Thursday, December 18, 2014

Set Aside

Dissociation is a powerful survival tool but can really interfere with living.  I am learning to use it on a temporary basis.  Last month I was working on a series of questions.  I realized the introspection was difficult when I had so much going on.  Family gathering from the western half of the United States requires planning, preparations, and focus.  Turning inward was not a good choice.  I decided to set the questions aside for a bit.  I also realized that in my effort to work on my PTSD web page I was pulling more and more of the research into my Facebook.  I am not defined by PTSD.  So I am using a diluted version of dissociation to set aside certain parts of things that I will work on later.  Some people call this compartmentalizing.  It is a useful tool.  Living in the moment and setting reflections and worry off to the side, temporarily.  I emphasize the temporary part because if I just bury things then I am sliding backwards into burying my feelings.  Now I am telling them, I will give you center stage at a later date, I'm busy right now.   If I follow through on my promise, I notice that my feelings are willing to wait.  I am aware that compartmentalization at an extreme level can be as unhealthy as extreme dissociation.  But like many tools remember to use the small hammer instead of the 10 lb sledge.  January is a time to evaluate as I plan for the New Year.  I will revisit the questions and continue my research on PTSD later. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Plan to be late

I've learned that when I pray in the morning to serve the Lord by helping someone in need, I better prepare to be late for something.  I noticed that the Lord doesn't ask me to help others when I have nothing to do.  It is at a moment when I feel I need to be somewhere else then there is this emotional tug to stop, pay attention, observe those around me, and serve where needed.  I remember a story I got in the internet years ago....I've seen multiple versions now. 

I looked up on Snopes and found the back ground of the story:

Claim:   Students at a religious institute enrolled in a class on the life of Jesus arrive at their classroom to take the final exam and find a notice informing them that the test will be given in another building on the other side of the campus. As the students rush across campus to the new room, each is accosted by a forlorn beggar who entreats their help. None of the students stops for him, however — they all rush by, anxious to arrive on time for the exam.

The instructor is waiting for the students when they finally reach the classroom. He explains to them that the beggar was an actor, planted by him to test their reactions. Because the students did not demonstrate that they had acquired any compassion while studying the life of Jesus, they all failed the exam.

Today I prayed to serve others, I was late for work, late for an appointment, late getting home.  I was late.  I'm OK with being late.  I noticed too a feeling of peace when I was starting to be anxious about the end of school wrap up of assignments.  I would think once again that I prayed to serve others, their demands suddenly seemed less demanding.  Still needed to be done but my attitude shifted. Prayers are sometimes answered in a way that isn't expected.....I think I'll plan to leave earlier so I can serve and not be late.....

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rocky Balboa

The Rocky Balboa Speech That Dragged Me Out Of Hell

Rocky Balboa Speech To Son

“You ain’t gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here. (He gestures to the palm of his hand). I’d hold you up to say to your mother, ‘This kid’s gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid’s gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew.’ And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watchin’ you, every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started lookin’ for something to blame, like a big shadow.

Let me tell you something you already know.The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!

Now if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth! But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!
I’m always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, you ain’t gonna have a life.”
- Rocky Balboa

I needed this speech.  Thank you Evan Sanders from thebettermanproject for posting it.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I didn't believe I could

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt 

Walking into counseling I naively thought of it as a summer project, one summer not ten.  I looked at my own past terrified, I called myself a worm, with no back bone or no bones at all.  I saw myself as weak and cowardly.  I had no strength, no courage and certainly no confidence.  My counselor turned me around to take a hard look at my past.  I was terrified.  The past was just as horrific as I remember and a whole lot more. My whole body would shake so badly I couldn't walk on my own after some sessions.  I was thankful my husband was there.  KavinCoach taught me if I lived through it, it won't kill me to remember it.  I debated that from time to time but he was right.  I could face my past.  As I looked at my past, I slowly gained strength to face more and more.  I still don't remember everything.  I also believe that is a kind gift.  With each memory remembered, processed and categorized I was better able to face the next one, then the next one.  Sometimes a mental dam would break and I would be flood with too much too fast.  I was taught how to release the memories slowly so that each one received the attention I needed to put it back into context.  I learned I did have a backbone.  I learned that no matter how horrific a memory is, I can live through remembering.  I learned that my body remembered suffering even when my mind forgot.  About every two or three years I encounter this quote.  I finally agree, "I can do the things I thought I could not do.  I did live through horror.  I stopped and faced my fears."  I am thankful I didn't need to do this alone.  

Friday, December 12, 2014


PTSD Facebook groups are working at sharing information about PTSD.  Most of what I read is fairly accurate from the information I have.  I am passing it along here and on my other blog.  This is one of the best definitions I have read.  I am a big believer that knowledge is power.  Taking back my power is a slow uphill struggle.  I spent many years in counseling and I'm not through yet. 

PTSD is difficult but not impossible.    
PTSD Break The Silence with Exa Marie Jones
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape, such as in cases of:

domestic emotional, physical or sexual abuse
childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse
entrapment or kidnapping.
slavery or enforced labor.
long term imprisonment and torture
repeated violations of personal boundaries.
long-term objectification.
exposure to gaslighting & false accusations
long-term exposure to inconsistent, push-pull, splitting or alternating raging & hoovering behaviors.
long-term taking care of mentally ill or chronically sick family members.
long term exposure to crisis conditions.

When people have been trapped in a situation over which they had little or no control at the beginning, middle or end, they can carry an intense sense of dread even after that situation is removed. This is because they know how bad things can possibly be. And they know that it could possibly happen again. And they know that if it ever does happen again, it might be worse than before.

The degree of C-PTSD trauma cannot be defined purely in terms of the trauma that a person has experienced. It is important to understand that each person is different and has a different tolerance level to trauma. Therefore, what one person may be able to shake off, another person may not. Therefore more or less exposure to trauma does not necessarily make the C-PTSD any more or less severe.

C-PTSD sufferers may "stuff" or suppress their emotional reaction to traumatic events without resolution either because they believe each event by itself doesn't seem like such a big deal or because they see no satisfactory resolution opportunity available to them. This suppression of "emotional baggage" can continue for a long time either until a "last straw" event occurs, or a safer emotional environment emerges and the dam begins to break.

The "Complex" in Complex Post Traumatic Disorder describes how one layer after another of trauma can interact with one another. Sometimes, it is mistakenly assumed that the most recent traumatic event in a person's life is the one that brought them to their knees. However, just addressing that single most-recent event may possibly be an invalidating experience for the C-PTSD sufferer. Therefore, it is important to recognize that those who suffer from C-PTSD may be experiencing feelings from all their traumatic exposure, even as they try to address the most recent traumatic event.
This is what differentiates C-PTSD from the classic PTSD diagnosis - which typically describes an emotional response to a single or to a discrete number of traumatic events.

Difference between C-PTSD & PTSD

Although similar, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) differs slightly from the more commonly understood & diagnosed condition Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in causes and symptoms.

C-PTSD results more from chronic repetitive stress from which there is little chance of escape. PTSD can result from single events, or short term exposure to extreme stress or trauma.
Therefore a soldier returning from intense battle may be likely to show PTSD symptoms, but a kidnapped prisoner of war who was held for several years may show additional symptoms of C-PTSD.

Similarly, a child who witnesses a friend's death in an accident may exhibit some symptoms of PTSD but a child who grows up in an abusive home may exhibit the additional C-PTSD characteristics shown below:

C-PTSD - What it Feels Like:

People who suffer from C-PTSD may feel un-centered and shaky, as if they are likely to have an embarrassing emotional breakdown or burst into tears at any moment. They may feel unloved - or that nothing they can accomplish is ever going to be "good enough" for others.

People who suffer from C-PTSD may feel compelled to get away from others and be by themselves, so that no-one will witness what may come next. They may feel afraid to form close friendships to prevent possible loss should another catastrophe strike.

People who suffer from C-PTSD may feel that everything is just about to go "out the window" and that they will not be able to handle even the simplest task. They may be too distracted by what is going on at home to focus on being successful at school or in the workplace.

C-PTSD Characteristics

How it can manifest in the victim(s) over time:

Rage turned inward: Eating disorders. Depression. Substance Abuse / Alcoholism. Truancy. Dropping out. Promiscuity. Co-dependence. Doormat syndrome (choosing poor partners, trying to please someone who can never be pleased, trying to resolve the primal relationship)

Rage turned outward: Theft. Destruction of property. Violence. Becoming a control freak.

Other: Learned hyper vigilance. Clouded perception or blinders about others (especially romantic partners)

Seeks positions of power and / or control: choosing occupations or recreational outlets which may put oneself in physical danger. Or choosing to become a "fixer" - Therapist, Mediator, etc.

Avoidance - Avoidance is the practice of withdrawing from relationships with other people as a defensive measure to reduce the risk of rejection, accountability, criticism or exposure.

Blaming - Blaming is the practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.

Catastrophizing - Catastrophizing is the habit of automatically assuming a "worst case scenario" and inappropriately characterizing minor or moderate problems or issues as catastrophic events.

"Control-Me" Syndrome - "Control-Me" Syndrome describes a tendency that some abuse victims and some people who suffer from personality disorders have to nurture relationships with people who have a controlling narcissistic, antisocial or "acting-out" nature.

Denial (PD) - Denial is believing or imagining that some factual reality, circumstance, feeling or memory does not exist or did not happen.

Dependency - Dependency is an inappropriate and chronic reliance by one adult individual on another for their health, subsistence, decision making or personal and emotional well- being.

Depression (Non-PD) -Depression is when you feel sadder than your circumstances dictate, for longer than your circumstances last - but still can't seem to break out of it.

Escape To Fantasy - Escape to Fantasy is sometimes practiced by people who routinely shun transparency with others and present a facade to friends, partners and family members. Their true identity and feelings are commonly expressed privately in an alternate fantasy world.

Fear of Abandonment - Fear of abandonment and irrational jealousy is a phobia, sometimes exhibited by people with personality disorders, that they are in imminent danger of being rejected, discarded or replaced at the whim of a person who is close to them.

Hyper Vigilance - Hyper Vigilance is the practice of maintaining an unhealthy level of interest in the behaviors, comments, thoughts and interests of others.

Identity Disturbance - Identity disturbance is a psychological term used to describe a distorted or inconsistent self-view.

Learned Helplessness- Learned helplessness is when a person begins to believe they have no control over a situation, even when they actually do have the power to change their circumstances, leading them into an unneccessary state of depression, where initiative, action or investment is deemed futile.

Low Self-Esteem - Low Self-Esteem is a common name for a negatively-distorted self-view which is inconsistent with reality. People who have low self-esteem often see themselves as unworthy of being successful in personal and professional settings and in social relationships. They may view their successes and their strenghts in a negative light and believe that others see them in the same way. As a result, they may develop an avoidance strategy to protect themselves from criticism.

Panic Attacks - Panic Attacks are short intense episodes of fear or anxiety, often accompanied by physical symptoms.

Perfectionism - Perfectionism is the practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unsustainable or unattainable standard of organization, order or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order or accomplishment in others.

Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia - Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia is the use of memory, or a lack of memory, which is selective to the point of reinforcing a bias, belief or desired outcome.

Self-Loathing - Self Loathing is an extreme self-hatred of one's own self, actions or one's ethnic or demographic background.

Tunnel Vision - Tunnel Vision is the habit or tendency to only see or focus on a single priority while neglecting or ignoring other important priorities.

C-PTSD Causes

C-PTSD is caused by a prolonged or sustained exposure to emotional trauma or abuse from which no short-term means of escape is available or apparent to the victim.

The precise neurological damage that exists in C-PTSD victims is not well understood.

C-PTSD Treatment

Little has been done in clinical studies of treatment of C-PTSD. However, in general the following is recommended:

Removal of and protection from the source of the trauma and/or abuse.
Acknowledgement of the trauma as real, important and undeserved.
Acknowledge that the trauma came from something that was stronger than the victim and therefore could not be avoided.
Acknowledgement of the "complex" nature of C-PTSD - that responses to earlier traumas may have led to decisions that brought on additional, undeserved trauma.
Acknowledgement that recovery from the trauma is not trivial and will require significant time and effort.
Separation of residual problems into those that the victim can resolve (such as personal improvement goals) and those that the victim cannot resolve (such as the behavior of a disordered family member)
Mourning for what has been lost and cannot be recovered.
Identification of what has been lost and can be recovered.
Program of recovery with focus on what can be improved in an individuals life that is under their own control.
Placement in a supportive environment where the victim can discover they are not alone and can receive validation for their successes and support through their struggles.
As necessary, personal therapy to promote self discovery.
As required, prescription of antidepressant medications.

What to do about C-PTSD if you've got it:

Remove yourself from the primary or situation or secondary situations stemming from the primary abuse. Seek therapy. Talk about it. Write about it. Meditation. Medication if needed. Physical Exercise. Rewrite the script of your life.

What not to do about it:

Stay. Hold it in. Bottle it up. Act out. Isolate. Self-abuse. Perpetuate the cycle.

What to do about it if you know somebody else who has C-PTSD:

Offer sympathy, support, a shoulder to cry on, lend an ear. Speak from experience. Assist with practical resolution when appropriate (guidance towards escape, therapy, etc.) Be patient.

What not to do about it if you know somebody else who has it:

Do not push your own agenda: proselytize, moralize, speak in absolutes, tell them to "get over it", or try to force reconciliation with the perpetrator or offer "sure fire" cures.

C-PTSD Support Groups & Links: