Posts Tagged Health

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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A+ in Dealing with Grief

The great thing about this week for me was it broke all routine, not that I really have one. But, I had practiced things I ordinarily would feel guilty about like staying out at a concert later, sleeping in later and going to work later. I went into therapy knowing I had some things in my mind and by the end of the session I discovered they were all connected to dealing with grief.

The past two years have been filled with amazing memories and growing great relationships with my friends and family. I had printed up photos this week from the past two years I had taken of all my friends and family and though I had experienced a painful break up, I still realized what an amazing two years this has been and the people in my life.

Early in the week I was dealing with the pain of despair and luckily one of my SuperBetter allies reached out to me and said what I needed to hear. I said I know that this will pass and I’ll be ok. And he said, that is good advice to yourself but it doesn’t necessarily take away the fear and the pain.

I went into therapy talking about how my whole concept of time, people and relationships is changing. Things do not feel linear. What I discovered I was really dealing with was that grief is not linear. You don’t go through a break up, and get over it and get better. You don’t go though trauma or abuse and just get better and be done with it. You can come back and deal with grief at any given time or moment. And when you are dealing with that grief, you are dealing with all of the grief from all of your past and un-dealt with situations. And that can be a world of pain we can only stand for so long. Back in September and October I did not have the luxury to deal with the pain. I had to get moving and make life work. Now finally it can hit me like a sack of bricks and I’d say I get an A+ for dealing with grief. I have been compartmentalizing things to deal with grief, but have come to the understanding of that. For example, I have been avoiding people and places that remind me of my ex-boyfriend and when I ran into one of them today, I panicked but decided why not talk to them? And it was not so bad. I am me independent of anyone.

I was dealing with a lot today. Last weekend I did something that was so physically taxing I was covered in bruises which reminded me too much of being beaten by my ex-husband. I wondered why do I do these things that are so physically taxing? There was a point in the day where someone actually told me I had to stop and assigned me another task that was less physically taxing. They recognized that I would push myself beyond my capacity without recognizing the pain I was causing myself. Very much like being in an abusive relationship, I was not aware of the pain I was experiencing until someone pointed it out to me. Again I was dealing with grief and guilt. I feel like I have to do these things to make up for something. Now I can be more aware of when I do these things, recognize my limits, and know when I need to say no.

I think I am moving from linear thinking, left sided brain thinking, to emotional, more right sided brain thinking. I think I am now going to be much better able at acknowledging my pain and deal with it by reaching out to people. My way of thinking is changing because I no longer have to be afraid and constantly protect myself from feeling pain, both emotional and physical. So I’m not quite sure if this would all make sense to someone else who has experienced trauma and grief, but it is a lot for me to process.

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New Work on Negative Self-Talk, Assertiveness, and How to Identify Potential Perpetrators

I had taken a few months hiatus from the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence, but have recently returned to it at a time that seems most appropriate. Over the past few months I had been dealing with a break up and recently decided to return to the dating game, whether that is a good idea or not. Work has also been more demanding lately. I noticed over the past couple weeks, that “I’m sorry” and “I should have” have been making their way back into my vocabulary. It’s as if I have put myself back into the mindset of a domestic violence victim. So I need to do something about this fast.

The remaining chapters I had in the workbook were the following with these key takeaways. Believe it or not I have been facing these things fairly frequently over the last few months from friends, family, co-workers, dates, and strangers.

1. Assertiveness, Aggressiveness, and How to Take the High Road

  • How to Respond to Verbal Aggression
  • How to Respond to Aggressive Questions
  • How to Respond to Aggressive Exhortations by People Who Mean Well – Believe it or not I’ve had a family member and a friend tell me “You should be over it by now”.
  • The Importance of Not Tolerating Disrespect – I have had to walk away from people who have talked to me in such a disrespectful way.
  • Saying No
  • How You Spend Your Time Is Up to You – I have had a lot of practice with this and saying no lately.
  • The Importance of Being Able to Say No Without Giving Reasons Why – I still need a lot of practice with this one. I got really upset last week when I felt I shouldn’t have to give a reason but was asked to give a reason. My therapist said this was a good thing that this frustrated me. It means a big deal – that I think I deserve not to have to justify myself.
  • Saying No after You Said Yes
  • Communicating Feelings – “I’m frustrated”, “I’m upset”, “I’m disappointed”, “I’m feeling sad”
  • Making Requests and Communicating Wants – I have recently had practice with this. I still feel like I get walked all over, but well, I’m trying!
  • Assertive Escalation in the Work Place – Over this past year I have had to do this.
  • Assertive Escalation in an Intimate Relationship

2. Overcoming Fear by Exposure to Harmless Reminders

This chapter has you expose yourself to reminders of the abusive person, including:

  • Looking at pictures of your ex
  • Visualizing your ex
  • Exposing yourself to smell, sound, sight, touch that you associate with your ex (e.g. cologne, liquor, music)
  • Work on Regulating Your Tension if you were to run into your ex
  • Watching Movies that Portray Domestic Violence
  • Engaging in Activities That Remind You of the Abuse – TV programs that depict violence, eating certain kinds of foods, wearing makeup, jewelry or certain kinds of clothes
  • Identifying other things you have been avoiding

My conclusion for this chapter was:

  • I am not willing to look at pictures of my ex or visualize my ex
  • I’m ok with listening to music or watching movies that I associate with my ex
  • I am not ok being at places or walking places that remind me of my ex especially the neighborhood we lived in, two areas where I had been beaten severely after walking home through, and certain bars or restaurants that I associate with my ex
  • I am ok with watching violent movies, and identify with movies where a woman succeeds in escaping their abuser
  • I really dislike eating certain foods that remind me of my ex, but have been working on that
  • I have been avoiding doing certain activities that I had shared with my ex, but am ok with not avoiding them

3. How to Identify Potential Perpetrators

You would be surprised the men that are out there in that dating pool. On one date, the guy admits to me that he and his ex-wife were abusive towards each other. I was thinking, dear god, get me out of here. In a conversation with one guy, he tells me domestic violence is compromise. Conversation ended right there.

Though this chapter has all of the standard characteristics of an abusive person which I have become very familiar with since being in an abusive relationship, it also has some advice I did not know about and would like to consider. It advises you to identify the potential abuser early on. You need to identify if the person is inable to or lacks the desire to resolve conflict in a mutually respectful way. They actually advise you to piss your boyfriend off early on. Well, invoke conflict. Considering that’s the last thing I want to do as a domestic violence survivor, I’m glad they explain how to provoke conflict:

  • Disagree and Be “Selfish” – They advise you to disagree about anything, politics, TV, sports, anything where you opinion differs. To make a fuss about anything small, like what you’d prefer to do on a date. I am so very terrible at arguing. But, ok. I’ll give this a try.
  • Do Not Be Rushed into a Relationship – I am feeling this one right now. They advise you to go slow, don’t allow him to make you feel rushed or pressured to spend more time together than you are willing. I’m just feeling very cautious about getting into a serious relationship right now.
  • Tell Him You Are Going to Continue Dating Other People 
  • Insist on Reliability
  • Program in an Unexplained Refusal to Get Together
  • Find Out About His Prior Relationships
  • Check Out His Background – Ok these last 2 may sound crazy to you, but I don’t think so after being in an abusive relationship. My ex was very clear about how poorly he treated his ex. And knowing that now and knowing that I was in an abusive relationship, if I ever hear that again, I am running away from that.

I realize I must continue practicing assertiveness, continue having self-compassion and the negative self-talk will dissipate. I am having a hard time adjusting to this new life again, but it’s not so bad. I am really proud of myself and how far I’ve come. When do I ever say that? Well, I just did. I’m proud of me. Hooray!!!

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Major Breakthrough: Understanding What It Is I’m Afraid Of

I wasn’t going to write about this because it is all too personal, but it is too important to pass up. Today in therapy, I had a major breakthrough on understanding why I was so afraid of “being alone.” Yesterday I was talking to someone about all the things I have planned and the time I’ve spent with my friends and they said to me, “You’re afraid of being alone, aren’t you?” This stuck with me. I couldn’t quite agree that it was being afraid of being alone that causes me to keep so busy and to be very social. But, yes, I have been wondering for some time, why is it my whole life I always keep busy? If I am not doing something, I feel like it is a waste of time. My therapist kept asking questions to help me get at exactly what it all meant. He asked me to clarify what “waste of time” means to me. I could clearly identify, to me, it means not enjoying life and not doing something that matters to me or applies to my goals.

He asked how does it make you feel if you “waste time.” I said, “aggravated.” “Unhappy.” He asked me to think about the times when I felt the most despair and on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the most despair and 10 being the least, what it was. I could quickly identify 3 of the worst times in my life where I felt the most despair. And this should be no surprise.

1. When I realized my ex-husband was abusive, I felt like I could not do anything to get out of it, that I was fully responsible for putting myself in it, and that I had lost all of my personhood

2. When I was raped in college and I was told a) to shut up b) that I wasn’t really raped and c) to get over it by the people I cared most about in life. This too removed my own sense of self.

3. An incident with my caregiver growing up that also removed my sense of self and having needs and wants

All of these times I felt so much despair, what I categorized as a 1 (the worst) that I wanted to not be alive to just escape the pain of them.

I came to the understanding that I’m not afraid of being alone. I’m afraid of feeling so much despair that I keep busy to avoid that feeling. In these past two weeks I have found I am quite content being alone. I never get bored. I never hate being with myself. I actually love myself and have a lot of compassion for myself. But, now I fully understand what it is I’m afraid of. And thinking about it, is enough to make me cry. But, I also know I am incredible for getting through all that I have gotten through. I am a strong woman who has regained my personhood. I am me. And no one can ever take that away again. Ever.

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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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Quest: Broken Babelfish Cartoon

Quest: Broken Babelfish Cartoon

I had set this Quest a long while back, actually at the beginning of starting to play SuperBetter. It has now been 6 months that I’ve been playing SuperBetter and finally sat down and did this quest for a few scenarios in my life where I have been hypervigilant. It didn’t exactly come out like I envisioned it, but I did it! And it has helped me become more aware of situations where I am hypervigilant and misinterpret what people are saying and actually mean and have a much better understanding of why I do it, which I’ll talk about in a future post on Expectations and Hypervigilance.

Here was the original Mission / Quest:

Mission #3: Help Fix My Broken Babel fish – Every other week

This mission got turned down already! But, I think it would still be fun.

I have what I like to call a broken Babel fish. I hear people say something and think they mean something else, which is usually something negative. I almost see drawings being involved here with what was said, what was heard, what they really meant. Then I’d figure out why I thought they meant something negative and stop doing that. This is something we could do once a week or every other week.

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