Tag Archive | understanding

Trauma is in the eye of the beholder

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What do people really think about you? What are you showing them? Well what they think depends on how they frame it in their minds anyway. So much subjectivity, so much interpretation and assumption.

I’ve become increasingly interested in my doctors varying opinions of my mood lately and how it applies to my future. As most of you know, as soon as you have “Psych” history on your record, it can be difficult to get medical attention without doctors telling you how you feel and that somehow trauma and depression are actually causing the issues, not anything they can solve, and you end up with another referral for therapy.

If you have an “extensive Psych” history like mine, it is almost impossible.

I started comparing notes.

My back surgeon notes that I am pleasant and upbeat, cheerful, even 3 weeks post surgery when my pain level was still quite high.

But the neuropsych team inote, flat affect, appears to be severely depressed, speaking noticeably slowly, moved to tears.

Let’s see what is the difference here? It’s not just that the psych team is looking for it, I’m not saying that, I am behaving differently in these appointments. Hmmm, I wonder why? Seriously. That was snarky if you couldn’t tell. OK let me spell it out by giving you a glimpse of the conversations.

When I am talking with my back surgeon, I am grateful, he has changed my life, reduced my pain, restored strength and balance to my weak leg. He see me as strong, able, resilient, and able to do whatever I want to do. He knows nothing about my traumatic past and never has asked about it. He expects me to heal, because nerves, bones and muscles heal at an expected rate.

When I am talking with the psych team, they continually poke and prod about the relationship with my parents and brothers and husband. They force me to relive and retell some of the worst moments of my life. Usually I am meeting someone new, forced to tell my story to someone I do not fully trust for them to make another assessment of my condition. My flat affect is me trying to remain calm and choose my words carefully, knowing I am being judged. My tears are me, reacting to pain in the moment, recalling my sorrow.

But I don’t live there in that sorrow. Each doctor is only seeing a snapshot of me, a moment of me, not all of me, not how I function each day all day, not my life. I wonder how many people can retell their worst fears and memories without appearing traumatized. Even if you weren’t abused, I bet if you spent 3 hours describing every pet that died, how you miss your grandparents, maybe you were bullied, your boyfriend broke your heart in high school, your friend died in a car crash or overdose, your parents split up – whatever – life is full of heartache and tragic moments that we don’t call abuse. I bet if you made a list of them and described them out loud, that any “normal” person would appear depressed and traumatized and dysfunctional.

I don’t think its me that needs realistic expectations, I think it is the medical community. I almost want to prove my theory by starting over with a new doctor, stating I have a brain injury from purely physical means, caught in a shockwave perhaps and see I still have the same sad “Sorry but we can’t help you, you’ve been through too much to get better at this point in your life” story. I bet I would get sent to rehab and expected to heal if I didn’t have a psych history.

Well I expect more of myself, always have. Yeah, I got knocked down. But I’ve been down before, so what. I am out there jogging you guys. It isn’t beautiful, I mean I won’t win any medals, but I am not using a cane and both feet leave the ground at a pace faster than walking. I know I am healing. I know what I can do. I can do more.

I don’t care about my history, its irrelevant at this point. My brain doesn’t care. I am no longer being traumatized. I am sleeping, eating well, exercising, going to therapy, doing brain training games, pushing towards creative thought – why can’t I expect healing to happen? I don’t have a bunch of faith, but I’ve always believed in resiliency, set a goal, make a path, and eventually you get there.

My therapist thinks my lack of creativity is tied more to grief than brain damage. I’m starting to think she is right. My mom was my constant cheerleader, so supportive of my artwork and writing. I always shared my ideas and progress with her, always created for her, and she poured on the constant praise, sometimes annoyingly so, and almost over the top. I think I depended on that more than I ever knew though. Without her daily comments on my blogs, her multiple emails, I have no one else cheering me on, encouraging me to draw something today, asking what my next project will be, asking me to make something for her. She kept me going. I see this now. So at some point I will have to draw through the tears, and just keep going, until I am drawing for myself and the world, and show her that her years of support were enough to keep me going even after she is gone. I need to feel this pain of missing her and draw anyway. Somehow with my teary eyes and shaky hands I know this is the next step I need to take. An empty page has never been so frightening.

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.

Take time to heal

I received those words from my brother today and it meant the world to me.

Take time to heal.

Simple words with a powerful message. He was saying he loved me. That he understands I am hurting and struggling. That he does not want to add to my stress but he does want me to know he wants me in his life.

I want him in mine too.

I don’t think I have ever heard more beautiful words.

Take time to heal

Low and slow

Depression has ensnared me once again in its slimy muck. My thoughts are slow, painfully slow. Like the google cursor just spinning and spinning to load a thought that should have been automatic. Feeling so low lately I cry every chance I get Alone and feel the tears welling up in between.

So tired but can’t sleep.
So tired of being fat and getting fatter but can’t stop eating.

Eating is the only thing that takes any pain away and fills the void.

Work is too stressful. I was trying to carry on but started shaking and getting blurry vision, my migraine aura. I overslept yesterday morning and missed a meeting. I didn’t even care and went back to sleep. When I finally got up and realized work must be wondering so I made up an emergency and took another day off. I slept and ate all day today.

My manager told my sis in law that works with us about my ’emergency’ and she texted me in concern. I told her the truth. I never tell my bosses the truth ever. I already had ‘the flu’ and a ‘migraine’ recently so had to use the emergency bluff this time.

I hate lying but I know I can’t tell them I am depressed and wishing for a train to run over me. I don’t want to lose this job and I know these dark days will slowly brighten again. So I lie. And sleep and eat and try to get my brain rest.

Tried telling hubby and it seems all brand new again. What?  You get depressed?  Would it help if I tickled you?  Ummm no. No it wouldn’t help if you trivialized my suffering and seem like you don’t understand at all. Again. Never mind. I’ll do this on my own. Again.

Love Saves Me Every Time

I talked to my Mom and she was supportive and loving and helpful. I spoke freely about my suicidal thoughts over the past few weeks. She listened to me and I felt completely understood. She said she has been listening to my brother, the one with schizophrenia that lives with her, as well. She is not running away from the truth, she is standing strong for her kids.

I am completely blown away by this. She has been on her own path towards becoming authentic, and I am so proud of her. She is helping all of her hurting children now.

I am turning a corner here. I have had loads of rest, time alone and time snuggling too, trying to be gentle on myself and my family. I told my kids how much my back and head were hurting and that I needed extra time in bed. My 8 year old asked if he could read to me while I was in bed. He came up so gently, not to bump me much, and read “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” to me.  When the story was done, he lay there next to me, giving me the biggest hug, and whispered that he would never wish to be anyone else. It was all I could do to hold back tears at his act of love. (In the story, Sylvester had wished to be a rock, to avoid getting eaten by a lion, and remained a rock, all alone for a very long time. I had never thought much about this story before, how it models my own life. How I turned myself into something for my own survival, and how alone that had made me. I could go on with the parallels, but I’ll let you do that for yourself)

I am starting to think ahead again, starting to look forward to events and make plans for a future that include me in them, alive and smiling.

I felt the love. And love saves me every time.

What to say to your wife, a PTSD decoder ring

Men are famous for those manly grunts in response to nearly everything we women say to them. No doubt it can be confusing to figure out how to respond to your wife, and even harder if she has any mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and/or PTSD, or a history of childhood abuse.

I’ve noticed Hubby struggling lately, so I wanted to provide a clue on what would be helpful or not helpful in a few situations.  I’ve gotten so much better that I think it may be difficult to think I am still not well, and may never be. The difference is that I understand and accept my brain and body now. I am coping and making healthy changes, but inside I am still often a mess. But my new tools from therapy and blogging help me clean up this mess and live much more happily now.

Your wife has withdrawn from you and the kids: Did she recently do something stressful? Did she venture out of her warm, safe home and returned to give you the cold shoulder? It has NOTHING to do with you. Here are some likely possibilities.

  • She is an introvert and must withdraw into herself to heal, recover, and recharge.
  • She struggles with trust when stressed, and must learn to trust even her hubby, again, each time.
  • She hates herself at that moment and doesn’t want to inflict any pain onto you by simply being in the same room with you.
  • She knows she is not completely rational at the moment and would prefer no social interaction, unsure of how she will react.
  • She feels out of control, and does not want to say or do anything hurtful that she will regret later.
  • She does not want to be touched, it sets off triggers right now.
  • What to do or say ——– Leave her alone. Try to keep the kids away for a bit. Don’t touch her. Tell her you love her, that you’re there when she is ready, and then back off and wait. If you get the hand in the air, or she squirms away from your touch, give her more space. Do NOT call her weird, or act surprised. Show understanding and respect from a safe distance. She has to work through this and remember you are trusted and wait until she feels balanced again.

Your wife is not doing what she usually does around the house asks for help with things she usually handles herself: Does she look extra tired? Is she in yesterday’s, or even more days ago, set of clothes with hair a mess and no makeup on? Does it look like she may have been crying or are her eyes glassy and blank? It has NOTHING to do with you. Here are some likely possibilities.

  • She is depressed. No matter how hard we fight, depression seems to find us. We get out again, we try not to lose hope, but we do get stuck sometimes.
  • She had a flashback. Flashbacks are exhausting. It takes every bit of emotional and physical strength to come back out of that and feel whole. Reliving your worst moments is a cruel disease. We may feel like our childhood pet just died, because to us it just happened again. The grief and turmoil is real.
  • She is doubting her worth. She may even be thinking suicidal thoughts but doesn’t want to tell you. Sometimes the negativity and self loathing is so strong that her brain tells her the world would be better off without her and that nothing is worth this struggle. She needs time to get through this and wants to make sure household things are taken care of to ease her burden.
  • She is overwhelmed. Sometimes life is just too hard and she has learned to ask for help to get through it. She tries to do her fair share and it was really difficult to ask for the help and admit failure. She doesn’t want to let you down and sees how tired you already are, but doesn’t know what else to do.
  • What to do or say ——– Just help her. Tell her you will take care of it, and then take care of it. I know you are tired and it probably does not seem fair, but this is the life you accepted when you said you love her. Sometimes she needs more help. If you can’t do it, find someone else who can. Do not give the task back to her, it will add to her guilt and exhaustion. She will try to make it up to you when she feels better. Give her lots of affection if she will accept it. Sometimes extra hugs and even just choosing to sit next  to her may tip the scales and show her she is worth loving. Complaining about how she makes you do extra work and making her ask you multiple times increases her guilt and makes her think she is not a good wife or mom.

She acts like she is angry at you and/or complains about everything: Has she had any time alone lately? Did she have to try anything new or stressful? Any deadlines or important dates approaching?  It has NOTHING to do with you. Here are some likely possibilities.

  • She wants something to be perfect. Like a child’s birthday party, no bills overdue, kids eating healthy foods, house looking tidy, etc. When things feel wrong in her mind, she tries to lessen the pain by making her outside world better.
  • She feels pressured. Time passes quickly when depressed and seems to slip away unnoticed. She has so many fuzzy thinking or low energy days that she feels pressured to take care of everything when her brain/body let that happen.
  • She feels judged. She does not have any Mom friends and feels pressured to act like them for the sake of the kids. She doesn’t want to let anyone down or embarrass them.
  • She blames herself. If dinner is late, if the kids have no clean socks, if the catbox needs tending, if the sink is full of dirty dishes she blames herself for not taking care of it. She hates that she can’t do it all.
  • She can’t stop the negative thoughts. Sometimes her inner critic is so harsh, spewing cruel lies at her endlessly, and it simply puts her in a terrible mood. What she says to you is like sweet roses compared to the garbage rolling around in her head, aimed at herself.
  • What to do or say ——– Let her know gently, without yelling, that she is being harsh. She may not realize she is voicing all that negativity and could use your help to stop. Use positive phrases and tell her everything is fine. Is she is worried or complaining about anything, tell her it will be OK. A little reassurance goes a long way here. She may appear confident, but doesn’t feel this way. She worries about everything and always thinks the worst before fighting her way through whatever it is. Encourage her to write her thoughts. If you can listen, then ask her about it, but if you can’t handle the dark or negative thoughts, don’t feel like you have to. Encourage her to schedule a visit with her therapist too. Tell her about all the good things she has already done and let her know you believe in her. Let her know that you will help, that you will get through whatever it is together. She needs to hear that you are a team.

So the key here is that whatever is happening likely has nothing to do with you, the spouse. She needs you to be patient and understanding, and at times be a gifted mood/mind reader to help her through tough spots without judging or adding more negativity or anger. She knows this is difficult, but trusts that you will do your best, just like she does, to act out of love every day. She trusts in this marriage and loves you, always. So you can do this.

An Introverted Exploration into Introversion

Re-Joining the social world outside my mind, home, and computer has stirred up all kinds of interesting thoughts lately. After my Big Breakdown in my mid twenties, I chose to isolate myself from most of the world. It was just me and my babies at home. Hubby was not even allowed in any more. I’m not sure any of that was a conscious decision or if it was a necessity born of a lack of coping skills. My severe depression, then unknown PTSD, suicidal thoughts (and a few actions) over those years forced me to hide myself deep within a thick-walled protective fortress of my own creation. I had no idea that my inner child had always been buried in there, and it took my Big Breakdown to find her and introduce her to the young adult me. I found her in there, scared, alone, and trembling. I didn’t entirely know why, and it took a long time, years of intense therapy sessions to get the entire story and start on this journey of becoming whole.

I know so much about myself now. I am understanding my needs and doing my best to fill them. Now I am not talking about cute new shoes or the latest smartphone. If you know me at all, those are not needs. My needs are soulful: I need to be understood (first by my own self, and now expanding this to a few safe others), I need to be creative, I need to be alone often, I need to be helpful, I need to keep learning, and I need to love and be loved. Sometimes I need chocolate ice cream too, but that’s a whole different story.

Therapy this week we explored my aversion to small talk in any social situation. I have written about it before here. I get bored, then annoyed, then feel actual physical pain, and feel anger when I am forced to listen to pointless stories full of details that I don’t need to know. I care about people, deeply. And so I do my best to listen and participate in something that is so obviously a need for most people. At least for most extroverts I think.

I am not shy. Not at all. I have no fear of saying anything to anyone. I have no fear of scolding other people’s children (in front of them) if I notice feelings getting hurt or the child is about to get hurt. I love being the leader, giving presentations or speeches, and I really love performing and being the center of attention. But I hate talking about personal nothings, like what we had for dinner, where I bought my shoes, or if I saw the latest movie.  And I really hate listening, or attempting to listen when others go on and on about these things. Especially when they talk about their kids or pets. I have kids and pets and have very little I would want to randomly share about them.

My therapist asked me if I remember anyone going on and on with small talk when I was little. At first I thought she was nuts and just going back to those memories that therapists love to dredge up. But then I heard myself say, “My mom.”

And then I was transported back in time to the millions of occasions that my mom would be on the phone – talking for hours – and we were not allowed to interrupt her even though we could hear she was talking about the latest movie star scandal from People magazine. She would ask us to write her notes if it was an emergency, because to her it was rude for the person on the phone to ever hear her children in the background. I assume this was important in keeping up her facade that she was a perfect mom and we were perfect children, not pesky or unintentionally rude as is normal for small kids.

And then I remembered how many times I was dressed up in a perfect ruffly dress, and taken her friends’ houses to sit silently on the sofa while she chatted for hours. I was not allowed to interrupt there either, and if the friend asked me anything, my Mom would always answer for me, giving me a “keep your mouth shut or else” look. There would always be snacks on the table that I was instructed to say “no thanks” and stare at a plate of chocolate chip cookies for a few hours.

I was the youngest sibling. These memories are from before school age, when she was not working, and my brothers were in school, so I had to go every where with her. I didn’t want to wear the itchy lacy things she bought me. I wanted to wear shorts and climb trees. I didn’t want to sit still and “be a lady”. I did not care if anyone saw my underwear. Besides, why did she make me wear the lacy ones if no one was going to see it? I still remember how scratchy that felt on my little behind, and how I would squirm to try to itch myself politely, knowing Mom would hate it if anyone saw me adjust my undies.

So maybe, just maybe, some part of me does not want to be like my Mom. It is so simple, really. I am afraid if I enjoy the mindless buzz of talking that I will be like her? And of course my greatest fear is to become anything similar to either parent.

I don’t know, but I think it could play into it. Otherwise, it is simply my own extreme introversion. I’m convinced I would be introverted with or without childhood abuse. This is not a flaw, a disorder, or anything wrong with me. It is simply how I am wired and how I process my world. Two of my kids shows signs of some introversion and I try to respect that and give them alone time as needed. My youngest appears to be a full extrovert so far, which explains why he is extra exhausting to me.

I did some searching on this topic and found many irritating articles that do not understand introversion at all and only work to expand on myths and confusion. And to me, they stink of manipulation. Guides to manipulate those you talk to  – to pretend to be interested, to lead conversations where you want them to go like a slimy salesman or lawyer. Yes – I could do those things, but I choose not to be fake. I choose to be me at all times. I choose to be the same me to everyone.

http://theadventurouswriter.com/blog/how-to-make-conversation-for-introverts-tips-for-small-talk/

I’m only going to highlight a few ‘tips’ here:

1. Be curious about other people. “People are flattered when you find them appealing – and they naturally reciprocate,” says Dr Ann Demarais, psychologist and co-author of First Impressions: What You Don’t Know About How Others See You. Showing interest in others increases your likeability factor because it shows you’re confident. “And when you’re confident, you appear more attractive,” she says.

This first tip turned my stomach. I am not going to flatter people just for the sake of flattery. If I like your hair, I will genuinely say so. If not, I will be quiet unless you ask me about it. And then I will honestly say I liked the last cut better. I will not say I think you look like a Q-tip, although I may think that and actually visualize you cleaning giant ears. But my introverted vision is just for me. And the whole likeability factor? OMG. That makes me mad. I don’t give a crap if you like me. And I certainly don’t want you to like me based on some false flattery or something I am not. Ugh. Forget it.

And the thing is – I am curious about other people – genuinely. I can see the pain on faces, notice limps or twitches, see underlying sadness. I know when people are speaking vaguely and avoiding pain. I feel frustration. I sense tension. And I know when people are not being true. I heard the argument between the husband and wife as they walked up the driveway and I’m not fooled by the plastered on smiles. I’d much rather talk about what I see and feel and dig into what really matters. But most people don’t want to talk about real life, and I know that, so I usually pretend I don’t notice, to be polite and to talk about things appropriate to the situation.

5. Smile with your eyes. If your face feels and looks pleasant and happy, your conversation partner will feel relaxed. A happy face looks approachable and friendly. To keep your face open and happy, think positive thoughts: recall your last vacation, a funny joke, or last night’s episode of “Two and a Half Men.”  Making conversation for introverts is easier if you’re happy and relaxed.

I struggle with this one, as my face does show my thoughts. I may look concerned while the mom is discussing her recipe because I am aware her 3 year old wandered out the door. I am not sure if she is aware, or if someone else is watching the little one. Many other moms are much more relaxed about watching children than I am and can get offended if I point out they are not watching theirs. So I have learned to watch them myself and speak up when needed to keep them safe. I purposely fill my glass only a little so I can get up often and look around.  Or I know the friend with MS is in serious pain and shifting in her seat. I cringe right along with her. And then the one who is now living alone, her children grown up and her husband died. I sense her loneliness and longing underneath her silly story. I care about everyone and struggle to shield my reflection of what I feel on my face. I do have to remember to force a smile at time when my mind has wandered and I see everyone else smiling or laughing.

Bonus tip for small talk: wear a light scent. Research from Northwestern University shows that a light lemon smell increases your “likeability factor.” You don’t have to smell like citrus to make people like you – any pleasant, barely perceptible scent is effective. A light scent may give you confidence, especially if you have introverted personality traits.

There’s that likeability factor again. Oh man. Seriously? When’s the last time you decided to talk to someone because they smell good? Now I do think you should make sure you don’t smell bad, I mean a nice shower and a breath mint go a long way. But I have had many wonderful conversation with some very stinky people before, after a dance performance, after a run, heck, even after a child vomited on them. Smell is not high on my list of why I talk to people. Are so many people really this superficial??

I think everything works on a spectrum, and there is not a clear line of introversion vs extroversion. I believe I am extremely introverted.

http://www.carlkingdom.com/10-myths-about-introverts

This one seemed to understand introversion much better. I’m listing all 10 here.

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Yes, exactly. I love talking. Get me going about brain research, education reform, biology, examining feelings, and so many other topics I am hard to shut up. The latest football game or what was on TV last night? I am not interested and probably clueless there was even a game or anything on TV. I live in my own world.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

I love that – I don’t interact for the sake of interacting. I have no need for this.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

I have been called blunt and dense more than once in my life. The social pleasantries feel forced and fake to me. I do my best not to offend though, and it is completely exhausting.

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Yes – I value everyone. Even the person you are trash talking, so I don’t want to hear it. If you ever need me though, I’ll be the first one there.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Exactly! The fair is fun for about 20 minutes. I’m done now. I enjoyed it, but I’m done now.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

Not always alone, but I treasure being alone because it happens so infrequently.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

No, I’m fine with being weird. I challenge everything. I am the pain in the butt that makes people change or see things differently. I don’t even know what is popular or how to find out. Fashion means nothing to me, I choose clothes and accessories for comfort, texture, and durability. I own one purse at a time, use it for a few years until it breaks. I don’t join the PTA at school because I know I would not keep my mouth shut and prefer to stay unknown in my small town.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds. 

Think Tank

Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

My inner world is so much fun! Think Ally McBeal. I have musical numbers going on in here, people transforming in amusing ways, and words turning into poems. I swear my insanity keeps me sane.

I have attended ‘think tank’ titled meetings and visualized something some crazy smart mechanical tank barging in and shooting lasers to rescue me from boredom and whisk me away to save the universe with a young Harrison Ford. (Just found out that not everyone has this inner world . . .)

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Yes, yes, and yes. I will look up the dopamine pathway for introverts, never heard that before.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.

Hmm. I used to think there was something wrong with me. Then I thought there was something wrong with everyone else. Now I see we all fill our needs in different ways and no one is wrong. Just need to teach tolerance, understanding and acceptance rather than conformance. Teach kids we’re all different, and we’re all OK too. Stop striving for normal and fitting in. Instead celebrate our differences!!

So to sum this up, I understand myself a bit more now. My introversion is not caused by abuse, but my personality was shaped by my experience and I may be more introverted than without the abuse. I also attached an ‘abnormal’ label to myself all these years as I tried to fit in. Now I am finding ways to fit into social groups without compromising myself. I am finding people that value me as me. This is important, because I used to think only in terms of my past, my abuse. I thought it had touched all of me and made me who I am. It is important to see the difference that it yes it shaped me, but so did many other things. I don’t have a neon sign of “abuse survivor” on my head like I previously thought. I am not so damaged. I was hurt. I have scars – But I am not a scar. Huge change to my way of thinking about myself.

I am loving and gentle to myself now, and amazingly, others are acting this way too. My whole world is transforming and opening up to me – all because I have chosen to actually be me. Amazing.

If you are on this journey to, don’t give up. It takes practice to be kind to yourself. I still make mistakes. But I am allowing the nurturing parent and teacher in me to take care of my hurting inner child. I would never belittle my own kids, or those in my classrooms for stumbling when learning. It is to be expected. Learning is hard, but never impossible.