Archive for category Isolation

Leaps and Bounds of Progress

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.

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Nightmares Are Reminders

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 stinycrumblesearching 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 gun911. 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.

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A New Nightmare or Closing a Chapter?

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.

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Lab Tools & Equipment for Getting Better from PTSD

I realized the other day that I have been playing SuperBetter for over 6 months now since the end of February and beginning of March 2012. This morning I was reflecting on all of the tools and Quests from SuperBetter, the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence, and working with my SuperBetter allies and therapist, that I’ve used to work on PTSD and was thinking, hey, I should create a toolbox or to be more appropriate for my SuperBetter Hero who is a scientist, “A Summary of Laboratory Tools and Equipment!” So here goes.

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Summary of Laboratory Tools and Equipment (to Get Better from PTSD)

PTSD / Trauma Symptom Lab Equipment, Tools or Methods to Use
Anticipation

Hypervigilance

  • SuperBetter MindMaster PowerPack
  • Be aware of being hypervigilant
  • Be aware of my expectations
  • React instead of anticipate
  • Broken Babel Fish Quest – Read about it in my post here
Supposed To Beliefs

Expectations

  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapter on “Supposed to” Beliefs That Lead Women to Stay or Go Back
Dealing with Conflict

Avoidance

  • Deal with conflict instead of avoid it
  • Make Quests to do things I’m avoiding like go to the dentist, say “Excuse me”, go to a place to make new memories I associate with my abuser
Negative Self-Talk
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapters Feel Better by Changing the Way You Talk to YourselfThe Power of Nonnegative Thinking
  • Track your Negative Self-Talk – see my posts here and here
Assertiveness

Self-Advocacy

Self-Compassion

Body Image

  • SuperBetter The Mood Elevator: Ground Floor PowerPack
  • SuperBetter Being Awesome PowerPack
  • SuperBetter Better Than a Chill Pill PowerPack
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapters on Self-Advocacy: An Overview and Initial Self Assessment and Assertiveness, Aggressiveness and How to Take the High Road
Stress & Muscle Tension
  • SuperBetter Stress Buster Power Pack
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapter on Managing Stress By Controlling Muscle Tension – See my post on this chapter here.
Anxiety

Isolation

  • SuperBetter MindMaster PowerPack
  • Quest to Ask for Help
  • SuperBetter Social Resilience in 5 Minutes a Day PowerPack
Guilt
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapters How to Get Rid of Your Guilt  – See my post with my results here
  • Talk with a veteran or other domestic violence victims with PTSD and their experience of how they overcame guilt (this can be via an online chat, in person, etc.) – It helps!
  • Forgive yourself – This will happen!
Nightmares
  • Remember: Nightmares are just reminders of the types of people and behavior you need to be wary of – Read my post on this here

I’m sure I’m missing some tools, but can always add them in later, or new ones as I learn about them.

What things have worked for you to get better from PTSD? What do you want to try? What are the biggest obstacles you are facing?

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My Scientist Hero’s SuperPowers

In playing SuperBetter you can play whatever Hero you want to be to get better. I had picked a great scientist.

But, to make it a little fun, I was lately thinking of the X-Men and Jean Grey. Kind of a scientist of some sort and for some reason she was always my favorite character in the X-Men.

I was trying to think how Jean Grey’s super powers could relate to getting better from PTSD and here’s what I came up with:

Super Power As it relates to getting better from trauma
Telepathy
  • Awareness of being hypervigilant
  • Awareness of my expectations
Telekinesis
Phoenix Force grants the ability to:

Travel unaided through space

  • Resilience!
  • Ask for Help
  • React instead of avoid conflict
      Psionically manipulate matter and any form of energy
  • Keep Positive
  • Do my power ups on a daily basis, especially:
  1. Running, biking, or swimming
  2. Spending time with friends

 

      Create powerful “cosmic” fire
  • Overcome anxiety
  • Manage stress through muscle tension exercises and breathing
  • Deal with nightmares

 

      Resurrect from death and manipulate life energy in others
  • Practice Self-Compassion
  • Practice influence – optimism, relate to people
  • Spend time with friends and family
      Manipulate timelines
  • Overcome Guilt
  • Witness your experience
  • Live in the Now
  • Stop Negative Self-Talk

This was pretty fun to come up with. 🙂

Who would you be and how would you use your super powers to meet your goal?

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Reflection on the past week: Depression, Anxiety, Anticipation, Avoidance

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.

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SuperBetter: Allies & Game Quest Ideas Revisited

This week I had an interview with SuperBetter to talk about the game and it was awesome because it allowed me to step back and reflect on the game. The game has given me a lot of things I needed to help me make progress on healing from the trauma of domestic violence and other abuse history. It has given me structure I need, the ability to track my progress, Power Packs with Quests, and tips and tricks to help me get to my goals and in a fun way. And I seriously love the secret files. If people would send me cool interesting facts that apply to my day-to-day life all the time, I would probably have the equivalent of the “runner’s high” without having to run.

Re-thinking Allies

There are a couple things I’ve been realizing I need to tweak. Originally, when I went into the game, I thought I’d invite my friends as allies and there’s certain things I think each of them could help with in person when we hang out on a regular basis which I mapped out in the post SuperBetter: Allies Mission Ideas. That hasn’t been the case. I talked about it in therapy a bit. Why are my friends not really engaging in the game? And brought it up in the interview with SuperBetter. My therapist had talked about it as people have a difficult time interacting with people they know in person, online. In person, they see you in one way, and then online, differently. Plus the subject matter I am working with, healing from trauma, is an extremely sensitive and uncomfortable one. People don’t want to deal with that. Both my therapist and SuperBetter suggested I try to work with allies I meet through the game who are struggling with similar problems. I have one ally I met through the game who has been my strongest and best ally in the game. And I would highly recommend pairing up with someone in the game. 

My ally from SuperBetter is in a completely different timezone, but that is not a barrier. We interact mostly through e-mail, in a pen pal type way. I do my e-mailing in the morning and she has my undivided attention. We work through problems that we’re facing, share our ideas for dealing with them, and ask each other for each other’s support. We both have similar personality types and are dealing with very similar problems. 

Epic Wins & Better Ties to Quests (and Putting More Thought/Time into Quests)

One of the things I’d like to start doing a better job of in SuperBetter is being able to plan out or tie Quests to complete in order to reach my Epic Wins. Epic Wins, to me, are really a goal you are trying to reach for. I’ve been planning my Epic Wins around the areas in the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence and areas I notice within that week or month time span that I am having a particular problem with. When I started SuperBetter, my big focus was on Negative Self-Talk and Hypervigilance because I know I was driving people around me nuts by doing it and they were being addressed early on in the chapters of the workbook. I am guessing the workbook is set up in the way it is for a reason. But, the workbook is not the end-all be-all and therapy is only one hour a week and I use it to bring the things I’m really struggling with to each week. I feel like if I want to really get better, make progress, and continue to keep it up, I’m going to have to make it more part of my day-to-day life. But, it also can’t be miserable and difficult. It has to be fun and rewarding. Some of the Quests I thought up in my 2 posts, SuperBetter: Game Quest Ideas and SuperBetter: Allies Mission Ideas, I haven’t even actually put them into my SuperBetter game! And there’s stuff my ally and I talk about that are great ideas, I also haven’t put into the game. So it’s time to put some real effort into this and make it really fun and rewarding.

Here’s some examples of my current Quests, most of which are from the Power Packs “Social Resilience in 5 Minutes a Day” and “Stress Buster”, that map up to my Epic Wins.

Stress & Muscle Tension

  • Learn About Stress
  • Find an Oasis
  • Doing the Meditation Deed: The One-Time-Only 25-Minute Challenge (OK so I did all the others but haven’t found 25 minutes to meditate yet. I must do this Monday night!)
Avoidance
 
  • Find a Dentist
  • Make a Dentist Appointment
  • Track when I won’t ask question to avoid conflict
  • Go to places or do something I associate with my abuser

Self Advocacy

  • I am thinking of loading the “Being Awesome” Power Pack for this area
  • Ask for Help – regular reminder to ask for help (or anything, including “excuse me”) which is something I have an insanely difficult time doing and should probably get to the root of, why?
  • Say Excuse Me to ask someone to move – I need to make this a regular Quest
  • Stop Negative Self-Talk

Social Anxiety

  • Pay It Forward – Do something nice for someone in your life. I did this yesterday! 🙂
  • Give the Gift of Experience – This will be done Tuesday and I can’t wait to hear their reaction! 🙂
  • Three Things That Rocked – Write down 3 things that rocked over 5 days (recurring Quest)

Hypervigilance / Anticipation

  • React instead of anticipate
  • Broken Babel fish game – Draw cartoons from the week of things I’ve heard, what I thought they meant, and what they really meant

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