Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How I Found Fun and Healing (From Abuse) During the Klamath Falls Third Thursday Evening Walk

Fun is healing.  I googled this sentence but couldn't find any scientific studies to verify the fact that fun is healing.  Nor could I find blogs with tags for the words "fun and healing".  But I know fun is healing from personal experience.  

I know because I suffered sex abuse as a child and date rape as a young adult.  Survivors of sex abuse and rape both struggle with depression, anxiety, outbursts of anger, low self esteem, sensitivity to touch, promiscuity, difficulties with relationships, jobs, and finding and maintaining housing.  I have struggled from time to time with most of these symptoms, but my struggles with depression dominated much of my life.  My freshman year in college was an especially bad year, but I lived in the dorms so people were always around.  When I was lonely, I could walk out my door and find someone to talk to almost any hour of the day or night.  After two quarters, I moved into a cooperative community.  The community hosted weekly potlucks where I also regularly met people to talk to.  But after a couple years I left the community for an internship in Nevada working in Wildlife Biology with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  After the internship ended, I moved into a house with roommates.  Unfortunately that year in college was another bad year.  The boyfriend I met working for the BLM ended our relationship, and I felt unlovable and abandoned.  Even though I lived with housemates, they were busy with their own lives, and there were too few of them.  I could not walk out the door of my room and meet people to talk to as I had in the dorms and the co-op.  I felt hopeless.  Fortunately a friend I met while studying in the library invited me to dinner with some of her friends.  She was Greek, and her friends included some very cute Greek guys with fabulous accents and Southern European charm.  I never saw those Greek guys again although I remained close to my Greek woman friend for many years.  I still remember that evening of Greek food and Greek warmth at her house.  That evening helped me realize that my life was not without hope for happiness.  Happiness was possible and good times would keep happening if not always when and how I wanted them to.  

This is what fun does for depression.  It gives us hope that we can be happy.

Depression saps our energy.  When we feel depressed, we often find it easier to stay home feeling hopeless while waiting for someone to reach out to help us.   The extra depressing part of my life was that usually no one came to me to rescue me.  I had to do the hard work of making myself happy myself.  I had to find ways of having fun and meeting other  people because no one reached out to me.  

One of the fun ways I found to connect with other people was taking part in community events such as farmer's markets and art walks.  These events offer the ability to connect to others through conversation and music as well as the opportunity to meet other people going through similar experiences.

At a farmer's market, you can buy some asparagus or cherries, and you will at least talk with the vendor selling them.  Wander down the street and you may find musicians performing for free.  Get out there and dance.  Wander further and you may find a community group, such as AL-ANON, hosting a booth with pamphlets and free cookies.   

AL-ANON is an organization for family members of alcoholics allied with Alcoholics Anonymous.  The organization is an easy place to meet supportive people whose lives have been touched by one or more forms of abuse.  Alcohol abuse is a common symptom of physical, sexual or emotional abuse.  

But I digress and must return to the "fun" mentioned in the title of this blog.

Fun not only reminds us that bad times are not forever, fun can also help motivate survivors to attend support groups.  Whatever the reason, while facilitating my own support group, I found that survivors are much more willing to join a group participating in fun activities such as an art walk or a farmer's market than in attending a regular support group.  

Many survivors have so much going on in their lives that they have too little time to attend support groups.  Others struggle to find the tools for healing in support groups because they have a bigger struggle before them -- just making it through the day.  Some people need to be in the right place to work on healing.   Fun activities incorporated into a support group encourages attendance by survivors who struggle to find time for support groups.  

 In Portland, Oregon, I love to spend summer Saturday mornings walking through the gigantic Portland Farmer's Market by Portland State University.  Outside of Portland, one place I love to walk for fun and healing as well as outreach, is the Third Thursday event in Klamath Falls.  

The Third Thursdays offer the opportunity to get out and experience some music, to connect with healing community groups such as AL-ANON, and to connect with other groups that offer activities that just happen to be fun, uplifting, and healing, such as Audubon and the Garden Club.  Then you can top off the evening with healing comfort food at Crave Cupcakes at the East end of Main Street in Old Town Klamath Falls.

Below you will meet the people I met during a Third Thursday Evening Walk in 2014.

The middled aged mom (me) hangs out with the three Princesses of Klamath County:  Miss City of Sunshine, Miss Oregon Teen and Miss Klamath County.

These three young women with beautiful faces and beautiful spirits teamed up to support a cancer stricken mom


who had to travel hundreds of miles south to the Sacramento 
Medical Center for treatment.  They sold donated bottles of water to pilgrims like me who came to enjoy Third Thursday in downtown Klamath Falls.




Down Main Street and around the corner, the Garden Club helps children plant their own seedlings.


I often turn to gardening for healing when I feel stressed.  See my blog on the subject: Healing the Wounds of Abuse: How I Harmed Myself With My Anger and 9 Ways Gardening Heals Me




Across the street a Master Beekeeper shares information about bees.


The beekeeper also shared with me that she struggled to cope with the deaths of both her parents before age 18  -- very traumatic events for any child to endure.


She also shared her beehive socks.

Silly socks such as these offer whimsy and fun -- very healing.


Then I passed by a table staffed by ALANON members.  These good people work to inform people, including me, about 12 step groups to help family members of alcoholics.


Many survivors of abuse numb their pain with drugs and alcohol.

They are self medicating to cope with the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder including depression, low self esteem, anger, anxiety, problems with jobs, problems with relationships, problems with housing, and more.

These two women (below) knew family members, loved ones, and friends who were victims of abuse, but ALANON, like Alcoholics Anonymous, respects the privacy of their members.  They asked me not to show their faces in my blog...


but agreed to let me take pictures of the cookies with which they welcomed visitors.


I ate a cookie and continued down the street...


Next I saw Jesus radio.  I guess Jesus needs help getting His word out.

Jesus told us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe those who need to be clothed, and to visit those who are sick in the hospital or in prison.  What would Jesus say about survivors of child abuse and domestic violence?  Personally I think the "sinful woman" who washed Jesus' feet with her tears may have been a victim of child sexual abuse.  Many people assume the word "sinful" is a euphemism indicating that the woman was a prostitute.  Many victims of child sex abuse loose the ability to protect their personal boundaries.  Some find charging for access to their bodies an easy step  to take when control of their bodies has already been taken from them.  They struggle with depression and anxiety and outbursts of anger which make keeping a job to support themselves and their children challenging.  I think Jesus would understand that prostitution is not a victimless crime.  There is a victim -- the prostitute.  Many prostitutes, including some who were not victims of child sex abuse, struggle with the same symptoms as sex abuse survivors: Difficulties with touch, difficulties with trust, low self esteem, depression, and self medication through substance abuse.  How did Jesus treat the sinful woman?  He welcomed her and embraced her gesture of washing his feet with her tears despite the fact that other men at dinner told him that he would not associate with her if he knew what kind of woman she was.  I think Jesus knew better than they did what kind of woman she was, and I think Jesus would admonish us to treat survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault the same way he admonished us to treat the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and those in prison.  (For more on this subject see my blog:  Was the "Sinful Woman" in the Gospel of Luke a Child Sex Abuse Survivor?)


Next, I met the local superintendent of schools.  He was campaigning for votes to increase taxes to update technology and buildings.  Schools are important.  A few teachers make serious mistakes with boundaries, but many more are "mandatory reporters" who are the first to see or hear about abuse of their students and, by law, are mandated to report abuse to authorities.


Down the street I proceeded...


....until I met the Linkville Players who put on plays up the street at the Linkville Playhouse.
Klamath Falls was initially named Linkville, but was renamed Klamath Falls in 1893.


Going to plays is fun.  Acting in plays is also fun and connects you with other people with similar interests.  Drama can also help some survivors of abuse and domestic violence develop the skills and confidence they need to thrive.  If they are unable to stand up for themselves in real life, they can learn to do so through acting.  So go to see local plays or become one of the players.  Either one will help you heal from abuse.


Then, the people of Klamath County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children) invited me and everyone else in for a meal and information.

This is from the CASA national website.

What is CASA for Children?

Every day in this country, 1,900 children become victims of abuse or neglect, and four of them will die. Every day. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children is a network of 951 community-based programs that recruit, train and support citizen-volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities. Volunteer advocates—empowered directly by the courts—offer judges the critical information they need to ensure that each child’s rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care.
Volunteers stay with children until they are placed in loving permanent homes. For many abused children, a CASA volunteer is the only constant adult presence in their lives.


These lovely women include the Executive Director of CASA for Children of Klamath County.

If you want to help abused and neglected children, CASA is a good place to help.  CASA needs and welcomes volunteers.


Then I continued on my way down Main Street.

At the end of the street you used to be able to find CRAVE cupcakes which I always craved until I returned to 
Klamath Falls.  You know, when you are down, cupcakes are a great comfort food although I have to counsel, for health reasons, that perhaps the best frequency of cupcake eating is one per week.  But maybe you can increase that frequency of cupcake eating when walking off the sugar by walking down Main Street in Klamath Falls whether the date be the third Thursday of June, July, or August or any other day of the week or year for that matter.


After I ate my cupcake I, too, turned around and walked back down Main Street to work off my dose of sugar for the week.



Finally daylight darkened to night, and streetlights began to glow.

Time slowed as exhibitors and visitors packed up to

 go......

Sadly Crave Cupcakes closed earlier this year.  I will have to find a new place to go for my cupcake comfort food.


Thoughts on what I learned at the 2014 Third Thursday of August in Klamath Falls:

What organizations directly support survivors of abuse?

What organizations and activities can help survivors heal even if helping survivors is not the primary focus of the organization?

Are there any local community events where you live that you can go to for fun and healing?

What additional healthy, fun activities can you do to help yourself overcome depression?

Downtown Klamath Falls -- Main Street -- is located off of Highway 97.  The Third Thursday Events take place from 6 to 9PM on the third Thursday of June, July, and August.


© 2015 Virginia Pickles Jones

Contact Virginia at compassion500@gmail.com