Posts Tagged Journal

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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Expectations, Hypervigilance & Internal Conflict

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Last weekend I dealt with a very irate person. It was a very hot weekend and I also heard about a lot of other violent events from
the weekend. I noticed this week I was a lot more hypervigilant as a result. I understand that this event came as a surprise to me and it’s perfectly rational for me to be worried about my safety concerning this person. Their behavior was pretty violent and extreme.

This week I also noticed I had a lot of internal conflict. This is a very new experience for me because in the past, I have always let others make decisions for me or not had any opinion or preferences of my own. Everyone else and their needs had always come first. Being hypervigilant from the event with the irate person last week, I wondered if I was just being hypersensitive to other people, that I asked in therapy, “Is this what normal people go through? Always having these internal conflicts and decisions to be making?” To my surprise, it is. The fact that I’m having these internal conflicts where I want to express my needs is proof that I am getting better from post traumatic stress! While that should be a relief, I’m finding it’s really tough to be dealing with these things. But, what’s also strange is how I’m feeling a lot less concern than I used to with expressing my needs, opinions or preferences. Because I’m often now thinking, well I have every right as anyone else right? And if I make someone upset, well maybe I don’t want to go then or maybe I’ll just do this on my own, and etc.

In therapy, we’ve been talking a lot about expectations, which I think has a tie into my hypervigilance. I am often having expectations of people without really being aware of it. For example:

– At work, I expect my coworkers to be respectful and professional as I am. This is not always the case. Some situations at work have arose that have made me uncomfortable. While they may see these things as a way to open up or break the ice, I saw them as disrespectful and bullying. I think it is a lot clearer what my expectations are and what I need to feel comfortable.

– Have you ever read the 5 Love Languages? My ex-husband was very good at fulfilling “Words of Affirmation”, but not good at showing me he really cared. My new partner does not do that. Instead he shows me he cares and loves me through “Acts of Service”. It took me a lot of time to adjust to not hearing the words of affirmation. But, once I came to understand how my partner shows me he loves me and cares, I was able to adjust my expectations and be a lot happier.

– With friends, I expect that we should share experiences and things about ourselves. If I open up to you, I expect you to open up back. When this doesn’t happen, I don’t feel comfortable around people. I feel closer to some of my friends more than others. I also am finding I become wary of spending time with people who do not reciprocate. I’m finding I need to adjust this expectation. Different people expect and need different things in their friendships. People are also at various spaces in their lives and sometimes we click and sometimes we don’t.

With hypervigilance I’m always being attentive to what others are thinking or feeling, but don’t realize that I am often having similar expectations of others. I am learning how to be aware of my expectations and when I am being hypervigilant. This way I can adjust my expectations when I need to, or stand up for what I need, and enjoy my relationships with people with a lot less anxiety.

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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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Struggle with Disclosure and Uncertainty

One thing I have been struggling with since I am no longer in an abusive relationship and have grown significantly in decreasing my social anxiety and expressing myself is when it is appropriate to disclose something. Reading about the DISC personalities of people with high Influence scores, I can identify with this exact problem:

“By their nature, High-I’s are extremely trusting and ingenuous. Their desire to be open with other people can lead them at times to reveal information or express feelings that more staid types might prefer to keep hidden. For this reason, they are sometimes seen as lacking in tact.” – http://www.discusonline.com/udisc/i_influence.html

I don’t really consider myself trusting, but maybe I am more so now. What I don’t understand is why I choose to tell people information about myself. For example, with inviting SuperBetter allies, I’ve realized I made a lot of friends uncomfortable by sharing my history of being a domestic violence victim and that I am trying to work on things I recognize as needing improvement. Some co-workers also know a bit about this history and I think they’d rather not know as well. At the same time, I feel angry at myself for sharing something personal with people as well as feeling angry at them for the way they seem to act after I tell them, not being supportive, not asking me how I am doing, not reciprocating by opening up with things that they are working on too.

Last night I had a dream that I think was dealing with this issue. I dreamt I was looking at houses with my family. I liked the first house we looked at, but for some reason, maybe cost, it was out of the question. That house had a lot of light and an open floor plan. The second house we looked at, the whole downstairs, especially kitchen was very dark. The upstairs had this gigantic attic that was really a hardware store. The backyard was strange. It was more like a courtyard mixed with golf course. The grass was very light green and almost fake looking like turf.

I think I was walking through these houses and backyard to deal with emotions and feelings I’ve been repressing for some time, including when and what I should and shouldn’t disclose to people. Earlier this week I broke down after I heard someone talking about marriage. I know a lot of people who are getting married and are having children this year. I keep having people ask me if I want to get married again and if I want children. I really haven’t been able to get to why it bothered me so much. Part of me feels like I still feel like a failure for ever getting married in the first place with such an abusive person. Part of me feels as if I will never get to be married to someone who is so loving and caring. Part of me feels like everything feels so uncertain. And for a person who loves change so much, that’s an odd feeling to have.

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Could Self-Compassion Be the Foundation for Cracking Avoidance & Being More Assertive?

It has already been a month since I’ve set my next Epic Win to crack avoidance of conflict and to be more assertive. I can certainly think back to quite a few examples where I have faced conflict head-on and have been more assertive. But, more importantly, I have noticed I’ve been a lot more confident and self-accepting.

In therapy, I have been talking a lot about changing your point of view or attitude about things, being assertive, asking for things I need, taking time I need, understanding specific situations and why people act certain ways, and how I have been feeling more relaxed. The change of mind for the game I think has helped big time. I am more focused on living in the now and enjoying life. I had an incredible weekend after a week with work life balance. (AND I just can’t wait to set new Epic Wins that are much closer to my own personal goals!)

In SuperBetter, I added in a few new Power Packs, which reminded me to chill out, be more self-compassionate, and stay present:

  • Being Awesome
  • Better Than a Chill Pill
  • The Mood Elevator: Ground Floor

Last week with the SuperBetter Quest, “The Compassion Express: When You Think You Might Suck”, I read the articles on the Science of Self Acceptance:

Self Improvement at the Risk of Self Acceptance – NY Times

Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges – NY Times Well Blogs

And took an online quiz to gauge where I am at with Self-Compassion and Self-Acceptance. I wasn’t too surprised to find I was in the pretty high ranges, with a 4.1 out of 5.0. Anywhere from 3.5 – 5.0 was considered excellent. You know that old saying, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” I think I’ve been applying the reverse principle, “Treat yourself as you treat others.” I have a lot of compassion for people and often I find myself thinking these days, everyone is dealing with similar problems and its ok. It’s even ok for me to reach out to others for help and help them when they need it. This is all part of life and its journey.

I think two years ago I was a completely different person. When I was a teenager, I used to think I was pretty awesome. Now, I finally feel that again. I am an amazing person who has led an amazing life and have much more ahead of me I am excited about. Each day, I want to enjoy something and grow closer in my relationships with my friends and family. I have my whole life ahead of me and I could choose to be miserable, but I would much rather choose to be awesome. And then doing things like dealing with conflict and being assertive become so much easier, because I know I can do it and I understand, hey, my needs are important too, just like yours.

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A New Kind of Growth

I’ve been very busy the past couple of weeks, which is why I’ve been near non-existent. A week ago I came to the conclusion that the post traumatic growth I was experiencing for the past year and half was starting to fizzle out. The world didn’t seem so bright and shiny. Things were just starting to become like everyone else seemed to experience it, just “Meh.” For example, I ran three half marathons in the past month and wasn’t like “Wow, that was completely awesome!” I didn’t want to lose the feelings I have about how amazing so many things in my life are, so I have been gripping onto them tight.

This week I noticed I was a little more relaxed version of myself even though I just wrapped up a super stressful week to flow into yet another stressful week. I might have let a lot of emails, texts, and phone calls slip by. I didn’t really feel like socializing. I just felt like being in tune with myself. Though I worked most nights, I took a couple hours to veg or explore new places and things. Then the stress finally caught up to me and I got sick and stayed in bed rather than go on my long run.

This morning though it was raining, I set out to do my long run, headache and all, before a long day of plans. I was smiling most of the run. I felt like I was flying and free.

Last week after finishing the Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon, I said to my friends, I need something inspiring to read again. They said, “Why don’t you read Born to Run?” I had it sitting around for awhile now. Now, I’m almost done with it. Reading Born to Run, I had another eureka moment like when I read Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken. I read about how the real secret of the Tarahumara was they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running. This really rung true to me too. And reading about Scott Jurek, who is also from Seattle like myself, I was inspired by his story where he was picked on growing up and dealt with the hopelessness of taking care of his mother who would never get better, where running was his outlet. My whole life running has been my outlet, as well as a zillion other outdoor activities and sports. But, running is truly where I feel free.

Then I started thinking about Michael Richards (@mtcrun) who is also playing SuperBetter and won the Skagway Half Marathon at the beginning of the month. Michael is using SuperBetter to get better from depression, but he set his Epic Win to run the Half Marathon. After winning, Michael said, “Jane, you and @SuperBetter are directly responsible for helping me run, win, and, most importantly, enjoy the 1/2 :).” And two weeks later I saw his post that he was setting his next Epic Win. I also noticed a ton of posts about his group runs and training leading up to the race, which all in all lead to getting better from depression. And suddenly I had this eureka moment. Why aren’t I setting Epic Wins to do things I love to accomplish getting better from PTSD? Rather than focusing on the symptoms of PTSD, which has made this kind of daunting. So I don’t know exactly where to begin, but I suddenly had a change in my mindset about playing the SuperBetter game and about life in general, which I think is going to lead to a new kind of growth.

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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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