flourishing plants of love, which are tougher and stronger than any anger or hate, will take over the concrete as if it was never there.

Does it happen overnight?  No.  I wish I had a magic pill for you and could make it all better with a kiss.  But it doesn't happen that way.  It happens with time and effort.  And again, there is NOTHING inside of you that is stronger than you.  NOTHING.  You've survived this far with your anger, shame, humiliation and grief, and it hasn't won.  So take hope from that, and shine a light of Love into the dark places of your soul.

I leave you with these words and much love and wish you the best on your healing journey.


I want to thank my wonderful husband Ernie, who has stood beside me these 15 years that I have struggled through my addiction to food, struggled to accept myself as who I am, love myself as me, and has helped me become a better person because of my relationship to him.  May you be as fortunate and blessed with love as I have been.  Please be open to it, even if you don't believe it's possible, even if you've never experienced it.  It truly does exist in the world....even if you do your best to drive it away (which I did).


Ernie and Maggie

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Doubt versus Faith

"Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother" ---Kahlil Gibran

All my life I have wanted my words to help people, but I was too afraid to let them out for fear of rejection. I wrote a novel when I was a teenager, and then made the mistake of giving it to my father to read.  His response?  "Okay, but I really don't read stuff like this."  Talk about destroying your daughter's hopes and dreams.  I didn't write again for about 20 years.

Fear of rejection has hounded me my entire life.  When the two people in the entire world, your mother and father, have rejected you, it is very hard to trust any other person on this planet.  For most of my adult life, I relied upon the skills of repression that I had learned as a child.  Don't show your emotions.  Don't acknowledge your emotions.  Keep a poker face; don't let people know they have hurt you.  I succeeded in repressing some emotions, but the side effect was an incredible amount of anger.  My fuse was extremely short,  you just didn't want to piss me off.  And the anger would explode at the smallest thing. 

My anger frightened me, but at the same time I felt it protected me. After all, who gets too close or personal with an angry person?  And my anger was just a mask for the fear, the incredible, debilitating fear that ruled my life.  On the outside I was successful ---- I owned my first house at age 23, ran a branch of a finance company, had long-term personal relationships, took great vacations.  Again, all on the outside.  I had learned well at my parents' feet to put a smiley face mask forward to the world while I cried inside.

I learned in my late 20's that anger did not serve me, in fact it was killing me.  High blood pressure and tension headaches, grinding my teeth and insomnia were the tip offs.  But what to do?  Anger protected me, it provided an easy release valve for other emotions. 

But what I learned was the anger was killing me inside, slowly eroding my soul, bit by bit.  I had to learn first off to let the anger out in a healthy way.  Exercise helped, but therapy helped more.  Writing letters to my parents, to friends I felt had wronged me, to employers, and finally, to myself.  Writing letters that at first were acrimonious, angry, vengeful.  Victim letters.  But as I released the anger, faced the shame, let it go, the anger started to subside, to heal, to cool down. 

I learned that being angry at another person was like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

As I let go of the anger, my fear bubbled to the surface, and I didn't know what to do with it.  My coping mechanism was gone....but food was there.  Food became my comfort, my lover, my best friend.  I could always trust food to taste good.  I could control food.  I didn't have to be afraid of food. But food was killing me too.

So what could I do?  I had to learn to trust myself.  Did this happen over night?  Emphatically NOT! You've got to remember, when I first really and truly started facing these fears, I was almost 30, and had at least 25 years of habits deeply ingrained.  Now, I expected to be able to trust and heal overnight.  I mean, it happens that way on TV on the sitcoms, right?  Instant forgiveness and healing.  The reality was a little different.  And what I realized is that I had internallized my mother and father's critical voices, and had to learn to stop listening to them.  I would say to myself when I would tell myself "what an idiot you are" or "there you go again stupid"...... I learned to say to myself, "Whose voice is that?  It's not mine."  And I was able to snap into a more conscious, kinder state and slowly learn to love myself.

Trusting myself did not happen overnight.  It happened as a process.  I learned to slowly open the door to memories, learned to peek inside the dirt encrusted windows of memory, and tiptoed inside my soul.  I couldn't face everything right away; that's just not possible nor advisable.  But I learned that God would protect me, that there was nothing inside that I could not face and get through.

So writing this blog is yet another step in the healing process.  I am far enough through it to know who I am, and know as I watch other people who are just starting on the path to healing what they are going through.  I hope my blog and my words, which are truly a gift to me from God, will help you heal.

Be kind to yourself.  Learn to trust yourself.  Learn to have faith; whatever your religion or your beliefs, whatever is most comfortable for you.  This is a non-denominational blog.  My faith and my walk with God are just that....mine.  Please place whatever other word works for you in the place of God.  Allah, Yahweh, Moses, The Universe, Divine Mother.....whatever faith is for you, lean heavily on it.  Faith is the underpinning of all healing.  You have to have faith that you will not fail in your quest; that your God will lead you lovingly; will provide the right path for you to heal and grow.  Love yourself.  Love a piece of yourself.  Maybe you're kind to animals or small children.  Love that part of you.  Maybe you have a great singing voice or can tell great jokes.  Love that part of you.  Maybe you're the person everyone counts on.  Love that.  You will learn to love more and more of you as time progresses.

As I have said in a previous blog, the way I understand the healing journey is akin to peeling an onion.  The outer layers are dry, dirty, and tough.  After all, they're the ones that have been in contact with the world and have to protect the inner layers from being battered.  You usually throw away the outer peel.  That's the peel you have to work on first.  It's the peel or mask that you have decided to show to the world.  It possibly has nothing to do with who you are inside, what your true hopes and dreams are.  But it is thick and resiliant and won't be easy to peel.  But just start picking at it. 

Yes, you're going to cry.  Have you ever tasted your tears?  Next time you cry, taste them.  You'll find that happy tears taste very different than sad tears or angry tears.  Tears are your body's way of removing toxins from your body. And trust me, if you can relate to this blog, you've got your unfair share of toxins!  Start letting them out, let the toxins course out of your body.  Give yourself the gift of faith, which will lead to the gift of healing.

Here is me before surgery.  Happy on the outside, sad on the inside.  Man I hated having my picture taken.




Here's me at Disneyland about 6 months' post surgery.  I could fit in the turnstiles, could ride in the rides, could get on the MerryGoRound....could walk without breaking into a sweat.  Actually had to wear a scarf because my neck got cold!  Talk about a first!


I hope my words have helped you move forward on your healing journey.  May your God bless you.

Monday, February 28, 2011

How to succeed at bariatric surgery


One thing that comes up every time I talk to someone about the bariatric surgery seems to be "I have a friend who had that surgery" or "I have have a friend who is thinking about that surgery." I always ask about the friend who has had the surgery...how are they doing?

The answer good or bad I have found really depends on what the person's mindset was going into the surgery.  A magic bullet or pill the surgery is not.  Your surgeon is not going to do anything to your brain, isn't going to reroute any synapses or impulses in your brain.  All he is going to do is reroute your digestive system. 

But the problem is, it's all in our heads.  It always has been, it always will be. And what's in your head is what is going to show up in front of you.

Before I made the final decision to have the Rouen-Y gastric bypass surgery, I talked to a lot of people. In the beginning, it seemed like all I talked to or heard about or knew about were people who had 'failed' at the surgery.  People who regained the weight.  People who still struggled with eating too much and throwing up....10 years post surgery!  People who weren't drinking their water, weren't exercising, weren't taking their vitamins.  They were drinking alcohol and smoking, drinking diet sodas.  All I was surrounded by were people who didn't make the surgery work.  So I looked at myself and I realized that because I was so afraid of failure, because I was so afraid of the surgery, the universe (God) was manifesting in front of me exactly what I was thinking about.....failure.

Now, I didn't change my mind overnight.  In fact, it took me almost 2 years to decide to go forward with this surgery.  I kept telling myself "This time I can lose the weight and keep it off for good", "this time I'm going to exercise and eat right", "this time it will be different".  The challenge was that, of course, nothing was different.  I was the same person in the same body thinking the same thoughts, over and over, like a rat on a treadmill.

So I had to decide to be a 'success percentage of 1'....meaning that I was not going to worry about what other people who 'failed' did....the only thing I could control was myself.  So I started seeking out people who had 'won' at the surgery.  And the funny thing, they're not obvious.  Why not?  Well, because I was looking for overweight people this entire time!  I had to start asking friends for referrals to the healthy-weight people who had 'won' at the surgery.

And they are everywhere!  Once I decided that I was going to win at this game, the universe (God) opened up my eyes and put successful people in front of me left and right.  I was bombarded by referrals to strangers who were willing to talk to me, encourage me, guide me.  And they all said there was no secret to success....no magic bullet.....no easy way......but you had to follow some simple rules.  Here they are:

1.  drink plenty of water.  Think you've drank enough?  Have another glass.  And another.
2.  no more carbonation.  Say good bye to sodas and beer and champagne and fizzy water.  Just say goodbye.  They're not good for you anyway.

3.  chew chew chew.  then chew some more.  a little more.  Remember the old 'chew your food 32 times'? well, try that.  See how much longer it takes to eat a meal if you actually chew your food into mush.  I will guarantee you that you will #1 actually notice the food you are eating, possibly for the very first time in your life, #2 feel like you are eating more, and #3 finally give your brain time to catch up with your stomach.

4.  no eating and drinking at the same time.  Now, this was the rule that terrified me.  After all, I was the water guzzler.  2-4 glasses of water with each meal, no joke.  So what was I doing? Washing all the food thru my stomach & diluting all my stomach acids & the saliva acids that were pre-digesting my food for me. 

#4 was the guideline that I knew I had to get down before surgery.  I could not remember a meal in my entire life that I had not drank copious amounts of liquid with it, whether it was milk as a child or water as an adult.  So I made a decision to get this habit down before surgery.  I started about 3 months before surgery, because I wanted to get the habit ingrained.  I couldn't imagine how I was going to be able to swallow food without liquid.  But you know the funny part?  It's really easy.  And I felt like I was eating so much food.  I had to stop reading while I ate too, that slowed me down and made me more conscious of my food.

#5 protein first.  so eat your meat before your vegetables, and your vegetables before your starch.  Trust me, if you chew and chew and chew, you won't have any room for the starch.  Nor will you miss it.

#6 no smoking.  This was not a problem for me as my mother died from emphysema, which essentially means she drowned in her own lungs.  Urgh.  No thank you.

#7 exercise.  It doesn't need to be fancy.  Walk.  Can't walk yet?  start.  Go for 5 minutes, or 3 minutes, or one minute.  Just start somewhere.  You've got to be able to walk around after surgery, and it's cheap (okay, free) exercise, requires no special equipment, you don't need a gym, if the weather is bad you walk inside the shopping mall (ladies, without your purse!).

#8 no more Tylenol/ibuprofen or derivatives. I have to say that tylenol works a heck of a lot better than acetiminophen, but I don't have as much cause to use painkillers now that my poor body isn't lugging a small person around on top of me.

I took one guideline (hate to call them rules) a month and internalized it into my life.  I knew I had to get these steps down before I would be successful.  And that is what everyone who was successful said.  Follow the rules (guidelines), no deviations, and you'll be fine.

I'm almost at a year post op, my weight loss stabilized about 8 months out, and I have maintained a 100 pound weight loss without any challenges.

Remember, it's all in your head.  Work on your head first.  Your stomach is not the problem.  It's what's going on in your head.  And you're the only one who can help yourself and change your self-talk.  It's not going to be easy, in fact it's going to be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life....but I promise you, it will be worth it.

I hope you find my words inspiring, my hope is to help others be successful and heal as I have. I wish you much success in your own personal healing journey