Tag Archive | growth

Where do we go from here

What if you can’t get there from here? What if you can’t go back, those roads are gone? What if you look ahead and see the same familiar roadblocks?

I lost hope that hubby will ever be a strong yet gentle supportive being I need. We try to be kind to each other but it is not working. The hurts run deep. Each unable to forgive and trust. Each day only hurts worse. The tension makes me sick as I try to smooth things over, do what he needs, explain again why I can’t, try to avoid him and this horrid sense of obligation and burden. I feel obligated to be affectionate. He keeps telling me how much it hurts him that I can’t. He keeps telling me how he can’t stand to hear all my negativity. He keeps saying he is confused, and frustrated.

I feel like a burden. I can’t be what he wants and it seems no matter how much I explain I cannot get him to understand ptsd and what this therapy is digging up.

I tell him I can only sleep for about 15 min at a time, then I wake up in a panic. If I am lucky those minutes are nightmare free. I am usually not lucky. No, my brain is creating new gruesome images to torture me, things that would make Dexter queasy. 

I tell him I barely manage to shower once per week.

I tell him most days I don’t eat food, only coffee or ice cream.

I tell him I have daily flashbacks transporting me to various childhood memories unexpectedly.

He knows all of this, and yet he is confused when I struggle to respond quickly when he invites me out to lunch. I say I don’t know, because it is the truth. I don’t know if my prison of a brain will let me out today. 

And he is frustrated when I dare to give him conditions for this lunch, like that place is too noisy, that one is too smelly. Yes it is frustrating for me too. No I am not being manipulative as you said to me today.

I think if you could, you would understand by now. So I think you can’t. I think you lack the empathy. I know you care about me, but it isn’t enough. You need to be nice to me too. You need to accept me as I am.

I know my behavior is odd. Ptsd is winning right now. But it isn’t like you are clueless. You know my stories. And yet you remain confused.

The sad truth is I feel much better when you aren’t near me. Without you my anxiety is not crippling or devastating. Without you I can make decisions without being badgered. Without you I feel less guilt, more valuable, less fear, more happinesss.

Things can change. Maybe they will. But you were given tools, ABC sheets and homework from the counselor. You never did them. I can’t ask you to change, I can only work on myself. But one day I will be back on my feet, a completely changed woman. If you don’t learn, grown and change too, I fear the distance between us will be irreparable. It is your choice to stay stuck. I want out of this mess.

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Progress or cycles

I slipped away for a bit, dipped my toe into the darkness. I didn’t even know I left until I started to return.

Dropped the kids off at Grandma’s house on Friday night. I became aware on Tuesday that I was still in the same clothes as Friday. No shower? Guess not. Check my hair, it was a knotted matted mess. Check the time…2pm and I am not out of bed, had not eaten. Did I eat yesterday? I see an empty bag of chips. Oh. And a mound of candy wrappers. Oh no.

Depression got me. 3 days in bed with half watching tv and half sleeping.

When I dropped off the kids, I also dropped off my reasons to get out of bed apparently. I knew I was only living for them right now, but this is scary proof of how true that is. I am not living for me.

I am starting to think this ‘progress’ stage of my therapy is not really progress at all, but an upward swing of my cycle. Meaning I have been here before. Do I really know more this time to prevent a future suicide attempt? Has anything really changed?

How can I measure PTSD recovery progress in a real, meaningful way with metrics and goals?

What do I want?

I want to feel safe. Alone. In a crowd. In bed. In a relationship.

I want to sleep. At night. Every night. Without nightmares.

I want to trust. Others. Myself.

I want intimacy. Closeness. Connection. Friendships. A social network.

I want to require less control. Live and breathe. Be free.

I want to enjoy affection. Human touch. Be comforted by hand holding and hugs.

I am not any closer to any of those wants. Which leads me to the next one.

I want to stop wanting to give up.

SUDS, no soap just distress

I delivered my homework to my counselor feeling pretty darn good about my efforts from my previous post. She looks it over, and says great now we can start the next step of defining these further.

Whatcha mean further? I thought we were done with these three categories?

She tells me about SUDS, the Subjective Units of Distress Scale. She wants me to go back through my list and rate each situation with a number between 0-100 for how much anxiety and distress I would experience if I attempted to complete the task.

100? All of the other scales usually go to 10 being the worst. I wondered why this one was different. I asked her for some benchmarks to help me rate, and she said I needed to determine those, thats the subjective part. Ummm, ok, sure, but what does anxiety or distress of 100 look or feel like? Is that a panic attack, or a trip to the E.R. or getting dizzy and leaving an event…

She said yes. It is whatever you say it is.

Fine. I will create my own scale. I may need to adjust this as I keep working to give myself better clues. I have been avoiding some fear causing situations so long that I am not in tune with how I feel exactly.

100-worst anxiety ever felt, my head and heart may explode, better back up everyone
90-extremely uncomfortable, cannot tolerate, dizzy, cannot breathe, choking, need to leave NOW
80-very uncomfortable, cannot speak, swirling thoughts, senses heightened, want to hide or get to my safe zone
70-uncomfortable, starting to sweat, dry mouth, might be able to push through it
60-struggling but can manage, no physical signs, ugly thoughts that i can control
50-moderate distress but is manageable with breathing, blood pressure may raise
40-mild stress with no interference, muscles tense, jaw tight
30-very mild stress, not bothered or hindered
20-extremely mild stress
10-no stress, not relaxed
0-completely relaxed, life is good, brain is good

Be curious if not hopeful

Hope is not something that comes easily to me. I’ve also discovered it exists on a spectrum, from sliver to boundless rays. I used to think it was all or nothing, like most things in my world of extreme unbalanced thoughts.

Hope is something I used to have, I remember how it felt, how it kept me going. I hoped for a better future and started working towards it. When I got my scholarship and started college I was ready, full of life, full of hope.

But then that year wasn’t exactly as I had hoped. The world I had run away to wasn’t much better than the one I was running away from. I encountered cheaters, liars, manipulators, abusers, and people out to hurt me. I was crushed. Everything I worked so hard for…seemingly for nothing. I lost hope for a while then, at age 18 I recall getting lost in depression and listening to the soothing sirens call of suicidal ideation.

But I didn’t lose all hope, I bounced back and made a new plan, transferred schools, started over ready again. But i t never was the same, and I had to talk myself into this new plan daily. No more enthusiasm to save the world. I didn’t have enough hope for that anymore.

Then when I lost my first real job, the one I didn’t actually want but had convinced myself would be OK, and my new marriage was so difficult, and life was not good…I lost all hope it could ever be good.

At age 25 I sunk into a much deeper and more dangerous depression, obsessed by suicidal thoughts constantly. I made a plan an attempt.

At age 26 I had my first baby. I never had treatment, the suicidal thoughts were still there but I ignored them. I was both comforted and ashamed by them.

Babies and work have kept me busy these past 12 years and I became an expert at ignoring myself.

Until I couldn’t. One day I just couldn’t do it any more. The dam broke, the wall cracked. I was too tired. I didn’t care enough to hide it. All those things and more.

But this time I asked for help. No attempts on my life, I know how much I mean to my kids. So after a nice lengthy stay in a psych ward and months of group therapy, I’m in a bit of an odd place.

I am aware.

I can feel all of the terrible crap I’ve been ignoring, but I’m not yet able to fully cope or function with it. We are tackling these pesky suicidal thoughts first in therapy.

After a session today, all I can say is sometimes being curious is more important than having hope. I don’t have hope right now. I feel beaten and kicked to the curb. I feel it cant improve. And yet I continue to attend therapy, continue to get out of bed and exercise, and continue going through what feels like pointless motions. Why?

Because I don’t know everything. I can’t predict the future. It might be worse, it might be the same, it might be better.

I’ll never know if I don’t try, and I’m curious what could happen.

If knowledge is power

Why do I feel so weak? I have all this new knowledge. The blinders are off. The process has begun to build a new and improved me. We started by identifying everything we need to work on in cpt and its not a cute tidy little to do list.

First they helped me to recognize some of my stuck points. These are unbalanced automatic thoughts I think to myself. I have identified so many now in many different areas, we break them down into modules like trust, safety, intimacy, etc. An example for safety is “I can’t protect myself”. This is a phrase I find myself thinking often and will usually cause me extreme anxiety or avoidance of the event. Being a small, abused girl with a weak leg has given me unbalanced thoughts about my personal safety. I was unaware of these thoughts and the powerful emotions the thoughts produced until I took the cpt class.

Through a series of guided worksheets and writing exercises they helped me get in touch with some of me genuine thoughts and emotions. The counselors at the center for traumatic stress helped me untangle the mess of overwhelming crapstorm that caused me to disassociate and shutdown.

Some days it felt more like dumbledore was magically retrieving this information from my brain as I watched in amazement. But now I have some awareness if not yet the skills to do it myself. I no longer black out when connecting mind to body to emotion. I can feel some of it, which would be so much more exciting if I had tons of repressed joy. Sadly I have decades of unexpressed sadness, grief, anger, fear, terror, pain. I have so much to work through and figure out.

I’m mainly overall completely confused. I don’t recognize my own brain, partly from the therapy, and partly from the migraines.

We’ve also started couples counseling at the trauma center. Attacking this cptsd from every angle. Hubby is seeing his own counselor now and I barely recognize our marriage either. So many changes, growth, even when for the better still has tremendous growing pains.

So I’m going to start blogging again, the good and the bad, because I need a concrete way to measure change over time and journaling my thoughts seems one if the best ways to track that.

I’ll fill in and document some of the missing details if the past year and then I’ll go forward.

I’m hoping that by posting this, it could be helpful to someone else waivering on their path. If nothing else, I do seem to keep going. I’m going to be discussing some very intense and difficult topics soon. I think I’m ready to write it.

Trying to break these rules, still

Dysfunctional Family “Rules”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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