I’m not sure why I hadn’t heard of the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study until now.
Check out NPR’s article Take the ACE Quiz – And Learn What It Does and Doesn’t Mean.
I got an ACE score of 4. I had a hard time finding the score meanings on the CDC’s site, but found this quickly. It reaffirms why I later became a victim of other violence and sexual assault, and experience more than one type of trauma.
“there was a direct link between childhood trauma and adult onset of chronic disease, as well as depression, suicide, being violent and a victim of violence;
people usually experience more than one type of trauma – rarely is it only sex abuse or only verbal abuse.”
I still have absolutely no tolerance for any kind of abusive behavior since recovering. I am an incredibly resilient and strong person after working on undoing all my social and emotional problems.
Since the SuperBetter book came out on September 15th, I got a few messages and emails about it and how am I doing today. I somehow missed that the book came out and had no clue my story was in it, though I’m guessing they might have said something about that a couple of years ago and I just cannot remember. But, yes, you’ve guessed correctly, the Mia, the Dream Warrior is my story. And I’m doing quite well.
I cannot believe it’s almost been a year since I logged into this blog last. I am also in amazement looking through the stats how much traffic this blog has had. I hope that it is making a difference to all of the people who have passed through.
Earlier this year I ended therapy. I got to a point where I felt like I came so far and had so many tools I learned how to use to combat PTSD, that it seemed appropriate to complete therapy.
I have done a pretty good job of building relationships. As you could tell from my last post in 2014, I was unhappy with how other friendships which used to be stronger got weaker. I think those relationships have changed and I might just see those people a handful of times a year, and that’s ok as long as I keep working on other friendships in my life.
Earlier this year I had an experience to remember that made me realize just how far I have come, and how I am an “influencer”. An influencer “hasI have always had to give presentations in my career, and have always been successful at communicating in the workplace. But, when it comes to personal relationships and real connections with people, I sure feel like that is a lot more there than it was 5 years ago.
Recently, SuperBetter sent out some emails prompting people to join back in as ally’s. I am more than happy to do that to continue helping people get better from PTSD. So feel free to get in touch with me on here or on the forum, and I’ll be happy to be your ally.
I have still not felt comfortable sharing my project publicly with my family or friends. I have told a handful of friends, who are experiencing different kinds of post traumatic growth (not PTSD but other situations), in the hopes that my story could help them. But, I still feel like I need to keep my identity secret. It’s funny because the book came out and I kind of wanted to share it with some people that my story was in there, but then the other side of my brain said no, that’s not a good idea. Just let it be.
On the dream warrior front… I have had a lot less nightmares, if not just 1-2 in the past year. So that alone amazes me.
About a month ago I was running. It was dark out. I saw this kid/young teenager acting strange on the trail. I decided to slow down and wait to see what he was up to. He turned off the trail onto a street. So I started running again. Next thing I know, he jumps over a fence at me past this building. I took off running as fast as I possibly could until I caught up to three people walking on the trail in front of me. This isn’t the first time I’ve had someone try to jump me running in my lifetime. It scared me, but I brushed it off.
Tonight I was loading groceries in my car when a man in the parking lot came up behind me. I just loading the last bag and turn and see him with a knife and he asked for money. Fight or flight. I just said, “No” real firmly and quickly got in my car and took off. I saw him return to another car in the parking lot out of the corner of my eye. Driving home, I broke down in tears. The night before I had more nightmares about someone trying to break into my home – it’s a re-occuring nightmare. I must have these kinds of nightmares and nightmares of someone trying to rape me every week. You would think by now they would stop. And then things like this happen and it reminds me why they don’t stop. The world is still an evil place and cannot be trusted. I got home in tears and my boyfriend immediately came to see what was wrong. I should have called the police. He says maybe he should go with me from now on.
I text my brother, and he says I should get a flashlight as bright as a football field to fend off attackers and “The world is full of people looking to take advantage of those who they think are weak. You were raised in one of the worst cities in the country. Next time you run into one of these assholes let them know.” Why should I have to fend off these people? Why should women have to feel afraid? Why can’t the world be a better place? I don’t want my children to have to deal with this. The world has to change. I have to help make this world a better place. This is not acceptable. I should not have to be afraid every day, every time I turn a corner, every time I come and go from my home, every time I go to sleep at night and check that my door is locked over and over, every time I walk down the street or to work, or on the bus, or anywhere. This has got to stop.
In therapy the past few weeks I’ve been doing some reflecting on the leaps and bounds of progress I have made. Even in my nightmares, I am making this same progress, which says to me I have come a long way in applying what I’ve learned to get better from trauma — in dealing with hypersensitivity, in dealing with conflict, in being assertive and self-compassionate.
At work, I’ve been dealing with a difficult abusive person. No matter what I do, this person will not be happy and they will be angry with me. It reminds me all too much of what I dealt with when I was a child with my caretaker. I have learned to not take what this person says personally, but a few weeks ago, I stood up for myself in a big way. I was sick of dealing with it, and identified what it was I needed from this person, which were my ground rules or guidelines for dealing with this person. Then I met with them and stated my guidelines. It hasn’t been perfect, but it has helped. That’s a huge step for me. 3-4 years ago I would have never had the guts to tell someone what I needed from them, let alone even be able to identify I needed anything. I used to not have needs. My whole life centered around how I could do anything and everything to make others happy and not angry at me. What a difference.
A couple weeks ago, I was struggling with my personal life. I wasn’t sure if it was just winter causing all my friends to get more and more distant. But, I knew this was not how I wanted my life to be. I want strong friendships with people I can count on, who can count on me, and who I can spend time with doing the things we both enjoy, and learn from each other. I feel like that is lacking. But, I had this dream I was taking this class with my friends. They had walked into the room and reserved a bunch of seats at a table for our friends, but they hadn’t saved me a seat so I had to sit with people I didn’t know. Ordinarily, this would make me upset – like they didn’t think about me and now I have to deal with being around people I didn’t know and wouldn’t know what to say or do. But, in the dream, it didn’t bother me and I thought, “Well, I get to meet new people. Your loss.” And happily sat with another table with complete strangers. This made me realize, sure, some of my friendships have grown distant for whatever reason. But, I have the opportunity to make new friendships and even ones that are stronger, where are values align more and we have more things in common, like being active or doing volunteer work and community service. Shortly after that dream I got to meet up with some of my friends. They all made fair-weather plans with me and no one followed up. I could be upset about that, but I figure they are busy, or inept at making plans. It’s their loss. And instead I made plans of my own. Granted not all of them were the best ones. I ended up volunteering for something that made me uncomfortable – it actually does fall under the avoidance category since it was at a place where I had been a zillion times with my ex-husband. And granted I’m probably viewed as an asshole because I got there and just said I can’t do this and I don’t want to be here and left. But, I feel a lot better that I was able to just say what I wanted and move on. Lesson learned – don’t put yourself in situations you are uncomfortable with and you don’t care about. I would have much rather been attending another event that night that benefits people rather than an idea I just don’t believe in anymore.
At work I have been working on a lot of goals for my company. This certainly put me in a big reflective stage on my own life. Here I am making all these plans for them. But, what about me? I have goals and I’m not meeting them. That’s not fair. So I have been applying what I do at work, to my own life. And hopefully that will mean I am a lot happier about where I am going and what I am doing here on this planet. One of my friends had posted this article on the 10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon. So many of these are what I am talking about in this post actually. #2 is “You Live the Life Your Create for Yourself.” For a while, from August till November, I was feeling like I was waiting for my life to start. When in reality, I was living it. But, all the things I used to look forward to, like traveling, spending time with family, game nights, spending time with friends, running races, volunteering, I just wasn’t doing them. And it felt like I had kind of disappeared. I think I was adjusting to my new life and living with someone again. Now I feel like I’ve done that and I get really excited when I pull up my list of goals, and start to really want to put plans and dates together on those. Of course more and more things pop up in my head of what I want to do. And I start feeling like life is too short. Then I think of #3 Being Busy Does Not Mean Being Productive. One of the good things I gained out of that period of time between August to November, was learning how to relax – how to not have to do anything and not worry about it. If you need extra sleep, then that’s fine. If you need a night to just tune out at home, that’s fine. I learned how to not be busy, and that I didn’t need to be “busy” to feel alive. What I want is to be able to live my life so that if I were to die tomorrow, I’d be pretty proud of my life, of my relationships with my family, my friendships, what I’ve done as extra-curricular and at work, what I’ve seen of the world, how I’ve dealt with the world, and so forth. When I stop and think of that now, I actually thing, gosh I am already there. I’m pretty proud of who I am. Sure, there’s a few things here and there I want to change. But, I have the power to change that, to set goals and make those happen.
This week I reflected on several situations where I was assertive, my own self-advocate, and where rather than assuming something was wrong with someone because of their behavior, I figured I wasn’t the cause of it. Here’s some situations and how I used to deal with them, and how I dealt with them now that I am well on my way to recovering from post traumatic stress from child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
Situation 1: Someone asked me to help them but I was not feeling well, so I just stated that I wasn’t feeling well and needed to sit down, and if they could ask someone else to help.
How I used to deal with it: I would just continue to help anyway even if I was on the verge of collapsing, putting someone else’s needs above my own.
How I dealt with it now: I was assertive and my own self-advocate. I said what was in my best interest.
Situation 2: Someone was very standoffish.
How I used to deal with it: I would just assume I did something wrong and that’s why they were behaving so standoffish.
How I dealt with it now: I figured something else was going on that had to do with their behavior. And even if they were upset with me for some reason, I decided that was their problem and I couldn’t do anything about it anyway unless they asked me to. I thought it was much better to just enjoy myself and worry about me rather than worry about if this person was potentially upset with me.
Situation 3: I had lunch with a friend and they also seemed standoffish. Like I was having a one person conversation.
How I used to deal with it: I would again assume I did something wrong that this person was upset with me or that they didn’t want to bother to spend time with me because of some reason.
How I dealt with it now: I figured this person was just pre-occupied with something else and self-involved so they weren’t able to interact well at lunch. There was nothing I could do about it, but I probably won’t ask them to get lunch again anytime in the near future.
Situation 4: A loved one insists that I can do something I do not think I am capable of.
How I used to deal with it: I’d feel this immense pressure that I would be letting this person down if I was unable to accomplish what they felt I was very capable of doing.
How I dealt with it now: Though I’m honored this person thinks I can accomplish this goal, I honestly feel like I am not capable of it from knowing myself, what I have been able to accomplish thus far, and what is realistic. I told this person I felt they were projecting themselves on me in thinking I could do this and that it is ok if I do not think I am capable of it, and I know that they wouldn’t think anything less of me, as well as myself.
Can you think of situations that you deal with differently now than you did before? How does that make you feel? It makes me feel pretty empowered and like I have accomplished a lot in getting better from PTSD.
Nightmares are just reminders so we don’t get too comfortable and unalert of the bad things around us and that could happen to us. I tried to remind myself of that after waking up crying from a nightmare this morning. Nightmares are just my brain’s way of understanding and dealing with trauma and healing.
I had two nightmares two nights in a row this week. The first night I dreamt I had a 2 year old daughter. She looked just like me when I was 2. I was with my family and went somewhere with my brother, leaving her with my sister to watch her. When I got back she was gone. She had gotten out of the van and disappeared. I was so angry with myself for not being there to watch her myself, taking the responsibility for losing her on myself. A state search was started and I was searching everywhere near where she had disappeared. How far could she get? Would anyone have taken her? The fear set in and I felt what I would imagine any parent would feel that lost their child. Someone suggested to me that I should be upset with my sister for not watching her. She had a two year old. She knows they just run off and could be gone at the drop of a hat. But how could I be angry with her? Its my fault I just trusted that she’d watch her and that I didn’t take care of my daughter myself. As I’m out searching for her, I get a phone call from my ex-husband. He alludes to the fact that he had taken her. I break out with so much pain and rage that if he does anything to her, hurts her in any way, I will kill him. I felt what parents must feel when any harm comes to the way of their children. Then I woke up.
The next night I had a nightmare similar to what I often have. I’m out with a group of people and we’re watching a parade or something in a neighborhood and these thugs come up to rob us. First they want to know if any of us have guns though. Surprisingly, two of us did. They go to shoot someone with one of the confiscated guns but luckily the gun is not loaded. Then they shoot the 2nd gun but luckily into a tree and somehow that starts a fire. Then they shoot two or three of the people I’m with. I see a guy sneak back into one of the buildings behind us. And then another guy in a security guard uniform follows. I figure their going to call 911. The thugs seem to be going away and then I go in after them. The place they’re in is some kind of gambling place. I see them in the back by these machines and approach them to ask if they’ve called the police. They say no, “Why should we? Its over. We could get in more trouble.” I think they’re crazy. I try to use my cell phone to call them but its not working. I go up to this ticket type counter and ask the lady through the glass if I can use their phone and call 911, there were killings outside. She says no, its none of their business, they want nothing to do with it. What the fuck? I go outside and everyone I was with is already gone including my boyfriend except the shot victims. I panic. I get around the corner. For some reason in my head I’m so far from home and have no way to get there. No bus. No car. No taxi. I check my phone and go to call my boyfriend but his number is gone. I can’t remember it. None of my friends numbers are there either. And no text message histories. All gone. I have no way to contact him. I find my phone isn’t working at all. He’ll worry about me and not be able to get ahold of me either. Complete panic sets in but I hear this song clear as day with the lyrics that you’re scared, alone and afraid or something like that. Then I woke up crying and thrashing about in the bed.
I walked through these nightmares with my therapist and it was interesting. The first dream was me still dealing with being in an abusive marriage. I take responsibility for it. My 2 year old daughter was me who I didn’t protect and take care of by being in that abusive relationship. My sister in the dream was again an extension of myself. I trusted me to take care of me but didn’t. Telling my ex-husband I’d hurt him if he hurt me was what I felt I should have done that I never did for myself.
The 2nd dream I was all alone in the end. I was the only one trying to do anything about the situation. But I found myself completely isolated from being able to do anything. The music was comforting in way, reminding me that even when I’m all alone I can still deal with everything on my own.
I keep thinking these nightmares might stop one day and then I have one again. I think its just part of my healing process and though I’d like to think I’m SuperBetter, I’m still working on things. And that’s ok. This stuff is hard and I’ve come a long long way in just 3 years. And I have the opportunity possibly to help others who are in my situation, and that too is part of my healing process.