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Trauma is in the eye of the beholder

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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.

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It doesn’t matter – Yes it does!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

Make an “I want” List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.