Life Gets In The Way (and that’s a good thing)

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I want to die all of a sudden. A terrible thought that has been my way of coping since 19.

An automatic thought formed from childhood to survive it

Especially negative when I don’t catch and stop it.

I have a life worth saving.

Writing is revealing, agonizing, and achingly healing.

A vague sense of emotional truth I cannot articulate.

I used to be very good at memorizing.

All my brain cells performed at their highest performance to survive my childhood.

Memory verses. All English, not Tagalog.

So much so that I couldn’t read the Tagalog Bible.

I could not even pray in Tagalog.

Trauma can physiologically distort the functioning of the brain.

Our brains can hide and erase memory to protect us from unbearable pain.

I don’t think I have forgotten much.

Was my tolerance for pain so high that instead of not remembering, I remembered everything?

Then, because I remembered I developed an anxiety disorder at 12 and full depression seven years later.

Freud suggested that traumatized people will attempt to revisit injury in all its complexity and form, in order to master its terror and regain emotional control. That’s what all my dreams are. Representations and symbolism, so many to mention. Most are recurring. My critic wonders if they’re worth saying.

These are the questions I have to ask myself as I write my novel:

What do you want?

What do you feel?

What do you carry?

What do you most want me to know?

What are you most afraid of?

Why?

What do you have to gain by changing?

What do you have to lose?

I’ve revisited these questions so many times in 20+ years of therapy. I finally got the courage to divorce my husband of 14 years after two children. However, I could not do it alone. The decision to divorce had to be separated from judgment and shaming.

My younger sister could not separate it from that. As a result, we have been estranged for almost a decade. She’s okay with it, I’m okay with it. It’s a necessary estrangement.

Life is not a stage.

Life cannot be performed on the stage.

Life cannot fit on the stage.

Certainly, not on the stage of my childhood.

And not the theater of my childhood religion.

Shedding,

Losing,

Grieving,

All difficult and necessary.

I could get lost in all this depth.

Finding my voice took many years and happened only through my children’s eyes.

My childhood happened through them.

My childhood trauma healed through the childhood I gave them.

My fears often played out in my dreams and mostly devoid of my children’s presence.

Startling depths.

Must continue.

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Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ Suicide Near-Death Research

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My most dramatic and unforgettable case of ask and you will be given, and also of a near-death experience, was a man who was in the process of being picked up by his entire family for a Memorial Day weekend drive to visit some relatives out of town. While driving in the family van to pick him up, his parents-in-law with his wife and eight children were hit by a gasoline tanker. The gasoline poured over the car and burned his entire family to death. After being told what happened, this man remained in a state of total shock and numbness for several weeks. He stopped working and was unable to communicate. To make a long story short, he became a total bum, drinking half-a-gallon of whisky a day, trying heroin and other drugs to numb his pain. He was unable to hold a job for any length of time and ended up literally in the gutter.

It was during one of my hectic traveling tours, having just finished the second lecture in a day on life after death, that a hospice group in Santa Barbara asked me to give yet another lecture. After my preliminary statements, I became aware that I am very tired of repeating the same stories over and over again. And I quietly said to myself:

“Oh God, why don’t you send me somebody from the audience who has had a near-death experience and is willing to share it with the audience so I can take a break? They will have a first-hand experience instead of hearing my old stories over and over again.”

At that very moment the organizer of the group gave me a little slip of paper with an urgent message on it. It was a message from a man from the bowery who begged to share his near-death experience with me. I took a little break and sent a messenger to his bowery hotel. A few moments later, after a speedy cab ride, the man appeared in the audience. Instead of being a bum as he had described himself, he was a rather well dressed, very sophisticated man. He went up on the stage and without having a need to evaluate him, I encouraged him to tell the audience what he needed to share.

He told how he had been looking forward to the weekend family reunion, how his entire family had piled into a family van and were on the way to pick him up when this tragic accident occurred which burned his entire family to death. He shared the shock and the numbness, the utter disbelief of suddenly being a single man, of having had children and suddenly becoming childless, of living without a single close relative. He told of his total inability to come to grips with it. He shared how he changed from a money-earning, decent, middle-class husband and father to a total bum, drunk every day from morning to night, using every conceivable drug and trying to commit suicide in every conceivable way, yet never able to succeed. His last recollection was that after two years of literally bumming around, he was lying on a dirt road at the edge of a forest, drunk and stoned as he called it, trying desperately to be reunited with his family. Not wanting to live, not even having the energy to move out of the road when he saw a big truck coming toward him and running over him.

It was at this moment that he watched himself in the street, critically injured, while he observed the whole scene of the accident from a few feet above. It was at this moment that his family appeared in front of him, in a glow of light with an incredible sense of love. They had happy smiles on their faces, and simply made him aware of their presence, not communicating in any verbal way but in the form of thought transference, sharing with him the joy and happiness of their present existence.

This man was not able to tell us how long this reunion lasted. He was so awed by his family’s health, their beauty, their radiance and their total acceptance of this present situation, by their unconditional love. He made a vow not to touch them, not to join them, but to re-enter his physical body so that he could share with the world what he had experienced. It would be a form of redemption for his two years of trying to throw his physical life away. It was after this vow that he watched the truck driver carry his totally injured body into the car. He saw an ambulance speeding to the scene of the accident, he was taken to the hospital’s emergency room and he finally re-entered his physical body, tore off the straps that were tied around him and literally walked out of the emergency room. He never had delirium tremens or any aftereffects from the heavy abuse of drugs and alcohol. He felt healed and whole, and made a commitment that he would not die until he had the opportunity of sharing the existence of life after death with as many people as would be willing to listen. It was after reading a newspaper article about my appearance in Santa Barbara that he sent a message to the auditorium. By allowing him to share with my audience he was able to keep the promise he made at the time of his short, temporary, yet happy reunion with his entire family.

We do not know what happened to this man since then, but I will never forget the glow in his eyes, the joy and deep gratitude he experienced, that he was led to a place where, without doubt and questioning, he was allowed to stand up on the stage and share with a group of hundreds of hospice workers the total knowledge and awareness that our physical body is only the shell that encloses our immortal self.

What Do You Think Of Suicide

 

I thought of suicide for the first time when I was 19 years-old. I was a Senior in college, but something happened to me that my community would harshly judge.

I fell in a deep dark hole of shame, guilt, and despair.

I already know everything they would say. I knew because I thought it before I started falling.

I knew because I know them. I was taught to think like them.

I was utterly alone.

Alone in a hallway with so many doors and when I approached to open it, it said, “Don’t Exit.” I thought, “I’m not exiting I’m entering,” but the sign changed in neon flashing lights and said, “Don’t Enter.”

I fell on the ground.

Defeated.

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The only door I can now see says, “suicide.”

I started planning how to open that door. Once the door is opened, it’s over. No cry for help, nothing like that. My mind was working so hard through my tears. Looking at scenario after scenario. I worked on top of a mountain for a church summer camp. I was one of the camp counselors. The zigzagging roads up the mountain looked so precarious, I always thought if someone accidentally drove off the cliff, that person would die for real.

Ah-ha!

That was it! That is how I will die. It will be complete. Accidental. No one would suspect suicide. It can’t be suicide because that was an unpardonable sin.

As I played the scene out in my head, I saw a car wrecked with my… Uh oh. That was a lose end. My mom lovingly lent me her car so I can drive up to my job and if I die in it, she will no longer have a car.


That was more than 20 years ago.

I am still alive.

Suicide is NEVER the answer.

There were two other times I planned a suicide.

The second one was stopped by the thought of putting my affairs in order and making sure everyone I loved would be okay even if I was gone.

The third one was stopped because I couldn’t find any means to complete it.

I realized if I had killed myself last night I would have missed my friend telling me, “I have such a beautiful smile.” That day my school got a huge box of office supply from all the departments, staff, and faculty and chose me as the winner. I wouldn’t have won that box!

It was the simple things, I would have missed.

I have been in therapy now for all this time.

It was a long process. I’ve lost other colleagues and family to suicide since then. Each one seems to have utilized the means and plan I had in two of them. No one I know ever committed suicide by driving off the cliff like the first one I planned. These suicides are people I knew but not intimately. They were in that same community.

Their reasons all similar. Escape the pain they are in right now, the loss, or the shame.

Death does not stop the pain.

Death is merely a continuation at another level. I know I thought of suicide as a quick route to oblivion, an escape. I learned later on that it is FAR FROM IT. Death merely alters a person from one form to another. Nothing can destroy the spirit. Suicide only precipitates a darker continuation of the same condition from which escape was sought. A continuation under circumstances so much more painful.

The community I grew up in did not teach this. I learned this from Richard Matheson’s, “What Dreams May Come.” It was reiterated by other supervising psychologists and my own psychologist.

It was a long, painful, repetitive process. I still feel the pain now when I get triggered, when I’m stressed, when something awful happens, but I carry on.

I no longer believe suicide is the answer.

I’m still here.

I belong here.

I am worthy.

So are you.

You are worthy.

What gives you hope during tough times?

What gives you hope during tough times? by Eva Kor

Answer by Eva Kor:

I have faced some very tough times. When I was 10 years old, my twin sister and I were used in medical experiments by Dr. Josef Mengele at Auschwitz. He injected me with a deadly germ and a few days later he came to the sick barrack where I was sent. He never even examined me. He looked at my fever chart and declared, laughing sarcastically, "Too bad, she's so young – she has only two weeks to live." At that time I knew he was right – I was very ill. But I refused to die. I made a silent pledge: That I will prove Mengele wrong, that I will survive, and I will be reunited with Miriam.

For the next two weeks I was between life and death. I have only one memory – crawling on the barrack floor, because I no longer could walk. There was a faucet on the other end of the barrack. As I was crawling, I would fade in and out of consciousness. I just kept thinking, I must survive, I must survive. After two weeks, my fever broke and I immediately felt a lot stronger. It took me another 3 weeks before my fever chart showed normal and I was released from the barrack of the living dead and reunited with my twin sister Miriam. That event – surviving whatever I was injected with – serves to me as a very big source of strength.

When my son had cancer, I couldn't get him to accept the fact that he had to fight for his life, that he had to make the choice to fight for his life. No one else could do it for him. I repeated to him the story of my survival in Auschwitz. He got mad at me and I just said, "Alex, when I was in Auschwitz, the doctors who were around me wanted me dead. I made the decision that I would live. Can you make that decision?" He got mad at me and hung up the phone – he wasn't ready to deal with it. But he called me back two days later. Alex said, "Mom, I think I understand it. This is my Auschwitz. This is my struggle that I need to survive." If the person who is suffering from cancer doesn't even want to make the decision to live, no one can help them. My son is alive today.

The fact that I have overcome so much adversity in my life helps me to have hope during tough times. I believe if I could survive Auschwitz, if I could survive crawling on the barrack floor between life and death, I could probably survive anything. Basically that is the way we gain confidence in our ability. When we overcome one difficulty and one hardship, we can build on that when any other hardship comes along in life. I also like the fact that people who hear me speak  can tune in and feel inspired. They see that I could do it, and they realize they can overcome whatever they are trying to overcome too. That is helpful to realize, that maybe each of us can help others overcome by sharing our stories.

You can also look for ideas on YouTube and the Internet for people who have overcome tough times. You will find a story that fits your situation. Then when you are inspired, DO something. Make a commitment to yourself. Make a promise and keep it close by. If you get off track, don’t feel guilty – we all do it. Just get right back on it.

What gives you hope during tough times?

Just Write–Hospital Reminiscing

In the early 90’s I went on to do my nursing clinicals at Loma Linda University Hospital after finishing most of my classes in theology. I was a double major. The last 2 years of Nursing consists of the clinicals and all the technical aspects (injections, IV, catheterizations, care plans, etc.)

Being here for my son’s surgery has made me look back at all those experiences. I spent several days in the hospital in California before Thanksgiving in 2014 because my mother had a hip replacement. Before this, my husband (fiancee at that time) had open heart surgery at the VA by Vanderbilt in 2010. Perhaps all the hospital stays is causing me to have a deluge of memories…but let’s go further back in the 80’s when I was in Elementary School. I did really well in school and I got the inkling that I wanted to be a surgeon when I grow up. My father told me he thought of being a physician but he knew he couldn’t do it because he couldn’t stand the sight of blood. Being a tween, or maybe even younger, I didn’t quite understand why that was or how that would work.

We moved to America between my Junior and Senior year in high school. Going through all these major changes was like an out-of-body experience. In Somatic Relational theory it’s called living a dream–your conditioning has permeated your life completely that it was like being a zombie of sorts. In other words, I was doing enough just to get by. I put too much pressure on myself since I was an overachiever. Doing well in academia was everything. Getting “A’s” was everything. I have totally overlooked my preferences. I just thought, “If someone can do it, I can do it better!” Which worked for a while until I got burned out and exhausted. Introjection was my way of life until…

I couldn’t stay awake through lecture in nursing classes. The teachers were great. They were dynamic. They used different styles but I kept falling asleep! This was so unlike me. I was an overachiever! I’m a sponge for knowledge. I couldn’t understand it. I am usually at the top of my class but in this I was struggling! I kept on keeping on until towards the end of that 1st year during clinicals I started having an aversion to clean hospital linen. As I was driving home one night I had a realization–nursing was NOT for me. I grieved the idea of having a nursing degree finished the last three classes I needed to do to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology and graduated. Yes, it’s a success story because I eventually got into graduate school and got a doctorate in psychology and flourished in my own private practice for 10 years.

I have taken a break from practicing to write but not only that I’m having to take care of my husband and son who both have their own disabilities. They both have to go through major surgeries and recoveries that require extended hospital stints.

As I watch the nurses do their jobs here, I couldn’t help but reminisce about that short time I spent working in the hospital. I don’t miss it. I realize now that I could have never done it. I’ve become way too squeamish even more than my dad.

Writing it down helps me confront that conditioning/introjection.

Thank you for reading.

 

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