Pain And Heartbreak: Finding Oneself

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This is a rough week for my husband and I as we commemorate the birthday of our sweet kitty on the 4th of July.  He would have been 12. Then the 5th marks the first year since he went Home to Heaven.  We love our animals like family, so this is hitting us harder than we expected.

The Bible says to endure hardship as discipline.

“You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

 

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:4-11, NASB)

Unfortunately, many Christians take these verses to mean corporal punishment.  But if you read the Proverbs section of this blog, it has nothing to do with spanking/hitting children or hitting anyone.  It just means that growth and discipline is not always pleasant and easy.

And being a Christ-follower, I take to heart what Jesus said,

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
(‭‭John‬ ‭14:27‬, NASB‬‬).

After much research, and guidance from the Holy Spirit, I truly believe He that one of the many ways He does this is through His gift of cannabis, and the appropriate use of alcohol (see 1 Timothy 5:23, Ecclesiastes 9:7, and Psalm 104:14-15 also references cannabis).  Of course, the Bible makes it clear not to get really drunk, but to relax and relieve some medical issues, alcohol use is perfectly fine and encouraged throughout the Bible.  In fact, one of Jesus’ first miracles was turning water into wine at a wedding in John 2:1-11.  Please see this post for a link to the use of cannabis during Biblical times.

Yes, we go through hardships throughout our lives and these hardships should make us grow—and grow closer to Him. I truly believe we should use discipline to help everyone grow, opposed to using punishment which keeps us stuck in the place we are in, no matter how old we are.

For example, children may appear to be growing despite being punished, but it’s really them learning to hide things from their parents in order to avoid getting punishment.  For adults, such a punitive attitude and belief system can trap them in harmful legalism and toxic relationships.  They can’t see Who Jesus really is—love.

My husband and I watched the movie Reincarnated about Snoop Dogg changing his life to one of peace and love. He went to Jamaica and he became a Rastafarian.  While we don’t agree with some of the Rastafarian doctrine, we love the way they love all and respect all people no matter what they believe.

They use cannabis as both medicine and to grow closer to God.  I have absolutely fallen in love with this song:

Yes, heartbreak will hopefully and eventually lead to growth. It is not God punishing us.  It’s life. We, as Christ-followers, must learn and understand this.  We must teach this to our children so they can truly grow in Christ.

One last thing about cannabis: I have severe cerebral palsy and use it medically for spasms, pain, anxiety, and PTSD.  As the result of being blessed by this sacred plant, I truly believe I am growing in Christ.  I’ve become more open to more encompassing love and grace. I am still very imperfect and make mistakes, but I am slowly getting better at loving others.

For years, I bought into the doctrine that marijuana is “evil.” It’s anything but.  In fact, it allowed me sit here with fireworks going off next door, and I was not jumping as much and not being anxious about the next boom. I am looking forward to going to the fireworks on the 4th. I will be using cannabis, thereby remaining more clearly aware of  and the Holy Spirit’s guidance and comfort to continue to deal with my heartbreak.  I am hopeful that cannabis will continue to ease my spasms and other ailments.  Yay for Cannabis!

As the line in the song says, “so raise a glass to the memories, set em free, and fill up all those ashtrays.”

In memory of Sara (January 27, 2007), Grandpa (May 2, 2016), my father-in-law (June 29, 2007), YP (July 5, 2017), Penelope (July 6, 2012), my mother-in-law (August 8, 2015), Sadie (October 6, 2011), and the rest of my loved ones in Heaven.

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Instant Gratification

As I continue on my journey towards physical and emotional health after my health scare over the fall and winter along with the three major deaths that occurred in a row, I have good and bad days.  While the bad days are slowly getting less and less, they still really upset me. I had no idea how hard I am on myself until I started meditating.

It makes sense though due to experiencing so much verbal and emotional abuse throughout my childhood from various people. As I’ve written many times, how we speak to our children affects them so much. They are vulnerable and they can’t just rationalize a mean remark, especially from the adults in their lives. Negative self-talk becomes ingrained in us for life.

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I’m working so hard on trying to retrain my brain that it doesn’t need to be in a heightened state of fight or fight.  I will be honest with you and say that this is something I must deal with daily…The anxiety and PTSD can be very overwhelming.

I honestly don’t feel like anyone, except those that deal with emotional issues, truly understand that it’s a constant struggle to keep it under control. I’m getting better but I meditate and distract myself beyond the official meditation time I take just to keep myself under control as much as possible so I can enjoy life to the best of my ability. After all, Jesus died so I could have life. I’m beyond grateful that He understands everything  I’m going through (Hebrews 4:15).

As I was doing my daily meditation the other morning with the Calm app, the daily calm was about how meditation can help people achieve major success in their health, but that should not be the goal of meditation.  As with everything, there’s no quick fix. Meditation is a tool to help us build mindfulness and awareness of the present moment.

This got me to thinking about instant gratification. We all want it when we are suffering.  We want that quick fix. That’s why parents spank/hit, yell, and shame their children. It’s much easier and faster to punish children than it is to actually work with them. Gentle parenting is a ton of work because it’s not aiming for short term goals but rather long term.

But instant gratification feels so good. We want everything now. This begins at an early age because infants do usually need things right away. They don’t mean to be this way.  They just have to have a lot of attention.  As they get older, we can let them wait a few minutes to get a need met, if appropriate.

As children continue growing up, we think it’s our job to teach them that instant gratification is a bad thing. Some parents are especially hard on their children starting in infancy to try to stop their children from being “demanding.”  They ignore, isolate, spank/hit, arbitrarily take things away from them and/or arbitrarily say “no.”  In other words, harsh and abusive techniques are used on these children.

The problem is that the parents are actually teaching their children instant gratification!  If you want something then you use force to get it.  This is the essence of instant gratification!

Gentle parenting is the exact opposite!  By taking the time to meet children’s needs and really take the time to teach them, we are modeling selflessness.  Taking the time to sit with your toddler for the umpteenth time today with a meltdown is teaching delayed gratification. It would be so much easier to just lock children in their rooms for a little while and not deal with them, but by not doing this, you’re teaching them that their needs are very important.

Please understand that I encourage parents to regularly take time for themselves and do self-care!

Another way we all teach children instant gratification is by cutting in front of people, getting really upset when things don’t go as planned, and running out to buy the newest and greatest technologies.  Most of the time we don’t even know we’re doing it. It is so ingrained in us and our society. We want everything NOW!

As the late and great Tom Petty sang, “The waiting is the hardest part!”  It really is. Waiting for results or anything else that we really want is very hard for all ages.

But by doing our best to remain in the present moment, trying to be patient, and learning to be grateful for what we do have, we practice delayed gratification and teach it to our children.

Taking turns, putting others first, helping people when we really don’t want to help at that moment, using limits and boundaries with children, being in the present moment, and enjoying the simple things are other ways to delay instant gratification.

Children can actually teach us about delayed gratification because they are usually in the present moment and enjoy the simple things.  Therefore, the next time you’re tempted to hurry along your dawdling toddler, try stopping and enjoying the moment.  This is how we practice and teach delayed gratification.

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Cancer Free And Trauma…Plus Some Potty Training Tips

I haven’t been up to really writing this post even though as of January 2nd, our beliefs were finally confirmed after a biopsy, that I am indeed cancer free.

You see, except for mild pneumonia, from which I was able to recover at home, this was my first medical scare that required a hospitalization, a MRI under anesthesia, and a procedure in the OR all within 3 months.  Going to an oncologist also isn’t fun even though nobody ever really threw around the “C-word.”

This is unusual for people with severe cerebral palsy.  I’m very blessed to not have needed surgeries to fix joints and other things that can come with having severe or even mild cerebral palsy.

But after over 2.5 years of trauma due to the three major losses in our family, this pretty much sent us over the edge. I felt guilty at first for not being as happy that I was cancer free like everyone else because, for me (and my husband since he has to care and comfort me), it isn’t over.

Plus, because I’m unable to walk around like typical people and I have spasms, it takes me longer to physically heal.

As one of my good friends says, it’s actually satan-induced anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that I have.  They are not mine to own.  Going to the bathroom can still be scary for me.  Sometimes certain things that happen in the bathroom or in my body send me into a panic attack or PTSD episode.

I want to talk about PTSD for a moment especially with this recent school shooting.  As I said in my previous post, people in this society don’t take mental health issues seriously.  They worry about the physical well-being of people, and only and/or repeatedly argue about objects that hurt and murder people when they are in the wrong hands.  Keeping them out of the wrong hands is crucial but also almost impossible because if someone truly wants to do something bad, they will.

That’s the sad truth. So learning how the young mind works and about mental health issues is one of the best ways to stop some or most of these horrible tragedies.

What is PTSD?

“Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault” (American Psychiatric Association, 2017, https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd).

This video also describes PTSD very well.

I am working very hard to overcome this. My abusive background doesn’t make it easy because there’s PTSD from that as well.  However, through medication, including medical marijuana, meditation, professional counseling, writing positive notes to remind myself of all that’s good in my life, my small support group, and spending time with the Lord, I am slowly getting better.

It’s quite a process and I have to learn to be okay with however long this takes.  I have to learn how to not berate myself every time I perceive a “setback.”  Even learning self compassion is extremely difficult for me.

Why?  Because I grew up with a dad who was abusive, and school personnel putting me down. Plus, my disability has occasionally been treated as a “burden.”  Or at least this is how I felt as a child sometimes.

Children are very sensitive to their parents.  Everything we say to them is ingrained into their brains FOREVER — even if we don’t think they are listening.

Potty training for children is one of those crucial times when parents either remain patient, compassionate, and encouraging or become angry, punitive, and sometimes even abusive.  In both cases, most parents mean well but some understand gentle parenting and the consequences of not being gentle while others do not.

Bathroom trauma is REAL.  I found this article to be very informative about bathroom trauma in children.  It’s so important that young children have positive associations with going to the bathroom.

Here’s what I tell parents regarding potty training their children:

*Wait until the child is showing interest in the bathroom to slowly introduce him/her to the potty.

*Let them lead the way.

*Read fun books about going potty.

*Let them pick out their new underwear.

*Give them plenty of choices for what potty they want to use.  Some children like the small, portable potty chairs and use them while watching tv or wherever they are most comfortable.  Other children want to use the toilet with a small seat on the toilet and a footstool to put their feet on.

*Allow them to experiment with going back and forth between diapers and underwear.

*Expect many accidents and don’t overreact.  After all, we ALL have accidents.

*Gently remind children to go potty many times as they are often so into what they’re doing that they miss the signals that they need to go until it’s too late.

*NEVER force potty training.  Don’t punish or reward them.  This shouldn’t make them feel as if their whole identity is contingent on being able to go potty. You may celebrate by doing the “potty dance,” saying, “Yay! You did it,” and giving high fives.

*Poop is the hardest for young children to master when it comes to potty training. Give them plenty of liquids to keep their stools soft. Hard, painful bowel movements often make young children (and even some adults) afraid to go to the bathroom and then they hold it too long.

*Be careful with flushing the toilet in front of the children. It could startle them. And children can view poop as “a part of them” for a while and will get very upset when it’s flushed down the toilet.  This won’t last long.

*Use correct terms for body parts.

*Make the potty routine fun.  Read books, splash and/or run water (it helps them pee), sing fun songs, have special “potty toys,” and do whatever else you can to make going potty as fun as possible.

*Finally, feel free to set limits on the type of talk and behaviors that are only for the bathroom.  Children don’t have filters and exploring new language and body parts is so fun and funny to them. Give them a safe, private place to do this.  This is an excellent time to also reiterate body consent and who may and may not touch certain body parts.

If these basic guidelines are followed by us, most children will master potty training by the age of four.  Please be gentle during the whole potty training process even if it’s really hard sometimes.

Having experience with PTSD, abuse, and trauma, I truly implore anyone reading this to place more importance on, and time into, creating healthy human beings from conception on. They are our future.

Every child and adult reacts to trauma in very different ways and that needs to be fully explored and parents should do their best to look for warning signs as should others in the community.  It still takes a village to raise children.

Mental illnesses usually are rooted in childhood trauma.  Here are two excellent books that explain how trauma can affect children:

The Boy who was Raised as a Dog by Dr. Bruce Perry.

Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley.

I truly believe that by respecting children from conception on and providing compassion to them in the worst of their moments is the way to a healthier—both physically and emotionally—society.  Compassion matters!

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Recent Horrific Child Abuse Cases

I am truly heartbroken by the recent cases of horrific child abuse. The parent of the most recent abuse case claimed that she just “spanked” and “disciplined” the children.

I’m sorry but hitting children, withholding food from children, locking and tying up children IS ABUSE!

I will NEVER stop advocating for the use of gentle parenting because even if these parents were truly trying to do their “best” with the children, there’s no way gentle parenting is ever abusive to children!

Everyone is always concerned about the physical health of these children and treat them accordingly, but people quickly forget the emotional trauma of abuse. These children will live with the emotional trauma for the rest of their lives.

I will write another blog post soon about my physical health issues and the trauma I am currently trying to work through. I have no doubt that my own history of being abused as a child has made it very difficult for me to work through other trauma, but I AM doing it and grateful for my support system.

I just had to condemn the recent abuse cases. It is NEVER okay to hurt children!

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“Do Not Repay Evil For Evil.”

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17, NASB).

“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9, ESV).

I have been going through a great deal of things recently.  I was badly hurt by some people.  Believe me, I have been tempted to repay evil for evil, but that is not what God wants us to do.  I am far from perfect, but I am really doing my best to not repay evil.

I have learned a few things as I continue to work through the hurt, anger, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and anxiety from the recent incidents and they also apply to gentle parenting.

1. Scolding harshly just shuts children and adults down.  It’s true. Scolding anyone of any age just makes them feel angry, defensive, small, and helpless.  This is especially true when a child has not even done anything wrong.  And often harsh scolding is abusive and/or shaming, which is very harmful and hurtful.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1, NASB).

2.  People of all ages act badly when they feel badly.  This is a common idea throughout gentle parenting.  Realizing why a child is acting out is so important because he/she is usually feeling badly either physically or emotionally or both.  When we stop to see behind the behavior, we see a whole new picture that changes, hopefully, the way we respond to the child.  The same is true with adults.  Being lashed out at by an adult is harder for me to deal with than if it was a child.  Yet, when I am really hurting, I tend to lash out too.  But I have learned that trying to be quiet and not lash out is always the best way to go.  Easier said than done, though.

3.  Mutual respect is key for healthy relationships.  From the moment a child is conceived, he/she should be respected.  Teaching respect means being respectful by not doing anything to the child that you know will intentionally hurt them such as cry-it-out, saying harsh words to them, manipulating them either physically or emotionally or both, and spanking/hitting them.  I often feel like people don’t truly respect me and that’s so hard when I’m trying to be respectful.  Again, I am far from perfect, but without mutual respect, one person will be walked all over by the other person.  The only way I know to encourage mutual respect is to teach it to children.  And just because someone is disabled or different doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same respect as everyone else!

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;” (Romans 12:10, NASB).

“and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21, NASB).

4.  PTSD, anxiety, and sensitivity are real and not weaknesses. Due to being abused throughout my childhood by my dad and a school personal aide, I have all of these things.  When people I am close to say “mean” things to me–whether it’s intentional or not-– it triggers my anxiety and PTSD.  I’m left debilitated for a while.  For children, saying mean, hurtful things will only tear them down and may lead to anxiety and PTSD.  Some children, as I was , and still am, are quite sensitive.  Unfortunately, being sensitive is often looked down upon and seen as a weakness.  Then people try to use this to manipulate and control these children and adults.  This is not ok!  If everyone was sensitive and empathetic, the world would be a much better place!

5.  Despite the common Christian doctrine that we’re born selfish, selfishness is a learned behavior.  Children raised with respect, compassion, empathy, and love usually learn to be the same.  These children are more competent in social interactions and have a lower rate of anti-social behaviors.  People raised with selfishness can learn how not to be, but many remain selfish until the day they die. If we want less selfishness in the world, we need to learn how to be selfless!  And we must teach our children how to be selfless by modeling it to them daily.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;” (Philippians 2:3, NASB).

6.  We must forgive while not allowing people to walk all over us.  Boundaries and limits are a must for children and adults in our life.  Children usually cooperate with boundaries and limits when they understand the reason behind them.  Adults, however, can be more complicated because they don’t always respect the limits and boundaries.  Sometimes all we can do is to put more space between us and them to protect ourselves. I’m still figuring out how to do this.

Also when we forgive, we should never throw stuff back in their faces when we are upset with them.  That isn’t fair.  We don’t forget but we move on if we can with the relationship.  Otherwise, it might be better to get out of a toxic relationship.

7.  We can’t control others but we can control ourselves.  The best thing is to focus on controlling our responses to others.  We are the only one that we can control.

I’m still working on all of this.  If everyone would do their best to work on these things, I truly believe that we’d have healthier relationships.

 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, ESV).

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