January 11 – Memorial

Today, if you don’t know, is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. If you don’t know, it’s ok, you do now. I have had ups and downs with this today. I want to do something, say something, be something more today of all days. I was trafficked as a child, it was sex trafficking. There are other forms of trafficking, and for the most part you would never know by looking at a person if they were trafficked at some point in their life. They could be male or female, any race, speak any language, or be any age. The trafficker could be or have been a family member, a caretaker, a boyfriend, a husband, a supposed employer, or possibly a stranger. Trafficking includes forced labor, prostitution, slavery, and sex trafficking.

I have made a lot of progress in my own recovery. My experience was thirty years ago, and sometimes it is very hard to stay fully present and remember who I am now. I have to remember to stay where I am and not leap ahead into where I want to be instead of where I am. I want to be resolved, healed, and active in this movement. Its not a movement to me, but my life. There is a lot that has happened, and there is so much more awareness now than there was before. It is also at a point where there is a lot of more work to do, especially in the ways of treating, supporting, and helping survivors.

I want to be done with this part of it. I want to be done with the struggles. I want to be done with the memories, with the relearning, with figuring out boundaries, and how to ask for help. I don’t want to keep feeling like I am still more survivor than thriver. I want to skip it all and move on to helping others. I have had to realize that would be detrimental to myself and those I seek to help. If I skip these in between steps, if I rush ahead into trying to be whole, then I miss the lasting healing that I wish to help others find. If I rush, then I miss out on forging the new pathways in my mind to find other ways of living, believing, and behaving.

I want to change the world I live in and first I have to begin with me. I have to make peace with my past. I don’t just mean peace with the trauma, I mean being at peace with my own decisions and my own mistakes. I have to face who I have been, and the things I have done. Some of them have been because I didn’t understand or know that there was another way, but the guilt and damage and consequences still exist inside of me. I have done things I am not proud of, I have chosen to turn against myself numerous times, and I have broken my own promises over and over.

I am moving forward with my life. In order to move forward, I must first face who I used to be. I can’t sugar coat it even for my own sake. I can’t beat myself up about it because that is not the point. The point is to realize that I am no longer the same. I am not fully healed, but my steps are not taking the same familiar paths of old. I am stepping on new ground as a new person. Who I am is not in absence of who I used to be, but a stronger, wiser, and more resilient self. My day will come when I can do more than talk and share my story. My day will come where I join the ranks changing the world one person, one act, one piece at a time.

Hope Burns

The world is new today, and it has nothing to do with the beginning of a year. It is new because I have taken a fork in the road. My journey now is different from ever before. It isĀ  fresh snow and a path not taken. It begins with hope and a dream.

I am a trauma survivor. I have complex PTSD from 4 years of being trafficked when I was young. I have reached a point in my recovery where I am more healed than damaged. The problem with being healed is it is new and untried. My brain in all of its glory is familiar with the other way, that is what it knows. It’s the down hill trail with fewest obstructions. The fact that I am attempting to take a new path to end with a different result is often inconsequential to the normal functioning of my brain.

There is a battle waging each day within my heart and mind. This battle is different from ever before because it is not a fight for survival. I am no longer awakening each day to talk myself into living, breathing, and working. I am now fighting for the permanent changes within myself. At times I find this battle as complex and heated as the fight to live.

I had a really good Christmas this year, and I could not enjoy it. Through the trauma therapy, I came to realize that I expect bad things to happen in direct proportion to the good things that happen to me. So, if I get a compliment I expect at least one if not more insult and tear down. Every gift is followed with a loss. My trauma brain does not trust goodness and kindness for it cannot last. I am going back to school starting next week. I am going back to pursue a dream that is mine and not someone else’s. For Christmas, my parents bought me a laptop. I got to watch my niece and nephew open their presents and be so very joyful. Inside, each good thing that happened to me and that I witnessed hurt and felt like I was being lashed.

With my counselor, I was able to sit and explore what was going on inside. My abuser/trafficker used to make me pay for every compliment or good thing that happened to me. There was a cost for every lollipop from a bank teller to every present from unknowing parents and grandparents. The cost was taken from me in secret, but I had learned that I didn’t deserve good things. I also learned to only accept the good I was willing to pay for. But the people in my life now are healthy and wonderful people, they don’t expect a return on a meal bought, gift given, or laugh shared.

My trauma brain, in an effort to keep the scales balanced would give me a cup inside for the good things. Anything that overfilled the cup resulted in an internal shut down. I could only be so happy, so joyful, so delighted every day. The size of the cup would change based on things that I do not comprehend. Some days my cup was large enough to encompass a full day of good things big and small. Other days my cup would be filled with a sincere thank you. This Christmas my cup was so very small that is filled days before the holiday began, and I did not even realize it.

I am choosing to pick up hope for the first time since I cast it aside at the age of 6. I haven’t faced what made me give it up yet, and I am sure I will someday. I don’t need it for today. I just need to pick it up first. It’s like a piece of driftwood that has been washed up on shore after spending years beaten by the waves. The letters can barely be seen, and they are almost too shallow to be felt by the softest touch. The simple act of picking it up burns away the rotting wood and reveals the metal inside. The heat radiates into me, glowing with the warmth of a new day in early spring.

I know what my brain is trying to do, and that means I can deal with it. I can fight the lies that say that I have a limit on goodness with the truth that there are no such limits in existence. I can love others without limits as well, though I imagine that will also involve more battles as well. I must stay present first. When I feel the welling desire to run and flee, I must stand and be aware instead. Hope and kindness burn, but not with the fire of damage. They burn because they are awakening what has been long dead inside. Jesus is my savior, and that does not stop with my salvation. He redeems it all.

 

Living without Walls

I have reached a strange impasse in my growth and healing. I feel even more like a stranger in a strange land. I have spent my whole life adjusting myself to all circumstances and people, a perfect wallflower. I would be a part of a group, and yet always on the outskirts with no one really knowing me. I was neither too loud not too quiet. If the group appreciated enthusiam, then that was me. If it was always quiet, then that was me, so quiet my very presence could be forgotten.

The environments have hated the most were ones where there were so many variances in the atmosphere, I would almost split myself into pieces trying to Glen into the environment. I can remember being aware of this part of myself, and also being oblivious until someone would make a comment about me that seemed bizarre to me. I have been called an extrovert by the extroverts, fearless and confident, quiet and reserved, shy and bold; and all of these by people in the same group. They have seen me for several years. They have known me in various circumstances. I am all of these things and none.

I am at the point in my healing where enough of the roots have been dug out, chains have been released, and walls broken; that I can honestly look about as a new creature and start to dream and think. Who am I? What do I like? What do I want to be? What are my desires? The one I wrestle with the most is do I really have the right to be?

I am 36 years old, and I am trying to dream as never before. I am dreaming of things and places and events as if I had not one worry. All things are possible, and then as the freedom flies out from me, my insides quake with fear. A fear so great that I immediately shift into survival mode and disappear from being fully present. I am afraid of freedom.

Freedom is an unknown. Who am I without these chains, I don’t know but the scariness has led to self harm. The inner turmoil of emotions are scary even if they are good and hopeful emotions, my mind cannot comprehend. I can comprehend pain. I know how to deal with that. That has an answer unlike hope and dreams.

Then, of course, my old friends guilt and recrimination stop by to visit for awhile. I’m breaking the cycle bit by bit. I have found it better to reach out to others. I cannot always share what is going on, but just not being alone helps. I have also found a great relief by being honest when I can about the self harm. It removes a lot of the guilt and humiliation. Its easier to breathe without those added weights. Its also easier to work out my thinking with other people, especially when it feels counter to the situation, like being full of hope and instead seeking injury because that is a known quantity. I don’t want to live like that. Pain is not the solution.

For me, at least for now, the solution is harder than the pain. I have to slow my brain and deal with each fear. I have to be ok with the emotions and become comfortable with all of the emotions. There is only one way to do this task. I must stay. I must leave the walls down. I must try things for myself, an I must be ok if I am different from those around me. I must take the shaky steps forward toward my impossible dreams.

I must put down my weapons, inside and outside. I will look in the mirror, and I will come to know the amazing woman in the reflection. I will find the dreams of the long lost little girl, and I will put her safe in my heart. I will keep stepping out in freedom, and even if I stumble, I know how to rise again.

Until next time…