The results of physical abuse upon a child last a lifetime. In my novel, The Shade Tree Choir the main character - Krame experiences both emotional and physical abuse from his alcoholic parents and mentally ill mother. For those of you who have read my book, you will remember how Krame is alone in the world and promises himself he will never again be hurt. That was the scene where his nose was pressed to the screen after another beating.
Children who are abused feel alone and learn not to trust others. After-all, if their own parents hurt them why would they expect any better from strangers? They have a constant fear of abandonment. In adult life they can have difficulty with interpersonal relationships. To others, they might appear selfish. In reality they are still trying to survive - just like Krame in The Shade Tree Choir when he was locked away for eighteen hours. He first tried to survive the heat, insects, and darkness. When he was set free he then made a self promise that lasted a lifetime. Abused children feel all they have is themselves. They have an emotional ‘wall’ of self-preservation. Their souls are filled with chaos from years of abuse. They live a life waiting for the worst to happen. They are filled with constant pressure, stress, and anxiety.
It was fortunate for Krame that he had a spark inside of him that showed a path for his escape. In his case, it was his speed in track and field that later provided him a college scholarship and a way out of the deprived neighborhood. Children who are abused have a lost childhood and a stolen innocence.
All of these factors can lead to medical problems later in life. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is common among Adult Children of Alcoholics. Some diseases that can arise from emotional stress include: depression, high anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, ulcers, and high risk of suicide along with high risk of alcohol or drug addiction.
As a physical therapist and a survivor of childhood physical abuse from alcoholic parents and mentally ill mother, I can offer you some coping techniques to help manage stress. These include proper deep breathing, meditation, and a treasure map.
Finding quiet time alone and focusing on ourselves is an important stress management tool. Drive to the woods and be alone. Sit by the bank of a river or next to a fire pit can be mesmerizing and allow us to relax. The point is to be alone and to be near nature with all its beauty. When you are relaxed and alone begin performing deep breathing exercises.
Correct breathing includes proper intra-oral posture. Your tongue should be on the hard palate away from the top teeth, your lips should be together, teeth not touching, and breathe in through your nose. Inhaling through the nose allows structures called turbinates to warm and moisten the air. Your body should be in a relaxed sitting position or even lying down. Another position used in meditation is to touch your thumbs and index fingers together. You are then ready to begin deep breathing.
Inhale as deeply as you can and hold your breath for six-seconds. As you exhale blow like you are blowing through a straw. This is called pursed lip breathing. This technique allows for better oxygen exchange in the lungs and helps to strengthen the diaphragm muscles. It is also helpful to focus on either the bright light of the sun or the silver light of the moon while your eyes are closed. Try to focus only on the light in your mind, and rid it of ‘outside chatter’. It can take years to do this successfully, but any success is positive for you.
I use music designed specifically for meditation to help set my mood. That coupled with the sounds of nature will create a sense of calm quickly for me. Focus only on your breathing and the imaginary light of the sun or the moon. Fifteen minutes of this daily will produce a great sense of calm. Afterwards, I will see sharper blue skies, different shades of green that I did not see before, and have a greater sense of touch. Each of you will have different reactions. There are times when I feel a warmth in my body and a sense that I move slower than I did before the exercise. All of these are positive. I feel the problems that my mind perceived as stressors were no longer that important to me.
Many years ago I was at a party with then, Congressman, Bill Nelson from Florida. He is now a Senator representing that State. He was the first civilian to fly in a shuttle. I remember him telling several of us his experience in space. He said he looked out the window of the ship and saw the Mediterranean and surrounding nations and thought how petty his personal problems were in the grand scheme of things. He said it changed his outlook on life.
I challenge each of you to go into your own ‘space’ and look inward to find peace in your hearts. Just fifteen minutes a day of deep breathing may help reduce emotional turmoil and eliminate the physical effects from stress.
The time of day when the mind is the most receptive is the first five minutes after waking. When you wake up lie there with eyes closed and fill yourself with positive thoughts. Picture yourself in a state of happiness and calm. Imagine giving to others during the upcoming day. I believe what we give to others we give to ourselves. If we give bad karma we receive bad karma. If we give good to others we receive good in return. That first five minutes sets the stage for the rest of the day.
The past six years has been the most stressful time of my life due to something over which I have no control. I am using every tool in my arsenal to combat the effects from my stress. One such tool is called a treasure map. Twice before in my life I used this and everything I wanted to happen did indeed occur. I am now using it for the third time.
A treasure map starts by finding quiet time as I mentioned before. It is then I find what is most important to me and what really matters in life. It is then I ask myself what I want to achieve or to happen. I write those items in a list. Going on-line, I look for pictures that remind me of each item and print them. I use a long sheet of rolled paper as my base. The one I am using now is about three feet wide and five feet long. I then glue each photo on the paper by priority from top to bottom. I write one word clues by each photo and what it is I want to happen.
I keep mine in the bathroom as that is usually the last room I am in at night and the first one after I wake. At night before going to bed I stare at the map for a couple minutes and then give it ‘life’ by touching each item. I lean against it and smell the paper with my eyes closed and I picture all things on it coming true. Then I let it go. This is very important. I do not question the ‘how’ I just accept that these events will occur. There is no doubt in my mind.
Each morning for the first five minutes after awaking I lie still and thank my Higher Power for giving me life and for making me part of the Universe. I then go into the bathroom and repeat the process of touching the map and smelling the paper while visualizing all things to happen. Again, I let it go and do not question the ‘how’ of it all.
This gives me a sense of control, a sense of peace, and a feeling of calm. The Shade Tree Choir is not just about abuse. It is also about change and hope. Krame’s father realized mistakes and when you read it you will learn how he changed and was able to manage his inner stress.
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