Archive for category Dealing with Conflict or Verbal Aggression
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.
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.
Finally, my life feels stable. I am extremely happy and I can do anything I want. Yet, there is always that foreboding feeling that something bad is going to happen because that’s how the past has been, even the last two months have had difficult things to deal with. But, I know, no matter what happens I will prevail because I always have. This last week I had a dream I was driving on a mountainside with two family members in the car. The mountain roads were slick and covered in snow. Like in a video game I’ve played I accidentally fell off the cliff and into a bottomless ravine. I felt so much remorse for taking my family with me. Yet, I had this feeling “we’ll be ok, we’ll get out of this somehow.” And then I woke up before I’d find out if we were dead or not.
I don’t know exactly what the dream was about. If its just me dealing with the feeling that something bad could happen again next. Or if I’m feeling like I need to protect my family. One of my closest friends expressed the opinion to me that if they were in my shoes with the person who abused me when I was a child, they would confront them now and tell them how much they hurt me. I don’t feel that’s necessary, but a large part of why I don’t want to do that is more because I want to protect that person. I truly believe they did not mean to hurt me and that they did it because of how they were treated as a child. I’m at the point where I want nothing more than to just break the cycle. I want to get better and stop thinking the ways that I do (my PTSD brain) and I think from the conversations I’ve been having and dealing with the difficult coworker, I am doing a very good job at it. Just sometimes I get worried I’m forgetting to pay attention if I’m doing negative self talk or anticipation. But, I think I have been doing that a lot less lately because my self-esteem has grown. I have surrounded myself with some loving people and have done a lot of self-acceptance. I have been recognizing when some people make me uncomfortable and recognize that it’s their insecurities they are projecting onto me and I don’t need to worry about those. I’m not saying I should stop caring about other people’s feelings altogether and not do nice and thoughtful things for other people. But, what I’m saying is their problems are their problems and I don’t have any real control over their happiness. But, I do over my own.
This whole weekend I had someone worrying about whether or not I was happy. While its nice that they cared how I was feeling, I wanted that person to concentrate more on enjoying themselves this weekend, not worry about me. One of my biggest strengths is I find a lot of positivity in everything, even an injury. Last year if I had never gotten an injury running, I would have never done a triathlon. Traveling, I hear people constantly gripe about the plane and the seats and whether the wine is crappy or the plane being late. I’m just happy to have hours to read and catch up on news and my thoughts. People constantly gripe about how hard it is to exercise and eat right. Every time I run I feel a zillion times better and I have taken up learning how to cook healthy and delicious meals. I set aside time for these things because they are important to me. I wish more people would find the joys in their life. Because at this stage in the game I am feeling truly blessed to have the amazing life that I do. A huge turn around from 3 years ago.
So maybe “falling off a cliff in mountain snow” is nothing to worry about. I know great things will come of it later because of the resiliency I have gained.
I was a rape victim. I was raped by a person I thought was my best friend since high school when I was in college. When I went to the school clinic for help, the way they treated me was as if I was the problem, as if I asked for this, as if I made him do it, like it was my fault and I was so terrible. When I told my ex-husband about the rape, he insisted it wasn’t rape, it was regretful sex. It was rape. Years later I received an email from my rapist apologizing for what he did to me. He realized how very wrong what he did was. He had to live with it for many years and though I really never wanted to hear from him again, he had to say something to make him feel better.
This is probably the first time I am expressing any kind of impartial opinion on here. And possibly the last time. All of the stories about the Steubenville rape have been disturbing me today. It is interesting that I have a deep compassionate feeling for both sides. People have been complaining about the sympathy for the two boys, but there has also not been sympathy for the rape victim involved and another article surfaced the victim being attacked once the boys were found guilty. I wonder to this day if my rapist still feels remorse for what he did or since his email has been able to go on with his life uninterrupted by it. I know I have not. And I’d like to think he has not either. And I can only hope as a result it had changed him to be a better person or at least stop him from doing this again. I will never get an apology for how the people at my school clinic treated me or for how my abusive ex-husband dismissed my rape. But, I can know that they were wrong and that I did nothing wrong to deserve what had happened to me.
I did not report my rape and I did not report my ex-husband’s extensive physical and mental abuse. I wonder to this day how things would have been if I had. I admire the courage people have to report these things and speak out against them. I am relieved that people are actually talking about it now rather than sweeping it under the rug even if I do not agree with everything they are saying. A couple weeks ago I started following Erin Merryn on twitter and her appearance on Katie Couric’s show and I am so impressed and proud of her for what she is doing to try to pass Erin’s law in every state in the US to help save children from child sexual abuse. I think it is time we talk about these issues and we stop belittling them and allowing them to happen. Rape, child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, it is all unacceptable and we can all do our part to stop them by saying they are not acceptable.
It has been over 1 year of me playing SuperBetter and keeping this blog 4ptsdhealing. It has been a tremendous experience for me and I can tell how far I have come in the healing process from PTSD since I have started. There have been bumps along the way, but I am amazed at how I have handled several difficult situations and people over the past several months. 3 years ago I would have never been confrontational and never would have recognized the reasons I was struggling with making personal decisions. I realized how lucky I am to have such an amazing family, friends, boyfriend, job and co-workers, and plans for the future. But, more importantly I realize, I made my life this way, I made these relationships, I put the work in and strengthened them. I met someone amazing after thinking I would never fall in love again. It isn’t exactly luck. Your life truly is what you make it. My heart is beaming with happiness and excitement for the future.
In the past year, I have had major breakthroughs on nightmares, confrontation, body image and negative self-talk through self-compassion. This does not mean I don’t have more work yet to come. One area I am struggling with still is hypervigilance and anticipation. I recognize when I am doing it, but still have a hard time making decisions freely without worrying about what the other person wants or how they will react. This is something I recognize has become so ingrained in my PTSD wired brain that I need to undo.
I have finally arrived to dealing with the abuse I experienced as a child. Last week I has a nightmare I was going to be killed for something my father did in his late 30s. They didn’t say what. They kept torturing me and wouldn’t tell me how they were going to kill me. If it would be quick and painless like shooting me in the head or terrifying like drowning, electrocution, torture. I kept trying to prolong being killed hoping to buy myself time as if someone would save me or something would interrupt me getting killed. For example, I said I needed to go to the bathroom and of course they said why does it matter, we’re going to kill you anyway. So I said well can you just let me go this one last time? Near the end of the dream my father showed up, but he looked the same as when he was in his late 30s. He was so distraught that I would be upset with him for them wanting to kill me. I wasn’t upset with my father. As far as I was concerned he did nothing wrong. These people that wanted to kill me were wrong. My therapist pointed out, when my father was in his late 30s was when my caretaker had abused me. When he found out about it, he was so upset with them which ended up causing me more grief from the abuser. I was coming to terms with this. I never blamed my father for the abuse I experienced. He couldn’t have prevented it and it was not his fault. The torture is akin to the torture I put on myself every day that I worry about what I say or want, the trouble I have making decisions, of dealing with difficult people and situations. But, I realize it is getting so much easier to deal with these things now than it has in the past. I have re-wired a good portion of my brain. I am getting better from PTSD and I am so proud of myself.
In therapy this week I learned about internal vs. external locus of control. External locus of control people tend to think everyone else is at fault for their difficult situations, while internal locus of control people tend to think they are responsible for the outcome (e.g. I should have studied harder to pass the test vs. the test material was too difficult and that’s why I failed the test).
“Internals tend to attribute outcomes of events to their own control. People who have internal locus of control believe that the outcomes of their actions are results of their own abilities. Internals believe that their hard work would lead them to obtain positive outcomes. They also believe that every action has its consequence, which makes them accept the fact that things happen and it depends on them if they want to have control over it or not. Externals attribute outcomes of events to external circumstances. People that have external locus of control believe that many things that happen in their lives are out of their control. They believe that their own actions are a result of external factors that are beyond their control. Rotter in his study suggested that people that have external locus of control have four types of beliefs which include the following: powerful others such as doctors, nurses, fate, luck and a belief that the world is too complex to predict its outcomes. People that have external locus of control tend to blame others for the outcomes rather than themselves.”
I’ve probably mentioned it before but I deal with a difficult co-worker. The co-worker constantly badgers other co-workers about issues and problems, they demand quick responses, everything is an emergency to this person, everything is someone else’s fault, we all should have done it better and been able to read their mind. It can be very interruptive and it reminds me all too much of my abusive relationship, where I feel I have to do anything and everything to keep this person happy and from blowing up at me and other co-workers. When I used to never think anything of this type of relationship, now that I know better, I can’t help but speak up, say no sometimes, and grow very tired of it. They have an extreme external locus of control while I have an extreme internal locus of control.
I generally would like to stay away from people with extreme external locus of control. But, obviously I have to know how to deal with them when I do. And I would like to work on bringing myself more to the center than being an extreme internal locus of control. Last week I had also completed a survey that was part of a study for domestic violence survivors and the last section of the survey was about this internal vs. external locus of control. All of my responses had me at the extreme end where I felt I was at fault still and could have done something differently to result in better outcomes. The questions were centered around your every day events like situations at work, in the public, and etc. So it was clear to me I still need to do some work to pull myself more to the middle, where I realize I am not responsible for everything and cannot possibly prevent things that are out of my control like someone else’s behavior.
I’ve been dealing with some very frustrating things lately and today someone pushed my buttons so much I finally confronted them about it. It scared the hell out of me. I raised my voice, explained how they made me feel and said what I needed to make things work better. Afterwards I felt strangely better even though I was a little worried it might mean I lose my job. I stood up for myself, something I feel like I’ve never been able to do. And it wasn’t so bad.
I have written about nightmares a few times on here. I put something out on the SuperBetter forum in Bad Guys: Get help identifying and squashing them looking for any advice to overcome or diminish nightmares, but have heard nothing so far. But, plenty of people have looked at it! Why is that? Is it something you just have to live with or work on on your own?
I have had terrible nightmares all my life and had a pretty bad one last week. Most of my nightmares consist of someone chasing and trying to kill me. Usually its a man and sometimes its a group of people. Usually I am being brutally attacked. Sometimes I see other people, usually women that have been attacked or murdered by the person chasing me. Sometimes what saves me in the nightmare is trying to save these other people from being attacked.
I really need some help trying to limit the number of nightmares I have and squash them all together. Here’s what I’ve already read and tried:
Wikipedia’s article on Nightmares explains this phenomenon I’m experiencing:
Recurring post-traumatic stress disorder nightmares in which real traumas are re-experienced respond well to a technique called imagery rehearsal. First described in the 1996 book Trauma and Dreams by Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett, this contemporary dream interpretation involves the dreamer coming up with an alternate, mastery outcome to the nightmare, mentally rehearsing that outcome awake, and then reminding themselves at bedtime that they wish this alternate outcome should the nightmare recur. Research has found that this technique not only reduces the occurrence of nightmares and insomnia, but also improves other daytime PTSD symptoms.
I picked up a new workbook, the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook, since I completed the Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook. It has a very small section on nightmares which includes this same advice to come up with an alternate outcome to the nightmare and rehearse it. I might think of picking up a workbook just on dealing with nightmares. But, I want to try spending some time rehearsing alternate outcomes and going into sleep thinking about these. For example, the perpetuators could fall into a hole. Or someone saves me. Or I’m able to disarm them without getting hurt. I can take control of my dreams as I have my life.
This week my ex-husband followed me home or happened to be going some place near my home. I didn’t recognize him until it was too late. And I made a run for it. In the workbook they try to prepare you for situations if you run into your abuser, but no matter how much they prepare you, I don’t think you could ever be prepared. If I see him again, I’m calling the police. It has put me on a high alert the rest of the week. Some time last year I let down my guard after a lot of time had passed since he last threatened me. Why should I have to live in fear? Why should I have to move? To hide? To always have to look over my shoulder? Then of course the nightmares of being attacked start up again.
Earlier this week I read the Slog’s editorial, “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother.” And thought, I’m Adam Lanza’s ex-wife and I’m still scared to death of him. I do feel mental health care needs to be more accessible by everyone. But, how do you get a person like my ex-husband to get help and get better so they stop hurting people? So people like me don’t have to be afraid of them? I know the workbook and many people have told me not to worry about him, but how can I not when I’m still worried about my own safety and many others out there?