Tag Archives: hell

That immediate shut-down response when religion is involved

Religion (specifically Catholicism or anything remotely close to it) and the mention of any “god” or “higher power” triggers an immediate shut-down & “shut-out” response in me. I stop listening, and twangs of panic tease my brain and my chest… I’m not quite sure what to attribute it to. It’s not like I was ever physical abused by clergy or in the name of religion, but there have been less overt abuses over the years…

At a time when I sought help from a guidance counselor after a particularly disturbing night at home, I was offered to “pray about it” instead of any concrete assistance. I was told that if I prayed and “let god”, then the dangerous situation would be resolved (for perspective, I went to catholic school nearly all my life). Needless to say, my request for immediate human intervention was not honored and the situation continued to get worse. No amount of pleading to any deity helped. It was explained to me that I was either not paying hard enough, being “tested” in my faith, or that “god” was punishing me for some horrific wrongdoing committed by my soul…

Later, when trying to explain some disturbing ptsd symptoms to someone in mental health (in a non-religious, locked hospital setting), I was again told that I needed to turn to god. I was assured that if I prayed, this imaginary being would “take [my] pain and make [me] whole again”. When I asked not to be harassed about religion, this worker insisted that I was being punished for my disbelief. She said that my lack of “faith” was the reason for all my troubles. She insisted that I will continue to be “punished” until my “faith” returns. I attempted to walk away from her, but she continued to follow me while reciting prayers and asking her god to “heal [my] godless heart”. There was no place I could go to get away from her, as it was a locked unit. It was also late at night, so my only options were the hallways or my room. She didn’t relent until I screamed at her and one of the night nurses to stop (this night nurse had joined the tech in her prayer”) in front of the nurses station, waking other patients and the night supervisor… so much for feeling safe there any longer. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night. If they were so insistent that I was being punished for wrongdoing, what guaranteed they wouldn’t continue the punishment? (I was going ever deeper into a flashback at the time)…

While those are not the only instances of neglect or emotional abuse in the name of religion, they are the ones that stand out to me the most. Others were more subtle. There is the ever-present “your going to hell” from random haters if they figure out I am gay (which isn’t too difficult to figure out, as I’m quite open about it). There’s the well-meaning “god only gives you as much as you can handle” or “this is just a test of (insert appropriate: your faith, your soul, what you can handle…)” or my favorite: “everything happens for a reason”. The problem with all those is the inherent invalidation and dismissal. While there are times I just want to hear that “everything will be ok”, I generally just want someone to understand that things suck immensely.  I want them to listen to what I have to say without feeling the need to either fix it or minimize it… sadly, both religion and social convention push for both minimizing and fixing.

But I digress. My main theme in writing this was to express how completely and pervasiveness this impacts my life. Any mention of religion and I’m at once hyper-vigilant and tuned-out. Any positive message or insight there may be in the message is lost to the panic reaction. I block anything on my Facebook that even remotely hints at religion. If someone posts too much about their religion, I un-follow them. The minute any professional tries to bring even “spirituality” into the mix, I lose all trust in them…
It’s like that meme floating around the Internet: “religion is like a penis. We all know many have it, but there’s no need to go flaunting it.”

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The Hunger Games trilogy is great, albeit a bit triggering…

L and I went to the movies today.  It ended up being a bit of a bumble.  First, we went to the wrong theater, then got to the right one too late – our original movie was sold out.  We also wanted to see the Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire, so she got tickets for that.  It started an hour later, and lasted an hour longer, but it was REALLY good!  I was a bit on edge most of the movie, but it was an “ok” on-edge feeling.  The first several scenes involve her going through various PTSD symptoms, and I picked up on the others throughout the movie too.  Either this movie did better presenting the symptoms, or I read a whole bunch more into it than I did the first one.  I could feel her fear, anger, hyper-vigilance… I know it all too well.  But anyway, it was good.  And it leaves you hanging.  Fuckers.

Most of the way through the movie, I remembered that mom had expected us home around 4pm… oops!  It was now 5:30 and the movie still had 30 minutes.  I knew she wouldn’t check her texts, but I shot her one anyway.  I called her as soon as we got outside, and apologized for not showing on time.  Normally, this isn’t a big deal, but being Christmas and all, she was a bit miffed.  We got home in time to watch her down more wine and finish the last bites of her chicken.  We will have to atone for this with a gift of more alcohol sometime in the near future.  We really didn’t mean to get to off-track, but we rarely do.  After apologizing and chatting for a while, the tension eased and we enjoyed our dinner.  L even tried to translate some words into Hungarian through the internet, and we found the weirdest translation for cheesecake yet: “pictures of naked women’s legs to look at”… we laughed at that for a good 20 minutes.  I think either slang has gotten really wacky, or someone is trying to screw up poor, unsuspecting English speakers when they try to translate stuff to a language they don’t know…

Anyway, I’m again renewed in my desire to read The Hunger Games books, but I have to find them in hard-copy ( there’s just something “not right” about reading books on a tablet… I guess I’m old-fashioned that way.  I really like the feel and smell of a book, and they never run out of charge just as you get to the good part).  I wish we had paid better attention to the books my landlord had  left us before we donated them.  I know we had the whole trilogy, but I managed to keep only the second book… then that was donated when we moved out of the place.  oops! I should have known better, I liked most of the books C had left behind…


mostly-finished Inside-out Box & WIP painting that I have also given up on for the time being

ok, so I lied about updating that post… It’s been about 3 weeks since I declared it finished and showed it to De.  Sitting there looking at it in session, I realized how much I hated the ribbon around the outside lid and ripped it off as I walked back out of the building.  I felt much better.  i replaced the ribbon with black sand, but i still want to make a wall of small river stones or gravel along the curtain-line. To do that, i will have to buy some stones though.

Sometimes I get frustrated with my lack of supplies, or expertise in technique, or ideas, and just let the project rest indefinitely until I either get what I need, inspiration strikes, or I scrap it and change it all together.  This box has been sitting “mostly finished” since the beginning of the month.  It will likely stay like that for another several weeks as I have mentally moved on from it.

So, to keep from leaving too much suspense over the mostly-finished product, here are some pics.  I don’t know where the pics of the outside of the box went, apologies.

And here’s the WIP painting I mentioned.  It was born of an in-session assignment.  I got frustrated with the way I was painting the chair as well as my lack of definition/direction with the person in the chair, so I moved on to other things (specifically, a shadow-puppet piece based off the same image – also stalled due to my lack of knowledge about where to take the performance of it, and technical know-how to accomplish what I am picturing in my head).  I will finish this painting some day, but I doubt it will be any time soon.  All my current energy is focused on making that shadow-puppet piece work out.  I really miss puppetry.  I’m having a blast trying to figure stuff out for it, and it’s getting me in contact with puppet-arts people to help get things correct.  It has also renewed my interest in puppetry in general.

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making things meaningful

So, in an attempt to find a way to make money fast, and relieve some of the financial pressures on us, I stumbled upon a blog that is all about doing what you love, and making what you do meaningful (the guy makes money off of this, which is how it connected to making money fast), but his original idea is founded in doing what you love…

That got me thinking… I have this blog that, while mainly started for myself, I would really like it to also help others. I began thinking about my struggles to find treatment that works. What are the barriers to finding other helpful and effectual treatments for trauma? What are the instinctual defenses and coping strategies we turn to when we don’t know what we are supposed to turn to?

It reminded me of the way EMDR came about. The woman who developed it noticed that she would go for a walk thinking about her problem, noticed that she unconsciously looked from side to side during her walk, and noticed that she felt better when she returned from her walk. So I began thinking about what my instincts are when I’m stressed. I thought about what others do. People around me are constantly talking and talking about the things that bother them. I do the same thing, I need to get it out and tell someone (or more than one person) what happened or what is bothering me. I think it is not only the telling, but also the audience. So I have 2 ideas that I need to flesh out.

The first is to actually tell the details of the trauma. This poses some dilemmas. One is that it triggers the hell out of me to think about or tell my trauma, so I will need to have support after the telling (that, or I am rendered speechless by the pure force of the emotion and the events in my head, which makes the telling piece difficult). The other is that it has the potential to overwhelm the other person… Clinicians and treaters are just people. They are people with their own troubles, fears, and vulnerabilities. To come up with a viable treatment model that utilizes this spilling of trauma, I’d have to develop (or utilize) a really good support system for the treaters as well as the clients. I would want someone to be able to talk to whenever I needed them, either in person or over the phone. I would want to provide this, or something similar, for the treaters also. I would want to ensure that talk about suicidal thoughts or self-injury would prompt support, and not automatic hospitalization. This somewhat builds on the DBT concepts of riding the wave of emotions, but this time with support and someone “holding your hand” through it all.  While I see the value in learning to handle your triggers and urges on your own, there is also something very powerful about having someone there with you to witness it.  I have always felt this want for someone to be there through the experience; to help keep me safe when I can’t do it anymore.  I turned that desire into action one day while I was working with a particularly difficult adolescent.  She was bent on destroying the house, and pushing the limits of all the staff present (and her house-mates),  At one point, she managed to turn on the stove and was about to put her hands on it to burn herself.  None of what we were saying was getting through to her, so I stepped in front of the stove and took her hands.  I held them as she tried to push past me (she was about a foot taller and a good 80lbs heavier than me, and I’m not small).  I told her again and again that I would keep her safe and I would keep the house safe.  In that moment that I held her wrists, she looked at me and something clicked.  She moved away from the stove after several minutes (and a few half-assed attempts to pull her hands free of mine) and stopped pushing my buttons for the rest of the day.  It only lasted like that for the rest of the shift, but it made a difference for that time.  I think it’s a very powerful thing to have someone there with you in a non-threatening way to help keep you safe when you cannot do it yourself…

The other idea is a spin-off of having witnesses to the journey.  It also builds on a theory I saw on a PBS special.  That theory advocated the telling and re-telling of the trauma until it lost its impact.  They did not flesh out all the points of the treatment plan, but from what they showed, I think it has some merits.  Anyway, and please tell me if this is a horrible idea, I think it might be helpful to do this in an intensive group setting.  Wait! you may say, this will cause a huge domino effect of triggering… Well, that’s kind of the point.  I noticed in groups, the most benefit I got from many of them was when someone’s experiences triggered something in me and I got a chance to deal with it.  This would be tricky as a group where the point is to tell triggering things, and not just walk on eggshells around topics.  But I think with the proper support available (MANY treaters on hand, at least 1.5+ per person in group, because some people need more than one person to bring them back), this could be a viable path to dealing with all the crap we don’t always think of accessing during treatment.  The groups could start with a topic and go from there.  Forget necessarily censoring the details of the event… While I understand that ambiguity of the event to another may help them access their own demons, I find it tends to limit me in the telling of the event.

There are definitely details to flesh out, and many, many conversations with other professionals to figure out the viability of these theories… But I’m determined to figure out a treatment option that works for me… and hopefully I can come up with something that may help others too…

Bring on the firestorm of criticism for this horrible idea! (It goes against all convention and current thinking and insurance company standards…)


On Suicide

I think this is an interesting and important conversation that needs to happen more often. I think suicide is an elephant in the room that so many are afraid to talk about because of the taboos around it, and the knee-jerk reactions even some providers have to it… I have been privileged enough to have many thought-provoking conversations with my former therapist…

Gukira

Writing on suicide is dangerous because suicide is deemed unthinkable. To think about it, then, and here syntax betrays what I’m going to claim, is understood as thinking about how to do it or when to do it. To think about it is to contemplate it. Thus, one says that one is not thinking about it, but even raising the prospect elicits concern and paranoia: why would one think about it if one were not thinking about it? I want to stay with this formulation, because I think its unthinkability is a problem, albeit a problem tied to the unthinkability of death, and the political and aesthetic imperative to think through life and to cultivate thriving life.

Because suicide always elicits confession, let me tell someone else’s story.

My cousin killed himself when I was a freshman. I was in Kenya during my first (and only) summer vacation, and, as…

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Fears

I ditched the job I accepted earlier in the week… it sounded sketchy. They wanted me to do “creative billing” and tack on extra charges… I just don’t feel comfortable with that. So now I feel lost. I gave up the only work prospect because my gut gave me an uneasy feeling about it. I have learned to go with my gut. The only reason I regret it is that now I have to start over again with the job search. I have no leads, and there are no hopes of any money coming in soon. It’s frustrating. I want to have some resources, but there are none… and its making me feel depressed and hopeless. Everything I used to do to make money is unavailable to me right now. That leads to wanting to hide from the world. Luckily, it hasn’t triggered my self-harm urges. Oh, and I need to cancel next week’s appointment with D because I don’t have the $8 to see him. It just all sucks…


My comfort with him blew my mind

I’ve always had difficulty trusting men in positions of power (real or perceived). I was very,  very cautious about the thought of seeing a male clinician,  but since the rest of my visits so far have been less-than-productive, I decided to try. 
I met with D for the first time today.  He is a doctoral student at a local university,  and supervised by the psychologist I had hoped to work with.  He was calm and affirming and in no way intimidating.  I found myself easily taking to him,  and spilling more than I intended.  I was also more honest than I have been since I got down here.  Yes,  he used the textbook responses,  and I could pinpoint what technique he was using and when… but as much as he seems very inexperienced,  he had a very calming presence.  Everyone has to start somewhere.  I just hope I’m not too much for him and he runs screaming from the building one day…
I see the new EAP lady again tomorrow. It will be my last session. While she was nice,  I just didn’t feel like we clicked.  Our focus lays in different spots… and today was too late to cancel. Maybe she can get me hooked up with other services to see if we can get out of this hole we are in.