I was four years old when I was sexually abused by two teenaged boys in a serious but one time incident. Then at age 22, I was raped on a date. There were other major stressors in my life. For one, my mother periodically went through major depressions. She would stop functioning and end up being hospitalized in a psychiatric facility. Later, when I was 12 or so, she became alcoholic. She was a lifelong smoker who, after developing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), would unhook the oxygen tank and remove her nasal tubes so she could smoke a cigarette. She only stopped smoking because she could no longer drive to the store and buy cigarettes, and no one would buy them for her.
One family member claimed that my maternal grandfather sexually abused all his daughters. Another family member says that our grandfather was loving and good and was not capable of sexually abusing anyone, and that she herself never experienced any inappropriate touch from my grandfather. Since my mother died of Congestive Heart Failure, Cirrhosis of the Liver and COPD 26 years ago at the age of 67, I can't ask her. What I do know is her symptoms were similar to many sexual abuse survivors I have worked with over the years.
I was only 3 years old when my grandfather passed away. I have only one vague memory of him. I remember him holding a hose in his garden while I played in the water. I was about 2 at the time.
I am now 55.
Maybe my grandfather did not abuse my mother, but I think somebody did.
My troubled mother was like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid. I have already told you a little bit about how my mother was horrid, so now I will tell you how she was good.
She read to us every night before bed for years -- the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Call of the Wild, and many, many more books. She taught me how to cook by patiently letting me whip butter and stir in sugar and eggs when she made cookies. She embraced my efforts in the kitchen, always encouraging and never criticizing even when I added mustard instead of ginger to my cookies. Best of all she took me out into nature. Due to her smoking addiction, she was not capable of rigorous hikes, but she loved the kind of gentle nature trails found in national parks. She loved picnics, and we picnicked often in places such as Point Lobos near my paternal grandmother's home in Monterey, California.
She brought along books on flowers and trees and birds and mammals to all our picnics and family outings in nature. From her, I learned much about the flowers and shrubs and the little furry mammals and most of all about the birds of Northern California where I grew up.
One time we picnicked by a creek in the Sacramento Valley filled with polliwogs. We brought home a bucket of stream water and algae and polliwogs and placed the contents in a rectangular Pyrex baking dish on a table by our back entry. Then, in the days that passed, my brother and I watched as the polliwogs became frogs. After the frogs started hopping out of the baking dish, we took them back to the stream and set them free.
Perhaps it was no surprise that I majored in Zoology in college and became a wildlife and fisheries biologist before tiring of temporary jobs and moving onto nursing and motherhood.
Through the dark days of my childhood and the difficult adulthood that followed, my love of nature sustained me until I went through therapy and spiritual retreats and mentoring which helped me know what to do to heal myself.
The darkest days of my life followed my parents divorced when I was in eighth grade. When you are a child you can't leave a bad situation easily. Often you are without support. Things were worse in the 1970s when my parents divorced than now as our society was that much less aware of both abuse and healing and had that many fewer laws protecting children. There were also many fewer good resources for the wounded. My father remarried, and my stepmother would have preferred it if my brother and I not exist. Or at least she would have preferred that my father disinherit us. My father kept my brother and me in his life and his will, but he did not protect us from emotional abuse from our stepmother. He would remain silent while she berated us and then tell us in private that he disagreed with her.
So I had two imperfect parents.
I felt hurt and scared and sad through much of my childhood, but from my mother's influence, I developed this habit of going into nature.
Truthfully, my father loved nature too. He, too, loved picnics, walks, and drives in nature.
When the bad days came, days that were so painful I could barely cope, I always knew I had one place I could go for comfort -- nature.
I took frequent walks at night along the river by my hometown. After school and on weekend mornings I rode my bike along the farm fields into foothills of the coast range or along the river. I would get up at four in the morning, ride my bike on the river bank until I found a sandy beach to sit on, and then I'd watch white breasted Bank Swallows swoop and dive over the river at dawn.
Later in college, I acquired a pickup truck with a canopy and went camping alone with my dog.
Eventually, I interned with the Bureau of Land Management in northeastern California and hiked into the mountains on foot on my days off. In some places I could see east into Nevada desert and west into Modoc Plateau of California. I remember the perfect azure sky, the exposed rock and grey green Juniper tress scattered through a mountain meadows with a creek lined with grey green velvet leafed yellow Mule Ears flowers that resembled miniature sunflowers.
I was an agnostic, almost an atheist, but in the moment I thought, "This place is so beautiful that no man could ever make a garden this beautiful. This is God's garden."
In that moment whatever woes afflicted my heart and my mind were very far away. I felt only joy.
There are many things we survivors need to do to heal.
We need to develop new relationship coping skills to help us break away from past bad patterns either learned from those who abused us or the dysfunctional ones we learned to cope with an impossible situation. Nature does not teach these relationship skills. We need to learn these in classes and workshops or retreats so support groups or one on one with a therapist. I recommend going through Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or studying non-violent communication as taught by Marshall Rosenberg. Both these therapies have proven effective in scientific studies in helping people heal. No one can wave a magic wand and make us better. We have to work hard at this ourselves, maybe for our whole life long. We have to take responsibility for ourselves as no one else will. In addition, both these therapies teach meditation and prayer as practices that help us destress as this helps us handle both stress in the moment and in the future. Going into nature can help us destress in both the moment and in the long run much the way that prayer and meditation do, but it is much easier to do.
I want to point out that both Christian Messiah, Jesus, and Catholic saint, Francis of Assisi, went into nature to heal themselves. Jesus went into the desert and Francis went into the mountains near Assisi, Italy. But going into nature for healing is not exclusive to Christians. Over the last 30 years in Japan there has developed a non-denominational move called forest bathing or Shinrin-yoku. Blood pressure drops noticeably after spending even 15 minutes in a beautiful forest setting.
There are three great gifts nature gives us. First, going in nature helps us calm ourselves down and center ourselves much as meditation and prayer do, but it is ever so much easier to do. Moreover, a well designed city park can work as well as a waterfall or a forest or a beach. Second, spending times in nature does not require any money except gas or bus fare or the price of a bike or good walking shoes to take us there. There, walking or swimming or paddling a canoe not only helps us destress physically in the moment, it also improves our physical health which helps us decrease stress over the long term.
I repeat. Being in nature helps us let go of our anxieties and fears and our pain over the past and experience beauty in the present moment automatically and for free.
The moments, hours and days we spend in nature strengthen us so we are able to move forward and work through our problems and crises.
To help you all relieve stress in the present moment without actually going into nature and to help you all know where to go to find peace and healing and uplift when you have time, I am writing blogs and posting to You Tube slide shows and videos of specific places in Oregon where I go to commune with nature.
Below are my four best slideshows and videos and where to find the places shown.
Larch Mountain Meditation Walk
Take 84 to Exit 22 to Corbett.
Turn Left onto NE Corbett Hill Road
Turn Left onto East Historic Columbia River Highway
Take a slight turn to the right onto East Larch Mountain Road. Do not stay left. Do not go to Vista House. You have taken the wrong road if you end up at Vista House.
Willamette Esplanade Evening Walk
The official name of the Esplanade is the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade
I often enter the Esplanade by the Peace Memorial Park on the corner of NE Oregon Street and NE Lloyd Boulevard.
Watch the video to follow my footsteps over the lower portion of the Steel Bridge or chart your own path by heading south on the Esplanande.
My favorite time for walking is summer evenings. I like to eat at a food truck cart in downtown Portland along the way.
The Barlow Trail Road
Take Highway 26 from Portland to Mt. Hood.
Highway 26 splits into a one way couplet at the west end of downtown Sandy and reunites at the east end. Going east just after the couplet reunites, turn left onto SE Ten Eyck Road.
Follow Ten Eyck Road downhill until it crosses over the Sandy River.
Just after the Sandy River, turn right onto E. Marmot Road.
Follow East Marmot Road until you meet East Sleepy Hollow Drive.
Turn right onto East Sleepy Hollow Drive to get back to Highway 26.
Interesting Fact: East Marmot Road was part of the main east to west route by Mt. Hood before the Mt. Hood Highway was built around 1930.
Port of Garibaldi/ Bay Lane Clam Bed Pier
Go north from Tillamook, Oregon on Highway 101 about 10 miles.
In the center of Garibaldi watch for signs for the Port of Garibaldi. Turn left.
The Port of Garibaldi usually has lots of free parking space.
To find the Bay Lane Clam Bed Pier, go a little fourth up Highway 101 towards Seaside and Rockaway Beach.
Turn left on South 12th Street, and go one block.
Turn right on Bay Lane and go about one block to the pier.
© 2014 Virginia Pickles Jones
References to scientific studies to the healing power of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Non-violent communication
1. ttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796705001890 internetJuly 25, 2014t
Abstract for Effectiveness of dialectical behavior therapy for borderline personality disorder in an inpatient setting
Christoph Krögera, , 1, , Ulrich Schweigerb, Valerija Siposb, Ruediger Arnoldb, Kai G. Kahlb, Tanja Schunertb, Sebastian Rudolfb, Hans Reineckerc
"Psychopathology was significantly reduced at post-treatment and at follow-up. Effect sizes for outcome measures were within the range of those of previous studies. Our findings support the notion that the results of the DBT efficacy research can be generalized to an inpatient setting and to patients with BPD disorder with high comorbidity." In non scientific language this means DBT effects significant improvement in the symptoms experienced by patients with Borderline Personality Disorder.
2. http://www.truerecovery.org/learning-center/dbt-dialectical-behavior-therapy/126-guided-mindfulness-meditation-exercises. Internet, July 25, 2014.
This website is an online therapy resource centered on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Among the resources it offers is guided mindfulness meditations to help people destress. I highly recommend this, but it probably even more effective to visit the beach or the forrest on a regular basis than meditate about them. However mediating about them with the guided meditations from this website or looking at them and enjoying them on my blogs or You Tube videos also works.
3. http://behavioraltech.org/downloads/Financial-Cost-Effectiveness-DBT.pdf. Internet, July 25, 2014.
"Conclusions: For the future we need more prospective cost-effectiveness research built into research of different treatments across different client populations. However, for now, DBT offers Level 1 (highest level) evidence of efficacy and effectiveness, and is an evidence-based option for treating people with BPD that is likely to meet the objectives of funders, economists, accountants, administrators, providers and consumers."
4. http://www.stti.iupui.edu/pp07/congress11/Chung_Hee-Shim.pdf, Internet, July 25, 2014.
Hospital Nurse Managers in Korea
Hee-Shim Chung, RN, MN, PhD
Nursing Department, THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF KOREA UIJEONGBU ST. MARY'S HOSPITAL
Soon-Lae Kim, RN, MPH, PhD
SCHOOL OF NURSING, THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF KOREA , SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
Using NVC program on hospital nurse managers was effective in the promotion of facilitated communication.