Introduction: Your Guide

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Your Guide: Spiritual Annie

I don’t much care for the titles of “Owner” or “Administrator” because they imply that somehow the person with the title is all-powerful and above the rest of the people involved in a site. I consider this to be our site, not my site. So, I have decided on the title of Guide. All that implies is that I may, from time to time, gently suggest you consider ideas and tools and options of which you may be unaware.

So, who then, am I? First, I am Annie Stith. I am online under various aliases, in part due to the online stalking by an ex-partner. On Facebook , I am “GH Annie Bear” which started due to my best friend calling me “GH Annie” because I signed my posts in an online peer support group with {{{ gentle huggies }}} as many in the group experienced chronic pain. The “Bear” part was added when I sent her a teddy bear as she was beginning to face her childhood issues. She even named him GH Bear.

On Twitter and in Disqus (a website add-on for comments), I go by “Spiritual_Annie” or “Spiritual Annie” which is my preferred online name. I will be creating another alias for Twitter specifically for this site, which will be “@After_Abuse_Rise” so that my tweets about this site will be easily identifiable. I have also created a special GMail account, but I won’t post it here as I will be purchasing the domain “AfterAbuseRise.com” in November, which will include email using “@AfterAbuseRise.com” instead of GMail. I’ll let y’all know when that’s set up.

But enough about about names and aliases. The more important question is, “What has your life experience been that qualifies you to be a Guide?” In a nutshell, the earliest years of my life involved incest, torture and brainwashing by my father. After he left, I was raised by a functional alcoholic mother, during which time I was molested by a priest. As an adult, I recreated the relationship I saw my parents exhibit by getting into a series of abusive relationships that became worse with each one. I was also date raped in my early 20’s.

I “hit bottom” both because of the extreme abuse in a relationship combined with having become the stepmom of two boys, one from birth (long and complicated story) whose mother didn’t know how to care for her children and had no desire to change. The boys both became my greatest joy and deepest pain as I watched them grow, exhibiting behaviors I know all too well, that were constantly triggering me. One of the hardest things I have ever done was to leave that relationship, not because of the death threats from my partner, but because I knew that I would never be allowed to see my boys again.

The pain of leaving got me into talk therapy with an incredible woman, who took me on at very little cost for the two years of intensive therapy that was sometimes multiple times weekly. For every topic we delved into, it turned out she had experience in the area, including such things as knowing there was a charismatic Catholic splinter group on the campus of one of the universities my father attended during the years he was there, to having represented clients who formally filed complaints with the local Archdiocese and walked them through the process (she had even met the priest who molested me!), to understanding my German heritage enough to recommend reading the original versions of the Grimm’s fairy tales in order to better understand where some of my family’s values and beliefs originated. And I was really, really ready to do whatever it took to change the patterns I recognized in my life.

After therapy, my Type A life was filled with a job with many responsibilities, my involvement in a church where I served on the Board and became the de facto Administrator when the Senior Pastor resigned, and was in a healthy long-term relationship where we were engaged to be married. I started to burn out at the same time as I felt a sharp pain in my gut that turned out to be from fibroids growing from the outside wall of my uterus, more growing from the inside wall, and glands in the wall itself that I didn’t even know existed becoming precancerous. An emergency hysterectomy that was to make me “feel like a whole new woman” did just that, but not in the way imagined. It triggered my first adult flare-up of Fibromyalgia that included a level of chronic exhaustion and pain I’d not yet experienced.

I had to stop working in 1997 at the ripe old age of 38. It took two years for Social Security to approve my disability application, during which time I went through both my savings and a voluntary retirement program I cashed in. I also had to leave the leadership of my church, and my long-term relationship ended. When money ran out, I had to start relying on living with others rent-free that caused the loss of family members, friends and my church who were judgmental about my “invisible” conditions or frustrated with my cancelling plans on bad days. As my “in real life” world grew smaller, my online world grew larger as I joined support groups and began a search for spirituality outside of organized religion. I grew a great deal on a  personal level while my circumstances of living on a small SSDI check deteriorated.

I had become very isolated locally (where and how does one meet and make new “in real life” friends when disabled?) and was living in a studio apartment in a violent neighborhood. When I questioned some smallish transactions on my SSDI prepaid debit card, many irregularities were found and I had to immediately cancel my card and be mailed a new one. It was to take five business days, shortly before receiving my monthly benefit. I can’t say how long I waited for that new card. I slowly reduced how much I ate each day as food was running short. Eventually it ran out altogether. Things get a bit muddled in my memory as I slowly began to starve. Somewhere around the 10th day without eating, I had a moment of lucidity and called 9-1-1.

In the ER, I was given four units of whole blood just to get my blood pressure, which was at a dangerously low level, to rise to low-normal. I was admitted to the ICU where I was put on a respirator because of breathing difficulties, and kept knocked out as is normal so I wouldn’t fight the intubation. When I progressed far enough, I was transferred to the CCU as my heart had also been affected by my near-starvation. From there I was put on the cardiac ward as tests were performed to try to find a reason other than starvation for my extremely low blood pressure. Once everything else was ruled out, I was transferred to a physical rehab facility as I’d been bedridden so long I couldn’t walk.

While in the ICU, my cell phone died and I didn’t have my charger, so I couldn’t contact anyone. My slumlord decided after several unanswered voicemails that I had abandoned my apartment. He cleared out all of my belongings and discarded them, gave away my cat, and rented my home. I was officially homeless. My best friend who I had known for years online, by email and ultimately by phone offered to take me in, so I moved from Missouri to Florida with no more than my purse and the clothes I got from the rehab facility. We were to have 90 days to find our own place while living in her aunt’s house after her aunt had relocated to North Carolina for work. For whatever reason, the aunt failed to mention she’d not paid the rent in months and eviction proceedings had begun. After about a week in Florida, a locksmith showed up to change the locks. He was busy that day, so he agreed to come back the following day. We had 24 hours to get a storage unit, hire movers and pack, and find a cheap motel to live in. I was once again homeless, though gratefully not alone.

Our homeless adventure lasted eight months until this past May when we found a small trailer in a park with a bad reputation, but it got us off the streets where we’d stopped living in motels and started sleeping first outdoors and then in abandoned buildings. We also lost all of my best friend’s belongings in the storage unit when we couldn’t pay the bill. She worked miracles, scrounging through abandoned homes, burned out buildings, dumpster diving and finding used furniture for our new home. She’d made a great deal of progress when she unexpectedly passed into spirit on August 25th of this year. I now live in the trailer alone, with the notable exception of her miniature Schnauzer, Biscuit.

The point of sharing all this is twofold. It is for y’all to understand that I’ve faced many of my own challenges from which I’ve healed. It’s also to provide proof that, for every moment of my nearly 57 years, I’ve not only survived but have continued to Rise after each fall. In fact, I’m thriving as I continue to deal with the absence of my best friend. I consider my spirituality to be part of the reason, as well as the tools I’d learned in and after therapy. While life has provided circumstances where I’ve been knocked down or fallen, I’ve not only gotten back up each time but have continued to rise above my circumstances, growing mentally, emotionally and spiritually, which is why I refer to myself as a Riser rather than a victim or survivor.

Well, this turned out to be a bit bigger than a small nutshell, but I let my heart speak my deepest truths.

Love and Blessings Always,

~Annie

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