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Fighting job hunting worthlessness

Unemployed. Isn’t that a nasty word? It is to me. Synonyms could be lazy. Good for nothing. Moocher. Freeloader. Waste of space. 

Worthless.

I know those aren’t my words and as much as I don’t apply those beliefs to others, I still do for myself. My own standards are higher. I still feel driven, this need to impress and succeed, or I feel like nothing.

I have started job hunting and I’m trying to be realistic and gentle on myself. My energy is not high. I need something flexible with minimal stress and hours. I tell myself this is temporary. That one day I may apply for those more ambitious and desirable jobs again. But I’m not so sure I’ll ever be ready. So I try to focus on me now, to process the unbalanced thoughts of needing to be perfect, comforting my sadness when I feel worthless.

I keep trying to tell hubby, but he doesn’t get it, and I stop, too ashamed to continue. I tell him I don’t like job hunting. He says, yeah its frustrating. I sigh. I have no way to explain the depth of this pain. How much it hurts to be triggered by my failure stuck point with each job post I am not qualified for, or worse, so much worse, when I apply for a job I didn’t really want but get rejected.

This hurts. Frustrating would be much more manageable. 

And hubby doesn’t know how much it hurt when he asked if the job boards were full of the same sh*tty jobs as usual. Because I am applying for those crappy jobs…and not getting hired. Which means I’m even crappier.

Hubby also doesn’t know how difficult it is for me to contain my jealousy as he talks about work. I try to be supportive, but some days I don’t want to hear his hero, he saved the day at work stories. Because all I did was scrape cheese off the dishes here at home. I know I am working in my trauma recovery program, but it doesn’t feel the same. I don’t feel like a hero or a problem solver. I think I am guilty of applying the stigma to myself. Hmm. Because I don’t feel proud, or even share with my family what I do in counseling. I don’t come home and say “I finally had some movement on a tough stuck point today…” nope. My kids don’t even know I am in counseling.

So I’m tackling this  job hunting like exposure therapy. I’m doing what I don’t want to do, every day, and experiencing every negative emotion slowly, then bringing myself back to center, slowly, using my new tools. 

I’ll keep at it. Eventually someone will hire me, and eventually maybe my self worth as a human won’t be connected so completely to my ability to make money. I am not going to go numb or put on a fake smile. This hurts. So I will feel the hurt and recover. I don’t have to like it. But I do need it to stop destroying me.

No self worth – when a good little girl is never good enough

Don’t tell anyone. Don’t let them see. Don’t let them know. Keep quiet. Smile. You’re so pretty when you smile, no one wants to see an ugly face. Don’t bother the grown-ups. Be a good girl.

It’s our special secret. Crying never helped anyone. Only boring people get bored. Never let them see you sweat. Anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time. Wish in one hand, shit in the other, see which piles up quicker. Dreams are for idiots, geniuses make plans. Only fools waste time on books and art but you’re just a girl so I guess it doesn’t matter anyway. I don’t why you try so hard, you’ll never do anything important. Girls only get good grades or good jobs because you’re cute or because you cry.

These are only some of the messages I heard on a daily basis from my parents. I learned to be perfect – to only show people that I was perfect, and to hide every flaw. I was put in an impossible position of needing to be superhuman to be accepted and no matter what I achieved, I was treated as less than human, as nothing, nonexistent, an invisible nuisance like a gnat or fun toy for their sick amusement and pleasure.

Not only did I suffer from low self esteem and low self worth, I suffered from no sense of sense at all in this environment. My parents did not allow me to grow and develop into my own person, with unique desires, needs, and emotions. I existed only for them. I was completely enmeshed and served them. My only desires were to please them and be accepted – something I never knew was impossible. Abused children never know this, how can they?

So today I have some maladaptive behaviors based on core beliefs stemming from no self esteem. In fact I have way too many to describe in one blog post, so I will pick one that I’ve been discussing with my counselor recently.

I have a need to keep my secrets. I still need to hide my flaws. I still try to be perfect.

How can this be? I’m not a tortured little girl any longer. Why do I still resort to the same social behaviors that were taught to me as a child? Well, I haven’t learned any new ones yet. And until last week, I wasn’t even aware of how ridiculous some of my behaviors are, based on these unbalanced core beliefs. I’ll explain.

In January I had a particularly bad hemiplegic migraine attack that weakened my right arm and right leg for a few weeks. Sometime about 2 weeks after the attack, I decided to go grocery shopping by myself. I started pushing the cart and was doing fine for a while, until my right side fatigued as I put more in the cart and as I walked along. This was the first real exercise I had attempted since the attack but I was walking fine so I thought I could do it. First I started to limp, and then my right leg started to drag. I could no longer lift it. This was not alarming to me. Annoying, yes, but not alarming. I just knew it was time to go and headed to the checkout line. But to my horror, as I walked to the front of the store – people noticed my struggles.

People can’t see my struggles. People can’t know. Don’t tell them. Don’t let them see. Smile, no one wants to see your ugly face. Now you’ve done it. You screwed up.

First one, then another, then another, oh God no, another…people kept asking me if I was alright, did I need help, should they call someone, did I need a chair, could they push the cart for me….

Shut up! Leave me alone! Go away! Why did I come here today? Why did I think I could do this? I should have known better. I have to get out of here.

I smiled politely and told each person that I was fine. I refused help. Because I was fine. Because they have to think I’m fine. And if they can see I’m not then I’m actually going to pretend?? Hmmm.

Somehow I slowly made it out to my car, got my bags in it, locked the door. I wanted to take a moment to recover, but everyone was still there watching me! I had to get away. I drove home, with shaking hands, and tears started before I pulled into my driveway. I screamed and cried and hit the steering wheel and had an amazing fit that confused and shocked me. I had no idea what was happening. I felt horrible everywhere. My stomach was queasy, my throat was tight, my head was aching. I thought about my class and therapy – was this an emotion? Ha, I actually laughed at myself while I cried. I pulled out my chart of emotions and went through it….sadness, fear, shame, guilt, despair, frustration, humiliation, anger, grief, anxiety…I went on to name some more and ended with overwhelmed.

Why? What happened? Why is that response so strong for me? I’ve been working on this for a week now, completed several worksheets and I think I have a clue now. This situation actually encompasses several layers of stuck points, each one triggering the next core belief until I short circuit. I used to shut down, numb out and dissociate. This time I felt it all. Woah did I feel it.

Some of my stuck points for this event:

  1. If I can’t do my job I am worthless
  2. If people see my flaws I have failed
  3. If people see my flaws they will know I am nothing
  4. I’m not allowed to share my faults or secrets
  5. If I break a rule, I am bad
  6. If I get caught breaking a rule, I will be punished
  7. If people see me struggle I will be humiliated
  8. If people have to help me, I am a bother, a burden to them
  9. If people see something that I failed to hide, shared unintentionally, I have been violated
  10. If I let people see the real me, they will hurt me or leave me
  11. If I let people see my struggles, I am a failure, disobedient
  12. If I let people see my struggles, I will hurt them, make them uncomfortable

I overwhelmingly felt like a bad dog at that grocery store. Like I had messed on the carpet, chewed up the pillows and now my owner has caught me. The shame and fear were huge, but the disgust and self-loathing were intolerable. I was taught to hate myself and that lesson has stuck.

Like when I asked Mom if we could eat at Wendy’s after my back surgery at age 12, she said we could get drive-thru, couldn’t eat inside because she didn’t want anyone to see my leg brace and be uncomfortable. Wouldn’t want them to be unable to eat their lunches would you? They made me practice walking at night so no one would see. Kept me hidden away like I was hideous and would make people lose their appetites. I had a metal and plastic brace from my hip to my toes to stabilize the knee and ankle. It looked a little like the picture below, but my leg was a bit girlier, skinnier, and not so hairy.

afo_ankle_foot_orthosis_orthotic_brace

I see this now and I get so angry at my parents. Seriously. I wasn’t ALLOWED to be paralyzed? I am so freaking sorry that my being paralyzed put such a damper on your fashion plans for me and ruined lunch and social events that summer until, all on my own, because you denied me physical therapy and after care, I learned to walk again. A-holes.

OK. Sorry about that.

So anyways, I have some deep seated stuck points regarding how I am to behave, and even though I know rationally they are not healthy or realistic, I can’t simply snap my fingers and change it all.

Another example:

I told my counselor I am afraid of having flashbacks of my first back surgery during my next one coming up soon. And I’m not sure how to best prepare for it. I told her, it’s not like I can warn the hospital staff.

She says Why not?

Huh?

The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. No way. not possible. You want me to tell all of those strangers, nurses, transporters, volunteers, doctors, surgeons…that I might have a flashback? That I have PTSD? That I’m not normal? The thought filled me with the same mixed bag of fear, shame, dread, guilt, anxiety…no…we don’t tell people…they don’t need to know…

She challenged me. She does not back down. She asked me to list out everyone I’ve ever told about having flashbacks and PTSD. It was a VERY small list. Then asked which ones of those people humiliated, rejected, or said horrible things to me. Sigh. None of them. Each person I have told has been compassionate and understanding so far.

Then she asked if I’ve ever told medical personnel. I said yes, my neurologist, after I had been seeing her a while. And the counselors in the psych ward. And her of course. She asked if any of those people treated me horribly once they knew about my flashbacks. Again I had to say no.

Then she had me visualize, a brand new nurse coming in to my bed, and I was telling her her hello and just by the way, I might have a flashback, I have PTSD, I just wanted you to know. How do you think she would respond? I tried sooo hard, but in every scenario the worst I could come up with would be maybe a nurse being abrupt or like ok, whatever, but no one being horrible. Most responses I imagined were “Thanks for letting me know, is there anything I can do to help?” or “What can I do to help make this less stressful for you?”

This fear I had…fear of what?? I had no idea. I had no idea what the terrible consequence might be. What exactly had my parents been trying to prevent all these years? Why did we all have to be perfect? What is this horrible thing that happens when people know the truth?

The answer is NOTHING!! Nothing happens. Its all a lie to keep us quiet and afraid. Was it all about control? Did they need us to be perfect so they could be perfect parents? Had my mom not told her friends I was paralyzed so she couldn’t risk anyone seeing me? If kids are perfect, then other people don’t ask questions and they get in trouble? Was it about her and them – and never about me at all? All of my shame was about covering their own asses? And I’m still doing these behaviors, to protect them, unknowingly, because it is habit, hard wired and ingrained in me.

I’m such a good girl.

I’m both sickened and amazed by these revelations. I think one day I may be free. But these chains are still bound tightly.

(picture credit: By Pagemaker787 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

Shining Light on Shame Gremlins

 

shine light

(Photo Credit: By carlos gonzalez (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

Shame is a powerful feeling that is not only an emotion but can also be a state of being – a form of existence. Shame results from comparison, when you look deep inside and evaluate yourself as not good enough. It can start from someone else’s criticism or from your own criticism directed inward. Guilt is when you feel you have DONE something bad. Shame is when you feel YOU are bad.

Huby and I spent two sessions discussing shame with our couples counselor now and my mind is blown. We both apparently have shame triggers, what the counselor calls shame gremlins, responsible for our patterns of arguments, misunderstandings, lack of intimacy, and poor communication over the years. Counselor said the only way to kill a gremlin is to shine light on it. (remember what happened in the movie?)

Okay, he had my curiosity, again. He was either crazy or brilliant, so I paid close attention because either way is interesting to me. He said shame makes us wants to hide, alone, in the dark. (ding, ding, ding – not sounding crazy) We naturally don’t confess we are feeling ashamed and may not even recognize it. Instead we go into defensive and self-protective mode automatically. (wow not crazy at all…) What are your automatic reactions? Do you get angry and yell? That’s what Hubby does. Do have an urge to leave the room, run away, hide and be alone? That’s what I do.

Shame is more likely to trigger anger in men and depression in women. Hmmm.

So here’s an example of how shame causes trouble in my marriage:

We’ve been preparing the house for a kiddo to have a birthday party here this weekend. You all know I hate having people here, but I worked through my fears with many worksheets and I’m feeling okay about this party. Even though I’ve spent 10 out of the past 14 days in bed or in the hospital bed with migraines, I’ve been able to let go of SOME of the anxiety. I still don’t want the party here, but I am resolved to do it for the kiddo, he deserves to have his friends here. I can do it for him. My illness is out of my control. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do. I’m strangely almost peaceful about this. I’m doing what I can and it feels like enough, almost. Its not terrible anyway.

So my role is to mainly manage and delegate to kiddos what to do and keep them working. We were all busy cleaning last weekend and I was having my 7 year old do some dusting. While we were doing this, Hubby came over and said something to me about how good we were all doing, and that we were “deep cleaning” not just tidying, so it was taking longer but worth the effort and really needed done.

If you’ve ever watched a 7 year old dust, there is no “deep cleaning” happening.

So I giggled at Hubby’s comment and said something like “I don’t know about “deep cleaning” but we are making good progress here”

Hubby instantly got angry and started yelling at me about how hard he is working and I’m so mean or not fair, and he’s sick of these nasty comments, and whatever he does is never enough…on and on and on…

Woah – I had no idea what happened. But now I do. Hubby was instantly shamed.  My comment wasn’t about him, but he interpreted it that way, internalized it as criticism that I don’t think he is doing good enough, and that HE is not good enough. So his automatic defense is to yell back in anger, anything to stop feeling that shame. Shame is intolerable, anger is easier to manage.

So then he yells at me, and I can’t figure out what I did wrong. Here’s the fun part. It then triggers shame in ME! But I don’t fight back and yell. I get quiet, slip out of the room, isolate myself alone in my room, feel like crying, maybe feel like dying for being such a terrible person and I don’t even know why.

Wow. OK. How many hours of my childhood did I spend in exactly that state of mind? Hiding, trying to be invisible, trying to figure out what I did wrong, how to be a better person, keep myself away from everyone to protect myself from the chaotic world. I felt safest when alone. No one attacks or shames me when I’m alone.

Here’s the crazy part. Neither of us actually ever criticize each other – intentionally. We’re not like that, we try to be kind and good, and over the top appreciative of each other. It’s why it is so surprising and confusing to have the shame gremlin show its ugly head in the middle of an otherwise pleasant conversation, and then AHH, teeth, claws, daggers, RUN.

Here’s another example of a shame gremlin the counselor wants me to shine that light on:

This one will actually be more difficult. I’m supposed to tell Hubby every time I have a flashback. Instead of trying to hide it. My method for coping with flashbacks has been to get myself grounded as quickly as possible, figure out if anyone noticed, make up some excuse for me acting weird if they did notice, pretend to be ok for as long as possible, then recover from it later when I’m alone, and maybe tell Hubby about it later, maybe not.

I’m ashamed to have flashbacks. I feel like a freak. I don’t want anyone to know or worry about me. I don’t want to talk about it, or what I just experienced. And sometimes I can’t. Sometimes there are no words to express what I re-experienced. (Why? Well let’s see, say we are going out to dinner and Hubby reaches for his coffee and I have a flashback about driving with AF, and I feel his hands on me, sliding up my thigh like he used to do while he drove and I would try to sit as far as possible by the door out of his reach but nowhere was out of his reach. So am I really supposed to share that moment, explain the memory, bring more attention to it rather than look away from it? And then Hubby and I are supposed to somehow continue into the restaurant for dinner then? Talk about spoiling the mood. Is it fair that I went through that alone? I guess not, but I don’t see how it is better for us both to feel the pain) Yeah, well, these counselors say I can’t do that any more. No more hiding. If I’m with Hubby I need to tell him about it, and if I’m alone I need to write it in my flashback log and share with Hubby later. Eeek.

Just writing it now brings up HUGE amounts of fear. I’m supposed to hide. I’m not ready. I’m comfortable in the dark with the gremlins. I’m afraid to shine the light. This fear is terror, throat choking terror. I have a few stuck points to work through about this and I’m still working on the phrasing. Here’s what I have so far.

  1. If anyone knows there is something wrong with me I will have failed
  2. I am worthless if I have any flaws
  3. No one will love me if they know the real me
  4. My secrets are too horrific to share
  5. Accepting help is a sign of failure, worthlessness
  6. It is pointless to try to explain myself because no one ever understands
  7. If people know about my problems…(I don’t know how to finish this one, it’s so strong, I’d rather die protecting my secrets than be exposed, but I can’t think of an ending that makes sense. I’m just “not allowed” to tell people about my problems and this core belief is hard wired)

 

 

Poetry day was unexpectedly ok

When the counselor announced we had a guest coming in to lead our group in a poetry exercise I inwardly groaned and tried to contain my skepticism and eye rolling. Actually it was worse than that, I was prepared to endure an hour of terrible poetry torture like from Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy. I actually enjoy reading some poetry, and writing it more than reading it – sometimes, when the creative mood hits me and the words seem to flow. I didn’t think someone could guide a group of barely speaking women to write anything.

I was wrong.

She only gave us only about 12 minutes to formulate ideas and scribble some thoughts on paper, and when we went around the room, everyone shared a unique and interesting bit of imagery, style and depth. Like it was easier to get our thoughts on paper in this form, it was fascinating really. Because our poems weren’t about us personally, or didn’t have to be, but they were a little actually of course. I wish I remembered some of the lovely words but it probably wouldn’t be right to share them here anyway. Instead I can only share that it was a beautiful moment and I’m so happy that we were all vulnerable to be there together to do it. I don’t any of us will win awards or get published, but that wasn’t the point at all.

At first I didn’t want to share mine, wanting to fix it first, finish it, polish it. But whatever, I could see this was about sharing ideas while they were still hot and raw – not perfect. so I shared. And it wasn’t even scary, because I love to perform. I’m choosing not to share it here, because it does not need to be performed again, it lived in that special moment of the group and will remain there because it will take too long to explain the meanings and my point is not a  poetry lesson here today.

my point is that sometimes I am wrong.

And sometimes imperfection is a powerful tool to make us feel connected and vulnerable.

And I need to try to stop pre- hating everything. hmmm. My inner critic judges not only me but so all of my activities so harshly – even before they begin, before they have a chance. No wonder I never have any fun.

I have an open mind for ideas and theories and learning. I need to figure out how to open my mind for new opportunities for myself that might be ok. See start small, I don’t expect awesome here, maybe just ok is enough for now.

Trying to break these rules, still

Dysfunctional Family “Rules”

Adapted from J. Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You. From: http://www.thewellspring.com/flex/professional-integration/2455/dysfunctional-family-rules.cfm

Control—One must be in control of all interactions, feelings and personal behavior at all times—control is the major defense strategy for shame. Yes, I’m still caught up in this one. I have only rarely simply let a day happen, let a feeling happen. I can’t simply let thoughts happen – too many of them are full of darkness and lies. The feelings may be flashbacks. I don’t think giving up control is an option for me.

Perfectionism—Always be right in everything you do. The perfectionist rule always involves a measurement that is being imposed. Fear and avoidance of the negative is the organizing principle of life. Members live according to an externalized image. No one ever measures up. Yes this ruled my life for 20 years. Perfect grades, perfect body, perfect job, perfect dreams, perfect smile. This is easing up. a little.

Blame—Whenever things don’t turn out as planned, blame yourself or others. Blame is a defensive cover-up for shame…Blame maintains the balance in a dysfunctional family when control has broken down. Me, blame me. 

Denial of the Five Freedoms*—Each freedom has to do with a basic human power—the power to perceive; the power to think and interpret; to feel; to want and choose; and the power to imagine. In shame-based families, the perfectionist rule prohibits full expression of these powers. Wow. Yes I was denied each of those freedoms.

The No-Talk Rule—This prohibits the full expression of a feeling, need or want. In shame-based families, members want to hide their true feelings, needs or wants. Therefore, no one speaks of the loneliness and sense of self-rupture. Shut up and smile.

Don’t Make Mistakes—Mistakes reveal the flawed vulnerable self. To acknowledge a mistake is to open oneself to scrutiny. Cover up your own mistakes and if someone else makes a mistake, shame him. Yes. Mistakes prove your as bad as they say you are. I’ve gotten so much better at this. I won’t say mistakes don’t bother me and i don’t torture myself with them a bit, but it is no longer so serious and passes quickly. I have accepted i am human and treat my own mistakes as i would someone else’s, with forgiveness and understanding.

Unreliability—Don’t expect reliability in relationships. Don’t trust anyone and you will never be disappointed. How sad that I lived there. I trust in my marriage now. I trust my children. I have some trust for my inlaws and some for a few friends. That is huge progress. I’ll take it.

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These rules are still there, deep inside me – where I turn first, driving my underlying motives, thoughts, fears, actions, etc.

I’d like to say otherwise, but it would be a lie. What I can say, is that I am aware of it, and gently trying to approach the world – and myself – differently.

It all balances

I was going to title this back in the saddle, but I heard Aerosmith too loudly in my head. Then it was going to be back in the pilot’s seat, but I don’t feel completely in control. The horse is better. I’m definitely riding a wild PTSD beast with a mind of its own. I am learning to work with it, but I can’t push a button and turn it off and walk away. Then I thought really, working with PTSD is about balance – allowing the PTSD to go the direction it will without steering me too far off course.

I am ready to tackle this week. Even though last week was difficult and uncomfortable. Even though last week was stressful and triggering. I survived and I am ready to try again.

I am starting to recognize my inner panic before it takes control of me. I can feel the tightness in my chest, note the blurriness in my vision, acknowledge the irrational thoughts. I no longer hate myself for these reactions, and instead I am trying to work with my body to give it what it needs.

Several times last week my new job put so many demands on me, for learning, for meeting new people, for making managerial decisions, for prioritizing tasks and meeting multiple deadlines. I am usually good at all of these things, but I was struggling with the amount of unknowns and what I have to learn. I’m used to being the expert, not the annoying newbie.

This company is currently under-resourced for manpower and no one has the time to create training for what they do every day. I have been hired to analyze what they do, document it, analyze it for areas to improve, then create training modules/videos, and train new hires. So essentially I have a new job every day as I tackle the next process to document, improve, and regurgitate.

I was triggered into feeling helpless and out of control many times. Since I am in my own home to work, I simply let the tears fall, and did some power meditating throughout the day. No power naps when feeling agitated, but I have found that active yoga is very helpful. I walk around, do some jumping jacks, dance to a favorite song, bang my notebook on my head – anything to release the pent up frustration and bad energy. Then I lay down and do some deep breathing. I can usually get back to myself in about 10 minutes to an hour and it only looks like a coffee or lunch break on my timesheet.

I don’t let the spiral of negativity suck me down, so I can get back up quickly. (so far anyway, I know I can still get trapped, PTSD is an unpredictable bitch, but I am learning to keep her docile most of the time)

I am learning to let the panic and PTSD moments pass through me. I feel it, recognize it, look straight at it, look under it, stand on my head and look at it cross-eyed just to fully comprehend where it is coming from. (and hopefully confuse it with all the weird faces too) And then I do some deep breathing and muscle relaxation/stretches. I walk away from my computer and come back feeling calmer.

The good and the bad – it all balances:

I made some mistakes last week. The world did not end.

I missed a deadline last week. I am still breathing.

I had a few foot in mouth moments. I did not get fired.

I learned new software and new procedures at a dizzying rate. I stumbled, but got back up.

I learned more legalese and financial business stuff than I ever thought I could. My brain farted, but did not explode.

I dealt with helpful and anti-helpful coworkers. I put myself out there, but also protected myself.

I stepped up to many challenges. I did not hide my talents and stay under the radar. I am not invisible.

I had a relaxing weekend and feel no panic to tackle this week. Yet. Let’s see how the day goes 🙂

 

Self-sabotage and getting stuck between intention and action

Stop hurting yourself! I scream this at the mirror every day now.

Check out this post: http://www.uncommonhelp.me/articles/stop-self-sabotage-behaviour/

I’m trying to understand why I do what I do, and why I feel what I feel. I’m allowing myself to feel everything, trying not to judge, but really trying to understand.

Whenever I get a huge project at work, with a definite deadline, I get very angry. I get irrationally angry at my boss for imposing this on me. Suddenly the entire project is crap anyway, and why should I waste my time, and who are they to demand I put so many hours into this? Yes, well, umm, they do pay me for it. No one has tied me up, put a gun to my head, and said create a 32 page powerpoint presentation to deliver to the client based on the data from the past 6 weeks of our pilot program. Nope, I get a simple email request. So why the anger? And why the inevitable dragging of my feet and procrastination? Why the dread? Why the avoidance behaviors? (like blogging about it right now when this thing is due tomorrow)

The answer seems to be two-fold for me. First, I believe I actively sabotage myself in many ways. Second, I think I have issues with people controlling me, and I rebel, like an adolescent who is told to be home at 10pm, and comes home at 10:15pm just to see what might happen. Do I push limits with authority because my parents never gave me rules? They never noticed what time I came home, or if I came home at all on occasion. And never any consequence, except the silent treatment, which I already got so often it was hard to distinguish a cause.

So the link I shared above had a cute little story. I don’t see an author credited, so maybe it’s an old fable. 

“A talkative mouse, a rat, and a small shrew were trapped in a flood, desperately clinging to the side of a lily pad – and sinking fast! A helpful owl came to their rescue, first telling the rat to clamp its teeth onto its talons as the owl flew to safety and then returning for the shrew, who received similar instructions. Finally, as the tides rose ever higher, the owl came back for our talkative mouse.

“You are rescued and will live!” said the owl. “But I’ve noticed you talk a lot. Promise me you’ll keep your mouth closed around my legs and on no account open it, or you’ll fall to your fate!”

“Of course!” said the mouse, who proceeded to clamp his mouth onto his feathered rescuer’s landing gear.

They took off and flew across the floods. The owl was about to land on some high ground, but the mouse decided he wanted to alight some other place to get dry.

“Not there…” shouted the mouse, but those were the last words he ever spoke as he fell into the swirling waters below.

– See more at: http://www.uncommonhelp.me/articles/stop-self-sabotage-behaviour/#sthash.tGFnGXu1.dpuf”

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The author of the post writes “Okay, the mouse’s behaviour came from ignorance and heedlessness; he just didn’t think. “

OK, see my very first thought while reading this story was that the owl was trying to trick the mouse, since, well, owls eat mice (and rats, and shrews . . .), and well I always think someone is being selfish even when it may appear to be helpful to others. (Like people who work at soup kitchens but make sure everyone knows they do so they get the credit for being good, or all the gifts given to victims of psychopaths to buy trust, I have so many more but you get the idea) So I was thinking maybe the mouse saw a good place to land and thought he was saving himself from both the flood AND the owl, or would rather drown than become lunch, or take his chance with the water instead of certain death with an owl. I really didn’t see this as self-sabotage, if the mouse unintentionally opened his mouth without thinking, because, then it was unintentional – an simple accident or mistake. I don’t identify with doing something without thinking as self-sabotage, I have never had this freedom of not thinking. I have a million thoughts between each action. I also thought how interesting that the big and powerful owl came to his rescue but said he had to keep his mouth closed or he would not survive. No option of holding on any other way, the owl could have picked him up with his feet and they could have had a lovely chat the entire flight. This story felt too familiar to me, as my abuser said he was saving me from a hateful mother and that I should trust him, cling to him, and also keep my mouth shut. Victims are not given options. I’m pretty sure that is not the intended message of this story, but I’m sharing my thoughts.

The things I do, I do with full knowledge of the consequences. By avoiding my project right now, I am making it very likely that I will need to stay up all night tonight working on it. I know I will get it done, I always do. So why make it harder than it already is? Do I also enjoy the anxiety of the self-imposed time crunch? Do I think I’m getting away with something? Do I feel like it is my choice and I have more control this way? Do I want another reason to be annoyed with myself?

I keep trying to work on it, but nothing happens. the files are all open – again. I stare at them a while, nothing making sense, so I go make some coffee. Stare some more, and visit facebook. Stare some more and send some emails. Stare some more, and research procrastination and self-sabotage and blog about it! I hate getting stuck in this cycle, I really do. I get stuck between intention and action constantly.

So here’s what the shared post has to offer for reasons why we self-sabotage, with my thoughts added:

The main reasons for self-sabotaging behaviour

  • The familiarity of ‘failure’. Maybe we’re so used to situations not working out or to being around ‘dysfunctional people’ that it feels easier to ‘put a spanner in the works’ by behaving in some way that either worsens or destroys something promising – a kind of ‘better the devil you know’. — (I don’t think this applies to me, because I am highly praised for whatever I turn in. They have no idea that I waited until the last minute to put it all together. I always get the job done, and do it well, often better than others. My job is easy for me, brain-numbingly easy. I’ve never cut it so close as to actually fail, but I do live with the fear of failure all the days that I am avoiding the project. I worry that I may avoid it too long this time. Do I enjoy that gamble on some level perhaps?)
  • An unconscious need to be in control. If we feel something is bound to fail because it’s ‘too good to last’, we might engineer its failure somehow so as to maintain a sense that we are still in control (because we caused it to fail).– (I do think I crave control, but again I think the failure part is wrong. I’m a perfectionist and expect everything to work out. But I do enjoy setting my own schedule and imagining my bosses’ reactions if I somehow managed to not complete the project. I enjoy picturing them angry and scrambling and fantasize about them firing me. Not too surprising since I strongly dislike my job and have been actively searching for a new one for over a year.)
  • Feeling unworthy. Low self-esteem may drive people to feel they ‘don’t deserve’ success or happiness. — (This one confuses me. But I think it may apply in a twisted, convoluted way that I know some of my friends here will understand. I don’t let myself fail – ever. But I think I enjoy torturing myself with the idea of failure. By putting off my project, I get days, sometimes weeks of hating myself for not doing it, and threaten myself with failure. I always end up doing the right thing just in time, like I’m my own hero, but I don’t let it sink in, because it always could have been better if I spent more time on it. I enjoy the high of external success after all the time beating myself up, and I enjoy denying myself that high just as much by trivializing it. See I told you it was twisted, but this is actually making more sense the more I write. So let’s go one step further. As a child, I was consumed by hiding my reality to the outside world. I didn’t want people to know about my abuse and my troubles. I thought they would hate me and think I was disgusting, because I hated myself so why wouldn’t they? And I couldn’t hate my parents, still can’t. Impossible – I’ve never actually hated anyone – except for myself.   
  • Bad habits such as excessive drinking, smoking, or uncontrolled anger. — (I didn’t know uncontrolled anger was a habit . . .hmmm. I do drink too much sometimes (like last Friday, but that’s a whole different story), but I’m not off drinking or recovering from a hangover instead of doing this project. Some of my activities are actually healthy while avoiding the project, like doing dishes, Christmas shopping, playing with the kids, etc. Just that I have this nagging feeling the entire time that does not allow me to fully enjoy the other activities because I feel like I SHOULD be doing my project. Yes, I used the word should and know all about the problem with it, but I continue to should myself daily. I often feel like I should be doing something else as I go about my days. My other bad habit is staying up too late, but that is a complicated mess of avoiding night time abuse triggers so I’m not sure that counts. I have plenty of bad habits, like overeating, eating junk food, not exercising, not showering daily, not flossing my teeth, watching too much TV, zoning out when people talk to me, etc. But I can’t find any habits that would interfere with my working on this project. Not saying it isn’t there, saying I can’t identify it.)
  • Need for excitement. It might be an otherwise perfect sunny afternoon and seemingly out of the blue, Joe picks a fight, goes into a silent mood, or drags up some unrelated contentious issue from the past. Suddenly, the afternoon turns into a battleground. The desire for ‘excitement’ can take different forms, not all of them constructive.– (This could be a huge part of it. HUGE! I think I do feel more comfortable in pain and stress, the peace and joy is still so foreign to me. So I do think I may make my otherwise boring, simple tasks in to monstrous all-nighters just to feel the excitement, both while I am working, and then afterwards when they say ‘good job’.  Maybe I don’t feel like I deserve the praise for something simple, so I make it harder? And I create this internal conflict and drama even though nothing external exists?)
  • I’m adding one more here myself the article did not include. Perfectionism. I am uncomfortable with this project because it is full of ambiguity, subjectivity, and plain old inaccuracy. It causes me pain to crunch numbers and see the errors of others, but have to work with what they have given me. I have pointed out the flaws to management, and I’m told to work with it as it is. So I must remove myself from caring about it, remove my ownership so I can turn in something way less than perfect, and get my paycheck. My job is to make my boss happy. I have included safeguards so that I am not actually lying in my report, but it still feels slimy to me, because I have been asked to only show positive stats and take things out of context for marketing purposes. Although not lying, it is misleading, and makes me squirm. Categories that add up to 100% on one page, are used again, counted in another category, and that column adds up to 100% too. These things jump out to me, and I fear one day a client will see it too, but thing is, most people see what they want to see anyway, so nothing really matters.

Wow, my last line triggered a favorite Metallica song in my head, so I included it here so you can hear it too. What an odd brain I have.

Nothing Else Matters – Metallica

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don’t just say
And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know, whoa
But I know

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know, whoa
but I know

I never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don’t just say
And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they say
Never cared for games they play
Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
And I know

Ye Yeah!

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Party countdown – 7 days

It’s official. I invited people to my house for a party next Saturday. Inside my house. Inside!

I’m not completely freaking out yet, which is good, but I am completely procrastinating and avoiding what needs done, which is bad. So I’m blogging about it to add accountability and force me to face it.

Last weekend I cleaned the dining room, even removed the built up fuzzy nastiness that grows on the ceiling fan blades here from dust and pets. So the dining room is clean, but not tidy. I need to deal with piles of papers yet. I have never found a good system for this, papers pile up no matter what I try. There is too much coming home from kids in school, then my own work notes and references, then bills, then coupons, then invitations and flyers for events, on and on.

Today we are finishing my daughter’s room!! We promised to have it finished so she could show it off to her friends during her party. We worked all week and laid new laminate flooring in there, not an easy job in a crooked old house, but we did it. Had to figure out a way to work with, not against the bowed floor beams. It looks great! I just have 1 more wall that needs a second coat of paint – she chose a soft, lovely lavendar. And then last night we bought crown molding – sort of – we bought skinny strips of flexible boards that will allow us to work around the crooked ceiling/walls (see, we’re learning!). We’re going to put her sliding closet door back on, they’ve been off since she pushed it over and nearly squashed herself when she was a toddler. No more toddlers in my house, so we can start having normal, unsafe features again! She even put her glass figurines on a low shelf where we can see them now, since no one will disturb them. I feel so much more at ease lately knowing my kids are a bit older and less likely to accidentally kill themselves every 2 seconds.

So I’m off to paint!

(And tonight the Thriller zombies have a gig at a local night club, we’re opening for the band to kick off a halloween party! I still laugh that I am a part of this, but it is so much fun!)

 

Not Feeling Safe – Old Fears Resurface

(Caution – intense words ahead, trigger warning. I think I need to add that to my home page since I often forget to put the warning on individual posts)

I stepped back from that edge, but only one step. I’m not feeling safe and everything is just wrong right now. Here are some of the things bouncing around in my head. Things that used to live there but had vanished for a while. Please note I am fully aware that many of these are irrational and unhealthy, that’s kind of the point. But it seems every time I step up to a challenge, a new one is there waiting, and I just can’t take that many steps at once.

I feel fat. I feel ashamed of being fat. I feel like it has been too long since having babies to reside in that excuse. I feel like my stomach is an invader, not a part of me. After 3 babies and 2 c-sections, it is a squishy maze of stretch marks and scars. I am not obese. I teeter on the edge of normal-overweight BMI. 10 pounds more than my college weight, but it a stubborn 10 pounds. As soon as I lose a few pounds I gain it all back quickly with stress over-eating combined with the inactivity of depressed days. I can’t make myself exercise every day and I don’t why. I feel great when I exercise, both during and after, and yet I deny myself this. I guess it isn’t too surprising, as I don’t always have the energy or awareness to shower or brush my hair or teeth daily either. But somehow I forgive myself the slip in hygiene, but not this extra 10 pounds.

I feel judged. I feel ashamed by what might be judged about me from many sources. Some of hubby’s relatives are coming from out of state in a few weeks, and several months ago I gave myself the goal to lose 10 pounds before they came. We haven’t seen them in a few years, so I wanted t o be thinner than last time. My weight has not really changed for many years, up or down. The one relative always makes comments about his wife eating too much and that he’d leave her if she ever got fat, so I fear his judgement of me. Stupid, I know, but still there it is. I fear that man’s gaze on me and his controlling attitude.

I feel edgy in my own home now. My safe haven has been invaded. Although I am thrilled my kids have so many neighborhood kids come to play with them – my safe sanctuary, my home, is constantly and without warning – invaded. I can no longer have lazy PJ days, as they can knock on the door any time. No mom wants their kids playing with the kooky mom’s kids, the mom with haunting eyes and unkempt hair. So I force myself to look presentable even on the worst days. This makes me realize I was not quite functioning as well as I thought, and that makes me sad too. It shouldn’t be such a big deal to get dressed daily. I berate myself for being so silly.

I feel I am hurting Hubby and fear what he thinks of me. I was badly triggered as he initiated sex a week or so ago. We’ve been doing really well in this area, so this one shocked him. It was the way he initiated, not that he did, that triggered me. I froze up, went away mentally, managed to tell him, and he helped me through it. But the feeling remained.  I tried to explain what happened the next day in an email, as writing is my easiest and most natural form of communication. He is not a natural reader, and so lost my meaning in many places, and was generally overwhelmed by the one sided form. We did not speak of it or touch much for several days. It was too much to read all at once, he said.  This realization is always crushing to me, that my reality is overwhelming to others. So we tried discussing it a few nights later, as it still hung in between us. He blamed himself for hurting me, but wasn’t exactly sure what he had done wrong.

We both had a strong, almost urgent, need for him to understand, once and for all. In an attempt to explain, I took him through a typical evening for me as a child. I have never even gone into this detail with a therapist before, and maybe this was not a good idea, but I already did it. I was shaking and trying not to vomit as I placed myself back into my childhood bedroom and described some examples of what I had to endure from my abusive father. I needed hubby to understand certain ways of touching me were just not possible. I did not have a flashback as I told him my story, I remained present, but the fear – oh my god the fear! that I felt as I spoke to him. That fear is still with me. Stirred up and at the surface and I don’t know what to do with it now. And the grief. A whole new wave of grief for that little girl that even I can’t believe was me. It’s just too messed up. How my father used my love for him, and my need to be a good little girl, to seek his approval to fulfill his sexual needs. See, my father was always gentle with me, and made me believe for way too many years that he was acting out of love, and that he was only making me feel good, doing things I liked.

I slept downstairs on the couch for several days, terrified to go up into our bedroom. Afraid to have him bump into me while sleeping and set off the panic that is waiting to burst. Last night I was finally able to go to bed with him, and he held me so sweetly. He was so careful to only touch my shoulders, and kept his body away from mine. I hate that we have this ghost of a haunted past always between us. I hope this last revelation to him has been helpful to us and our marriage in the long term, because it has really sucked in the short term. I just look at this amazing man, so grateful he wants to know me even better, so grateful for his love, and yet not able to completely accept it. I’ve had glimpses of feeling loved, I just can’t hold onto it for long. I’m always proving to myself that I’m still not worthy and scolding myself for trying to believe otherwise.

I feel so selfish. I have not been a good wife and mom lately. I’m forgetful and distant. I freak out when they hug me. My first grader gave me a good night kiss last night that touched my neck just below my ear and I actually screamed in fright. His little eyes got big and he asked “What’s wrong? Did I hurt you” It took a moment for my heart to slow down and answer him, “No sweetie, just surprised me. Mommy loves you” And I left his room to finish out my panic without him watching.

I have developed a phobia of sleeping at my MIL’s house. I knew it stressed me out, but have dealt with it for years. I finally figured out that I don’t feel safe sleeping there, since I don’t have my own room, and the floor plan is so open and connected that I can hear everyone else turning in their beds all night. I love my MIL, but she is loud and often scary to me. I never know when she will be screaming, and even her normal voice is too loud for me.

I feel judged by Hubby’s relatives, as they always comment on my pale skin (if it weren’t for some freckles, I’d be practically albino), or my hair color, or how my kids’ hair is getting long, or how my kids’ clothes aren’t fitting well. Each comment stings a bit more until I can’t handle them with smiles any more. And then I have no where to retreat and lick my wounds. I don’t think they mean to be hurtful, it is just how they are.

I don’t buy gifts for teachers, we always bring some roses from the bush in my yard and the kids make cards themselves. I don’t money to buy anything nice, and as a teacher myself, I recall how special the handmade gifts were to me. Problem is my youngest made lovely cards for his preschool teachers, and in my distractedness I have misplaced them. My sweet little guy is making new ones right now. He is so accepting of me too. He helped me search the house for a while, but then just said, “It’s OK Mommy, it’ll be fun to make something else” His acceptance of my mistake actually makes me feel worse. I want to better for them. They deserve a mom that is living in the same world as them, not this shell of a woman that can barely manage daily tasks, that floats in and out of reality, and that forgets or loses everything.

And so the spiral of negativity continues, as I don’t understand how I have such a beautiful loving family and why I can’t just accept it and return it. I don’t feel like I’m enough yet. They say I am enough for them. Will I ever be enough for me?

I Solemnly Swear Never to Endanger Humanity by Parallel Parking

I intended this post to be Part 2 of the Ghosts of Therapists Past. But as I continued that story, it really just became about my Senior Year of high school doubling as a freshman year in college, the year in between therapists. And then it really became the struggles of how I learned to drive with a handicap in my Juior year.  So I changed the title a few times – These words are the ones that wanted to come out today. Sometimes we have to write the story that wants to be told.

My Senior year of High School was therapy free. I thought I was fine, and had put all my troubles behind me. I focused my attention on being perfect and getting into college. I left High School and attended a community college full time through a state funded program. I got permission to overload my courses and take an extra class each semester to cram more in, free college credits I was thinking. I had decided I was going to be an engineer, something fabulous and impressive in the medical field, so I added volunteering at our local hospital to my schedule. (How I hated that! I started in pediatrics and it broke my heart to see sick kids. I tried cardiology, and it broke my spirit to see naked old men – they have no modesty left)

I didn’t want to ask my parents for money, so I had two jobs – one at the library and one making pizzas. (I started working at age 15 with a fake birth certificate my Dad made for me so I could stop costing him so much money and actually be useful) Well 3 jobs if you count the odd babysitting jobs here and there too. I gave myself $2 a day for food. I had more, but I wanted to save my money for college, and to limit my calories. I didn’t know it, but I was basically anorexic then. I would pack one piece of fruit in my backpack for breakfast, and then buy a taco from Taco Bell, or a baked potato from Wendy’s for lunch. I only drank water.  In between meals, my main fuel was actually Tums. (I had my first stomach ulcer that year, and self-treated it with a few Tums each hour before giving in and seeing a doctor the summer before college.) Mom usually had something at home for dinner to make for myself or reheat. I left each morning about 5am, and returned home each evening about 11pm. This schedule allowed me to do all my homework on campus, go to work, and volunteer, and also allowed me to avoid seeing or speaking to my Mom – pretty much ever. Sometimes she would be sitting in a chair waiting for me to come home, and say something like “wow, you’re out late tonight” And I would say “Yup” and go get ready for bed.

But I need to back up and describe how I got myself this freedom. To have my own schedule I needed my own car.

While I still lived with my Dad, I saved up and bought an old car from my Dad’s mother and paid my own gas and insurance, and nearly daily repairs for that lemon. Ironically it was actually yellow, though theshade was more banana milkshake than lemon colored. That car leaked from every orifice and I had a jug of water for the radiator, quarts of oil, tranny fluid, and power steering fluid that I topped off every time I started it – but that’s how I met my handy Hubby (and a few other guys that wanted to rescue a pretty girl and impress me with their car knowledge, but don’t tell Hubby that), so no hard feelings. OK, that’s not true. Lots of hard feelings. How did my parents think it was OK to let their girl drive something so unreliable? One night, after an evening class, I headed home from campus about 10pm and my car died in the middle of the parkway. I coasted it in to a parking spot and walked home, alone, in the snow. Made it home about midnight or so, and Mom just said “You’re home late” and I just said “Yup”. I got up extra early the next day to walk to my car – I brought extra water and oil. The battery had died, and I managed to flag someone for a jumpstart. I was terrified to be late for class, but made it just in time. All the walking, especially in the cold, caused my leg great pain to be dragged that far past the fatigue point. I didn’t worry about the pain though, pain was a constant in my life. I worried that the twitches from irritating the nerve would cause me attention. I did my best to hide my flaw. I never asked for help or complained, just handled whatever life threw at me.

I also have some hard feelings about acquiring that car. I never thought much of it at the time, but with my new eyes, I see how terribly I was treated. So I need to back up again and explain. Nothing like telling a story in reverse. (Bear with me – I have no idea where these memories are coming from today – best to just let them out)

My spinal injury in 7th grade had left my right leg weak and withered and slow. I could walk, but with a slow pace, and with extreme effort and concentration I could step on my left leg firmly to painfully drag my right along. I could not drive a regular car with my right foot. They put a restriction on my learner’s permit, that I could only drive with a left-foot pedal. My dad did not believe this was true, and made me try, for hours on hours, when I still lived with him at age 15 to make my noodly leg push the pedals. Back then I had no spatial awareness of my leg, the disconnected nerves made my brain think my leg was missing when I was not looking at it. So to watch the road, and not my foot, was just impossible and it slid right off and would get wedged under the pedals, requiring my hands to pull it back out. He put a full glass of water on the dash of his car, and said I could drive his car if I didn’t spill any water. A drop always spilled as soon I touched the gear shifter to reverse, and he would laugh, saying he didn’t know why “we even let women learn to drive at all”. Then he would get cold and furious and told me I wasn’t trying hard enough and I just wanted to be difficult and special. He seemed to think that I dragged my leg around for all the great attention. Yes, Dad, I loved being called a freak and laughed at by cruel adolescents.

English: Dual controls for student driver cars...

My driving instructor had to be brave and ride in my handi-cap adjusted car – no dual controls for him (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My dad was pissed, and was not going to be driving his gimp around forever, so he made some calls for me and found a place that sold handicap equipment for cars. I remember how irritated my Dad was that he had to deal with this. He told me that pedal would cost $600 and that he’d have to drive to the next state to get it. Not sure how much of that was true now, since I still use a left pedal and get it quite easily. It turns out I am not the only annoying gimp in the world that wants to drive. (dark humor there, sorry, to avoid getting angry) So I saved my money, the $600 plus gas money for him to drive so far for it. I even took him out to dinner that week to repay him for his kindness in wasting a day for me. I realize now he probably was just avoiding shipping costs and purposefully adding to my guilt. But it sure worked then. So then I had this pedal, one step closer to every teenage dream of freedom and driving. But Dad would not have that thing installed in his car, no way would he have a reminder of my weakness in his own car, and no way would he allow them to drill holes in his floor to do it.  A few more months of saving and I had a car. I called the driving school that all my friends were going to, and was denied. They did not have instructors certified to work with handicapped students. Sigh. Lots more calls and I found one that would take me, for twice as much money as the others, since I was obviously a liability.

And then came the driving exam. I passed the course, but only had driving time with my pedal with my instructor. My Dad would not drive in my car with me to practice, as he did not accept that I needed that “handi-crap” pedal (he had so many terms of endearment for my impairment) and would only help me if I was willing to do it the right way. He put a full glass of water on the dash of his car, and said I could drive his car if I didn’t spill any water. A drop always spilled as soon I touched the gear shifter to reverse, and he would laugh, saying he didn’t know why “we even let women learn to drive at all”.  I think I did that twice before giving up on him. So I took the exam with just a few hours experience with my pedal. The left-foot pedal is mounted on the left of the brake pedal with a bar that extends across the floor and attaches to the actual accelerator. I needed a specially certified exam proctor as well, and had to wait for one to be available. My test went fairly well, though I did bump each cone during the maneuverability portion, having never attempted this before. The proctor passed me anyway, but made me promise I would ever attempt to parallel park. I promised – and actually have held that promise to this day. I will walk several blocks just to avoid a parallel parking situation. Humanity is safe from that one threat at least.