Archives

Trauma is in the eye of the beholder

illusion-1877120_1920

What do people really think about you? What are you showing them? Well what they think depends on how they frame it in their minds anyway. So much subjectivity, so much interpretation and assumption.

I’ve become increasingly interested in my doctors varying opinions of my mood lately and how it applies to my future. As most of you know, as soon as you have “Psych” history on your record, it can be difficult to get medical attention without doctors telling you how you feel and that somehow trauma and depression are actually causing the issues, not anything they can solve, and you end up with another referral for therapy.

If you have an “extensive Psych” history like mine, it is almost impossible.

I started comparing notes.

My back surgeon notes that I am pleasant and upbeat, cheerful, even 3 weeks post surgery when my pain level was still quite high.

But the neuropsych team inote, flat affect, appears to be severely depressed, speaking noticeably slowly, moved to tears.

Let’s see what is the difference here? It’s not just that the psych team is looking for it, I’m not saying that, I am behaving differently in these appointments. Hmmm, I wonder why? Seriously. That was snarky if you couldn’t tell. OK let me spell it out by giving you a glimpse of the conversations.

When I am talking with my back surgeon, I am grateful, he has changed my life, reduced my pain, restored strength and balance to my weak leg. He see me as strong, able, resilient, and able to do whatever I want to do. He knows nothing about my traumatic past and never has asked about it. He expects me to heal, because nerves, bones and muscles heal at an expected rate.

When I am talking with the psych team, they continually poke and prod about the relationship with my parents and brothers and husband. They force me to relive and retell some of the worst moments of my life. Usually I am meeting someone new, forced to tell my story to someone I do not fully trust for them to make another assessment of my condition. My flat affect is me trying to remain calm and choose my words carefully, knowing I am being judged. My tears are me, reacting to pain in the moment, recalling my sorrow.

But I don’t live there in that sorrow. Each doctor is only seeing a snapshot of me, a moment of me, not all of me, not how I function each day all day, not my life. I wonder how many people can retell their worst fears and memories without appearing traumatized. Even if you weren’t abused, I bet if you spent 3 hours describing every pet that died, how you miss your grandparents, maybe you were bullied, your boyfriend broke your heart in high school, your friend died in a car crash or overdose, your parents split up – whatever – life is full of heartache and tragic moments that we don’t call abuse. I bet if you made a list of them and described them out loud, that any “normal” person would appear depressed and traumatized and dysfunctional.

I don’t think its me that needs realistic expectations, I think it is the medical community. I almost want to prove my theory by starting over with a new doctor, stating I have a brain injury from purely physical means, caught in a shockwave perhaps and see I still have the same sad “Sorry but we can’t help you, you’ve been through too much to get better at this point in your life” story. I bet I would get sent to rehab and expected to heal if I didn’t have a psych history.

Well I expect more of myself, always have. Yeah, I got knocked down. But I’ve been down before, so what. I am out there jogging you guys. It isn’t beautiful, I mean I won’t win any medals, but I am not using a cane and both feet leave the ground at a pace faster than walking. I know I am healing. I know what I can do. I can do more.

I don’t care about my history, its irrelevant at this point. My brain doesn’t care. I am no longer being traumatized. I am sleeping, eating well, exercising, going to therapy, doing brain training games, pushing towards creative thought – why can’t I expect healing to happen? I don’t have a bunch of faith, but I’ve always believed in resiliency, set a goal, make a path, and eventually you get there.

My therapist thinks my lack of creativity is tied more to grief than brain damage. I’m starting to think she is right. My mom was my constant cheerleader, so supportive of my artwork and writing. I always shared my ideas and progress with her, always created for her, and she poured on the constant praise, sometimes annoyingly so, and almost over the top. I think I depended on that more than I ever knew though. Without her daily comments on my blogs, her multiple emails, I have no one else cheering me on, encouraging me to draw something today, asking what my next project will be, asking me to make something for her. She kept me going. I see this now. So at some point I will have to draw through the tears, and just keep going, until I am drawing for myself and the world, and show her that her years of support were enough to keep me going even after she is gone. I need to feel this pain of missing her and draw anyway. Somehow with my teary eyes and shaky hands I know this is the next step I need to take. An empty page has never been so frightening.

It doesn’t matter – Yes it does!

sunset-681840_1920

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.

30-30-30

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

Get Motivated. Right Now.

How do you reach that motivational state of mind?

Motivation is tricky and not well understood. It is not linear or one sided. No motivation is complex and loopy and involves multiple factors, some within us, some external to us. Each move we make is a choice. How do we choose?

Our motivation is a combination of our beliefs, our goals, our dreams, our environment, and our mood. Currently I’m in a safe environment that is a bit lax on housekeeping standards. No one here cares if I leave some dishes in the sink or dust on the shelves. No one cares if the papers pile up on the counter. The clutter is overlooked.

I would prefer if everything was perfect and tidy at all times. Somehow I allow myself to overlook the clutter as well, feeling overwhelmed and defeated by it, by the repetition, by the fact that even if I clean it all up perfectly now it will be destroyed later the same day. I can’t keep up so I stop trying. I lost my motivation long ago in this losing battle.

But when someone is coming over to visit, I dig in deep and take care of it. I talk to myself encouragingly to get the job done. I break it down into small steps and lists. This may sound silly. If it does, then I am happy for you that brain functions without you having to kick its ass. If I don’t jumpstart mine, I will remain motionless, thoughtless, an empty shell trapped inside itself. I have tried being my own drill sergeant. That makes me angry and stubborn. No, I like to be my own nurturing mom, holding my hand, gently reminding and encouraging myself that I can do it and what I need to do next. I speak to myself firmly but gently, just like I do to my own kids when I give them instructions. They listen to me because I’m supportive and authoritative. They know there will be consequences if they don’t

Make yourself some coffee
Load the dishwasher
Wipe down the counters
Sort the papers from the hutch

Go on, get up, get started, you can do this. (give possible consequence: You don’t want so-and-so to see this mess, right?) back to supporting. It won’t take long. You’re strong now. Just get started and it will be done before you know it.
Coffee, dishes, counters, hutch

Coffee, dishes, counters, hutch

I turn into a Dora the Explorer episode, repeating to myself what I am going to do. I usually do about 3-4 things in my list. Then I start a new list if more needs done, so nothing gets overwhelming. Often I turn on music once I have my list going in my head.

But something always happens, I can feel the change in my brain and mood once I make the decision and start this motivation process. I go from feeling empty, spaced out, exhausted, to having a bit of energy and focus. Although I don’t exactly enjoy the tasks I am doing, I feel good about doing them. I battled depression and won again.

I found an interesting article here http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/03/03/469033034/could-you-hack-your-brain-to-get-more-motivated explaining how people could use feedback to access the motivation centers in their brains. With practice and fmri they could see this area of the brain lighting up. Super cool.

Excerpt from the article:

Two of the researchers, Kathryn Dickerson and Jeff MacInnes, tried the system out on themselves. Not everything worked. Dickerson said she tried thinking about different memories that left the feedback meter cold. “Zip lining was super fun, but [thinking about that] was just terrible and not effective at all.”

So she switched strategies and tried giving herself a pep talk in the scanner. “I was like, ‘Come on Katie. Move the thermometer. Just do it and move it.’ And I just pumped myself up. That was very effective,” she says. “It was exhilarating.”

It was also exhausting, MacInnes says. “The experience of the task was very difficult. You’re being asked to generate these intense motivational states for 20 seconds over multiple periods. It was very fatiguing for people.”

Study participants had a similar experience, Adcock says. Some people sang Queen songs to themselves or imagined having an angry coach yell at them. “My personal favorite was running down a line with everyone giving you high-fives,” Adcock says. When she took the feedback meter away, the participants were still able to light up their ventral tegmental area by thinking about the same things.

People really are changing their mood when they’re doing this, Adcock thinks. They’re really becoming more focused and eager. And it seems the effect begins reaching out to parts of the brain involved with learning and memory,

“We think that’s exciting because it shows after this training, something changed, Dickerson says. “The brain isn’t quite the same.” She thinks people might be achieving a state of mind that’s more conducive to learning and motivation.

I believe I have learned how to do this myself with the self talk I mentioned above. I know how to get myself moving. My problem is, I don’t often find a reason to these days. Most things sadly seem pointless. I’m struggling with staying motivated or setting goals that I care about. I used to be an overachiever. I know how to get things done. I simply don’t want to anymore. I’m not even sure I’m depressed exactly. I’m struggling with my purpose and identity, which I suppose is depressing and exhausting. But I’m able to motivate myself when I need to, when I see a reason to. And so I am desperately searching, seeking a goal, a dream, something to cling to, to attach motivation to, to stop floundering and wasting all this time.

What I’m good at:

  • I go to the gym and workout at home because I want to be stronger and have a healthy body. I hate being weak. I hate relying on others to lift and carry things. I hate feeling vulnerable. So I am motivated, this one is easy, I exercise daily to meet this goal and my progress is easy to see.
  • I eat whole foods from my safe list because I do not want to have a migraine attack. I do not want days of pain and suffering. I do not want to let my family down and be a burden. I want to take care of them. I am motivated to avoid pain and be a good mom.
  • I continue to blog and fill out cpt worksheets even though my therapy program has ended because I want to continue to heal, to process, to grow. I am motivated to be self aware of ptsd, to manage it as best I can, and work towards minimizing the symptoms.

What I’m not good at:

  • I am not working yet. Although money is tight, we are managing with one income. I am not motivated to return to work. I feel I am a better mom and wife without trying to work. I’m already exhausted and stressed daily. I do feel guilty, but this guilt is not a strong enough motivator to overcome the rest. I am grateful Hubby supports this decision.
  • I am not doing much with my free time. This should change. Eek there’s a dreaded should, but I’m leaving it because it came out. I do have considerable guilt about how I spend my days. I don’t feel like I am doing enough, or like I am enough. No one complains, I put this on myself. I’m so used to achieving and I feel so lost. I want to feel motivated again. I’m hopeful this whiny stage is the first step to finding an action item. As odd as it seems, this is better than not caring. This is an improvement.

So. I know how to put my mind to something I care about. I know how to make a change. I know how to set goals and achieve them. I just need something to care about. I need something to do. Right now. (Yes of course it’s Van Halen time)

 

Unbalanced Thoughts

thinker

Neurotypicals will never understand  the complicated thought process someone like me must endure. My brain is different (understatement) so how I perceive and react to the world is different. I suppose I am lucky enough to be self aware of my differences so I know how to appear normal when I need to, but let me tell you, this process of monitoring unbalanced thoughts and correcting them is exhausting.

Most people fit into the social spectrum somewhere that makes sense. Most people have issues, fears, crap from their childhood and past relationships that hold them back from reaching their full potential. Most people are still free to have their own thoughts – I can tell this in a variety of ways but a simple one is by response time in social interactions.

I lack spontaneity. I analyze my own thoughts and behaviors as they happen, like pressing the internal instant replay button, as well as those of the people around me. I am not free to have a thought pop in my mind and let random words escape my mouth. Why? Because most initial thoughts are not actually my own. It is not my own voice I hear inside of me and are often so unbalanced I would sound insane and frighten or insult people.

And no, please read my post about hearing voices, I am not schizophrenic, although I do get auditory flashbacks, I have a firm grip on reality and that is not what I am talking about here. But when I listen to myself, it usually isn’t me right away, as my core beliefs come first and I have to battle to let my own voice come through. My brainwashing, my conditioning, was so severe, so complete in my childhood that my first thoughts are filtered through something that I must work carefully to remove.

Some of these are stuck points, some are cognitive distortions, some are the perpetual sick and twisted darkness within me. I was raised by a sadistic pedophilic psychopath and a narcissist. I have accepted that this has touched every neuron in my head. How could it not? Some people have said that simply watching a creepy movie like Silence of the Lambs got in their heads forever. Imagine being raised by someone like that. I will never have the freedom to simply let my thoughts go by unexamined for flaws and distortions.

I am an introvert, it is undeniably true. I may also be on the autistic/asperger spectrum if you need a way to understand how my behavior might appear. I’m trying to explain how it feels, and what it looks like inside my head. I’m trying to say, please be patient with those quiet people, they may need more time to think than you during a conversation. If you jump topics, speak too quickly, and get impatient or demand a response, it is very stressful. I probably won’t give you much if any eye contact. You will think I am shy or nervous or rude. Or weird.

Mostly I don’t care. Except I don’t want to bother anyone or hurt anyone, so I’m very careful not to offend or do the wrong thing. I’d rather leave or avoid a conversation than try to form the right response like that, its not worth it to me. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, so I need to go through all of my responses to make sure I am being polite, make sure I didn’t miss your  meaning, maybe you were joking, maybe you referenced something in the news I need to form an opinion about, maybe I need to remove my depression filter so I don’t frighten you, maybe I need to remind my face how to smile. All of this takes time and energy, and I’ll do it if you are important to me. Otherwise, shhhh. Don’t make me talk to you if I don’t have to. Better yet, don’t make listen to you. Get to the point efficiently and don’t play games. I hate being confused.

Everything in my head is telling me that you are lying. Most people are lying about something, it just isn’t important, because it is a slight exaggeration, but I can still discern this and so my alarm bells get triggered for feeling unsafe and I have to pause and figure out why you are lying and what your motives are.

Or I feel invisible. Maybe I am actually trying to get noticed, to speak up finally to people that don’t know I exist, and my tiny voice is inaudible, and my powers of being invisible are impossible to turn off, and the cliques in town are to rude and impenetrable so I stop trying and go home to write an email. Feeling invisible is both a power and a trigger for feeling worthless.

Or maybe I’m fighting the darkness. Depression has its grips on me and everything seems pointless. That’s a tough one. I have to filter every thought and word on those days because literally I want to die, or at least stop fighting, and have lost hope, and everything is so hard, I’m so tired, everyone is so stupid. I use all or nothing thinking, I jump to the worst conclusions, I assume everything is my fault on those days. I struggle to follow simple conversations, I can’t keep up. I feel stupid and slow and want to hide. I know I have to toss out the garbage thoughts and find the ones that sound like me – buried, and tired to core- but me.

I may never have naturally balanced thoughts spontaneously. I may get better with all this monitoring and practice. Impossible to say. But I do know I want this sculpture in my yard.  Or tattooed on my … something. I found this pic on Pixabay like I do all my images, apparently this is in Copenhagen and I love 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Disorganized Thoughts

One of the most troubling problems I face daily  is the jumbled swirl of disorganized thoughts in my sorry excuse for a brain. I know, be nice to myself. But I have to use my back button more then I can type to fix these errors because when I re read it -it makes no sense. Words are misspelled, out of order, and simply not the correct word for the context. Some of this is due to me thinking about so many topics at once. I have always done this, but used to be able to dip into the swirling loveliness, pull out what I needed, focus on that a bit, and move on. I seem to have lost my shield and now all the intrusive thoughts are mixed in and attacking the swirling overlapping thoughts, like a traffic jam of the future with 3-d flying cars everywhere.

I have identified a large amount of paranoia also. Not sure when mistrust crosses the line into paranoia but I think I have. I did something dangerous to my health and found and fell in love with a new, well actually old but new to me tv show called Perception about a neuroscientist with schizophrenia that assisted FBI. I obsessively watched all 3 seasons last week. Hey I don’t sleep much so whatever. But watching him as a paranoid schizophrenic made me think of some of my own thoughts and actions. Hmm.

OKay. So my brother has schizophrenia. I am always worried that I might actually have it too and no one knows. That my flashbacks are really hallucinations. I wrote about it before at least being related on a spectrum if not the same thing.

I have had delusions before. I have crashed hard when reality hit me. Not going into that right now. I didn’t lose my touch on reality completely but I definitely held onto some fantasy or magical thinking type things for many many years. Not sure they are totally gone.

I hear horrible voices all of the time. These have been explained to me as my own inner critic, my own inner negative tape running, or as flashbacks. I am not always sure about this, but never wanting to appear ‘crazy’ or an unfit mother I accept those explanations.

But I do worry. I obsess. I distort reality? Don’t we all to some extent? So how much is acceptable? Am I within tolerable limits?

So once in a while I take screener tests to see how I am doing. I find them difficult to answer though, each one is “well it depends . . . ”

Anyhow I found a site with several personality disorder screener tests. They are of course not meant to be used as diagnosis, but as a tool, a speaking point to use with a therapist or doctor. Take the tests yourself here at PDCHAT if you want. I have no idea how accurate these are, so take with a grain a salt too I suppose.

But here are my results:

Your Antisocial Test Results.40%

Your Avoidant Test Results.98.3%

Your Borderline Test Results.51.7%

Your Dependent Test Results.53.3%

Your Histrionic Test Results.36.7%

Your Narcissism Test Results.31.7%

Your Obsessive-Compulsive Test Results.86.7%

Your Paranoid Test Results.95%

Your Schizoid Test Results.86.7%

Your Schizotypal Test Results.76.7%

So that was fun and likely did not prove anything at all, except that I avoid most social interactions, mistrust most people, have control issues…wait what were the PTSD areas? safety, trust, control, power, intimacy…yes this sounds about right. Except PTSD might not explain why I get angry and clench my teeth when hubby does not put the coffee scoop back in the ‘right’ place and grounds get on the table. Or my racing heart, avoidance, fear of germs, not using water fountains, touching doorknobs, hearing people cough around me can cause me to move or even leave a waiting room. My disorganized, intrusive thoughts may not all be trauma related, but some OCD. Or my sadness when someone does not ‘hear’ me and I feel invisible and give up, hiding in my room.

I feel intense anger, and it scares me. I hate people sometimes for slight mistakes. I control myself though. I don’t yell, rarely raise my voice above a whisper actually, and retreat to another room until the anger subsides. It is scarier when I am angry with myself, that is when I really hear the voices.

I made a parenting mistake last night. Not a big one, but one that made youngest kiddo cry because I said something without thinking it through, and it was not fair. I was already struggling because the other kiddo kept invading my space, touching me, singing loudly near me, and was not stopping when I asked her to stop. I tried telling hubby and he made no response, no help at all as usual, I was on my own. So while triggered, I had to made kiddo 1 show respect, which always puts me in a dark place, and then was harsh to kiddo 2 because I wanted to rush dinner prep and hide. All this while hubby was in the room on the couch, ignoring all of us. He always says he is there for me, but he never is. Another trigger. I am spiraling. I make it through dinner quickly and retreat to my room. Kiddo 2 is still crying but I thought hubby could handle it. He comes up in just moments and announces he is getting a bath. ??? Seriously? I ask him why he needs it right now, and he says something about a heat rash bothering him. So ok. I am on my own again. I have to get my crap together and help kiddo calm down. But I am shaking. I am thinking dark thoughts. I am afraid to scream or hit him or over punish if I go down like this. So I turn up my tv, really loud so I can’t hear him crying downstairs. I start counting and breathing. I put hubby out of my mind. I think grounding lists and then I think of sweet thoughts and helpful phrases. Then I head downstairs where my 8 year old is now red faced and hyperventilating he is so upset. I get him an ice pack to hold and ask him to breathe slowly with me. I ask the others why he is screaming since he is unable to talk yet. First it is because we were out of soup for dinner. But then, as I suspected, it was because I made him stop playing his game abruptly to come to dinner. I am usually more respectful of their time. I apologized – however – I said his behavior now was completely inappropriate and that while it is okay to be upset, angry, sad, etc, it is not okay to scream as loud as possible and carry on like that. I said I would help him calm down, but if he chose to continue screaming instead I would have to ground him. Please understand, he was not simply crying or whimpering, this was a manipulative tactic gone too far out of his control now. I have seen him at funerals, and in fights with his brother. This was not authentic. I do not punish authentic displays of emotions, but I do punish attempts at manipulation and temper tantrums from a third grader that would have three year old going – dude, what was that? So we made it through. But it drained me of everything I had in me. I went directly to bed, hating hubby for being an a$$ that abandons us all when he doesn’t like our emotions. I feel bad for needing a moment to myself. I wonder how hubby feels completely avoiding all of us. I wonder how his personality tests would turn out, but he would never take them.

This gave me some things to think about, a different perspective as I wrap up my trauma recovery program. I have learned a great deal from this counselor, but I am stuck now, and feeling worse than ever. I am ready to take a break. I want to go into the stressful holidays without looking into my past. In fact, I am not sure I ever want to look back again, not at the level of detail this counselor asked of me. I still don’t see the point of it, to drudge it all up. I think exposure therapy might help people that had avoided thinking about their abuse, but that wasn’t me, I wrote about it all the time. So all this is doing is making these memories more intense, not helping them to fade.

I am not well. I don’t know or care with label gets applied. I don’t expect to ever be well, not on the same scale as other people. I will find something tolerable for me. I have not yet found that. Still resting. Still searching.

Timeline

Last week’s homework for therapy was to create a timeline of my entire life including anything major, stressful, traumatic, or highly memorable.

Umm yeah this was not fun. I went back through forty years, year by year and filled in the events. It left me feeling drained. And sad. So much pain there.

We started going through the events together, and my counselor asks questions or for more details about certain events. So far we made it to age 5. I was already tired going into the session. This format is particularly troubling. I feel like I can’t hide anything. Like every secret is coming, and that timeline is the roadmap of doom.

We spent some time discussing the molestation by my brother when I was 5, he was 12. Counselors have never focused much on this, because of my dad’s abuse taking center stage. But it seems I have considerable amounts of shame and guilt surrounding what happened with my brother. I think I have not been able to shift blame onto him like I did for my dad, so I still feel responsible or accountable. We were both kids, more equals than with dad. It is not simple. I want to forgive us both. But I don’t. It makes me feel like a bad person.

So yay, we uncovered the next topic for cpt retelling exposure. I am not sure if I should post that story once I write it. I feel much more protective of my brother than my dad. Or is it my own shame that makes this feel wrong? Have to think about it. 

Memory Gaps, What is my brain hiding from me?

I am fully aware that many parts of my life are unknown to me. This is an odd feeling to say the least. Knowing what happened in my other memories, I am sure my brain has done me a great favor in keeping some things hidden.

How do I know I have gaps? Well some are obvious, they are so strange. I can’t picture my mom’s apartment where I lived for 2 years, from ages 16-17. I can picture the parking lot outside, I recall walking from the apartment to the pizza place where I worked, I recall the courtyard outside, I know the building had a front and back door, but it completely blanks out when I try to think of the inside of that apartment. Where did I sleep? No idea. I lived there with mom, my brother and his girlfriend. At one point my brother with schizophrenia moved in with his girlfriend too. In a 2 bedroom apartment. Where did we all sleep? I have no idea. Couch, floor, sleeping bags…I just don’t know. Hubby says he often came over while we were dating and cooked for us, watched tv with me there on the couch. Can’t recall any of that. Complete blackout for the inside of that apartment.

Other gaps I find out from looking at photos of myself. I see me at some place I have no memory of going to. Some look like vacations. I guess I blocked out entire week long trips from the looks of the photos.

Some gaps are from family gatherings, people reminiscing and I can’t recall the event they all swear I was there too.

Some gaps are for hours. Some are for locations. Some span entire weeks, possibly months.

So what happened? Did a terrible trauma happen during each of those memory gaps? Not necessarily. Unlike PTSD of a single traumatic event, complex PTSD can include going in and out of a disociative state, blocking encoding of memories, multiple triggers of fight or flight over the years, inbalances in the nervous system and stress chemicals….so many factors can lead up to memories not being stored correctly. They may or may not be repressed, they may not have been stored at all.

http://www.human-memory.net/disorders_traumatic.html

https://jessicapsychology.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/dissociative-amnesia-ptsd/

So other than the very odd feeling that your brain is keeping secrets from you, that you may have a twin or live in an alternate reality. Usually you see an old photo, get the memory jog and think “oh wow! I remember that! I have not thought of that in years!” Not “Hmm, I don’t remember going to Washington D.C in Middle School…Who else is there..How strange..I thought I went for the first time with Hubby in college…But that’s my perm so it must have been 6th grade, it looks like spring, tulips are blooming, maybe spring break?…I have no idea”

I have so many photos like that where I start playing detective, looking for clues, hoping the right clue will jog my memory, wake it up, have it all make sense. Then I would usually start asking people. But even sadder, is I belonged to AF. My mom and brothers had no idea where he took me, even before the divorce he took me on trips alone, not the whole family. Because that isn’t weird or a red flag or anything. I recall some of the trips, and apparently some I don’t. Who knows why. I don’t like it, but I have made some sort of peace that this is the state of my brain, just another bit of brokenness I must deal with.

I have many theme songs but this one makes me smile, helps me deal with this. Do you suffer from long term memory loss? I don’t remember. (you may need to look away during some of the strobe lights, I did) And as a side note, Chumbawamba was a funny favorite of mine in college, danced to it in the clubs, still makes me happy to hear it even though those days and friends are long gone.

CPT Trauma Impact Statement:Why I think this trauma occurred

My homework this week is to write a more in depth impact statement. I did this already when I started CPT many months ago, but since it was a group, we were asked to be vague and not include any details of the trauma itself. Also, since I have endured multiple traumatic events over many years of my life, I am to focus on the sexual abuse for this portion. Here is the writing prompt:

Please write at least one page on why you think the traumatic event occurred. You are not being asked to write specifics about the traumatic event. write about what you have been thinking about the cause of the event. Also, consider the effects this traumatic event has had on your beliefs about yourself, others, and the the world in the following areas: safety, trust, power/control, esteem, and intimacy.

So let’s start with the cause. What caused AF to sexually abuse me? Seriously, what a question. Simple answer is he was as close to evil as a human can get. He was sick, a true pedophile, with narcissistic and psychopathic tendencies. My abuse started at birth, at day one he chose to own and control me to serve his personal needs. Why? It is actually very complicated. I like this site to explain the roots of pedophilia by Sam Vaknin, it sounds very much like the man(?) that raised me. I’ll add some excerpts below.

  • Contrary to media-propagated myths, most of them had not been sexually abused in childhood and the vast majority of pedophiles are also drawn to adults of the opposite sex. (I have no idea if AF was abused as a child. I do know he used the services of adult female prostitutes.)
  • Pedophiles seem to have narcissistic and antisocial (psychopathic) traits. They lack empathy for their victims and express no remorse for their actions. They are in denial and, being pathological confabulators, they rationalize their transgressions, claiming that the children were merely being educated for their own good and, anyhow, derived great pleasure from it. (I still hear his voice whispering, I know you like this…ugh, vomit)

 

  • Coupled with his lack of empathy, this recurrent inability to truly comprehend others cause the pedophile to objectify the targets of his lasciviousness. Pedophilia is, in essence, auto-erotic. The pedophile uses children’s bodies to masturbate with.

 

  • Illicit sex becomes the outlet for his urgent need to live dangerously and recklessly. (incest and prostitutes)
  • The pedophile is aware of society’s view of his actions as vile, corrupt, forbidden, evil, and decadent (especially if the pedophiliac act involves incest). He derives pleasure from the sleazy nature of his pursuits because it tends to sustain his view of himself as “bad”, “a failure”, “deserving of punishment”, and “guilty”.

 

  • In extreme (mercifully uncommon) cases, the pedophile projects these torturous feelings and self-perceptions onto his victims. The children defiled and abused by his sexual attentions thus become “rotten”, “bad objects”, guilty and punishable.  (In my case, it was emotional sadism for me, and animal cruelty for my pets)
  • The pedophile treats “his” chosen child as an object, an extension of himself, devoid of a separate existence and denuded of distinct needs. He finds the child’s submissiveness and gullibility gratifying. He frowns on any sign of personal autonomy and regards it as a threat. By intimidating, cajoling, charming, and making false promises, the abuser isolates his prey from his family, school, peers, and from the rest of society and, thus, makes the child’s dependence on him total.
  • The pedophile is the guru at the center of a cult. Like other gurus, he demands complete obedience from his “partner”. He feels entitled to adulation and special treatment by his child-mate. He punishes the wayward and the straying lambs. He enforces discipline.
  • The child finds himself in a twilight zone. The pedophile imposes on him a shared psychosis, replete with persecutory delusions, “enemies”, mythical narratives, and apocalyptic scenarios if he is flouted. The child is rendered the joint guardian of a horrible secret.
  • The pedophile’s control is based on ambiguity, unpredictability, fuzziness, and ambient abuse. His ever-shifting whims exclusively define right versus wrong, desirable and unwanted, what is to be pursued and what to be avoided. He alone determines rights and obligations and alters them at will.
  • The typical pedophile is a micro-manager. He exerts control over the minutest details and behaviors. He punishes severely and abuses withholders of information and those who fail to conform to his wishes and goals.
  • The pedophile does not respect the boundaries and privacy of the (often reluctant and terrified) child. He ignores his or her wishes and treats children as objects or instruments of gratification. He seeks to control both situations and people compulsively.
  • The pedophile acts in a patronizing and condescending manner and criticizes often. He alternates between emphasizing the minutest faults (devalues) and exaggerating the looks, talents, traits, and skills (idealizes) of the child. He is wildly unrealistic in his expectations which legitimizes his subsequent abusive conduct.
  • Narcissistic pedophiles claim to be infallible, superior, talented, skillful, omnipotent, and omniscient. They often lie and confabulate to support these unfounded claims and to justify their actions. Most pedophiles suffer from cognitive deficits and reinterpret reality to fit their fantasies. (AF was actually intelligent, definitely above average, however his claims would have him be Einstein working as a technician, he was always just about to change the world, he could if he wanted to…)
  • The pedophile believes that he is in love with (or simply loves) the child. Sex is merely one way to communicate his affection and caring. (He told me this often, that he was the ONLY one that truly loved me)

 

  • The pedophile intrudes on the victim’s privacy, disrespects the child’s express wishes and personal boundaries and ignores his or her emotions, needs, and preferences. To the pedophile, “love” means enmeshment and clinging coupled with an overpowering separation anxiety (fear of being abandoned).
  • Consequently, pedophiles react badly to any perceived rejection by their victims. They turn on a dime and become dangerously vindictive, out to destroy the source of their mounting frustration. When the “relationship” looks hopeless, some pedophiles violently embark on a spree of self-destruction. (Not self destruction, he was out to destroy me until the day he died, my rejection of him was too much)

I am guessing the purpose of this exercise is to see if I think I am the cause of the sexual abuse. I don’t think that, unless simply by existing, by being born into the hands of a pedophile. I believe he had a target or targets before me and that he had some after me. I did not cause any of that. His emotional instability, his sickness, his need for control and illicit sex as described above, caused the abuse. Do I have some guilt for not screaming, not running away, for believing him, for loving him, for trusting him, for allowing him? Yes I do. But that didn’t cause the abuse. He started grooming me to be sexually abused, started isolating me before I had a chance to make any choice. Even when I was older, none of it was my fault. I managed the situation the best way I could at any given moment, always fearful of his punishments and what might happen. So let’s talk about the effects, as they are extensive and life altering, and I fear I may never recover completely from the emotional trauma during my developmental years.

Safety: I often feel unsafe even when I know intellectually that I am in fact safe. I battle anxiety daily. I feel safest when alone. I am often on edge and vigilant. I do not often take risks, am highly protective of my kids and judge others harshly that do not protect kids (allowing their kids to ride ATVs, watch adult movies, wear skimpy clothes, have social media accounts…) I struggle to do anything outside of my comfort zone, plagued by panic or flashbacks, or what seems like rational fears of ‘that could be too dangerous’. I am physically weak, from a spinal injury, which adds to my feeling of inadequacy, not being able to run away or protect myself. I often feel powerless and helpless each day, waiting for others to help me.

Trust: I do not trust people much at all, and what I do give them can be yanked away at any sign of trouble. I keep everyone at arms length, a protective wall. I have learned to trust some people with some things. Most of my trust is actually sadly negative. I trust people to lie to me and they all do. Some of this is supposed to be socially acceptable and I struggle to accept it. I am always vigilant for scams, stalkers, other potential abusers. If someone is kind to me I first ask why. I trust professional relationships more, like doctors and therapists, though not all of them pass the intelligence and integrity test. I have basically no trust within personal relationships, and basically have never had any other than my marriage. I could never share my horrible secrets with my friends as a kid, and when the secrets came out, all my friends abandoned me. I think on some level I am terrified to be tricked again, to care for another psychopath, even though I know that is not very likely.

Power/Control: This is huge for me. I hate surprises. I NEED control. I need lists, to think ahead, to plan, to be on top of every detail. I used to excel at this, never forgetting anything, obsessively checking my lists and calendars. Oddly the migraines ended my ability to do this and may have done me a favor, allowing me to let go a little. I am only comfortable in relationships or events where I am in control or in charge. I enjoy teaching or public speaking, but not random social mingling. Feeling powerless so often, I try to regain it by being in command. I am good at it. I like order. I like labeling and alphabetizing and color coding and sorting. I married a chaos maker, a piler, a throw it anywhere, don’t clean it up guy. That was hard enough but then being a Mom has overwhelmed me, losing control of my house, losing order, has been difficult. The kids are finally old enough to help out and it is feeling better, less like drowning. I am 100% comfortable with my kids because I am in charge of them, I understand the relationship. I fear how this will change as they get older and I lose that, they will become like everyone else, in that fuzzy area that confuses and troubles me, where control is shared. My marriage is a struggle full of control issues. Many other situations I simply avoid if I can’t control them.

Esteem: I lack esteem. Period. I lack a sense of self. I grew up as property, enmeshed with AF’s needs and feelings, never allowed to have my own. I still struggle to have my own now. I was still in overachiever mode up to the day AF died. And then it slowly faded away, my purpose and drive was gone. I am empty inside. I feel horribly broken and damaged, like I can work my entire life to rewire a few neurons and never gain an ounce of normalcy. The isolation, humiliation, unrealistic demands, put on me by AF were total and prevented me from forming a sense of self or attachment. I was him and did everything as and for him. I don’t feel I exist, and if I do, I am bad, disgusting, rotten and worthless. I try to stop the negative thoughts and voices I hear and recognize the triggers, but there are too many.

Intimacy: You can’t have intimacy without safety and trust, without giving up some control, without feeling you are worth it. I am working on this with my husband, my sister in law, and on some level even my mother in law. That’s it, no one else even makes the list. If anyone reaches out to me in kindness, I cry. I don’t feel worthy, and I suspect them of foul play. Close feelings always bring feelings of betrayal with them, the fear is overwhelming, and I push everyone away. I isolate myself, both out of fear and punishment. People generally do not react well to my inner thoughts and feelings, so I have learned to hide them, to put on a fake smile. I have online anonymous relationships with more intimacy than in real life at times. There can be days sometimes weeks when I can’t be touched, not a hug or even brushing past me in the kitchen, hardly can look at other people, the distress is so high. This includes my husband – the isolation will be complete at those times, I let no one in. I am starting to recognize the triggers to emotional flashbacks that starts this isolation, but I still struggle to pull myself out of it.

 

Next stage of therapy

I want to run again. I want to quit and hide. The urge is so unbelievably strong. I did quit something, couples counseling. I decided I needed to focus on my individual counseling for a while, and I was never totally happy with that counselor, probably mostly because he was a he, but I think his style made it impossible for me to trust and connect wirh him.

 Why do I want to run and hide? Because my counselor wants to know what happened to me, what AF and my brother did to a little girl. She wants me to start writing and saying out loud my most horrific memories in high def detail. I have been to about 20 different counselors in my life. None have asked for this. We discuss events vaguely, generally. We would lump 16 years of sexual and emotional abuse together into non-specific phrases like “he touched me inappropriately” and “I would wake up with him in my bed”. Never have I gone into detail of who did what, what we were wearing, what else happened that day, what my blanket looked like, what he said to me, etc. 

My counselor is giving me the choice of moving forward with cpt (cognitive processing therapy) or pe (prolonged exposure). We discussed and I read about both and I am choosing cpt. I am already familiar and comfortable with the framework. And pe sounds like hell-repeating what happened to me over and over, recording myself telling an account then listening to my recording. I understand the point of desensitization, but I believe discussing it once will be enough for me. I have so many events, thousands of traumas to choose from to retell, I think I need to start with the ones that form flashback images often. 

I feel safe with my counselor. I am not afraid of my memories themselves, but reliving the content is distressing. So it is time to try this, because counselor says it will help, and because I have never tried this.

This first step is to write my memories down. I know which one I want to start with. I have decided to post it here once I write it. My memories are fuzzy but I will do my best to write a detailed account. I thought if I shared it here first it would give me confidence to read it to my counselor, maybe, without passing out.

So why retell a traumatic event? Shouldn’t we just let it stay in the past? Isn’t better as a fuzzy memory without clear details? Won’t writing and telling it make the memory stronger, reinforce it, make the flashbacks worse?

Counselor says no. She says by recounting what happened through cpt, I can process the event, add meaning, address unbalanced thoughts, add adult perspective and emotional capacity that I did not have as a child. I should be able to make these events less powerful, less overwhelming, by feeling the emotions now that a little girl simply could not. Hmmm. Not sure I buy that, seems hokey, but like I said, I will try it because I am curious. And because so far this counselor has been right. So what if it seems hokey if it works. I would try about anything to get my life, my brain, back from this cptsd hell.