What Is EMDR Therapy?

Following is an excerpt from my upcoming September newsletter. This month I cover: Step 3 in the Defining Resilience series – Utilize Self-Care Strategies; a video on anxiety and panic attack coping skills; information on EMDR therapy; and creating a safe space as a coping mechanism. I would love to have you (or anyone you know who could benefit from my insights) subscribe to this and future newsletters at Hope for Healing Newsletter, as I work to grow my audience.
What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR Therapy has been life-altering for me. In 2013 I experienced what I reference in my presentations as a “shift”. I was struggling in a toxic relationship, trying to come to terms with my trauma history, and attempting to juggle various personal issues. It was within the confines of Dr. Barb Hensley’s office, at Cincinnati Trauma Connection, where I finally confronted the dark spaces of my traumas and learned to process them, releasing the stored up energy which had been surfacing as severe panic attacks for the previous twenty-five years.

So, what is EMDR Therapy? EMDR is the acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It was initially developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro as a method for helping soldiers, returning from war, combat their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. However, it has since been utilized to help hundreds of thousands of patients process traumatic experiences.

More information about the therapeutic technique can be found at the American Psychological Association’s Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

My personal experience during sessions included the following:

Sometimes I would use a light bar in my therapist’s office, keeping my head still and allowing my eyes to move back and forth, following a flowing green light stream from left to right and back again. Other times, I would close my eyes (as I was being distracted peripherally) and focus on the vibrating paddles I held in my hands. Those would alternate vibrations, left, right, left, right, left, right, and so on. My eye movements would naturally fall into a rhythmic back and forth movement, similar to the movement experienced during REM sleep.

While following the light bar or hand vibration pattern, I would be prompted to return to one of my traumatic experiences. The vast majority of the time something would instantaneously surface. A body memory. A flashback. A sensation. Something would appear. Sometimes it would be a snippet I had remembered outside of therapy, other times a memory would appear from an unconscious space. It would be filled with specifics I had long forgotten (such as the blue oval-shaped rug, sprawled across the floor next to my black metal-framed bunk beds, in my bedroom in our home in Park Hills, Kentucky- a memory from age four).

Sobbing, shaking, overwhelming emotions, and sometimes the symptoms of a panic attack would arise. The soothing voice of my counselor would be there to assure me that I was safe. It was there I would first learn to “just notice”.

I became aware of my triggers and realized the body memories were there to help me instead of scare me. I started to look forward to the sessions so I could dive headfirst into the chaos in order to find more answers. There was light within the darkness.

We touched upon every known traumatic experience, sometimes returning to an event repeatedly as something would surface later down the road. At first these visits into the past were seen as if I was watching a movie, from a dissociated space. I was watching someone do horrific things to a little girl from outside of myself.

I knew the day I returned to a trauma and saw it happening from within my body, through my own eyes, that I had reached a place of healing. To feel safe within my body as I relived a moment of terror during an EMDR therapy session was truly empowering.

EMDR allowed me the opportunity to process a massively complex history of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, neglect, exposure to violent crimes, and addiction in my family. I am now panic attack free. While I still experience heightened anxiety in certain situations, I am better equipped to calm my physiological responses, being mindful of my needs and triggers and the coping skills I can utilize to help myself overcome the fear.

Coming next month: What is PTSD?

The Healing Place Podcast Interview: Stacy Brookman – Resilience & Life Storytelling Expert

During a recent episode of The Healing Place podcast, I sat down with ACES Connection member, Stacy Brookman, host of the Real Life Resilience Podcast, to discuss her role as a resilience and life storytelling expert, finding clarity, her upcoming Emotional Abuse Recovery and Resilience Summit (of which I am one of forty-five featured speakers . . . yay!), and more.

Follow the links below to learn more about Stacy, life storytelling, to register for free for the 12-day summit starting September 1st, and the FREE guide listing the 35 most impactful books for emotional abuse.

Stacy Brookman

Life Story Laboratory – Summit Registration

FREE Guide – 35 Most Impactful Books for Emotional Abuse

 

stacy brookman

Listen in on iTunesBlubrry, or directly from my website as Stacy discusses her important work in the field of resilience.

Peace,

Teri Wellbrock

www.teriwellbrock.com

 

* I am excited to have more therapists, trauma-gurus, and ACES experts lined up over the next few weeks for podcast interviews. I would love to have YOU join me, as well. If you are interested, please send me a private messages through this site and I will send you my podcast interview questions for you to review.

I am a huge fan of lifting one another up as beacons of light for those who are struggling, looking for guidance, or lost in the dark. I would love to offer my podcast as a platform for your voice about your mission and passion. My goal is to provide motivational, inspirational, and healing stories for my listeners.

The Gift Within the Struggle

Sometimes we stumble, tumble and then lie there flat on our face whimpering for a bit. I had a moment of this last week on our family trip to Panama City Beach, Florida. I struggled a bit with being on the highway on the eleven hour drive down, being in open spaces on the beach, and trying to climb a tall white-water-rapids ride. Sometimes my trauma history sneaks up on me. Then anxiety and panic envelop my peace.

So I wallowed in self-pity for half a day and moaned about it all on a personal Facebook post. Then, I did some self-soothing, gave myself a pep talk, and pulled up my big girl pants.

I found the gift within the struggle.

A reminder to keep fighting. This is why I am writing my book. This is why the completed manuscript will be done next month. My God-nudge to keep on going. The universe held up a mirror in front of my face to say, “You can do this!”

So, I did. I made myself practice all of those coping skills I tout in my book. I faced some fears. I walked out into the water, even though I was experiencing body memory flashbacks, and I tossed lacrosse and football with my family. I sat in a beach chair without an umbrella, pushing myself a little further than I was comfortable, in order to test my resolve. I reminded myself that this book and all it promotes for healing would not be filled with positive energy if I was not actually living the words.

So, thank you, God. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for those hurdles. Thank you for reminding me how strong I can be. Thank you for believing in me enough to nudge me forward just a little more.

Peace and blessings to you all.
Teri
www.teriwellbrock.com

Defining Resilience: Step 3 – Utilize Self-Care Strategies

I have been working on my September newsletter and thought this was an independently shareable section. Enjoy! Be sure to sign up for my newsletter for more “hope for healing” guidance.

Step 3: Utilize Self-Care Strategies

I created a list of coping skills I have learned and utilized along my healing journey. This is most certainly not an all-inclusive list. My recommendation to you is start researching ideas for some self-care strategies. Then try them on for size. Some will work, some will not. We are unique beings so there is no cure-all fix. I, personally, love writing with meditative music in the background. Friends of mine have tried listening to meditative music while working and practically dozed off. Their productivity nose-diving into snoozeville.

However, to aid you on your self-care journey, here are ten kick-start ideas:

Surround yourself with positivity: Positive energy. Positive people. Positive places. If you find yourself surrounded by energy-vampires, eliminate your exposure to their toxic energy or, at least, off-set it with positive people.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Nap: Seriously. Treat yourself to a nap. Curl up with a favorite movie and a blankie. Sit outside in a lounge chair, close your eyes and let yourself doze off for a bit. Snuggle with a fur-baby and snooze away. Allow yourself the gift of rest.

Exercise without telling yourself you are exercising: One of my best friends came over for a swim and she mentioned how she loved swimming laps and doing treading exercises while we all hung out in the pool because it didn’t “feel like exercise”. Dance for an hour around your house. Take a bike ride. Walk your dog for thirty minutes. Anything that has you moving without dreading it.

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Know your food cravings: Being aware of food’s addictive effect on me (I am a carboholic and sweet-tooth junkie!) has helped me curb those cravings a bit. Therefore, I have been trying more Paleo-based recipes. Particularly in the crock-pot so dinner is ready when we walk in the door.

Try a fun new social gathering: Singo rocks! It’s like Bingo (Tuesday nights, sitting next to my Grandma Kitty, in Guardian Angels church undercroft come to mind), but instead of scanning your card for O-63 and B-11, you sing along to songs and find those on your Singo card. It’s my new favorite!

Practice positive self-talk: I saw my reflection in the mirror as I cleaned our bathroom this morning and I stopped to smile at me. Then I said, “I love you, T. You’re cute.” Try to be your own best friend. Lift yourself up with encouraging words.

Treat yourself: I am headed off to Florida (which is a treat in and of itself) and decided a super-blonde, super-short new “do” was in order. Remember, you are so incredibly worthy. Reward yourself for all the tasks you accomplish every day.

Create your own space: My writing space is a sanctuary filled with everything Teri – from my currently burning vanilla-scented candle to my angel paintings to my collection of treasured hearts and so much more. Allow yourself a sacred space dedicated to you.

Appreciate nature: Find time to walk outside, even for just a few minutes, and enjoy something – the warmth of the sun, the pink clouds at sunset, a parade of ants marching off with seeds in tow, the sounds of birds chatting on a wire. Nature is a grounding force that reminds us of the simplicity of life.

Find a new hobby: I love finding and collecting hearts. I also love photos. I have combined the two and created a new page on my website featuring all of my heart pics. Most of them I have taken, but a few have been shared with me by friends. I have friends and family looking for love all around them, as well, as they seek out hearts.

Coming up next month: Step 4: Take action steps to create positive change.

Freeze & Free

I normally avoid reading anything that might trigger a symptomatic C-PTSD response. Nothing violent, especially incidents involving guns. However, I felt compelled to read an article I found re-posted in my ACEs Connection community, titled:

The tender, terrifying truth about what happened inside the Trader Joe’s hostage siege

This article, published in the Los Angeles Times, recounts the recent Trader Joe’s murder scene from the eyes of those held hostage inside the store. I am sharing my “gut reaction” response to that article, as shared on the ACEs Connection post:

Wow. Tears streaming. I just had a conversation last night with friends over dinner about fight/flight/freeze responses in moments of terror. It came up as a topic as our dogs were recently attacked by another dog while hiking in a nature preserve and our friends chiming in about their dog being attacked while walking in our neighborhood. We all responded differently: I froze in terror, unable to move. Meanwhile, my partner sprung immediately into action and lifted our little dog above her head, using her body to shield and block our labradoodle, while screaming at the owner of the attacking animal to grab his. Of the other couple, the wife dove on her dog, trying to protect it. Her husband used violence to try to stop the attack. 

I have survived two armed bank robberies, both resulting in bloodshed, both perpetrated by the same gunmen (they were not caught after the first robbery of our branch office and returned three months later to rob our main office – I had just transferred from the branch to the main office). In both instances I came face-to-face with the assailants. Robbery one – held hostage with a gun to my left temple while watching my coworker bleed profusely from three stab wounds to his back. The second robbery – as a coworker was shot and murdered (by the same gunman and gun that had been held to my head only three months prior), I was hiding after fleeing the bank and heard approaching footsteps, running hard and fast, when I looked to my right, only to be staring down the barrel of a semi-automatic Luger. Fortunately, a K-9 unit was in hot pursuit, the Luger misfired, and my life was spared. Yet again.

Reading this story, something I normally do not do as I avoid anything that may trigger my C-PTSD symptoms, I was moved to tears. Not tears of fear or sadness. I sat staring at my computer screen, as those tears cascaded, and said out lout, “That was beautiful.” 

The compassion shown by a hostage toward the gunman was truly magnificent. As I have come to a place of forgiveness for my transgressors (including both bank robbers/murderers), I realized I had no idea what had transpired in their lives. Had they been abused, neglected, terrorized in some way as children? Where had they turned away from innocence and started down a dark road of hopelessness? In a way, I connected with Moss, this calm and gentle soul, who grounded the gunman, connecting with him on a heart level. I have done that with my own gun-toting ghosts, in forgiving them. 

I froze in terror during those bank robberies/murder scenes. 

This woman, a hero in my eyes, did not fight or flee or freeze. She felt. She connected. She empathized. She calmed. She empowered. And in doing so, she saved lives. Including the life of a lost-soul gun-wielding perpetrator. 

Beautiful.

Inspiring Women & Menopause Brain

This is one of those feel-good stories, but in typical Teri fashion, it’ll be long.

As I was cruising through my Facebook feed a week or so ago, I came across the words “inspiring women” and it caught my attention. It was an ad from Western & Southern Life asking for nominations of inspiring women. I turned to Jen and said, “I’m going to send in something about YOU!” So, I proceeded to type out the following:

“I nominate my beautiful partner, Jennifer. Jen put herself through college while working full-time, has broken through the glass ceiling in a male-dominated industry, is admired by not only her peers but executive management, is the first female materials manager in North America for her global firm, is an inspiration to our 12 year old daughter in example of what a strong woman can be, is on parish council at our church, co-chaired the walkathon for our daughter’s school to raise funds to support our students, is a fun and entertaining host for our backyard drive-in movie parties, a brilliant project manager in our home, a compassionate soul who is renowned for her hugs, loves our two fur babies, adores our kiddo beyond measure, and brightens this world with her light. I am blessed to know her and love her.”

I paid no attention to the dates of the prize package. The prize to be awarded was a 4-pack of tickets and VIP suite access to the upcoming Western & Southern Open 2018 held at the Lindner Tennis Center in Mason. There was also going to be a videographer there to interview both of us.

Meanwhile, we planned our trip to Panama City Beach, FL. Jen’s mom will be traveling from North Carolina to stay with the doggos. Maddie is bringing one of her adorable friends along. We purchased airfare for the girls to fly back for a volleyball tourney.

Yay! Vacation!

Then . . . I received the phone call . . . we won!

My reaction was similar to this 😍😮😵😲😳

I instantly called Megan at W&S back (from the hallway of AMC Theater as we prepared to watch Mama Mia 2). I left a message with all of the details. Apologizing profusely.

The next day, Megan and her just-as-sweet cohort Abby stepped into action. They tried everything they could to get us tickets to Sunday’s finals (as we’d be back in town by then) or a Friday night or Saturday morning event (we were willing to leave Florida a day early to make it back).

Nada.

Jen even considered flying back for a day. We found pretty decent fair ($200 each way), but she’d be operating on about 3 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Plus time away from our trip, totaling 2 days out of our 7 (and with our deciding to drive instead of fly this time around that limits our actual beach time even more).

So, we decided our family time together was our priority. We both feel incredibly honored to have been chosen a winner in this “inspiring women” contest. How amazing!

Most of all, the words I wrote were heartfelt truth. I am truly blessed to know Jen and love her. Our home is filled with laughter, compassion, support, endless projects, friendship, sappy movies, goofy conversations with our dogs as if they are human, and the sweetest kiddo who knows she’s treasured, valued, respected and loved.

Thank you, Jennifer, for being my favorite “inspiring woman”! And, thank you, Western & Southern for honoring my submission. What a beautiful testimony to the story of us. Megan and Abby . . . if you read this . . . you rock! And, yes, you are totally invited to the dive-in movie party.

**** Update: I just received an email from the fabulous Megan/Abby team offering us suite access to a Cincinnati Reds baseball or FC Cincinnati soccer game since we cannot make the tennis tournament. I love these women. They have made this experience just . . . beautiful.

Codependency & Coo-Coo for Cocoa Puffs

My priest suggested I read “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie as part of my continued healing journey with my severely alcoholic mother. That was in 2016. I read the first thirty pages then set it aside . . . with good intentions of picking it back up “when I have the time”. Never mind the other twenty books I’ve read in between then and now. Insert eye roll.

Today I picked it back up. As I read through the checklist of characteristics many codependents possess (check, check, checking them off), I laughed aloud. I had made grandiose promises to myself to no longer “save the day” when it came to my mom. Yet I slowly found myself back in my roles of peace-keeper, savior and good daughter, helping her clean up the splattered messes left behind. Literally and figuratively.

Yesterday threw a big ol’ muthafugga of a wrench at my head.

I had taken Mom to see her primary care physician on Monday. I nodded in agreement as the PCP alluded to alcohol-induced dementia, possible stroke, or brain injury from her multiple falls (into her fridge resulting in a broken ice-maker, onto the toilet, backwards onto the kitchen floor, out of her bed, and others she cannot remember but evidenced by bruises).

On Tuesday, I escorted her to the imaging center for an MRI. Then tucked her safely into her bed in her independent-living-retirement-community apartment afterward. Leaving instructions for the angels and saints to keep her from falling out of bed again.

Wednesday, I joined her for an assessment by a Council on Aging representative. Mom was a hot mess. She answered a phone that wasn’t ringing. Insisted my deceased father come out from the other room. Told me my nephew cut his right hand off and asked me if I was going to cut my own throat. Then later asked my sister if “Teri’s post office would accept my beans”. But, between those moments, she was lucid and funny and engaging. Her normal goofy, yet lovable, self. I was advised she qualifies for quite a few assistance benefits. Yay for that! However, she (meaning I) would need to complete another application, wait two months, and pray for the best in the meantime. Ah, the red tape of bureaucracy. Not that I’m not grateful for the help!

Later that day, I received the wrench-to-the-head call. Her PCP phoned me herself to discuss Mom’s lab and MRI results. The MRI results showed “moderate atrophy and shrinkage of the brain, indicating dementia” and lab work indicated “dehydrated and not eating” a.k.a. vodka-for-breakfast. No brain bleed, no stroke. Exactly as anticipated. And my internal reaction was: “Well, shit.” My good-daughter backpack just got heavier.

I am truly sorry my mom is struggling. Watching her spiral downward . . . quickly . . . is breaking my heart. But, there’s this other part of me that wants to have a little kid temper tantrum, stomping my feet and yelling, “You did this to yourself, Mom! Why am I supposed to make it better? I didn’t ask for this! I have my own freakin’ life to live. I was supposed to finish my book this week while Maddie was at Grammy’s in North Carolina. I have MY life to live.”

Just being real.

As her doctor stated on Monday, “The damage is done.” This is no longer about her making a conscious choice to poison herself with booze. Her liver is screaming, NOPE. Her brain is shriveling up. And her coo-coo for cocoa puffs is showing. I mean, Dad, my sister and I used to see that side of her, but now it’s a little more evident to the rest of the world.

So, how does one reconcile this conundrum?

My heart and soul is urging me to help her. This will leave me cocooned in my codependent relationship with my alcoholic mother. My hope is, when all is said and done, she will know she was loved and cared for, regardless of the pain she inflicted through her selfishly choosing alcohol over her kids (she literally said this to a counselor when we were teenagers . . . “If you are asking me to choose between alcohol and my family, I choose vodka”). And one day, I will wriggle my way free of the confinement, spread my beautiful butterfly wings and soar.

I might occasionally have a little whine-fest (different from wine-fest!) about it as I wrestle with her demons. But, then I’ll step outside, thank God for the gifts of nature as I mindfully enjoy the moment, take a few cleansing breaths, consciously release the tension, smile at the bright red cardinal singing to me from the treetop, promising him, “I know, Dad. I’ll take care of her.”

 

The Healing Place Podcast Interview: Stephanie and Emma Potter – Suicide Awareness

Episode 26: Suicide Awareness

During this podcast, I sat down with Stephanie Potter and her granddaughter, Emma, co-founders of the non-profit agency Rob’s Kids. The motto of this organization is:

rob's kids 4

As described on their website:

“Over 98% of the funds we raise go directly to programs that promote and improve children’s mental health.  Programs we support include: Mentoring programs, after school programs, food assistance programs, scholarship programs, various community projects through out the year.”

Emma & Sammie
Therapy Dog, Sammie, mid-smooches with Emma Potter during podcast recording session

The traumatic impact of Emma’s father’s suicide on her older sister, Sam, resulted in her sister spending time at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with a diagnosis of depression and also post-traumatic stress disorder.

Listen in on iTunesBlubrry, or directly from my website as Emma & Stephanie discuss Rob’s Kids, the impact of suicide on their lives, their healing journey thus far, art therapy, signs of depression, seeking help, their heroes, and so much more.

As I say in my podcast closings, “remember to be gentle with yourself.”

* Every few days I will be posting links to various episodes from The Healing Place Podcast from 2018 thus far. I am excited to have more therapists, trauma-gurus, and ACES experts lined up over the next few weeks for interviews. I would love to have YOU join me, as well. If you are interested, please send me a private messages through this site and I will send you my podcast interview questions for you to review.

I am a huge fan of lifting one another up as beacons of light for those who are struggling, looking for guidance, or lost in the dark. I would love to offer my podcast as a platform for your voice about your mission and passion. My goal is to provide motivational, inspirational, and healing stories for my listeners.

Defining Resilience: Step 2 – Seek Out and Nurture Supportive Relationships

A sneak peak at a portion of my upcoming Hope for Healing newsletter scheduled for delivery August 1st. Subscribe at Hope for Healing newsletter or on my website at www.teriwellbrock.com. Thanks!

Defining Resilience

Step 2: Seek Out and Nurture Supportive Relationships

Before diving into step 2, a reminder about resilience: it is defined as the ability to overcome adverse conditions; with healthy bonding relationships, guidance, support, and compassion as the catalysts. Basically, it entails having the capacity to bounce back from stressful or overwhelming experiences.

What are some steps we can take to ensure we are building resilience in our lives?

  1. Focus on the positives
  2. Seek out and nurture supportive relationships.
  3. Utilize self-care strategies. 
  4. Take action steps to create positive change.
  5. Work on healthy habit formation. 
  6. Find a guiding hand to hold.
  7. Learn to become our own hero. 
  8. Be gentle with ourselves.

Today we will cover Step 2: Seek out and nurture supportive relationships.

The day my therapist said to me, in reference to my then-BFF, “Teri, you need to put some healthy boundaries in place,” I just stared at her befuddled. I truly had no idea what a “healthy boundary” looked like. Growing up in a co-dependent relationship with my alcoholic mother, I had spent my youth playing the part of the peace-keeper and “good girl” in order to create some sense of calm within the chaos. My sister and I have discussed, on many occasions, the impact physical abuse and emotional abandonment had on our future relationships. We agreed we had no concept how to even go about putting healthy boundaries in place and why that was critical for establishing and maintaining healthy relationships, friendships, and partnerships.

Here are five “healthy boundary” suggestions followed by five relationship-nurturing ideas to incorporate into your own life:

  • You are allowed to say “no”: Practice doing it. It may be difficult, at first, but you will soon reap the benefits of more time, less resentment, and empowerment within your own life and decisions. If you do not want to do something, then don’t do it. And if someone is upset by that then you know that relationship needs some boundary work!
  • Expand your circle: One of the first indications that I was in an unhealthy friendship with poor boundaries was when I was criticized by that friend for becoming more involved in my daughter’s school activities and developing new friendships. Broadening my circle and developing a tribe of supportive souls not only shined a light on the unhealthy patterns, but helped me create new healthier habits within those friendships.
  • Notice any unhealthy habits: I had a tendency to latch on with a death-grip, almost to the point of obsession, to those who loved me even after knowing all of my deep, dark secrets. I had such a deep-seated fear of abandonment that I would spend more time trying to keep the peace and play along, even when I disagreed with something, that I lost myself in the process. Once I started to become aware of my unhealthy habits, I was able to re-direct myself toward healthy boundaries.
  • Be honest: I kept quiet for far too many years because I was afraid that speaking up would result in being left. Once I realized that I was entitled to have not only my opinion but a voice to speak it, and that the reactions of others, whether they sent me packing or not, had nothing to do with me and everything to do with where they were on their own journey, I found solace. There is a release that happens in accepting “abandonment”. Knowing others might walk away when you put healthy boundaries in place is an indication that they still have work to do in their own lives. However, many will stick with you as you learn to speak your truth, and even more will gravitate toward you.
  • Know your worth: Knowing your worth on every level and protecting it are critical to maintaining supportive and healthy relationships. Your healthy boundaries include physical (no one should touch you in a harmful way), emotional (being ridiculed is unacceptable behavior from others), spiritual (you are most assuredly entitled to your beliefs), cognitive (mind-games can be a controlling aspect in particular relationships, especially those involving narcissists). Be sure to utilize positive affirmations and practice them daily (“I am worthy”, “I am kind”, “I am lovable”, etc.).
As you move away from toxic relationships, you will notice a shift occurring as those healthier habits attract more positivity into your life. Use this as an opportunity to create new friendships. Reach out to others in support and notice as they return the gesture. Some ideas to consider:
  1. Join groups that spark your passion or pique your interest – such as volunteering at an animal shelter, a rock-climbing club, your church choir, a car enthusiasts group, a small business association, etc.
  2. Reach out to those who allow you your boundaries – notice new people who come across your path and respect those boundaries.
  3. Engage in support groups (in person or online) – such as Al-Anon, parenting groups through mental health agencies, faith courses offered through churches, etc.
  4. Write thank you notes, texts or emails to those who offer supportive roles in your life – offering gratitude for the positive support not only keeps it in perspective for you, but helps others realize the impact they are having in the lives of others.
  5. Offer your support to others – by reaching out a helping hand you can start to develop reciprocal relationships in which you help one another when needed.

Blessings & Babble

Our daughter has been on a tweenage metamorphosis of late. Some days she’s clad in nothing but boys’ Nike attire and others she is lounging poolside in her cute little bikini sporting her Ray-Ban-esque Dollar Store knock-off shades. As she wriggles her way toward thirteen, a re-decorating of her cocoon was obviously in order. Out with the puppy calendar, pastel-colored name letters, and all things fru-fru-ish. In with a basketball comforter, tree lights strung about her walls, fresh white paint on the once-pink mirror, and a huge Nike swoosh hung proudly (next to the giant teddy bear . . . some things are a must keep no matter how grown up you think you are).

I was fortunate enough to inherit some inspirational decor in the process: “Live the life you’ve always dreamed of. Be fearless in the face of adversity. Never stop learning. Use your imagination whenever possible. Recognize the BEauty that surrounds YOU. Remember where you came from, but never lose sight of where you are going.”

Yes. So much yes.

I spoke to my mom this morning. About twenty-three times. Okay, only about seven, but still. She was drunk and depressed. I have avoided that combo since my childhood. She babbled on about my dad visiting her (scary thought considering he’s been deceased for nine years), wearing a winter coat all night because she couldn’t sleep, how my sister Katie was coming over to take Katie to lunch for Katie’s birthday (I’m still trying to figure that one out), hugging her new picture book and crying, asking me to call the Bureau of Motor Vehicles about my nephew’s car, needing me to call back and wake her up because she was still sleeping (um, no, Mom, you are awake and talking to me right now), and arguing with her dead friends.

You are right to tell me I should put her in a nursing home, have her declared incompetent of self-care. After all, I found out she had attempted to walk to the liquor store at eighty-two years old because she ran out of vodka. In eighty-something degree heat. But, she hitched a ride halfway there (insert eye-roll here).

However, in a day or two, my phone will ring and my bright and cheery mom will start in with her sober chatter, “Hi, TT! How’s my beautiful daughter today? If you have time, will you stop by and show me how to use this new vacuum you bought me? And pick me up some cranberry juice on your way. Did I tell you about the meal I’m planning for my party tonight?” And I’ll hear all about her social events for the next week . . . dinner parties with gourmet foods all cooked by her, movie nights with her old lady friends, rosary group, and noon mass at St. Rose. Sober and coherent and oh-so-self-sufficient.

Leaving me and my sister in that limbo land. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t. A pendulum existence between she-is-going-to-kill-herself-with-booze-and-pills and why-the-hell-did-you-stick-your-obviously-fun-and-perky-mom-in-a-nursing-home?

So, here I sit. Contemplating my new office decor.

“Live the life you’ve always dreamed of.”

Is it my duty to spend my days scurrying about making sure sober Mom is nurtured and drunk Mom lives? The life I’ve dreamed of certainly does not include either.

“Be fearless in the face of adversity.”

Why is it easier to face my own demons and confront my fears than it is to make a decision about where my mom should live? Perhaps because it’s HER life and not mine. This should be my mom’s decision, yet the only choice she is making is the one that’s haunted me since my teen years, when she told the family therapist, “If you are asking me to choose between alcohol and my family, I choose vodka.”

“Never stop learning.”

Joining Al-Anon was not so much eye-opening as it was a spotlight into my soul. Listening to others speak my thoughts, cry my tears, and confess to my lifelong fantasy of walking away from the chaos wreaked by my addict mother. Learning to end my co-dependent relationship with my mother has left me feeling more battered than the days she’d scream for my dad to hit me. How do I let go of my deeply ingrained Catholic guilt? Is there a way to let an old drunk hit rock bottom without shouldering the fallout? Who else will be there to clean it all up? (asks the over-achieving peace-keeper in me)

“Use your imagination whenever possible.”

I have imagined chunks of my life away. Sometime I wonder how much time I squandered day-dreaming my escapes. As a kid, my sister and I would lie awake in her rainbow-comforter-clad waterbed, dreaming up our lottery-winning adventures. We would buy our parents the white house with the blue roof near Grandma and Grandpa’s place in Covington. Then we would buy a camper and never look back. Today I dream of living my island life with no desire to look back at the chaos of addiction. Is that an acceptable use of imagination?

“Recognize the BEauty that surrounds YOU.”

Be. You. In gold letters.

Be.

You.

I spend every day noticing something beautiful in my life. From sunsets to ladybugs (I noticed both of those today!) to peaceful moments after the babbling phone calls.

Is there beauty to be found in her nonsense? Perhaps by being me, in all of my glitter-shitter glory, I can recognize the beauty that is my mom’s lesson. She has taught me to appreciate the moments between the mayhem. In all honesty, she’s taught me to appreciate the blessings within the torment, as well.

“Remember where you came from, but never lose sight of where you are going.”

I look like her. Especially as I age. I act like her, too. That’s mostly a good thing. She’s kind-hearted, likes to throw parties, loves to laugh, has deep faith, appreciates the value of friendship, and cries over sappy birthday cards and the Budweiser dog commercials. Yep. I’m my mom. In so many ways.

However . . . I really hate vodka.