Posts Tagged Self-Advocacy

Leaps and Bounds of Progress

In therapy the past few weeks I’ve been doing some reflecting on the leaps and bounds of progress I have made. Even in my nightmares, I am making this same progress, which says to me I have come a long way in applying what I’ve learned to get better from trauma — in dealing with hypersensitivity, in dealing with conflict, in being assertive and self-compassionate.

At work, I’ve been dealing with a difficult abusive person. No matter what I do, this person will not be happy and they will be angry with me. It reminds me all too much of what I dealt with when I was a child with my caretaker. I have learned to not take what this person says personally, but a few weeks ago, I stood up for myself in a big way. I was sick of dealing with it, and identified what it was I needed from this person, which were my ground rules or guidelines for dealing with this person. Then I met with them and stated my guidelines. It hasn’t been perfect, but it has helped. That’s a huge step for me. 3-4 years ago I would have never had the guts to tell someone what I needed from them, let alone even be able to identify I needed anything. I used to not have needs. My whole life centered around how I could do anything and everything to make others happy and not angry at me. What a difference.

A couple weeks ago, I was struggling with my personal life. I wasn’t sure if it was just winter causing all my friends to get more and more distant. But, I knew this was not how I wanted my life to be. I want strong friendships with people I can count on, who can count on me, and who I can spend time with doing the things we both enjoy, and learn from each other. I feel like that is lacking. But, I had this dream I was taking this class with my friends. They had walked into the room and reserved a bunch of seats at a table for our friends, but they hadn’t saved me a seat so I had to sit with people I didn’t know. Ordinarily, this would make me upset – like they didn’t think about me and now I have to deal with being around people I didn’t know and wouldn’t know what to say or do. But, in the dream, it didn’t bother me and I thought, “Well, I get to meet new people. Your loss.” And happily sat with another table with complete strangers. This made me realize, sure, some of my friendships have grown distant for whatever reason. But, I have the opportunity to make new friendships and even ones that are stronger, where are values align more and we have more things in common, like being active or doing volunteer work and community service. Shortly after that dream I got to meet up with some of my friends. They all made fair-weather plans with me and no one followed up. I could be upset about that, but I figure they are busy, or inept at making plans. It’s their loss. And instead I made plans of my own. Granted not all of them were the best ones. I ended up volunteering for something that made me uncomfortable – it actually does fall under the avoidance category since it was at a place where I had been a zillion times with my ex-husband. And granted I’m probably viewed as an asshole because I got there and just said I can’t do this and I don’t want to be here and left. But, I feel a lot better that I was able to just say what I wanted and move on. Lesson learned – don’t put yourself in situations you are uncomfortable with and you don’t care about. I would have much rather been attending another event that night that benefits people rather than an idea I just don’t believe in anymore.

At work I have been working on a lot of goals for my company. This certainly put me in a big reflective stage on my own life. Here I am making all these plans for them. But, what about me? I have goals and I’m not meeting them. That’s not fair. So I have been applying what I do at work, to my own life. And hopefully that will mean I am a lot happier about where I am going and what I am doing here on this planet. One of my friends had posted this article on the 10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon. So many of these are what I am talking about in this post actually. #2 is “You Live the Life Your Create for Yourself.” For a while, from August till November, I was feeling like I was waiting for my life to start. When in reality, I was living it. But, all the things I used to look forward to, like traveling, spending time with family, game nights, spending time with friends, running races, volunteering, I just wasn’t doing them. And it felt like I had kind of disappeared. I think I was adjusting to my new life and living with someone again. Now I feel like I’ve done that and I get really excited when I pull up my list of goals, and start to really want to put plans and dates together on those. Of course more and more things pop up in my head of what I want to do. And I start feeling like life is too short. Then I think of #3 Being Busy Does Not Mean Being Productive. One of the good things I gained out of that period of time between August to November, was learning how to relax – how to not have to do anything and not worry about it. If you need extra sleep, then that’s fine. If you need a night to just tune out at home, that’s fine. I learned how to not be busy, and that I didn’t need to be “busy” to feel alive. What I want is to be able to live my life so that if I were to die tomorrow, I’d be pretty proud of my life, of my relationships with my family, my friendships, what I’ve done as extra-curricular and at work, what I’ve seen of the world, how I’ve dealt with the world, and so forth. When I stop and think of that now, I actually thing, gosh I am already there. I’m pretty proud of who I am. Sure, there’s a few things here and there I want to change. But, I have the power to change that, to set goals and make those happen.

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Relationships and Expressing My Needs

Today was one of those days where I got frustrated with people in a particular situation. Here I am already three years away from a relationship of domestic violence. They say people with PTSD have a hard time maintaining strong relationships with friends and family. I have been feeling that this past year after feeling much closer the two previous years to people than ever before. A week ago I went to lunch with someone and mentioned this and they reassured me that people’s friendships and circles change over time and that is all that is happening here. This is true. I feel closer now to my co-workers than I have in the past. I sometimes try to reach out to people in my friend circles, and get no bites. It frustrates me. It frustrates me that someone snapped at me the last time I tried to participate in something social. It frustrates me that I feel like an outsider always. Here I am finally happy in some areas of my life, with love and with work. But, feeling like my friendships are lacking significantly.

It makes me want to no longer participate in activities with these people. After the break-up last year, I made several attempts to grow new friendships. Every relationship always feels pretty fair-weather. Everyone is busy with their own shit. With their own motives. Their own thoughts. I find myself just getting tired of it. And not want to deal with any of it. I want to focus on things that make me happy. Running makes me happy. Helping other women who have experienced domestic violence, trauma, and abuse makes me feel like I am doing something that helps others and helps the world. Volunteering makes me happy – I’ve met so many great people doing that. But, often these things go no where. Maybe you bump into the same people a few times, even running around town. I network the hell out of things for work, and people often just don’t respond, but some do, some seem to actually give a shit.

I try to rarely bring up these things to people because I feel like they don’t want to deal with it. Like I made being in an abusive relationship some big deal when it’s not. Like my being socially awkward is such a drag. Well, you know what. You don’t know what it is like unless you have been in it yourself. And to take it further – none of us know what the other person we’re dealing with has been through. But, dear world, I wish you would be a lot more compassionate. Because I am tired of always feeling like I am in everybody else’s way, that I am a pain in everyone else’s ass by existing. Because I sure as hell do not act like that about you. So have some fucking compassion and get your heads out of your asses. Because life is going to pass you by and you’re going to realize you spent so much time being callus, ignorant, and in-compassionate, and you missed out on some of the most amazing opportunities of a life time.

Well, I don’t know if that really resolved anything for me. But, at least I got something off my chest.

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And I’m going to realize you don’t really care anyway. It’s just my being hypervigilant right? That guy who rushed me at the coffee shop so he could put his cream and sugar in really didn’t care if I exist, I was just a pain in his ass being in the way. The person who snapped at me a few weeks, I didn’t really think it was a big deal, and I knew they were just tired and cranky, but really why is that you have to take it out on me? So from now on, I’m just going to ignore all your bullshit world. And be happy. So before I do that. Let me just say, go fuck yourself!

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Self-Advocacy in a Flash of Frustration

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.

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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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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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