Posts Tagged Life

Knowledge is Power

I watched two documentaries recently, What Are Dreams?: Nova and Happy. What Are Dreams?: Nova explains sleep is an active state that affects your physical and mental well-being. Through an example of a study on a person’s sleep patterns, the documentary explains the difference between dreams in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep vs. non-REM sleep. Our first stage of sleep is non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep dreams usually are working out every day problems, re-experiencing or practicing experiences, and can be repetitive. REM sleep dreams are usually fantastical or ridiculous, things that would not occur in everyday life.

One of the experiments they share in the film is how if we are woken up during non-REM sleep, we are in a much more happy and confident state of mind than if we are woken up in REM sleep. For example, they woke up a sleep study during non-REM sleep and had them finish a list of sentences. All of the words he had finished were positive and full of hope. When they woke him up during REM sleep, all the words he chose were negative and hopeless or aggravated.

Another interesting test by a doctor in the film was a sleep study who played a skiing video game before bed. Before non-REM sleep, he had knocked into quite a few walls and fell skiing. After non-REM sleep his play improved quite a bit, where he was able to remember where he had difficulty and improve his skiing in the game. In the non-REM sleep he had practiced skiing. And in his REM sleep he had practiced walking through his own trek marks in the snow.

Another interesting observation they made in the film which was of a man with depression. He had documented all his dreams for some time. They all had to do with discontent with women in his life. It was not a surprise to the scientist studying this man’s dreams to find 5 years after the study the man was divorced.

I have talked about it on this blog, but I continue to have nightmares of being attacked, and I know it is me dealing with the trauma of domestic violence, abuse, and sexual assault.

So not that I didn’t already know this, but dreams are a way for us to solve problems and keep our mental health. Some of the world’s greatest problems and creative works have come out of dreams. One woman in the film explained if we were to go to bed thinking I want to dream about this problem, 50% of the time we would.

I’m actually really glad I watched the documentary Happy and would recommend it. Although its already things I knew, it was a great reminder that happiness can come in all forms and cannot be obtained by wishing you were happy. There are many things that make people happy, but one of the top things that they drove home was our relationships with people and sense of belonging. Cultures that they interviewed that stuck in my head from the documentary were Japan and Denmark. Japan is known for having the least happy people, really Tokyo. While Denmark is known for having the happiest. Unlike Tokyo, the documentary portrayed that the countryside is much different in Japan. They interviewed one businessman who was out on a business dinner on his birthday and asked him if his friends and girlfriend would have much rather been celebrating his birthday with him than being on business. He said, well my girlfriend knows that business always comes first. You could tell how sad he truly was to say that although what he was morally taught in his culture, that yes business comes first over his own happiness. In Denmark, a mother of 3 children demonstrates how the family lives in a commune that shares cooking duties 2 times a month. The cooking takes 5 hours for approx 50 people. She says that they don’t have to worry about cooking and shopping for dinner every night when they get home from work allows them all so much more free time outside of work. Doing dinner together also allows them all to socialize and have stronger bonds than only being able to see friends, family and neighbors periodically.

SuperBetter has done an amazing job with their PowerPacks to remind you that happiness can’t just be wished. You have to remind yourself that the bad moments will pass, and you will feel better again soon. It is an amazing tool to help remind you to reach out to people, to know you are not isolated, and to work on your relationships with people. I know I have good days and bad days. The reminder that the bad times will pass makes it easier. And having people like my SuperBetter allies and friends and family to reach out to is a world of help.

One of the most awe-inspiring moments from the film was an interview with a mother who had lost half of her face being dragged from a car accidentally by her sister. Her husband had divorced her and became an alcoholic dealing with the trauma, she had remembered being sexually abused as a child as a result of the trauma, it took a number of surgeries and severe pain before her face and body were restored to a normal state. She felt so much despair that she wanted to die. With the support of her son, having her horses on a ranch and meeting a supportive man who was ironically named Happy, she recovered from the traumas and is very happy today. This is a true example of post traumatic growth and is awe-inspiring to me. I am very glad they shared this story.

In the Happy documentary like I have written a lot about they remind you that being self-compassionate goes a long way in your own happiness. I often have to remind myself, how would I treat my friend who is feeling this way? And am much more compassionate toward myself as I would be toward them.

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Relax vs. Pressure

This week was a rough week especially Wed through Friday. I knew a lot of things were bugging me again so I wrote those up. A lot of the things had to do with feeling pressure. Pressure at work. Feeling pressure and judgment from coworkers and my boss. Pressure from a family member on my life decisions. Pressure to be in a relationship. Pressure to push myself harder in my workouts. Pressure up get everything done for the holidays for everyone. By Thursday, I was buckling from the stress and just wanted to crawl under the covers in my bed, cry and hide from everyone. But, I didn’t because I couldn’t.

My therapist noticed the word I used, pressure. This is something I’ve felt my whole life. Pressure to be perfect, to anticipate what someone would want so they would not be angry with me and not hit me. Fearing judgement. Fearing pain.

I don’t know how to relax anymore. When I’m alone. When I’m with someone, I can learn to relax. The guy I’m dating is superb at this that I look forward to Sunday afternoons lounging around with him. I can finally relax and escape from all the pressure. But, it’s not the world that’s applying the pressure.

It’s me.

Today I actually admitted my caregiver beat me. And I admitted I have been belittling it my whole life. My therapist and SuperBetter ally both said this to me today, that through reliving we can take back our power. I realize how true this can be. I recognize that I’m applying the pressure and I can change that. I can finally take back my life and stop putting so much pressure and judgement on myself.

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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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Quest: Things that bug me

I have a hard time recognizing things that bug me probably because I have a history of not putting myself first and numbing my own feelings. So I have made it a Quest to jot down the things that bug me and identify how I’m going to address them or how I can handle it better in the future. Here’s some from the past week.

Pointing out my mistakes / Being told how to do my job
The one time I don’t put together a full agenda for a meeting and I get corrected on that makes me feel like a complete failure. Instead I had put my time into working on something rather than putting together an agenda. So sure, next time I can make sure I put together an agenda but I’ve been feeling there’s bigger things at stake here at work. I don’t feel appreciated and often feel belittled and over criticized. I know I’m not going to stay here forever and I know it’s not important to let this stuff get to me so then why does it? Why do I take it as an attack on my character?

Pressure
I ran a race but with someone who is an elite marathoner. It pressured me to run faster, not take any breaks. I became really cranky on the run. That’s not normal for me. Usually, I love running and I’m smiling and enjoy myself. While I want to get better at running, I am not willing to do that at the expense of ruining my most loved and prized hobby for myself. So I have to see what I want to do about this one. I don’t want to feel pressured, but at the same time I don’t want to disappoint someone. But, really, who matters here? Me. Right? If I’m not happy, then what’s the point?

The need for down time
I usually have a hard time being around people for an extensive period of time. This changed a bit living with someone, but now that I live alone, it seriously has become something I need again. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was always with someone and by Sunday I was ready to scream. For when I needed down time so desperately I still had more plans with other people. Having a night off with no social or physical (my body seriously needed some rest after the race) seems to have cured that.

People who try to control your life
There is a lot I would like to say regarding this one but it would just be too personal and give myself away. I am sure we have all dealt with people, whether its a parent or a sibling or a boss or a friend, who would really like to control your life. I have been struggling with this one for years. I can let these people control me and drain every last bit of energy I have or just let them say what they’ll say and don’t let it get to me.

What things have been bugging you? Do you take the time to think about them and act on them?

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SuperBetter Weekly Digest

Ok I love these things as well as my MapMyRuns Weekly Digests!

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The Healing Power of Telling Stories

The other day I sat down and wrote up the work I had done in the last 3 of the final 4 chapters of the workbook and how it relates to my current life. I felt afterwards, I shouldn’t have done that, that no one is listening, and if they are, they’re just thinking, “shut up and get over it.” Then I read this today:

Tim O’Brien, Vietnam veteran, and author of The Things They Carried, once wrote: “Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”

I believe stories can change the world. I always have and I always will. As a child, reading and writing saved my life. It’s why I became an English teacher. It’s why I wrote Thirty Days with My Father: Finding Peace from Wartime PTSD. I believe stories have the power to help us face our truths, to make us better understand each other, and to teach us the morality by which to live.

Stories can make the unseen seen. They can make the intangible tangible, the general specific. They can strike a chord in people and make them change—make them take action, and even help them heal—the way nothing else ever could.

Though I can hope day in and day out that my blog and sharing my experience with SuperBetter is helping others getting better from trauma, I know I am really doing it for myself. And I have strongly encouraged others to start their own blogs because it has been by far the most therapeutic thing I’ve done. It helps me keep track of my progress and makes me seriously check in with myself on how I am feeling in the present moment. Every time I get discouraged I remind myself of this and sit down and take the time to write.

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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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