Posts Tagged Hypervigilance
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 week I reflected on several situations where I was assertive, my own self-advocate, and where rather than assuming something was wrong with someone because of their behavior, I figured I wasn’t the cause of it. Here’s some situations and how I used to deal with them, and how I dealt with them now that I am well on my way to recovering from post traumatic stress from child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
Situation 1: Someone asked me to help them but I was not feeling well, so I just stated that I wasn’t feeling well and needed to sit down, and if they could ask someone else to help.
How I used to deal with it: I would just continue to help anyway even if I was on the verge of collapsing, putting someone else’s needs above my own.
How I dealt with it now: I was assertive and my own self-advocate. I said what was in my best interest.
Situation 2: Someone was very standoffish.
How I used to deal with it: I would just assume I did something wrong and that’s why they were behaving so standoffish.
How I dealt with it now: I figured something else was going on that had to do with their behavior. And even if they were upset with me for some reason, I decided that was their problem and I couldn’t do anything about it anyway unless they asked me to. I thought it was much better to just enjoy myself and worry about me rather than worry about if this person was potentially upset with me.
Situation 3: I had lunch with a friend and they also seemed standoffish. Like I was having a one person conversation.
How I used to deal with it: I would again assume I did something wrong that this person was upset with me or that they didn’t want to bother to spend time with me because of some reason.
How I dealt with it now: I figured this person was just pre-occupied with something else and self-involved so they weren’t able to interact well at lunch. There was nothing I could do about it, but I probably won’t ask them to get lunch again anytime in the near future.
Situation 4: A loved one insists that I can do something I do not think I am capable of.
How I used to deal with it: I’d feel this immense pressure that I would be letting this person down if I was unable to accomplish what they felt I was very capable of doing.
How I dealt with it now: Though I’m honored this person thinks I can accomplish this goal, I honestly feel like I am not capable of it from knowing myself, what I have been able to accomplish thus far, and what is realistic. I told this person I felt they were projecting themselves on me in thinking I could do this and that it is ok if I do not think I am capable of it, and I know that they wouldn’t think anything less of me, as well as myself.
Can you think of situations that you deal with differently now than you did before? How does that make you feel? It makes me feel pretty empowered and like I have accomplished a lot in getting better from PTSD.
Last week I had two dreams back to back that were completely opposing. The first one was a nightmare my ex-husband had broken into my home and was waiting for me there. I got home and he was strangely not mean, difficult or argumentative. I asked him to leave and he left. But, I knew something was up. I looked through the peep hole and saw he was still waiting outside the door thinking about doing something irrational. There was a little old man in the apartment with me. My ex-husband coaxed the little old man into letting him back in. Then he started berating me and belittling me, telling me I was worthless, undeserving of any love or anything. I woke up crying and shaken up.
Then I feel back asleep. This time I dreamt I was in a shop next door to a restaurant. While in the shop, three different men hit on me. It was completely the opposite. I was loveable and deserving of love and attention.
In talking about these two dreams in therapy, my therapist explained although in the dream it was my ex-husband tearing me down, in reality my own psyche is doing that day in and day out when I judge myself and am hypervigilant, always worried that the decisions I make or what I say will not be what someone else wants. That I think how can anyone love me? But, then another part of me realizes how amazing I really am and that I am deserving of being loved.
I went on to talk about how I am still really struggling in my current relationship to say what I want. My boyfriend is vey encouraging and stops to remind me that I can do what I want and have wants and feelings, and there’s no reason to be afraid to express them. Sometimes it is that I know what I want but am worried its the “wrong answer” and other times I just really don’t have an opinion or feeling around something. Therapy has explained this is because I have spent a large part of my life blocking out my feelings because it is a lot easier that way, the other person can make the decision and not be upset or disappointed in me. Except now the other person wants to know what I want and feel. I think I am working on this and it will get easier.
I’ve been quiet for a while now because I’ve been so busy reacting. Weeks ago I left off in therapy and in my last post, working on memory of the last (or first, however you want to look at it) trauma of the 3 traumas I experienced that I haven’t addressed. The past 6 months have flown by faster than I’d ever want my life to go. My memory problem keeps popping up. What was 6 months ago feels like yesterday and what was yesterday feels like days ago.
We remember that a major PTSD treatment goal is to integrate dissociated trauma material with associated memories so that the fabric of our memory becomes like one continuous memory. The problem is that traumatic memory doesn’t mesh with the way we want to look at the world. The dissociated memories often contain misinterpretations and inaccurate conclusions that were formed under great duress, while strong emotions and arousal continue to interfere with processing.” – Cognitive Restructuring Chapter, The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook
Every day I am making unproductive thoughts. I still stay “I’m sorry” too often. I still make decisions within split seconds in order to “protect” myself. The Chapter on Cognitive Restructing addresses a lot of the automatic thoughts and distortions that I am dealing with day in and day out.
A —-> B —–> C
A is the Activing (or upsetting) event. B is the Belief (or automatic thoughts) that we tell ourselves about A. C is the emotional and physical Consequences (or arousal).
I can think of several situations in the past few weeks where I have done these things.
- Flaw Fixation – Fixation on what went wrong
- Dismissing the Positive – Discount positive things, as if they don’t matter
- Assuming – Mind reading, jumping to conclusions, and fortune-telling (or what I call anticipating what will happen and trying to prevent a negative outcome except you have no control over the situation)
- Catastrophizing – making things much worse than they actually are
- All-or-None Thinking – or Black and White Thinking
- Shoulds (Should Haves) – “I should have done this better…” “I must be strong”
- Making feelings facts – I don’t know if I have this problem since I still have a hard time even expressing my feelings in the first place though I have really made an effort to
- Overgeneralizing – “Things always go wrong”
- Abusive Labeling – “I am the only moron who didn’t do this right” which I said tonight actually
- Personalizing – Seeing yourself as more responsible or involved in a given situation than you really are. I do this at work ALL the time.
- Blaming – I don’t do this one either and think I’ve talked about it in a previous post because I have a real pet peeve with people not taking responsibility for their own mistakes. I own up to my mistakes even when I am not really responsible (see Personalizing).
- Regrets – “If only I hadn’t…” In therapy I still catch myself doing this in regards to my marriage and divorce on why I didn’t know I was in an abusive relationship earlier and leave it much earlier, even before marriage.
So now that I torn myself down more, how do you fix this? Which I’m sure everything I’ve worked on is not to be thrown away. But, apparently I need a refresher course in this.
1. A Daily Thought Record
You know those “Things That Bother Me” posts and reflections I do? And the Babel-fish cartoons? Yes, those are good for this. But, I need to dive a little deeper. What are my thoughts? How much do I believe in them (rate them)? What have I distorted? Then be more self-compassionate. What would you say to a friend if they had said or thought these things?
The next chapter is on Confiding Concealed Wounds, which talks a great deal about Trauma and Avoidance, something I have discussed a lot. “People might find ways to avoid the topic by staying occupied with trivial distractions such as work, cleaning, or exercise.” I know I can be guilty especially of the exercise and talked a good amount about. But, this is for another day. Good night!
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.
Yesterday I had a strange experience getting my morning coffee. The guy taking orders and taking care of business was just so frazzled, trying to do everything at once and so fast that his pace nearly gave me an anxiety attack. I kept thinking in my head, just chill out, it’s coffee, there’s no reason to act like that or you’re going to end up dying before you get to age 22. And seriously stressing yourself out is not going to get us our coffee any faster. And no one here is going, will you speed it up? He must have picked this up from me somehow because by the time I got to the front of the line, he had calmed down quite a bit.
I wondered if this was just that I was closer to the end of the line so there wasn’t a reason to hurry anymore. Or if like I’ve been told a million times over my life, that I have a calming effect over people. I’ve also been told I seem so calm when in situations where I should be freaking out. When in reality, inside I am totally freaking out. But, I also know that I have dealt with worse and can deal with whatever is being dished up. That’s resiliency.
I decided to google the phenomenon and google brought me to 7 Strengths Shy People Have.
3. Being quiet leads to a calming effect on others. Other people will notice that you do not say a whole heck of a lot, and very often they choose to view shy people as simply being more calm. In American society, where people are more often rewarded for “tooting their own horn,” being quiet and calm can have a profound positive impact on other people.
But, I also know that some people read being quiet as being stuck up.
A while ago I wrote about DISC personalities. The personalities are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. I tested very high for Influence. So maybe I can have a calming effect on some people. I’m probably just reading into things too much (hypervigilance), but it’s an observation.
How about you? Do you think you might have an influence on others? Do you think people pick up on each other’s tension or calmness and adjust to it? Or am I just super hypersensitive?