awaken memories

The past couple of weeks I have been experiencing very strong, vivid dreams and memories of my past when I was a little child, and it’s been incredibly hard to sit with these memories that have come to me in my sleep.

I have written before about “crying wake up’s” that I experience once in a while – dreaming and then waking up crying out of my sleep. Well, its happening again only now it’s happening along with very vivid and strong memories of my past.

The moment I wake up with a dream like this, I try and grab my phone’s notepad app to write down whatever I can remember to capture as much as I can! If I fall back asleep without writing the dream down, I will forget details.

I have had crying wake up’s before! I had had bad dreams before, but this is different, this is vivid, and they are strong and painful even. These dreams have been effecting me and my personal life and connection to self.

My therapist and I have been talking about them more in session and the meaning behind them and what the dreams/memories may be trying to tell me. We have spoken about it, I have written about it, I even talked with someone who knew a lot about dreams from those abused in the past, or from abuse survivors.

The dreams and the wake up’s are the inner young child’s way of telling a story she holds! Sometimes when we work on healing for so long, the inner child begins to trust more, she begins to step away from the wall just enough to let images be visible from the young child’s perspective. My inner child is telling me a story of the past that needs my voice, needs healing, needs to be spoken for her to move on, and grow up to be the adult I am today.

I have been told many times that the inner child is stuck inside, and sometimes it takes years and years for the young inner child inside to finally be free and ready to accept the endured abuse and pain, and the story she holds to be told, to be felt, to be trusted!

I have been in therapy for ten years, and in these ten years, I have talked about my story many times in different ways. I have worked through a lot of the pain! I have worked through a lot of the images and the story behind my past. I have painfully stepped into my past.

But it’s different this time; I feel a different shift happening inside of me to where the young part of me feels present; particularly through these vivid, horrific, painful dreams.

These dreams feel so real like it’s happening all over again! It’s the closest I have been to the abuse since it has happened, and it’s scary and painful in ways I cannot describe.

So what do I do with this? At times I am afraid to shut my eyes to sleep at night. My therapist knows what “I had a crying wake up” means and just how hard that is for me – – but that doesn’t even touch just how painful these wake up’s are or have been these past couple weeks.

My husband has even experienced me struggling in my sleep many times this past month, and he has seen just how horrible it has been for me. The crying wake up’s, the wincing in my sleep, the struggle to get out of the situation I am in during these dreams.

What I have come to realize and understand is, this is not something to hurt me all over again, but more so a way for the young inner child within me to speak and show me what she holds. It’s her way of saying “this is what I hold, this is what I remember – and she looks for healing.

But what about all the years I have talked about my past? What about all the hard work I have done so far in working with the images and stories of my past? I thought I was healing? Why is this happening now? Well, This IS the healing! This is the young part of me healing!

Finally, she has trusted to come out of the dark shadows within and show me, to use my voice to talk about “her” feelings and “her” pain.

We all have an inner child! For those abused as a child, that inner child is “stuck” and “silenced” and driven to fear out of being told for many years that she is not allowed to talk about it!

Me as the adult I am today, I have told the story! I have re-lived the old images of the past- but the young inner child wasn’t ready yet, she stayed dormant to the healing until trust could build just enough to come out from behind the walls.

As the healing has happened within me over the years, the young inner child has finally become awaken to my truth, to the trust of my therapist who holds the story. I have spent ten years showing up and showing her trust, love, and connection. The young inner child has awakened to that healing I have worked so hard through – and now that young wounded child is here – listening and ready to heal.

A physical wound heals from the inside out – An emotional wound heals from the outside in! Think about it, emotional healing begins on the outside and works its way inward, and deep within is that wounded, scared little child stuck, now ready to heal and speak and talk and even feel, and that is what I have realized is happening inside of me.

I spoke with someone recently who specializes in healing the inner child, and she said to me “Karen, you are healing, the dreams and the wakeups are not there to hurt you, but to show you.”

Difficult to think about isn’t it? Doesn’t make it any easier to shut my eyes before bed knowing I could be shown yet another image of my past that is painful or hard to see – – but if I can heal another wound on the little girl inside of me, it’s worth going through the pain again.

It took me years and years to believe that I have an inner child. I didn’t want to believe it! I struggled with the thought that if I admitted to having an inner child, that something was wrong with me. I feel differently now – I welcome this journey, and I embrace whatever the inner child wants to show me, because I know, from the outside in, she is healing.

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Grace found in Rigidity

Since I was as little as five years old, I have been stuck in the mindset of how to survive; trapped in the routines of how to move through each day feeling safe under fear.

Even as the adult, the mom, and the wife I am today, I am continually living behind the rigidity of my day-to-day to keep myself safe from anything that could harm me.

But when does rigidity get in the way of grace? When does the safety of rigidity as I know it, get in the way of living, and being the person who God created me to be?

Rigidity gets in the way of Grace when love, care, and support is only accepted when it falls in the strict boundaries and lines I have created around me my whole life.

What I realize more and more now is, It sucks to be trapped in the rigidity of routines that promise me safety and connection – and yet I see just how much grace I am missing out on.

Friday morning in session, when I was re-connecting to how hard it is for me to move out of the mindset of, “what I allow myself to do” vs. “what I really can do.” We both sat in an awed kind of silence when he said: “ahh it’s the rigidity that gets in the way of grace for you.”

He got it! He truly understood more of how hard it is for me to bend, or change the rigidity I live behind, and just how hard acceptance is for me out of fear of getting hurt.

Of course, my therapist knows my story from front to back, side to side, and all the cracks of my story in between! He knows the struggle of the walls I live behind out of fear, and the routines I live with day to day – but he truly got it on a bigger level this time.

That moment Friday in session, I, at the same time realized just how much grace I am missing out on because of that. I got it! I understood just how much grace had been stolen from me because of that rigidity.

“One of the greatest enemies of grace is rigidity.“

It’s incredibly hard living my life with so many self-boundaries and lines I keep myself within. It’s hard knowing that I have all this incredible support, and yet I only allow myself bits and pieces out of fear of getting hurt, or fear of dependency.

When I am struggling with a hard thought, or if I am struggling to feel connected, or if I am drowning in self-doubt, I know I have support to lean on. I know I can reach out to my support at any time, but the amount of work and energy internally it takes for me to accept that support, is sometimes harder than the problem itself.

Sometimes it takes more work for me to lean in and reach out for support than it is for me to move through it myself – and many times, I will get through it myself. Sad but true, but then there are those moments where I sit and cry and fight for that grace to lean in, because I don’t always want to do it on my own, I sometimes want and need the support, love and care. (just saying that wakes up all the fears around wanting or needing).

You see? I don’t wish this struggle on anyone.

BUT what therapy and this healing journey have taught me is, I don’t have to do this alone! I have realized just how good it feels to have that support, love, care, and understanding when I am struggling.

Deep down, I know I have come a long way with that, but I still struggle with living in that rigidity and living my life in the lines of what is safe for me. My routines, the way “I think” I have to be vs. what “I can” be.

I miss out on a lot of grace because of the abuse I endured as a child. I miss out on accepting more support when needed. I miss out on the ability to be heard when I really need to be heard. I miss out on so much of what grace has to offer because of the rigidity I hide behind.

SO, how do I break that wall of rigidity? How do I let grace in more without letting the fear of getting hurt overtake me? I believe it begins with “knowing.”

Knowing the difference between rigidity and grace, and allowing myself to do it anyways.

Knowing that the walls I created as a child served a useful purpose, and sometimes still do. Those walls created a purpose that was needed at the time.

Knowing that healing happens when realizing what part of those walls do not serve a purpose any longer. Those walls that stop me from seeing grace.

Knowing that it’s not my fault, but grace is here to pull me in.

I won’t lie, it’s hard! It’s hard to change what I know, and what I feel safe to do. But I also know the feeling of how good it feels to have support when it’s needed, and not having to do it all by myself all the time.

I know those who are reading this, those who have been through abuse as a child like I have, know just how hard it is to move outside of the boundaries we create to feel safe from harm. How hard it is to change the very routines that we create to feel safe and secure. I know how hard it is – I have been there, I am still there.

Rigidity is a rigid hard shell against grace, and I am beginning to realize just how much grace gets lost in that.

What I hope those who are reading this will see is: it’s not your fault! It’s not our fault that the walls built were made to create safety around us. It is how I, how we all survived from the abuse done to us.

It’s a hard life to live as an adult surviving child sexual abuse, neglect, rape and mental abuse. It’s hard to wake up knowing I will have to live between the walls looking for any grace I can grab onto without fear, and the work it takes letting go of the walls that no longer serve a purpose.

But healing can happen if you allow Grace to come out from behind the walls of rigidity – allow yourself to bend freely without shame or guilt or even fear!

Maybe it’s about allowing both “rigidity and grace” to be there; helping me to see that grace will offer more. Grace will not disappoint.

I am right there learning and healing with you. It’s a journey, a journey to healing.

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breaking thru the waves of therapy

A lot of people have asked me how I have managed to move through the hardest part of therapy to where I am today 10 years later?

My answer has always been “It’s almost like pushing past the hardest parts of the waves in the ocean – to the other side where the calm waters are.

I have read so many blogs written by people who are in therapy who struggle with the process of healing, and struggle with feeling worse than actually feeling better! when I see that, I smile and say “yes, but that is normal, and it will get better!”

I myself used to be one of those people who really struggled with the process of therapy that it became sometimes unbearable at times.

I used to struggle with the times in between therapy sessions much like you all write about today. I used to struggle with feeling as if therapy was making me worse instead of better! I used to struggle with the feelings of wanting to quit and give up therapy many many times!

I have been through all those same emotions that others have written and talked about when talking about the therapy experience, and just how hard it can be. I have been there, and at times never thought it would get better – but trust me – it DID and I have – and there is healing on the other side of that struggle.

The best way that I can explain to those reading this and going through the tough process of therapy: therapy is like breaking thru the crest of ocean waves, to the other side to where there are calm waters of peace and healing.

Those waves are rough, and they are hard, and they are overwhelming at times, and sometimes they are so strong they push you under and send you back to shore to start over! Those waves can be mean and they can be frustrating and sometimes darn-right atrocious – but they can be defeated! That’s what healing is like! That’s what therapy is like!

Have you ever seen the movie “Cast Away” – after being stuck on the island for 4 years, he finally was given a sail, that sail got him to move past the toughest crests of waves until he finally made it over the toughest wave to the other side of the calm waters – – and when he finally made it over, he looked back at the island of where he was for 4 years – – – that’s what therapy is – therapy is about finding that “sail” to move you into the life that God created you to be in!

Healing is a process of waves! Healing is the fight to get to a place of calm and peace!

In my experience, I have been in therapy with the same therapist for “10 years and 3 months” now. The first year of therapy was brutal! It was the hardest because I didn’t understand the process of being in a room with someone I didn’t even know or trust at the time, opening up about my past and talking about the sexual abuse I endured – that same abuse that was voodoo to talk about in the past.

In the beginning of my process of therapy, I went through most of my sessions with one foot out the door wanting to run out of the room halfway through the session. I literally sat in the chair closest to the door, so that I could get up and run at any moment.

As the years went on, I began to trust the process of therapy … I began to trust my therapist, and I began to trust the therapy room more. I now sit with both feet planted firmly on the floor, and not only that, but I now sit on the couch alongside my therapist who sits with me (sometimes shoulder to shoulder)- – – but it didn’t go without really struggling with each session to get there. It took a lot of work, it took a lot of fight within me to move in that place of vulnerability.

In the beginning process of therapy I really struggled with the off times between session days, and in that struggle, I hated myself for struggling with that space in between sessions thinking I was dependent on therapy or my therapist. (which is one of my biggest fears). My biggest fear from the very beginning of therapy was thinking my therapist would think I was dependent on him or therapy. So when I struggled with that space in between session, it scared me to the core!

There were times in the beginning years of my therapy that I would be in this “heavy funk” after sessions. That funk where you can’t think, or be without thinking about therapy or the process of the things I was talking about. That funk where you can’t eat or do anything outside of just being alone with your thoughts around therapy and the process – It was like opening very old wounds and bleeding without having any control of that bleeding or pain (I used to call it the in between) – that space between therapy and my life outside of therapy.

Honestly? It was brutal, and I don’t think I ever told my therapist just how hard that was in the beginning of our work because I had this deep fear of being dependent on him or therapy, or even worst, him thinking I was dependent on him or therapy.

The funny thing is, when I first began therapy I said to my therapist right off, I said “Andy, the day I become dependent on therapy or you is the day I leave here and never come back” ha ha I can still recall the look on his face when I said it …. and here I am, 10 years later and we still laugh about that today.

My therapist and I connected a lot outside of therapy with emails and texts back then – – but I was very very careful about that because of that huge fear of dependency, so I was very diligent about leaning into my therapist outside of my sessions, until I could finally accept my worth around that realizing that connecting was healing, and there was nothing dependent about that.

Do you want to know something even bigger? Today, I can lean in and connect and not feel ashamed or guilty for it as I realize just how worthy I am of that connection – – – – and it took me a long time to get to that acceptance and realization.

As the years went on with all these struggles and working through the process of therapy, there was a moment to where I finally broke thru that last BIG wave … that last big crashing wave to where I was finally on the other side to the calm waters and that was about a year and a half ago when my healing journey took a turn from hard to calming!

to be honest, those waves of therapy thru the years were hard – VERY HARD!, but they got easier and easier for me to navigate as I worked through the struggles and the fear behind the painful truths of my past!

That last big wave was the one that REALLY changed me; the one that got me over the top to the calmer waters where I could heal freely. I found myself being able to trust more. I found myself being able to be open more.

That wave I broke thru changed me.

Breaking through the last big wave led me to a place of where I can be more open without feeling so raw that I can’t move. That last big wave I endured got me thru to acceptance and allowing myself to feel emotions and not punish myself for having them. Emotions have always been the absolute hardest for me to show, feel, or be with – – I am feeling more now and that is leading me to a whole new place of healing.

My therapist and I today have such a great relationship, and I now embrace the time in between sessions without being in that “funk” or fear of being dependent or forgotten. I love my time in between sessions. I embrace the time for ME and my life with my husband and my now 3 adult boys.

My therapist and I still email in between sessions, but it’s more for connection and good energy before a session rather than doing it because the trust is fading or the connection is fading – – – the connection to therapy and my therapist doesn’t fade anymore! We have such a great routine and connection that feels healing and accepting on so many levels.

I am thankful that my therapist has helped me get to the place I am in today.

Since I crashed through that big wave that I hit a year and a half ago, I have changed in the way of talking about my past and being open about the thoughts I sit with. I am still struggling with my crying wake ups (which I will write more about in the upcoming weeks) – but I believe that the inner child is finally healing and allowing me to be with that part of me more.

So, for those who are still in the rough waves of therapy – those crashing hard waves to where you struggle in between sessions, to where you are in this deep funk while trying to heal your wounds of the past? IT – GETS – BETTER! It gets easier – – give yourself the time you need to learn how to navigate and swim thru the waves coming at you. Give yourself the time to learn how to push thru the harder parts of therapy. It will get better. You will get to the other side where the calm waters are – I KNOW it happened for me.

The place of calm is not so much a place of rest, but a place of healing on a new level. To where you can see more, feel more, endure more with a stronger inner self.

I went through a really hard time about 4-5 years ago to where I almost gave up and swam all the way back thru the waves to the shore! .. but I didn’t give up, I kept going until I pushed to the other side.

You will have moments to where you wonder if therapy is worth it. You will wonder if you will be able to make it through the “in between” times where you’re living your life / being in therapy. Talk about it with your therapist, be open about it, talk to him/her about the waves and how hard they are for you to move thru. Sometimes having someone there with a buoy to float on will help you keep afloat when you need a break.

So for those reading this who are navigating the waves of therapy – – you are healing! You are moving thru the hardest waves of your healing – but it will get better if you keep trying and setting your eyes on the calmer waters beyond the waves .. I know, I am there and still healing on such a different level – YOU are worth it and YOU are not alone!

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