Thursday, October 23, 2014

I sometimes hear others putting labels on you. How does that make you feel?

  This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer. (I don't read his blog until after I write mine.)

20.  I sometimes hear others putting labels on you. How does that make you feel?

For me, having a label or a name for my shadow warrior that could destroy me at will, it was a relief.  I had something I could research.  I could find suggestions that apply to my life and improve my living conditions.  However, there is a part two to this issue that blasted on the news this week.  A horrible shooting by a man that killed out of his own choices and headlines are screaming....."He must be mentally ill."  NOT every crook, criminal, cruel abuser, or jerk is mentally ill.  Or push the issue the other way and almost every person will fit a mental illness.  The issue I see with this question is the lumping everyone together.  I would not intentionally hurt another person - ever.  From these shooting sprees come a knee jerk out cry to track "all mentally ill people" so we know where the crazies are.  Mentally ill people have enough problems without using labels to ostracize, blame, or prejudice against individuals that already been through too much.  It also gets more confusing when they use PTSD label to mean I get one certain treatment because it works for someone else with PTSD.  Medical doctors don't treat all sick people with the same treatment.  Mentally ill shouldn't have all the same treatment either.  The danger of labels is how they are used and by whom.  I still remember the day a neighbor found out I was in counseling.  She made the comment, "Well, at least you are not one of those weird multiples."  The stunned look on her face after I said, "Actually, I am," was comical.  Only I didn't feel like laughing.  Labels used to hurt have a negative impact if it is about my race, religion, body, or mental health.  Derogatory names, belittling, and other ways to isolate and exclude a person hurt.  Knowing that I have PTSD and there is something I can do to help relieve many of the symptoms is wonderful to know.  Being told I need to be tracked because I have mental illness and I am treated like a criminal but I've done nothing wrong sucks.  It is all how the label is used. 

Research into Pain

Not many people take the time to research pain.  I did.  I lived without it for about a third of my living.  I dissociated so completely that I could stop pain.  I didn't feel it.  I didn't feel anything else either.  Did you know that it is dangerous to live without pain?  One of the problems with leprosy is the victim loses feeling from their extremities.  The people studying the disease realized that lepers couldn't feel a rat chewing off their fingers or toes at night.  Without pain, they would hurt themselves severely without pulling back from the source of pain.  I still hurt myself because I don't realize how much damage I am doing at the time.  Pain reminds us, we are human and have limitations.  The threat of pain can be a deterrent to doing things like jumping off of buildings or cliffs.  We may override that fear.  A runner pushing past the fear to finish a race.  A gymnast running on a broken foot to finish a competition.

Olympians are hailed as heroes when they push through their pain.  Abuse victims are viewed as pathetic losers for staying in their painful situations.  Here's the strangeness.  I didn't know anything different.  I didn't know my life was anything but pain.  One of the conversations that visibly shook my counselor was the day he was trying to convince me to tolerate discomfort to move past the hard parts.  I looked at him puzzled. I responded bluntly, "I can take pain.  There is nothing new in that.  It is living without it that is difficult to understand."  Without pain demanding all my attention, I paid attention to other stuff life threw at me; loneliness in a crowd, regret, feeling guilty, and a whole host of other feelings.  Pain rules life like a two year old having a temper tantrum.  When pain subsides, I have to pay attention to the quieter emotions and events.  Life is tough.  Pain is a warning sign, a deterrent, a task master, a friend.  Stop the pain and extensive damage may occur. Tomorrow is another day.  Good night. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What parts of your mental health do you think I would like to change, and why?

  This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer. (I don't read his blog until after I write mine.)

19. What parts of your mental health do you think I would like to change, and why?

Again I feel this is a question with in a question.   Do you see me or my mental illness?  Is the real question, what part of my personality as a parent would you like to change and why? Or maybe I am questioning myself am I separate from my mental illness?  Or maybe I am trying to avoid the blunt but not too pleasant realization that I am not sure how my kids see my mental illness.  I don't know what my kids would like changed about me.  I know the gaps in memory are a real pain for them when I agree to do something then can't remember to do it.  I can only watch and listen to the feedback I get.  I do notice that the subject of PTSD is almost never discussed.  I write about it on my blog a lot but home conversations don't feature how you feel about my struggles with PTSD.   I do know that many of you reassure me that I am doing better than I think I am.  Occasionally one of you will have an open conversation about this but mostly I don't know.  Why I don't know?  Maybe I am afraid to broach the subject because things seem to be going fairly well and subconsciously I don't want to make waves.  The most consistent feedback I get is some of you wish I could handle big events a bit better.  Weddings, Thanksgiving, Christmas all are fraught with land minds that are impossible for me to avoid all of them so at some point I shut down.  Hard to have an event when the main coordinator disappears on a walk or unnecessary shopping.  So in my writing this, I think you would like me to change the part of PTSD that makes me seem undependable.  I am not solid as a rock.  I am not a port in the storm.  I am not a safe haven when things fall apart.  I tend to get more distant and less emotionally responsive when being closer and sharing emotions are important.  Or maybe this is something I wish I could change.  Sorry this is a very convoluted answer to what seems to be a straight forward question.  I think the best answer is "I don't know."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Today I am feeling pain.  It is like my emotions drag my body down and then I am feeling pain.  Pain has advantages.  Yup....that's what I said, in more than one.  Pain tells me I am alive.  I may feel sucky but I am alive.  Second, bodily pain makes it hard to feel emotional pain.  My entire attention is focused on what my body is feeling.  Emotional pain takes a back seat.  Pain tells me something is not right.  This time I know what I did.  My body was a little achy after working out.  More achy after working out again.  And screaming at me for gardening. (My tomato plant is in its new pot.  Most of my flowers are planted too.)  It takes several hits before pain sets in.  I don't stop the pain.  I let it be there.  Pain keeps me from doing more things that would damage my body further.  Pain becomes its own entity.  I am learning that if I am careful I can take pain medication.  As long as I remind myself not to act as if nothing is wrong.  I am waiting for the pain medication to kick in.  I am feeling more and more relief.  Years ago when I was numb all the time, pain was a relief from the monotony of nothingness.  Now, it is a distraction from inner turmoil.  I hurt too much to worry about other things.  I don't spar at karate.  They assume I don't want to get hurt.  Well in a way they are right.  I focus on a battle and all common sense and healthy survival extincts submerge.  What does emerge is a fierceness that minor things like pulled muscles, bruising and even broken bones will be ignored.  I know how unhealthy my behavior is.  I don't need to guess on this one.  I allow the pain but I learned that to sleep I need to stop the pain and let my body relax.  It is in sleep that the body repairs itself if I give it a chance.  I'll slow down a bit.  I'm distracted by the pain.  That is a good thing today.  Today there were things I didn't want to think about and the pain in my muscles distracted me from everything else.  Nothing else mattered accept the pain.  I also remind myself that for some people, all day everyday is a battle with pain.  I get it occasionally.  I lot of medication is sold to stop pain.  I can see why.  After a while it gets old.  Can't think about anything else.  Tomorrow will be a better day.  I do like the Navy seals saying, "the only easy day was yesterday."

To me you are just my Mom, but how do you think others see you?

I took a break for a while from these questions.  I am pondering on my reaction and where I am in my healing process and how much I accept won't/can't change.  (My past can't change.  My parents won't change.)

  This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer. (I don't read his blog until after I write mine.)

18. To me you are just my Dad Mom, but how do you think others see you?
(The original question is for Kevin so I am changing the Dad to Mom for me.)

Interesting thing about mental illness is you don't look sick.  Symptoms are chalked up to eccentricities or moods or bad days.  High functioning mental illness can go almost completely unnoticed by other people.  I had people totally disbelieve me when I say I have PTSD.  Emotional, mental and spiritual abuse doesn't leave physical marks that I could point to and say, "See this is where I am hurt."  I call mental illness a private hell for most people.  As mental illness becomes more and more disruptive in my life, it can be noticeable, but I learned to deflect questions, phrase what I say to mask the real struggle, and yes I used to out right lie to cover up.  It was a habit.  I worked hard to break the habit.  In junior high, other students were far more blunt and wrote in my annual, "to the nut."  That is when I learned to hide how I react to things.  I emotionally went into hiding.  It worked.  Most people just want everything to be fine so really don't notice what I am doing unless in interferes with what they are doing.  I am really quite relieved that mostly I'm not noticed at all.  I do know that my first counselor calls me hard working and courageous.  I don't see myself that way so in an interesting way this question becomes about how I see myself.  I'm not really sure if I've answered the question.  But these are my thoughts on this question.   

Monday, October 20, 2014

I'm sad

I was reading over on another blog about her heavy therapy session.

She hit the nail on the head for me.

She asked a poingnant question:
- I’m grateful to have this, but why am I not worth the full package?

My comment:
I asked the same question over and over and over. My answer was finally for me, I am worth it… parents couldn’t give it. I don’t know if this will become your answer or not. It is what I’m finally accepting from this summer. My parents are in their 80’s and I’m in my 50’s. They totally missed out on being my parents. They chose their fears instead. I’m still sad. But I believe I’m going to be ok. Sorry you are faced with the same question. It is a painful one. You are fortunate to have Cat in your life. Your lunch looks delicious.

I thought I had accepted that my parents chose not to be my parents.  I thought I accepted that I am an extension of my mother in her view and she can't see me as anything but a threat to her well being.  I thought I had accepted that my father used me as a human shield from my mother.  I thought I had finally got over the longing for parents.  I was wrong.  I am still not 'over' not feeling like I am worth the full package.  I wonder when the grieving ends....