Little Triggers-Big Affects

weight-watcher-51993937Today I hit a huge trigger that caused a major rift in my relationship. My boyfriend came into the bathroom when I just got out of the shower because he needed to get to the walk-in closet. Now, for a “normal” couple seeing each other naked wouldn’t be a problem, and it probably wouldn’t have been an issue for a woman without a rock-bottom self-image. But for someone who has always felt fat, ugly, and disgusted in herself, it was a major problem.

We had an agreement; he would never enter the bathroom even if I didn’t lock the door, an agreement he had never violated until today. Even after screaming twice, he just continued to explain why he had to get to the closet—to get his wallet to give the insurance agent on the phone his license information. He spoke into his phone while I was screaming in the background, “NO!” He held his head down and didn’t look at me, but that wasn’t the point. He didn’t honor my feelings, my request. My well-being was given the back seat to the person on the phone while I felt violated.

I’ve left the door unlocked and he has never violated that trust before. It wasn’t only a Shower
breech of trust but it made me remember all the times my brother and other abusers invaded my privacy and forced me to engage in unwanted sexual acts. My brother always tried to get into the bathroom, especially while I took a bath. I’ve mentally blocked out the times he made it in.

I realize this was my issue and not my boyfriend’s, that he’s not the one who abused me. It’s surprising that after all the healing I thought I had accomplished, there are still areas that have yet to be worked through, one of the biggest of them all being my low self-image. 

Mad GirlI don’t know that we can ever fully heal from abuse. Scars linger and some get torn open. We can change behavior, negative thinking, and reactions, but every now and then something can trigger the senses, and we’re flung back into the nightmares of the past. Even the briefest visit can be painful, and then we have to force ourselves to deal with it or live a C- life instead of an A+. We have to settle for a mediocre life if we don’t opt for healing.

Girl in SuitWe have to keep recreating ourselves, our lives, so that we can be better than what the abuse made us.

Our subconscious minds will find a way to help us face the things that are too hard to deal with so that we can heal and move forward. If it’s too much to handle on our own, we may have to seek out a therapist. That’s what I’ll do to clear up these body image issues. I don’t want to be embarrassed in front of my boyfriend anymore. I want to share all aspects of myself with him, including celebrating my body and bringing more excitement into our sexual relationship.

It takes a lot of effort to face our screwed-up-edness, but come the day we don’t react to the same trigger, we’ll feel so much better about who we are. We’ll feel proud of ourselves every time we find the courage to work through yet another effect of abuse.

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Working Hard on Abuse Book

downcastEmotional fatigue is having its way with me as I’ve been working on my non-fiction abuse book. I’m recalling—not for the first time—upsetting experiences and the people who had no qualms about trying to make my life more miserable than what it was, whether their hurtful intentions were deliberate or accidental.

Fork and measuring tapeIt doesn’t help that I’m dieting and can’t resort to old coping methods like stuffing my feelings with delicious desserts or hot foods smothered in melted cheese.

I’m currently working on chapters describing betrayals by my entire family—not just the brother who molested me but by my parents and other siblings, painful abusive relationships, and recounting times of feeling flawed and scarred because of all the detrimental effects abuse left me with. I find myself wanting to keep my reactions at bay but know this is counter-intuitive to my continued life-long healing journey, as well as for the basis of my book.

If anything, I’m hungry to get the book finished to help others who are coping with the effects of abuse and that goal is what has been keeping me on task. If you know someone who is on a healing journey from sexual or physical abuse and think they’d be interested in Cinnamon Rollmy forthcoming work, The Long Term Effects of Sexual Abuse, please spread the word and ask them to follow this blog so that I can let them know when the book is published.

I think this manuscript will help them as well as myself, as completing it will ease the pressure each time I’m faced with a carb and calorie laden temptation. Thank you!

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Therapy today: Bridging gaps

An eloquent and honest expression of feelings…


I was anxious about therapy today. After forwarding J the post I wrote after our last session, I was worried I had done the wrong thing. I sat in a bus shelter on the way to her house, deliberating whether I should go to my appointment or whether to jump on a random bus and disappear for a while. Yes, therapy is where you’re supposed to be able to say anything at all. But after a year of working with J, I’ve come to care about my relationship with my her. In the past week, I’ve realised that this might have started getting in the way.

We both knew something wasn’t right, as I was holding back and shutting down. When she questioned this, I initially felt like I had done something wrong. I am already in a phase of feeling like an oxygen thief, so I am susceptible to taking any…

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Your Handmade Donations Help Refugee Children!

Sandra HurtesMy author friend, Sandy Hurtes, started THE MADE-BY-HAND PROJECT to raise funds for child migrants in Europe. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to Save the Children’s Refugee Child Relief Crisis Fund.

LOGO--Save the ChildrenSandy is interested in donations that people have made–jewelry, crocheted/knitted items, paintings, sculpture, clothing, pottery, authors’ signed books–virtually any art or craft that is hand created. These items will be sold at a future event, some time in early March.

For more information on donations or how to get involved, contact Sandy at or visit The Made By Hand Project Facebook page.

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3 Ways to Curb Emotional Overeating

My body went through all the classic reasons for being overweight—fat protected me from more abuse as it kept me sexually unappealing. At heart, I believed I didn’t deserve to be slender and beautiful. I didn’t feel worthy enough to be happy.

Excess weight was an excuse for laziness, preventing walks because my legs hurt—of course they did with the weight they carried. I tired easily so weight put an end to volunteerism—finally, a real excuse to say No! (At that time I was caught up in being too busy to take care of myself, another classic abuse trait: I never felt taken care of as a child so I took care of others while I neglecting myself.)

1. Check-InEmotional Woman

Someone suggested I get in the habit of checking my emotional state whenever I thought I was hungry. Over half the time I wanted to eat because something emotional/psychological was bothering me. Once I checked in and established that I just wanted to stuff my feelings, I pulled out a journal and spewed my words until I got an honest picture of what I felt. At the very least, I’d craft a story.

Glass of water2. Drink up

If you’re uncertain if you have real hunger pangs, do what professional health and fitness organizations have suggested: drink a small glass of water because thirst can mimic hunger. Wait 10 or 15 minutes before eating. Remember, don’t rush through your meal or eat large portions. Eat only until you’re full, knowing you can grab another bite at your next sign of hunger.

3. Make a Food SpongeWater on Cupcake

A woman in Weight Watchers said, “Douse the tempting food with water.” Do it fast without thinking. If anything can put a damper on potentially overeating sugar and sugar-carbs, soggy food will do it.

Admittedly, there were plenty of times that after checking my emotional state–which I often was in when thinking I was hungry–then drinking water to confirm that I was merely thirsty, I couldn’t make it to the dousing-food-with-water stage because that was counter-intuitive to the instant gratification I wanted from food.

It boiled down to fearing the consequences of possibly being unloved, punished, unaccepted, emotionally hurt—and a host of other “what if” situations, most of which never happened.

Healthy WomanIf you can’t find a solution to weight loss, ask for suggestions from someone who cares about your physical and emotional well-being or seek out the pros for a stronger kick in the pants.

Emotional overeating is a tough cycle to jump off, but with a lot of practice and as much determination, nearly everyone can curb their appetite and become a healthier and happier person.

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Creating Birthdays Worth Celebrating

Birthday cakeBirthdays were miserable affairs in my youth, and that carried over into my adulthood. For that reason, this year I want to try something different. I want to proclaim my birthday as something special. Something to celebrate.

Insight dawned as I realized that, aside from my children, I generally forget everyone’s birthdays. In an e-mail I told a friend, at first joking, that I forgot birthdays because of something psychologically traumatic from childhood. The second I wrote it, I realized it was true.

We didn’t often receive presents in my youth, and the occasional inexpensive gift only lasted for one or two bouts of play. We had a homemade cake, rarely decorated, never from a bakery or the flavor I wanted. My siblings sang because they were forced to, and their collective voices sounded like a lament of time sacrificed rather than of celebration.

Vintage BarbieWhen I was in kindergarten I longed for my own Barbie and finally got one when I was 13, handed to me unwrapped. My mother was terribly upset that I didn’t react with the joy she expected. Later, I took the unwanted doll out back, cut her hair, and may have ripped her limbs off.

But the trauma lies in snippets of one particularly bad time. No one was home, and I don’t even recall if anyone remembered that it was my birthday. I think I was about 6 or 7 and my brother raped me, but the violent images are darkly veiled and I can barely see them. As an adult, I dreaded my birthday because I’d find out every year how very unloved I felt, and I’m certain I associate these feelings with my traumatic childhood birthday memory.

Sad FishI didn’t intend to be such a sad, serious adult, let alone on my “special” day, but oftentimes I don’t have the energy to push past traumatic memories and feelings. From my children, I may receive a phone call, text, or a rare card, and rarer still, a gift. But I don’t blame them. I take responsibility for putting out an invisible “leave me alone” vibe. My birthday mojo dwindles a bit more every year.

The thing is, how can my children celebrate me, when I don’t celebrate myself?

Birthday TreeAs I strive to be more conscious of my present moments, I will also remember to honor my own birthday as a time free of the past. I will fill it with love, appreciation and positive energy.

The next time a birthday rolls around for someone you care about, see how much of a difference it makes when you mail them a card, give a surprise phone call, or send them a warm tech message. (Flowers are always a welcome surprise!)

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Abuse – Unhealed Scab or Healthy Scar?

Hand WritingI recently submitted a few micro flash fiction pieces, limited to 101 words each, to a local writing contest and realized that my past once again wheedled its way into my present life through one of my stories. So I changed the character to a male named Gregory and gave him a drinking problem (one that I happily avoided but only due to an allergic reaction to more than two drinks.) I haven’t seen suicide as an option from a detrimental life since my youth, but I gave that to Gregory as a potential solution, yet he doesn’t choose it.

I wrote this story to depict the often futile feelings that accompany the effects of abuse.

Thumbs upI’m at the point where I’m starting to believe that the effects of abuse never leave us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t heal. Properly treated, the scab will eventually heal and fall off, and we can learn to ignore the scar or tap into its beauty, that being our voice that we can find through a form of creative expression or simply through our own self-awareness.

My silver lining has been my writing–thanks to a wild imagination that gave me many breaks, good and bad, during my dysfunctional childhood. Decades ago my stories served as a mental escape, but now I cling to writing as my preferred method of self-expression.

What has been your saving grace resulting from abuse?

Here is one of the stories I submitted:

NO WAY OUT by Carole Avila

Robbed in youth by a putrid uncle, Gregory never found any meaningful connection with his life. He thought happiness hid in decent relationships–however unrecognizable, in an envious body–hisMan on bus-flipped consistently flabby, or in utopian health–impossible when forever on knees before alcohol cravings.

His stomach sagged like an overused bota bag heavy with old ale. A wrinkled lobe under his neck dulled any hope of seeing spring again. Gregory knew the solution––simply ignore other people’s opinions, cultivate self-acceptance, and embrace his silver hair. Suicide might have ended his struggle, but fear of pain withered his only hope for salvation.

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Eating Feelings

My father died close enough to the holidays which made it easy to justify eating lots of homeCookies baked treats, primarily carb laden scones and cookies as I dealt with the emotional experience of loss and grief.

All my life, food has been a twisted psychological solution to stuffing my emotions and protecting my body from abuse, but of course stuffing never worked. Instead of insulating me from problems and keeping me safe, the fat was like the lid on a pressure cooker with a valve that kept me on the brink of exploding with negative self-talk and self-defeating behavior.

So knowing this, why do I keep returning to the negative and destructive behavior pattern of stuffing my body with food it doesn’t need or want?

ChildrenAside from the obvious—that food addiction is what I know and must somehow make me feel comforted—I think I convinced myself that to not have food meant deprivation. Eating less feels like going without, raising feelings of childhood neglect, both physical and emotional. I grew up in poverty, lacking food, healthy or otherwise. Also, there was never enough love, affection, and attention with five other siblings.

Exploring my own inner demons has not been a fun trip, but I’m tired of beating myself up each time I hit an emotional crisis, and I want to be done with taking it out on my body.

And I’m too vain. I don’t want to die fat!

At the beginning of the year, I joined the local Y, literally across the street, and I started YMCA Logowalking on a treadmill and lifting weights. The machines are preprogrammed so after entering my membership number I simply read a screen telling me how many reps, how much weight to lift, and which machine to use next. Not having to remember these things has relieved me of some of the accountability that often feels like too much pressure.

Not wanting to be accountable is another effect of abuse, and I brought myself full circle to the same problem––not wanting to be responsible for my own health and well being because I wasn’t taken care of as a child, expecting that task to fall to others, like my boyfriend. This is referred to as a sense of entitlement, a common problem with adult survivors, especially burdensome to those we task with taking care of us.

BlamingThis led to blaming my boyfriend for keeping me fat. He is a saboteur, a first rate baker who is always willing to bake or buy me the fattening treats I love while ignoring the possibility of diabetes that runs in my family. Yet I let him sabotage me so I can have someone to blame for my outrageous physical condition, to feel safe in an old and untrue thought bubble–that fat keeps me safe!

If you see yourself constantly repeating a negative behavior—that is, doing something that doesn’t serve to move your life forward or something that doesn’t keep you emotionally, physically or spiritually healthy—it’s time for change.

A good thing about behavior is that it can be changed!

It helped me to delve into the past to create the change I needed. My old foundation of negative thought and actions had to be torn down and knowing how it wasOld roof structured made it a safer and easier process. I am finally taking action and making better pro-health choices.

If you can’t remember your past, try to at least find the help that feels right for you, be it a Journaltherapist, trusted religious counselor, reputable psychic, journaling, or start reading self-help books—whatever it takes to start trusting your inner voice to lead you in the right direction toward healing. Go with what feels right for you (but not necessarily what feels comfortable.)

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Self-expression Is Therapy

downcastIt has been a much longer and harder road to write my book on the long term effects of sexual abuse than I realized, especially since I am including personal accounts that require an emotional connection that I did not allow myself to feel as a child. Each time I find myself working on the manuscript, I want to eat something in order to plug up my uncomfortable feelings.

It’s not just the re-exploration of old feelings that sends me into an anxious state. Anxiety sets in as I recount a once-hidden memory or a new insight. The challenge is that these are issues I thought I had already worked on.

Chair in waterRight now I’m writing on the fear of intimacy. At one time I thought this only applied to romantic relationships. Now I see how it applies to any kind of relationship, whether impersonal or intimate, long term or brief. My fear of intimacy is generally due to my fear of rejection and abandonment, when I’m overly concerned about filling the need for acceptance and approval. Trust plays a huge part in the process for me, and all these components are more ingrained than I realized.

On the upside, I feel like I no longer want to be anchored to my past with a ball and chain, but with gratitude that I have learned valuable lessons about myself and my relationship to others. I am willing to look at the issues I thought I dealt with, the uncomfortable areas in my life where I didn’t have integrity, and blame that I imposed on others without being accountable for my part in a negative experience. Of course, I hope to do this all at my own comfort level, but does that really happen for anyone?

With completion of my abuse book this year, I am hoping that, although I know it won’t be the Broken Chainsend of the journey, it will mark a positive transition into a much more emotionally enjoyable and manageable life experience. Here’s to healing through writing.

What can help set you free from a painful past?

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Write It Down & Make it Happen!

What’s On Your 2015 Bucket List? Create an opportunity for growth and healing!

Carole Avila - Writing is Breathing

New Year'sI think that when we take our thoughts out of our heads and put them into writing or some other form of self-expression, that we will manifest those desires. I selfishly made my Christmas and 2015 New Year’s wish list about me, but  I think it’s always been that way, and so it should be. After all, we have to take care of ourselves before we can address the needs of others.

  • May I keep the Spirit of Christmas year round, remembering to give to those in genuine need, be it of my time, money, or prayers.
  • May I remember to honor my body through healthy foods and physical exercise.
  • May I continually honor my mind with meditation, prayer, and gratitude.
  • May I remember that although I don’t have to hang out with toxic people, be them family or former friends, that I can still wish the best for them…

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