Word for Wednesday (W4W) 27


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Please join in!

This week’s word is…

Survivor

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I have blogged about this word before in terms of my depression but today I want to revisit it.

In a former life, I was a Rape Crisis Centre Counsellor and Educator and in our work my colleagues and I found the vast majority of our clients seriously disliked and rejected the label ‘Victim’. They favoured the term ‘Survivor’, so of course we always used that word to refer to a person who had experienced sexual abuse or trauma.

I was having a conversation this morning with a dear friend who sadly had experienced sexual, physical and mental abuse during their childhood and they said the last thing they ever wanted to feel was that they were a ‘Victim’.

I was struck again by the power of the words and labels we use to define ourselves, or our experiences. Labels are both useful and at the same time constrictive.

Allow me a personal reflection here for a minute please…

I have a medical condition that I am still not ready to discuss openly but it makes labels a particular bug bear of mine. For example, I recoil and shudder if someone was to say I suffer with X.

To me that sounds as if, first of all I am to be pitied in some way; that I am this tragic, heroic figure struggling through each day, and also that it somehow defines me as a person. “I am Kat and I am an X sufferer”…

Nope. No thank you. I am Kat and I live with X condition and I am doing very well thank you.

I am so much more than an unfortunate illness that hit me. I am so much more than the horrible experiences I might have lived through. I am so much more than my depression and anxiety. I am not defined by any one thing but by the sum total of my life experiences and the way I have dealt with them. I am not a ‘Victim’, I am a ‘Survivor’.

Back to my friend…My friend is a wonderful person! Strong, with a formidable intellect, a cutting sense of humour, and a kind and generous nature… They have survived what could only be described as an horrific childhood and have yet created a life for themselves which includes friendhsips, relationships and a successful career. How can this person be seen as a ‘Victim’? My friend is a ‘Survivor’!

‘Victim’ implies a lack of power and helplessness, which is certainly appropriate when describing the time of the abuse or assault, because, for a host of reasons, the person being abused is indeed powerless. This could be because of a sheer size and strength differential, going into shock and disassociating from the experience, feeling threatened, to name a few. In the case of child sexual abuse the power differential is extraordinary and techniques such as grooming, threats, bribery and coercion serve to take away what small control a child has over their life and what happens to them.

However, people who have come out the other side of abuse or assault, who have literally SURVIVED it, are some of the most inspirational and strong people I have ever met.

Recovering from any form of abuse is a long and painful process. Some, sadly, do not make it to the end…

Which is why if you are reading this and you experienced any form of abuse ever, and you are here, still waking up every morning, still living, still struggling but still here…

YOU ARE A SURVIVOR!

Ciao!

💋

If you need help, please think about contacting your nearest RCC/GP/Women’s Aid. There are many resources and forms of support out there. It’s probably the hardest phone call you will ever make but it is the first step. The person on the other end of the line wants to listen, to help and support you. They are trained and non-judgemental. You DO NOT have to do this alone.

Copyright, 2015, k1kat.com
All rights reserved.

Wall of Tears


If you have any unresolved issues in relation to grief you may not wish to read this post.

I was deeply saddened to read in my friend Annie‘s blog about her very recent loss of her mother after a long, difficult year of illness. It brought to mind my own lovely mother, whose hand I held as she took her last breath when I was only twenty years old.

My mother went to the doctor one day because her feet had swollen to uncomfortable, bloated size. She was sent immediately for tests and was told the swelling was called by severe deficiency of potassium. Her potassium level was so low that she had been walking around for months on the verge of a heart attack. That was shocking enough but there was much worse to come.

I called my mother from college and she told me she had to go into hospital to be treated for her potassium levels. My mother was admitted to hospital and never came back home.

She went into hospital on September 9th 1992 and died on October 9th 1992. She was 53.

I have no memory of the last time I ever saw her in our own family home. I imagine it must have been a Sunday evening as I left for college, but it was just another Sunday for me. If I had known that I would never see her again wearing her own clothes, sitting in her favourite chair, I would have seared that image of her into my memory. But I did not know and I cannot remember that day.

I do remember visiting her in hospital for the first time and walking into Intensive Care, scared by all the beeping monitors and drips, thinking “this doesn’t look good at all”. She, in typical Mammy mode, gave me a list of things she wanted me to get for her from home, written on a paper napkin. I still have that list. I think she wanted to give me a job to do to keep me feeling useful.

To cut a short story shorter, she was transferred to a bigger, better hospital. I recall driving home from there one evening with my older bother driving the car, my father in the passenger seat, (that alone should have warned me something was badly wrong), and me in the back seat. It was a silent hourlong journey. As we drove up to our house my brother reached his hand back between the front seats and grabbed mine tight  and squeezed it so hard it hurt. I started to get very, very scared.

We assembled in our living room, my father, older brother, my older sister and her husband and I was told that my mother had been diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to her liver. I stood frozen and started then to shake. I remember my brother-in-law gently taking me by the shoulders and guiding me to a seat. Then I remember my brother handing me something to drink. That is all I have of that night.

For a month we drove up and down to visit my mother in the hospital and at the time there was a lovely album out called A Woman’s Heart, featuring several well-known Irish female folk singers which we played in the car a lot on those journeys. One song in particular always spoke to me; Wall of Tears by Frances Black.

I twisted the words slightly to suit my situation. I changed the words Him or Her and cried quietly in the backseat of the car.

“Looking out my window, staring through the pain
I can’t see the rainbow for the rain
Someday Ill forget you, life goes on they say
But they don’t know what’s standing in my way
And there’s a wall of tears, I’ve got to get over
Got to stop thinking of him, got to learn not to love him
I know the sun will shine
I’m gonna be fine but until then
The rains gonna fall just like a wall of tears”

I am listening to it now and it still brings back the pain.

I miss my mother all the time. I left home when I was 17, for college, but I fell in love and decided to stay in my new town with my love so, apart from one summer, I never lived back home again. I missed that time with her. I left home during that period where mothers and daughters are still clashing constantly, fighting and struggling to understand each other. We never got to become friends, never got to know each other as women. My sister, eight years older than me, did get that and yes, I have always been jealous of that.

I am so grateful that the OH had a year of knowing my mother. It is such a comfort to me that he can share memories of her with me. He tells me often that I have turned into her. As I sing whilst cooking, or when certain expressions fall from my lips he will joke,”Hey Breeda, you’re back!” and we laugh.

As a kid, when I was told how similar I looked to her I would scrunch up my face with disgust and she would roll her eyes and say “Well thanks!” sarcastically. Now, I look at photographs and I see the resemblance, and it is incredibly striking. What’s more, I love it! My mother was a very beautiful woman, very striking, and whenever I am told that I look like her now I smile wide and say a very sincere thank you.

All I can say to Annie is that she will never stop missing her mom and she will feel the loss forever, but clichéd as it is, time really does help. The pain and sadness will lessen every day until you reach a point where thinking of her and remembering her will make you smile rather than cry.

For a long time after she died I couldn’t even talk about her or say her name but now, even though I write this with tears in my eyes, I am smiling; thinking of her funny habit of always having a bag of dry roasted peanuts in her pocket, her off-key singing, the constant clicking of her knitting needles, the way her eyes crossed comically when she looked up from reading while she adjusted to her new bifocals, playing competitive cross words against her… so many good memories.

Cherish your memories Annie.

Sending you love, peace and light.

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💋

Copyright, 2015, k1kat.com
All rights reserved.

A Lightbulb Moment!


http://youtu.be/s8Pp7QB6GrE

Thanks to Annie and Kayla I have been watching some TED talks by Brené Brown and really enjoying what she has to say.

I completely agree with her stance that vulnerability is never a weakness and that it is the birthplace of creativity and love. Anyone who has followed by blog from day one will have seen that it is how I chose to live my life, as wholeheartedly and honestly as I possibly can.

I believe allowing yourself to be vulnerable is the most courageous thing you can do, and what’s more; its empowering and freeing. Once I own my own faults, fears and flaws I have removed your power to use them against me.

As a woman raised in Catholic Ireland, taught by nuns in convent schools, I understand shame… trust me! I can honestly say it was one of my primary emotions growing up, and when I say growing up, I mean until I hit my late 30s! I was a walking, breathing, living entity of shame. I didn’t just feel shame, I lived it. I was never enough, I was never good enough, I was bad. It was a miserable way to live.

I’m not in complete recovery and, as Brown points out, the only people that do not feel shame are those ones that are incapable of feeling basic human emotions such as love, so none of us can ever be entirely shame free. I still mess up, make mistakes, hurt people I love, and for those things I feel shame. The difference now is I feel shame over things that are appropriate; I no longer, (mostly), feel shame for simply being me.

One thing in the clip I linked to at the top of this post that, as I was cooking in my kitchen, made me pause and actually look at the screen, was where Brown said we should only share our shame stories with those people that have earned the right to hear them.

That line made me stop what I was doing and really think.

I have a massive, and I mean massive, need to connect with people, to share and to build relationships. It is something I simply need to do, it is who I am. For the most part this is a very positive way to be… it means I am open and friendly, I try to make people feel at ease in my company, I try to make people feel better than they do, I try to enhance their lives, if I can. I have no interest in running people down, making them feel small, hurting them.

However, in my desire to build intimacy and relationships, I realise now that I am often too quick to share myself with people. If you have read my blog before, you will be familiar with my posts where I have felt I gave too much of myself to people, where I felt used up and discarded by them, where I have struggled to find the balance between helping others and caring for myself.

I am thinking now, as I sit at my kitchen table, processing the clips I have been watching online, that I was coming at this from the wrong angle.

It is not the fault of those people that I felt had sucked me dry. They simply did what I allowed them to do… I opened up and shared myself and my story with them, and I invited them in. I did this way too soon in the relationship, because I felt I needed to put it all out there in order to build intimacy. I was wrong. I rushed it. I needed to wait it out, let it happen organically… I needed to make them earn the right to my story and to my vulnerability.

I think now that this is simply another one of my self-destructive behaviours, (of which I have several!). But today I have discovered a new one. I am so grateful to have watched the Brené Brown clips, especially the one at the top of the post, because what she said opened my eyes to my maladaptive behaviour.

I need to start being more vigilant about my tendency to open myself too much, too soon in order to satisfy my need to connect. I must stop blaming people for simply taking everything I offered them and take responsibility for my part in it. I need to share my vulnerability and inner world with the right people. I need to wait until they have earned it, because once they have invested enough to have earned it, they will value it.

If I open my house to someone and say “Here, have whatever you want, knock yourself out!” do I really have the right to whinge when they clear me out and walk off with all my stuff? I don’t think so.

I allowed myself to be violated. I did this.

I have a wonderful man who I can share all of me with, my vulnerability, my shame, my ugly and he accepts it. I accept his in return.

I have a great friend that, when I showed her my shame story, didn’t flinch, didn’t judge and simply said, “Me too sister, me too.” I have, (I sincerely hope), done the same for her, (you know who you are!).

Next time I hear that little voice inside telling me to rush the connection, to share too much, I need to listen to her and reply, “No, not yet. You have enough connection that matters. Let this happen if it happens, but there’s no rush. You have enough.”

I am taking responsibility and, in declaring my vulnerability, I am taking control and empowering myself.

One more growing up lesson.

Everyday is a classroom.

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Ciao!

💋

Copyright, 2015, k1kat.com
All rights reserved.

Oops! I Did It Again…


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I have done it again…

Once more, I have opened myself up, offered too much of myself and once more, I have received little in return other than hurt and disappointment.

Will I ever learn?

Why do people suck others dry?

Are they Thoughtless? Depressed? Insecure? Selfish? Unaware?

Does it even matter?

What matters is that I somehow, (and I find this nigh on impossible), I somehow have to find a way to be me and also protect me. My natural leaning is towards helping people, listening, trying to be a support and of use to them. I need to find a way to continue to fulfil this inner need in me, whilst not losing myself in the process.

This is a challenge; one that I have faced and failed at many, many times already. But hey, that’s life I guess… Gotta pick myself up, put myself back together and begin afresh.

And next time, I must remember that advice they give you on airplanes…

Put on your own life jacket before you help others coz you can’t help anyone else if you are drowning yourself.

Wish me luck?

Ciao!

💋

Copyright, 2015, k1kat.com
All rights reserved.

Letter To 13 Year Old Kat


Hey you!

So, you’ve entered your teens, huh? Brace yourself honey, it’s not going to be easy.

You are going to make friends, trust them and love them, and they will betray or leave you. That is going to hurt you badly, but you will get through it. Do not make the mistake of hardening up and building walls around yourself to avoid being hurt again. People will let you down, intentionally or otherwise, but you are strong and you can accept their failings as theirs, not yours. Just because they do not want to be in your life anymore does not mean you are a bad or lesser person. People change and grow apart sometimes. It isn’t always about you.

You have been told your entire life to smile that lovely smile, to be a good girl, to be nice to people always, even if they are complete assholes. Sweetheart, that is complete bullshit!

You have been taught and conditioned your whole life to put everyone else’s needs above your own. In some ways this is not a bad thing, it makes you kind and considerate and polite. But… when you are being disrespected or abused, in any way, you have the right to call the perpetrator on it. You do not have to paint on a smile and pretend that everything is ok. You have the right to express how you feel, and you have the right to tell them you want them to stop their behaviour. This does not make you a bitch. This makes you a strong, kickass women who will not tolerate anyone else’s crap.

You do not need to be liked by everyone, and neither do you have to like everyone you meet in life. You do not need to change yourself into what someone else wants you to be. People who like the real you are the only ones that count. Do not wait until you are 30 before you show the world the real person inside. It turns out the world really quite likes her!

You do not have to go out with a guy just because he likes you. Decide whether you like him or not, and go from there. If he treats you badly, in fact, if he treats you like you are anything less than extraordinary, do not feel you have to stay with him. If your happiness and well-being are not his top priorities, make it easy for him and remove yourself from his list of options.

On a side note, I am about to quote the wonderful Amy Poehler, (who you will not have heard of yet, seeing as she is probably about 13 right now also!)…

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(In fact, in just about any life situation you find yourself in, you can usually think, “How would Amy handle this?” and you will be ok.)

You have always been told that you are the pretty one and that is going to haunt you forever, in two ways.

Firstly, you will never quite believe it anyway. You will struggle to see what others find attractive about you, never trusting compliments or praise. You will look in the mirror and see only flaws and faults. You will never think you measure up to people’s expectations.

Secondly, you will place entirely too much value on how you look and this will cause you pain and misery. You will worry and obsess about your weight, your hair, your face. You will base your self-esteem on your appearance and forget to focus on your other qualities, until you are much older, and sadly, even then the ghost will linger.

So, word up! Forget about the shell, the face, the figure, the hair.

No one has told you this before, so I’m telling you now…

You are funny, smart, thoughtful and kind. You care about other people and their welfare. You give your time generously to others and you are always there offering to help them.

You doubt your abilities all the time, and that is something you will need to work on. If someone praises you, or pays you a compliment, stop dismissing it out of hand. Accept it and believe it in the same way you find it so easy to accept and believe criticism and blame.

Let go of the guilt you carry. You are not responsible for everything bad that happens. Remember that you are a good person who, like everyone else, makes mistakes. Be gracious, accept that you have messed up, rectify it if you can, and move on. Every day brings you a lesson. You can learn it, but you don’t need to dwell on it and beat yourself up.

Furthermore, you are not responsible for how other people see you, hear you or react to you. That is always their shit, even if they don’t realise this fact, you always need to remember it. Never allow anyone to make you feel bad for how they chose to react to you, or how they chose to perceive you.

Likewise, it’s important to own your feelings too. You can decide how you are going to feel and how you are going to act. You can decide to give away that power to another person, but that will be a mistake.

Own your life, do not let anyone else run it for you.

Other advice I can offer you is…

  • Never put that first cigarette between your lips. It’s not cool and it’s not smart!
  • Study harder than you think you need, to but have fun too.
  • Enjoy safe sex and, I mean ENJOY it! If he doesn’t care about your pleasure, he is not worth you making the effort to give him his. It is perfectly ok and, indeed, healthy to want to have an orgasm and to tell or show him how it’s done. Do not waste your time, or that firm, young body, on selfish creeps.
  • Do not be afraid of your feelings. You are a person who feels things intensely, so it sometimes seems easier to block them. This only delays the pain and usually makes it harder in the long term. Trust that you have the strength to deal with your grief, anger, sadness. You do!
  • You will suffer for many years feeling depressed, but you will be unable to recognise it for what it is. Talk to someone early on about how you feel. You do not need to way until you are 30 to feel ‘normal’.
  • Stop thinking other people are better, more talented, or happier than you. Everyone is unique and has their own gifts and burdens. You just focus on your own and stop comparing yourself to others.
  • Find your passion and follow it. You don’t know it yet, but you are creative, nurture it!
  • Start a sport or exercise plan… if you start young it will become a life long habit.
  • Do not let the mistakes your parents made define you. They fucked up but you got out ok.
  • Just relax! Do not be so scared. Things really do work out in the end!

With love, Kat. x


Well… Don’t I just sound like a fucking guru?! Maybe I should call Oprah, see if she wants to interview me?

If only I really could send that letter back to the scared, unsure and unhappy little kid I was; I wonder how different I would be today?

That is actually quite a scary thing to contemplate!

How different our lives would be, and how different we would be if we could advise our younger selves?

I would love to hear a piece of advice that you would like to give to your teenage self, so PLEASE do leave me something in the comment section.

(And yeah… we would all advise ourselves to invest in Apple/Google/Twitter…!)

Ciao!

💋

Copyright 2015, k1kat.com

All rights reserved.