Posts Tagged Leapyear Project

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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Just For Fun

Ok this post is really just for fun.

On the Media: SuperBetter Diaries Entry 3 – http://www.onthemedia.org/blogs/on-the-media/2011/oct/19/superbetter-diaries-entry-3-movin-along/

I liked this guy’s post about the quests his allies had given him and Jane directing him to check out Omar Little on Twitter: “Take strength! Take courage!!!! Be a warrior not a worrier!”  Some of the quests his allies gave him could really brighten up your day. It makes me think I need to seriously do some of my fun quests I gave myself, like the broken babelfish cartoons.

The Hybrid Athlete: Why You Suck and Look the Same – http://www.thehybridathlete.com/why-you-suck-and-look-the-same/

Ok, I think this post can be a little extreme, but I get it and feel that way about people, life in general, and my own physical fitness and battles. I may catch myself complaining, “the course was too hilly” or “so-and-so didn’t communicate with me”, but often I just take full responsibility for what went down. “Your outlook sucks” is often a good reminder to pull me out of poor mental states. And then that brings me to the next two things I read that help explain some things about why I’ve always been able to meet my goals and be so damn driven.

Pick the Brian: 7 Habits Highly Effective People Don’t Have – http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/7-habits-highly-effective-people-dont-have/

At work, I probably annoy people because I am always evaluating the priorities of things and focus on completing one thing at a time according to that priority. My desk is also always completely free of clutter. I don’t even print out much. Everything is organized on my computer. I am always asking the question, “What is the worst that can happen if I do this?” and just get on with it. I’ve always been a pretty clear goal setter and luckily had training on how to do this. One of my biggest pet peeves is people who blame other people. I actually pride myself on taking responsibility for my failures. I have done it a zillion times at work and personally. Life is not about being perfect. Life is about living it. We shouldn’t be afraid to take risks and try things. That’s my take.

DISC Personality Test – http://www.123test.com/disc-personality-test/

My results explained a lot.

Influence – 32%

  • are strongly interested in meeting and being with people.
  • are generally optimistic, outgoing, and socially skilled.
  • are quick at establishing relationships.

Sometimes their concern for people and people’s feelings may make them reluctant to disturb a favourable situation or relationship.

Dominance – 28%

  • enjoy competition and challenge.
  • are goal orientated and want to be recognised for their efforts.
  • aim high, want authority and are generally resourceful and adaptable.
  • are usually self-sufficient and individualistic.
  • may lose interest in projects once the challenge has gone and they tend to be impatient and dissatisfied with minor detail.

Steadiness – 24%

  • tend to enjoy change and variety in their work and non-work life.
  • are expansive by nature and tend not to like routine and repetitive work/activities.

Compliance – 16%

  • are independent and uninhibited.
  • resent rules and restrictions.
  • prefer to be measured by results and are always willing to try the untried.

Free in thought, word and deed, they long for freedom and go to great lengths to achieve it.

discusonline.com talks a lot about the negative traits of my results as well, which I can identify with.

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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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Next Epic Win: Crack Conflict Avoidance & Be Assertive

I’ve set my next Epic Win in SuperBetter to work on Conflict Avoidance & Assertiveness. I’ve been avoiding conflict my entire life. The hypervigilance/anticipation is all tied into that. I will anticipate what someone will say or do to avoid conflict. I also struggle with being assertive. I often put everyone else’s needs and wants before mine. I feel obligated to do things when I am not. So I’ve set up some quests over the next few weeks to work on these things.

Quest: Keep a Journal

I have a hard time recognizing when something bothers me. Keeping a journal over the next two weeks may help me identify easier what is bothering me an how I can address it.
Quest: Say No or State Your Need Without Giving Reason Why

I often have this problem especially with people at work who always want to know my business, like why I have a doctor’s appointment, and I feel like I am obligated to give them an answer, but I am not.
Quest: Express My Feelings to Someone

Once a week for the next 5 weeks, express how I am feeling to someone either at home or at work. If I need something for things to work better, then ask for it.

Quest: Be assertive – Use “I messages”

Often I don’t make decisions or say what I want because I feel like I don’t have the right to have needs or wants. But, over the next few weeks I would like to push myself to be assertive more often and express what I want using “I messages” more frequently. For example, “I am feeling frustrated about X. I would really like it if we did X about it.”

Do you struggle with these things? If so, what types of things do you do to deal with them?

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Break-Through on Body Image

This week I had a major break-through on one of the symptoms of abuse that I do not talk about much. That is body image. Since I was a child, I have always had a distorted body image of myself. I always thought I was obese and ugly. When I look back at pictures of myself as a kid, I don’t think I was fat or ugly at all. Yet, to this day, I still struggle with my body image and still think I am fat. I know this is not true, but it’s hard for me to believe it. This week I had my biometrics done. All of my numbers were perfect and like an athlete’s. The nurse said, “You are the picture of health.” To hear this and to have hard factual numbers to back it up had a huge impact on my perception of myself and body image. 

I thought through my entire life history and the struggles I have had with body image. When I was in grade school, I was made fun of for being “fat” because I was my full height and size by then. When I was in high school, I struggled with anorexia and an unhealthy exercise regimen. When I was in college, I hid my body in unattractive clothes, did not fit in, and spent all my free time running. I understand being picked on in grade school, never fitting in, and being raped in college all attributed to my negative body image.

I have come a long way since then on improving my body image, but I still have a lot of insecurity around it. Two years ago I would have never been caught in public in a swimsuit and now I push myself to just not worry about it so I can train for a triathlon in one. I would have never worn short sleeves either and now I do a lot more frequently. Years ago I wouldn’t eat any foods with any fat in it. Now I understand that good fat is essential to my nutrition. When I have an injury now, instead of just pushing through it and not taking care of it, I force myself to take care of it so I can continue my training later without injury and find other activities I can do in the meantime. 

I am hoping that hearing solid proof that I have no reason to have a negative body image sticks with me and I can continue to work on my positive body image.

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