Tag Archives: abuse

The positive amidst the negative

Standard

I really need to post the positive here more often. I use this blog perhaps too frequently just for venting, and my life isn’t all just PTSD and anxiety.

So, I made it to all of church yesterday. Then I realized last night that even though it had been probably at least 2 weeks since I’d had any bad nightmares, I hadn’t shared that either. Then last night I had bad nightmares, the kind that pin me to my bed and make it difficult to move or wake up. *But*, it had been quite a while. I don’t think I’ve gone that long without them. Upon reflection, I’ve been focusing on not getting over-tired, and I seem to get more nightmares when I’m over-tired.

So, I needed today for sleeping. I’m still shaky and a bit out of it. Doing anything complicated isn’t an option. But…there’s our single’s group home evening tonight. It’s a small group gathering tonight, and while most will play ping pong (not on my list of things that I’m good at or enjoy), it means I can enjoy just sitting and watching and talking to friends.

Yesterday I was able to get a hold of both my kids: one on the phone, the other texting. That always makes my day.

I’ve been reading this book a little each night and feel like I’m learning a lot from it. It’s answering some questions I’ve had regarding different healing modalities used for trauma victims. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of it. He mentions in it that he will be publishing an entire book devoted to childhood trauma victims, and I think that book may be out by now.

Waking the Tiger still

Advertisements

Isolation

Standard

tree-738816_1280I just got home from spending 6 weeks in CA: it started out as a trip to be with my kids for their middle school and high school graduations, then turned into a longer trip in order to go through my storage and try to find a way to get some things back up here to Utah.

I do a lot in order to not feel isolated and lonely, but I think it might be an inevitable part of being disabled. I have two blogs, I have lots of friends, I try to get out every day even if its only a walk to the store or pharmacy. I try to take the bus different places. Being in CA was less isolating for the most part because I had a car and was really busy trying to both get through all the boxes in my storage unit (which I managed to do) and sort them, donate things, etc. I didn’t get to spend as much time with my kids as I would have liked because I was expending a lot of energy on the storage task, and my kids are teens now and busy doing lots of other things. Then they left on a cruise for two weeks with their dad and step mom and two step sisters. Their step mom graciously asked me to dog sit/house sit for them so that I could also have a place to go through my storage.

I was good for about 10 days, I thought. I knew I was beginning to struggle, but I also didn’t want to have to spend much on gas, as it just seemed like a good idea, and as I was having huge struggles with my step mom who (it seems) seems to think I could just throw away everything. Anyway, I’m trying to get over my anger on how she dealt with it.

So for over a week I sorted and sorted and filled more than half a city owned residential recycling trash can with paper and plastic. I was pretty proud of myself. It also felt very cleansing. I started out my divorce with enough stuff to fill a 10×10 storage unit, and over the years it’s gone down and down, depending on where I’ve lived.

In some places I didn’t need a storage unit. I have most of the family photos that were taken prior to 1980 when my mom passed away. My sister has never had room for them and my brother….I dunno, he probably could have kept them. I’ve been kind of the “family historian” since I took a class on it in college and majored in history and have made it a hobby to know about family history preservation. Anyway, the storage unit fit into my monthly allowance and I’ve economized on purpose so that I could keep it. When I moved from CA to UT, I got to Utah via a ride with my older sister’s family to my niece and little sister graduating from college. I couldn’t bring much. I still don’t have much stuff here. When I moved from one apartment to the next, everyone helping out kept saying, “that’s all??”  Didn’t take very long to move me.

phone-160428_640So I’m getting off topic. But it does relate. I was so focused on the storage unit that I didn’t do much else other than go to the pharmacy and grocery store. Then around day 10 of my time dog-sitting a huge wave of depression came in. I don’t get that depressed very often: more often it’s the bad anxiety. It was very very deep, though. The positive side was that eventually I realized it was happening and remembered that I could probably at least call friends and try to talk it out. I think being away from my doctor and therapist for that long (6 weeks) was probably also not a good idea for me at this time, but getting to be with my kids was. The day before they got back the depression started to lift. The phone calls helped a lot. Doesn’t hurt that one of my friends is a therapist. I try not to “use” him for that, but he’s gracious enough to help if I need it. Sometimes my therapist isn’t feeling well herself due to a prior injury from a car accident, and (such is life, she can’t change it…) sometimes I really need to talk to someone when she’s not doing well.

So, the end of my 6 week stay was really really nice. I got to spend a lot of time with my kids. They and the rest of the group told me all about their cruise and vacation and showed me photos and videos. We spent time with some of my friends on one of my last nights, and then wandered around a farmer’s market. It was exactly what I needed.

So, coming home was nice (it’s home) but leaving my kids again is always hard. I’m realizing how isolated I am here a lot of the time, too. I keep hoping that after my disability hearing that I’ll be able to get a used car. Sometimes I think about it too much, I think. It was so much easier in CA to not be discouraged a lot of the time because even if I was tired I could just get in the car to run my errand or get where I was going. My fatigue doesn’t have to be a 10/10 to make it difficult to take the bus sometimes to get where I’m going.  Upside of the bus? I love watching everything go by and being able to remember a lot of what I see, which is more difficult in a car. I also love to walk distances, so walking from the stop to my destination is kind of an adventure, even if I’ve done it dozens of times. I always see something new. Downside again: if I’m fatigued, it can be really difficult. Dora

I feel like I could do so much more if I could just get out from under needing my parents’ help. I found out today that even after the disability hearing, a decision could take 1-4 months. I’m so tired of dealing with my sm and her impatience. It’s a miracle she’s “let” my dad help in the first place, so I’m grateful for that, but I can’t wait for this all to be over. I don’t even want to think about the possibility of being denied. If the judge could spend a week living with me and seeing what my health is like, I don’t think I’d have any trouble. I wish that it wasn’t so complicated, but it is. It could take a full three years from the time I applied to when the decision is finally made.

Missing things.

Standard

disappointmentThe past two weeks have been very eventful. I think they’ve been way more positive than negative, even if my PTSD symptoms seem to have a mind of their own. I’ve been able to make it to the most important events of the two weeks with one glaring exception: my son’s high school graduation was a Tuesday evening followed by my daughter’s middle school graduation on a Wednesday morning. So, guess what I missed? Yup, the middle school graduation. I don’t think it was good emotionally for either my daughter or for me. I think my Facebook post will sum it up the best:

Slightly personal. One of the joys of having PTSD: (and no, I won’t tell you where I got it from): I had a good time at (son’s) graduation, but it was a very large, happy (good thing) noisy crowd. I was happy but a bit of a shaking mess by the end. (Daughter’s) Middle School graduation was this morning. I could wake up, but I was semi-paralyzed and could hardly move or speak. I managed a text that I wasn’t doing well, then I missed her graduation. These are the times when having PTSD really stinks the most. I slept for several more hours, having nightmares about trying to get to (daughter’s) promotion. There is no way I can take it back. Then a certain family member was giving me a hard time about having gone to (son’s) graduation instead of Libby’s. Because, you know, as a Mom I always want to make choices like that, and I’m omniscient about consequences. It’s now 3:30 and the tremors still haven’t completely gone away, and I’m still struggling to speak. And (daughter) didn’t have her mom at her graduation.

Mental illnesses aren’t different from physical illnesses in this way. Oh, because wait…mental illnesses ARE physical ilnesses! There’s this weird misconception, which is probably understandable, that because they’re “mental” that people who have them haven’t done the intense mental and physical struggling to try to be everywhere they want and need to be. Just like everyone else, I have to miss things that I want to get to go to more than anything else. I miss things that I didn’t want to go to, and I feel bad about that too! Basically, I have to constantly work on the shame and guilt and good guilt and bad guilt of all the places I both want to go to and don’t want to go to. And some of the things I don’t want to go to are easier to go to (some meetings, for instance) than things I want to go to (I can’t currently do any movies in theaters….how’s that for fun…you want to go there?)  But missing my daughter’s graduation takes the cake. For the rest of my life, this will be one of those things that I remember with much more frustration than having to miss a bunch of movies in theaters for a couple of years, or however long it ends up lasting. I can’t make it up. So, my daughter was really understanding. She was upset and disappointed. It was one of those things that incites a combination of feelings. I can’t get into her head and tell you everything that went on, but I can tell you what I know from what she told me and other family members. I can tell you what it was like when I was lying in my bed with most of my body stuck there and not wanting to move, and my head wanting to believe that it was 1am instead of 8 or 9 am, and wishing that someone could stick me on a stretcher or at least offer me a Skype session of it. I’m trying to work on my anger with people who don’t understand. With the people I don’t know very well, it’s not an issue. With a couple of family members, it bothers me and I do take it personally at times. Then I talk it out with a friend or my therapist and the forgiveness comes back. In the meantime, I’m grateful I wasn’t able to slug the person who suggested that I somehow could have made it. I could have, probably, had I missed my son’s graduation. He was in a graduating class of over 1,000 students. How do you decide not to try to make it to that? I had done okay for the few days prior, so I was  praying that I’d make both. I had made it to his Baccalaureate and my daughter’s awards assembly. It’s so easy online to see the enormous evidence of how much we all judge others based on 20/20 vision and hindsight. I’m the one who is going to spend the rest of my life knowing that I missed my daughter’s 8th grade promotion. Everyone can….I want to use words that I shouldn’t. I love my family and I love my daughter and I’m going to make it past this somehow. The rest of you who are mostly healthy and get to go to both the things you want to and most of the things you don’t…..think about your health. Don’t make it to everything you want to? Welcome to the lives of everyone else on the planet. And I was touched by how many people understood how I was feeling and reached out to both me and my daughter. And this post ended up long, about just one thing, so I guess I’ll move on to another post for the rest. For what it’s worth. I have way more blessings than I have disappointments. At the very least, I believe this phrase that I heard once, “The sorrows may outnumber the joys, but the joys will outweigh the sorrows.”  My blessings here on my trip to CA have far outweighed the sorrows, despite the frustration of missing my daughter’s promotion. And I kept myself from swearing (slightly swearing) over the subject. 😛

Fixing the Thinking

Standard

***PLEASE NOTE: I am not trained or qualified to diagnose or give medical advice on any type of psychological or psychiatric condition.*** The purpose of this blog is simply for me to share my experiences.
lamp-432247_640
I always experience a downer when I come back from visiting my kids. I live in Utah because I came here to try to finish my degree, which didn’t work out due to my health: then I ended up staying because my parents are helping me out until I get disability (hopefully) and Utah is cheaper than California. It is quieter here than the L.A./Orange County area, and the pace of life is blessedly slower, but….my kids aren’t here.

Not getting to spend Christmas with them thanks to the flu has given me the opportunity to work harder on my thinking patterns. Now, as a warning, I’ve heard several different terms applied to what I’m going to talk about: and not being a professional, I don’t think I can adequately distinguish between them. Years ago I was taught “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” then about 8 years ago “Dialectical Behavioral Therapy,” or “DBT,” and I have a friend who is a therapist who refers to it as cognitive distortions, or thinking distortions. I’ll have to ask him again.

So, how to make this short…

22 years ago I was loaned a copy of the book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns. I highly recommend it if you have issues with anxiety or depression, or really just for anyone. He talks about distorted thoughts and shows a method to work on getting rid of them by writing them down and then identifying what types of “distortion” they are according to a list he made (which was very handy) and then writing next to each thought what the reality really is, which is almost always better. It helped a great deal, once I stopped beating myself every time I caught a “distorted thought.” I was pretty much the queen of hard on myself at the time. I’m a lot better at it now, but I still struggle.

Just after my divorce, I became a patient at an anxiety clinic at a university that I love, but won’t name here, due to a bad experience I’m mentioning.  I would see a resident there (who was great) and then one of several supervising psychiatrists. One of the doctors didn’t seem happy that I was seeing my own therapist (who had specialized in anxiety for her dissertation), and seemed a bit upset when I mentioned my religion, and that my therapist was also that same religion, and that someone close to me had been addicted to pornography. He didn’t seem to think that certain addiction was possible. It had been the source of a great deal of trauma to me and my kids, mostly because of how this family member had acted because of it: increased temper and less of an ability to be aware of the feelings of those around him.

Anyway, they insisted that I do “DBT” (which is good) but in a way that was just like the lists I’d done from the book years before. They had the resident sit next to me and go through it slowly, and make me think of things to write down. They were already feelings I was aware of and had been working on a long time. I don’t know how to explain why, but it was extremely traumatizing. They weren’t things I needed to work on, and it felt like they were twisting a screw in my back psychologically. I ended up leaving in tears one day. The one doctor that I’d had a bad vibe from, I found out later (when I wasn’t supposed to, but certain people had a feeling it would be helpful to me emotionally/mentally) was dropped from my case. Years later, when I heard that “DBT” was found to be helpful to those with PTSD, I felt discouraged, as if it was yet another things to check off my list of things that I’d “already done.”
psychology-544405_640
Then last year I was blessed to be assigned to a therapist who had specialized in trauma, and to be able to attend a trauma support group. The therapist explained to me that there is now more to DBT than “just” those lists. In the group we learned quite a few techniques that were different from the lists, and quite a bit more helpful to me at this point. Also, up until about two years ago, when my anxiety would be at its worst and I was struggling (like I still do) to talk and function and think clearly, I could name, perhaps, the trigger that got me there, and the overall larger problems I was dealing with, but I couldn’t tell you what was bothering me. Sometimes I could sit and write down what was going on, but more frequently I felt extremely confused and like I just needed some sleep so I could function again.

As the time is getting closer that (hopefully) my disability hearing will come, and has winter has set in, I’ve been having a lot more problems with deep depression than I usually do. I ran into my friend who is a therapist (but not my therapist) and he asked me if I was doing my positive thinking exercises, and I realized that that weekend I hadn’t been. I took it as an important reminder. At first, I realized, the thought came into my head that “but I don’t know what’s bothering me….” but unlike in the more distant past, when I got home and sat down to write, I kept going and going. It just came out. I’m taking this as a good sign that, just maybe, some of this depression is the old emotions, stuffed in down deep, finally coming out and being dealt with. It’s not that I haven’t had to deal with things before, but these are things that came in too much at a time, that I wasn’t ready to deal with, due to trauma, and perhaps this is another step in filing those thoughts and emotions in their proper places in my mind, and healing more.

A few weeks ago, someone also randomly posted on Facebook a link to a BYU devotional by Elaine Marshall, of the school of nursing, several years ago. I really needed this quote and saw it as a blessing that I noticed the link and happened to click on it:

I have learned that healing is a process of restoring and becoming whole. This morning I would like to share six lessons I have learned about the healer’s art.

First, healing hurts. When I was a young nurse in the hospital, hardly a day went by that a patient did not ask, “Will it hurt?” If I had been truthful, the whispered answer would nearly always have been, “Yes, it will hurt.” I have learned that healing hurts. Life hurts. Healing really only begins when we face the hurt in its full force and then grow through it with all the strength of our soul. For every reward of learning and growing, some degree of pain is always the price. Author M. Scott Peck reminds us that if you do not want love or pain, you “must do without many things” (M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978]: 133). I think you would do without dating, graduating, getting married, or having children.

Sometime in your life you will know a crashing crisis or heavy heartache that will threaten all sense of logic or hope or certainty—from which, no matter how you emerge, nothing will ever be the same. Hurts come as unique losses, unwelcome surprises, fading hope, or grief.

apple-570965_640

Trigger Tales: the Helicopter

Standard

I had been told several times during my twenties that I probably had some form of PTSD, but since it didn’t hit me in the same way as it did war veterans, I took a strange comfort that it wasn’t the “same kind of ” PTSD that I’d heard about. In fact, it’s a common misconception when people hear about mental illnesses that everyone who has PTSD has it the same way, that everyone who is bipolar has it the same way, etc. It makes sense to order it in our minds that way when we’re fortunate enough to not be having to deal with it. Mental illnesses are like any other type of illness in that they manifest in as many ways as the people who have them.

Starting in about Jr. High, friends in one of my classes figured out that I had an exaggerated startle response. In other words, when they would do some sort of game like waving their hands in someone else’s peripheral vision, the person might move a little. I, however, jumped. I’m not sure why I remember this. In some strange way it was comforting to me, because they hadn’t teased me about it (I guess they thought it was some kind of superhuman reflex) and it was also some kind of proof to me that I wasn’t okay, even if my parents tried to pretend everything was normal at home. Jr. High was also a difficult time for me, probably the worst of my growing up years at home, which translated easier into difficulties feeling like I fit in at school. I went from “brainy” and mostly normal to “struggling socially.” Not too different from a lot of kids in that stage, unfortunately. I found out later that out of my siblings, only one enjoyed Jr. High.helicopter-390488_640

I have two kids, about 4 years apart. My daughter is the youngest and was born in Los Angeles not long after 9/11. My former husband and I had gone through a couple really hard years, followed by a small amount of peace (during which time my daughter came to be) and we moved to L.A. for him to finish graduate school. I was going through severe postpartum depression and constantly on myself, thinking I was doing everything wrong. As my ex once put it, “Do you think you’re responsible for everything that goes wrong in the world?”  At which time I realized that I did, and that it was odd, but I couldn’t seem to make the feeling go away.

We lived in student housing next to the 405 freeway, and not far from the intersection with the 10, and about 10 miles south of what they said was then (and still may be) the “busiest freeway intersection in the country.” It was a nice neighborhood. West L.A. is a nice area. It is still L.A., though, and we frequently heard traffic and news helicopters outside. Once I was walking back from a friend’s place in the student housing complex, and a helicopter passed overhead and on a loudspeaker someone said something similar to, “please stay indoors, suspect is in the area, on foot. Police are in pursuit.”  Not terribly comforting. Needless to say I quickened my pace and told my family.

The kicker for me in realizing that it wasn’t “just” Postpartum Depression (which is not a “just” for anyone, of course) and anxiety was when I was feeling overwhelmed, which was what I’d come to believe my life would just have to be like, and my kids were watching tv or playing in the family room and my ex husband was either walking by or sitting there. A helicopter passed nearby, and in a split second a felt a HUGE adrenaline rush, and I fell to the floor and covered my neck like we used to do in earthquake drills in CA in elementary school. It felt like there was a war right there, like the terrorists had come to Los Angeles and we were about to die. Then in another split second I realized what had happened: that I was “okay” and we were okay, and that it was just a helicopter (and I have never been in a “literal” war zone), but I was not okay. I just started to cry, wondering what was going to happen to me.

“You Seem So Capable….”

Standard

superman-295328_640This is something I’ve heard more than once. Frankly, it’s something that frequently goes through my head, so I understand where it’s coming from.

In my inexpert non-doctor but “I live with myself every day” opinion, these seem to be my biggest issues with being able to work:

  1. I can’t guarantee that I can be somewhere at any specific time
  2. I deal with debilitating fatigue
  3. When you see me, I’m *usually* at my best
  4. I still don’t understand all of my “triggers” or where they come from, so I have a lot to work on
  5. When bombarded with unexpected or expected triggers that take over quickly in an unexpected way, my mind just “shuts off.”
  6. I have both a “genetic tremor” that, when combined with the shaking from the anxiety, kind of freaks out employers. They want me to go to the doctor to get it “fixed.”

 

Things that throw people seems to be that

  • I usually have higher than average abilities socially (with some quirks thrown in, but who doesn’t have that…)
  • I have (supposedly) a high I.Q.
  • I have a lot of people skills, writing skills, networking skills, etc.

However, I also need a lot of sleep. My son asked a really good question of me one time when he said, “But if you work out, will you eventually work through the fatigue and build up more resistance and be able to sleep less?”  I wish this were the case. I’ve been dealing with the fatigue for twenty years now. Sometimes I can do more than others. Somehow it seems tied to my anxiety. I can walk 3-5 miles several days a week and I’m just fine. If I try to up the amount of just about anything I do, though, and I keep pushing it, my ability to endure doesn’t increase.  Instead, my body “crashes.” The most common thing that happens in that case is that I end up sleeping for about 30 hours, and you couldn’t wake me up if you wanted to or if I wanted to. If there was a fire in the building and someone didn’t carry me out or lead me by the hand, I’d probably die. It’s just a fact, not asking anyone to feel sorry for me.

When my son (now 17 years old) was an infant, I experienced extreme sleep deprivation. I was put on anti-depressants after that, and changed my diet quite a bit (I went gluten-free before he was born) and slowly gained more stamina. When my daughter was born four years later, I was doing a lot better, but it wasn’t hard to tell that I didn’t have the stamina that other moms had. I either felt like I needed to go to bed around 6pm, or I felt “wired” like I just needed a few hours to myself after everyone else was asleep. I was also so tired that I would forget to eat enough during the day, so just before bed I’d be shoveling in food during a time when I didn’t need to worry if everyone else was getting enough.

I didn’t take my kids many places, compared to the the other moms we knew in the graduate student family housing where we lived. If I started to think, “hey, maybe I am normal….” I’d have either friends or random strangers ask me if I was okay. The general consensus of the other moms was that I always seemed more tired than other moms. I supposed that, coming from other moms of small children, that was saying something.

I think that, more than anything, the way my mind will just “turn off” is the scariest symptom I have. I look normal (I think) when it happens, but if people try to talk to me, I can’t speak back. It can take a lot of effort to remember what is going on around me.

I think the mind turning off started towards the end of my marriage. I don’t mean to be negative towards my ex-husband, who has made a lot of progress and is a good dad and provider and (thankfully) remarried several years ago. He was in graduate school, trying to finish a PhD., and at least three or four years before that had just gotten tired of my anxiety issues. I had had several doctors and therapists tell me that I needed more time to relax, or things would get worse. He didn’t like that because he wasn’t sure how we’d accomplish it. He often took the kids to school, took them to the grocery store with him, or to visit his parents. But towards the end of the marriage and during the divorce, I could be completely wiped out, and he’d just leave. My kids watched a lot of t.v. and movies. More and more I had difficulties sleeping, no matter how tired I was. I felt like a zombie. I wanted to talk about other things we could do, maybe talk to people at church for ideas, and I was seeing a psychiatrist at a Post-Partum Clinic who after a year or two had me transfer to the Anxiety Clinic.

There was a lot more to it, but probably not worth sharing. I asked him if maybe the kids and I could go live with his parents, but he didn’t want that. My psychiatrist there (and the ones where I’ve lived since) said that I already had PTSD at that point, but that my marriage had made it a lot worse. The anxiety seems to have started when I was about 9 or 10 years old. It’s a very long story how I figured out that part.