Posts Tagged PTSD
I was a rape victim. I was raped by a person I thought was my best friend since high school when I was in college. When I went to the school clinic for help, the way they treated me was as if I was the problem, as if I asked for this, as if I made him do it, like it was my fault and I was so terrible. When I told my ex-husband about the rape, he insisted it wasn’t rape, it was regretful sex. It was rape. Years later I received an email from my rapist apologizing for what he did to me. He realized how very wrong what he did was. He had to live with it for many years and though I really never wanted to hear from him again, he had to say something to make him feel better.
This is probably the first time I am expressing any kind of impartial opinion on here. And possibly the last time. All of the stories about the Steubenville rape have been disturbing me today. It is interesting that I have a deep compassionate feeling for both sides. People have been complaining about the sympathy for the two boys, but there has also not been sympathy for the rape victim involved and another article surfaced the victim being attacked once the boys were found guilty. I wonder to this day if my rapist still feels remorse for what he did or since his email has been able to go on with his life uninterrupted by it. I know I have not. And I’d like to think he has not either. And I can only hope as a result it had changed him to be a better person or at least stop him from doing this again. I will never get an apology for how the people at my school clinic treated me or for how my abusive ex-husband dismissed my rape. But, I can know that they were wrong and that I did nothing wrong to deserve what had happened to me.
I did not report my rape and I did not report my ex-husband’s extensive physical and mental abuse. I wonder to this day how things would have been if I had. I admire the courage people have to report these things and speak out against them. I am relieved that people are actually talking about it now rather than sweeping it under the rug even if I do not agree with everything they are saying. A couple weeks ago I started following Erin Merryn on twitter and her appearance on Katie Couric’s show and I am so impressed and proud of her for what she is doing to try to pass Erin’s law in every state in the US to help save children from child sexual abuse. I think it is time we talk about these issues and we stop belittling them and allowing them to happen. Rape, child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, it is all unacceptable and we can all do our part to stop them by saying they are not acceptable.
It has been over 1 year of me playing SuperBetter and keeping this blog 4ptsdhealing. It has been a tremendous experience for me and I can tell how far I have come in the healing process from PTSD since I have started. There have been bumps along the way, but I am amazed at how I have handled several difficult situations and people over the past several months. 3 years ago I would have never been confrontational and never would have recognized the reasons I was struggling with making personal decisions. I realized how lucky I am to have such an amazing family, friends, boyfriend, job and co-workers, and plans for the future. But, more importantly I realize, I made my life this way, I made these relationships, I put the work in and strengthened them. I met someone amazing after thinking I would never fall in love again. It isn’t exactly luck. Your life truly is what you make it. My heart is beaming with happiness and excitement for the future.
In the past year, I have had major breakthroughs on nightmares, confrontation, body image and negative self-talk through self-compassion. This does not mean I don’t have more work yet to come. One area I am struggling with still is hypervigilance and anticipation. I recognize when I am doing it, but still have a hard time making decisions freely without worrying about what the other person wants or how they will react. This is something I recognize has become so ingrained in my PTSD wired brain that I need to undo.
I have finally arrived to dealing with the abuse I experienced as a child. Last week I has a nightmare I was going to be killed for something my father did in his late 30s. They didn’t say what. They kept torturing me and wouldn’t tell me how they were going to kill me. If it would be quick and painless like shooting me in the head or terrifying like drowning, electrocution, torture. I kept trying to prolong being killed hoping to buy myself time as if someone would save me or something would interrupt me getting killed. For example, I said I needed to go to the bathroom and of course they said why does it matter, we’re going to kill you anyway. So I said well can you just let me go this one last time? Near the end of the dream my father showed up, but he looked the same as when he was in his late 30s. He was so distraught that I would be upset with him for them wanting to kill me. I wasn’t upset with my father. As far as I was concerned he did nothing wrong. These people that wanted to kill me were wrong. My therapist pointed out, when my father was in his late 30s was when my caretaker had abused me. When he found out about it, he was so upset with them which ended up causing me more grief from the abuser. I was coming to terms with this. I never blamed my father for the abuse I experienced. He couldn’t have prevented it and it was not his fault. The torture is akin to the torture I put on myself every day that I worry about what I say or want, the trouble I have making decisions, of dealing with difficult people and situations. But, I realize it is getting so much easier to deal with these things now than it has in the past. I have re-wired a good portion of my brain. I am getting better from PTSD and I am so proud of myself.
In therapy this week I learned about internal vs. external locus of control. External locus of control people tend to think everyone else is at fault for their difficult situations, while internal locus of control people tend to think they are responsible for the outcome (e.g. I should have studied harder to pass the test vs. the test material was too difficult and that’s why I failed the test).
“Internals tend to attribute outcomes of events to their own control. People who have internal locus of control believe that the outcomes of their actions are results of their own abilities. Internals believe that their hard work would lead them to obtain positive outcomes. They also believe that every action has its consequence, which makes them accept the fact that things happen and it depends on them if they want to have control over it or not. Externals attribute outcomes of events to external circumstances. People that have external locus of control believe that many things that happen in their lives are out of their control. They believe that their own actions are a result of external factors that are beyond their control. Rotter in his study suggested that people that have external locus of control have four types of beliefs which include the following: powerful others such as doctors, nurses, fate, luck and a belief that the world is too complex to predict its outcomes. People that have external locus of control tend to blame others for the outcomes rather than themselves.”
I’ve probably mentioned it before but I deal with a difficult co-worker. The co-worker constantly badgers other co-workers about issues and problems, they demand quick responses, everything is an emergency to this person, everything is someone else’s fault, we all should have done it better and been able to read their mind. It can be very interruptive and it reminds me all too much of my abusive relationship, where I feel I have to do anything and everything to keep this person happy and from blowing up at me and other co-workers. When I used to never think anything of this type of relationship, now that I know better, I can’t help but speak up, say no sometimes, and grow very tired of it. They have an extreme external locus of control while I have an extreme internal locus of control.
I generally would like to stay away from people with extreme external locus of control. But, obviously I have to know how to deal with them when I do. And I would like to work on bringing myself more to the center than being an extreme internal locus of control. Last week I had also completed a survey that was part of a study for domestic violence survivors and the last section of the survey was about this internal vs. external locus of control. All of my responses had me at the extreme end where I felt I was at fault still and could have done something differently to result in better outcomes. The questions were centered around your every day events like situations at work, in the public, and etc. So it was clear to me I still need to do some work to pull myself more to the middle, where I realize I am not responsible for everything and cannot possibly prevent things that are out of my control like someone else’s behavior.
I’ve been dealing with some very frustrating things lately and today someone pushed my buttons so much I finally confronted them about it. It scared the hell out of me. I raised my voice, explained how they made me feel and said what I needed to make things work better. Afterwards I felt strangely better even though I was a little worried it might mean I lose my job. I stood up for myself, something I feel like I’ve never been able to do. And it wasn’t so bad.
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.
This week my ex-husband followed me home or happened to be going some place near my home. I didn’t recognize him until it was too late. And I made a run for it. In the workbook they try to prepare you for situations if you run into your abuser, but no matter how much they prepare you, I don’t think you could ever be prepared. If I see him again, I’m calling the police. It has put me on a high alert the rest of the week. Some time last year I let down my guard after a lot of time had passed since he last threatened me. Why should I have to live in fear? Why should I have to move? To hide? To always have to look over my shoulder? Then of course the nightmares of being attacked start up again.
Earlier this week I read the Slog’s editorial, “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother.” And thought, I’m Adam Lanza’s ex-wife and I’m still scared to death of him. I do feel mental health care needs to be more accessible by everyone. But, how do you get a person like my ex-husband to get help and get better so they stop hurting people? So people like me don’t have to be afraid of them? I know the workbook and many people have told me not to worry about him, but how can I not when I’m still worried about my own safety and many others out there?
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday my SuperBetter ally sent me this image. She always has impeccable timing. These things have been on my brain for sure.
I need to work on the following:
1c. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself
I have been struggling lately with the idea that anyone could love me or find me amazing. This is a sad thought. I’ve been finding a lot of negative self-talk creeping into what I say. I know in my heart this is not true. I have a friend who always tells me how amazing and adorable I am. The way she says it and shows me I am, it is very hard not to believe her. One of my family members always tells me I put others first. I never see it that way. I always think I don’t ever do enough for anyone. But, to hear it, I can start to think of the things I do for people, including listen and give advice or a helping hand. One of the most eye opening events for me to realize how special I am, was to actually watch a video of myself. I could not believe that was me, so smart, adorable, and funny. I know that many years of being told I’m not amazing and being abused made me feel I am worthless. I can choose to believe those things, or I can choose to believe I am lovable and amazing. I would match rather believe the latter. But, I realize a lot of hard work and practice will go into that.
2. All of 2 – Don’t take anything personally
This one I wrote about in my last blog entry with work, dealing with controlling people, and feeling pressured. Like the image says, what those people were saying and doing is a projection of their reality. My therapist had gone over this with me before. I can’t control how they feel. I can think I can try, but then what’s the point? It will just make me suffer needlessly to worry about it and do things that won’t make me happy in the long run.
I think I fully understand, but could always use more practice on the following:
3. Don’t make assumptions
I have made an effort to now always ask questions or to clarify things if I am anticipating judgement. Sure, I have a million questions and worries, but I continually remind myself, is that worth worrying about? Can I do anything about that now like ask questions? Or should I put that aside and address it if it is still bothering me later?
4. Always do your best
This is really about self-compassion and not passing judgement on yourself. I know that each day I do my best. I know that some days and some moments I’m going to make a mistake, but if I am as compassionate towards myself as I am of others, I will never feel self-judgement, self-abuse (beating myself up) or regret.