Tag Archives: hugs

Translations from the dark side

Why is it that something genuinely supportive and helpful comes off as condescending and invalidating? What lens do I put on that turns all the nice into hate? I know my stress is skyrocketing, and that the depression is creeping back in. I guess that’s the lens right there: depression. I had reached out to someone in hopes of finding support, but all I read from their response was how wrong I was doing things, how deliberately miserable I am, and how inadequate I am. In actuality, their response was uplifting, supportive, positive, and understanding.  My head instantly turned that positive into disparaging. Even as I recognize this, my head is battling itself. There’s the side that is berating me for being inadequate and stupid.  Then there’s the side of me that is taking the response at face value and trying to convince that other side that it’s reading into things. Depression will do that to you. Self – doubt and self – loathing become a way of life.
So my eyes will read “you’ve had so much success until now, you need to focus on that” and my brain will understand “you worthless piece of shit, you can’t even get recovery right. I told you you’d never amount to anything more that a useless waste of space. People tell you all the time to focus on the positive, but all you do is choose to be miserable. You’re a horrid person. You deserve everything you get and then some” (note here that a simple line of text has been translated into a tirade of the self…).

I’m writing this and the voice in my head is reminding me how stupid I have become. This is all stuff I should already know. It’s not supposed to be such a revelation… when I try to change the voice, it gets louder, then more sly when the loud doesn’t work.  It rationalizes the negative self-talk and starts whispering little doubts “you have been really off lately,” “you’re such a flake , the driving is getting bad,” “pretty soon you’ll be completely worthless in everything”… it makes the negative sound like logical conclusions. It plants seeds of doubt “everyone can see you’re crazy. It’s written all over you.  Why do you think you can’t get a job?” “Even if you did land one, they’d notice the crazy and find a reason to fire you if you don’t end up walking out first because you can’t take it”

We went to a volunteer meeting tonight at the nature center. We got hugs from people we hadn’t seen in a while, and all I could think was that they were pity hugs. Like they knew I was crazy and wanted to pat me on the head for making it out anyway but figured a hug would be less condescending… I know they are all about the hugs anyway, but my head screamed at me that they knew and just felt sorry for me.

Mental illness, self-doubt, and self loathing have a way of turning even the most positive interactions into something terrible. I wonder how much of my therapy is viewed this way.  I know the obvious ones, but what about the things that don’t necessarily hit my awareness? What about everyday encounters? What if everyone is really a wonderful person and it’s all just me that views them as hating me? I know I really dislike spending time with G. L pointed it out that my disdain for him was very evident earlier today.  I tried to be nicer when we got back home, but I have a lot of work to do on that front. He may be a perfectly wonderful person these days (ok, that’s an exaggeration. He may be at least tolerable), but I only see him through these angry glasses. Everything he says and does I interpret to be mean and hateful so I respond in kind. Then I feel bad for being an asshole. The cycle begins again. I’m once again battling the translation of simple words. I’m twisting what I’m saying to prove to myself how worthless and horrid I am. I just don’t know how to stop it.  There’s only so much arguing one can do with oneself before a splitting headache ensues. I think it’s once again time for sleep.

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I admitted something I never expected…

… and it’s not what you may think: I told my wife that I had actually seriously considered giving up our little dog on more than one occasion.  The people who know me in real life would know how incredibly out of character this admission is, but the rest of you may not quite get the full impact.  My animals are my children, and my dogs are held highest of all of them.  My little dog (we shall call him “Fred” to protect his real identity) is joined at the hip to my lab.  He would not know how to survive without her (he is a totally different dog when he is separated from her, shaking and moping even when it’s just for a few hours).  When he’s near her though, he is a little punk.  He has been known to kill cats, and will try for the kill any chance he gets.  We had managed to get that under a measure of control a while ago, but he’s back to his antics again (totally our fault).  Recently, out large male cat has decided to move in with a couple at the other end of the neighborhood.  We think this is because a few weeks ago, Fred managed to slip between my legs and chase the cat, most likely cornering him and hurting him in some way.  After that incident, the cat refused to return to the house.  Today, we had to go pick him up after the couple trapped him in their garage.  I feel bad for him (and our other cats).  They are social.  They miss spending time with us.  They miss the cuddles, and so do I.  I really love Fred, but he’s such a pain in the butt.  I won’t actually move to give him up (I would also be forced to give up the lab who happens to be my favorite dog), but I just need to remind myself that consistency matters a lot, especially with Fred.  There are some dogs you can be more lax with, but then there are the ones that will become a menace if allowed to take any hint of leadership.  Sadly, we give Fred a lot of room to walk all over us.  I need to remember what my trainer friend told me and keep him on a short leash (figuratively).

Knowing that I admitted out loud that I have considered re-homing Fred has messed with my head a bit.  Like I said, my dogs are my kids.  To seriously think of giving one up has only ever been admitted when I was suicidal.  I have moved more times than I can count to be able to keep my pets.  I have bent over backwards and given up a lot to have them in my life.  To know I actually thought of re-homing that little punk because he upsets the rest of the family dynamic has my head spinning…There’s a voice in my head screaming at me; telling me I’m worthless and useless and I just don’t care.  There’s judgement beyond belief for even having the thoughts.  There’s fear and resentment, and there’s anger.  The anger comes not only from what other people think of all the animals, but also from my changing attitudes.  They still fill a void, but I’m finding that they also create a whole lot of drama.  My depression makes it hard to motivate to do anything beyond the basics for them.  They are going stir-crazy, and we are all slacking on the training (especially for the puppy).  I find myself becoming angry at them for misbehaving when it’s all my fault for not being consistent and giving them what they need.  I’m turning more and more into my father, and I hate myself for it…

I look around myself and see all this material crap that I really don’t want anymore.  It feels like all of this is weighing me/us down.  I wish I didn’t waste money on a lot of this crap.  I wish I didn’t have piles and piles of “junk” lying around… I wish I had motivation to take care of things.  And I wish I knew how to remember to save money.  The animals need more flea stuff, and they need to get out of the house.  If I had the money, I would have gotten the puppy training also.  There are a bunch of behaviors I just don’t know how to tackle anymore, nor do I have the energy to try.  The same with Fred.  And I hate myself a lot.  I know I made this commitment to them, but I’m not following through…  I know the steps to take for some of it, but the energy and motivation disappear quickly.  The more I fall into the cycle of wanting to do things but failing, then being hard on myself for it, the more I just feel like crap about everything. I start spiraling down a litany of things that I see wrong with myself: my weight, my social life, my motivation, my lack of working, my self-worth, my worth to others… De is right that I get trapped in my thinking and it just makes everything worse.  But then there’s that tiny voice in my head that whispers possible solutions… Maybe it’s time to start with baby steps to fix things…


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.


Early morning pre-coffee thoughts

Why is it that certain words trigger such a strong reaction in me?  There are sentiments that,  when expressed to me, make my blood boil and take away filters for kindness and respect.  I’m specifically thinking about all the references to god and how people have a need to tell me that their god will make it all better if I just believed… The truth about that is that, yes,  your beliefs can improve or deteriorate a situation. But it doesn’t mean that if I don’t believe in your god,  things will stay the same or get worse for me.  Faith can be very helpful,  or very crippling depending on your beliefs,  but it won’t change an abusive situation,  or help your finances. 

As I was trying to figure out why religion is such a triggering issue for me, I remembered the first time I disclosed my abuse to someone that should have been able to help.  I was told to “pray about it and God will make it all better.”  That was the sentiment that was supposed to help keep me and the people I cared about safe. There was no follow up requesting details.  There was no mention of other possible help on the way.  “Just pray about it” and all the physical and emotional anguish will disappear.  Bullshit.  Things don’t work that way.  No amount of prayer healed my aunt. It didn’t stop my dad from being a huge jerk. It didn’t stop his sister from doing all the shit she did.  It didn’t stop my then-boyfriend from assaulting me.  And it didn’t bring me any solace in the least.  So bullshit. Prayer,  gods, and religion don’t make anything better.  Standing up for yourself does. Reaching out to the right people does.  Fighting like hell does.  But religion?  It brings guilt, resentment, and learned helplessness. 
That’s why those stupid posts about bringing god back to schools, and those about trusting god make my blood boil.  I had religion in my schools and it didn’t stop, or even lessen, the violence and abuse.  It didn’t make kids more tolerant of others (quite the opposite actually).  It didn’t prevent students from making bad choices, and it didn’t make the campus safer…  Don’t force your belief system on me or anyone.  You are free to believe whatever you want,  but please stop acting like it’s the only valid belief system in the universe.