Tag Archive | complex ptsd

Reasonable Expectations from your Partner

Before I start this topic, a quick update may be in order for anyone that has noticed my absence. Feel free to skip this part if you only want the subject matter I planned to write about. I am fine. Relatively. I graduated my trauma recovery program, err, rather, we mutually decided to end it due to several factors. I was working on exposure therapy and we went through several key events, but I could never work through them all, there is simply too many, thousands, 10 thousands actually for my entire childhood. We decided to end before the holidays to reduce my stress at that time so I could enjoy it more with my family. We decided not to continue in the new year to reduce my medical bills that I already cannot pay and need to dodge bill collectors calling me. My credit rating is tanking.

We decided to end it to give me a break. That is also why I was not blogging. I needed some time to stop thinking about my traumas and let some of the open wounds heal.

I was not completely unsupported in this time. I have still been using 7cups.com and amazingly enough, I have found an online friend that I chat with daily that understands my history and is both strong enough and empathic enough to listen to me. I am truly grateful.

Today I want to talk about some reasonable expectations from your partner if you have been abused. I have found some other sites that seem to expect more than I have from mine. This one was great https://sworddancewarrior.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/primer-for-partners-of-sexual-abuse-survivors/

I read through that one together with hubby, explaining the parts that didn’t quite fit with me and what really did. What I loved about this was the idea of the safety list. I’ve included an excerpt below.

“6) How do we have the best sex possible with my survivor partner?

Make a written ‘safe sex’ list and stick to it. In this context safe means ‘no or low abuse triggers’.  The survivor can make a list of things that are sure fire abuse triggers and things you can do that have no abuse gunk attached to them. These will be unique to each survivor. Group the list by level of safety. Green light items are things that never trigger flashbacks. Red light things will pretty much always trigger flashbacks. Yellow light things might be possible from time to time but the survivor should initiate them.

If there is a sexual act or practice on the red light list that you really really like, give up all hope of ever doing this thing with your survivor partner. She or he might give in and do it, but it will do serious harm to your relationship if she does, and will set you back a lot.”

I extended this idea to all triggers, not just the sexual ones. I created a red light list of things that will always trigger me, make feel unsafe, cause a flashback, cause me to dissociate, or large amount of panic. This list is not really that long and is incredibly specific. I explained each item to hubby even though it was traumatic for me to do so. Most of them he knew already, somewhat, but we had never categorized and gone into this level of detail before. Some things I even modeled or demonstrated for him to be extra clear even though I thought my heart might explode as I pretended to be my abuser.

So why, please tell me why, hubby still does things on the red list? Here is what he says. “Oh, I forgot”
“I thought it was okay like this”
“I wasn’t thinking about that”
“You seemed fine”

I don’t think all rules are meant to be broken. Some are funny when they are.

dock-408099_1920

Okay. He is human. He is bound to make a mistake or forget. Yes? or NO? I’m not sure. I mean there are other red list behavior items in his life if he thinks about it.  I’m not the only one that has created rules for him. He doesn’t break many rules. He doesn’t walk around naked. He doesn’t swear at his boss. He doesn’t bring home every puppy he sees. He does have a memory and impulse control. So why can’t he remember these few things that are important to me and my recovery? I have explained that once triggered, it can take me hours, sometimes days to get over it. I have explained all of the triggers and my feelings multiple times over the years.

And yet this morning he does it again before he leaves for work. Leaving me here alone to deal with it. Yes I told him. And he said he was sorry, and acted all confused. I don’t understand his confusion. I don’t know what to do.

Am I being unreasonable in my expectation? Is he correct that he shouldn’t have to remember? Or should it be on him now to periodically review the list we wrote out together to make sure he is being supportive and not adding more trauma to me?

I understand it is my responsibility to heal. I have been working very hard in therapy and completing worksheets and excruciating homework. I understand he is not responsible for my reactions or what happened to me. But I feel like if he told me “I don’t like when you do this” even if no trauma were associated with it, I would never do “this” again.

So I’m here again, where I need to try to understand. To forgive him. To rebuild trust. To feel safe in my world.

 

 

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Do you hear what I hear?

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Hearing voices. Auditory hallucinations. That means I am crazy, right? That I have finally lost it, gone over to the land of no return, no more reality for me?

That’s what I thought the first time it happened. I was terrified. I was scared to tell anyone. I wasn’t sure what really happened. Maybe it didn’t really happen. Maybe I was just thinking something, I didn’t really hear something.

But then it happened again. And again. And umm okay I thought about telling my husband and psychiatrist. This was about 15 years, before I was diagnosed with PTSD. With my brother’s history of schizophrenia, we were all sure that I was starting some psychosis. I was put on anti-psychotics. The meds did not make the voices stop, they made me sick, anxious, and caused visual hallucinations. The doctor said that was impossible and was simply my psychosis advancing. I was given more meds to try. I played along for a while, until some combination of the meds and my situation made me give in to suicidal urges. My suicidal ideation became a concrete plan and I made the first of several attempts that year. The only times I have ever attempted suicide I have been heavily medicated. Otherwise, I only have this ideation, this distant aching thought that I wish to be nonexistent, which is VERY different from looking up lethal dosages.

Anyway, back on topic, I realized I have not talked here about AH – Auditory Hallucinations and that they can be part of PTSD. I wanted to share my experience and some of the research I found. Here are some links to read more about AH with PTSD.

http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/hearing-voices.html

“In the past, when someone uttered the phrase ‘I hear voices in my head’ the immediate assumption was that they had a mental illness such as schizophrenia or psychosis. These days however, we are more attuned to the nature of auditory hallucinations and understand that it is a complex subject that has many different causes. There is also far more support and understanding for those who experience voices, hopefully showing that they are not alone.

The experience of hearing voices differs from person to person. Some people hear the sound through their ears, just as if someone is speaking. Others hear the voice from inside their head. There may be one voice or several. The voices can be encouraging and supportive or malevolent and intimidating. You may recognise the voice as someone in your life – or it may be an entirely new voice.

Some people believe they can hear other people’s thoughts, while others may feel threatened by their voices. In some cases, the voices try to tell people what to do which can be incredibly frightening for the listener.

The important thing to remember is that admitting that you hear voices in your head is not an admission of insanity – it is an important starting point to help you regain control.”

http://blogs.plos.org/mindthebrain/2013/04/24/hearing-voices-ptsd-and-auditory-hallucinations/

Among combat veterans with PTSD, 30-40% report auditory hallucinations (AH). AH are more frequent in combat veterans with chronic PTSD and it has been suggested that this may reflect a distinct subtype of PTSD that may be under recognized for two reasons: first, patients are reluctant to report AH and, second, more emphasis has, traditionally, been placed on the intrusive images associated with PTSD and less on intrusive auditory hallucinations.

It is important to recognize that such patients do not have the overt changes in affect or bizarre delusions characteristic of other psychoses e.g. schizophrenia.  AH in PTSD appears to be seen more in veterans with higher combat exposure and more intense PTSD symptoms and who report more severe symptoms of hyperarousal. The AH are typically: ego-dystonic; contribute to an increases sense of isolation and shame; associated with feelings of lack of controllability; consist of combat-related themes and guilt; non bizarre; not associated with thought disorders and, overall, more refractory to treatment interventions.

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/842449_2

“Auditory hallucinations are present in several nonpsychotic disorders, as well as a proportion of the ‘normal’ population.[23] Auditory hallucinations in PTSD may be chance occurrences, which are perceived as threatening, secondary to the heightened arousal state of PTSD. Misdiagnosis is likely to persist without a longitudinal approach and understanding of the underlying biological basis for the illness and its later course, as the clinical presentation is difficult to differentiate on a cross-sectional basis. Symptoms such as hallucinations have been shown to be clinically indistinguishable in adolescents with PTSD or a psychotic disorder.[24]”

http://www.med.upenn.edu/ctsa/ptsd_symptoms.html

“Rare cases of PTSD may involve auditory hallucinations and paranoid ideation. Individuals who experience auditory hallucinations may experience tinnitus, a constant ringing in one’s ears, or they may hear a voice or set of voices that are not physically present. Individuals who are experiencing paranoid ideation are highly guarded and constantly suspicious of being harmed and harassed by those around them. When the trauma involves violent death, symptoms of both complicated grief and PTSD may be present.”

As for my own experiences, mainly I have a deep man’s voice that I hear. It is loud and startling. I usually hear it to my left, causing me to turn my head and look for the person who might have said something, but of course no one is there. It is so loud that I am startled, often I jump or gasp in reaction. The voice says horrible things to me. I don’t think the voice is my father’s voice, it sounds much deeper and raspier to me-like a demon radio announcer. It does however say things to me similar to what my father would have said – similar – but not exactly. So this voice is not exactly a flashback. I do have those too, reliving experiences, and this is different. This voice I hear I don’t leave reality, I am still in the current time, there is no visual component either. I will doing ANYTHING and this voice can intrude.

Like yesterday I was walking down the hallway and noticed my dog sleeping sweetly in my son’s room. I felt warm and smiled as I walked by on my way to the bathroom. Then I heard this deep voice, booming, almost like through a PA announcing “She is going to die”. Instantly I am filled with sadness and fear for my dog, dreading her death. She is in good health. No one is going to hurt her. I know this. So is this voice a remnant of my father hurting my past pets? I don’t think he ever actually said those exact words to me. I generated that, not remembered that.

Other times I will be talking to Hubby, about nothing in particular, and I will hear the voice say “You are a fool, stupid slut, no one loves you” or “He hates you, its a trick” or “why do you keep trying?”

Again, these voices I hear are similar to messages I received as a child, but not exact memories. So I think it is related to PTSD. Is it psychosis? Well…I do hear voices from nonexistent people. Is it a form of schizo-blahblah whatever disorder? No one knows. But it seems related.

All I know, is it sucks big time. It is getting more difficult to manage, not easier. Meds do not help, and I have tried them all. This is seriously debilitating, and makes it impossible to have relationships and be around people since I am in constant battle with the voices in my head. It is exhausting to keep saying “shut up, they do love me, I am worth it, I am safe, no one is tricking me here, go away”. I used to shut off the voices instantly – like talk to the hand. But this new therapy program wanted me to listen to them, to sit with the feelings, to explore the thoughts. Okay, great, so I have done that, and now I hear them more than ever and feel everything the voices want me to feel. Is this supposed to be better? I am not sure how long this stage is supposed to last. No one has an answer for me on this. I am supposed to keep using my cpt tools and working through it without losing my mind completely, which I actually do fear will happen one day. The mental exhaustion of sorting through all of this is too much sometimes. That’s when I choose to zone out and mindlessly watch TV for hours on end.

So I have been paying more attention and I think I hear other sounds too, not just the voice – like squeals, cries, wind, footsteps, scrapes, other creepy there might be someone in your house horror movie kind of sounds. That might be the hypervigilance producing something for me, since I am always on guard, once in a while it gives me something to hear. Research thinks these sounds and AH are related to dissociating and flashbacks somehow but the mechanisms are not entirely understood in our amazingly complex brains. I think I used to listen so carefully for signs of danger, and now I generate sounds of danger similar to memories.

I am resisting a slew of snarky comments, about how fun this condition is for me. You get it. But I am curious if anyone else hears stuff too. Don’t worry, you can tell me, I won’t tell anyone, and I won’t think you are crazy, or at least not any crazier than I am. I would like to know how anyone copes, manages, handles it, other than simply waiting for it to go away.

PTSD: The animal within

The reptilian brain exists within all of us, not only in those with past trauma. Trauma seems to keep this area of the brain alert, extra sensitive, unable to rest. The image below explains many areas of the brain, including the reptilian inner brain.

brain

(image from http://www.traumarecoveryinternational.com/the-reptilian-brain—where-ptd-lives.html)

The brain is divided into 3 main areas, reptilian, limbic, and neocortex. The chart below is from http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_05/d_05_cr/d_05_cr_her/d_05_cr_her.html

The reptilian brain, the oldest of the three, controls the body’s vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. Our reptilian brain includes the main structures found in a reptile’s brain: the brainstem and the cerebellum. The reptilian brain is reliable but tends to be somewhat rigid and compulsive. The limbic brain emerged in the first mammals. It can record memories of behaviours that produced agreeable and disagreeable experiences, so it is responsible for what are called emotions in human beings. The main structures of the limbic brain are the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus. The limbic brain is the seat of the value judgments that we make, often unconsciously, that exert such a strong influence on our behaviour. The neocortex first assumed importance in primates and culminated in the human brain with its two large cerebral hemispheres that play such a dominant role. These hemispheres have been responsible for the development of human language, abstract thought, imagination, and consciousness. The neocortex is flexible and has almost infinitelearning abilities. The neocortex is also what has enabled humancultures to develop.

The reason I was thinking about the parts of the brain, and the reptilian part specifically, is because I wanted to understand more about what happens to me during my response to hide (or freeze), when the flight part of fight or flight is activated. This is a powerful feeling, stronger than butterflies in your stomach or stage fright or social anxiety. I was talking to hubby, and he said something that after all these years with me I could not believe he still misunderstood, and so I need to clear this up here as well.

PTSD – and the actions within flight or fight – are not my choice. I do not choose to run away. I have to run away. No thought has happened. I have run before I know I have run.

Before the running, when anxiety and fear is lower, when the danger seems manageable, yes, I can choose whether to attend an event or not. But once certain triggers are activated, it is an automatic process, my brain has decided for me that the situation is far too dangerous and tells me to hide – NOW. It does this by turning off the neocortex, and possibly even turning off the limbic brain too to get me moving. It’s why you don’t cry until later, gets in the way of fighting or running.

So why do we have this part of our brain that allows us to act without thinking? Well to save our lives. If we had to debate whether an oncoming car was moving fast enough to kill us, or if that intruder has a gun, or if that bear saw us, well we would already be dead. We need our automatic reactions to pump the adrenaline, to get our heart and muscles going, to move us out of harms way without standing there thinking about it.

I also suffer from the freeze response. When fight or flight does not seem a good option, our reptilian brain freezes us. It is like playing dead while wishing you were dead. Many child abuse victims know this response, they could not fight back or get away, so instead they experience system shut down. I did this so many times as a child. I still do now for certain triggers. For years I would lay there frozen, unable to speak, while hubby had his hands on me, thinking I am enjoying his touches. He was devastated and even angry when I finally told him. He still doesn’t understand that being frozen was NOT my CHOICE. That inside my head I am screaming and crying, but outwardly unable to do or show any thing.

Sometimes when I retreat to my room, I am not being rude, I am not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, I am not choosing to ignore people, my brain thought I was in danger and believe me, there is no arguing with your reptilian brain because it nicely shuts off your thinking portions for a while, as part of the safety feature. Once the adrenaline slows and my brain can send out the ‘all clear’ call, then I can start to reason through what happened and make choices about coming out of hiding or not.

I am learning the early alert signals, when fear and anxiety are rising, I can try and breathe and ground to keep the reptilian brain from taking over. Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t. Although I know more about it now, I am also more sensitive now, like I have mental trip wires everywhere that I don’t even about – a side effect of my current ongoing therapy stirring up symptoms.

I made a connection one evening to this idea of the animal brain. Before a storm, my dog started pacing and looking anxious, coming to me for support for her fear. I know not to comfort her with affection, but that she needs a strong, calm leader in those moments. Someone to show her that she will be safe with me. I don’t pet her or talk to her. I walk around with her, distract her, get her to lay quietly, massage her, call her out if she tries to hide. I don’t let her fear overtake her. I realized I was grounding her and not letting her reptilian brain take over. It really made me start thinking.

Because when I am afraid, I act just like a frightened animal, and also like her I am unable to communicate exactly what is wrong. I also need a strong, calm leader. I look to those around me to provide safety and comfort, and not finding that, I need to be my own leader. I tried explaining this to hubby. That he instinctively knows a bit more about frightened animals than how to treat me. Would you yell at the dog? Would you let her hide, scared, shaking and alone, for hours or days? Would you tell the dog how frustrated you are that she won’t let you hug her when she is frightened? Would you blame the dog or would you comfort and gently try to help her overcome the fears?

I know it must be difficult for hubby, I truly do. That my brain is afraid of him, that he keeps triggering me. But when he leaves me alone after the flight or freeze, it does nothing to disprove those triggers in my brain and instead reinforces those pathways that he cannot be trusted. I keep asking him to let me go for a bit, let me cool down, 20 minutes is usually enough for the nervous system to restore itself. Then come check on me and be strong. Don’t ask me a question – I will say no. Bring me coffee or ice cream, don’t ask if I want any, just bring it to me. (like luring the dog out from under the bed with a treat, right?) Tell me to get a shower or take a walk – don’t ask me. Tell me to ride with you to the duck pond or the grocery store. Make up any reason to draw me out of my hiding place. If you are strong I will listen because I want a leader, someone strong to take care of me. Show me you are not the enemy.

Because in reality – that is all I have ever wanted. someone to properly care for me, to nurture, to understand, to lead with strength, to show me the way when I am scared. I have done this my entire life, when I should not have done this for myself. So maybe I am asking too much of a husband. Maybe it isn’t his job. But maybe he needs to do it anyway, just for a while, just to get me through this. But I know he can’t because he doesn’t. It is what I want, but will never get from him. I try not to be disappointed because I don’t think that is entirely fair to him.

So I will continue to go it alone, relying only on myself to lead the way in these dark moments, and hope that one day the moments will slow down and the triggers will not be daily. No one is saying to hope for triggers to go away completely, only to be less than they are now, easier to manage.

I am getting tired of shaking, hiding and licking my wounds and would like to use all of my brain again. We weren’t meant to function on reptilian brain alone.

Too many words

When it takes me too long in between posts, it is not for a lack of words, rather I have too many.

My brain is as busy as a big city highway, thoughts rushing about, crashing into each other. Therapy has stirred up nightmares and flashbacks at an alarming rate. That, along with otherwise not sleeping has increased migraine frequency again.

My daughter is okay. I hate that she has scoliosis and that my genes gave it to her. It is worse than I thought it was, her s curve and rotation already raising her one shoulder and hip out of level, twisting her ribs so one side of her back appears rounder than the other. But only if you look closely and know what to look for. Dr recommended she start doing yoga to stretch and strengthen her core to combat the sore muscles she already has. Then we go back in a few months for new xrays, and hope the curve has not progressed much. Thats all we can do.

I managed the day of her checkup though I had several flashbacks. It could have been better, could have been worse. We went in through the garage, not the front door where AF used to drop me off. We stopped at the cafe for slow paced breakfast. Upstairs was heavily remodeled since I had last been there. That was good. I did feel triggered looking down the hallway where I spent countless painful hours of physical therapy with no gain. I did feel triggered in the large waiting room, recalling times waiting there by myself, times when both parents came and were so busy fighting I had wished I was alone. I knew the view out that huge window well, as it took me out of the waiting room to watch people walking down below.

It was actually comforting to meet Dr junior. I had forgotten how much I liked and trusted his dad as a child. Junior has the same amazing warmth and accent. The look on his face was entirely priceless when he asked who performed my surgery as a child, and I said it was dear old dad. I decided not to tell him it didn’t go so well, as I don’t fault the surgeon for that. 

I did feel sick to see my girl’s body distorted by this horrible disease. No one really knows a cause yet. 30 years later and we can’t prevent it from permanently deforming us, slowly twisting and winding us up as we grow.

So that would have been enough for my nerves. But no, that’s never how it works. My FIL was also at that hospital that day, having surgery. So we walked through the maze of buildings to visit with MIL and deliver the cards my kids had made. I was losing touch the longer I walked. I kept seeing my girl, who looks so much like me, and lost my bearings, struggled to stay grounded more and more.

We sat with MIL far too long. I asked hubby a few times if we could leave. We had been there several hours now, approaching lunch time, and girly was stressed and hungry. The surgical waiting room was not a good place for her. 

One woman was describing how her husband was missing his ears and chunks of his cheeks due to skin cancer. I wanted to comfort her but I had nothing in me to offer her. I wanted to run away.

Finally we left and started the long walk back to the garage. But this time the hallways looked different. Swirly. I could barely read the directions on the signs and kept getting lost. I easily lead us all there but was now confused. Hubby reached out and grabbed my shoulders. I screamed “Don’t touch me!” And looked for an escape. A few nurses and doctors asked if I needed help. I wasn’t sure…I kept looking around, waiting for something to make sense, waiting for hubby to take the lead, but he never did. My flashback had overtaken me. I was disoriented and scared. My only thought was avoid evryone and get to the car as quickly as possible. But I didn’t know how. I was trapped in one of my nightmares, hallways kept getting longer, people were no longer speaking english, I was struggling to walk, holding onto walls for balance, struggling to breathe but doing it anyway.

I just kept walking. Hubby and girly followed me. At hallway intersections we looked sad and confused and nurses pointed the way. Finally we could see our garage. I knew I could make it now, the fear lessened and switched to exhaustion. The final steps to the car took all my energy. Made it. Sat down. Breathing can resume.

I don’t recall leaving the garage or entering the highway. At some point I ‘woke up’ and remembered the suggestion to go somewhere fun. We needed lunch so I asked girly if she wanted to go to the mall. Sure!

We ate lunch and headed for her favorite store to search for a black dress for choir. I was still exhausted, struggling to stay grounded, but this seemed important. As we entered the store, hubby disappeared. He often does this, wanders off to look at something. So I waited. He was taking forever, so I checked my phone…dead. crap. Looked around and still did not see him so we kept shopping, but were forced to stay in that one store. She tried on a few things, no luck on a dress. Finally I spotted hubby sitting by the fountain outside the store. What? How long has he been there? I tell him I had no idea where he went. I tell him I don’t know if we should buy anything. He gets all defensive saying he thought we were better off without him and he didn’t know where we went and hows he supposed to know…

I was too tired for that. When I have flashbacks I have trouble making decisions, using math, deciding worth. I wanted his help but obviously was not going to get it. I told girly we would keep those things she liked in mind for another day but we should probably get going. She was fine with that.

When we got home I thought I could rest and recover. Hubby had the same idea. He fell asleep and left me to make dinner, monitor homework, manage bedtime. 

The next day he said he thought everything went perfectly. I snorted a bit, surprised by our different impressions of the day. He asked what I thought could have been better and got angry when I made suggestions, because now I was attacking him and pointing out everything he did wrong. I wasn’t even going to bring it up, he asked. I wasn’t going to bring it up because it doesn’t help. I can’t rely on him, in those moments, I am forever alone.

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.

Preparing for triggers

Tommorrow will be a day full of unavoidable triggers. And other stresses too. I am taking my daughter to the back specialist. Upon my insistence, I asked pediatrician for an xray. She has mild scoliosis.

Breathe. It is mild. It may stay mild. 

Because I want the best for her, I am taking her to the same place I went. Recently and as a child. But now we get to go to the pediatric office, the actual same place I went. Even better, better for her, worse for flashback potential, her Dr is the the son of my Dr back then. Same name, same floor. I lost it a few months ago when I had to go to the same building for radiology. 

I have to keep myself grounded and present. My daughter may see a full blown panic attack or flashback for the first time. But I have to be there for her. It would have been better for me to choose a different dr, but not best for her.

So I can do this. Somehow I can do it. I already feel sick, a migraine. Nightmares for days have kept me from resting. I am so tired.

Then other stresses combined as usual to make this week even harder to manage. And yet I must. More later on the other stresses, too much to write now

Doing the impossible

Fear, anxiety, panic, triggers…these can make certain things seem impossible because you feel like you are dying or battling lions or jumping out of airplanes. We can’t do it because we have the stress chemicals in our bodies as if we are in a life or death situation. We can try reasoning, you will be fine, and it helps, but is not always enough to overcome how we feel. If you feel like your head is in the mouth of the lion already, you are sweating, heart racing, choking, about to scream, vomit or pass out…saying to yourself, or hearing someone else say “you are safe, you will be fine” seems like a lie. In that moment I have to trust my feelings, it is how our bodies are designed to keep us safe.

So I can wait out this response though, and try not to trigger it to level 10. If I approach something that causes this response in me very slowly, breathe through it, wait until I am calm again, I can keep moving forward.

I have successfully tackled a few items on my avoidance list using this method. I prefer to do it all in one day, but very slowly, rather than repeated exposures on multiple days as my counselor suggested. I use my ability to hyperfocus. 

There was an entire city I was avoiding. I completed an art commission there with an intimidating man. He fooled me and my name got involved with a lawsuit from another artist. I had huge amounts of guilt, shame, and overall feelings of failure. I have avoided the city to avoid seeing my art, avoid running into this man, and avoid confronting my feelings.

Last week I decided it was time to stop avoiding this. I headed to that city and got to my safe zone, about 5 miles away, and pulled over at a park. I stayed there about 20-30 minutes until I felt restless and bored instead of anxious. I drove a little closer until I felt like choking and pulled over at a Walmart. I went in and bought some cookies. I ate a few until I was calm and drove a bit closer. Next I stopped at McDonalds and got some coffee to go with my cookies. This stop took a little longer. I did some writing on my phone to distract me. I drove a little closer and stopped at a movie theater. I looked up the movies and considered seeing one, but nothing sounded interesting or worth the back pain of seats not meant for me. I drove closer and realized I was on the same street now as my art. I was feeling dizzy, so pulled over again and did some breathing exercises and texted my sis in law. I drove again and parked across and down the the street from my art. I could just see it now. I cried. I cried a lot.

I sat there for about 2 hours, looking at my art, crying, feeling hurt, angry, guilty, sad, whatever came up I allowed myself to feel it. I listened to the radio and wrote to online friends. Then another wave would hit and I cried again. Once it was dark and the place had closed, and I was sure I would not run into the owner that hired me, I drove across the street and into the drive next to it to really see my art close up. I have not been here for years. It was in bad shape. Many spots were damaged by weather and many were repaired by less skilled artists. Oddly, this made me happy. It brought me comfort that it no longer resembles my work and I can get some distance from it now.

I drove past it again yesterday with no anxiety, no hesitation, just a bit of sadness, no crying.

So I am learning how to process these huge emotions, stop avoiding so much of my life, and keep moving forward as I heal.