Break The Chain
(Operation Underground Railroad)
Please be aware, this blog post might be a trigger for someone.
It is not my intent to cause any further distress for anyone!! This post was created to tell "my story" (which totals about 3 paragraphs in length). Also have included a number of observations and things which have helped me - perhaps they can be of help for someone else too.

Always in the past on this blog I have tried to write about things I was experiencing and going through - hence so many posts about depression. Then there were the few instances talking about grief or PTSD - and finally about having suicidal ideation. One of the big reasons why I stopped writing here was because I did not know how (nor did I want) to share or talk about the foundation behind many of the things I have written about. Please know it is not my goal to write a lot about this topic - thinking this will be the only time.

Also, please know that I do not write any of this casually - nor am I doing so searching or asking for sympathy or empathy. Am only putting it out there to share my story. One important part of healing is accomplished by sharing your story. It does not need to be done publicly (such as through social media or a blog) - simply talking to others can be a relief and a big help. This I know from personal experience - the first time I said anything,outside of a counselor or an ecclesiastical leader's office, was a few years ago. It was with a group of women who also had stories of their own (I attended this class twice). For me, it was very healing and powerful to talk about what happened - finally I wasn't alone.

Am very certain and very sad there are far too many stories and situations out there to even attempt to address. The intent of this blog post is not to explore the multitude of other people's experiences - mostly because I am not at all qualified to do that. If you have had, or are now experiencing, any type of abuse or trauma - I encourage you to take action and get professional help. Now!!

The following is part of what I posted on social media just over a year ago - now I am able to talk openly (if someone wants/needs to hear) about what for so long I could not admit to anyone, including myself.

   Finally publicly facing and accepting the truth that I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor. The trauma began 50+ years ago, when for several years I was sexually abused by an extended family member. Never told anyone, even my parents, and a part of me is glad they didn't know. But guess since they're both dead, they now know what I could never say when they were alive. In fact never talked about it at all until about 5+ years ago with a counselor.
   Very very few people in my life are aware of anything, because I have always tried to wear a mask to hide behind. Thought that if people knew, they would think less of me, or would reject me and turn away, mostly because it is a topic which no one really talks about. For decades I've lived in a perpetual state of cycling through denial, anger, fear, stress, anxiety, shame, and many other things associated with PTSD. Always wanting to be loved, but feeling of no value and totally undeserving of anything more than a mediocre life.

So now you know one major thing I’ve been dealing with - and will continue to do so on one level or another for the rest of my life. This is one of my biggest issues, but don’t worry there are plenty of others (ha ha). One item I did not mention in that social media post - nor in sharing my story with the class I attended twice - is the reason why I never said anything to anyone. In addition to the incredible shame and guilt felt (and sometimes still do, even though it was not my fault) - there was always a voiced threat for me to not say anything to anyone. Was told many times if I did, then I would be hurt and my family would be hurt. Didn't want to know what could possibly be worse for me than what was happening - and at all costs I had to protect my family. So really tried to hide it all deep down  and never said anything, all the while slowly dying inside. It was hidden very well and stuffed deep inside in an effort to protect myself - that for decades even denied the existence to myself. However everything which happened eventually must come to the surface.

The sexual abuse only happened when we, fairly frequently, visited family in a neighboring state. This is when the extended family member (related by marriage) at night snuck into the house and room where I was sleeping, then took me to another location. No one knew I was gone for hours during the night, they were all sleeping. What started at first with one man raping a very small child - turned to being not just him, but also multiple men paying money to do the same thing. Have discovered that what happened to me was basically sex trafficking - which is sadly too prevalent in the world, with too many different methods and levels.

This spanned about 3.5 years, starting a couple of months before my 3rd birthday. It not only consisted of sexual abuse, but mental as well (which I am attempting to correct, but this is not easy). Cannot tell you how many times I was told, "good girls don't do what you just did" - which has always left me thinking I am not good. Was also "trained" and told what to do, leading to extreme guilt believing what happened was somehow my fault - feeling I was not just a victim, but a participant. Finally I can remember when it all stopped. It was after another man once again raped me (which he had done many times before) - then said that I had gotten “too old” for their preferences, and to stop bringing me there. The abuse in a way escalated and continued for a number of more months, then finally it stopped and I was no longer taken at night. Some might incorrectly assume because it was over, then I was and am, okay. Yes thankfully the abuse stopped, but it has affected and impacted my entire life since then.

The body and mind keep the score and never forget - no matter how long memories have been suppressed. That may be done for decades, like it was with me - and once surfaced there is an element of grieving the loss of "what might have been", of what was stolen or denied. Just like grief, with sexual abuse there is no healing timeline and steps can be repeated many times. Giving the impression to self and others no progress is being made. If someone has any repressed memories - it means that your brain tried to protect you from a horrible experience, and those memories are very real. Suppressing memories, sometimes for decades, is more common that you might think, especially in childhood sexual abuse survivors.

Abuse also is very much part of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with which I live. Please know there are certain things/situations which can be a trigger for me. I really try to avoid them - but sometimes the internal fear or memories can generate verbally expressed anger or fear. Really do my best to just walk away - sorry if you've had a front row seat on occasions when I haven't been able to do that. Please accept there are things/situations which I cannot deal with, and please don't question it. If you need more details about "why" something is a trigger - just ask. However if you do, also be prepared to possibly hear the blunt reasons (remember, you did ask). Perhaps it might be better for you to just accept when I say that something is a trigger.

This abuse is a root or foundation for many of my mental health issues - which I have tried so hard to work on. One blessing for me was last year in July 2018 when I went to a multiple-day retreat here in Utah, sponsored by The Younique Foundation. At their Haven Retreat, the purpose is to provide learning and healing for women survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I am grateful for the opportunity - it was there that I was able to learn and gather new tools for healing to add to my toolbox. For the third time, once again was able to share my story there - this time the full story. And it was there that I developed a bond with other women who have become my forever soul sisters.

Remember no matter how bad it is or was, someone somewhere will always have experienced worse abuse than you. It is important to keep in mind to not be grateful it wasn't worse. Wait a minute, isn’t gratitude supposed to be a “good thing”? Why would you not want to be grateful the abuse wasn't worse? Don't get me wrong, gratitude is a very good attribute - and there are many things, big or small, to be grateful for which can empower you. However doing so in this instance makes it very easy to then become trapped in a cycle of diminishing or minimizing the trauma you suffered. There is no hierarchy or ranking of trauma - your trauma is real - your trauma is valid. Please know that sexual trauma may not always entail the tactics or level which I experienced. Each person's reality is uniquely theirs - as can be the degree of impact in their life.

You also might mistakenly believe this is the only reason behind my severe chronic depression, and suicidal thoughts. Yes, childhood sexual abuse trauma has been a very large contributor to those for me. It is a foundation for many of my mental health struggles, but perhaps is not the only reason. I will only briefly mention a couple of them in this blog post. One is a genetic component, and another is my chronic autoimmune health issues.

Perhaps hopefully what I've written can help another person (female or male) who have also been impacted by childhood abuse. Want to let these people know the fact they survived is a testament to their strength. For me, survival was also about the power of parental love - which saved me even without my parents knowing - and without my realizing it. That you are a survivor is a reminder your story is not finished - life can be worked on - and someday you will emerge as a butterfly. These are things which I need to remember, but doing so can be very difficult.

Suppose in a way I wanted to share my story - not just for the healing doing that can bring me - but also with the hope of better understanding regarding the mental (and sometimes physical) health issues which I have. Please be patient, healing from anything takes time and effort - however much of those are needed.

Depression, anxiety, and suicide... OH MY!

If you, or a loved one, are having thoughts of suicide - please get help! You can call the crisis lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 - I’ve called this number before and they can help. Or text one word (talk or home) to 741-741. Both these options offer free and confidential 24/7 support for you, or your loved ones.

As you read this blog post please note the intent has been to explain my own chronic depression and suicidal thoughts. What is written may not be applicable to everyone, even for someone who has depression - everyone’s experience is unique Perhaps you may also notice sometimes (not always) the words of depression and suicide I've used fairly interchangeably. This might be confusing - please know that depression is real, and can often lead to suicide. Then to throw another wrench into the mix, there is also anxiety - but won’t really be talking about that. One more thing - because I am very well aware not everyone (like me) is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Please know that my faith is important to me - so I have tried in this post to put links should further information be desired. If you have questions about anything I have written, please do not hesitate to ask me!

If you've ever read my blog, you already know that I deal with depression, hence so many posts about that topic. What you may, or may not, realize is depression has been in my life for decades, since childhood. To be honest I was not aware, until well into adulthood, that other people did not have those kind of thoughts, and have lived much of my time in depression's darkness. Think I've posted before that thoughts of suicide began in my teenage years. Again, used to believe everyone had similar thoughts - and that I was "normal".

It is almost impossible for someone to understand what depression really is - especially if they have never been there, or have only briefly touched it. For me it has been way more than just sadness (what most people believe depression to be). No, depression for me is where I have often been taken to an unbelievable level of darkness which can be seemingly endless - driving away the hope of ever seeing any light. That’s when I’ve asked myself questions like, “what is wrong with me - what should I be doing different - is it worth all this pain”.

Having suicidal thoughts does not mean that you are in any way broken - or that you deep down honestly want to die. Most people mistakenly believe that suicide is all about death and dying - or that acting on those thoughts is a selfish decision. Instead the reality is you are thinking about other people - wanting to release them from the burden that you feel is brought by you. It is a sincere desire to not drag someone else into the pit - believing that everyone will be better off and their life will be easier if you’re not there. Even if a person has never acted on thoughts, please do not assume they are okay and there is nothing to worry about.

There are a multitude of thoughts and opinions about depression and suicide which can be summed up in two words: DEPRESSION LIES. The adversary is very practiced at using these lies, masquerading them as truth, and can be very convincing. Depression or anxiety also takes away all hope and there are thoughts of - if tomorrow is darker than today, then what’s the point. A counter to this is when there is someone who really sees me and has empathy - doing that can give back a little hope, something to cling to in the darkness. You will not be able to "fix" anything, and I may not appear to accept compassion from other people - please do not stop or become discouraged!

Studies have shown that one reason some seek suicide as a solution, is to bring an end to the pain they are experiencing. Be aware you may not understand how very real the pain may be, and that's okay. There have been times (and still are) when I've prayed asking God to let me come home to Him, because I can't take it anymore. Suicidal thoughts for me can last a few minutes (or even a few hours) - but often in the moment feel like they will be there forever. It's those times when I feel wounded, very alone, and am so very tired of the constant battle - that's when I am not able to see any light through the darkness.

Remember you cannot take on another person's pain, there is only one Savior who can do that (and none of us are Him). Have learned an uncomfortable lesson lately that as much as healing is desired - it is not possible to simply pray away depression. Nor is it a viable option to bless depression away by asking someone with the priesthood to give a blessing and do that. To use an analogy: if your house was burning down, you would not call priesthood leaders to put out the fire. They may support you through the experience, maybe gather others around to help you - but are not able to put out the fire. For that you will need someone with professional training. This is not to put any limitations on the Atonement of Jesus Christ - you “could” be healed (and many people are) - but God allows us to experience hard things. Sometimes I really wonder why that is. Know that God will not interfere with agency here on earth - that of our own, or that of others. A few good friends helped me with this when they said (among many things) - that by God allowing us to experience hard things it helps us; learn compassion and empathy for others, to prioritize what is of most value, and to learn more than we would another way. One example I thought of is: if you try to make life easier by helping a struggling baby bird to escape it's shell - the bird would miss out on the crucial and needed strengthening experience, and likely would not have what is needed to survive.

The following is a quote from a book that has helped me - Silent Souls Weeping, written by Jane Clayson Johnson. It is about the struggle with depression, hers and many others. In it she talks about her own experience and struggle with depression...
"Perhaps most distressing was what was happening to my testimony. For long stretches of time, I couldn’t feel the Spirit. I did the right things: said my prayers, read my scriptures, and went to the temple. But I didn’t feel anything. It was as if the most important part of my soul had been carved out of me. Why would God do that to me? Why would He allow it? ... But in this time of torment, He seemed unresponsive to my pleadings. Why had He abandoned me? … I felt broken and worthless."

When I have been doing everything I know how to do - yet feel like I have been cut off and am unable to feel love from God - or from other people (even when they say they care about me). Feeling that way is seen as proof that I must have done something wrong - and no one can or should love me because I am not worthy. The worst part of depression is the isolation it engenders - not just from the Spirit of God, but from other living souls. Keep reading… I will talk about the “why” behind my isolation.

There are a number of reasons for my chronic mental health issues - not everything will be addressed in this blog post, these are only a few examples from my life. One is a genetic component, found on both sides of my family. Many in my family from the present and going back multiple generations have dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts. There have been suicide attempts, and know of one family member who did die from depression based suicide a number of years ago.

Another contributor can be my health issue of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Depression is very common among people with an autoimmune disease - those with MS are 7.5 times more likely to die from suicide than others with depression. That is a sobering statistic, which should be taken seriously.

Finally there is early childhood trauma which can and does play a large role in this for me. Am currently working on a blog post which will talk more about that trauma.

One help has been a video watched countless times. It is called: Sitting on the Bench: Thoughts of Suicide Awareness and Prevention. In it Dr. David S. Wood, PhD, Licensed Psychologist says this…
The most common sources of pain for a person who is having suicidal thoughts include: feeling disconnected from others, feeling alienated from others, or feeling that relationships have never materialized. The other common source of pain is feeling like a burden to others, that people would be better off without me. When those are combined with hopelessness, that this is not going to change - that is where suicidal thoughts become risky.

This has been a powerful video for me, and has helped in many ways. However must also admit that often I do feel like a burden to people, that they and pretty much everyone would be better off without me. This is one of my big “whys” behind isolating from others. Rarely anymore do I want to reach out when feelings of depression, anxiety, or loneliness happen. This means I've stopped most texting, sending emails, making phone calls, or talking to another person. Logically I know that isolation is probably not the best choice - then that thought is fairly quickly overshadowed by the dark mists and sincerely believe the answer is to isolate. This is done with the hope that by retreating someone else will not become “infected” - nor will they be unintentionally pulled into the pit of despair. True or not, my perception is that people have become tired of my expressing similar thoughts, and walking again down the same path into a pit. Perhaps they do not recognize that chronic depression is a lot like grief - there is no healing timeline, and steps may be repeated multiple times. So to cope I tell myself what I have for decades that - I deserve it, or I don’t care.

For those like me in the battle trenches - we need to remember that we are not alone, even when it feels that way. I've had to learn about, and pay attention to, signs and symptoms of depression and suicide. Knowing what to look for does not always help, especially when I'm in the pit. However that is the time I need to open my toolbox and pull out something else for support, because the tools being used are not enough. For some people depression and thoughts of suicide are temporary, then gone. For me that condition and those thoughts have been a more constant ebb and flow long-term companion - which I'm never sure when depression will show up, nor how long it will stay. That is one nature of a chronic mental health issue.

Recently I wrote this on social media…
   We don’t need to get in the pit with other people to help. You can be the one to simply lower a ladder - to offer compassion and connection, to empathize and give encouragement so they can find strength and know how to climb.
   Even if all they can do is climb up only a few ladder rungs, that is okay. It is not necessary to know the “perfect” words to say - just the connection attempt is enough - doing that is lowering a ladder.

What you may see and believe about another person is not always the real or whole story. Remember that what you say does not need to be “perfect” - say something anyways. The fact that you said anything shows you have empathy to let another person know that you see them - you hear them - that they matter. Sit on the bench and be with them (even if no words are spoken). The theme from one of my favorite podcasts is so true… Compassion + Connection Save Lives.

The following was borrowed from the internet, or social media, or somewhere.