Victim or Survivor?

il_340x270.300695958Victim: a person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or bysome impersonal agency

I’ve been thinking a lot about this word lately.

If I’m honest, I’m dealing with a lot of anger these days.  I’m angry that the decisions of others have so greatly affected my life, and that I had no control over how the choices of others have impacted my life, my emotions, my direction in life, my choices, etc.

I’m guessing we could all look back in our lives and find instances where someone else’s choices have had an impact on you – through no fault or choice of your own.  It could be the divorce of your parents, an addiction of a sibling, a family member’s choice to move away for a job, etc.  Or something even more heinous – perhaps sexual or physical abuse.

There are people around the world who are victims of horrific circumstances: slavery, government oppression, mutilation, murder, poverty, starvation.  But we don’t all fall into those categories.

And yet, we still may feel like a victim.

That our choices were made for us, without our input, because of the decisions of another.  And the ramifications of those choices may have had devastating consequences for us – those who had no part in making those choices.

And that PISSES ME OFF!

I am working to change my mindset from that of a victim, to that of a survivor.

Holding on to the mindset of a victim strips me of power.

It gives me an identity that God did not create me to have.

It sits me square in the middle of a pity party.

It keeps me focused on someone else and on circumstances that I cannot change, no matter how desperately and passionately I want to change them.

It can create bitterness in my heart.

It keeps me trapped.

And I don’t like feeling like that.

I have had the incredible blessing of learning from some pretty neat and wise women lately.  One of them sent me a document. It outlined the healthy and non-healthy ways we deal with stress.  I wanted to focus on the “Victim/Implementer”.

When we are in a stressful, traumatic situation, the UNhealthy way of dealing with it is becoming a victim.  This can be characterized by being: defensive, apologetic, sad all the time, hurt, helpless, hopeless, guilty, despairing, passive, afraid, compliant, lazy, manipulative.

Can anyone else relate???

VS.

Dealing with it in a healthy way and becoming an implementer. This can be characterized by being: confident, hopeful, active, brave, assertive, realistic, takes responsibility for self, makes own decisions, participates in their own recovery, believes in self, makes plans, sets goals, follows through in spite of setbacks.

Hmmmmmmm – that’s HARD work though!

Those characteristics of being a victim are much easier.  When you have suffered a trauma, those feelings come pretty easily.  I’m guessing it’s probably pretty normal to feel most of them.

The problem lies in getting stuck there.  In letting those feelings become who you are.  They can transform your identity into “Victim”.

It’s a painful place to be.  But at the same time, it’s comfortable in a way.  It doesn’t take work to sit in that dark muck.  It’s incredibly easy for our minds to justify all of those feelings.  “Well, look what they did to me….  It wasn’t my fault, and here I sit…..  There’s no hope because of what he did….. My life will never be righted again now…..  I can’t do anything to change my life now that she did that…..  I’m the way I am because of what they did, I’ll never do any better…..”

Those thoughts take no effort.  And they “make sense” when you’re in that spot.

So, how DO we combat those kinds of feelings and thoughts and not allow ourselves to take on the identity and title of “Victim”?

A lot of re-programming!

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Philipians 4:8

We generally can’t just choose to be confident.  At least I can’t!  But we CAN seize opportunities to do things that helps us feel confident in our skills, our relationships, our abilities, our choices.  We can then take responsibility for those choices and actions and follow through with them, even if there are set backs.  We may not be able to just wake up one day hopeful for all the future holds, but we CAN choose to replace the negative, self defeating lies we’ve been listening to with truths of our worth in God’s eyes.  Truths like the fact that God knows the number of hairs on our head, so we can work on trusting that He still has purpose for us in this world.  We can mourn the life we thought we would have had, but also choose to look ahead with anticipation of what can still be.

I think choosing to live as a victim keeps us looking backwards, while choosing to live as a survivor helps us to look forward.

We can’t forget what’s been done in the past.  We have to do hard, hard work to look at it, deal with it, process it, learn from it and not let it control us.  And when it sneaks up again (and again and again and again), we go through that process again.  But it doesn’t have to hold us back forever.

If we do the work, we can call ourselves a survivor.

Do you remember those bookmarks and things you could find with your name on it and a definition of what your name meant?  I remember seeing those a lot as a kid.  I pretty much always saw my name, Victoria, to mean “victorious” (which was a major bummer to me because I thought that lacked all creativity!)

As an adult I have not always liked that name.  Because, you see, you can’t be “victorious” if you don’t go through some really crappy, awful things!  You don’t call yourself victorious after walking around the block (unless you have a physical impairment of some kind!), you call yourself victorious after running a marathon!  You had to train for that, you had to preserve through cramps, blisters, burning lungs, exhaustion, and maybe an intense desire to quit!  But you didn’t quit, and were victorious!

We can’t be survivors if we don’t first endure some awful stuff!

I wish I was writing this from “the other side”.  I wish I could say I’m living a fully victorious life and calling myself a survivor.  But I’m not there yet.  I’m just starting this fight.

Anyone want to move from “victim” to “SURVIVOR” with me??

 

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Isolation

The_Winner_Stands_Alone_3001_answer_2_xlargeI LOVED living in the dorm in college!  I loved having people around all the time.  At any time of the day or night there was someone you could go talk to, cry to, watch a movie with, study with, or run to Kroger with for some ice cream!

I am an extrovert – I recharge by being with people.  I feel so rejuvenated after spending a couple hours over dinner or coffee with a friend.  Or going to a party with a lot of friends and getting to talk to lots of people.  I’m getting jazzed up just writing about it!

After I graduated college I got married and moved into my first apartment.  I always envisioned marriage to be like a life long slumber party!  I would be with my best friend and it would be fun and awesome all the time.

I couldn’t have been more wrong!

When I moved out of the dorm I felt so incredibly lost.  Where were my friends?  Who would I chat with at any random moment?  Who was this man I was living with who didn’t want to talk all the time?  Why did he want time ALONE?  Being alone is TORTURE, right?

I married an introvert.  Who was also an only child.  Do you see the potential disaster here?!?!

Over time, life has gotten more and more isolating for me.  My heart still longs for those dorm days.

But life is not a dorm.

Everywhere I’ve worked has had a small staff.  There weren’t many people to interact with.  And, there was this weird thing called WORK getting in the way of social time! THE NERVE!

I found some community when I was a youth pastor and pastor within networks of other youth pastors and pastors.  But, being almost the only female at these gatherings, I still felt quite isolated and alone.

When I started doing VDub Designs I was hoping that could be a way to have “coworkers” of sorts…but my clients are all over the country.  There are clients I have literally never talked to.  I have never heard their voice.  Everything could be done through email, so there was no need to verbally interact sometimes.

When I became a stay at home mom the isolation became almost smothering.  Who were my co-workers now?  A toddler?  NOT a whole lot of stimulating conversation there! Every now and then I would run into another mom at the park or play land and eagerly wait to see if we could strike up a conversation.  I would find ANYTHING on her or her child to compliment or ask about so that maybe, just MAYBE, I could talk to another adult for a few minutes.  Sometimes it worked, other times they looked at me like I had two heads and did anything possible to avoid me and my deathly INTERACTION!

And even if I did find a mom who was also on the look out for someone to talk about more than just potty, poop and Elmo…getting together is tough!  You have to work around nap times, feeding times, appointments, grocery shopping, nap times, feedings, nap times, (none of those naps were for us moms by the way!), etc.  So, on the off chance that the stars aligned perfectly and no one got sick I looked forward to those few precious hours I had to TALK to ANOTHER ADULT.

However, my circle of friends/comrades/support system kept growing smaller and smaller.  Add to that two kids who have some extra needs, and my chances at play dates and mom friends got even a bit smaller.

Life has taken some very hard turns for me in the last few years.  Turns that have completely re-routed my life, my dreams, my plans, and wounded me incredibly deeply.  These situations have kept me from wanting to reach out to people.  They have kept me from wanting or even having the courage to risk in relationships.  Trust has been broken and even though trust hasn’t been broken with friends, the thought of trusting someone new is very frightening sometimes.

But the more hurt and broken I’ve become, the MORE I need people.  The very thing I am running from is the exact thing I NEED.

God has been working on me lately in this area of isolation/community.

This is a really hard lesson to learn.  I know in my head that we are created and wired for community, that we can’t survive and thrive alone.  But living out that lesson is tough.

Finding some community online in “virtual groups” helps.  I can chat with others who are dealing with some of the same issues.  I can gain support, knowledge, help, encouragement, etc.  Which really is helpful!  It has provided some sanity and that “Someone else knows how I feel” feeling.

But virtual community is no replacement for real, in REAL life interaction.

And that takes risk.  But it’s a necessary risk.

One step at a time.

Feels like a chapter is closing

{I wrote this LAST WEEK Wednesday, but haven’t had time to finish it until now!  Just read it thinking it’s last Wednesday!  ;)}

Tim is working out of town all week.  That causes me a little stress….I’m not used to being alone with the kiddos that long.

And I knew today, Wednesday, was coming.

Not only did we have a snow storm coming (dumped somewhere between 7-12 inches), but I also had to take Adara to Children’s Hospital for her cardiology check up with a sedated echo (an ultrasound of her heart).  AND, Caleb also had his occupational therapy today.  LOTS of driving!

Adara had to be sedated because, as hard as you’d try, you can’t explain to a 1 year old that they need to lay still while someone ultrasounds her heart.  They gave her a very yucky medicine and then we wait for her to fall asleep.  In the meantime, she got pretty loopy!  She fought falling to sleep quite hard!  She wanted to stand up, walk around, but that was NOT possible!  She looked like a rag doll, her head flopping around, making funny sounds…it was kinda humorous!

Waiting for her sedation meds

Waiting for her sedation meds

She's just so cute in the little baby hospital gown!

She’s just so cute in the little baby hospital gown!

She finally fell asleep and I carried her to the ultrasound room.  The tech took around 30 minutes to look at all the views of her amazing little heart.  Well, then she left and brought back another tech.  I felt my stomach just drop to the floor!  The last time I remember this happening is when I was pregnant and they first told us about the holes in her heart.

It was SO surreal seeing her hooked up with the leads and watching the monitors again!  Just so weird!

It was SO surreal seeing her hooked up with the leads and watching the monitors again! Just so weird!

It was kinda weird looking at an ultrasound screen and NOT seeing a little baby on it!

It was kinda weird looking at an ultrasound screen and NOT seeing a little baby on it!

 

Leading up to today I have been 99% sure Adara is fine and they wouldn’t find anything alarming today.  But there was still that nagging 1% that made me wonder….wonder if things really are fine.  That little bit of worry that they would have to do another surgery or find something wrong with her heart.

After the ultrasound we went back to our room and I got to snuggle a sweet sleeping Adara in my arms.  She was OUT!  At one year old I don’t get many opportunities to hold Adara while she sleeps.  She is NEVER still….EVER!  But today I got to watch her sleep in my arms while we waited for the cardiologist to come in and tell us what she saw.  It was a little bit of heaven!

Sleeping so peacefully in my arms!  She's so mobile and active this doesn't happen anymore!

Sleeping so peacefully in my arms! She’s so mobile and active this doesn’t happen anymore!

 

So sweet!

So sweet!

Our cardiologist came in and told me the ultrasound looked great!  The leaks in the valves that were there are almost gone.  The leaking is so minimal it shouldn’t give her any problems.  The holes that were there from the patch they put on (tiny holes from sewing the patch on) had healed up and there were no leaks there either!  She has no restrictions.  She is basically a normal kid with heart surgery in her medical history.  Her risk for heart disease, etc. is no different than any of the rest of us.

I was SO happy to hear that news!  I couldn’t stop smiling!  I kept asking clarifying questions so I was SURE I was hearing her right!

I kinda feel like this appointment closes a chapter for us.  We will NEVER, EVER forget this journey.  The feelings still bubble to the surface as I drive near Children’s.  The smells take me right back to our month there.  So many things spark memories of our times there.

While those memories will never leave us, the urgency and risk of her health situation is gone.  Adara doesn’t need to be treated any different than any other child.

That’s a weird feeling.

But a good one.

Ultrasound: full of beauty and pain

Yesterday we had another ultrasound.  I can’t stop staring at this sweet, beautiful face:

25 weeks 4 days, 1 pound 13 ounces

She just looks so peaceful and beautiful to me.  And after yesterday’s ultrasound news, my heart just aches to hold her.

Three weeks ago I had a routine ultrasound.  I get a lot of ultrasounds because of being Type 1 diabetic.  They like to keep a close eye on baby to make sure everything is as it should be.  Three weeks ago they saw an “artifact” on her heart.  The perinatologist said there may be a small hole in her heart.  But he told me to not worry, IF there is one there it is the kind that will close up on its own after she is born.  He also said all the other structures of the heart: the chambers, ventricles, veins, arteries, etc. looked good.  He asked me to come back in three weeks to see if they could get a better look to be more sure of what was going on.

Yesterday was three weeks later.  I really didn’t worry for those three weeks.  I’ve heard of plenty of people who were born with small holes in their heart that closed up soon after birth and caused no harm or need for extra care at all.  And, the doctor said not to worry, so I really didn’t think about it all that much.  Plus, there may not have even been a hole there after all!

Until I was laying down getting the ultrasound.  Then it hit me, “What if there IS a hole?  What if things aren’t all ok today?”  I started getting a little worried, but really not too much.  I tried to pray to calm myself and just remember the words of the doctor three weeks ago, “don’t worry!”

The ultrasound tech did her thing.  She briefly measured everything, we got to see her moving around, squirming, her profile, her hands, her legs, all those lovely little parts!  There is just something SO amazing about being able to see this little being that I feel moving all around inside my belly!  She flipped on the 3-D view for just a few seconds for us and got us the picture above.  She said there’s really no medical reason to use it, it’s just a special little treat we get sometimes.  I LOVE IT!!!  🙂

So, after she did all her things, the perinatologist comes in to look for himself and tell us what he saw.  This peri was different than my regular guy, I had never seen him before.  It took forever for him to come in!!  He reviews all the images the tech took and then comes in.  We waited so long!  Which gave me more time for the anxiety to start building.  I even mentioned to Tim, “do you think the ultrasound tech gave us the 3-D picture because she knows bad news is coming and wanted to give us a treat??” (The tech is not allowed to tell us anything, of course.)

So the peri comes in and starts doing his ultrasound.  The room was SILENT!!  He didn’t say anything, the tech didn’t say anything, I was too scared to say anything…..it felt like an eternity of SILENCE.

When he was all done he finally gave us the news.

He is 98% sure there is a hole in her heart that could require surgery.  It is on the septum between the ventricles.  It’s called a VSD.  ALSO, it appears that the aorta has grown in the wrong place and has grown over the hole which is very bad.  This would mean that the aorta is getting blood from BOTH chambers of the heart and that is not the way it is supposed to work.  He said this means it would be pumping both oxygenated and non-oxygenated blood to vital organs like the brain.  If this is the case, it will certainly require surgery.  This surgery would have to be done very soon after birth….within a couple months if not sooner.

He said it shouldn’t affect the rest of the pregnancy and that she is fine right now.  Fortunately her body does not get most of it’s oxygen from her blood so this aorta issue won’t be a problem for her until after she’s born.  Unfortunately, he also said there’s nothing I can do about it now.  There’s no diet change or bed rest or anything I can do to affect the outcome.

So, now I go to Children’s Hospital on Monday to see a pediatric cardiologist.  They will also do an ultrasound but have different equipment to see the heart better and will be able to give us more definite information and an idea of what will be needed and what will likely happen after she’s born.  There is a chance, depending on the severity of the issues, that I may need to deliver at Children’s Hospital if there is a need for immediate care.

I’m having a hard time with all this.  I’m having a hard time processing this.  I keep hearing stories of people who had kids, or they themselves, had to have heart surgery soon after birth and have gone on to play sports and lead totally normal lives.  And those are great to hear.

BUT……

She’s still MY baby!  I just CANNOT envision myself handing over this tiny, little, fragile baby to be put under anesthesia, cut open and operated on…..on her HEART!  The thought of surgery TERRIFIES me!  The thought of something being bad enough that she is taken from me immediately after birth and I can’t hold her TERRIFIES me!

I know I need to NOT worry about things that haven’t happened yet….I know I need to wait and see what actually happens……I know I need to pray and ask God for strength to get through this and for the miracle of HIS healing of her heart…..but every time I feel her kick (which is obsessive with me now!  Like, if she’s not kicking every moment of the day I’m worrying something happened to her!) it reminds me there is something wrong with my little girl.  And there’s nothing I can do about it!  We thought we lost her once already, I can’t bear that again!

So, here we sit.  Praying.  And, thankfully, there are SO many praying for her!  Waiting for Monday when we should have more information.

I just want her to be ok.  Healthy.  Whole.  I just want her to be ok!

He’s a BIG BOY now!

***I apologize in advance…I got a little “Instagram” happy….but I couldn’t resist photo documenting this momentous occasion!

Saturday was a big day in the life of my little man!  And a little bit of an emotional one for mommy.

Caleb has been sleeping in the toddler bed of his convertible crib.  Obviously, in a few short months, he will need to vacate said toddler bed so Baby Bubbles has somewhere to sleep.

Caleb does not take too well to change.  He is VERY into routine and having things right where they go.  (Except when it comes to putting toys away….then it doesn’t matter one little bit where his things are strewn about!)  For example, sometimes he likes to bring a toy upstairs to his room while we read a story before bed.  Well, that toy MUST be taken downstairs after he’s tucked in.  NOTHING can be left in his room that doesn’t belong!  He is VERY minimalist when it comes to his room!

So, I’ve been working on mentioning this change of sleeping arrangements to him for the last several months to get him ready.  He was not liking the idea at all.  He didn’t understand why he had to give up HIS bed!  And didn’t seem to like one bit that it was because of this baby that things had to change!

Well, not only does he need to change beds, but we needed to rearrange the room to fit everything in.

WHOA! I smelled a disaster coming with that one!!  So, needless to say, I was a bit nervous about this whole switch over.

However……we did it, and…..HE LOVES IT!!!!

I have never seen him like this!  He got to help daddy put the bed together with his own tools.  We took him to Target so he could pick out his own sheets and blanket all by himself…WHICH HE LOVED!!

Working SOOOOO hard!

Helping daddy with the tools HE bought that day with his OWN money from Grama!

Still working away!

The past {SNIFF!}....and the present!

We have APPROVAL!! (His old blanket would suffice until we went to the store for his new stuff!) But he just HAD to try it out before we went to the store!

The finished product! (At least until we get crib bedding for our little girl!) I forgot to mention...he hates pillows and won't sleep with one, so that's why it's laying on the floor!

He was literally bouncing off the walls ALL NIGHT with excitement.  He slept WONDERFULLY in his bed all night….especially after all the energy he expels from excitement!

He then started asking if the baby would be sleeping in the room with him that night.  Because, after all, his bed is up, the crib is now vacant, why wouldn’t the baby be sleeping with him now??

So, I explained to him that the baby wouldn’t be here until it was colder, and a while after Christmas.  And even then she will sleep in Mommy and Daddy’s room for a while before she sleeps in the crib in his room.

To this he replied…..

wait for it…..

wait for it….

“But I want the baby to sleep in here with me now.  I love her!”

O GOOD LORD, MELT MY HEART AND TURN ME INTO A PUDDLE OF TEARS!!!!

Too precious for words!!

(We will see how he feels once she IS here and waking him up all night….)

So, I am SO happy he LOVES his big boy bed and is excited to have the baby sleeping in his room with him.  He didn’t have any issues with moving everything around and has really gotten into this whole idea of being a “Big Boy” now!

My sweet little angel….growing up too fast!