Risky behavior, self neglect aren’t life sentences

August is Worldwide Parenting with PTSD Awareness Month

Physical neglect (Skipping exercise, not enough energy)
About a year after my PTSD diagnosis I was a hard-core bed bug. I couldn’t get out. My waterbed held me hostage. My bedroom was the safest places in my world. I slept so much that a few years ago, I got painful bed sores. This introvert didn’t realize how much I craved solitude over social norms.

A friend who had bipolar disorder said exercise was key for her sanity. She knew if I exercised, I would regain much needed energy. It seemed impossible. How could exercise possibly give me more energy. How quickly I forgot my mountain biking stint when I was single.

The only thing between me and suicide was at least three 12-step and three psychotherapy meetings a week. These six kept me from attempting suicide, much less talking about it out loud such that I wound up back in the hospital.

Today, even though Jesus miraculously healed both of my knees, I have yet to get out and walk the dogs around the block. I don’t understand what is holding me back. I have no excuse living in California where there are more sunny days than rainy ones.

I’m still trying to get out from under and start exercising again. “I’ve always said, ‘If you can stand in the mirror naked and you can look at it, then maybe someone else can too,’” choreographer and director Debbie Allen said. However, what I heard her say was, “If you can’t get out of the shower and love your body naked in the mirror, that’s a problem.” Somehow the latter seemed harsher so I rolled with it.

Kids and sports
However, I absolutely encouraged my kids to participate in team sports. My daughter played Bobby Sox softball while my son played soccer, baseball and was on the local swim team. He eventually dropped soccer and baseball for year-round swim team.

All this to say, we can still impact our kids into healthy habits despite our own struggle.

I’m not there yet
I have a goal to summit Half Dome in Yosemite National Park again but this time with my son. I am able-bodied enough but I need to train. Santa Cruz Mountain trails are well within walking distance of my home yet I haven’t ventured out.

I have tried to get a friend to go walking with me but that hasn’t worked out. I was invited to a friend’s athletic club but we can’t synch with each other to make it happen. Frankly, when these don’t work out, I’m privately grateful because it seems a bridge too far. I really want a membership to the local YMCA so I can access the pool and work my way back to strong, healthy exercise regime.

This is going to remain one of those areas for which I don’t have a solution yet. I’ll keep you posted once I crack that code. For now, I’m grateful I have reasonably good health.

I couldn’t control food or abuse so I found other ways to cope. I began shoplifting. The first acquisition was crayons in my lunch box at age 7 or 8. I’d hone my craft until days after my 18th birthday when I got busted at a local clothing chain store. Nothing like going in with friends and getting caught alone while watching your friends continuing to walk to their car.

Shoplifting was a rush, a rewarding experience because I finally was able to have nice things of my own. My parents separated when I was in seventh grade. Suddenly, money, an already ugly topic, became even worse.

My father had abandoned us for his start-up career so mom had to stretch what little she had. Imagine trying to explain a thigh-high silk bathrobe with a beautiful rose on the back and I had no job or source of income to justify possession. I had tons of makeup and no way to explain how.

I remember how gleeful I was most stores didn’t have cameras and mirrors, and loss prevention officers weren’t smart enough to catch me … yet.

I remember ramping it up to very dangerous levels while in junior high school. My Catholic school classmates, who saw me only as “nigger” and “step-and-fetch-it girl.” They egged me on and promised loyal friendships if I scored them cosmetics and candy. Deal.

I walked in with an empty travel bag and walked out loaded down with plunder. I’m sure I was well beyond petty theft given the amount I absconded. Nevertheless, despite their promises of friendly overtures, they never really embraced me. I risked my reputation for nothing.

Scared straight
I knew my petty theft career was over when I got busted days after my 18th birthday. However, the consequences of that momentary lapse of reason cost me any chance to work retail anywhere on the west coast.

Little did I know that my name was added to a network of persons who have been caught shoplifting making me ineligible to work a Christmas job at Macy’s. I had to get my name off the list, which was no easy feat. It nearly cost me another job at a furniture rental store even though I would never handle merchandise or money. My petty theft days were over.

Instead of shoplifting I went on spending sprees, also known as retail therapy. I was on a hoarding fast track. Even though I was initially excited about purchases, the more I acquired, the heavier I felt, the more miserable I became.

Frankly, I’ve gone the opposite direction. It didn’t take long to adopt my mother’s minimalist mindset. I threw out tons of crap after I combined my crap with my new husband’s crap. I had no idea how much physical “crap” weighed on my spiritual psyche. It was an incredible release.

There is a solution
I hearken back to a very simple solution for both of these. Psychotherapy and inner healing work. I don’t exactly understand how it works but there’s just something about talk therapy and forgiveness. Reasoning things out with someone else who also has tools for changing your behavior is available, if that’s something you want to do. The latter phrase is key: You have to want that change.

No amount of therapy or inner healing work will be effective if you don’t want to change. By inner healing I mean engaged with Bethel Sozo or Heartsync ministries.

If you are content rolling around in pig slop then you’re not ready. When the student (you) has had enough, the teacher/psychotherapist/facilitator will be ready.

The ball is in your court always.

Posts in 2017 series
Breaking the cycle of loneliness takes work
Go outside and play on PWPTSD Awareness Day
Women, Blacks, Latinos have higher rates of abuse
Managing compound-complex parenting
Drinkin’ and druggin’ make parenting even harder
Risky behavior, self neglect aren’t life sentences
When food becomes a weapon
Managing rage, ground rules around kids
Managing hostile relatives, false accusations, head games
Parenting: If it’s not hard, you’re not doing it right
Third Annual Worldwide Parenting with PTSD Awareness Day is here!

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