Tag Archives: coping skills

How do you break the cycle?

A friend posed a really good question today: how do you actually break the cycle of [abuse/anger/self-harm/ insert whatever cycle applies]?

I didn’t have an answer for her.

I know my brother and I have both broken the cycle in our family, but I have no insight into how we did it. I know I have a deep-seated fear of becoming my father in any way, shape, or form. I think my brother also has that fear, tough I’m not sure.. since we never talk about that kind of stuff… but… how did that enable us to step back from the abuse?

I know I’ve had bouts with rage. They weren’t anything close to what my dad would display, but they were close enough to have me feeling like shit about myself.

So what helped after moments like that? I have no idea. Other than being scared of myself turning into G, I really don’t know what I did that allows me to control my rage…

I used to self harm, in a number of ways. I no longer use that outlet, but again, I have no real clue what changed. Yes, there is a huge fear of being hospitalized again, but there has to be more to it than that… right?

What is it that enables some of us to change patterns, while others are still mired in them? What’s the push that moves some of us out of the only patterns we’ve ever know, but keeps others stuck?

I don’t think it’s a personality thing, because that would mean only some people can ever change. I believe everyone can change, so that can’t be it.

Is it better insight? Not totally sure, because my friend is pretty insightful (I’d say more so than I am), so it’s not just that.

…but what actually is it?

I’ve been told that changing old patterns takes time. A therapist once told me in response to being frustrated at my slow rate of change; “you’ve spent 20-something years using that skill. What makes you think you can change that in a few short months?”

She had a point.

I had practiced my poor coping skills for more than half my life. It would take at least a few years to perfect not cutting…

But is time and fear the only thing that helped me change? We didn’t focus on alternates in therapy; we just addressed the trauma (repressed or otherwise). Was that the key?

So what happens if there isn’t trauma hiding behind the anger, or the trauma was addressed, but the anger remains? How do you resolve it?

D.E.S. results chat

Talked to Dr C about the results from the assessment, and I took it again with her. I scored a 44 this time… we looked up the scoring; doesn’t look like you can score much higher than a 50… I’m not DID though, so…? I dunno. 

I had questioned how reliable my self-report could be if my score changed so much in just a day. I questioned if maybe I was exaggerating things on the questionnaire. She said that it sounded more like I was trying to downplay my experiences (I was talking to her about a few of the questions).  I have trouble quantifying my experiences, so I’m not sure I answer the same way each time. She said that the test was statistically quite accurate and reliable. She also mentioned that one of the underpinnings of dissociation is not being able to remember the act of dissociating. So, I guess that’s another check in the “you’re really fucked up chicky-do” column… :/

She asked if I was worried about a DID diagnosis. I reflexively answered “no” because I don’t see it as that bad & because I’ve seen DDNOS on my records, so others don’t think it’s that bad. I think I’ve talked to her another time about it also, and I think I remember ruling out DID, so there’s that… but on the way home, I kinda panicked about whether her thoughts on it were evolving to lean more towards that diagnosis. I just text her asking if she was seeing DID. I’m not sure she will answer that through text or not, but as long as we address it at some point, I think I’ll feel better about it. 

I know my dissociation can be severe at times because I’ve completely lost days, weeks, and even months in the last decade. I guess I just don’t think it’s that severe all the time. I don’t see too much evidence pointing to DID other than L’s frustration around never knowing what to expect from me in terms of likes and dislikes…

We chatted more about dissociation and the functions of it. We talked about other coping skills for handling the body sensations and the flashbacks. I think she kinda came to the conclusion that even my healthier coping skills utilize dissociation to a degree. We talked about the writing and the art, and how I often don’t really remember what was created. We did differentiate the “flow” of creating vs more dissociative aspects of it. I think with both the art and the writing, part of the creative process is having no real direction and letting the piece take over its own evolution. It’s when I can’t recall writing something (like a blog entry) or creating something, that the dissociation plays a bigger role in that coping strategy… there are definitely some things I have to look at over and over again because they seem familiar, but I don’t connect to having made them.

Dr C commented that dissociation, especially such intense dissociation, takes a lot of energy. I countered that it’s actually the least draining of my coping skills, but now that I think about it, I wonder if that contributes to the constant exhaustion. I know some of it is the depression, but maybe she’s right; maybe the dissociation is exhausting as well. 


I went with a friend to a retreat/yoga thing today. It was described as more buddhist/spiritual. That kind of stuff I can handle… Only it was in a catholic retreat center, complete with religious symbols all over the place. Luckily, my friend is atheist, so she was as uninterested in the religious aspect as I was (only, I was really triggered, not just uninterested).

I did my best to ground from all the flashbacks, but it was really difficult. My friend was frustrated that I refused to do the meditations. She was convinced it would help my head. I didn’t know how to tell her that being mindful and present in my body brings up intense flashbacks to csa. It was all I could do to distract from them before they came on full-force just by walking into the retreat center. She told me I should have at least tried the breathing… only she doesn’t know that focusing on my breath was something I did to get the abuse over with faster (he would wait till he thought I was asleep to start things).

Even the yoga was problematic. I’m used to doing more standing poses, but these almost all involved laying on the floor… I did maybe 3 of the poses because all the others sent me right into flashbacks.

I feel like such a loser. There are all these things that are supposed to help, but they only make things worse for me. Aside of all the csa stuff coming up, I got flashbacks to the times I was hospitalized… the stupid hallways looked so much like the hospitals…

I know Dr C is more understanding when I tell her things like this trigger me. I get that they make sense in terms of my history. It’s just so difficult to explain to everyone else. I’m not just being stubborn and resistant. It doesn’t feel safe, and it sends me into a tailspin… As is, all I want to do at the moment is self-harm and dissociate. I don’t like feeling the things in my body. I don’t like “remembering” this stuff that should never have happened… and I really don’t like being seen as difficult and resistant.

I should have excused myself and sat outside while my friend and her mom did all the meditations and talks. I could have avoided all this extra triggering. I didn’t want to disappoint my friend though.

Art instead of other things

As much as I didn’t want to be in therapy on Monday, I was really looking forward to group on Thursday… only group got cancelled 😦

So, in an effort to keep on the right track with my coping skills, I did art all day…

I’m not sure if I posted about my experiment making my own canvas journal, but I worked on that and some ATC’s that will be going out on a swap (if I can ever decide which ones to actually send. I like them all for various reasons. Some have deeper meanings than they may appear to just by looking at them).

Anyway, here are pics of it all. Some are WIP pics, others of completed pages/cards… I used Inka Gold on the canvas. It doesn’t work well. The paint is cracking and chipping already. I need to come up with something as a hard cover for the journal to help protect it better. It works fine on solid objects, but it’s not meant to be pliable once dried.

I’m glad I had the distraction today. Between pms, the passing of one of L’s family members (and what it’s bringing up for me), increased body sensations, stress around one of the dogs having eaten a spoon a week ago and still not passed it, and the thought of a crazy day at work tomorrow, my thoughts have been hovering over the more negative coping skills. Similar to what I mentioned to Dr C on Monday, I just wanted to be drunk, high, and bleeding. Instead I played art and listened to the Ellie Goulding station on Pandora… yay for picking the more socially acceptable coping skills.

More art

Progress on “flashbacks” & some other stuff…

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Murphy’s law strikes again…

I was describing my anxiety in group yesterday. I had mentioned that the ptsd symptoms seemed to have quieted only to be replaced by the anxiety. About 5 minutes later, we started talking about breathing as one way to deal with the anxiety and…


There came a body memory so strong I shuddered & jumped a little in my seat. Dr C looked at me, but didn’t ask. I’m guessing she will either bring it up in session or wait for me to bring it up then… in the moment (and actually a bit before), I was fighting the urge to walk out of the room. I wanted an escape from the sensations and memories threatening to burst forth, but I was a good girl. I stayed in my chair and struggled to stay in the moment. I forcibly refocused my attention to whomever was talking several times throughout the last 15 minutes of group… I also refrained from bugging Dr C for more of her time to help ground. I was pretty sure I could manage it on my own if I got out of that room and away from the conversation on breathing.

I was successful in distracting myself and not letting it escalate too far into a full-blown flashback. I did spend quite a bit of money on some comfort items (food, because I know that’s always ok in our house. I deliberately did not head to an art store or general merchandise store to avoid spending too much on stuff… I shouldn’t have spent on the extra food either, but… oh well).

Dr C also pointed out that the anxiety and ocd-like stuff sounded like it stemmed from a fear of something going wrong & it all being my fault.


When I stopped to reexamine the thoughts at the times I get stuck in a loop of checking and rechecking, it’s all worries about me screwing things up royally :/ It’s part trauma response, part… I don’t even know what.

On a side note: I’ve managed to engage in only positive coping skills since the move. I even put my sleep aid away into the freezer as I have not used it at all since getting here (though that may have something to do with close neighbors, but in all honesty, I almost forgot I even had it). So, go me! 🙂

:(… last session with TM

Said goodbye to TM today… It was a good session, but I didn’t really say any of what I had hoped to tell her.

We colored and did pictures. It was good. I’ve spent the rest of the day feverishly sorting and packing… and I may or may not have utilized alcohol as a coping skill as well.

I can’t believe the move is in 2 weeks. I have exactly 14 days to get my shit together. It’ll happen, but I may panic a few more times along the way.

I keep wishing I had said more to TM today. I keep trying to find the right words so I could at least leave her a message, but I don’t have the words. I mentioned as much to her today; that I don’t know how to say thank you and convey the totality of what that means… and I didn’t ask her for a hug, though I really wanted to. I again couldn’t find the words. She had all this stuff in her hands, and I had stuff in mine and… well, I didn’t ask. She even asked if there was anything else, and I just said “no”. We had already gone a few over, and I didn’t want to keep her longer in the hallway as I struggled to form the question.

I did ask if it would be ok to call and update her though, and she said that she would like that.

Sometimes I really hate the finite nature of a therapeutic relationship. I’m also aware though, that it wouldn’t be as safe without the boundaries in place. It just sucks at times like these…