Cultivating Gratitude for that in Our Lives Which “Sucketh”

“Oh, that’s too bad! What horrid news!” “Wow! Good for you! How cool!”

It is basic mammalian nature to avoid pain like the plague and seek pleasure. Would be kinda stupid if it weren’t that way,  wouldn’t it? Well, yes, from a survival perspective. But from the personal growth perspective, judging our life’s circumstances as only good-pleasureable- or bad-painful-and appreciating only the good ones doesn’t help us much sometimes. We can learn and grow immensely if we take time to ponder the painful ones, gaining gifts and insight that only hardship can bring.

Now I am not advocating placing yourself in harm’s way, such as cavorting gaily down the street at 2:00 a.m in a rough neighborhood, in order to grow emotionally and spiritually. I am referring to those circumstances in our lives that show up out of the blue and are usually beyond our control…such as being raped, severe car accidents, heart attacks, the bigger doozies. The ones that really, really cause a ruckus.

Here’s a personal example. And it’s a honker. When I was 21, I unexpectedly found myself living alone in what had turned out to be a rather rough neighborhood. My roommate had moved in with her boyfriend, leaving me high and dry. Oops. Couldn’t wait for the lease to be up on that one! As I got ready for my serving shift late one sunny afternoon, well, here is what I can remember of it: frozen in my living room,  gaping at the hulking male who had broken in, fleeing toward the back of the apartment, his arm around me, the gun at my neck, then being yanked into my bedroom. Everything is blurrier from there. I feel lucky I was only raped, given the gun and the fact he could have kidnapped me and done who knows what else.

I didn’t feel lucky in any way, shape, or form, however, when I remembered this during a group therapy session I was helping conduct as a graduate student 13 years later. A female group member repeatedly recounted her own rape, triggering my  memories to surface. Yay. Just what I needed right at the end of my graduate education, when I was already completely drained. My life at that time was sounding like a bad country song, and this was the last straw.

With counseling and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), and eventually Lexapro, I regained control of my life after enduring the hell of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That disorder is a monster which leaves its victims at a high risk of suicide, among other nasty side effects.

So how can I possibly see anything valuable to me about being raped, have any appreciation of such a violent act which will affect me for the rest of my life?

Many, many years later, this is how I can do it:

I learned I am tougher than nails…..I can survive anything!!! Nothing like the confidence gained from winning over PTSD flashbacks.

I have great empathy for survivors of all forms of child abuse and other trauma, which affects my political decisions greatly. PTSD  can alter the actual neural pathways of the brain, making it almost impossible for a person to be fully functional in all areas of his/her life. That welfare mom that you look down on, or the “bum” begging on the street corner…..don’t be so quick to judge. Child abuse especially is rampant, and the effects are lifelong. Survivors of child abuse need counseling and support to heal, both of which can be in very short supply for lower income folks.

I gained a phenomenal amount of courage during the healing process. To be able to see a gun without totally wigging out, I drove to Don’s Guns and tentatively approached the counter, wanting to throw up from anxiety. I asked the clerk if I could hold a small hand gun, then carefully placed it against my neck. My fear of guns became manageable after that. Wow. I felt like a raging bad ass when I left the store–I could be around a gun and be fine! Facing fears became much easier after clutching the gun. Skydiving was nothing compared to walking in to Don’s Guns alone and accomplishing that.Consequently, I am a fierce gun control advocate, hopefully sparing others the horrors of gun violence.

I can share my story here, knowing that perhaps another person who is in the midst of PTSD might read it and feel that they too can heal. My purpose for this current Planet Ride is to encourage and inspire others to grow spiritually and intuitively….I feel healing from being raped and talking about it is one of the ways I can do just that.

I wish I wouldn’t have had to endure that….duh, huh? Who does? But why not seek something positive out of a total turd of a life event rather than be downtrodden by it for the rest of my life? Of course I still feel pissed and sad about it, but I also accept it. Healing and finding how this benefitted me in some way was a choice….and I was fortunate enough to have the resources to restore myself and move on. Now I can help others do the same.

Now that’s a happy ending if I ever saw one! And I created it myself. How can you take your own painful circumstances and find gratitude and gifts in them? As a life coach and intuitive, please let me know if I can help you.

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