Tag Archive | feelings

Learn to identify your own emotions

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Yellow shows regions of increased sensation while blue areas represent decreased feeling in these composite images. Image courtesy of Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari Hietanen. link to article below.

I’ve been searching for aids to help me identify what I’m feeling in my mind and body from moment to moment and came across this diagram from Discover Magazine – Body Atlas reveals where we feel emotions. Before I started trauma focused therapy, I was unaware we felt emotions anywhere other than in our minds. I was so tightly in control of my emotions, that I did not fully feel them, and I did not feel them in connection to my mind and body and the moment.

I was raised with a number of unbalanced beliefs about emotions, many from the trauma and abuse I endured, many a product of survival, many a product of the aftermath.

Emotions made me weak.
I’m not allowed to feel that way.
I should feel like . . .
My feelings are troublesome and need to be hidden.
Showing my true feelings could be dangerous.
I might be rejected or unloved if I am not pleasant at all times.
Negative emotions are bad.
Only bad people have bad feelings.
Everyone else’s feelings are more important than my own.
I have no need to feel anything of my own.
Crying is pointless and bothers others around you and should not be done, but definitely can never be seen.
I shouldn’t make others uncomfortable.

Then there is the issue of the pain I was consciously avoiding. I knew it was there, somewhere under the surface. I never looked directly at it. I learned to avoid falling in the hole, somehow, even though I had my eyes shut. This new counselor encouraged me to open my eyes. At first I thought she was crazy, that I was incapable, and that I would fall in the hole and get swallowed up by that pain. But what I found was that it wasn’t a hole, but a wave. I had been avoiding and holding back a wave. Once I let go, it washed over me. I felt it. I got wet. I struggled and thought maybe I couldn’t get back up for a moment, but the intensity didn’t last. Soon I could breathe again and the tears started flowing. And then they stopped too. I’m still not good at crying, it only comes out in little bursts. But each one is an amazing connection of mind and body, and I don’t judge or try to control anything, only feel what my body needs me to feel. I can’t do it everytime. My natural inclination is still to block it all. But once in a while we literally have a breakthrough and my counselor is so proud to see me express emotions, and then I laugh too, at how odd it is that she WANTS me to cry and feel this pain.

Then she helps me to identify and understand it all, and to reduce its power over me. Sometimes I think she is a magician, when she tears down a mental barrier and I can actually feel it, like a switch in my brain, something changes. A belief I had is no longer so powerful, just like that. And now all I have to do is practice it the new way of thinking and I’ll keep getting better, firing new neurons, making new pathways instead of stuck in these PTSD ones I’ve had for so long.

Sometimes I sit in front of her, unable to identify what I’m feeling because it is too intense, and too many feelings all together. She helps me by telling me what she sees in my body language and asking me what I feel.

One time, I had a worksheet that generated something that brought on feelings in me that caused me to nearly pass out. I would get a choking feeling in my throat, my heart would race, my stomach clench, a cold sweat, and then I’d get dizzy and things would go black if I didn’t ease up.

Terror.

She identified that one as terror. not fear or panic or anxiety, but terror. No wonder I had been avoiding it. It was a childhood memory that I’ve been carrying around, one of so, so many, that I couldn’t make sense of at the time, so it remained unprocessed in my mind and body. A dark shadow in the corner of my mind. A thought I don’t think. A feeling I don’t feel. One of many.

It was why I had become numb. It was why I learned to disassociate. I understand now.

Toddlers learn to identify and regulate emotions when parents teach them what they are feeling. I was taught not to cry. I was taught to shut up. I was taught to always smile no matter what – or else. I was not allowed to feel and never learned to identify or regulate basic emotions. So I get to do it now.

Forgive my tears and tantrums, forgive my outbursts and confusion, I’m an emotional toddler, learning it all brand new. I feel like an idiot, out of control, unpredictable. So far I have no lasting relief from all of this new knowledge, only extreme pain, despair, distress. Sometimes I feel like it was better being numb, but of course I couldn’t go on like that. That’s what lead to my complete breakdown. My mind and body could not do it any longer.

So here’s what I have figured out. I walk around nearly constantly with some level of fear, sadness, and shame. That’s my baseline. It’s a cold, sleepy, kind of an empty feeling that makes me want to hide and avert my eyes. It makes my mouth dry, my voice quiet, my shoulders slump, my fingers clench and feel cold, and somewhere in my chest, I guess I have a constant heartache.

Anxiety and panic is more in my chest, with my throat and breathing. I cross my arms.

Disgust makes me nauseous, my entire stomach gets tight and woozy. I get dizzy too. My lip curls.

Anger I feel in my head, my eyebrows get tight, my face gets hot. I get a racing feeling, quick thoughts. Heart is pounding hard but not fast.

I’ve been trying to feel pride, love, joy, happiness. I think I get them for a moment but it’s too fast and too faint. I know I am proud of my kids, but I don’t feel it in my body any where. When I try to – fear and shame actually kicks in and overpowers…so that’s interesting. I’ve felt the love received from Hubby and kids, a brief warmth, that again gets quickly erased. PTSD is not allowing me to feel good right now. It’s like I’m tuned into the misery channels. Counselor says give it time and the misery broadcast will fade away and allow the good ones to have a turn. Well I have to give it time…I have no other choice, this is me right now.

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Feeling mostly useless

My current state of mind and body is all new territory. I am either mentally or physically unable to do most of what I used to do just a year ago. I’m feeling mostly useless now, like I’m mostly occupying space. ( granted much less space than I used to, I’ve lost so much weight which is good)

I used to create our budget and pay our bills. Hubby does this now. I asked him to take it over out of necessity last year when the migraines hit full force, then asked him to continue to minimize my stress. Other than feeling a bit out of the loop, I don’t miss it. So lately when hubby has seemed stressed and pressed for time, I’ve offered to help out and pay bills if he wanted me too, or take that chore back from him if he preferred. Surprisingly he said no. He prefers to keep doing it himself. As much as I wanted to be helpful, I was greatly relieved by his response.

My other household tasks include washing dishes, vacuuming, sometimes making meals, helping with homework, calendar planning, driving kids to school, and general light duty tidying. The kids and hubby do all of the lifting, pushing, moving, etc.

I fill my days with TV, video games, therapy homework, chatting to online friends, exercise, and distracting myself from pain.

I used to be the person with ideas, with skills and talents, with more use than time. Now I have all of this time and I feel mostly useless.

identifying emotions

“How are you?” I want to vomit, scream or run away every time I hear that question. I’ve started responding back to Hubby with “Do you really want to know?” and glance at the clock to see if we have time to cover all of the feelings I seem to have at any given moment.

Migraine status: My migraine aura has eased up on me today so I’ll try writing again. I’m not so dizzy, but right side weakness and some squiggly spotty lines in my vision. My head feels like a normal headache now, pain that no longer registers on my scale, easily ignored. Yesterday I was so dizzy I could not read for more than few lines at a time, could not drive, and walked like I was drunk.

I walked the kids to the bus stop this morning and my neighbor asks “Are you ok?”. Instant fear! I know whenever someone asks that question instead of “how are you”, that they have seen something wrong. I screwed up, my facade is not working, alert, alert, you have been seen. My mind races and does a quick inventory – I am wearing pants, shoes, my hair is brushed, concealer on my dark eye circles..so what is it? I’ve learned that by not answering right away, people tend to fill in the blanks for me. She then points at my leg and asks “Did you hurt your leg? you’re limping.” Oh. that. The limp that I worked so hard for the past 25 years to overcome is back. The paralysis from age 12 that I worked and worked got myself walking but with a terrible limp for most of my life, but that had finally healed a bit and allowed to me to feel strong and non-freakish for the past year or so, yes, well, hemiplegic migraines brought it back. My eyes threaten to fill with tears at her question because I had grown used to NOT hearing. I looked away to hide my watery eyes and told her my sad story, and comforted HER as usual, that its ok, I’m ok, it happened when I was 12, I am used to it. She said something like “Good for you for adapting, that must have been really difficult.” She’s a cool old lady that has had a tough life herself, so I appreciated that she didn’t say the usual “Oh my god how terrible!” like most people. But I still wanted to hide and walked back towards home as quickly as my limp would allow.

Then I sit at home, safe from questions I don’t want to heart, but not safe from my thoughts. So how am I? Here are a few of the feelings I can identify right now.

  1. frustrated – I thought I made so much progress and to hear that after 13 years of individual therapy and hard work that I have zero emotional intelligence and lack core beliefs and use only maladaptive schema is beyond frustrating. How can this be?
  2. angry – I’ve always been angry. I can remember suppressing such fury as a child and teen and even as an adult. People would tell me I’m so patient and gentle and they had no idea I was picturing kicking in their stupid heads while I nodded and smiled. I am incredibly angry now, always there just under the surface. I am angry at my parents, my brothers, my husband, my friends, my doctors, my neighbors, my teachers. I am angry that my predictions seem to always come true, that hoping for the best doesn’t work, that working your ass off doesn’t work, that no one has been able to help me, that I’m always on my own and I never know what to do. I am angry that no one else sees the problems and just buys into this suburban american life full of NOTHING. I am angry at myself for getting where aI am now, for making bad choices. honestly this list is too long, I am angry at so much right now.
  3. confused – this emotional stuff, to be diagnosed with no emotional intelligence – me? I thought I was better informed than everyone else. I thought I was more in touch than everyone else. I’ve read so much, been in therapy, writing this blog. How can you tell me that everything I think I know about my own emotions is completely wrong?
  4. lost – I don’t know what to do with myself. I have no hopes or dreams, only a vague plan of surviving, of not dying before my next doctor appt in a long line of doctor appts. If I don’t keep myself distracted, my own brain and existence is unbearable. Migraines have taken away my job, and reading and writing and video games on most days. Hell they’ve taken away sitting up on many days. All I have left is tv in those moments. I mostly just listen, because the lights hurt my eyes.
  5. exhausted – I’m getting more sleep lately, but I’ve put on so much weight and barely get to move my body. Combined with mental exhaustion of figuring out how to reinvent my life. again
  6. depressed – definitely some darkness to my thoughts, creeps in when the exhaustion is too high or the distraction is not enough. this is not the same as suicidal. I am happily indifferent to life, which is apparently my comfort zone. I still think of death, but I’m not looking around the room on online for ideas on how to best end my life. Having trouble finding any joy or rewards and doubting they ever existed.
  7. hurting – physically. emotionally. existentially.
  8. struggling – to eat healthier, to think positively, to walk, to sleep, to hope, to be nice, to be a good mom
  9. betrayed – by family, friends, doctors
  10. trapped – in a life I can’t handle, in a life I don’t want, in a broken body, in a damaged brain
  11. restless – like a caged tiger, I know the limits of my cage but have not yet accepted them
  12. terrified – in general. My main feeling is fear, usually terror – that is what complex PTSD feels like. this new schema therapy will be gut wrenching work for the next 10 years and I will then find out AGAIN that everything I know is wrong and here’s a new list of 20 more things I need to repair to heal from child abuse
  13. guilty – this list is as long as anger but not as permanent, it comes and goes. I don’t feel guilty at this exact moment, but I know I will several times today.
  14. pessimistic – I can’t see a good future for myself. I have not yet chosen life. I’m too afraid to invest in that and have it yanked out from under me again
  15. ashamed – to be pessimistic and angry and trapped. to be this overweight. to be this immature at my age. to need so much help. to spend my days watching tv.
  16. disappointed – I am not as far along in my recovery and healing journey as I thought
  17. overwhelmed – its all too much. the feelings, the work I must do to heal, the work I must do to be a mom, the work to just be me and try to overcome it all, the work to figure who I am and if I want to be me, and what If I make all these changes, will I still be me?

I think there are a few more in there swirling around, but my eyes are too tired and my brain is too tired, so I will go back to the couch and the tv. So I have a good start, I’m actually in tune with my emotions and have a strong language for them. The emotional intelligence I think I am lacking is how to identify what thoughts, which schema, has triggered the emotions. Schema gets triggered and I think is actually the basis for these emotional flashbacks I get, where I’m not reliving a certain event, but a certain mix of feelings, which then has me react with a behavior based on those childhood feelings. Nothing ever worked as a child, and I was left to figure it out myself. So I am perpetually blasted with a feeling of hopelessness, fear, anger, being trapped, etc – all of those above. My next post I’ll start going through the schema with an example.

I have not started schema therapy yet – only I’ve read about it on my own. So my conclusions may be wrong at this point, but I need something to analyze, and I figured if I document it here, than I can compare and adjust later.

One strength of mine, undeniably, is my willingness to learn, to be open-minded, to be flexible, to try. I understand there is often more than one right answer, and that sometimes there is no answer at all.

What is a Poem? – Poem 25/30

Poems

are pictures painted with words,

telling a story

no one has heard

quite that way before.

 

A Poem

is a pause,

an attempt to express

effect and cause

with an intensity

that conversation can’t.

 

Poetry,

be it prose or rhyme

depicts our human experience

withstanding the test of time

as the calendar may change

but people – our emotions

remain ever the same.

This Moment – poem 24/30

This moment

right here and now

will not be repeated.

Please don’t allow

your life to be cheated

out of actually feeling

the joy

or sadness, or quiet, or wonder

as life is revealing

the truth

or tragedy, or peace, or thunder.

 

This moment

right here and now

gone – in the blink of an eye.

Please don’t allow

your life to pass by

without you.

I am (mostly) Enough, Embracing Vulnerability

A wonderful TED talk by Brene Brown on her research on shame, vulnerability, feeling worthy, and connected.

I am on my way to being whole-hearted. I am mostly enough. One day I want to actually hold up my head without doubt, without tears, and believe I am enough. Right now I am open to it, but not entirely there. Not all the time.

I have made myself vulnerable this year, by confronting my husband on our marriage troubles, by confronting my sexuality, by enforcing personal boundaries, by reaching out and making friends, by allowing myself to love, by allowing myself to fail, and by holding strong to my values and core beliefs. And by posting my most shameful thoughts here on this blog. I feel connected to my world now.

I’m done being numb. Ready to feel it all.

I am Open. (I wrote this poem back in May, and it really fits my thoughts today)

Riding the Waves of Mood Shifts and Intensities

 

The good news is that I have a center. Woohoo! I wasn’t sure I did, I seemed to wiffle waffle from mood to mood so easily and unpredictably. But that was years ago, and now, after practicing living in moment, I actually have a center. A peaceful place where I receive sensory data without judging. A place to experience life without fear, worry, or pain.

 

I have noticed that instead of mood swings, where it can seem a switch is flipped to change instantly, I now have mood shifts, where I gradually move into a feeling, and then stay stuck there for a bit. The bit varies from hours to days.

English: Angry cat

Yes I am still angry – why do you ask? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although I don’t feel as crazed or volatile this way, and especially love getting stuck in my happy, creative, productive place, it seems I can get stuck in anger, frustration, grief, confusion, and anxiety too.

 

I asked Hubby about this, and he confirmed that he is most always centered, just a flat contentedness, and life events cause quick outbursts of feelings. Like if someone makes him angry, he is angry for a few minutes – Boom, and he is already returning back to center. When I get angry, it slowly grows and hits a plateau, then it sticks with me, like I stepped in dog doo and can’t shake it off. Sucks for anger, but I also seem to get stuck in intensely positive emotions as well, like excitement, sexual arousal, and joy. Those ones feel like I am surfing a wave, and I love it.

English: 2010 Mavericks surfing competition. T...

Kowabunga dude!  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wonder again if this is how teenagers feel if allowed to develop naturally without abuse. I have seen students in stormy or joyous moods, so I think this may be true. That the intensity of the emotions make them get stuck for a bit.  Teenagers are often called impulsive and over-reactive for this trait, but I think it is a natural expression of the intensity. I think perhaps healthy young adults learn to control the intensity and get back to center sooner. Part of me hopes that I will learn this with practice too. But another part of me enjoys the intensity, of both the goods and bads, and wonders if I actually have a gift now, a freedom to fully feel what life has to offer. I’m just not sure. I’m also not sure if I’m just in touch with these feelings, and everyone actually has this capacity for intensity.

 

I tried describing this to psychiatrists in the past and got prescribed all kinds of nasty mood stabilizers (for bipolar or borderline or manic depression) that literally made me lose my mind with hallucinations and other terrible side effects. The thing is, although the feelings and mood changes are intense, nothing is extreme or manic. I still function, never lose control, and may have impulsive thoughts and fantasies of pushing people off cliffs or running away – but I have never acted on those. One of my favorite internal stress release images is straight from “The Princess Bride” where she pushes Wesley down that hill and he bounces and tumbles forever saying “Aaaas Yooooou Wiiiiiiish”. I love that so much, and have often seen my boss tumbling down a hill. See, even my evil fantasies are silly. My inner me is truly a goofball.