Archive for category Resilience
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.
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 is amazing and brought me to tears too. I am glad she was there to ask this question and receive this response that can be shared with millions of people now. I hope that more people will help change the world so that there is no violence against women and to help people with PTSD and mental illnesses so that they can get better and stop hurting people in their lives. I hope I can help and have helped people through this blog and my own journey to get better from child abuse, rape, and domestic violence.
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.
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.
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 watched two documentaries recently, What Are Dreams?: Nova and Happy. What Are Dreams?: Nova explains sleep is an active state that affects your physical and mental well-being. Through an example of a study on a person’s sleep patterns, the documentary explains the difference between dreams in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep vs. non-REM sleep. Our first stage of sleep is non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep dreams usually are working out every day problems, re-experiencing or practicing experiences, and can be repetitive. REM sleep dreams are usually fantastical or ridiculous, things that would not occur in everyday life.
One of the experiments they share in the film is how if we are woken up during non-REM sleep, we are in a much more happy and confident state of mind than if we are woken up in REM sleep. For example, they woke up a sleep study during non-REM sleep and had them finish a list of sentences. All of the words he had finished were positive and full of hope. When they woke him up during REM sleep, all the words he chose were negative and hopeless or aggravated.
Another interesting test by a doctor in the film was a sleep study who played a skiing video game before bed. Before non-REM sleep, he had knocked into quite a few walls and fell skiing. After non-REM sleep his play improved quite a bit, where he was able to remember where he had difficulty and improve his skiing in the game. In the non-REM sleep he had practiced skiing. And in his REM sleep he had practiced walking through his own trek marks in the snow.
Another interesting observation they made in the film which was of a man with depression. He had documented all his dreams for some time. They all had to do with discontent with women in his life. It was not a surprise to the scientist studying this man’s dreams to find 5 years after the study the man was divorced.
I have talked about it on this blog, but I continue to have nightmares of being attacked, and I know it is me dealing with the trauma of domestic violence, abuse, and sexual assault.
So not that I didn’t already know this, but dreams are a way for us to solve problems and keep our mental health. Some of the world’s greatest problems and creative works have come out of dreams. One woman in the film explained if we were to go to bed thinking I want to dream about this problem, 50% of the time we would.
I’m actually really glad I watched the documentary Happy and would recommend it. Although its already things I knew, it was a great reminder that happiness can come in all forms and cannot be obtained by wishing you were happy. There are many things that make people happy, but one of the top things that they drove home was our relationships with people and sense of belonging. Cultures that they interviewed that stuck in my head from the documentary were Japan and Denmark. Japan is known for having the least happy people, really Tokyo. While Denmark is known for having the happiest. Unlike Tokyo, the documentary portrayed that the countryside is much different in Japan. They interviewed one businessman who was out on a business dinner on his birthday and asked him if his friends and girlfriend would have much rather been celebrating his birthday with him than being on business. He said, well my girlfriend knows that business always comes first. You could tell how sad he truly was to say that although what he was morally taught in his culture, that yes business comes first over his own happiness. In Denmark, a mother of 3 children demonstrates how the family lives in a commune that shares cooking duties 2 times a month. The cooking takes 5 hours for approx 50 people. She says that they don’t have to worry about cooking and shopping for dinner every night when they get home from work allows them all so much more free time outside of work. Doing dinner together also allows them all to socialize and have stronger bonds than only being able to see friends, family and neighbors periodically.
SuperBetter has done an amazing job with their PowerPacks to remind you that happiness can’t just be wished. You have to remind yourself that the bad moments will pass, and you will feel better again soon. It is an amazing tool to help remind you to reach out to people, to know you are not isolated, and to work on your relationships with people. I know I have good days and bad days. The reminder that the bad times will pass makes it easier. And having people like my SuperBetter allies and friends and family to reach out to is a world of help.
One of the most awe-inspiring moments from the film was an interview with a mother who had lost half of her face being dragged from a car accidentally by her sister. Her husband had divorced her and became an alcoholic dealing with the trauma, she had remembered being sexually abused as a child as a result of the trauma, it took a number of surgeries and severe pain before her face and body were restored to a normal state. She felt so much despair that she wanted to die. With the support of her son, having her horses on a ranch and meeting a supportive man who was ironically named Happy, she recovered from the traumas and is very happy today. This is a true example of post traumatic growth and is awe-inspiring to me. I am very glad they shared this story.
In the Happy documentary like I have written a lot about they remind you that being self-compassionate goes a long way in your own happiness. I often have to remind myself, how would I treat my friend who is feeling this way? And am much more compassionate toward myself as I would be toward them.