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.

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.

Baby steps and flying leaps

My new job is testing all of my new coping and social skills. I’ve been taking baby steps for a while now to get socially involved in my world. My job is requiring flying leaps in to the unknown and setting off all kinds of triggers.

When I get anxious, I don’t like talking to ANYONE. My new job has required me to meet someone new every day, and to assist with students on the phone, both incoming and outgoing calls. The outgoing calls I feel more in control, I have all the info and I lead the conversation. When they call me, I have to listen so carefully and figure out what they need, and often what they ask for is not actually what they need, and then figure out how to help or find someone who can help. I jump every time that phone rings.

I’ve been asked to train employees in our overseas call center. I have never trained someone who grew up in the Phillipines before, from my dining room. It was really frustrating at first but once we worked out the tech issues it went well enough. Here is her typical reply to me

Yes, maam, please, yes maam copy that, yes maam thank so much please

Very polite but difficult to tell if she actually understand what I am saying until I ask her to show me.

Then I am quickly/barely trained on handling financial issues and processing loan docs and given a world of responsibility overnight. My inbox filled up with tasks that I had no idea how to do.

Then I am assigned new Bachelor program students to welcome and gather transcripts for analysis. One student attended school in Hong Kong over 30 years ago and needs to take TOEFL and CFGNS international accreditation.

They keep saying there is no training, I must learn by doing. I never thought I’d say this, but I met my max for new learning this week. My head was full, and the only way to make room was to cry.

I cried through each lunch break, and then got back at it.

I think I made a mistake by telling my boss that I was feeling overwhelmed, but felt like I should be honest. He seemed so disappointed in me, but he also made me feel better by saying “don’t stress so much, no one here expects you to know every answer, but we expect you to ask questions and figure it out, which you’re doing. Just do your best, no one here is perfect”

I felt so foolish, but so relieved too. My old job I knew everything. Everyone came to me for answers, it is so humbling and scary to have the least amount of knowledge.

I survived the week, and feel ready to try again. I faltered, but I never crumbled. I had so many emotional triggers, of feeling alone, unsupported, helpless, stupid, confused – but a little crying released the power over me. I am not obsessing about any of it for longer than an hour. I’m getting delayed, but not getting stuck.

I will try not to read too much into anything and just do the job and see what happens. So what if I need a Kleenex box next to me? If tears are required for growth, then I’m ok with that.

Change Your Life, Don’t Escape It

Change your life. You can do it. You are in charge, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

A few years ago I woke up and examined my life, and realized I liked very little of it. I was miserable and trying to escape my life through a series of endless distractions, just to make it through each day. I hated myself and thought everyone on the planet hated me too. I did not attempt anything social or fun. I worked (from home), cleaned my house, and cared for my children. I was barely functional, the fatigue, depression, and general lack of life and spirit held me prisoner. I would somehow manage to guide my older children to the school bus each morning, and then collapse onto the couch and hope not to oversleep to take the youngest to preschool each afternoon.

Thinking was a chore. My thoughts were scrambled fragments that often got stuck in obsessive loops and phrases, and my inner critic, those negative thoughts, would fill in the blanks. I had suicidal thoughts nearly constantly, and only my obligation to my husband and children kept me here.

To escape that pain, I used alcohol, binge eating, sleeping (though that often backfired into nightmares), and computer games. I did not enjoy those games, it was more of a NEED to play them. Back then I couldn’t even enjoy books or TV, as my thoughts would override the stories. Only computer games allowed me to think about the task at hand and avoid my dismal reality.

And then I found blogging. At first I silently read the blogs of others, looking for someone like me, trying to not feel so damned alone. After nearly a year of reading, I started anonymously commenting. When a blogger responded to me, it hit me full force – I AM NOT ALONE. I started a few blogs before creating this one, attempting to make light and fluffy, and even humorous ones, but they felt fake. I wanted to be real. I needed to really be heard. Slowly I watched my little blog gathering steam, accumulating followers, and I made some friends. People seemed to care about what I wrote, and seemed to care about me. I can’t even explain properly in words how grateful I am to these strangers reaching out with open arms, offering love, hope and strength. Things I never thought I deserved.

I started a series of small changes a few years. I started getting real with my therapist. I shared my pain with my brother. I tried reconnecting with my husband. Many of the things I tried did not work out too well, some were terrifying and painful, some were merely uncomfortable. But I kept changing, and I kept trying new things. Each day felt like nothing much was happening, I was too close to see it. But now I do. I can remember what it used to be like, but it feels like it must have happened to someone else. Could I have been in so much pain? Could I really have thought myself to be less than human and not deserving of love? Yes, that was me.

Blogging brought out my humanity, connected me to other humans, and I truly believe joined our spirits as well so we could help each other heal. So many days, I’d be in a rough spot, and BAM, another blogger has posted exactly what I needed to hear.

I am not done changing. I don’t think I’ll ever be done changing, because I now think that our role in life is to continually grow, and growth can’t happen without change. I’m trying to loosen my expectations for what I think my life SHOULD be. My life is fine right now, and I can gently guide myself into new directions without hating where I am right now. Self hate is not necessary to induce change. In fact, change coming from self love is the best kind of all.

So be gentle to yourself. Accept where you are, but always keep an open mind of where you may want to explore. Sometimes the smallest change can have the biggest effect.

And most of all – Don’t ever think you are alone. This world is way too big and full of so many souls, I guarantee you can find someone who understands, someone who has been exactly where you are and can throw you a rope or a roadmap to help you take that next step. Don’t give up. There is always a next step, even if it is a step backwards, just take that step.

I Choose Love

http://scott-williams.ca/2013/08/26/advice-from-a-divorced-man/

What a great post! I agree with all of these. Marriage and love require work, growth and courage. And I am so happy that I am writing this as a still-married-woman, not a divorced one. I really thought that my marriage was doomed more than once, but neither of us were ready to give up.

My marriage was missing many of the items from Scott’s list for way too many years. We were surviving in our marriage by just going through the motions and somehow getting through each day, But we were distant, had stopped courting each other, were not forgiving each other or ourselves for past hurts, and were definitely not growing together.

It has been a bumpy road, but I am so happy that we are working together and implementing many of the items in this list and we are growing closer and learning to trust, cherish, and protect each other. I see Hubby as an ally now, someone I can lean on, but also someone I need to support and accept. We take care of each other to show love, not out of obligation or guilt.

Sometimes I get over-anxious and want us to be perfect NOW. He reminds me that we need time, and that sometimes we need to just be us without working on something and without the need to change anything just for a bit. But I love change! But I am learning to be more patient.

And most of all – we choose love. Love is a choice, an action, a way of life – not just a feeling.

I love you Hubby, we’re doing great, thanks for staying  with me on this journey.