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How to Socialize an Adult

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I’d go out much more often if the world was full of bubbles. Something to think about.

Okay but the world isn’t full of bubbles. And I’m not 4, so its not socially acceptable for me to blow bubbles everywhere I go. Socially acceptable – Yuck – I hate that.

See, I was not properly socialized when I was little. I was not exactly raised by wolves, no, I think wolves would have done a better job.

So what is an adult to do, when she finds herself in her forties, wow, yes, forties now, and completely alone? I have never learned to make friends, not really, not the kind that lasts or that will be helpful and supportive. I have only learned to blend in, hang out, be a part of a group. When I start actually getting to know people, or letting them know me…stuff goes all wonkers.

So a quick recap, thanks to neuropsych dude, I know I have never felt safe, and I have these rules and alarm bells for how I operate to keep myself safe. Even though I may not need to be so strict now, these rules and bells are hard wired, they formed in my brain to help me grow up. Am I doomed to always be alone because of them?

I have been taking first steps at genuine friendships. Face to face was way to scary, so I have been using a variety of online friendship apps. I find that behind the safety of my phone or computer, and the delay of texting, I can calm down those alarm bells and proceed further with people than I can in real life. In real life, I shut down or run away, not great friend making skills.

I’ve been using friendship apps that have a no flirting, no dating policy. I’m actually finding genuine people this way, instead of the multitude of creeps I was finding online at the other sites, even when I would say I’m not interested, BAM an unsavory pic sent to my text. No thanks, goodbye.

I’m starting to believe there are good people out there, but so far I have not found any near enough to me to meet for coffee or whatever. But I am patient, and building skills. And more important, people are reaching out to me with kindness, showering me with it. They check in on me, encourage me, and also get me to do some tough thinking to help me get unstuck. One is helping me to find my spark, my words, get me to start writing and painting again. They are becoming…true friends? wow.

I am so grateful.

Maybe I can do this

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Accept or Fight

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When another doctor tells you that what you want is not possible and you need to accept that and set more realistic goals for yourself, do you do it or do you keep fighting for what you want?

I have seen a team of neurologists and neuropsychologists now.  They are all singing a similar tune. That I am different. That I have to accept that I cannot return to the previous version of me that I recall before the brain injuries. (I’m not sure if I have discussed the extent of my brain injuries here, I haven’t wanted to talk much about it and writing was so difficult before. But I have some serious cognitive dysfunction, memory gaps, processing delays, visual lags and disturbances, sensory overload….it goes on.) That skills like creativity, and certain personality changes, once altered, do not heal and come back, at least not identical to what they once were. I may be able to enhance what I have, but I will never be who I used to be.

I may never be able to do what I used to do.

Every time I think of this as a fleeting thought, the tears return.

Another esteemed doctor told me this again yesterday. They are well educated, at a great hospital, known for their expertise, and my gut trusts them. However, there is also something in me that is screaming they are wrong. Doctors once told me I may never walk again, that my weakened leg would never regain muscle tone. Well look who is out there attempting to jog. So I don’t accept “never” as a final diagnosis. I feel like I’m still in here, just slowed down.

He recommended I either apply for disability or try to work with a vocational counselor, but he doesn’t think I can keep up with the pace and demands of a job. That was harsh, but possibly true. I may be overestimating my stamina at this point because I want to be better.

He said that I am still traumatized, understandably, and that for me, the trauma never stopped. 40 years of trauma. He said that would be enough to break anyone. But add all my medical issues and it was like adding gasoline to a fire. And then on top of that, a stressful marital relationship, he says it was a cascade of events and none of them were good for brain health.

We talked about my social support network, and I said I’m all alone, completely. I have a few online friends and my counselor. We talked about how I isolate myself and why. I told him about how I have low tolerance for people, no matter how much I try, I can’t enjoy being with them, or think they aren’t good people when they make fun of others, are greedy, I catch them lying or cheating, etc. I said I try to turn down my moral standards but I can’t. He said something I never heard before. He said of course you can’t. You have never felt safe in your life. As soon as someone says or does something that makes them have any possibility of being a bad person, you go into self protection mode and either stop talking, leave the room, or hide or whichever other skills you have learned to avoid conflict and being noticed. This is to keep yourself safe. It makes perfect sense and is your core belief stronger than all others. Safety comes first.

My jaw dropped, and I felt angry a bit, kind of embarrassed, and I wanted to say he was wrong, to fight that, but as it sunk in, and so many social interactions spanning 40 years flashed across my mind. Holy crap. He is right.

Here I was thinking I was over my trauma and it didn’t matter any more. That I was an introvert and yeah maybe I was wired differently, or maybe on the aspberger spectrum, or maybe just get annoyed with small talk and petty people. But no. Every social decision ever has come down to safety.

He said the right trauma based psychologist may be able to assist me with that component and he would help me to locate one near me to work with. He said I can’t live the rest of my life alone, or I will continue to deterioriate.

I don’t know. I feel like I’ve tried. I feel like the people that accepted me never accepted the real me and when I do reveal the real me people run for the hills, unable to handle me. So maybe someone can help me find this tightrope skill of balance of how to build a relationship that I feel safe in, connected to the other person in a real way, without overwhelming the other person with my intensity.

I think figuring that out will help me in any job I may come to have in the future, whether I go through the disabled workers board or get one on my own.

I do know that I want to be a part of the world and connected to people, to good genuine people, and I just don’t know how.

I do know I’m not ready to give up and get on disability and never work again. I think I still have something to offer. I’m still smart in some ways, just really slow, and get tired out quickly. I’m hopeful the new migraine meds will start helping with some of that too. I’m hopeful that my family is done adding trauma to my life and I can finally move ahead on my own. My parents are gone, my brothers aren’t speaking to me. The hole hurts, but an empty hole is a dull ache, not like the tortuous pain of constant flaming daggers tossed at you.

It doesn’t matter – Yes it does!

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What you do matters. What you want matters. How you feel matters.

I’m ready to start my list and I figured out why it is so difficult. Remember those stuck points from cognitive processing therapy?  It seems I am still stuck, big time, on a major one.

“It doesn’t matter” or, related but even bigger,”I don’t matter”

Those two thoughts run rampant in my head, causing downward spirals into negative thinking, but even worse, causing numbness, thoughts of worthlessness, causing my protective shields to go up full force and dissociation to engage.

How do I get past this one when it is so huge? I need to build off those sparks I wrote about previously. Those moments when life sneaks through and I do feel something. I must be in here. And then I parent myself. What if my daughter had no desires? What if she thought it didn’t matter what she wanted? What if she thought she didn’t matter?

Okay. Wow. That hurts, unbelievably so. To even imagine for a moment another child having these thoughts is unbearably painful and brings tears to my eyes. But for me – for me it is truth. Okay. So this is how I will get my motivation and feel something, and get my head on straight. I’ll tap into this pain, because this pain is feeling alive. This pain brings me strength as it washes over me and I realize if only for a moment that if my beautiful children matter, then I must have to. I must still matter. It is just so hard to hold onto that. And now I know I matter most because I have taught my children they do matter. They know it in every cell. They will never question it or hear this in their heads. And I matter to Hubby. I now understand his pain when I say I don’t. Wow. Okay.

So if I take that realization, that raw emotion, my inner strength – how do I make a list of what I want? This is still really hard….

http://jackcanfield.com/blog/know-really-want-life-decide-today/

Excerpt:

Stop Settling for “I Don’t Care, I Don’t Know, and It Doesn’t Matter to Me.”

It doesn’t matter how small the decision, to begin reclaiming your right to decide what you want, have a preference. Yours is just as important as anybody else’s so speak up, voice yourself.

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If you are having a hard time figuring out the one thing you want from your life, why not choose thirty? That’s right. On a piece of paper, write down a list of 30 things you want to do, 30 things you want to have, and 30 things you want be before you die. Sometimes when the pressure to find just one thing is removed, the floodgates open and you discover that there are a multitude of things that you want to do with and in your successful life.

Make an “I want” List

For 10-15 minutes have a friend record your answers to the simple question, “What do you want?” During the allotted time, have your friend ask you the question over and over again. If you’re like most people, your list will range from the very material things to matters of the heart and the true revelations of who you are and what you want from your most true self. Go ahead, start asking: What do you want? What do you want? I want! I want!

So I’ve been trying to trick myself. Ask what I want (what I really really want, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want (sorry for the Spice Girls intrusion)) so quickly that I get a response before my stuck points engage and all my defenses kick in.

I also saw a comment on that page that helped a bit

“I’ve always had a hard time making “I want” lists, so I started with “I don’t want” instead. It’s amazing to see how much hard work we can put into getting things that we don’t even want. Once we eliminate some of those, it’s much easier to see what we do want!”

Things I don’t want? Hmmm let’s try that:

  1. A sunburn
  2. Trump as president
  3. Fake friends
  4. a meaningless job
  5. insects. except maybe honey bees
  6. cancer for anyone else I know
  7. to feel dead inside
  8. to fear so much
  9. to waste my life
  10. to ruin my kids’ lives
  11. to hurt or bother people
  12. to feel irritated or bored all the time
  13. to go on a cruise
  14. to scuba dive or snorkel
  15. to be alone
  16. Poison Ivy
  17. lose my sight
  18. to gamble my money
  19. noisy, smelly fish tanks in my house
  20. to be homeless

30 is hard, so I’ll stop at 20. That was interesting what popped into my brain. So let’s reverse now. What do I want? (remember – do not think about money or what feels possible, only what you want. If you want it but think “that will never happen”, it still needs to be on the list) The first thing I keep hearing is: travel. Go somewhere. Get out of the house. Get out of the state. See something new. Do something.

  1. Travel somewhere I have never been before that has an amazing natural view, landscape, or rich history – mountains, lakes, caverns, forests, rivers, estates, cabins,  mansions, museums, parks, etc
  2. Experience Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue live with full symphony
  3. Take kids to see Joseph and Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
  4. Go to a concert without kids – Zac Brown, 21 Pilots, Jack Johnson, Shaggy, Lumineers, Chili Peppers, Chicago…so many options
  5. Walk on a white sand beach
  6. Take kids to Niagara Falls
  7. Write a novel (finish the one I started ?)
  8. See the stars in the giant telescope at the observatory
  9. Hear a jazz band in New Orleans
  10. Sit on a horse (I’m not allowed to ride…)
  11. Paint a large painting from my heart
  12. Join a club or meetup group (hiking, art, photography, writing, book club, drum circle…)
  13. Explore Machu Picchu
  14. Take canoe trip down a river
  15. Join a performance group – get on stage again
  16. Take a weekend getaway with hubby and no kids
  17. rescue and train dogs, certify service dogs
  18. grow fresh herbs indoors
  19. illustrate a children’s book
  20. write and illustrate a book of poetry
  21. get a tattoo
  22. save the world
  23. research and write about the brain and behavior
  24. cure PTSD
  25. find where I fit in, a job with meaning
  26. make a friend to have a coffee with once in a while
  27. be a good person, feel like a good person, feel like a person
  28. See original art from Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Dali, Botticelli, Michelangelo….
  29. Do something that afterwards I say “I can’t believe I just did that!”
  30. Drive a fast motorboat

What do you want to do today?

What if there was no tomorrow? What if you couldn’t rely on tomorrow and another tomorrow and another to delay your dreams, goals and desires? What do you want to do today?

This video is from one of our favorite shows, Phineas and Ferb. Everyday these boys fight summer boredom by coming up with something outrageous to do. So many catch phrases and twisted plots, nerdy humor, and awesome musical numbers. Everyday they say I know what I want to do today. And then they do it. Whether it is building a roller coaster, a time machine, a winter wonderland, robot clones…And of course their pet platypus is actually a secret agent fighting against an evil scientist and no one knows… We just love this show.

I’m guessing most of you spend most of your time doing things you don’t want to do. You trudge through life, running endless errands, doing tedious chores. Maybe you don’t hate your job, but most people seem awful happy to get a day off. But then how do you spend your day off? Escaping life in front of the TV? Are you bored? Tired? Do you even know it?

When is the last time you truly felt alive?

Hmmm.

I’m not sure most of us are actually living. If you are, please ignore this. I do know some people that skydive and run with the bulls or climb Mt Everest or whatever. Or I know some people that are going back to school to pursue the career they actually wanted. Living can take very different forms but I do think some key ideas are central.

How to feel alive:

  1. Do something you want to do everyday, not only out of obligation
  2. Tackle your fears – you decide which ones need tackling
  3. Have multiple goals, little ones and big ones, and not all of them related to self-improvement, some are just for fun because you want to do them
  4. Practice mindfulness, live in the moment, experience everything NOW

I think that’s how to get started. I say I think, because I am not truly living. I can’t tell you the last time I felt alive. It has been years, many years. I am idling through life right now, going through the motions of what needs to get done. I enjoy moments, not saying that I don’t. This is different. I might enjoy leveling up in my video game, or that snuggly feeling watching a movie with my kids on my lap. Those are nice. But they don’t fuel me, keep me going, or make me feel alive, move me towards a greater goal, define me, fill me with awe or rock my world if you will.

I want to be amazed. I want to be overjoyed. I want to be excited. I want to feel.

I want to learn. I want to create. I want to grow. I want to experience. I want to share.

I want to feel alive.

So I’m going to start a list full of things I want to do, fears I want to tackle, and goals I want to accomplish. I would list it now for you, but I can’t. My list is sadly empty. White space and crickets. I don’t know what I want. Hmm. So I guess then

Goal #1 – figure out what I want and make a list

There I started it!!

Paranoia, mistrust, or I know better

Paranoia sounds like a clinical disorder and it is a label given to many with PTSD and other anxiety embedded illnesses. I wanted to write yesterday about the distinction between paranoia and mistrust. When is it a problem that needs treatment?

My recent TV obsession, Perception, really had me thinking about paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, and what our mind does to trick us versus what it does to warn us. A neuroscientist with schizophrenia. He understood the brain so well but could not control his own. He was often lost in his own delusions, caught talking to people that were not there, thinking complicated schemes that were not true. But then sometimes they were there, sometimes they were true.

This TV show I think accurately portrayed some aspects of living with schizophrenia, based on what my brother has told me, and my own experience with delusions and hallucinations. I have dipped my toe into the blurry line of “is this really happening?”. I have never had complicated paranoid delusions about aliens, government conspiracies. I don’t think people are watching my every move. I am far too boring for that.

I do however think everyone has an ulterior motive, a selfish side, that some sick need will cause them to hurt me or my family. And if I don’t think they do it on purpose, I think they will screw it up and hurt us out of pure idiocy and incompetence.

I wanted to illustrate some examples. I am not sure how many of these are truly unbalanced thoughts based on stuck points, or simply me being cautious based on my experience. I don’t know if these need “fixing”.

I don’t trust most medical professionals. I think they want to attach labels, push meds, not treat the whole body, not listen to the whole situation. I have too many examples to list them all. I am not anti-meds, but I do prefer natural approaches when it makes sense. I also think many of them let ego get in the way, or receive kickbacks from drug companies to push the latest drugs. Why don’t doctors ever tell you about breathing techniques for anxiety? nope. Here is your xanax. Why don’t they ask you what you eat everyday? Blood tests only provide a momentary snapshot.

Now I am not extreme (I think?). We go to doctors, dentists, specialists, when we need them. But I do my own research and I ask so many questions. If doc can’t answer or gets annoyed, I get a new doc. I drive 2 hours to the big city sometimes to get the best doctors, like for our scoliosis, not messing around with that. But kiddo’s broken arm? Yeah any local ortho can handle that. But many people are amazed at how infrequent we go to doctors. We treat colds and sore throats at home with tea and honey. No one here has had antibiotics in about 7 years, since we had strep. But my germophobia has them constantly washing their own hands too, so we don’t get sick all that often actually, thank goodness. First thing we do whenever we enter the house is wash our hands. Is that paranoid or just makes sense?

I don’t trust people that show they care about me. OK. Obviously I know this one is a bit warped. That for me, someone showing concern sets off alarm bells. I immediately wonder why? What are they up to? What is their end game? Because no matter how much I say it out loud, I can’t fix the part of me that feels I am not worthy of being cared for, or it is only a trick, it isn’t real. I think love is a mix of chemicals, a fun rush like alcohol. Love is also the choices we make. Most people don’t make loving choices, they make fearful choices. Fear wins over love.

 

 

I don’t trust coworkers. I have never had a positive work experience, despite working in many different places. Well, that’s a bit harsh. I loved my one job for a while, but it all crumbled. I always find out the friendly coworker or supervisor is secretly plotting for my position, stealing my ideas, willing to lie to get jobs done. My ethics are possibly too high to be satisfied anywhere. Everyone lies, and corruption is a rampant disease. Some may be little things, coworkers sneaking off, hanging out in the copy room or out back having a smoke, or not clocking out for lunch. Some are bigger things, tossing out files, fudging reports and data. I have zero tolerance for liars and cheaters. They make me sick, literally.

I don’t trust friends. (currently I have none) They always want something but are not there for you…Can you drive my kid to school, can you tutor me in math, can you lead the children’s group, can you paint the scenery…These are not friends, they just want something for nothing. Others want to gossip and stir up drama. no thanks. Talking is my least favorite activity if it has no point or end in sight. I am in physical pain saying “shut up, shut up, shut up” silently to myself while looking at the clouds go by. Most people don’t even care if you listen. Just nod and they are content. I don’t get it. Why blab on if you don’t even care about what you are saying? When I speak, my words are carefully selected. I only say what is needed, when it is needed. People use other people to get what the want and to feel better about themselves.

I don’t trust the government. Yeah well, look at this election. Seriously. Idiots. Power hungry, corrupted, liars. enough said. I did vote, because I think our right to vote is important and because I modeled that to my kids.  This process is broken though. Was this done intentionally to start protests and riots? Does someone have an end game here? It all seems fishy to me.

I don’t trust technology. A computer and phone are tools for work and safety, and now social connection. I do think most apps are loaded with spyware and viruses and potentially unsafe. I run clean up tools daily but I still fear my accounts will be hacked, which is funny because I have no money so the joke is on the hacker for wasting their time.

I don’t trust the media. More liars. Each network gives you a different spin. Commercials there selling crap that doesn’t do what it says it will unless you read the fine print. The world view crafted to look a certain way. The masses placated with idiotic mindless shows or hours of sports so we don’t all feel the anger that I do every day and revolt. That would be bad, actually. Keep the people pacified is probably better. Eat a cheeseburger, drink a beer, watch football, and think you are all happy. La da dee, life goes on.

So am I paranoid? Perhaps, but maybe I am sick of being lied to my entire life and watching everyone else happily accept the lies as truths. I’ll be okay one day, in my own unique way. Quietly on my own.

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Obligation and Duty

Why did the Hero flush the toilet? …. Because it was his duty.

Sorry.

Blame my kids and Wreck it Ralph for that one. I can’t even think the word duty without an inappropriate smile any more. I was already immature. You would think having kids would help that. Nope. Made it worse.

I have been thinking seriously though about why I do what I do. Examining some tough thoughts, like what is love, is love real? Or is it only obligation? Do I need love?

So I think we lump many things under the love umbrella that are human needs.

I think love is actually acceptance, validation and respect. I don’t think it means feeling happy, feelings come and go. Except maybe peace. Does peace go with love? (probably more to it than this – but that’s what I am talking about today)

I think we do need acceptance – in some form. We need validation. We need acknowledgement of our existence and our journey. I struggle to give and receive that in real life, but the internet has provided many platforms that makes it possible. Love is not exactly involved with this. I care about the people I interact with but I am not sure love is the right word.

How do you know you love someone? And is it a different type of love defined by the different types of obligations?

This is probably confusing and not making much sense. I will try to give some examples. I loved my parents. I thought this was a love without end, a love that should exist, that had great meaning and defined me and them, bound us in loving obligation to each other. But –  they always had the right to withdraw love and I did not. I had to earn it. I constantly tried to prove myself worthy. I did not have acceptance or validation. And I know now, that love I was seeking, never existed at all, a fabricated universe concocted to control me. Love should not include control. Parents guide, not control.

Okay…

So what about Hubby? Is this love? This dance of power, control, seduction, confusion, manipulation, irritation, fear, dissocation, isolation, secrecy, and lies? There has not been acceptance and validation here either – on either side.

Love also means respect.

And that has been missing here too.

I am not saying we don’t care about each other, help each other, try to do things right. We have a deep sense of obligation, honor, and duty. We are good people and care about and help many people. But it isn’t enough for a marriage. It isn’t right.

When I think about my kids, it is entirely different. I think that is love. I feel acceptance, validation, respect – in both directions. I hope that is what they feel. We listen and support each other. We encourage each other. We accept our faults and oddities and work our days around them – we are accommodating. I don’t feel like a frustrating freak with them. I feel like me.

I guess that is why this blog is so important to me. Yes I want to get my story  out there, talk things through, reach those who are silent. But I think this is me. This is my voice and I want it out there. I want it to exist.

Because generally I don’t ummm exist. I plod along in a vacuum, or alternate reality. Even when I am present, not dissociated, I often don’t feel fully here. A spacey surreal feeling that keeps me cut off from everyone, unable to feel love even if offered. And so I examine thoughts like this. Am I loved? Do I love? Is it a real thing anyway? Do I need it? Will I always feel like this? Do my kids feel loved? Is this my attachment disorder talking? Do others feel like this? Should I give up trying to fix this and accept this is how I am?

I am reaching acceptance of myself, that I am different. That I may slowly change, but that I don’t want to count on this change to happen. I would rather accept myself the way I am, and surround myself with people that accept me the way I am – or be alone.

The acceptance I receive online and from my children feels like enough. I don’t feel lonely, even though by most people’s standards, I suppose I am alone. I feel better alone, with emotional distance from the people in my life that do not accept me.

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I took a three hour walk (yes 3 hours!! I can walk for 3 hours now! My back and leg are getting so strong!) in the forest last week, taking photos of the fall colors. I was alone on this walk, but I felt fuller and more alive than I have in weeks. Everything in the forest was so alive, I could feel the energy, hear the wind in the tree branches, hear the birds, the squirrels scurrying. I saw fungus and vines thriving on decay. I saw dead trees full of woodpecker holes. I saw and felt the life, the survival, of the creatures there.

Why do I feel more loved, safer, content – at peace – alone in a forest? Should I keep fighting this feeling or just go with it? Accept this, do what feels right, enjoy my peace without guilt, stop trying to make friends that I don’t want, stop trying to feel love I don’t feel. Just stop. And just be.

 

 

Imprisoned

Life of pain, Life of fear

Not insane, but oh so near

Imprisoned here, broken brain

Twisted mirror, shattered remains

Needing no one, they take, she gives

Being no one, she fakes, they live

The sun will rise, she will open her eyes

Like every day before

She stifles the tune her heart wants to hum

Looks to the sky, lets out a sigh

Ignores the chore

That breathing has become