Transcending My First Memory

I’m going to share with you some things that have been kept quiet in my family for many years. It starts with my first memory. My first memory is of my dad beating my mom. It’s a sad memory and I’ve rarely told it to many people. I can still see my mom, in desperation, trying to fend off my dad.

We never talked much about abuse in my family, but it regularly occurred. It’s time to shine a light on this and move forward.

I am a survivor of traumatic neglect and a witness to domestic violence and child abuse.

I was a quiet and somber child, very observant. I rarely got in trouble. I also experienced a lot of anxiety.

At about the age of 8, I was asked by a judge who I wanted to live with–mom or dad–as my parents went through a divorce. I picked my mom. I thought this would be better and in some ways it was. However, my mom soon married another abusive man, who not only chased her around the room with an ax, but who also abused, in various ways, my two younger brothers.

As a bystander, as a child, I didn’t know what I could do. But when the man my mom married came into my room and told me to pull down my panties, I knew what to do. I pushed him off the bed. But there was little I could do to prevent the abuse happening to my mom and brothers. Occasionally, the man my mom married would want us other kids to participate in abuse and torment. I always refused.

The man my mom married died in a blizzard. I’m sure this was sad for my mom, but it was liberating for me. I attended his funeral and, when a box of Kleenex was passed to me, I looked at it like, “What do I need this for?”

However, I had to live with my dad again for a while. It was during this time I experienced neglect. I was about 12 years old. Although my dad sometimes cooked–and I remember the things he did cook–there was often very little in the fridge. I remember ketchup sandwiches. I even remember stealing money from my dad to buy food from Taco Delight.  Some of my friends’ parents noticed these things and reported them to my mom, who was doing her best to tie up loose ends with the man who had died in the blizzard.

When I was about 13, while living back with my mom, I experienced my first bout of extreme sadness. It was depression.

At 14, I became pregnant. I also moved to a different state–Florida.

Florida has a law which states that every county has to have a school for teen parents. I attended one–now called The Chiles Academy. Of course, I gained a high school diploma, but I also took parenting classes and learned about various kinds of abuse and neglect. I tried to raise my daughter differently from how I was raised. I went by the book. I never, ever wanted her to experience the things I experienced.

My time at The Chiles Academy was great. My relationship with my daughter, I think, was great. After four years–and after meeting many different politicians and leaders–I graduated with a high school diploma.

I decided to go to college. I applied for Daytona Beach Community College (now, Daytona State College). I did fairly well in all my classes–except Math. However, I decided I was ready to transfer, so I applied to Stetson University. I was accepted.

Being a non-traditional, working class, commuter student at Stetson was, well, different. I didn’t come across many other students with my background. Very few of them could related to the experiences of being a young parent.

And, all the while, I was barely treated for the abuse and neglect I experienced growing up.

However, even though I didn’t make too many friends on campus, I did find solidarity and support in the campus culture. Many Stetson faculty, staff and students are involved in the community and social justice activities. I got involved in social justice issues.

I wrote two theses: one on facial affect (for psychology) and one on colonialism (for philosophy).

Not long after I graduated undergrad, my dad got sick with cancer. I had to travel back to Texas to deal with his death.

Soon, I applied for graduate school at the University of North Florida. While there, I did very, very well in academics, teaching and research.

Still I had not gotten help for my abuse.

I had learned to be distant from my feelings. I didn’t take time to process things and transcend them. However, I spoke out about injustice toward anyone else whenever I could. This was empowerment for me. It was as if I was making up for all the times I couldn’t do anything for my brothers and mom. I sometimes wonder if other people who are passionate about social justice are survivors like me.

While in graduate school, I had my first experience of psychosis. Of course, the current routine is: drug them up and hospitalize them.

I wasn’t seen as a survivor of horrific things who had accomplished so much. I was seen as a “schizophrenic.”

New research sheds light on the traumatic experiences people have which lead to psychosis. Instead of seeing these as “ill people” with an “incurable brain disease,” we should look at them as potential survivors of domestic torment and adversity. After all, if you don’t think I experienced adversity, you don’t know the statistics on teen moms. Merely graduating high school is a very real accomplishment for people with my background, let alone going on to college and grad school.

If you glance around my portfolio, you’ll find I have indeed accomplished a lot. My most recent accomplishment is what I’m doing now: transcending my negative childhood experiences.

 

 

Climate Change: God’s Law of Consequences

I’m reading the book Boundaries. It’s really a wonderful book. I’ve learned through that book that God has certain spiritual laws in place in addition to laws of nature. I seek to discover each.

Let’s take a look a climate change. Many unschooled Christians think super storms, like the hurricane we experienced in Florida this year, are God’s punishment for things like gay marriage. But I think the lesson is far closer to the point here. God wouldn’t make us take such wild leaps in logic.

Rather, I think the lesson is that we haven’t been very good stewards of the Earth. The Bible says we are to be managers of the Earth. How are we doing as managers? No very good.

We can look to climate science, which tells us that human activity—yes, human activity—is causing a great rise in temperatures. If you don’t believe climate science (and I don’t know why you wouldn’t), you can merely look to the increasing amount of super storms. Why are they happening?

God put in place consequences for every action. Bad actions cause bad consequences. If we are poor stewards of the Earth, we will get an unhealthy planet.

What climate change and super storms tell us is not that gay marriage is bad. Instead, the lesson is that we haven’t been good stewards to the Earth. We need to do much, much better.

(Cross Posted at The New Floridian)

Nature Photography

I live with my family in a house on a lake. The back yard is mostly wetlands, and we were told last year (2016) that the lake and wetlands are now a protected environment.

Living in a rustic-type atmosphere is good for me. According to studies, people are more likely to develop psychotic symptoms in urban environments. And, in fact, I had my first psychotic break when I was living in Jacksonville, Florida–a large, urban city.

Because we have been told our lands are protected, we do little to most of it. If you love well-manicured lawns, our house is not for you. We let the majority of it–the protected parts–go back to their original state. This is good for me because one of the my therapeutic hobbies is photography. Now, I’m not saying I’m particularly good at it. I simply enjoy doing it. It relaxes me. It keeps me in a calm, steady state.

Every day, I go outside to look around and see what I can photograph. There’s usually tons of flowers I can shoot. It’s winter now, so the flowers are less than the rest of the year, but there’s still some.

Here’s a picture of the wetlands.

Wetlands are a delicate, essential part of the environment.

Here’s a picture of a flower I took on 1/1/2017:

I’m not sure what kind of flower this is, but I’m pretty sure most people would consider it a weed. If you dislike weeds, you’d dislike our yard. The only real modification we do is get rid of invasive species when we identify them.

Happy Earth Day

As I mentioned previously, I live on a protected environment. I have also worked with an environmental organization. I did business development for a local environmental nonprofit. I had to quit when I fell ill. But perhaps my biggest environmental accomplishment is helping get the lake and wetlands I live on protected.

I received a great environmental education at Stetson University. I learned about Florida springs, wetlands, and more. When I moved to the place I currently live, I was told the lake was over 80 feet deep, and was naturally spring fed. Some years later, they were beginning to put a development up on the other side of the lake, cutting down acres’ worth of forests. People in my community got together to have the lake and wetlands protected, which they now are.

Since the wetlands are protected, we let everything grow as it wants to. This is what it looks like now:

And this is what I looked like working for the environmental organization:

Things Have Been Growing

Last year or so, I posted about living on a protected environment. My neighborhood had the lake and wetlands I live on protected. So, we have been letting things grow as they wish. Turns out, things have grown quite a bit! Take a look:

Environmental Action

Recently, my neighbors and I found out that the lake we live on is now a protected environment. This happened after years of action in my community. There had been some serious development that threatened the habitat of many species there, including eagles, ospreys, and many other organisms. Kudos to my neighborhood!

LakeBaton