Archive for category Isolation
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.
I’ve been going along fine for the past couple months, which is why you haven’t heard from me for awhile. Things come up, particularly being my own self-advocate. I still need to do a much better job at that. And then last night I had a terrible nightmare, one of the ones where I wake up bawling my eyes out and screaming. I was dying in my nightmare. I was hit by a truck or something and I made it to a bathroom where my head and various body parts were just leaking blood all over the place. I was in a whole hell of a lot of pain and no one was around to help me. But, for some reason, in the nightmare it was if I was back 4 years ago with my ex-husband and so I called him like when I once was injured and had to go to the hospital, to ask if he could come home and take care of me. But, I didn’t want him to be angry with me so I didn’t say how bad it was so he was just like well, I don’t need to come home, you’re fine. And then I realized I was dying with the amount of blood that was leaking out of my body and everything was growing fainter. I felt so much remorse for being alone dying with no one to help me.
I have been feeling really isolated from my friends lately. I have been feeling upset about certain situations and have not been speaking up about them. And I think that’s what this is about.
In interpreting dreams, this could be a really good thing or a bad thing. It could mean I am really getting a closure on that chapter of my life, the Mia who was abused. Or it could mean I am really struggling feeling like I could lose my self-confidence. I would like to think it is the first, but I still feel very cautious about being used and abused.
I’ve been in this depressive funk for the past couple of weeks. This is very abnormal for me. I haven’t really want to be around people or do much of anything except run. I pretty much always feel exhausted now. Doing anything like chores or shopping just bum me out. I don’t really feel motivated to do all the things I had listed out I was excited to do. I actually skipped events with people to just chill out. This was following a number of weeks with something to do every night and a long weekend around a lot of people all the time. In therapy we talked about how this might have to do with anticipation and hypervigilance.
As a kid I had to do a lot of anticipating in order to avoid the consequences of not anticipating which could be being yelled at, hit, hit with something, or being ridiculed for not doing the thing I should have known to do. I had anticipated for so long that it became the way I live. I got into a relationship with a person who used it to their advantage as well.
Being around people can be exhaustive to me because unconsciously I’m spending all that time analyzing what they really mean and anticipating what to do or not do, what to say or not say. I think I had reached my threshold. But, I’m not really sure why I feel so depressed, discouraged and unmotivated. I think it has to do with feeling unsupported. My friends have not been supportive with this SuperBetter thing and that has really gotten me down. Actually I have started to question if people are even my friends and care about me. And then I think a large number of people in the world are dealing with this same problem of feeling like they are always looking for the friendships and support they need. Why do we do this to each other? What makes a person fit or not fit in with others? How do you fix all of these things?
So no matter how depressed or unmotivated I feel, I still feel the need to push on, to keep pushing myself to be active, to talk with people, to make plans, to keep asking, to keep working on unlearning all the behaviors I’ve learned that are hurting my relationships with people.
I keep getting told no when I ask for things I need. But, maybe some day I’ll find someone who says, yes.
Last week I really tested out what I learned about Hypervigilance with a great group of people. Each time my mind started to wonder things like “What did they really mean by that?”, “Maybe they don’t like me,” and etc., I stopped and responded to myself with things like, “Let’s table that for later in case I still feel that way about it”, or “Do you really think that’s true?” Before I knew it, the hyper arousal turned itself off and I had a great time. People even commented on how much more involved I was with the group than last year. I got to know two amazing people on the trip a lot better now too and am looking forward to hanging out with them more over the next year.
When I got home though, something devastating happened. Instead of internalizing everything and isolating myself, I reached out to someone and I am really glad I did. Reaching out to one person triggered a chain reaction of reaching out to more people throughout the week. I made plans and spent time with people who I enjoy spending time with who gave me great support and who I wanted to get to know more. I even stopped someone in the hallway to talk about one of my most favorite hobbies, running, and made lunch plans for next week. It was a big difference from the rut I kind of got myself in since starting my life over a year ago. Every once in a while I make the effort to get myself out of it, but this time I felt like I had a major click go off in my head and I hope that this will be a permanent change. By Friday, I responded to a post about needing allies for coping with major life changes to not be so isolated.
Over the past year and a half I’ve dealt with major life changes and so are a few of my friends. A few of us have now gone through divorces, new relationships, moves and one of us have lost someone who was extremely close to them who they used to be a caregiver for. All of us have been dealing with these changes by asking friends for help, setting days and times aside to regularly spend time with friends and continually making plans with each other to do things, even if it’s a couple months in advance like running marathons together or going to a wine tasting or camping or renting a cabin for a weekend together to hang out and go skiing. These things and asking each other for help make us grow stronger and closer together. The key thing is anytime someone invites you to something try to arrange things so you can accept the invitation and open up to people and listen. Also don’t be afraid to call, email, text people to make plans for anything like coffee, a walk or just to say I saw this article you’d think was cool or etc. it’s funny! I’m just learning this stuff and am getting the hang of it. Once you start doing this more and more you get hooked on it. If you don’t already have people in your life, you can get some by making time to do activities you love or talking to someone in the grocery store or on your bus or who you work with who you think is neat.
I couldn’t believe I found myself giving this advice. I’ve know all along how to do this from watching other people, but what made it so hard? Why do people isolate themselves?
Looking into myself and my past, I realize I had been “shut down” or “numb”. I also had a large amount of social anxiety from past experiences. But, this devastating event pushed me to completely open up and need to reach out. I would like to really encourage others who are going through something similar to not be afraid and reach out to people. You might be told no or be ignored from time to time, but do not let that discourage you, and keep trying it. I think back to the day I left my abuser. I made one phone call to a domestic violence hotline and having that one person support me and help me through it made the world of a difference. Why wouldn’t I keep reaching out? The world is full of amazing people and some of them are really going to care, as you will for them too.