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. 


triggers…

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…

bam!

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.

Yup!

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…

 


Another Friday night, another fun journal class

I may or may not kick myself tomorrow because I may or may not have purchased another art journal tonight. There was a sale though. And a coupon. So… yeah. I had to get it. It was way cheap! (I’m really just trying to justify the expense when I had no business spending. We need to save every penny for this move…).

Anyway, went to the class tonight. We played with spray inks. While I miss having the longer class to be able to do something more than a background, I think I like what came out of today.

The first page was done with dylusion & Heidi Swapp spray inks using commercially available stencils. The second page was done using the home-made fabric dye inks and my fall-back black printer ink with a home-made mask and some commercially available stencils. I really actually like both pages a lot. The second page got more attention tonight, so it was a bit more finished. Not at all sure what I will be putting on the blue/purple/yellow page. I’m sure I will figure it out though.

wpid-20150612_204702.jpg wpid-20150612_213110.jpg

 

 

The nipples were totally an accident, but they had us cracking up 😉 I had picked up the mask and just wasn’t able to move it from the page fast enough for it to not drip… :shrugz: it works.

I’m really going to miss my friend and her classes. I was struggling with body memories today. The usual distractions at home did not help. Going to the class and engaging not only with the art, but also the others in the class helped lessen them however. They returned when I returned home but they were not as intense. I’m going to have to make sure I find something like this up north. It won’t be the same, but hoping it will help just the same.


IOP fail

Wow that was triggering. Not only did the staff not have it together (no one knew why I was there or where to send me), but it’s on the second floor of a locked psych hospital. I needed to be buzzed in the front door, leave my belongings, buzzed in through another set of doors, buzzed up the stairs… it was worse on the way out. There were 5 locked doors to get through that way.

Over the phone I was told it would be a 2-hour appointment: first filling out intake paperwork, then a meeting with the program director. When I got there, I learned they expected me to stay the whole first day. I mentioned that I needed to go after 2 hours because that was all I had alloted per the phone conversation last week. It was also all the time I paid for at the parking lot…

There was a ton of miscommunication and misunderstanding before I even set foot in the door. The groups were rowdy and loud (a huge trigger when I’m already anxious), and everyone spoke over everyone else. Oh, and the only bathroom was a single occupancy room with entries from both group rooms. I hate going to the bathroom anyplace but home. It makes me very anxious. Having people know and hear me pee? Even worse…

I was so glad to be able to get out.  There is no way in hell I’m returning there. I left 2 hours ago and still am trying to center & calm myself. I keep looking around the house to remind myself I’m home.

I left TM a quite panicked message upon leaving, begging her to tell me I never had to go back…

I think I need to call them. I will tell them I changed my mind, and ask them to shred my paperwork… the move should be enough of a distraction at this point (I hope). And I won’t bug TM after tomorrow either. She shouldn’t have to put up with me just because this IOP was more triggering than therapeutic…


backfired

I went to the beach to de-stress. I walked. I went in the water… I formulated a plan. So I got the heck out of there and took myself to dinner for sushi. I shouldn’t have wasted the $15, but I needed a continued distraction…

I want to go back to the beach because it was really calming. But at the same time, I need to not go back right now.

I hate this…

I talked to two friends. It was good. I miss them both a lot. One I will get to see soon after I return up north, the other will take a bit more effort…

I think I should call TM’s office, but… I utilized the crisis chats. It helped a bit.

Gonna plan to take the dogs out, shower, change, jump into bed, and maybe watch a movie or tv show off one of the streaming services. L will be off work soon, so that will be another distraction. Then I may leave a message for TM. I think I may need more help on accountability this weekend, though I really don’t want to bug her about it. That stupid boundary I have in my head might just have to flex for this.

I’m still supposed to go to the IOP intake Monday morning. Then I see TM on Tuesday. Gotta keep going through then… New plan will happen after that.

“My track record for making it through bad days so far is 100%…”


what a difference a night of sleep can make

I feel so much better after finally getting a full night of sleep. Thanks to the sleep cocktail I took last night, I was out for 12 hours ❤

I checked in with TM today, though I was still really “fozzy” at the time because the benadryl had not totally worn off. We talked about the message I had left her asking if she knew of any additional support resources. I was able to clarify that it didn’t need to be therapeutic so much as help with structure. We will both brainstorm individually and re-visit it on Tuesday.

At the end of the conversation, I admitted to her that I didn’t want to lose her right before the move. Her only response was “Mmm…” o_O I hope I didn’t do or say something to prompt the “refer out” conversation. After the phone call, I wished I had asked if that was an Mmm that meant “I know you’re hurting and scared of so many changes” or one that meant “Yeah, we already had that conversation, and I’m waiting to spring it on you next session.” I guess I will find out on Tuesday. My panic has me thinking it’s the second one. It’s the same response I had gotten from De when I asked if she would be referring me before the move, then upon her return from vacation she told me she was leaving the agency (back when I thought I was moving in 2 months time). I dunno. If Tuesday comes and she mentions referring out or terminating before late June, I need to put on my big girl panties and walk away. SO not what I want, but that’s rarely been taken into account anyway, so what’s the difference? I will hold out on panicking till I see her again. I need to remember to ask her about it directly at that time. Till then, just breathing. (I wish this happened at a time I could contact her to alleviate some of the worry from the weekend. Even as we were talking though, their phone system went down. She called me back from an unavailable number that I’m assuming was her personal cell. Tomorrow and Saturday their office will be busy moving to another location, and she wasn’t sure if their voice mails would be functioning normally). Just gotta wait till Tuesday. Not that long. It’s do-able, right?

On a lighter/happier note; something in the way she phrased things the last two times we talked made me feel cared-about (in more than that obligatory therapst-y care, but genuine “I care about you as a human being that I’ve come to know” kinda way). It triggered the memory of a bunch of genuine sentiments I’ve heard over the years but wasn’t necessarily able to internalize at the time. It’s actually a really nice feeling. I’m going to work at carrying it through the weekend.

The self-harm urges have been present today, but they were easier to resist. And it was easier to stay out of bed more of the day also. Quite amazing what a night of quality sleep can do. Can someone forcefully remind me of this the next time I start to spiral down? Thanks 😉


I worried about my walls for no reason…

I managed to keep my walls relatively intact today until the very end, when she asked about something, and I looked at the clock “oh, sorry, time’s up.” I said. She looked at me, looked at the clock, back at me, and said we’ll tackle it next session. She threatened to write a note for herself so we’d be sure to get to it.

There were a few moments I almost cried as we talked about the move, but I held it together and quickly changed my line of thinking. It was relatively easy since I had nearly 10 days to craft my walls. Everything is at a distance right now. If it threatens to come rushing up on me, I hide in bed, or blast music at myself, or listen to one of the meditations, or force myself upon my friends so I have plenty of distractions. Oh, and alcohol. There’s plenty of reliance on that right now too.

Part of me wishes I hadn’t wasted a session when we have so few left, but another part of me is really happy I didn’t activate all the neediness and hopelessness that’s just beneath the surface.


distance = safety

I desperately want to talk to TM right now, in the moment. I know it’s only so strong because I have distance, and because I can’t actually talk to her in the moment. It’s safe to want to be vulnerable because it’s not a real possibility right now…

If I were to be seeing her later today, the walls would fly back into place. I would deem all this “stupid” and not be able to speak about it. But I’m not in danger of seeing her for another 6 days, so it’s ok to feel this need to spill to her. It’s ok to want to talk about details and impact and insights. It’s safe right now.

Only this pattern makes for difficult therapy. I throw other things at her. I create distractions and talk around things. I disappoint myself in my inability to move forward in therapy… I only want to be vulnerable because I can’t really be vulnerable right now. Even if I were to call her, I wouldn’t be able to voice any of this.

I want to commit to handing her what I wrote today, but I am predicting I will label it “stupid” at the appointment and not give it to her. Or maybe I’ll write too much other stuff this week and this will lose place to something that is more of a summary. I’m not sure. But I know so far every time I wrote something intense with the intent of giving it to her, I always find a reason not to. There’s always something more pressing, or I judge the important stuff too harshly, or I lose my nerve…

And the stuff I wrote today would count as trauma processing. I’m not sure she wants to go there right now. I think she still wants to gauge how well I cope, how far I will fall if I put too much on my plate…

Problem is, it’s on my plate regardless. The flashbacks are there whether or not I talk about them in therapy. The memories are there; the nightmares, the hopelessness, the confusion… It’s all there even if I don’t take it to her. I cope poorly or I cope well regardless of her knowledge of it. At least if I’m talking to her about it, I might find some support. (maybe if I print it out now and stick it in my art journal, I might be more inclined to show her?)


friday

Today is jam-packed & full. I guess it matches my brain…

I didn’t sleep well again last night. I woke early, but I also couldn’t get out of bed this morning. I finally dragged my butt up, but everything was slow in happening. I ended up visiting a friend with the intention of working more on art. I did the background for the piece I want to enter into a mother’s day show, but that’s as far as I got. I was quite distracted. Then I had to jet off to therapy. TM and I talked, but I’m hazy on what it all was. I know we addressed the current huge stressor a bit. I know I asked her to keep focusing on the trauma anyway because I feel like I keep getting to a point of opening up about it, but never a point of really working on it. I can’t really remember what we talked about. I think a thread through everything we touched on was safety (she took notes this time, which she doesn’t normally do. the word “safety” was highlighted). I think we had talked about some symptoms, because she ended up calling something “hypervigilance” and it kinda clicked as such after she labeled it. I don’t exactly remember what it was, but I know I told her that I hadn’t thought to call it that because it didn’t manifest in the way I thought hypervigilance would. We talked about it a bit, and came to the conclusion that I do tend to be hypervigilant at a certain level of being triggered…

image

I can’t really remember most of the session though. In the past, doodling & coloring had helped me stay grounded. It’s no longer as effective. I noticed that because we had talked about grounding, and she asked if noticing and describing helped at all (if I had ever done it). I remember telling her that I had long ago gotten good about being able to interact with my environment while still being “far away”. I used the doodling as an example. I told her I knew I was putting lines and shapes on paper, but I wasn’t aware of what I was doing. I think I also mentioned to her that the doodling had been effective in the past, but no longer was. We talked more about grounding techniques, and I think it helped me come back a bit. She asked me to do something between today and the next appointment, but I couldn’t remember what it was. I called her later and she reminded me it was to try meditation twice a day. I have those short, kid meditations, and I’m supposed to try them during the day and before bed. Hopefully, it will help with my sleep issue also…

That’s right, we talked a bit about sleep as well. I guess sleep disorders are one of her areas of interest. We chatted a bit about it and she told me about a documentary she had seen on it. I guess a steady “diet” of merely 4 hours of sleep for even just a week brings about a drastic decline in coping and functioning… I totally agree.

Anyway, I was supposed to be napping in my few short hours at home this evening, but my head was racing again. I’m playing the meditations though, so it’s at least a bit relaxing. I have tickets to a play tonight (the last of the season tickets from a friend I will be using). I should find something to eat, but I’m not sure what. Maybe I will splurge on food at a restaurant between the parking garage and the theater. Or maybe I will just stop for pizza or something along the way. I dunno… I guess I should get going though, since traffic will be a bear (It took me over an hour to get home from that area around 4pm. heading back down there during peak rush hour on a Friday will likely be worse). I’m bent on enjoying the play though. Gotta take the dogs out first…


multi-tasking like a mad woman… squirrel!

I find myself desperate for sensory bombardment these last several weeks. It started as an attempt to gain distance from the flashbacks, but now it’s a need to have distance from everything. I don’t want to think any more than I have to.

I have the tv on all day. I listen to music, play on my phone, putz around online, and try to do art. I don’t want to think, so I bounce back and forth with things. I’m restless. I can’t really concentrate for long, so I read forums, start and stop articles of interest, pay some attention to the tv, scrounge for comfort foods… I can’t really concentrate on conversations  so I prefer texting or messaging (because I can come back to it after the distraction wears off)…


running from myself

I feel like I’m running from myself today. I’d bouncing back and forth amongst coping skills and busy-activities in hopes of staving off the intensity of flashbacks threatening to overwhelm me. I really hate this time of month. It triggers on way too many levels.

I’m too distracted to do any one thing for very long. I think 5 minutes would be an overstatement of my ability to follow any one task.

If I had some cash, I would feel better about leaving the house. As it is, I barely have enough to get myself much gas for the rest of the month, forget anything extra. The lottery jackpot is huge tonight, but I am having trouble justifying digging through the piggy bank for even one ticket cost. It would be awesome if I won, but the likelihood of that is pretty slim… so do I waste the $2 on a ticket? or do I save that for my traditional cup of coffee before therapy next week?

Trying to be mindful of the moment and not let my anxiety run amuck. Right now, my fear of what the flashbacks bring is greater than the intensity of the actual ones I am experiencing. My impulses are battling it out with my intellect. Part of me is responding in the old, impulsive, over-blown way, while another part is trying to kick in the newer learning and composure. I was telling TM yesterday that I know I should be responding better to all this, and that’s what I am trying to do. The truth is that I do know how to respond differently, it just takes much more work and energy. Right now, I have what it takes to put in that effort (even if it means re-directing myself a million and one times an hour). It’s exhausting though, so I need to figure out how to breathe through this.

Ok. What to do today to help center? I need gas for the car. Then I can either go to the beach or grab a lottery ticket while out getting gas… beach would be better because gas by the beach is cheaper. Good, that’s one thing. Get gas and go to the beach. Then what? Um… Maybe do some art? art would be good. Ok, so get gas, go to beach, do some art… then…? Um… yeah… sure. that.

You ever catch yourself wanting to call a friend to hang, then talk yourself out of it before you get past that first thought because a million and one reasons pop into your head about why they wouldn’t want to get together (the first of which always seems to be “why in the world would they even want to consider hanging with me?!”)?

I could make candles, but then the thought of how nice the hot wax would feel on my skin floats through my head. Ugh. No. Old coping… need to focus on new coping. Make candles to sell? Or decopage the candle holders to make them prettier? Or finally do something with all the beer bottles I’ve collected this past year? I could try the string soaked in rubbing alcohol to cut the top off the bottles, then make then into glasses or candle holders…

Need to stop this anxious running feeling. Maybe going to an actual run? ok, who am I kidding, how about a brisk walk?

I dunno. Maybe pull out art journal stuff and do something in that?

I should clean the reptile room.

Or maybe I’ll just sit here till some of the anxiety subsides so I can focus on one thing.

Brain, please just shut up and calm down.


Needs and neediness

Feeling quite needy today. Last night was another rough night with flashbacks. Another “new” one popped up.

I had been fighting them all day. We were at a local orchid show when they started, so it was both a bit easier to distract and easier to get lost. There was a whole ton of sensory information. It was crowded, but it was also novel things to engage in/with. On the one hand I was dizzy and disoriented from everything there, but on the other hand there was plenty to bounce between when one distraction stopped working. I concentrated on taking pictures and trying to see all the different plants. I had given myself permission to purchase something inexpensive, so a lot of time was spent cruising around trying to decide on what to get. While there were 100’s of thousands of plants to pick from, most of it was the same basic stuff. After the third go-around, I finally settled on a few small plants. I didn’t want to spend much because I have a really bad habit of not paying attention to the conditions in which the plant thrives. That usually ends badly for said plant…
Anyway, I plugged my music in my ears when things started to get too intense. I even kinda opened up to mom about it. I managed to keep the flashbacks to a 5 (on a scale of 1-10). I knew they were there, but they didn’t completely take over. They kept creeping up a bit the rest of the day, but not by much. Then I tried to do some more “happy” art for TM.

I didn’t feel like working on the original piece, so I started in my journal. The darkness kept wanting to poke through. I noticed the more I tried to keep it out, the worse I felt. Suddenly, I wanted to shred my arms and cry hysterically. It was an intense and violent urge that hit and stayed there. I haven’t cut my arms in about 10 or more years (I had moved from my arms in college, but would occasionally try there again once or twice. Anyway, it’s been a really long time). Then my anger intensified. I resented being asked to be fake in both my art and in therapy (yes, I’m aware she didn’t actually ask me to be fake in therapy, and this is my generalization). I was hurt that I’d have to hide again. My inner kid was crying and sobbing and begging not to be forced to hide it all again. This all happened in about a minute. Then it switched to the flashback…

I was really small in this one, no more than 3… and it was incredibly intense (closer to an 8 or 9 on that 1-10 scale). And it was the full sensory experience (another rarity. I generally only get sensations and emotions followed by cognitive memories. Sometimes I’ll get auditory stuff, but that generally only happens with the ones of my parents fighting)… this one was physical sensation, emotion, auditory, visual, olfactory, taste… it was the total virtual reality experience. And it exhausted me, though I couldn’t fall asleep without help.

Echos of it were there again this morning. The sensation piece lasts the longest,  closely followed by the emotional fallout. The monsters are breaking out of their closet. It’s not fun… they get me desperate to put them away in any way possible. The instinct to self harm is huge when they get bad, but I promised TM I would try everything else first… so today’s plan is to try to be productive. I need to do laundry (and shower, though that can be triggering, so it’s up in the air at the moment), take care of the zoo, kinda clean the house… I can head back out to the orchid show I think (unsure if my tickets are good for the whole weekend, or just one day and we used them already). I can also head out to the craft store to wander (there’s actually nothing I want to buy. This is a first). I may just end up outdoors though. The weather is windy and overcast with storms threatening. I love it. I love being outside in storms. I love the rain and the wind. I love watching the clouds. The rain feels refreshing and cleansing and comfortable… yeah, maybe that’s what I’ll end up doing (and will mother nature to get on with the raining piece)…

Hopefully the icky stuff stays at bay today. I’m not sure how much energy I have to devote to fighting it. I did remember though that TM works today, so if all else fails, I can leave her a message or talk to someone at their crisis line. Still feeling very needy and small, but trying to suppress that.

Oh, here are a few of the pictures from the show.


today’s session was a fail…

I had really wanted to talk to TL about the stuff I had given her to read last week, but I froze when she asked about it. Terror took over and I couldn’t do anything. The stuff I wanted to say got lost on its way from my brain to my mouth. She made a good effort at getting me to loosen up and speak, but I could not get out of my own way. I really need to figure out how to get past that roadblock in my head.

I’m also really struggling to maintain any connection and trust between sessions. I had meant to bring that up today too, but I got distracted by my fear. It’s just too difficult to have to build up to being able to speak, then realizing I only have about 5 minutes left. It takes me nearly the whole session to feel comfortable enough to open up. I need to figure out how to carry any trust and comfort from one session to the next. I used to write in a private blog to De, but that’s not an option. Most of the suggestions I had gotten from others are not options, which is why I had meant to bring it up with TL today. I was hoping we could come up with something that works within the framework in which we work… I had actually had stuff written down to cover today, but I never looked at it. I really wanted to start with the stuff I had given her to read, but that became so overwhelming it took over everything in me…

I did end up going to the beach after though. It was nice and stormy and quiet. There were only a few dozen people out there (tourist season has not yet started), so it was easy to find a spot away from others. One of the lifeguards decided to surf on his break. I spent some time watching him do his thing. Then a woman and 3 boys came by and they played in the water. It was a good choice to go. On the way to and from the beach, I turned up the music and the bass in the car. I have found that the vibration of the bass helps calm me down. It vibrates the emotion out of me. It doesn’t work outside of the car (or back in the day, the club) because I need the whole-body experience of the bass moving through all of me… Guess I need to specifically add that to my list of coping skills, as it’s a good counter to any impulsiveness I may be feeling. something about it triggers the same kind of release…

Anyway, gotta wait another week to try again with TL. I hate it, because so much builds up and piles on to all the stuff that didn’t get addressed the week before, it becomes overwhelming. Getting through the week is really difficult, then the session is a let-down in terms of what I need to cover, and then I have another week to wait for another try. I really miss the availability of writing to De, or coming in extra. It made the connection last a bit better…


Spent

5 days of relentless flashbacks that get progressively worse, these last two days I caved and took ativan to help the intensity. They are still here, but in the background somewhat. Did things I never do: called a crisis line (not just the chats) more than once. Admitted the flashbacks to mom. Sent texts to a resource I never seek out… I have gone through my gamut of healthy coping skills. I have tried them again and again. The memories that are coming up need to be voiced to someone trained to hear them, to know what to do with them, to help me set them aside.

These need to end soon.  I’m so spent. Someone on an online support forum suggested contacting TL and asking for an earlier appointment. Aside of the fact that she pretty much made it clear she won’t see me before my time on Tuesday, I’m not sure what she could do to help. I don’t think she has experience in this. and if she asks me what I think would help, I am not sure I could tell her anything other than to hear them, and help put them away. she better not ask me how to help put them away because I have no idea…

I hate when memories have their own time-table. This stuff was supposed to be saved for a time when I have longer with a therapist, and for someone who knows what to do with it all. For when I have more accesses to supports… but flashbacks and memories have a life of their own. Fuck.

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Smiling for the outside world, and all it’s drawbacks

Many of us are taught to “smile” and “put on a brave face” when dealing with the outside world.  We are taught this by our family of origin, by friends, heck, by the internet (I can’t even count the number of “inspirational” posts I came across this morning on Facebook that mentioned something along the lines of smiling on the outside even when you’re breaking on the inside).  Even clinicians will tell you to focus on the positive.  There is merit to this.  It can be helpful to pull one out of a depressive plunge, it can balance some of the more negative concepts that may be floating around the murky waters of our thoughts.  The problem comes however, when we are so worried about showing any hints of cracks in our armor that we wall it off without ever showing anyone our weakness.

I know this is a big problem for me much of the time.  I function with a smile on my face and genuine concern for others even when there’s an enormous black hole in my chest.  I do it so much, I have a lot of trouble showing that “weakness” even when I am supposed to be allowed to do so.  I don’t know how to express the level of emotions I feel because I am so used to suppressing them.  When I do attempt expressing the intense level of chaos going on inside, no one gets it because they rarely see me in that place (some people have never seen me in that head-space before, so they are confused by my seemingly “together” presentation as I tell them I’m falling apart. I also get a very big grin when truly nervous, something I have no control over. If my anxiety is high, and I need to say something disturbing, it is said with a stupid, huge, and anxiety-filled smile that tends to throw people off, making them think I am lying or being manipulative. In reality, it’s just a weird reaction to anxiety).  I have yet to figure out how to be able to tell people that despite the calm I may be exuding in the moment, when I fall, I fall hard, fast, and completely. I can say those words to a clinician, but unless they have seen the drop off the cliff, they don’t quite understand what I mean. Even when my wife or former clinicians try to express it, no one gets it unless they have seen it in person (and then they get scared).  My perfection at appearing competent while crumbling really throws people for a loop.

Of course, my ability to express myself also gets hindered when overwhelming emotions hit.  I’m very used to pushing things down and keeping a lid on the limit of what I allow myself to feel.  When any of that spills over the quota, it gets incredibly overwhelming.  I suddenly become helpless without any access to my knowledge of how to handle it all.  I say I don’t have access to it because, when I am not overwhelmed, I have a pretty good theoretical grasp on how to handle said emotions.  The problem with them being overwhelming is that I suddenly find all my effective and safe coping skills are buried under miles of turmoil.  I lose the ability to effectively ask for help. I lose the ability to speak in the moment about what my needs may be (I’m horrifically ashamed at having any needs at all, and I was finally able to figure out with De why some of that is).  I desperately seek safety in any form, even if it ends up being outrageously uncomfortable.  There’s a level of comfort in certain uncomfortable things (another thing I was able to figure out with De this past week).  I’m slowly practicing finding safety in truly safe situations that are not also at once very traumatic in their imposition of safety (ie: an inpatient stay at a “regular” psych unit).  I’m learning to keep breathing.  I’m learning to reach out before things hit crisis levels.  They are difficult lessons.  I still stumble sometimes, but I’m learning it.  One part of that is not always smiling for the outside world.  I think that may be that hardest lesson of all…


a need to be occupied

I find when things start to get hairy, I feel the need to be occupied by something or other 24/7.  Earlier today we had gone out with friends to a local museum/gardens. Then L was asked to come in to work 2 hours early (making it an over-night shift), so she had to go to bed by about 5pm.  I find myself bored and in need of something to occupy my thoughts.  The house is SO quiet right now (except for the dogs occasionally barking).   M’s not big on conversation, so the human contact is at a minimum.  I really want to watch tv or something, but she dislikes the noise.  I’m not really sure what to do with myself.  I know if I head to the art room, the dogs will get antsy and make more noise than they already are.  Yet I feel like I need to engage in something.  Everything at my disposal easily leads to boredom.  I could take the kids for a walk, but all 5 dogs by myself is kinda killer (when “the puppy” walks with us, competition to get ahead ensues.  everyone else has since figured out that I lead the pack and they need to walk with me, but he fights me for that status when the others are around.  the walk then turns to me being dragged behind 5 dogs running in slightly different directions.  I don’t think my arms and shoulders can stand that at the moment).

I put music on in the background, but I’m plugged into the computer… Figures this would be the moment the puppy decides he needs to pee… Well, at least I was able to get all the dogs out to potty before the frogs came out for the night (saves my arm, much like not walking them all at once does).  That took care of about 10 minutes.  Now what?

I’ve noticed that there are times I need to be entertained; to keep my head occupied so the less-desirable obsessions don’t float to the surface.  I’ve really been struggling with self-harm thoughts and urges these last few weeks.  I’ve been doing ok keeping them at bay, but they are stubborn.  I’m trying to be more stubborn.  It’s difficult though.  Really difficult.  I keep finding nothing soothes them for very long, and that I need to keep occupied at all times so they don’t overwhelm me.  The Wreck This Journal had helped for about a week but I find I’m losing steam in it.  The paper cranes helped yesterday, but I can’t bring myself to do more today.  Being out at Morikami helped today, but it’s over now.  I want to watch more Grey’s Anatomy.  Maybe that would help keep me distracted for a while.  But I have to wait till M goes to bed.  It would stress her out way too much (and she hates most tv programs).

I’m not quite sure what else to do with myself.  I may draw or try collaging later if Grey’s doesn’t catch my attention for long.  I need to stay with the dogs to head off most of their barking (so L can sleep some before work). Maybe the music will make the web surfing bearable…


PTSD on tv. (Nashville spoiler alert for this past weeks episode)

We watch Nashville. Mostly L got hooked and has hooked me. This most recent episode (Crazy) dealt with a lot of drama amongst the characters. It also highlighted child abuse and the effects of it on adult survivors… and then it left you hanging with Scarlet having a major flashback on stage. I can’t speak to the validity of the scene because, quite frankly, I’m stuck with her hiding under the piano. In my head, I’m berating Juliet for not being understanding, but I also relate to Scarlet’s reaction to having her request dismissed. It’s something with which I’m familiar. You could argue that she should have insisted, should have taken a stand for herself and refused to perform, but in reality, she did what many kids who grew up like that would do; she did what I would do.  She swallowed her fear and her needs to comply with what she was told to do. She asked once, but being the “good girl” she is, she never pushed the issue. I can recall any number of times when I tried to take care of myself only to be told to smile and keep “performing.” There’s a training that kicks in. It takes over to keep you going until you can’t go any further. It has you following direction even when your heart screams in agony at the thought.  It keeps you upright until the moment you crumble, and it hides the signs so no one understands the gravity of the situation until the moment everything falls to pieces. We are gifted at understatement and minimizing. Because of this, our desperation often gets overlooked. I don’t blame people for missing it because I’m so good at the act. You have to be when any sign of needing anything for yourself is seen as weakness; when you are constantly told that you cannot rely on anyone because they will always fail you when you need them (and then you live through it). You have to be all smiles and perfect because “what happens at home is none of anyone else’s business”… you smile outside to keep the illusion going, but you find little escapes. There are pills or drinks or drugs or blades or food or any number of other quiet coping skills you utilize to be able to keep up appearances.
Before I wound up in the hospital for the first time after a suicide attempt, only my therapist, my roommate, and my then-wife had any clue things were not all butterflies and roses. I smiled through work and life until I just couldn’t do it any more. Then, a week later I was released to return to work the next day.  Only my boss and the house therapist knew what really happened.  I was back to smiles and faking it…
I’m sure Nashville will either turn this into a huge drama moment, or they will sweep out all under the rug as the scene accomplished the cliff-hanger they were searching for to keep viewers tuning in for the following week.  I hope they do the topic justice. I hope they can shed light on what it’s like to live as the person who went through crappy shit growing up.  I won’t hold my breath though, because its prime time tv. I’ll give it to them though, they did a pretty decent job evoking the emotion and triggering my head to spin around with my own experiences. We have to wait till next week to find out what they do with it.  If the way they handled another characters suicidal ideation/actions is any indication, the majority of the story line dealing with the ptsd is over. They likely won’t mention it until the very end of next week’s show, and even that will be in passing.  I’m hoping for more, but I’m not putting faith in it… when I get on my computer, I will post a link to the song Scarlet sings about her experiences with mom. It’s a really haunting ballad, but worth the listen if you can handle it.


Sadness

So, De was right. There’s a ton of grief over this whole thing. After the tag sale today (and my short nap following it) I woke up feeling lost. I had spent the last 3 days frantically occupying myself with the logistics of the garage sale. I woke from my nap without purpose or distraction. There was an overwhelming urge to cry uncontrollably, hysterically, and wholeheartedly. I didn’t let myself though. The last time I felt this urgent a need to cry, I was hysterical for over eight hours. I ended up calling a crisis line then being involuntarily committed to a psych unit. I’m in no mood to go through that again, especially in this state with such poor mental health care.
We tried to find someone to go out with as a distraction (L is the only person I consider safe enough to cry in front of, so I would end up crying wherever we went out). None of our friends were available today (or this weekend)… we ended up just going to buy food and drink. Eventually, the hunt for my preferred beverage managed to distract me from the pending tears.  They didn’t come today, but I’m sure they will soon enough… I hate crying. I hate that tears this loaded don’t seem to end. It doesn’t help that I have my monthly mood swing.


Grief

No bombs were dropped by De in session today, though I did have a few panicked seconds when she started out a sentence with “my supervisor is all over me about…” (heart stalled and breath caught mid-exhale) “…asking you if we can keep your piece for further use” (resume breathing and pumping blood). I didn’t know what to say. I guess they really liked it. I asked if I could get back to her about it. De said that it will be displayed for the month of April, but that they would like to keep it to put up in the building. I’m not opposed to that, but I’m also really attached to the piece. I think if I leave it there, I will ask that my real name be used. Might as well get credit for it.  I also told De that I had been toying with asking for it back so I could tweak it because I had a million other ideas since I handed it in. She laughed and reminded me that was why I had given it to her when I did, so I wouldn’t mess with it and end up getting frustrated when it didn’t turn out how I pictured. She’s right, because I would over-work it and feel that I need to start all over again.  I don’t think I would have a fourth rendition in me before the beginning of April. It’s good I don’t have my hands on it anymore.
We spent the rest of the session talking about the pending move and how I will need to grieve the loss of the house and such, but that the overall result will be positive (the house does hold many negatives, as does this state. But it also was a “home base” for so long, a safety net if I need it. Hope I can get some sort of other safety net from it. I’m not going to hold my breath for that though).
I’m still adamant about not crying in front of others. She was trying to convince me that it would be ok, but all the judgements and fears around crying screamed in my head. I did tear up a few times with her today but refused to cry. I really don’t think I would have been able to stop if I had actually started. So I moved the conversation along (much like I keep my head moving all day and night so I don’t crack with tears). I had wanted to ask her to focus our work on the assaults and history with DuckBoy. I just didn’t find an appropriate way to slip it in to the flow. I needed more time to explain the rest of the week. I don’t think I expressed my distaste for loss in any meaningful way. I don’t think she gets how hard that is for me. I tend to stuff it all down, so it’s easy for people to miss the little hints. I just don’t do well with loss. A whole lot of loss is coming up real soon. It’s panicking me a bit, but I’m sure it will all be ok in the end (isn’t it always?). There’s always loss. There’s always change. Just gotta learn to go with it… don’t open your heart too much to prevent excessive pain with the withdrawal of whatever it was that you let worm its way inside.
The session flew by before I knew it. On the way out I asked if they had a shredder so I could get rid of the last pictures I found of DuckBoy yesterday. She suggested “making a moment of it” and that we could do it next week. I gave her the pictures to hold on to till then (I certainly don’t want them)…
(Strangely appropriate song just came on my playlist: Goodbye My Lover by James Blunt… covers the feel of all this.  It works for the house, the history, and everything else).
Is it weird that I miss my best friend from high school so much lately? I found some pics of her and of us the same time I found the DuckBoy pictures… one relationship I’d rather forget, and one I wish was still going. But I guess loss and grief are the themes of the moment (sadly there’s only the loss of DuckBoy for which I’m relieved, the other losses just hurt). I wish I had the gumption to track her down and show up at her door. I wish I had been a better friend. I wish I had fought harder when she ran away. But what do you do when a friend ceases wanting to be your friend? …I still have the mug she gave me for Christmas one year. It’s my favorite one. I really miss her.
The loss of this house means the loss of that last connection to a bunch of positive stuff. There will no longer be a safety net here… it sucks…


Coping skills app ideas

If I were to create a coping skills app, what would you like to see in it? I have some ideas, but others are always welcome.  I have never made an app before, but my lack of knowledge of my own coping skills in times of need is prompting me to put something together.  I have found a few out there, but none do what I really want them to (namely they don’t include everything I would like to see in the way that I would like to see it).

Also, would you be more apt to download it if it were kinda cute/funny?  or all business?  I tend to lean towards cute/humorous, but I know not everyone is the same way.  I would like to get to the point of customizing the look, but that may take more expertise on the coding end (which I could possibly get some tech geek friends to help with).

Ok, so I’m not going to mention what I want to put in, but will wait to see what you all suggest.  No limits to creativity on ideas!  I do have tech people who can help me figure stuff out if I need to get really fancy with it.  If you took your coping skills with you on your mobile device, what would you like to have with you?

 


things to occupy the hands and mind (updated a week or so later)

One of my wife’s bosses at Michael’s turned us on to Perler beads (the ones you put onto a small peg-board and then melt together with the iron to keep the design). Little did she know she would unleash monsters.

Not only did it have 3 of us sorting colors for hours (the OCD sides to us all were SO satisfied when the colors were finally separated into their own little containers), but the challenge of doing an original piece based off a photo or object has me working for the whole day. I managed to get totally enthralled by the process of figuring out the proper bead/color placement to create what I was looking for.

I started out with 2 Hello Kitty designs yesterday and this morning based on little candy tins my wife has (she has a slight obsession with tins and containers). They came out pretty good after I got the correct head:body ratio. (I changed the vampire’s whisker color to purple like her clothes… the yellow just wasn’t working for me).  I am not really much of a Hello Kitty fan, but I think these came out cute (and they are Halloween-themed, which just so happens to be my favorite holiday)

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Then tonight I started my first realistic Perler “painting” using this photo from the internet as reference. I have a ton of tweaking to do, and this is just the start of it all, but I think I like where it’s going. My only problem is that I can’t decide which version I prefer: the one on the left or the one on the right. I ran out of the colors for the one on the left, so I tried the one on the right. I’m not sure I like it as much as the first one because the color contrast is much higher between the shading, highlighting, and base gecko color (though I really like that blue for him). I also have to set the eyes a tad father apart, and adjust the left side of the top “V” on his head. This one will be a HUGE project if I decide to go all-out and do the whole image (more than the crop used to show the reference gecko). So far the gecko’s head is a good 4.5″ (it should be noted here that the geckos themselves are only about 3″ full-grown). The black piece below him is the start of the patterning under his jaw (not easily visible in the reference pic included in the collage). Hopefully I will keep up with it, though I will have to wait until the extra beads come in. It has definitely kept my hands and my brain occupied, which keeps me out of trouble 😉

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So, I made some tweaks and added more beads.  I guess it’s not so bad with all the dark blue…


creatures of habit

Ever notice how a change in routine can make everything feel weird? I normally have therapy with D on Mondays. This week, it will be Tuesday. I see De on Wednesday. I have been used to seeing D again on Fridays, but this week an out-of-town friend will be coming that day, so all my therapy will be scrunched into 3 days, then nothing. I’m hoping my friend will not be more stress than positive times (ok, my ex is coming for the weekend… we are friends, but she is coming 1500mi to visit for the weekend. My wife and I spent a weekend at their house once a few years ago, but it had been driving distance at the time.  I was also in a better head-space). She tends to be critical of my mental health and how I am coping. Let’s hope she’s gentle this time around.
Anyway, I hope I can get back to see D next Monday, and figure out a schedule with De that will work.
I want to tackle everything with De at once, and I know she wants to take things slow. I think I may need to talk to her about that. I hope I can trust her. And I hope she can help me. I really need to figure all this out.

Anyway, this weird therapy schedule is throwing me off.  The only thing that hasn’t changed is that we see our couple’s therapist on Thursday… At least that will be consistent.

On a sad note, a huge reptile show will also be happening this weekend, and I just don’t have the money to attend.  We finally live close enough to drive up, but I don’t have the cash for the gas, the entry fee, or the supplies I would need… ::sad face:: Maybe Disability will come through with some miracle so I can not only pick up my car from the shop, but also make it to the show and get the stuff I need there.

I find myself bored and antsy… restless.  I’m watching TV, but can’t get into this second half of the episode.  I want to talk or walk or run or something but not sure what will help alleviate this feeling.  It’s frustrating yet familiar.  It’s anxiety.  I think I will try to walk the dogs after this episode.  If that doesn’t work, I will try my music, maybe some art.  If that doesn’t work (or happen), I will likely try to sleep.  I hate this restless feeling.  To top it off, my stomach has been a mess all week.  I’m beginning to think that it is part of the anxiety…