Archive Page 2

14
Feb
12

Valentines Day, Relationships And Self- Love

Valentines Day is by all intent and purposes supposed to be a happy day for people,especially couples. Filled with Valentine cards,candy,flowers,other gifts and hopefully love. But for some people Valentines day can be a sad reminder that they look different or don’t have a partner . And so they think no one will ever accept them,let alone love them. I felt much the same way after my burns. I was burned over 90% of my body in an oil refinery explosion when I was just 20 years old. The greatest damage was to my face . I lost both ears,part of my nose and had to have my entire face reconstructed.I was hopeless back then,but as I said to someone the other day at a burn survivor group at our local burn unit at Lehigh Vally Hospital.” We’ve been in recovery from our burns for many years ( 33 yrs for me) we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,because we’ve been through the tunnel.Most newly burned people can’t even imagine that it exists. That it will ever get better. And I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter where your scars are on your body or what ‘beauty’ you may have been left with. The scars become the focal point and we fear rejection. I’m no authority by any measure on love or relationships,so I’m just sharing what I have experienced in the last 33 years. I had a couple of different women that I dated and was involved with when I was injured and for whatever reason those relationships didn’t go anywhere. Then I meant a physical therapist that I dated and a candystriper that I went on a date with and this was all with in two years of my burns and I still had extensive facial reconstruction that needed to be done. I’m not gonna say I wasnt self-conscious. I was and still am sometimes. I’m not sure I know anyone who isn’t from time to time. Non burn survivors included. In 1983 I meant a beautiful,energetic 19-year-old women named Sonya . We had fun together and connected on a level that felt really good. Eventually we went our separate ways mainly because of my ongoing struggle with narcotics dependency as a result of multiple surgeries. I soon meant and married someone else. She was also quite attractive by societies standards and had two children from previous relationships. Ours was not a healthy relationship ,as we both had our share of unresolved issues and growing up to do. We had two children together,separated in 1991 and divorced in 1997. I finally found my way to getting off of the pain medicine completely in 1996 and I’ve been clean ever since. I had several more or less casual relationships with woman between 1996 and 2002. I ended up getting custody of my two daughters in 2002 and found out how difficult it was to be a single parent. One day I was asked to travel some distance to the Pocono mountains in Pa.(I lived in NJ at the time) to share my story with some other people in recovery . It was January 2003 and almost a year after I gained custody of my children. I walked into the building where the gathering was to be held with some friends from NJ in tow. As I was walking to the restroom to get ready to share my story I heard a voice behind me say ” I’ve been waiting for you for years” . I turned around and was completely flabbergasted. I just couldn’t believe that over 18 yrs later Sonya was standing in front of me at this obscure town that I didn’t even know existed, over 100 miles from where we both lived in 1983 in NJ . All those years faded away and it felt like it did back then. A little electricity. A spiritual connection. A couple of months later we started seeing each other again and eventually I asked her to marry me. I never thought I would get married again after my first wife. Because I didn’t think she really loved ME. Even though she seemed to be able to see past the scars on the outside,I don’t believe she ever really saw me. Sonya sees me and she gets me. She accepts me and loves me. Is it always wonderful ? No. In fact we are really just getting started on our relationship and romance. We’ve been focused on raising the kids and getting them set up with life, moving,business ,my involvement in the burn community and just everyday life. I’ve found that if I really want a good relationship I need to make time for it and I have to participate. It involves more than cards,flowers and the occasional dinner out. It takes guts to stay committed to a relationship long-term. I found what I feared the most was the intimacy and vulnerability. Not something most guys (and a lot of women) are very good at. But I’ve gotten better at it . I enjoy our life together and we enjoy each other. We’ve been very fortunate to have another chance to come back together as adults and find out who we really are separately and together . We try to support each other and give each other the kindness that engenders love. It’s not always easy and we both fall short but we keep on trying and that’s the most important part. Just keep at it and don’t give up ! It is my sincere wish that everyone who reads this finds happiness within themselves and shares that happiness with others. In the mean time just remember , if someone can’t love you today because you look different,they probably wouldn’t have been able to love you anyway. Not really love YOU and really see YOU. Real love goes much deeper than appearance. It goes much deeper than anything on the outside. I have found that my scars weed out the phonies in my life and I usually end up with the most genuine and authentic people on this earth surrounding me. Happy Valentines day to everyone …because self-love is where real love begins. Like happiness,love is an inside job .And there are shortcuts. You don’t have to be in a relationship to work on self-love.Our society puts too much emphasis on being with someone else,before we get to know ourself . And as my wife said this morning,” Valentines day is like Christmas. Its something we should practice everyday.” Practice with ourselves and others. So buy yourself a box of candy and some flowers and if no one else tells you that they love you or even if they do. Find a mirror and tell yourself …. 🙂

11
Jan
12

Resolve or Resolutions ?

Happy New Year to everyone and I hope that everyone had pleasant holiday. I decided to take a little break in December . I was feeling worn out, after a full year. 2011 was a productive,fulfilling and exciting year for me and my continued activity in the burn community. But it was also emotionally,mentally and physically draining. As my Dad said the other day “you’re not Johnny anymore”. Meaning I’m not a kid. Thanks Dad for reminding me. There was a lot of talking about digging into and bringing up the feelings inside for more healing to occur. I experienced feelings I don’t ever remember having and things I’ve never fully felt in relation to the accident ,my injuries and the many subsequent procedures that I’ve had to endure over the years . Thank God for those life saving procedures and the people who performed them and helped me through it. And thank God for the resolve to continue in the face of adversity. If you want to know who you are,adversity will show you. Not that I’m against fun and laughter and good feelings. I’ll take all I can get,but life isn’t always about those things and there are literally millions of people on this planet for whom they rarely exist. They are simply trying to survive each day. It may not have all been pleasant and still isn’t some times,but I believe it can still be positive.  Having said all that…what about this New Year ;2012 ? I remember coming home from the burn unit in January 1980 . I didn’t have any resolutions and although there was a certain institutional feeling of security that I lost when I left the burn unit,I was just glad to be out of the burn unit and be home with my family. I was far from being ok, but I had survived and that meant I had a shot at getting ok . There was a long and painful road ahead of me . A road which I didn’t know,because I had never travelled  it before. Fortunately for me there were some people around who did know and could show me the way.The way to healing physically,mentally,emotionally and spirtually.But there were some things that I needed to do in order for this to occur. I was told that my physical,occupational and speech therapy would be difficult and painful,but fruitful if I complied. The physical therapy was very painful and arduous . But I learned something from that New Year and the new road that I was on ; I learned that this road is like any other road. You can follow the directions of others who know the way or you can try to find your own way.  Today I prefer the former to the latter. I’ve been taught through experience ( some it rather unpleasant) that its better to listen to someone who knows. I mentioned that I didn’t have any resolutions for that New Year in 1980. But I did have some resolve and when I didn’t others had it for me. To I still believe in resolve  and resolutions . The resolution of issues that hold me back, impede my growth and threaten my very life. That may sound a bit over the top,I can assure you,it’s not. Two years ago this month my younger brother Mark died prematurely  from unresolved and undetected health issues. He was only 47 years old and he died of  something very treatable. Arterial sclerosis . We have a history of heart disease in our family. My uncle died at 44 from a heart attack and my dad had quadruple bypass heart surgery over a decade ago.  Dad is still alive at 84 . Not because he was proactive, as much as it was that he was under the care of a doctor and they caught it in time.  So now I can take a look at the road ahead again in another New Year ,some 30 odd years later . Only this time I can see the road ahead more clearly and  all of the warning signs.  If I choose to not to heed those warnings and signs,their fate could be mine. It doesn’t have to be that way though. I can use the same resolve that I’ve used in other situations and circumstances in the past to make healthier choices for myself. It’s not easy to do. God knows it’s not easy. I love to eat and I love to cook.  But I’m not very motivated some days to exercise and eat right. But if I don’t do what I know I can do to take better care of myself and I end up with health issues,that’s on me.  Its selfish of me not to take care of myself. I have a wife ,children,a grandson and many others that love me and whom I love. I have a life that I never dreamed I could have and I’ve survived a horrific accident. The bottom line is this; if I really care about them and this great life I have , I’ll take care of myself.  Auld Lang Syne

15
Nov
11

Money,greed and entitlement

I wanted to write about this topic while I am still angry…sort of strike the iron while I’m still hot ! Why am I angry? Someone just hit me sideways with a resentment from thirty some odd years ago having to do with my accident and the money I received. And because I guess after living on this planet for 52 years I still can’t believe the gall of some folks. In this case,I’m pretty sure that it’s not gall,it’s probably a mix of ignorance,misinformation and entitlement. There is only one thing worse than greed. And that is greed mixed a with a sense of entitlement. As some of you know I received an out of court settlement as the result of the burn injuries I sustained in 1979. It took over three years to prove our case and finally settle. The oil company ( then the third largest corporation in the world! ) used every dirty trick in the book and some new ones they came up with. But their vast resources and lies thankfully didn’t prevail. Instead I was awarded the largest out of court settlement in the history of the state of NJ. It sounds like a big deal and it was at the time. But only because it was the only tangible thing that they could give me to compensate me in some very small way for their gross negligence. I was unprepared for what came next. I was raised in a very modest home with many children and not much money. As a result I learned the value of a dollar and a good work ethic. Overnight I went from a disability check of a couple hundred dollars a week to receiving a check that made me a millionaire. I had people who tried to warn me and protect me. They knew in advance what might lie ahead for me. I had lawyers,financial advisors and others who told me what to expect and still I was amazed at what I experienced. I’m not going to go long on this topic because everything I write about will be covered in detail in my book, Beyond Recognition: An intimate view of a burn survivors life and recovery. I’ll just say a few things…One of the worst things that happened was that the settlement was made public. The media splashed the amount across the pages of all the local papers in South Philly and South Jersey and everyone who read that paper and who might have known me had a piece of very personal and intimate information. Something I was totally against. I don’t believe that people who have to go through ordeals like the one I dealt with should have to have the financial details of their life made public. It is absolutely NO ONES business how much compensation someone receives for a catastrophic injury. Could you imagine a total stranger asking you how much money you make a year or how much money you have in the bank !? Secondly NO ONE is entitled to any of that money except the person who suffered for it. It still amazes me that people think ” wow , he got millions of dollars”. Are you nuts ? I was almost burned to death ! My family and I were torn to pieces by this event and it took many years for us to have any kind of normal life. I had total strangers soliciting me for money. People I never meant asking for mortgage money. I was all of 24 years old and all I wanted to do was have a chance at a decent life and some stability. The money I received was nothing compared to the pain I endured and to the struggles I’ve since had to deal with and go through. Even now today ,32 years later, I still struggle with issues from the accident that affect my relationships. You can’t compensate someone for pain. Its impossible. I was compensated for the income that it was calculated that I would lose as a result of my injuries. The calculations were wrong. I lost much more than any statistician crunching numbers could ever imagine. I’ve wandered from one thing to another for years trying to find something that gives people that inner feeling of satisfaction that we derive from knowing that our hard work is what supports us and makes our life happen or not. I’ve gotten other things on the inside that you cant find on the job. Ive found parts of me that Id never have been able to access had I not been injured. But make no mistake about it ,it wasnt worth the money. You couldn’t pay me to go through that again. No amount of money would make me say yes to that. Anyone who saw me in the burn unit and in the first few years afterward would say the same. But money does strange things to people. They kill for it,die for it,sell their souls for it and end up with nothing but an empty hole inside. Believe me I know. I wanted that money I received to make everything better for me and for my family. But it didn’t. It only meant that for a time we didn’t have to worry about where it was coming from or who was going to pay the hospital bills for all my surgeries. For that I am extremely grateful.I know many who have not been so fortunate. They have no income and no one to look to for help in paying hospital bills and long-term care expenses. My family and I didn’t have much when I was growing up ,but we had all that we needed. We experienced having just about anything we could want and that didnt make us any happier. Many misquote the old saying by stating that ‘ money is the root of all evil’. It’s actually ‘The love of money is the root of all evil’. Money doesn’t make people happy. As my friend Dutch says ” Happiness is wanting what I have”. Just for today,I want what I have. There for I am happy.

15
Nov
11

Money,greed,and entitlement

I wanted to write about this topic while I am still angry…sort of strike the iron while I’m still hot ! Why am I angry? Someone just hit me sideways with a resentment from thirty some odd years ago having to do with my accident and the money I received. And because I guess after living on this planet for 52 years I still can’t believe the gall of some folks. In this case,I’m pretty sure that it’s not gall,it’s probably a mix of ignorance,misinformation and entitlement. There is only one thing worse than greed. And that is greed mixed a with a sense of entitlement. As some of you know I received an out of court settlement as the result of the burn injuries I sustained in 1979. It took over three years to prove our case and finally settle. The oil company ( then the third largest corporation in the world! ) used every dirty trick in the book and some new ones they came up with. But their vast resources and lies thankfully didn’t prevail. Instead I was awarded the largest out of court settlement in the history of the state of NJ. It sounds like a big deal and it was at the time. But only because it was the only tangible thing that they could give me to compensate me in some very small way for their gross negligence. I was unprepared for what came next. I was raised in a very modest home with many children and not much money. As a result I learned the value of a dollar and a good work ethic. Overnight I went from a disability check of a couple hundred dollars a week to receiving a check that made me a millionaire. I had people who tried to warn me and protect me. They knew in advance what might lie ahead for me. I had lawyers,financial advisors and others who told me what to expect and still I was amazed at what I experienced. I’m not going to go long on this topic because everything I write about will be covered in detail in my book, Beyond Recognition: An intimate view of a burn survivors life and recovery. I’ll just say a few things…One of the worst things that happened was that the settlement was made public. The media splashed the amount across the pages of all the local papers in South Philly and South Jersey and everyone who read that paper and who might have known me had a piece of very personal and intimate information. Something I was totally against. I don’t believe that people who have to go through ordeals like the one I dealt with should have to have the financial details of their life made public. It is absolutely NO ONES business how much compensation someone receives for a catastrophic injury. Could you imagine a total stranger asking you how much money you make a year or how much money you have in the bank !? Secondly NO ONE is entitled to any of that money except the person who suffered for it. It still amazes me that people think ” wow , he got millions of dollars”.  Are you nuts ? I was almost burned to death ! My family and I were torn to pieces by this event and it took many years for us to have any kind of normal life. I had total strangers soliciting me for money. People I never meant asking for mortgage money. I was all of 24 years old and all I wanted to do was have a chance at a decent life and some stability. The money I received was nothing compared to the pain I endured and to the struggles I’ve since had to deal with and go through. Even now today ,32 years later, I still struggle with issues from the accident that affect my relationships. You can’t compensate someone for pain. Its impossible. I was compensated for the income that it was calculated that I would lose as a result of my injuries. The calculations were wrong. I lost much more than any statistician crunching numbers could ever imagine. I’ve wandered from one thing to another for years trying to find something that gives people that inner feeling of satisfaction that we derive from knowing that our hard work is what supports us and makes our life happen or not. I’ve gotten other things on the inside that you cant find on the job. Ive found parts of me that Id never have been able to access had I not been injured. But make no mistake about it ,it wasnt worth the money. You couldn’t pay me to go through that again. No amount of money would make me say yes to that. Anyone who saw me in the burn unit and in the first few years afterward would say the same. But money does strange things to people. They kill for it,die for it,sell their souls for it and end up with nothing but an empty hole inside. Believe me I know. I wanted that money I received to make everything better for me and for my family. But it didn’t. It only meant that for a time we didn’t have to worry about where it was coming from or who was going to pay the hospital bills for all my surgeries. For that I am extremely grateful.I know many who have not been so fortunate. They have no income and no one to look to for help in paying hospital bills and long-term care expenses. My family and I didn’t have much when I was growing up ,but we had all that we needed. We experienced having just about anything we could want and that didnt make us any happier.  Many misquote the old saying by stating that ‘ money is the root of all evil’. It’s actually ‘The love of money is the root of all evil’. Money doesn’t make people happy. As my friend Dutch says ” Happiness is wanting what I have”. Just for today,I want what I have. There for I am happy. 🙂

 

24
Oct
11

Self-Actualization…reaching our full potential

Self-Actualization…reaching our full potential

By jflames

self-ac·tu·al·i·za·tion

/ˈsɛlfˌæktʃuələˈzeɪʃən, ˌsɛlfæk-/ Show Spelled[self-ak-choo-uh-luh-zey-shuhn, self-ak-] Show IPA

noun Psychology .

the achievement of one’s full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world.

After struggling to survive in the burn unit and all of the subsequent surgeries I endured after, I struggled for over another decade with narcotics addiction. It wasn’t until I entered the recovery process in 1996 that I was finally able to address the underlying emotional pain that I carried with me from the past.

The most significant event that had occurred in my life was being critically burned, but there were less obvious issues that existed before my burn injuries; issues which were further complicated by addiction, denial and shutting down emotionally. This was a defensive maneuver created by a subconscious mind that I wasn’t even aware of. It was successful in one regard and damaging in another. On the one hand it probably stopped me from killing myself or going completely insane. And on the other hand it caused more pain and more consequences, not just for myself but for everyone that cared about me. I had literally and figuratively fallen asleep to my conscious and unconscious self. That didn’t mean that they weren’t still operating on some level. It just meant that I wasn’t aware of them.

The first few years after my accident were extremely lonely and painful for me. I had no one to lead me out of the darkness, which threatened to consume me entirely. I did however have a few people who helped me find distractions and other things to do to help me feel human, my dad being the most significant person at that time. Others encouraged me and gave me tiny little glimmers of hope that never lasted very long, but were enough to sustain me between doses. My surgeon and friend Dr. R. Michael McClellan was a big contributor in that regard. He never gave up on me. These people gave me a reason to go on.

This was perhaps the lowest point of my life in terms of literally feeling like I wanted to die. I felt so alone and so hopeless that most days all I could do was get out of bed, shower and maybe eat something. It was what I would describe as my “burn bottom”; the point where I just completely bottomed out physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. In 1996 I hit a very different bottom. This bottom was the result of having everything I used to hide behind stripped away. My family, my children, my homes, my businesses, my money and my dignity were all gone. This was another one of those opportunities for me to dig inside myself and find resources that I didn’t know existed. It was very similar to my burn injury in that it turned out to be a very positive thing. But at the time it hurt like hell and it was no fun being in that state. As a dear friend of mine says, “Sometimes lessons must be cruel to be effective.”

This has been the case more than once in my life. As a matter of fact everything I’ve ever learned that’s worth knowing I learned from my own pain or someone else’s. It’s a tough reality of life and I don’t go around looking for pain. You don’t have to. Life presents challenges for all of us every day. I realized at some point that if I didn’t learn how to meet these challenges I would be stuck in an endless downward spiral of being a perpetual victim. These challenges are uniquely tailored for each of us. That same friend of mine also says, “The victory is in the struggle because that is where we learn how to surrender.” Surrender is not something I do naturally. It’s actually counter intuitive. But surrender is what saved my life when I began to allow other people to help me while asking for help when I needed it. And believe me I still need a lot of help from other people.

I’ve done a lot of “work” in these past 15 years, most of it having to do with getting current with my self and my feelings. I continue to find out who I am and what I want from life and am not insulted by life’s challenges. Instead, I’ve learned how to see them as potential for growth and as a possibility to learn more about me and what makes me who I am. There is great joy, happiness and fulfillment in life, not just pain and struggles. But it’s the pain and struggles that make that joy and happiness all the more fulfilling. The grief, sadness, loss and pain that I’ve gone through have become a touchstone for future growth. It becomes the opening that allows me to enter the darkness and come out into the light with new information, unafraid to face life and all of its daily challenges with gratitude.

In learning to be spontaneous and trying new things, one of the most important factors is risk. Love takes risk, creativity takes risk, being who you really are takes risk. I can’t tell anyone else the way. I can just tell them that there is a way to achieve our full potential as wholly integrated men and women. It’s scary as hell because it means letting go of everything that makes you feel safe. It means experimenting with new ideas and trying on new things. It might even mean leaving people behind and pissing others off. It means leaving the safety of what we know to explore the most feared of all things; the unknown. There was a saying that a friend of mine from Maine sent me in an email about 10 years ago. I held onto it for a long time and I read it often. It went like this, “The will of God will never take you to where the grace of God will not protect you. In order to have what is truly worth having in life it may be necessary to let go of everything else.” You can’t surrender with one hand. You have to throw both hands up and open them up. The good news is you don’t have to do it all at once. You get to do it in pieces….for the rest of your life.

05
Oct
11

A Lifelong Journey

On this, the 32nd anniversary of the explosion in which I was critically burned I wanted to write about my expierence at the World Burn Congress (WBC) which took place in Cincinnati last week. Once again I was on the panel for the Addiction/Substance Abuse and Trauma workshop. I felt it appropriate to write my blog on this theme, and to take it a step further to include grief/grieving.

I’ve spent time around hundreds of burn survivors over the last 32 years, and it is amazing to me that I’m always affected in some way by just being in their presence. I’ve written before about how I don’t see myself most of the time. And even when I do see myself, perhaps in a mirror or my reflection in a window, I’m not thinking about my appearance. But when I’m around other burn survivors I am transported through time back to that place where I was just learning to cope with being burned and disfigured.

I was only a kid at the time, and like most people my age, had lots of hopes and dreams. I planned to enjoy being single, hanging out with the guys, traveling and riding motorcycles from place to place (and bar to bar). Then someday I’d get married, have kids, settle down and be a family man (more by default, I suppose, than choice at that time). But all those hopes and dreams went up in smoke, quite literally, 32 years ago. The John that I knew back then–the one that I had been for 20 years–was gone.

Suddenly I was a very different version of me. To say that I was devastated would be an understatement. My body, mind and spirit were crushed in the explosion and the aftermath. The pain was excruciating in every way and every day for months on end. Then the years of physical therapy and reconstructive surgery so that I could move about freely. I lost count…I think its 72 surgeries now. I had to learn how to walk again and talk again and use my hands. I had to get used to eating with a mouth that had no lips and breathe through a nose that was almost gone. I had no feeling in my skin grafts for years. I could feel pressure when someone touched me only because of the nerve endings under the grafts. It felt like there was a piece of thick leather between me and whatever or whoever was touching me, and it was almost intolerable at times. But the hardest thing to get used to was the way others saw me.

I’m not just talking about strangers on the street or friends. My family members were deeply disturbed by my appearance. They loved me very much, and because of that it made them hurt, and I hurt for them. It’s my nature to not cause others pain or make them uncomfortable, so I took it on as my own pain. I was already carrying a trainload, so what’s one more boxcar full of baggage? I remember one young niece who was so frightened she would cry whenever she saw me. It was awkward for everyone at family gatherings and especially for me, because I didn’t want to upset anyone, especially my little niece.

At that point I was heavily dependent on narcotics to help me cope with my daily life. Even though I had seemingly made the transition from physical isolation to being in society, I was still very much isolated emotionally. The trauma I experienced as a result of the explosion was further complicated by my addiction to narcotics. The ongoing surgeries served to retraumatize and further institutionalize me. I was not only dependent on narcotics, I was also dependent on the institutions and the people who cared for me.

First I needed to address my addiction to narcotics. After many tries from 1983 to 1996, I finally succeeded. I was able get the help I needed and begin healing inside. I knew much about physical pain and suffering, but I understood very little about emotional pain and suffering and especially the grieving process. I realized I needed to have a network of people in recovery in my life, and some professionals to support me on my journey. I’ve found it necessary to create a safe space and have safe people around (could be a support network, significant other, friends, pastor, priest, rabbi) who won’t judge or invalidate your feelings.

Having someone who will just listen to you is one of the most precious things I’ve found. I’ve shared my story with anyone who will listen (and probably some who did not). I’ve shared in groups the details of some of the procedures I endured and watched people cringe. And I learned that some people just don’t want to know and some details are too much; not everyone is safe to share everything with.

I’ve logged countless hours with many therapists (some good, some ok). I’ve gone through training to help and support other burn survivors and I attend conferences and advocate for the burn community. I’ve written more than I can remember about this; I still write and I’m still uncovering and unfolding me. I wrote poems, read Voltaire (don’t ask me why) and read everything I could get on spirituality. I painted and did woodworking and built a motorcycle. I did yoga (still do) and Tai Chi, took up golf and am now doing woodworking again. I’ve taken long trips by myself to Europe and the west coast, and gone on retreats. I’ve also danced around the pain and avoided it for many years with many other distractions.

During the WBC, we saw a private screening of the very poignant and compelling documentary, Trial By Fire; Lives Reforged. As I watched myself on that screen I was catapulted back to the grief and sadness I still carry. It was a surreal moment to see all these images of myself strung together with my voice. I was watching me tell my story, and it hit home. This is a good thing. Feelings are meant to be felt, not avoided, suppressed, ignored, drowned in alcohol or numbed with narcotics. They are meant to come up and out, not go down and in.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is credited with identifying the five stages of grief (based on her experience with the terminally ill). Although this model is widely accepted as the catch-all for grief, it is not a template that everyone’s grief process will follow. Trauma and addiction have many manifestations and are complex in many ways. They are both difficult to diagnose and treat. Grief can be complex and overwhelming. It is not a neat tidy little package and it doesn’t come with instructions. It comes with denial, as do addiction and trauma. There are many good books written on the grieving process. There are counselors who specialize in grief and groups to help support those who need help.

I can’t tell anyone how to grieve or how long it will take or when it will be over–if it ever is. I can tell you that it’s messy some days, and that’s ok. I now enjoy life more than I ever have. I can tell you that the grief process has gotten better for me and that I have gotten better with it too. A process is a series of prescribed steps taken to achieve a desired result—in this case, healing. You have to take action in order to get results. It may take a lifetime.

In my experience, service seems to be the one thing that promotes healing more than anything else. Giving back to others who have also suffered helps me deal with my pain and it helps them deal with theirs. For me, the healing continues and I have yet to fully recover. Maybe that’s not possible. Maybe the infinite intelligence that created us has given us a lifelong assignment. That’s a good thing too. My first journey began 32 years ago on October 5, 1979. My second journey began on October 1, 1996. Here we are in October , 2011; 15 years later and I’m still on the journey.

Books on : Grief/Grieving

On Grief and Grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss
by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross ,David Kessler

Grief Recovery Handbook- The action program for moving beyond death,divorce,and other losses
by John W. James, Russell Friedman

Good Grief: A constructive approach to the problem of loss
by Granger E. Westberg

Grief
by Haddon W. Robinson

19
Sep
11

Discrimination : A Tainted View

Discrimination based on physical appearance is perhaps the oldest form of discrimination. It is unique in that it has no basis in politics, religion, skin color, ethnicity or ideology, but is based purely on physical appearance. There are many varieties of physical discrimination. Biases based upon someone’s size–too fat, short, tall, skinny, etc.–are probably the most common, and we all have them. In this context we are both perpetrator and victim. Even if it’s not outright discrimination, it’s some form of judgment, usually based on an association of some kind or a personal preference (e.g., people are overweight because they are lazy). Judgments are not inherently negative or stereotypical, but they limit our perceptions and ideas about people. They can categorize, pigeon-hole and condemn other human beings before they have a chance to show us who they are. We are not limited spiritually by stature, weight, skin color, scars, gender, sexual preferences or anything else external. We are more than our appearance. Knowing that is a gift, because regardless of what you look like now, you won’t always look that way.

I believe that judgments based on negative assumptions, ignorance, fear, unfelt emotions and feelings, and even personal preference are the cause of all division in the world. These limiting factors can be destructive to those who feel them and to everyone around them. My beliefs, fears, ideas and feelings about the people in the world and the world itself were developed in my formative years and beyond. They were greatly influenced by my parents, siblings, relatives, friends, teachers, neighbors, religion, TV, music and other forms of media. As an adult, I realized at some point that a lot of the information I received was based on opinion, hearsay, lies, faulty logic and reasoning, fairy tales, old wives tales and the prejudices of others. As a child, you really don’t get to choose your ideas. You have no real “intellect” or adult way to reason. This, coupled with the fact that my survival depended on the people around me, meant that I was extremely dependent on their views of the world. My limited experience with life and exposure to the world around me also added to this equation. I never really knew what I believed in or questioned anything about my ideas until I decided to learn more about myself.

In exploring who I am, I’ve learned that beliefs, ideas, opinions and yes, even the truth, can change. I don’t have to cast anyone off anymore just because I have a reaction to their physical appearance. And I do still have reactions based on old information that no longer serves me. The difference is that I don’t believe these old ideas anymore. I know there is room for everyone in the world. We all have a choice in how we view the world and people in it–much more of a choice than we might ever imagine. It’s a daunting task some days, but no one said it would be easy. Choice involves responsibility. We are responsible for our choices and the results we get. If you like the results keep choosing the same. If not, just know you can always change your mind.




Beyond Recognition

An intimate view of a burn survivor's life and recovery

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