Tag Archive | trust

Learning to Trust…Myself

Trust is Hard. But that’s okay because hard is a marvelous improvement on impossible.

At some point I stopped listening to myself and what I need or want. Did I ever listen? Actually maybe not. I was never permitted to create my own identity as a child. I never went through the finding myself stage as an adolescent. I believe I am doing that now. Teenage angst at age 40, yeah, that’s exactly what I need. Yay.

I am noticing that in the midst of this angst, once in a while I notice little sparks of wonderfulness. These sparks are so startling and so powerful they stop me in my tracks and fuel me for days. What was that? Why did it happen? How can I make it happen again? Is it possible I can feel good one day? Is it okay to hope? Is it safe to dream yet?

After some of these sparks, I noticed a difference in myself. It’s tough to put this in words because it is only a hazy sort of feeling. But I noticed something more solid inside of me. Less dead? Less empty? Something instead of nothing. When you have perpetual nothing, believe me a spark of something almost knocks you over.

I recall caring about stuff, having dreams and motivation, being driven towards goals and achieving, hell overachieving – but I don’t think those were my goals or dreams. Not entirely anyway. I’m still unraveling. It’s not such a painful process at the moment, only a slow one. Like walking through deep water with my eyes closed. Slow going and once in a while I feel something new. Mostly I just keep trudging along because I don’t know what else to do.

But when I feel this new something, I have less doubts in myself. I used to feel confident in my choices and decisions. I used to walk around with a fierce internal driving force, yes a quietly burning one, but still there it was driving me towards my future that I planned. This new confidence, although fleeting, is making small ripples of change. I’ve been stuck for years now, without a plan, unemployed, waiting, healing, recovering. I’m hopeful these glimpses, these sparks of strength and confidence will keep coming, and will help me to learn to trust myself, my judgment and my decisions. Feeling like every decision you ever made has been wrong tends to undermine your own trust, a major component in PTSD. So I’ve been working quite hard to go back and look at those decisions with compassion, understand I did the best I could with the tools I had available at the time, and that truthfully, there is no way of knowing if past decisions were bad, maybe they would have had different outcomes but not necessarily better outcomes.

 

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I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of one of these handsome fellows perched in a tree the other morning after I dropped the kids off at school. I was unable to capture my own photo sadly, so I’ve borrowed one here to show you. We have a decent population of peregrine falcons and their bright white chests always catch my attention if their size didn’t. These birds are huge, majestic, strong, fast, and beautiful. They tend to sit just like this with their wings out a bit, I imagine ready for flight in an instant.

Why am I telling about this bird? Because of how I feel when I see one. I feel alive. Instant tingles of joy spread through my body. I feel lucky. I feel stronger, like his strength is on loan to me. I feel like we did something right, well, after we screwed up and nearly killed them all unintentionally with that whole DDT nightmare. These birds almost disappeared, due to humans, but humans saved them and now they choose to live in my trees and grace me with their presence.

I guess these birds remind me that we can change the world, or at least make an impact. Our actions do matter. We can wipe out species or bring them back. We can lift up and support people or cut them down and trample them. We can choose to ignore our problems or we can work on improving the situation. Change takes time, but when it works, it works beautifully.

I’m applying this to my own recovery and trying to be more patient with myself, and to celebrate improvements no matter how small. This helps to build trust in myself that I can care for me, and that I’ll stop hurting me. When you self-harm, self-sabotage, and self-punish you see yourself as an enemy too. I hope this makes sense because I rewrote three times and I still think it may be out of sequence somewhat, but its the best I can do with it. I’m trying to show how my thinking is changing, that I’m starting feel alive in fleeting moments, which leads to new self care behaviors (like establishing and protecting my boundaries, eating healthier, getting social support, making friends, better hygiene, etc), which builds trust in myself and stops the self loathing cycle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

 

 

I am Grief

It is starting to feel like I am grief, not like I am grieving, not like it is a process, or an emotion that moves through me, but a state of being that is me and completely has consumed me from so many directions.

When I allow myself to feel the sadness, I can’t see to type through the tears, so I need to hold it back to that familiar dull choking feeling that is now my life. That no one wants to see or acknowledge. Yes I am still sad today. Yes it sucks. Yes I need more time. I don’t want to apologize for how I am any more. I don’t want to explain it any more. I want it to be understood. But this is my life – I don’t get what I want.

I do feel moments of happiness with my kids, I do, but it is heavy, weighed down by this sadness, like I have an upper limit, or this shadow turning everything good a bit blurry.

I miss my mom. So much. So many things I want to show her, share with her, apologize for, explain to her. I see her everywhere, the songs she liked, the candy she liked, flowers she liked. I have paintings I started for her

I am also hurting as I realize I have not been treated very well here. I realized I did not receive one sympathy card, no flowers, no casseroles. Not even from my in-laws. Nada nothing. I did get one phone call from an aunt, the wife of my mom’s brother checked on me. That’s it. No one else reached out to me at all. Same for when AF died the year before. I know that was complicated, but everyone pretended it didn’t happen. I have lost both of my parents in the space of a year and a half, both were not even 70.

Then AF declared for the world to see that he never loved me, in his Will.

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That broke me. I crumbled. Whatever was holding me together for so many years was shattered then. I lost myself. I became suicidal. I lost my job. I was hospitalized. Then as I was recovering my mom got cancer and didn’t tell me. I had pushed her away while I was healing. I didn’t speak to her during her last year on earth because AF broke me. He stole her from me again. Just like as a child, he kept her from me, creating fear by telling me she hated me and never wanted me.

Hubby is still not understanding. He is not gentle or comforting for me. His volatile moods and rough responses are too much for me to handle right now so I generally avoid him. When I do specifically ask him to do something for me and I think he understands, he does not follow through, leaving me hurt and confused, feeling betrayed all over again. I say please don’t tell ___ to your mom, it will get around to your sisters and come back to torment me and I don’t want to deal with all of that. He agrees. Then an hour later I hear him, he is telling his mom ___ on the phone. (Next day his sisters text me about it…I hate drama, wanted to avoid it, none of their business, didn’t matter, leave me alone, I give vague responses until it settles down) I ask him later why he did that? He yells at me. It is my fault again. How was he supposed to know. Sigh. Do I give up or do I try again?

I don’t understand. I have such little trust as it is, these events don’t help. I am spiraled into emotional flashbacks because he can’t do what he tells me he will do. Did he not agree with me in the first place? Am I not important enough to grant or remember this request? Was he lying to shut me up, make me happy, with no intention of not telling? The doubts flood my brain as I try to make sense of what happened. And he says, Sorry (but he says it so rough like a bark, not sincere), whatever, What’s the big deal.

Then we are trying to plan a party for his parents. It keeps getting more and more complicated, with his one sister coming in from out of state, the one married to the guy I accused of being a creep a few years ago. That plus they are adding more events to the day, a family photo, lunch, dinner, coffee and dessert, all in different locations. I told hubby that I was concerned I may not be able to do all of that. Then he said to his sister on the phone that I may be too tired, not have enough energy to do all of that. My heart sunk. Is he ashamed of me? He can avoid this topic but not the one I asked him to? So I texted his sister after he hung up “Hey I’m not sure he explained it very well, I want to do everything you have planned and it sounds like a great day for everyone and your parents, but I am still struggling with social anxiety and other symptoms of ptsd that may make it difficult for me to do so many events all in one day. I don’t want to let you all down, I will do my best to manage but wanted you to be aware.” She texted back “ok”

So I am trying to be real with the only people in my life. I keep hoping they will one day be more accepting, accommodating, instead of only me being forced to hide my symptoms and smile pretty for them so they aren’t uncomfortable. I have no idea how I married into such an unsupportive group, I suppose some part of me knew this, guaranteeing my isolation and continuation of what was familiar. They aren’t pedophiles and psychopaths, but dysfunction runs rampant.

Maybe a supportive functional family is a myth.

I am trying to manage this grief that keeps trying to swallow me whole. But I noticed I have forgotten how to smile. It is no longer natural. I started practicing in a mirror and those muscles feel so heavy and I can only produce an odd crooked grin.

I am turning 40 very soon. I have no plans. No party. No friends. No extended family, just my kids.They are the only humans I feel safe with, can feel happy with. I hate how much I need them. My daughter is my best friend, we talk about everything. I already fear the day when they grow a bit older and I lose them. Then I will truly be alone on this planet. Until then I will try to cherish the moments and try to make this creepy grin into a real smile and try not to think about how unimportant I am to everyone else.

Next stage of therapy

I want to run again. I want to quit and hide. The urge is so unbelievably strong. I did quit something, couples counseling. I decided I needed to focus on my individual counseling for a while, and I was never totally happy with that counselor, probably mostly because he was a he, but I think his style made it impossible for me to trust and connect wirh him.

 Why do I want to run and hide? Because my counselor wants to know what happened to me, what AF and my brother did to a little girl. She wants me to start writing and saying out loud my most horrific memories in high def detail. I have been to about 20 different counselors in my life. None have asked for this. We discuss events vaguely, generally. We would lump 16 years of sexual and emotional abuse together into non-specific phrases like “he touched me inappropriately” and “I would wake up with him in my bed”. Never have I gone into detail of who did what, what we were wearing, what else happened that day, what my blanket looked like, what he said to me, etc. 

My counselor is giving me the choice of moving forward with cpt (cognitive processing therapy) or pe (prolonged exposure). We discussed and I read about both and I am choosing cpt. I am already familiar and comfortable with the framework. And pe sounds like hell-repeating what happened to me over and over, recording myself telling an account then listening to my recording. I understand the point of desensitization, but I believe discussing it once will be enough for me. I have so many events, thousands of traumas to choose from to retell, I think I need to start with the ones that form flashback images often. 

I feel safe with my counselor. I am not afraid of my memories themselves, but reliving the content is distressing. So it is time to try this, because counselor says it will help, and because I have never tried this.

This first step is to write my memories down. I know which one I want to start with. I have decided to post it here once I write it. My memories are fuzzy but I will do my best to write a detailed account. I thought if I shared it here first it would give me confidence to read it to my counselor, maybe, without passing out.

So why retell a traumatic event? Shouldn’t we just let it stay in the past? Isn’t better as a fuzzy memory without clear details? Won’t writing and telling it make the memory stronger, reinforce it, make the flashbacks worse?

Counselor says no. She says by recounting what happened through cpt, I can process the event, add meaning, address unbalanced thoughts, add adult perspective and emotional capacity that I did not have as a child. I should be able to make these events less powerful, less overwhelming, by feeling the emotions now that a little girl simply could not. Hmmm. Not sure I buy that, seems hokey, but like I said, I will try it because I am curious. And because so far this counselor has been right. So what if it seems hokey if it works. I would try about anything to get my life, my brain, back from this cptsd hell.

Good day, good people

The universe has made up for my kiddo’s disappointing birthday. Today he is smiling and my heart is happy.

His friend’s mom, one that was invited to his party and forgot to rsvp no, called and invited kiddo to her house today. She was babysitting another boy and thought one more would be fun, the more the merrier.

I dropped him off and their house was huge and beautiful. She apologized for my kiddo’s party, said the mom who attended told her about it, and said she has only had family birthday parties for her kiddos, so she understands it must be so hard. She was sincere.

She had a baby on her hip. Her oldest was the age of my youngest. She looked a bit frazzled, ahhh I remember those days. She was watching the kids more than me while we talked. I felt completely at ease leaving kiddo with her.

Kiddo was going to be there a few hours. I went to pick him up and that mom offered for him to stay even longer, while I go to physical therapy. She said she already called the other mom and the other boy can stay later.

I was so touched! Yes of course he can stay. He was having a great time and would be home alone with big sis watching him otherwise. This was perfect.

Kiddo gave me the biggest smile, biggest hug, and ran off to rejoin his friends. Hurray for good days and good people.

Starting in vivo exposure, sort of

But I don’t want to start this stage and I’m not sure I even agree with what my counselor has assigned for homework this week. I’m trying to decide if I am fighting it because it will be difficult, or because I think it will be stupid. I am so annoyed right now it is feeling like the latter is more likely.

Counselor looked over my white coats distress list and said we should start with an item that has about 20-30 SUDS rating. It should also be something I can do daily for about 20-30 min to see a reduction in my SUDS rating with more exposure over time. Ok…makes sense in theory.

She selected my event of calling doctor’s offices to make appointments. Hmm…my first thought is I don’t have that many appointments I need to make, and how on earth is a phone call supposed to last 20-30 minutes? And my distress is not related to speaking on the phone itself, it is about the quick decision of committing to something on the calendar. And it is low distress, not something I avoid or even get too concerned about. This seems pointless to work on except I know it eases me into the process for tackling higher distress items.

So she actually recommended that I create reasons to extend my phone calls, like asking the receptionist to wait while I grab my purse or answer the door. I really can’t bother and annoy these poor people with fake situations. I won’t do that. I think it is silly.

She also recommended calling and making fake appointments, then calling back and canceling. This feels like lying and seems a waste of everyone’s time. How is my distress supposed to go down if I am worried about lying and the situation is not authentic? I don’t like this. It seems like she is force fitting this ill advised plan, and my confidence in her is considerably shaken.

I don’t see the benefit to her plan.

I will go ahead and schedule some appointments that need scheduling and document my calls, using my new skills and awareness while I call. I will complete a challenging beliefs worksheet for any stuck points I encounter.

But I refuse to make fake phone calls and stall while on the phone just to log air time. The science isn’t sound here…can’t connect the dots.

The White Coats are Coming

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I mean Doctors, not mad scientists, because I’m much less distressed about scientists in general. But Doctors? Doctors offices, hospitals, Eeek, gulp.

OK, I sound like I’m kidding, because I do that to lessen the intensity for myself. But seriously this is the next stage of my homework for individual counseling. If you recall I had created a list of situations that cause me distress, and then rated the situations using the 0-100 SUDS, subjective units of distress scale. We noticed that I had some doctor related situations on my list with different ratings. I told my therapist I wanted to start with doctors because I view that as more of a necessity than some of the other social situations. I can’t ask Hubby to go to the dentist or gynecologist for me – I kinda have to do that myself, and it would be great if I could do it with less distress. I’ve always managed to go…eventually…if I have to…and then my heart is racing, I sweat through my clothes or the paper gown, I shake in fear, I can’t sleep for days, I can’t eat or binge eat…I don’t manage the distress well. And because these are not daily situations, I can build up loads of anxiety for the next time, never getting exposure and practice like I do for say the grocery store. Certain situations have never become easier – I simply (ha, simply, she says) grit my teeth and get through it without passing out somehow.

So I’m supposed to break down all of the situations related to doctors and make a new list with SUDS ratings, getting as specific as possible. I have a few ways I can think of to organize this list or it would already be done. I’m not sure if it is more helpful to group by type of symptoms and SUDS rating, type of doctor/situation, or by my fears. Let’s see what happens.

 

Before the appointment is made:

  • Deciding it is an important issue (50) – I get annoyed with the hassle, feel fear what if I ignore a really bad problem, don’t trust my judgment what if this isn’t a problem at all, what if no one believes me or understands me, probably no one can help me anyway
  • Calling receptionist to make an appointment for myself or my family (40) – What if I commit to a date and something else comes up or I forgot about something else or we don’t have the money that day or I don’t feel well and can’t drive that day
  • talking to Hubby about money/schedule (80) – How do I explain my concerns without blaming him or over worrying him but get his input and support, and I might need him to drive me and get a day off of work and I hate asking too much I feel like such a burden and a pain in the butt, why can’t I do this stuff myself, I should be working and not depending on him so much right now
  • Can’t sleep several nights before appointment as I start to imagine and prepare (80) – The nights are really long and I try to relax but it gets worse, and I have nightmares when I do fall asleep
  • Get ready very early and slowly, trick myself one step at a time to stay calm (80) – I can’t rush at all or the anxiety will overwhelm me. I learned to give myselm time to move slowly, dress slowly, check and recheck my pockets and purse so I don’t forget anything, check my map, do calming breathing, drive slowly, and arrive early

 

Stressors at the appointment

  • Driving to unknown location for first time (80)
  • Driving to known location (10)
  • Arriving Late to appointment (90)
  • Forgetting something (wallet, insurance card, phone, etc) (90)
  • germs in the office, signing in touch the shared pen, people coughing near you in waiting room (80)
  • public weighing (60)
  • confusing or triggering forms to fill out with history – how much to share? (80)
  • nurse/doctor might not understand my problem (60)
  • I might be asked to undress (80)
  • I might be touched without warning (100)
  • some touching can be triggering – dentist hovering over me, ob/gyn exam (100)
  • if they hurt me i lose even more trust, hard to speak up (100)
  • new doctor – I don’t trust them yet or know what they will ask me to do (80)
  • I have to share private details about myself (80)
  • I ask for certain tests/labs and feel frustrated doctor didn’t think of it – are they idiots? (70)

 

Types of appointments

  • family doctor in town (20) – 5 min drive, been there many times, low confidence in doctor abilities for anything complex but trust to monitor vitamin D and cholesterol
  • pediatrician (50) – 30 min drive, high confidence in doctors, rarely go unless kids aren’t getting better or I know they need vaccines or other issues discussed, high fear of other germs in the office
  • my dentist (80) – 30 min drive, high confidence in ability but feel they overcharge and attempt to oversell and I hate saying no, I hate laying down in the chair while they surround me, it always hurts no matter how much novocaine is used, I feel ashamed for having bad teeth and eating candy, one hygienist knows my neighbor so there is lack of privacy too
  • back doctor (40) – 2 hour drive, hubby always goes with me and usually drives so I don’t get too tired/overwhelmed, high confidence in doctor, they don’t hardly touch me, I undress in private for xrays, everyone is kind and professional
  • neurologist for migraines (30) – 2 hour drive, hubby drives me, no touching at all, no undressing
  • botox for migraines (80) – 2 hour drive, hubby drives me, triggering position as I lay down and doctor hovers over me, procedure is fairly quick but fairly painful with 50 injections in my face, neck, head, shoulders like many beestings
  • dentists for kids (20) – 1 minute drive, no one touches me, low stress
  • optometrist (20) – 30 minute drive, no touching, once every year or two as needed, ask for dilation instead of air puff
  • urgent care center (60) – do I really need to go? it is super expensive so I don’t trust my own judgment vs fear, can it wait. minimal touching depends on what is being examined.

 

Stressors after the appointment

  • I don’t trust diagnosis and do my own research before filling Rx or doing next steps (80)
  • I don’t schedule followup if I feel fine – waste money (30)
  • I feel guilty for not following doctors orders (30)
  • waiting for lab results creates anxiety and then I feel like a failure if something is wrong, like a bad grade (60)
  • feel guilty spending money on Rx (50)
  • pick up candy with meds at pharmacy (40)
  • might get frustrated with pharmacy if meds aren’t ready on time (40)

 

(photo credit: By Pi. from Leiden, Holland (Lab 15 – Lab Coats) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)