Sunday, July 31, 2011


Not in a place to blog much right now. Been shaking from panic and everything so bad whole body hurts. Been going on for couple hours now.

Anyway just want to share something I learned. If you have a student email address (ending in ".edu") hulu will give you a free month of hulu plus. It has lots of shows full last season so if you need distraction like me and want to get caught up for fall it's a good thing. I'm excited. At least one thing goin right.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ask River Question #4

It's been a long while since I've answered an Ask River question. Honestly I've had so much craziness in my head that I just haven't had the clarity to be able to say things that make sense. But, it's the middle of the night and since my body has apparently decided to no longer sleep, now should be as good a time as any. This question was posed over email a few weeks ago. Sorry to the asker for not getting to it sooner. I hope you'll understand.

Anon asks: What is the one thing that you think teenage foster kids want their foster parents to know about how to deal with them?

I had a feeling this question would come up sooner or later, and to be honest I was kind of dreading it. It's a great question, but I'm not sure I want to speak for teenage foster kids everywhere. But I can tell you what I always wished my foster parents could know about me. However I'm sure if you asked this to a dozen former (or current) foster kids you'd get a dozen different answers.

For me, I would just want you to know that we are trying our very best. Teenage foster kids get a bad rap in the eyes of many. I hear often, "I would love to be a foster parent, but I would never take TEENAGERS!" spoken like teens are horrible creatures. And the truth is, sometimes we are. When I was a teen in foster care, especially in my first home, I was in trouble at school so much I nearly got kicked out. I manipulated constantly. I stole from everyone around me. (I even stole my foster parents car...results were mentioned in the sobriety post). I had all sorts of attitude and I yelled constantly. I'm sure I was not a pleasant person to be around. I don't blame people for not wanting to invite that in to their home. I really don't.

But...the key to all of this is that I wasn't trying to hurt my foster parents or anyone else. I wasn't out to "be bad" or cause anyone pain. In fact that was the last thing I would've wanted. But I had never learned anything different. I manipulated and stole because that is how I had learned to survive. I used to drive my foster mom crazy because I would sneak around in the middle of the night to get food from the kitchen, but then refuse to eat anything she had cooked for meals. It wasn't that I didn't want to eat her cooking. No, my brain had been severely twisted from the abuse I'd endured. In my mind, eating her food gave her power. Like somehow I would "owe" them if ate "their" food. I genuinely believed that I had to keep them from having any power over me by not accepting any of their kindnesses. (Similar reasoning kept me from sleeping in bed, wearing the clothes they'd bought me, etc.). But I had to eat, so at night I would sneak down and take whatever food I could find. I'd generally take extra to stash somewhere too, just in case they decided to stop feeding me.

To some of you reading this, this probably sounds nuts. But if that's what you're thinking, you haven't realized how completely abuse and other traumas can warp a person's brain long after the abuse is over. In my foster moms eyes I was giving her attitude by refusing to eat her cooking or wear the clothes she'd bought. In my mind I was keeping myself safe and surviving. I was just waiting for these nice parents to turn in to how my parents had been, because in my mind that's how all parents were. Even at 16 years old, I still had no concept of a non-abusive family. I assumed this particular family just hid it well.

I am not saying at all that foster parents should accept crappy behavior from their kids, or that every foster parent should try taking in a teen because they mean well. What I am saying though is when you see said crappy behaviors, try to look beyond the behavior and see where it might be coming from. With the food example, my foster mom could've told me I wasn't allowed to take food after meal times and tried to punish me if I did. Instead she talked to me about food options I could eat any time and started leaving my dinner plate in the fridge for just me (instead of in the big things of leftovers) so I could eat it later if I chose. For a kid who had had my dinner plate thrown out in front of me while being told I didn't deserve to eat, knowing that my food was mine and could still be mine later was HUGE for me. My foster mom didn't fully understand the reasoning at the time, but the fact that she was willing to listen and work with me meant the world to me. Slowly as I started to trust that there would be food every night I became more willing to eat with others around. Similarly, she didn't object to me moving my mattress to the floor when I was afraid of sleeping in a bed. There were just so many little things like that that she did to help. She could've easily said, "What's wrong with you? Everyone wants to sleep in a bed." Or even just put me on the spot questioning why I didn't like beds. Instead she was able to accept that I wasn't ready to explain it right then but that a mattress on the floor would work much better for me. She understood that everything was a huge adjustment process and she worked with me as much as she could.

I think not taking it personally is another big issue that goes along with this. Even the behaviors that look like they're directed right at you likely have very little to do with you. For example, a teenager telling you that they hate you and want to go live with their bio family (pretty typical I'm guessing...) doesn't mean that you're a bad parent. It just means that the teen is confused and has a lot of complicated stuff to work through. Again don't let them walk all over you, but try to figure out where it's coming from and see if you can work WITH them to fix it. I'd say more than anything that is what helped me the most. Instead of getting flustered and frustrated and angry, help them figure out where the issue is coming from and how they can deal with it. I'd say this is especially true for an older teen (which is where all of my foster experience is). A 16+ year old kid is going to be out on their own before too long. They need help to understand the how's and the why's of the world and how they can best deal with it, not arbitrary "because mom said so" type of rules and punishments. They need a chance to try a bit on their own and fail while they still have a safe place to fall back on. A foster kid, especially if you're not planning to adopt, is going to be much more on their own than the average kid when they turn 18. The more understanding support you can give them in working with them, the better.

Wow sorry if this is all over the brain is definitely not functioning on all cylinders tonight! lol I'll try to wrap it up here by saying that any teenager in foster care has likely been through some very tough shit in their lives. Abuse, neglect, multiple moves, loss/death of people close to them, bullying, lack of positive role models, having to figure out most things on their own, not having trustworthy people around them, exposure to drugs and alcohol, etc. etc. Even in the "best" cases these kids are struggling. Because really, EVERYONE struggles as a teenager. For those of you raised by loving biological parents, or who have raised your own biological kids, how many can say that the teen years were pleasant and issue free? Yeah I thought so. :-P There might be a few lucky ones out there, but overall it's HARD to be a teen. Teen years are when you're figuring out your identity and making that scary (though none of them will admit it) transition from "kid" to "adult." Now add in all the additional struggles and transitions that come with foster care, and that's a lot for anyone to take on. Imagine trying to build an identity for yourself as a young adult when you've just lost everything you've ever known...or when you've never had any consistent place to build from. So please understand that most teens don't mean to be "bad" or "difficult" or anything else. We (is it weird that i'm still considering myself part of the teen crowd at 26) are just trying to learn and figure things out for ourselves. Because of past experiences, we just happen to mess it up a lot more than your average kid. For teens who have been moved a lot, this is probably way more the case as it's going to be even harder for them to trust that anything could be long term or permanent. So try to meet us where we're at and work with us. Try not to be freaked out or thrown off by our actions. We really are trying our best, and deep down underneath all the hardened exterior there's likely a terrified little child just wanting to be loved. (But do not, under any circumstances mention that last part to a teenager! lol).

And last but not least....a GIANT thank you to those brave souls out there willing to bring foster teens into your home. I know it's tough and honestly I'm not sure if I could do it. But I can tell you it means a lot just to know that there are people out there willing to try.

Anon, I hope that answered your question. If I didn't make sense or if you or anyone else has follow-up questions please leave a comment and let me know!


Want to ask a question of your very own? Question lines are still open, and it can all be anonymous if you're shy. Just go to and tell me what you want to know. It doesn't have to be foster care related (but it can be). Ask me anything! :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It happened so fast

So i've been thinking a lot lately about why now. Why, suddenly, are my abuse memories so difficult that I can barely function? Why is something that happened 13 or more years ago now leaving me paralyzed with fear. A lot of people ask similar questions. A lot of times it's more in the form of "but you were a little kid, aren't you over that by now?" The answer to that one is yes I'd sure like to be! I've been wondering if maybe I'm just holding on to bitterness or using it as an excuse or something like that. But I really don't think that's the case. I don't feel like I'm holding on to it. It's holding on to me. Add to this that I only really, fully remembered what happened back then a couple of months ago. Before that I knew some, but I had absolutely no concept of the extent of it. That has compounded everything. But again that leaves the question, why now? Why did those memories decide to reveal themselves now?

I was talking to a friend of mine and she says it's because my mind and body feel safe enough now to process these things. Essentially, it was too much for me to process as a child, so I'm having to process it now that i've become an adult. Nice reward eh? It makes me want to pretend i'm not so safe and stable so it will all go away again! If I could keep it buried that long, why not forever? (Of course the answer to this is that I'd put myself at much bigger risk of breakdowns, suicide, alcohol, whatever else I might decide to kill myself with...and I would never find real relationships and happiness and all that...but still!)

But still the question remains....why now. So here's my answer to that.

The abuse started essentially from birth. It's debatable if I was 3 or 4 or maybe 2 the first time anything happened, but really that's not that important. The point is I grew up with it, and it was always there. I spent my childhood learning survival techniques to keep myself safe around my parents and their various addictions, outbursts, psychotic episodes, or whatever else was going on. That's the way I learned how to live, and that was my normal. I didn't have a concept of anything better or even different.

At 13 I'd had enough. Something inside me snapped and I ran away. But I had nowhere to go. I stayed with friends off and on, and I made my way on the streets. It's probably obvious, but alone on the streets is not a good place for a 13 year old to be. But I had my survival skills. That's the one thing my parents did successfully teach me. I knew how to block out the bad and focus on what I need to stay alive. I knew how to work the people around me to get what I needed. And I knew it was a matter of life or death because I was convinced if I went back to my parents after running they would kill me. And really, if you knew them, that's not far-fetched at all. I didn't trust any authority figures for help because I knew they could return me to my parents, so I did it alone and survived it. But, there's three more years of those 13 since the abuse that I was not working on healing. Instead I was still working on fighting to stay alive. In a sense, it wasn't much different than the abuse.

At 16 I ended up in foster care. I know we all want to pretend that foster care is the world of butterflies and rainbows where the poor little abused kids go to become happy, healthy, and loving. I don't mean to diss foster saved my life. But, it's not even remotely easy. I had no idea how to live in any family, and suddenly I was flung into a home with complete strangers and expected to live by their routine. For someone who had grown up the way I did, it was as scary if not scarier than being on the streets. At least with abuse and danger I knew what to expect. But this kindness thing was weird. Not to mention that EVERYTHING in that house was different...and weird. Because when you walk in to your friend's house you notice it's different, not your style, and not necessarily comfortable to you. It doesn't mean it's bad, it's just one hell of an adjustment. In two years I had 3 different placements....2 family homes and one RTC that probably should be considered abusive as well. Another 2 years.

Next was college. When you're aging out of foster care, the decisions you make at 18 are some of the most important ever. In your life. Which sucks, because who really makes smart decisions when they're 18? The average kid has family to fall back on. A foster kid does not. There are people out there that will help you out at the start, but once you're out there you're pretty much out there on your own. For better or worse, it's you. Lose your scholarship? Lose your housing? Bummer. You're stuck. So needless to say even though I loved school starting college was very very stressful for me. It was so stressful in fact that I had to take a chunk of time off to go to rehab because I'd started drinking again. And another year off to resettle myself when I got so lost and crazed I couldn't concentrate and was failing anyway. With a lot of hard work I managed to finish everything in 5 years...big considering I took a year and a half off. But you see where this is going? Suddenly 13 years is sounding like a lot less.

I might be saying this just to convince myself, I'm not really sure. But as I look at this now, I've counted up 10 of those years that were nearly as stressful as the first 13. It's a different kind of stress, but it's still stress. We don't open up and deal with old stress that's still bothering us when we're still in the midst of new stress. So really, while it's been 13 years since the abuse, I've only had 3 years max to have even begun to process it. Add to that that the year or so getting out of college is another one of those that's stressful for everyone. No one knows quite what to do with themselves when making that transition from full time student to full time working world. So that takes out another year at least. Considering that i've been travelling and doing a lot of seasonal work (by choice because it's exciting and fun), I didn't leave myself a lot of time to process and grieve. So finally now life is slowing down a bit. When ya look at it this way maybe it makes sense why it's happening now. My young life was one big stress on another on another. Only recently have I become a "normal" every day, working person. Only lately have I really developed a routine where my body and mind have a chance to relax. And therefore, only recently has my body decided that it's PTSD time. Only now are the memories coming out in their full form. Kinda makes me want to go do something crazy again just to make them all stop! lol But at least now I have a bit of the reason why, which helps.

More death

The tragic deaths around me seem to keep coming.

I've just learned this morning that an incredible athlete and hero to many has died. Apparently he called 911 to tell police he was going to shoot himself, and then did so before anyone could arrive to help.

This guy seemed to have everything going for him and have a dream life. He was also sexually abused as a child, among other personal life tragedies. He had spoken out publicly about his abuse to help other children. Everything I've read about him seems to show he was a really good, nice man. A friend who has met him confirms that. I had the opportunity to watch him compete live once, and it was truly incredible. He was only 29 at the time of his death. Alcoholism and other addictions were also a major factor. :(

RIP Jeret "Speedy" Peterson. The world is saddened to have lost you so soon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The mountain

Still not doing too well. Just feel like this mountain is too high to climb.

I was told by a friend yesterday that I need to leave the past in the past, choose to be happy, and live my life. If only it were that easy. If I could just leave it behind I would've a long time ago. I'm not trying to hold on to bitterness, but the horrors hold on to me.

I feel like I face an impossible choice. Choose to live as I am now....functional, but knowing deep down it could be better and that I'm really not ok. Or, choose to face this enormous fight, in facing what I went through head on. I thought that's what I wanted to do. I thought I was ready to fight. But now the mountain looks so high and I feel so small. I don't want to climb it anymore. It's too hard.

I'm wondering why I do try and fight. Why do I even bother to care anymore? I could surely have a lot more fun if I just left the past stuff alone and stopped thinking about it...if I left the past in the past. It wouldn't be healthy, but what does that really matter when "healthy" has me stuck in bed without the strength to do anything.

What's the point of continuing to try?

Why do I care so much about something that happened 13+ years ago? Why can't I "just leave it in the past"? Have I become that bitter, that I'm blaming my parents and the others rather than taking charge of my own life? Am I making excuses like they say I am? Why can't I let it be and move on?

I don't know. All I do know is that right now I just want to close my eyes and when I open them hope that the mountain has somehow disappeared, because I sure as hell don't want to climb it. Maybe I need to just walk the other direction and forget about whatever's at the top or on the other side.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Does it make me weird/creepy that I love going to random parks and watching children of absolutely no relation to me play. I think it has to do with reminding myself that there are children out there growing up happy and innocent, and that good still exists in the world. There's nothing creepy about it for me, I just wonder if, with the way the world is today, if parents are thinking i'm a child molester or something. It's probably a good thing i'm not male in this case. Though I think realistically they probably don't even notice i'm there. One dad was so focused on watching his two little boys that he nearly stepped on me where I sat in the grass! Regardless, I usually bring a book with me so i'm not "just" staring. (I tend to zone out a lot...probably doesn't help the appearance).

Anyway, parks and children playing have become incredibly peaceful to me recently. I just love everything about it. It just feels like a little bubble of peace and happiness. Maybe it's pretending for that moment that I'm in their world, and my biggest worry is what slide to go down first. But I usually don't think that much about it. I just watch and feel comforted. It calms me when I'm panicking and when I'm hurting. Maybe it's just because it's simple. The stress of the world doesn't exist there.

I especially love youth sports. Maybe because then I have something specific to watch. For reasons entirely unknown to me, I especially love youth baseball. I really don't know what it is but something about the atmosphere at the park when kids are playing baseball just melts my stress away.

Today has been very, very difficult for me. A lot of struggles have been going on that I don't have the energy to go in to now. But this evening I picked up a "picnic" dinner from a burger place I like and I went to the park by my house with the baseball fields. Luckily for me there were games going on. I sat there for at least an hour (zoned out through a lot of it so not sure exactly) and watched a part of two different games. The kids playing were probably 6-7, so there was very little actual baseball going on. Now and then, a kid actually threw a ball that was catchable. But mostly they just flung it in random directions and then chased it. Kids managed to hit the ball but forgot to run the bases. Or, my personal favorite, one kid remembered while the other already on base forgot and they ended up both running together. Maybe that's what makes it's much more silliness than sport. Then again I like watching the older kids too, and they're good. If I have cable when it's on, I even like watching the little league world series when they play it on ESPN. Anyway, I spent at least an hour there...though I kept zoning out thinking about the mini baseball going on in front of me and forgetting everything else. Multiple times I had to remind myself where I was and what was going on around me. But considering the alternatives I could've been doing while panicking this badly, I would say watching kiddies play ball is a pretty good choice to zone out to. Now if only I could get them to play at all hours! :-P

Saturday, July 23, 2011


This is a topic I struggle with a lot. It seems to be coming up in my life a lot lately so I want to write about it.

I started drinking heavily when I was 13. I'm not sure when I took my first drink, I don't really remember. Alcohol was always around for me. It was very much a part of life. A lot of the people who hurt me as a child drank a lot, so I wish I would've/could've been smart and turned away from it. Instead, it was very natural for me to take to it. It was there, and nobody really stopped me.

When I was out on my own after I'd run away, it became an important part of my life. As bad as it may sound now, I believe that when I was on my own (from 13-16) alcohol and the drugs that I had started doing at this time saved my life. I had to make it on my own because I was terrified of what would happen if I went back home. The things I did to survive are the type of things you don't want to remember. They're the type of things that a person can't do for long without losing their sanity. I had to send my brain elsewhere. (I didn't look at it that way at the time, but in hindsight it makes sense).

I got sober the first time when I was 16 after nearly killing myself and some friends while driving drunk. This is a very painful story for me. I might tell it sometime. Maybe. Thankfully everyone survived with no permanent injuries. For now I'll just say it was a major turning point in my life.

I got sober, moved in with my foster family that I consider my family today. I stayed sober for 3.5 years. Then there was college. As we all know, alcohol is everywhere in college. I started convincing myself that my addiction was "just back when I was a stupid teenager." And that "I'm stable now, I can handle it." And that having just one drink would be "No big deal." Yeah...wishful thinking. Ended up on a semester-long drinking binge that nearly got me kicked out of school. To rehab I went. I realized then that sobriety would have to be a life-long commitment for me. I got sober and worked hard to keep it that way.

That time it lasted 5.5 years. I felt great. I was able to be around alcohol with no desire to drink it. I felt confident and secure in sobriety. Then just recently, right before my last move, I started to have a lot of repressed memories come back all at once. I'm not sure if it was related to the impending move, as I was moving back to the area where I grew up, or not. All I know is that my world I thought I knew suddenly came crashing down. The past that I thought I had a handle on turned out to be much, much worse than I'd originally remembered. Everything felt out of control, I was angry, I didn't care anymore, and my roommate had beer in the fridge. Bad combination. That started me on a week long binge that included all sorts of craziness. It was very scary what a short time it took to go from sober to drinking constantly. The only reason I was able to get sober was I knew I had to move, which included an 8 hour drive that I obviously couldn't do while drinking.

As I've mentioned in other posts, sobriety didn't last long when I moved. My housing fell through and I ended up living in my car. The stress of being back here was too much and I had a breakdown complete with drinking again. But I'm back on the wagon now...back to sober. I've been sober for 59 days now and every single one of them has been a fight. All of that confidence and security around alcohol has been 100% erased. I get angry and jealous of my friends that get to go have a beer at the end of a long day. I hate facing my abuse memories sober. I so badly want to erase the bad out of my mind like I used to be able to, even if just for a few minutes. I know I can't, and I know all the reasons why, but it's still a hard and constant fight.

Sobriety has come up in my life in two big ways lately. The first was yesterday. Through a mountain biking program I've been working with that takes youth organizations from the city on rides, I had the chance to work with a group from an adolescent substance abuse treatment place. I was a bit nervous going in since I did most of my heavy drinking and drug use was in my teens. I wasn't sure how I would react to teens from a similar situation. The night before I started having panic attacks...thinking what if I hear them talk about drinking and drugs and I want to go back? I also started having tons of memories from my time out on my own which i usually don't think about too much (since it's all still a bit foggy).

Anyway, I was relieved from the start to find that I was able to quickly look at their teenage bs and see it as teenage bs. I had no desire to go back there. There were definitely triggers though, as the kids all seemed to have similar stories to mine (homelessness, foster care, neglect, etc.). But I hit it off really well with a particular kid and ended up working with him for most of the day. At the end, we all circled up and everyone had a chance to say what they'd like about the day and how they felt about their ride. He looked right at me, smiled, and said that he'd actually really enjoyed a day being sober. And it really looked and felt genuine the way he said it. It melted my heart and meant way more to me than I'd expected. This was the kid who all day long as making jokes about wanting to go party, asking where the keg is, etc. etc. (that teenage bs I was referring to). It felt amazingly good to realize that I had positively influenced someone else's sobriety. I made that one day easier for him, and really that's what it's all about. The one day at a time thing never changes. And in a sense that's what sobriety (and healing, and life in general) is all about...being there for each other and helping each other to get one more more moment. It was a very moving, important day for me. Surprisingly the staff told me that this particular boy rarely opens up to anyone and usually has a lot more tough guy attitude.

So now today I find out that Amy Winehouse has died, most likely of a drug overdose. This really hurts me to hear. She was almost exactly a year older than me. She's where I could've been (well, I can't sing, but otherwise), if my life had gone a very different direction. I loved her song Rehab when it first came out. I thought it was hilarious. Until I realized how badly she really did need rehab. Then it made me sad for her. Now I can't listen to it at all. I wasn't a huge fan of her music, and don't know a lot about her, but her death is hitting me hard. It just feels close to home. A young addict like I was/am. Another reason to keep fighting and to stay sober. Another reason to not get lazy about recovery. I need stuff like this in my life. It's good for me. I need to see others battling addiction so I can stay strong. That's what meetings and such are all about. I'm not sure where I'm going with this except to say that I'm struggling now. In the last few days my heart as felt both lifted and positive but also heavy and low. I hope that this death will help encourage other young ppl to get help. I hope that the boy I worked with will be able to get and stay sober successfully. I hope for a lot of things but i'm struggling. Struggling to hold on to hope.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I want...

Mostly, I want to be treated like everyone else. I don't want to be "different." I don't expect special treatment because of my past. I just want to be one of many.

But then there are days when I want people to realize just how hard it can be for me to get up out of bed and face the world. I want to be greeted not with "you're late," but "wow, I'm impressed that you made it." Sometimes just being there is all that I can offer. Some days it's more than I can offer. I'm not lazy, I'm not rude, and i'm not avoiding people or missing appointments on purpose. I'm struggling, and I'm doing the best I can.

I just want the world to know that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I really am! I say it with a question mark because it's been so long since I've been genuinely happy that I sorta forget what it feels like. But today was a really good day.

I spent most of the day on a mountain bike ride with a group that does guided rides for at-risk youth. It was made even better by the fact that that "work" counts for credit for my class. Yay! I think it's a good sign that I'm studying the right thing when the field work for class makes me very, very happy.

The biking program I'm working with partners with various youth organizations to take them out on a ride for today. The group we were with today was very cool. It's a highschool drop out prevention program which pairs kids up with mentors starting in 3rd grade. If all goes as planned, the kids stay with the same mentor(s) all the way through high school, so it's like they form a family together. And they get to do all sorts of cool stuff....mountain biking, camping, kayaking, etc. The kids we were with today are going in to 7th grade. Some of the kids have been in the program since 3rd grade, others joined later (about half came in in 5th grade I think). Anyway, the kids were really great kids, and it was cool to have a small part in helping build this extended family for these kids, so that when things get tough later in life they'll have good people and memories to lean on. I'm not sure exactly how kids are picked for this program, but I know they have had a HUGE success rate in raising the percentage of kids graduating highschool. It was fun to be a part of, and it was just fun to see kids learn to mountain bike for the first time. Some had done some rides before, but the three I was working with mostly were brand new to it. It was fun to be out there with them and see them start to find success.

After the kids went home I went out to do the same trail again. It was great to be biking with the kids, but it gets a bit frustrating sometimes to slow down and go at kid speed when you really want to ride. So I went out and rode hard. That's another thing that really struck me. By the nature of my job I've been very active this summer, but I have done very little working out to the point that there's no room left in my head to my walk the other night. I used to go for runs a lot so I could hit that point. When I'm being active with kids, I obviously don't get to that point. (But I do wonder if that is a draw for some of the kids that come on these bike rides). Anyway, as I was out riding on this beautiful trail, pushing myself to the limit, I realized that I was smiling. I started down a hill and the smile grew. I heard myself thinking, "I think I'm....happy?" Then I actually said out loud to myself "I'm happy!" as I continued to ride with the smile on my face. I stopped for a moment in a nice quiet place on the trail to drink in my moment of happiness.

And I'm thankful to say that the good feelings have continued. And it rained a bit this evening so it's finally not deathly hot and I can feel comfortable and not sweaty. Yay! Now the only problem is that it's only 7:30 and I've run out of things to keep my mind occupied. I wish I could go to bed now (didn't sleep well at all last night so i'm super tired) but it would only end up with me up in the middle of the night. feels good to report on a happy day. :) Thanks for listening!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Too much

I'd come here to write a positive post. Really, I did. I don't want this blog to be all doom and gloom. And there are good things happening lately. I had some peaceful time recently. I used some relaxation breathing techniques I just learned to get through a drs appt. today which even included a blood draw. And did you notice this blog has hit over 1000 views? And there's other good things going on too. But I can't talk about those right now.

I can't because I've seen some things in the last couple of days that I wish I didn't have to.

Recovering these memories of abuse has been a horrible, horrible trip. But I thought I was processing and getting better. And maybe I am. But now i'm seeing these memories in a whole new light, and for now it is too much to handle.

I'm seeing, in my head, what it means for an adult to rape a child.

No longer am I seeing it through the eyes of the terrified little girl who believes it is all her fault, and feels too much shame to truly admit what is done.

I'm seeing it through the eyes of a rational adult. And right now, it's just too much. I know these are questions that will never be answered, but how can an adult do that to a small child? Especially a child that he has been entrusted to love and to care for. A big, full sized man. A tiny young girl. Why? How? A little girl is not meant for that. The little girl doesn't know what sex is. And the man is much too big for her. He's only going to break her. I feel gross and disgusting for even writing this here. For thinking it. Maybe I should keep it hidden inside my own head. But it's so strong right now, I feel it needs to be out and exposed.

I remember the beatings vividly. But these other times are different. I know what happened. I've spoken about what happened. But I don't think I've processed what really happened. What was really going on. What he, and eventually others, really did to me. It's too much to handle right now. It's keeping me from processing another thought. It's keeping me from everything. I don't know. I'm sorry to have bothered you all with this. :'(

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A tale of two selves

On my last post I wrote about what an amazing week I have had. That was my work self.

I have another self. That self has not had such a great time.

The people who know me through work would never believe what I am like at home, especially lately. The people who know me through online support groups, this blog, etc. would likely struggle to believe that my work self could really be me.

I love my job, but it takes a lot out of me. I come home exhausted. And exhaustion makes it very hard to deal with the rest of life.

Unfortunately, the rest of life for me is rather huge.

The rest of life consists of being constantly flooded by horrific memories of childhood abuse and torture. I've only recently been able to use the word torture, but that really is what it was. The memories are relentless. Usually I can fight them off at work because I have so much else to focus on. But I can't be working all the time. I can't distract all the time. As soon as I begin to relax, everything else attacks. I am forced to see vividly in my mind what I went through. I have flashbacks so intense I dissociate, sometimes for hours at a time. Sometimes on weekends and after work I have giant blocks of time where I can't tell you where I was or what I was doing. I can only guess from what's in my head.

The flashbacks bring with them the awful thoughts and emotions that went with them as a child. When I come back from them I feel like the worst person in the world. I question how anyone would want anything to do with me, or how anyone could stand being close to me. I feel disgusting. I feel like poison. A far, far cry from my loving, energetic work self.

I know these feelings are common for sexual abuse survivors but that doesn't make them any easier to deal with. I know logically that I was a child and could not have been at fault for my abuse. But abusers are skilled at making you believe that. It's so awful...not only are they hurting you so badly but they're also convincing you that you caused it, or that you want it, or that you deserve it. Truly awful the power that they have.

I come home after work and the memories invade. The horrible feelings overcome me. I fight to stay in the present and not to hurt myself. Lately, I have not even been able to eat. Remember my post from a while back about hunger? About how I have food with me constantly and need to eat at the first sign of any hunger because it's such a huge trigger for me? Well, the evil voices from my past have gotten so strong that I hear them telling me I'm not good enough to eat. I remember them throwing my food away while I watched, telling me I wasn't deserving. And now I feel so totally low that I can't bring myself to feel I deserve food. Of course that brings up all sorts of additional horrible panic. I feel so hungry, but just looking at food causes me to panic and feel sick. How could I possibly deserve that? How could I possibly deserve to eat? I deserve to be hurt. I deserve the pain that comes from lack of food.

This is all very scary stuff to say out loud. This is the reason I haven't blogged this week. It's not the kind of stuff I want to admit to an audience. Worse yet, these same feelings that tell me I don't deserve even basic things make me feel that this isn't something I'm meant to share. It's something I'm supposed to suffer in silence. I have tried multiple times to write email ask for help...but the words just don't come. The more it hurts the more I feel trapped deep inside.

But here's the thing. My work self isn't faked. When I'm out with the kids I'm not faking smiles. I genuinely care and I do everything to make their experience the best it can be. And I love it. I'm truly happy, I feel on top of the world.

Both of these selves are true selves. I guess it's good that I can separate them so well so I can have a functional exterior. I'm definitely thankful that none of the parents (or kids) know that at night I come home and curl up in a little ball and cry. I'm so glad they don't know what else goes on inside my head. I just wish I could feel some of that glory even when I relax. Even when I'm not pouring every ounce of energy into being that strong self. Maybe some day.

For now I need to walk away from this before I get too scared to post it. Ya'll may get tired of hearing me whine, but I need to let this self out to speak. It's almost 11:00 am now and I haven't eaten since last night when I had a few bites of chicken. Before that I hadn't eaten since lunch. (I'm able to eat a full lunch because while at work these feelings aren't there). I'm very hungry, but still afraid to eat. Afraid to even leave my room. Something is very much not right here. :(

Oh, and to make matters worse...due to some unfortunate scheduling, I will not be working for the next two weeks. I was supposed to be going out of town to see some friends but that trip has fallen through. While I know I have a lot to do that I haven't been able to do when tired from work, I'm very scared for where these next two weeks will lead!

What I do

This week has been one of the best weeks of work I've ever had. I work at a summer camp and the group of kids this week were just incredible. No whining, no frustrating behavior, no drama. Just kids that were excited to be there and wanted to try every different thing they possibly could. It made it very fun for my co-instructor and I because we got to spend our time creating great adventures for these kids. Not stressing over behavior. It was tons of fun, and the week went by way too fast. I'm so sad to be done with this group already.

Oh, and did I mention they were tough as nails? Especially the girls. It was amazing. One girl twisted her ankle pretty bad on our hiking day and kept hiking like it was nothing. Same girl the next day went over the handlebars on her bike, did a full flip, hurt her wrist in the process and kept on going. Another girl got hit in the face by a falling rock and ended up with a bleeding gash in her cheek. Her only complaint? That we wouldn't allow her to climb until we got the bleeding stopped and got it taped up. Incredible kids.

Even the ones who had never been in the outdoors much and were scared of everything just kept going. 2 kids learned to ride bikes for their first time and not only rode but managed to ride dirt singletrack. One even attempted the challenge of riding through a creek. (Fell face first and got soaked but jumped right up and cheered). One girl who was terrified to get in a kayak even on flat water ended up paddling through some pretty big waves in the moving water. Yes she screamed the whole time (Mostly yelling at me..."River! What do I do? River! It's not working! RRRRIIIIIVVVVVVEEEEER!!!!) and cried a bit, but she did it and was soooo proud of herself. She had a bit of a meltdown so I pulled her aside and talked to her a bit about how to handle her fears and how to think rationally in the face of fear. She was willing to try again, which was so awesome. At the end of the day she said that had been the best part for her, and actually listed that as one of the best parts of the whole camp. Another girl was terrified of heights and didn't want to climb. I talked to her about making goals and finding challenges for ourselves. She got up to where she said she couldn't go any higher and I convinced her to take one more step up. Then when she came down we talked about stretching the "I can't" line just a little bit every time you try something new. That you don't have to succeed all at once, but that every time you stretch that line in anything you do, you move a step closer to total success. She also said that that was the best part of her day, and also one of the best parts of her week.

Those moments, and these kind of weeks, are why I love my job and what makes it so, so meaningful for me. Some people laugh when I say this, but I see myself as much more than "just a camp counselor," and what we do with the kids as a lot more than "just summer camp." This is the kind of stuff I see myself doing in one way or another for the rest of my life. I want to create these kinds of opportunities for kids who have been abused, kids in foster care, or kids with other behavior issues. If paddling a kayak for the first time can mean so much to a "normal" kid, imagine what it could be for a child who has been told their whole life they are nothing. Imagine what succeeding in a rock climb while friends cheer them on could be to a child who believes that he/she will never belong anywhere. Just being pushed those little bits out of your comfort zone and learning how to push yourself can be so huge for any kid, but especially those that have never learned how to believe in themselves. Or those who have been taught through their years that there is something wrong with them, or that they can't be successful.

I have such a big heart for those kids, because I was, and still am one. It doesn't matter how many times the parents thank me and tell me how great I am. I still go home and question my worth. But I know that recreation opportunities like these have been big in shaping my own life, and I know they can be for these kids too. For all kids.

So that's what I do. I'm a camp counselor. An outdoor instructor. I teach kids to mountain bike, kayak, canoe, climb, and explore the world around them. And when I'm really lucky, I get to find ways to teach them about their own inner strength, abilities, and lessons they can use in their daily life. It's a good gig. :-D

Monday, July 11, 2011

TG for AGT!

Thank god for America's Got Talent!!!!

I don't particularly like AGT. I love to see the talented acts. The "drama," the attempting to be funny filler, and the ridiculously bad acts I could do without seeing, but anyway...

Without this show I don't think I would've slept AT ALL this last week! I've discovered that there is no better show to fall asleep to. There's enough interesting stuff that it's worth watching. The bad stuff is dull enough that it convinces me to close my eyes. There's enough music involved that it can eventually be pretty calming (except in the case of some of the really awful singers). It's mindless enough that if I zone out for a bit I'm not missing anything important or losing track of a storyline. It's on twice/week and all the full episodes are online for free.

The downside...I'm almost caught up to the present! Ack! Let's just say I've been watching it A LOT lately! I only discovered it online recently, so I had a lot of episodes. Now only a few left. I really need to figure out how to get myself to sleep for longer than a couple of hours at a time before I run out. Oh, and because my sanity, ability to function, etc. would really appreciate it as well!

I've received a couple of additional "ask River" questions by email...I plan to get to them soon but am struggling to find the brain power to respond right now. As always I'm open to questions, it's just going to take me a bit longer to be able to answer them right now.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

And isn't it ironic...

In the midst of my current life confusion, one of the things I'm struggling with a lot is making sense of anything complicated. Basically, my world is spinning. So many of my thoughts right now are dedicated to processing the memories and facing the flashbacks that won't leave me alone. Every action I take requires a series of thoughts and precautions about how it might trigger me. Even changing positions tends to require a great deal of self talk if anything comes up when I do it. As soon as the scary stuff starts to come up I have to figure out how to work through it and focus on something in the current moment. I have to fight it to keep from going deep in to flashback land, where I sometimes don't come out for a long, long time. I have to stay always on guard so that nothing can catch me by surprise.

With all that going on in my head, it's like there's little room for anything else. Add to that that laying down isn't working so well for me right now so I've slept probably a total of one night's worth over the last week.

The big irony though...if I see a big page of writing my brain shuts down. When doing school work I'm doing the old grade school method of covering up all but a few words so I can focus a little bit at a time. Otherwise it turns in to a list of words that I just can't seem to gather the brain power to make into meaningful sentences. But every time I sit down to write, I end up writing a novel. Maybe it's because I can't make my thoughts come out in order so they ramble, or maybe I have a lot more to say than I realize, but I look back over my blog and think "wow I'm glad I don't have to read all that!" lol Hopefully not everyone else feels the same. :)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ask River, Question #2 (and #3)

Anonymous asks:

Hi River :)

thanks for doing this. A little background, my foster children are pre teen. Mom is a homeless, workless drug addict.
previous Mom was a druggie, who pimped her kids out, and did not provide for them in any shape or form.

Here is my question: WHY do these kids idolize 'MOM'? Why are they not angry? Why do they not question 'mom', and ASK questions of WHY Mom did what she did?? These kids lost EVERYTHING due to the choices 'mom' made!1

WHY do I hear day in day out "I can't wait to go 'home' to my Mom"

why don't they appreciate the least bit that HERE they have running water, food, clean clothes (and plenty of em), fun, safety, and sober foster parents?

I ask myself lately if I even want to continue fostering older kids....I am so fed up with the daily feeling of 'not being ever good enough' for these kids.

Hi anonymous,

Thanks for the question. :)

Before I go in to more detail, I want to address a specific part of this that jumped out at me. Mainly: "why don't they appreciate the least bit that HERE they have running water, food, clean clothes (and plenty of em), fun, safety, and sober foster parents?"

Think back to when you were a pre-teen. Obviously I don't know anything about your life, but how often did you show appreciation for running water, food, sober parents, etc.? Pre-teens are great at showing appreciation anyway, but these things are supposed to be a right for all children. I understand where you're coming from, and it's great that you have been able to give them so much, but I think these are hard things to ask kids to show appreciation for.

One of the issues I see come up often with parents fostering older kids is that the foster parents want the kids to be constantly grateful for all they have been given. They want their foster kids to say, "Wow, thank you so much for all of these wonderful things you have provided me with! Thank you for rescuing me from that terrible situation I was in before!" And at first look, this is a logical thing to expect. After all, some of these foster kids have come from absolutely terrible situations. How can they not be grateful for everything now being given to them.

But here's the thing. From the kid side, they have lost EVERYTHING. Anon, (can I call ya Anon? Anony? :-P) you said that your kids have lost everything, but I don't think you're seeing the entirety of that everything. No matter how awful their life may have looked from the outside, it was theirs and now they've lost it. They've lost their mom and their sense of home, regardless of if that home was in a car, a shelter, or whatever else. By going in to foster care, they've lost everything they knew in life. So, everything has been taken away from them and now they're being asked to be grateful for it. That's a tough thing to swallow at a young age (and yes, pre-teens are still very young in the big picture of things).

That said, I don't know how long these kids have been with you, but respect and appreciation are things that you can expect out of children in your home. I'm not saying that these kids should be allowed to have whatever they want all the time, just to make sure you're not expecting them to be extra appreciative because of what you "saved" them from. Instead, I would try to give them a bit of lee way because of what they have lost. (Especially if the loss of their bio family is very recent...if it has been a while you can expect more, though understand it's still a struggle for them).

As for "idolizing" bio mom, I have a few theories on that.

First, it may be their desperation to have a relationship with her and believe that she loves and cares about them. If they've been with you for a while, they have likely seen that you are true to your word and will be there for them. They know that their bm will not. They have to fight to believe that there is good in their bm and that she hasn't left them forever. They know that even if they hurt you you will stick around, so their emphasis is on convincing bm to love them, or convincing themselves that she still does.

Similarly, they might be so hurt by what bm has done that they're in denial and creating a fantasy world to feel better about their lives. This fantasy world could either be purposeful or subconscious. For example, have you ever had something really bad happen in your life, and then looked back on it later and thought "well it wasn't SO bad..." Or maybe you've been hurt by a good friend and sworn you would never speak to them again, but then as you spend more time away from that friend you start to think "Oh but remember how much fun we had together! I sure do miss her!" Our memories can tend to hold on to the good parts and let the bad parts go, causing us to mis-remember just how bad it was, especially if we are trying to convince ourselves it wasn't so bad. No kid wants to admit just how bad life with their bio family was. I'm struggling with that a lot right now and I'm 26. I'm only just now coming to terms with how bad it was. I was trying to hold on to my bio parents "meaning well" or "just making a mistake" or whatever other excuses I could come up with for them.

They may also be terrified and/or blame themselves for the bad things that have happened. Maybe they've been conditioned throughout their lives to believe that if they get angry at mom then bad things will happen to them. Kids who have been abused often learn early on that anger at those that have hurt them can result in awful consequences. Also talking about it all can lead to similar awful results. It doesn't matter in their eyes that the ppl who hurt them are not immediately there, the thoughts are still present. Also it could be something much less direct than that. It may be a subconscious feeling that they did something wrong to end up in foster care and believe it will only be made ok when they go "home." They may feel that they have hurt their bio mom and need to make up for it. The thing is that it's very possible that they are not consciously aware of these thoughts, but are just acting on what they believe deep down or what has been programmed into them. Getting actively angry at an abuser (regardless of the type of abuse) is something that many survivors struggle a long time with. We're really good at getting angry with and blaming ourselves and those around us who care about us, but placing the blame and anger on the one who deserves it is another issue altogether. I wish I could better explain the reasoning for that but I'm sure it's probably a fear thing. It takes A LOT to face the person who hurt you, even if it is just in emotion. While I get angry at my parents sometimes...most of the times I still blame myself for what happened even though logically I know it could not have been my fault. As a young child it would be even harder to come to grips with these very big emotions.

A lot of this is very hard to answer without knowing how long the kids have been with you and how long they've been away from their bio family. If you'd like to reply again with more details I could probably give you a more specific answer and less generalizations. But what I will say regardless, is to understand that recovering from something like what your kids have come from is a gigantically huge process. You say they've been raised by a drug addict, "pimped out", homeless, and not provided for in any way. Any ONE of those things is enough to have serious, life-long effects on a child. These are major traumas that are very difficult to process. I would guess that deep down they do genuinely appreciate being safe and all of the things you're providing for them, but they don't know how to express it. Unfortunately for you it instead comes out in a way that is hurtful to you.

I don't mean for this reply to sound mean or harsh. I can see that the hard work you're putting in is going mostly unnoticed by the kids you are working for, and i'm sure that is really difficult. I would try to remind yourself that even if they aren't acknowledging it, it may well not be unnoticed. It took me until years later to truly acknowledge what my foster parents did for me. My first foster parents especially...I did everything I possibly could to make their lives a living hell because I was waiting for the time when they would turn in to my bio parents and hurt me. They reacted again and again with kindness, and it wasn't until many years down the road that I was finally able to recognize all they did for me and come back to thank them.

Also I would say to realize that this is a lot to take on for both you and them. Get the kids in therapy if they're not already, and maybe find some therapy for yourself as well. It may help to have someone in your corner as you go through all of this. If you'd like to reply with some more detail I'd be happy to add more directly to your situation. But regardless, best of luck, and thank you for taking on this challenge of fostering older kids. I know it's not easy!


And to the other anonymous...because I don't know if you're the same one or not...who asked, "so when can we expect answers?"

1.) Now.
2.) Hold your horses. Patience is a virtue. All that good stuff.


And now to everyone....want to ask a question? Do it already! :-P Go here:

I miss denial!

I just need to say that I really, really miss being in denial about what happened to me....

It's not like my experience changed...what's there in the past has always been the same...but I used to be able to push it aside and lead a relatively normal life. Not so much anymore. Lately it's gotten especially bad.

There used to be just a few obvious things that scared me or limited me...I couldn't watch realistic scary movies (can't handle seeing ppl hurt each other)...I couldn't deal with anyone holding me down somewhere (obvious reasons)...and I couldn't handle hearing ppl talk about certain very graphic things. I'm sure there was other stuff that got me too, but it was always big, obvious, easy to avoid type things.

Now I not only have had a ton of new memories, but I'm starting to see the old memories in new detail. They're coming back to me constantly whether I like it or not. It's like it's always there in the back of my mind. Within the last week or so i've gone really, really downhill.

Now...I can't handle having my movement restricted at all. This includes...being stuck sitting for too long, unable to stretch my legs out, etc. That means that I can't drive even remotely long distances, can't sit through a movie at the theater (had hoped this would be a good distraction...not so much), sometimes can't wrap up under a blanket which used to be super comforting to me, and can't have anybody hug me.

Along with the hugging, I now can't handle touch at all. I know some survivors that struggle with touch a lot but I've always been relieved that I'm not one of them because hugs, being held, etc. by trusted ppl has always meant a lot to me. Now if anyone touches me at all I feel my body go stiff with fear and I feel anger welling up inside of me. It's a struggle not to scream and try to physically fight them.

Also now I'm triggered by most my body is positioned, clothes i'm wearing, things I see, things I hear, etc. Mostly things that are nearly impossible to avoid in day to day life.

They tell me this is healing. They tell me stepping out of denial means that I am processing what happened and it will make my life better at the end.

I really want to tell them all where to shove it because I miss my denial!

Yes I've said again and again that I want to be healthy for real, and I want to live a life beyond what my past has given me, but damn...Can I at least take denial out for lunch or something? We've been apart for too long!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ask River, Question #1

Audra asks:

Hi River,
This is a really nice idea. i thank you for opening yourself up to this. I dont know your circumstances, so I might not ask a relevant question to your life experiences. I have an adopted daughter from Guatemala. We know nothing of her backgroud except for a report that was given to us but may not have anything that is accurate. She is starting to be extremely interested in her birth family.And as of late when speaking about her own birth family and those of her soon to be adopted siblings. She says" their mothers gave them away". This has cut me in the heart as I know this relization hurts her.

Then on the other hand we have two siblings both very young yet who were removed from their birth families basically from neglect and lack of trying to change.They will have all kinds of information and most likely somekind of contact after we adopt.
Since you have experienced this type of loss in one way or another what would be your advice in dealing with both of these circumstances. I guess I just want to hear what you thought and felt when you realized.

Hi Audra,

Thanks for starting off the question asking! :) This is a great question, though it can be tough to answer. Let me start by giving you a bit of my background.

My bio parents were horribly abusive monsters. I was severely abused by them mentally, physically, and sexually. I lived with them until I was 13 and ran away, genuinely fearing for my life if I stayed. (I feared for my life if I left too, but the great unknown seemed less scary than more time with my parents.)

From there I lived on my own or with whoever I could convince to take me in until just before my 16th birthday when I was arrested for shoplifting and taken to the police station. I was told that the police were calling my parents to come get me. They of course had no idea how long it had been since I had seen my parents. I was terrified, wondering what sort of horrific punishment my parents would have in store for my leaving.

But I never found out. After hours of waiting, someone new came in to talk to me. I think she was a social worker but I'm not sure. She explained that my parents were "unable to come." It turns out that in the time i'd been gone, my parents had decided that they no longer wanted me. They had denied my very existence.

Some may think that I would've jumped for joy at this news. I didn't have to go back to the monsters and their horrific abuse of me! Cause for celebration, right? No. I was crushed. Absolutely crushed. As terrified as I was to see them, and as evil as I knew they were, being denied by your own parents causes a pain that seeks to destroy who you are at your very core. No matter how awful they were, as a child I wanted and needed their approval. This ultimate disapproval was truly more than I could take.

One of the fundamental truths of life is supposed to be that mommy takes care of and protects her babies. (Daddy too, but mommy is the first caretaker in the womb and usually the more involved one, esp. early on). For example, look at nature. Think of a newborn kangaroo...tiny, blind, and with barely developed limbs, but yet it knows how to climb to it's mother's pouch for safety and warmth to continue to grow. It is a built in assumption with human babies that mom will be there to nurture them and keep them safe and warm while they grow. I believe very strongly that babies get to know their mom while in the womb, and so a connection is already built at the time of birth.

What I'm trying to say here is that no matter what age it happens, losing one's parents is shocking and painful. Add to that a feeling of being denied by said parent and it gets much worse.

A few things that I would offer to help your kids deal with this pain:
1.) Allow them to talk about their bio parents. Give them space to talk about what they may remember or not remember and how they feel about it without guilt. Be willing to listen, or help them find someone else that they can talk about them with. If you can, keep information and pictures about their bio families to help fill some of the gaps they may have. As hard as it might be for you, having blank spaces in your past where you just don't know can be much harder for them.

2.) Don't take it personally. Your child grieving the loss of his/her bio family is in no way a reflection on your or your parenting. Even if you gave them an absolutely perfect life, the pain of losing their birth family would still be present. If your child feels that s/he is hurting you by talking about bio family (and kids will pick up on this) they may become afraid to work through these issues and they'll become bigger and more extreme later on.

3.) Be supportive, but honest. Kids don't need a fantasy world. For example, don't tell your kids that their mom "wanted so much to raise them and be with them always" if it's not the case. Keep it age appropriate (always the challenge), but help your children to understand the real reasons why they can't be with their bio parents. Your kids need to know that they can trust you when they need support or answers. If you don't know, tell them that. Help them work through their emotions as they come, and be aware that that may include intense anger and hurt.

For your kids that will continue to have some level of contact, some of this might change a bit but I would still try to stick with the basic principles. Depending on the kids sometimes contact can help make things make more sense, but it can also cause a lot more confusion with continuing to be torn between two families. I don't have any specific experience with this as I never saw my bio family again after they abandoned me, so I can only go off of what I've seen and heard from others. If your kids are going to have direct contact w/their bio family I would say to do everything you can to see that you and they provide a united front for the kids. Make sure you are not bad-mouthing them to your children, not even a little. Like I said, it's ok to be honest about what they did or didn't do, but don't say demeaning things about them to or around your kids. Likewise, make sure that the bio family is fully respecting you as their family now, and not saying anything that will confuse the kids (calling themselves mom or dad, making mention of the kids ever coming back to live with them, saying things about the kids being at fault for any of it, etc.) It's a lot like how you might deal with a situation of can never have too many people to love them, but keep the kids out of complex adult situations and let them be kids. When they need more info they can let you know and you can help them with it then.

For your daughter from Guatemala, depending on how old she was when you adopted her, she will likely always feel at least a bit like she has a missing piece from her life there. If she was old enough there to have some memories of it, help her cultivate those. If not, help her learn about her country and culture (along with yours/her new one of course) and maybe even help her travel there when she's older.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have more questions.

Did that look like fun? Excited for your opportunity to ask a question of your very own? Just go to and ask away! LOL (Yes I'm attempting to make this sound like an infomercial, and yes I realize that that's likely funny only to me. Oh well. Deal with it. :-P)

Sleep, glorious sleep!

I haven't slept well in at least a week...mainly because I'd end up triggered or in pain every time I'd allow myself to fully lay down. It's nearly impossible to sleep when laying down reminds you of terrible ways you were hurt. Anyway, last night the weather was beautiful (cool and rainy) and I suddenly got sooo tired I could do nothing but lay down. I fell asleep and slept for a full 7-8 hours (not sure exactly how long) straight with no nightmares or anything. Yay! I woke up so changed by it it took me a while to figure out where I was, what day it is, etc. I feel like a whole different person today! It's amazing what sleep can do.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Being believed

I think questions and fears related to being believed is something that every abuse survivor goes through at one time or another. After all, abusers are really good at looking like kind, normal, productive members of society while making their victims appear confused or crazy. They're also good at scaring victims in to staying quiet, so there's a lot riding on it when a victim/survivor decides to come forward and speak out. There is also often a lot of shame and guilt from the victim, making them question themselves, their story, and the worth in being heard.

I have never been doubted outright to my face. What I have heard is people downplaying the stories that I tell, essentially saying, "Well it couldn't have really been THAT bad, right?" or "Could a parent really do THAT to their child?" Honestly, sometimes it's my voice speaking those kind of phrases.

It's not that I distrust my memories. It's more that what was my reality as a child is now very hard to make sense of as an adult. When I was young I didn't know that kids weren't supposed to be molested. I didn't know that when other ppl talked about special time with their parents that theirs didn't include being naked. I didn't know that when other kids talked about being spanked they weren't referring to being beaten mercilessly with a belt. I just didn't know.

Now, as a logical, rational adult, especially one that works with kids, looking back on all of that is sickening. I look at young children and I think how could somebody hurt such an innocent little creature? And then it turns in to "Could that have really all happened when I was that small?" I know I will never understand it, because what they did wasn't logical, but right now it's just hard for me to even fathom. So I guess what I'm saying is it doesn't surprise me that people doubt. I lived it and I still doubt. Sometimes in my memories I am watching it happen to the small child version of me. I recognize that it is happening to a child, but it is nearly impossible for me to really connect to the fact that that child is me. Maybe it's denial. Maybe I don't want to believe that my parents and the others were really that awful. Or maybe it's just too much to stomach.

All of these issues have gotten much worse recently as I've had some new memories come back. These memories change things a lot. Prior to them, I had recognized that my parents and the others were sick and giving in to awful urges. I knew that what they did was wrong and I was coming to terms with it. Then the new memories showed a new reality. They changed things from abuse into pure torture. (When I told a close friend about one of the very bad ones, she said it sounded a lot like what pow's go through, so I don't think i'm exaggerating by saying torture). The new memories show planning and forethought. They show an entire room dedicated to causing me pain, including equipment that would've had to have been very expensive to purchase. They show these things that I am REALLY not ready to accept and wish I didn't have to.

It's bad enough to know your father beat you and raped you....the thought that he and his brothers and his friends spent hours planning and setting up new ways to torture me....well there's just no words for that. I miss denial. I miss repressed memory land. Can I go back there?

Memories come back in little bits at a time. First it's a sound, or a sight, or a feeling. Then it progresses and becomes more vivid, more detailed, and more real until it is all the way back. When the first piece comes to me I'm the first to doubt. "No way...that couldn't have happened," I always think. I shouldn't say that. I know enough now that nothing should shock me. But every time I doubt and I make my mind prove it to me. Maybe that's because I just don't want it to be true. But it's also because, when that new sick sensation comes over me the question I ask is "How could they do that?" It's a bad question. It will never have an answer. Not a good one anyway. Nothing about it should shock me anymore, but I just keep hoping i've seen the last of it.

Anyway...back to the fear of disbelief thing...I think having this blog has become a source of those insecurities again for me. I know it's time for me to start being open about this stuff....I've kept it a secret for FAR too long and I don't want to have to hide it. I don't want to have to be smiley on the outside while my insides are melting away. I don't want to have to worry about slipping up and saying the wrong thing all the time. I don't want to hold on to this by myself anymore. But putting these memories out there for the world...even if it's only a small number of people's scary. As soon as I post something I second guess. I wonder what ppl are thinking and if they might think i'm nuts or making things up or whatever. I think it's good practice for me to believe in the others around me, and trust them (you all) with a bit of what i've held in for so long. It's time for me to let go of some of the secrets. I believe that strongly, and with enthusiasm....until I click the post button! (Then I generally turn my computer off and run to get me to leave it there and not go back and delete.

So, before I go, I want to say a little thank you here to the people who have been supporting me in this blog and getting it going. You know who you are (I hope, because if you don't know who you are that's a bad case of amnesia :P )....all of the blog comments, your emails, etc., they truly mean the world to me in facing my fears and making this happen. Thank you! It's always good to hear from readers and know that I'm not writing for, or falling in to, a black hole. :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


So I've decided there needs to be massage therapy for abuse survivors. What I mean by that is regular mental health therapy combined with massage.

I went to see my amazing wonderful massage therapist tonight, and it turned out so well. I knew going was a risk. I've been too triggered to let anyone touch me for close to a week now. But I've always been more able to accept her touch (or that of another massage therapist) bc it's a professional touch. I'm able to rationalize it as her doing her job and i'm able to let it happen. Plus the tension in my back and shoulders had gotten so bad I knew I needed to do something.

Still I was hesitant tonight. The wounds from where I'd hurt myself were bandaged still and I told her those areas were off limits (I made up a story about falling off my bike..believable in my world! She started slow...first through the blanket, then through the sheet. Eventually getting down to skin level.

The amazing part was that her touch did bring up memories, but I was relaxed and comfortable enough that I could rationalize them. It was like putting a new memory with the particular sensation. She'd be pressing on a place that would cause pain and remind me of something scary from my past, but I was able to acknowledge the past memory and then tell myself "but now I feel it because she is pushing on it to help me feel better. She was even able to do my quads all the way up and the top part of my glutes...both places where I've been having A LOT of pain lately due to stress, body memories, and somewhat to physical activity.

It seems like this could be a very powerful tool in a session lead by a therapist. Then again if I knew there could be pressure to deal with "therapy stuff" or telling stuff, I might have reacted a whole lot differently. Anyway, for right now I feel non-triggered and non-panicked for the first time since....friday maybe? Not quite sure.

Ask River!

So I've been thinking about a few things lately...

First, that ppl who might be reading this are in various stages of knowing me.

Second, a lot of ppl I gave the link to I know through foster care/adoption connections. I have had interesting conversations in the past with foster parents who have said "I just can't figure out why my kid would do this!" And I've been able to see a good reason why they would, because I've been there. I've had experience with a lot of unfortunate things in my life....abuse of all sorts, neglect, foster care, RTCs, self injury, alcoholism, drug use, homelessness, etc. I (generally) don't mind talking about any of it, though it's hard for me to just come out and start writing. Also, I've been feeling a bit useless in the world lately because of my struggles, so I'm hoping if I can help someone else out with some info I'll feel like I have some sort of purpose.

Soooooo....I want to open up this post for questions that you may want to know but are afraid to ask. Anonymous commenting is on if you're shy, (though I'd prefer you tell me who you are so I can let you know when I've replied to it). Feel free to ask whatever is on your mind...whether it's a question to help you make sense of something in your own life, or something you're just curious about. As long as it's appropriate, I'll do my best to answer.

Leave your questions as comments and depending on the answer needed I'll either reply back as a comment or start a new post.

Thanks! :)

(Oh, and the questions don't have to be about bad stuff either. I've also been to college twice and have travelled all over the country working lots of random jobs. I can be interesting in that sense too! lol As long as you don't ask for any personal info...real name or location or anything...because I won't be giving that).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My current flashback

First the warning...if graphic descriptions of abuse bother you...stop here.

I am bent over the side of a bed. I'm not sure what bed but it's probably mine as it's very small. The tips of my toes can just barely touch the floor. My mom is leaning over the other side, gripping both of my wrists and holding them down. I'm naked. I'm too young to understand the concept of nudity or be bothered by it, but I'm wishing my butt could have a bit of protection from what it's about to receive.

My dad is taking his belt off. He has a very deliberate way of doing it when I'm in trouble. He pulls it out very slowly, running it through his hand as he does, likely to add drama to the upcoming punishment. It works. I feel my heart moving higher up in to my chest and beat rapidly. I feel my body begin to shake. I look up at my mom, whose face is nearly even with mine. She has a blank stare with just a slight hint of condemning.

Dad moves behind me, and I feel the belt very briefly touch my backside, likely as he checks his aim. Without a word I hear the crack and an instant later the unbelievable pain across my butt.

"Owwwwwww!!!!!" I scream as I wiggle and kick my legs...anything to free myself or to stop the pain. I feel my mom tighten her grip on my wrists. While I'm still kicking he swings again, and this time the belt cracks across my foot that happened to be in the way. I scream and cry again, bringing both feet down and pressing them together in hopes of stopping the intense new sting. As I do dad does a quick 3 strokes that cover from the lower part of my butt to the backs of my knees. Now it hurts too much to kick. He's good. He's done this before.

I'm crying hard now. I look up at my mom. "Mommy! Please! I'm sorry!"

She looks down on me. "You should've thought of that before you decided to be so stupid, right you little brat?"

I bury my face in the bed as another hard stroke hits my bottom.

"Answer your mother!" my dad roars.

"Yes ma'am." The words barely make it out.

Dad starts again with an unbelievable fury. Stroke after stroke after stroke hits, each time with the horrible crack sound that will haunt me long after the punishment is done.

I cry and scream and scream and cry. Now and then I find enough air for a word to escape. "Mommy! Please! Sorry! Mommy! Sorry!"

But she doesn't flinch. She shows no emotion. There is no "this hurts me more than it hurts you." No, "Don't worry honey this will be over soon." Her look was cold. I was a disappointment and nothing would change that. The beating kept going until I could scream no more. I could barely feel any new pain, and my body would no longer respond. I went limp.

"That's more like it," dad said. I think I heard him chuckle a bit. "No more trouble out of you."


From what I can gather he left me there for a bit, and then came back later as "nice daddy." He would come in and rub lotion on the sore places, which generally lead to excessive touching and rubbing all over that region. Looking back on it now I can see this as the perfect blueprint for what would occur later. Intense pain followed some sort of sexual action from dad. Of course, as I got older, both parts grew much more involved and intense. I wonder if these early spankings gave him the desire to do more, or if he'd planned to do more all along but was "easing" me in to it. Another one of those questions I will never have an answer to.


But first a it possible to be underwhelmed? Or maybe just whelmed?'s been an overwhelming couple of days to say the least. I've been buried under a whole lot of unbelievable crap. That seems to be how it always goes though. Wouldn't it be nice if life would calmly deliver us one little thing to handle at a time, and wait 'till we'd processed that before moving on? Yeah...wishful thinking...

The memories have been a shit storm lately.

The panic caused by the memories was awful.

The cutting that I engaged in as a result of the panic was also awful. It scares me just how bad I let it get. Normally when I cut it's a few little cuts. This time I got it in my head that I needed to cut the evil out of me. I have never felt such an intense drive to cut so much. And the more I bled, the worse it got. Just saying this makes me feel totally insane. It's so far away from reality...I hate that that's where my mind was. I hate that I was thinking these things.

I'm all bandaged now (yay first aid training! lol) and nothing needed stitches so i'm doing ok. It just hurts, a lot. Now that the adrenaline of the panic attack is gone, I'm feeling all the damage I did. In the midst of things I barely felt it. I was on a mission.

Now on top of the fear, anger, disgust, etc. I also have to deal with the regret and stupidity of what I did. The new fear of how crazy I became.

On top of that I'm not sleeping. At first it was the fireworks. My little (more on that in another post) is afraid of fireworks so it's been tough getting to sleep since Friday. But now the memories are so bad that as soon as I lay down I start to feel them coming back again. I can't lay down in bed without feeling like I'm being tied up. I have to move my arms and legs to prove to myself and my subconcious that they're free. Of course doing that keeps me from being able to sleep. I miss the recliner that I slept on where I used to live. Thankfully I have a computer again so I was able to watch tv online till I fell asleep, but it took a long, long time despite how tired i was.

So exhausted me + way too much past stuff = losing ability to function. I'm also realizing now how I have SO much to accomplish in the next very short amount of time, that I have no idea how I'm going to get it all done. I have a lot of stuff that I had planned on doing this summer and this summer is absolutely flying by without me! The school i'll be going to in the fall starts way earlier than I thought so I really only have until early august to get stuff done.

And finally...just to stick with the theme of overwhelmed...why is it that I keep coming across things now talking about the extensive problems of abuse, corruption within child protection, all we need to do to help the next generation, etc. etc. Usually things like this help me keep going and keep fighting. Right now they're just making me want to throw up. I'm reaching the point that I feel like why bother...why's too much. I think that's an aspect of what I'm now realizing is anxiety, though I used to see as depression. The world so terrifies me right now that I can't even complete a thought, much less get anything done. What I need to do takes 10x longer than it should because everything stresses me out and everything triggers me. Things that shouldn't be triggering at all managed to have some little aspect that gets me. Feeling buried beneath it all and just don't even know where to turn. Every path feels like the wrong way, and it's all I can do to keep breathing. Just breathe. That's the only thing I know I'm doing right, so I'll just keep doing that until something else makes sense. Not exactly productive, but at least I know i'm alive.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Am I failing?

Ok so I was going to go with just the funny post today but there's just too much on my mind right now.

I'm less than 2 months away from my 27th birthday. That will mark nearly 14 years since I last saw my bio family. It's also 10 years since I was last abused (or more, depending on your definition). The point is, it's been a long time.

And yet today I sit huddled in my room, afraid to leave or even go outside.

I am being swarmed by memories of the horrors of my past. They are clouding any and all other thoughts.

I feel so disgusting because of them that I can't even look at myself.

I can't let anyone touch me, or even imagine touch.

I feel like I'm being overtaken by the evil of it all, and that the evil is literally eating me alive.

I feel the people who hurt me over every inch of my body, and feel that no part of me, inside or out, is my own. They have taken it all. Spread their sickness to all of me.

The only thing that seems it would help is to hurt myself...punish myself...but that doesn't either.

I want someone to beat the crap outta me. I want to be punished for the evil inside of me...the evil still clearly occupying my brain and making me think of these terrible moments over and over and over again.

I am hiding in my room because if I leave here I'll go get drunk. Or find drugs. And for me that would be suicide.

Inside I want to live and be strong, but I can't face the thoughts. I can't face the reality. And I can't face my body and what has happened to it.

I have dreams of being able to help others, but today I can barely take care of myself. I can't handle myself and my disgustingness.

Why, so many years later is this only getting worse?

I've been told that my body and mind will begin to process things when they/I feel safe to do so. Apparently that is the problem, but I would've happily stayed in denial.

A few weeks before my move and my breakdown (so about a month and a half ago now I think) some really horrifying new memories came back to me. These memories brought what my parents did to me to a whole new level of horror and evil. I already knew they were very, very bad people, but these new memories showed me a terrifying level of fore-thought that went in to it...even apparently spending a great deal of money for specific equipment that would have no purpose other than pain. It was bad enough to know that my parents and the others involved were sick perverts who gave in to horrific desires. Now I know that they didn't just give in. They actively planned well in advance.

The realization of these first few new memories opened the flood gates. Once I knew of these new tools and such, the memories came back much faster than I could process. I started having regular horrific flashbacks where I was back in the abuse all over again. I could see, hear, feel, and smell just like it was really happening. I can only hope that I've now seen the worst of it...that I know the full story now. I would say I can't see how it could get any worse, but I know better than to put anything past my parents.

The memories I'm seeing now aren't the worst. They're more the "filler"....what happened other times when it wasn't the it built up from the time I was very they started prepping me for the horrors that would come later. How I so trustingly allowed myself to be abused again and again, being young and having no concept of what abuse or sex or anything else was. How I never thought to tell anyone because my dad always convinced me it was out of "love" and was what made me "special." These memories aren't awful, not compared to some of the rest. But they show me what horrific evil I come from. What my genetics hold, that I can't find the words to describe.

I know I'm much more than my genes, but I've seen the sickness and it's a part of me now.

I'm afraid of myself. The more I see it and think could I have gone through that and not be crazy? I must be crazy. And not just "different" like I know I am....I must be evil and deep down truly crazy.

I always thought if I survived until adulthood then adulthood would be better. I've worked so, so hard to take care of myself and instead things have only gotten worse. I fought through going to college, getting a degree, staying clean and sober, attempting to make friends, maintaining a relationship w/my foster family, getting and keeping a good job....all things that definitely did not come easy to me. I fought to get to this safe place only to have more surface...only to feel just as awful as I did 10+ years ago.

My mantra of late has been "It will get better." I have to believe that it won't always be like this. But I have to be honest and say I'm tired of living this way. I only get one life...I want to live it for the present, not for the past. But it turns out, at least for me, that's all a cliche. Apparently my past just won't leave. Apparently I can't leave that in my childhood. Apparently I have to relive it again and again and again forever. I want to live, but I don't want to live minute to minute. I want to have fun, and enjoy the little things. I don't want to pray for a moment without a flashback or without some sort of pain.

I always thought that with enough strength I could put the past behind me. But I've tried being strong. It's gotten me nowhere.

Does this mean I'm failing? Did I do something wrong, that I can't move past what occurred so many years ago? Am I just too weak? I just want it to go away for a while, but I can't get out of my evil, horrid body.

I don't know what to do so I'm just going to post this before I have a chance for second thoughts. I should know better than to put this out there for the world, but it needs to be somewhere.

Nightmare...sort of

I've had lots of nightmares in my life...but none quite so funny as the one I had the other night. Yes, you read that right, funny. Laughter is one of those things that always feels good, even in the midst of pain. So I try to acknowledge the funny and ridiculous things in my life and enjoy them for what they are. It feels good to laugh. I guess it might be a stretch to call this a nightmare, but it was a very intense dream at the time.

There are two things that tend to make me crazy in my day to day life: door locks and carseats.

The automatic locks on my car don't work anymore. That wouldn't be a problem except that the car thinks they still work. It won't let me lock the driver's side door manually because that lock is supposed to be connected to the auto-lock system. Back when the system worked, if I pushed that lock it would lock everything, or I could push the auto-lock button to lock everything. Now to convince the doors to lock I have to push down both the lock itself and the auto-lock everything button on the door. But that button only works if the door handle is pulled out. It's a 2-3 hand operation, and one that definitely doesn't work when you're carrying stuff, though I'm getting pretty good at it.

Now to the car seats: The laws have changed in my state, requiring that kids under 8 be in a carseat. Why does this drive me crazy, you might ask? Well, at the camp where I work, we do all of our transportation in vans, not busses. That means that the kids are required to be in car seats. So, if you're working with a group of younger kids, you get the immense pleasure of loading 13 car seats into a 15 passenger van every day. Yeah not fun. They're mostly just the basic booster seats, so they aren't a huge deal except that it makes it so the kids are not able to buckle themselves (squeezing two buckled seat belts in between each booster seat is a challenge. That means that loading a group of kids in a van can take at least 10 minutes, not to mention the time you already spent loading the seats in. Also you do get the kids that bring the full back booster seats, and even some with the 5-point harness that require actual installation rather than just pulling the seat belt through. Honestly, some days dealing with car seats is the hardest part of camp!

Now back to the dream.

I had parked in a parking lot somewhere in the middle of the day. It was outside of somewhere I had gone to get food. The parking lot was nearly empty. As I opened my door I tried to lock it, but the lock wouldn't go. I tried all the tricks I knew, and nothing. I had an armload of something or other that I was carrying in with me, making everything much harder. "Forget it," I finally decided. After all, it was broad daylight in an empty parking lot. I didn't REALLY need to lock the doors.

I went inside and got my food. It took a bit longer than expected and when I came back out I got that feeling of dread in my chest. Sure enough, I looked over at my car and I could see a woman's back as she had opened the backdoor and was rummaging through the back seat area of my car.

"HEY!!" I shouted loudly.

She looked up, fearful. Her image was very similar to that of the cat lady on the Simpsons. She looked crazed, and desperate. She grabbed a giant car seat out of the back of my car and took off running with it. This part is especially funny because this was my personal car. I don't have kids, and I'm pretty sure there has never been a car seat in the back of that car...especially one this huge and decked out. (It looked like what a celebrity might buy for their kid...super plush, all sorts of features...probably nothing like it that exists in the real world).

"You can't have my car seat!" I shouted at her.

"I just need it for my children. They need somewhere to sit. That's all I took! We're desperate!" she shouted, still looking and sounding crazed.

I caught up to her and grabbed on to the other side of the seat.

"It won't work for your kids. It's USED!" I said the word used like it was the deciding answer to every question that has ever been asked. This would've been the moment in the movie where the dramatic music played. This was the big moment.

You see, I had just recently overheard a conversation amongst friends about how you can't buy a carseat used, no matter how much you know about the owner. They said that there is always the possibility that it had been in a wreck or was expired, and you had no way of knowing. I was shocked to hear that car seats don't get passed on to other kids and families, considering how expensive they are and how much material goes in to making them. Apparently the thought has stuck with me.

Apparently the crazy lady in my dream was aware of this fact too as she sadly and dejectedly let go of the seat at this point and handed it back to me. Her demeanor changed from crazy to a bit withdrawn. "You're right," she mumbled quietly, and walked slowly away to what looked like a back alley.

I proudly clutched my deluxe car seat, marched it back to my car, and stuck it back in its place. What child may have been planning to ride in this seat, the world may never know. Even in the dream I remember thinking to myself, "Wait, I have a car seat?" lol But it sure didn't stop me from defending it from the would-be robber, despite how much she looked like a crazy lady.

There's probably all sorts of deeper meaning at play here if you wanted to get in to that, but I'm instead just choosing to find it absolutely hilarious! :)