A very helpful therapeutic excercise

I saw F for therapy this morning. I was in a rotten mood when we arrived because while we were in the car my mom had told me we’d have to stop by the supermarket on the way home because my jerk brother had helped himself to our fruit basket when he had been over to pick stuff up this morning. I always have difficulty with spontaneous changes in plan and was angry at mom because I felt like she never considered me with anything she did.

Mad at her, I didn’t want her anywhere near me during my therapy, so I went into the room with F alone, while my mom waited. (Sometimes I want my mom along, and F lets me.) Anyway, so I was alone with F and in a bad mood and of course she could tell and asked what was up. So I explained to her how I felt like mom didn’t take my feelings seriously, yada yada yada.

Then F introduced me to a therapy technique that I found surprisingly helpful in the end – so much that I want to share, because who knows, maybe it helps someone else, too.

F asked me to conjure up before my mind’s eye what we call my “safe place”. My usual safe place includes my mom, but today I was mad at her and didn’t want her at my safe place, so I visualized my safe place without her. We do the “safe place” visualization often, so that by now I’m pretty good at going there in my mind and noticing when I need to return there if the stuff we work on during therapy gets overwhelming.

Anyway, so I was at my safe place. F then asked me to focus on the situation that upset me again, and to identify my thoughts and feelings as closely as possible. I ended up with:

  • feeling ignored
  • unloved
  • worthless
  • overpowered because the decision had already been made and I hadn’t even been asked
  • helpless
  • panicky
  • angry over feeling helpless and panicky
  • angry at mom for not doing her job as a mother right
  • abandoned

The next step was that F asked me to keep holding on to these feelings, but let the present day situation fade away at the same time, so that just the feelings remained. That was a bit challenging, but I managed.

Then F asked me to allow my mind to wander and see if it recalls a situation from when I was younger where the same feelings applied.

I did and it didn’t take very long before a situation from a group home came to my mind. It was the group home I had been in after my first hospital stay aged 15, and I had been at the group home for three weeks (or so) at the time when suddenly the woman who ran my group, a social worker or something, decided I was going to be moved to another group home outside of town. Just like this. I had only just settled in with this group, only just started to open up to some of the caretaker people there, and suddenly that woman just said “pack your things, you’re going to move later today”.

Apparently they had only taken me temporarily while they were waiting for a longer term placement to become available, but nobody had told me this. Anyway, so that was the situation that came to my mind when F asked me to see if I could find one that matched the feelings I had.

F made sure I still felt safe, and then asked me to remember the situation from the group home and my feelings in this situation as vividly as I could. And once I had that she asked, if there was anyone who I wanted to be there with me in that memory situation to help me or to give me what I didn’t get for real back then.

I nodded and really wanted my mom (like, my mom now, not my birth mother) to be there. So F asked me to imagine what would happen if she went there. So before my mind’s eye I saw myself all upset and confused and feeling helpless and afraid and angry because I was getting pushed around and shoved off to another home because not one single person in the world even cared for me. Then I had my mom come into the room with me. I made her come in, be very gentle and respectful, like she is in real life, too, and she looked at me in this way that says, without ever speaking a word, that she sees me and feels for me and wants to be there with me. Then I had her talk to me and explain to me how she is going to be my mom one day. Not yet now, because we don’t really know each other yet, and that she’s sorry we don’t, but that she’s gonna be there for me and loves me and that I’m going to be fine and that she looks forward to when we meet for real.

F asked me to monitor what my feelings did while I was imagining that, and go figure, they went away. I felt sad and unhappy for having been in such an unhappy place, but also better not like nobody loved me anymore. More sorry that I’d been so bitchy to mom.

I asked F if I could get mom for real and she was fine with it, so I went to where she was waiting and while mom was all surprised and a bit concerned that I was coming out before the time was up, I just put my arms around her neck and suddenly felt so overwhelmed that I couldn’t help crying. In the slightly-confused-yet-relieved way. It’s embarrassing, actually. I bet mom had no idea what the hell had happened.  LOL

I really liked this exercise. I felt a lot better afterwards. I can’t even explain why exactly. We stopped by the supermarket and it was okay. Once we were home again, I even felt good enough to continue with the sexual healing journey a bit. And even now I still feel kind of elated and like my family loves me and look forward to the rest of the day. Life is good. 🙂

Dissociative Recoil

So I finally finished writing the post about Experiences and Gene Expresssion after mom took pity and helped me comprehend the matter. I looked forward to that, because I had prepared for the post for days now. I thought I’d feel good after I finished putting my thoughts into words and proud of myself and all that. And what happened instead?

Ever since hitting the submit button I dissociate like crazy. I can feel my attention drifting away literally ALL the time, as I detach from reality. I don’t hear it when I’m being spoken to. If I’m lucky I get a faint, vague echo in my head that tells me someone could have said anything, but it’s way after they are done speaking already, and of course I have no idea what has been said. I also stare off into space and just stay like that until I notice and make an effort to focus back on reality, but right after I did that, I feel the same pull towards staring again.

That sucks so bad. I mean okay, staying focused and writing that post was a bit exhausting, but goddamnit, can’t I do something exhausting and be OKAY??? That sucks so bad I feel like crying . 😦 I want to be in control of whether I dissociate or not, but no, I get this massive dissociative recoil and have no say in the matter. Either I’m gonna cry or I’m gonna scream, it’s so terribly frustrating!!!

Taking it easy today

Yesterday was a tough day, with all the thinking and writing about my sexual healing journey. I am okay, but I noticed I need to be careful when I ended up dissociating later in the day.

If you want a rather unusual glimpse at what can happen when I dissociate, here’s some dissociation art. I had just planned to draw a zentangle to calm down and focus, and it worked for the snail shell. Then I started with the little hearts. And kept drawing. And drawing. And drawing . . .

Dissociation Art

Pretty impressive. So today I’m going to take it easy. Focus on some good things. See if later I feel up to some journeying, but if not, I won’t and will rather wait another day. We’ll see. I really want to keep it positive and all that.

I hope you’re all having a good day today.

I’m gonna get up and try, try, try!

Yeah, that’s me singing my own version of P!nk. And it’s me being stubborn and refusing to cave in. Refusing to be defeated. Refusing to be a victim. Refusing to be a slave of my history.

I had a crappy New Year’s Eve! Midnight gave me a flashback and I screamed my heart out. I watched dad’s fireworks from inside the house with mom by my side because I couldn’t stand going outside in the dark, or being alone. – So, so what! I’m still a rock star!

Fuck you, abuse! – Fuck you, stepfather! – Fuck you, mother! – Fuck you, mental health issues!

You can knock me over and kick me down, but you can not prevent me from getting up again, from rising! I survived this far, I’m not going to give up now! I’m prepared and ready to fight. Not with violence or dirty tricks, like you did and still do.

No, I’m going to fight by being disobedient to your sick rules.

DisobedienceForMentalHealth

I’m going to fight back by being strong-willed. By holding on to what’s good and right. By not accepting to keep playing by your rules. By reclaiming myself. By using my skills and resources and support. And by getting up one more time than I fall, even when I fall a lot.

I’m gonna get up and try, try, try!

So despite the rocky night, I’m feeling good and all-in-all it was a good start into the New Year. Because I got up. Because I am determined to make it a GOOD year for myself! I wish you all a very good year, too! Get for yourself the best possible 2013!

The Sexual Healing Journey begins

SexualHJ-one

I don’t know if I am being brave or stupid, not even having the sleep issues resolved yet and wanting to go ahead and start the sexual healing journey. If you have been around for a while you’ll remember that I decided this was going to be my project for 2013. If that’s news to you, you can read about it here.

Anyway, I am figuring that when the sleeping crap is PTSD related and a great big part of my PTSD comes from childhood sexual abuse, I might as well start the journey now. That way, if it’s gonna give me sleep issues, I can just tell them to draw a number and stand in line and I won’t even notice much of a difference.

Like a regular journey might, this one starts with a trip to the travel agency, in the form of reading the “About” or “What to Expect” chapter the book starts out with. Or at least that had been the plan, before I discovered that one disadvantage of the book is that the pages are bulging with closely spaced lines full of small print that doesn’t even contrast so well with the page, because it’s eco-friendly yellow-grayish paper. And while I’m all yay for eco-friendliness and not wasting space with big letters and spacing, it gives me a real problem.

See, I’m not a very good reader. Especially when I read a longer text, the lines seem to wobble and words blur and jitter before my eyes. I have a hard time staying focused, my thoughts want to go somewhere else and often I can’t put meaning into the words I read. The small print of the book flat-out invites that to happen. So before I even started with anything I had my first little breakdown over feeling like I was incompetent because I couldn’t even read it. Tears, anger, disappointment, self-hate, perfect drama…

It’s sorted now. Mom assured me that even the brightest chipmunk can have a reading problem, and she said she’ll read the book to me. Even said that that’s good with her because she’d like to know what I’m reading about anyway. So that was sorted, we had a read-aloud trip to the travel agency and I took notes of what to expect.

What I learned about the sexual healing journey:

The book explained that sexual abuse affects not only the psychological but also the sexual development and that therefore facing sexual issues directly is going to be a big part of the journey. – That sexual abuse has effects on sexual stuff should hardly be surprising, but it’s really something that gets hushed up a lot. I’ve even had therapists who grew uncomfortable at the mention of sexually deviant behavior or thoughts and prefferred to deal with the nonsexual issues, like that was going to make the sexual issues magically disappear.

I learned that I fit 6 of the top 10 sexual symptoms of sexual abuse consistently, and another 3 symptoms are floating by every now and then – not really surprising me either, though it’s a bit disheartening to see it spelled out so plainly just how well those symptoms apply to me.

I learned that anyone can go on the sexual healing journey – goodie, because that includes me.

I learned that the sexual healing journey is going to take time, as in months up to years – but then what else is new? At least time is something I’m not short on, so it’s alright.

I learned that sexual healing and the general healing go parallel ways alongside each other and will alternate in which is more prominent, and that you can go back and forth between them, rather than wait for the sexual healing to take place once the general healing is achieved – makes sense to me. My sexual crap is not really good at patiently waiting in the backseat anyway.

I learned that highs and lows are to be expected and that it’s good to have help along the way – not the most surprising of revelations, but I suppose it’s good to point it out anyway. The book said it can be uplifting to increase understanding and stuff, but that the journey can also get depressing and upsetting, can upset daily routines or day-to-day functioning. Is that really what I need, I wonder? But then, my day-to-day functioning is not really the grandest to start with, and it is that way BECAUSE of all those issues I’m having, so getting my stuff upset a little more is probably a small price to pay. (Of course I might think differently when it’s actually happening. But until then, I’m good with it.) I have my mom and F, my therapist, in place to help me, I feel like I can dare to start the journey.

I learned that on the sexual healing journey I’m required to face my most personal feelings and that I might want to keep a journal or something to write about my feelings – I’m blogging, that’s kind of like journaling. I’ve also got my mom here to help me tolerate what’s gonna come up. At least I hope that’s how it’s going to work. Even so, I’m nervous.

I learned that the book claims that I can repair the damage done to me – bold claim, hey! I’m skeptical about it, because it doesn’t feel that way, but then, I don’t feel like a good many of things beforehand and am not all that good at anticipating feeling in general. It says when I reclaim my sexuality, I reclaim myself. Sounds awkward to my ears and makes me nervous. But I’m all for reclaiming myself, so I’m gonna take a deep breath and do it anyway.

I learned that I’m advised to go slow, listen to myself, trust myself, and only start the journey when I’m ready. That I am my own gauge. – Tell that to the girl whose own gauge is nothing but a jumble of cryptic symbols. My gauge has been messed with, you know, which is why I need this book in the first place. So I don’t know how well I do with trusting it. I guess the advice means well, but it rather sounds like something I want to have achieved at the end of my journey than something I can fall back on already. But even so, I feel ready. So I guess I’ll pack a bag, bring food supplies and just start the journey to find out what it is like.

Wish me luck.

PTSD related sleep problems flaring up

Night

Sleeping has become a real pain again. Having everyone here for Christmas has messed up the hard won semblance of stability in my sleep-wake cycle quite a lot. Having people around during the night increased my PTDS related watchfulness, being on high alert doesn’t agree with sleeping, and to finish the mess off, the sleep and loss-of-control and darkness related anxiety reared its ugly head. And as is so often the case, the brunt of it is only showing up with a delay, now, once everything is calm again.

Going to sleep last night was hell. I ended up crying and threatening I’d hurt myself if mom left me alone during the night. (Any trust that she was not going to shove me into bed and lock the door to leave me to a miserable nightly death had gone out the window.) And while I calmed down when she assured me that she was there and let me curl up with her, lying down itself gave me new anxiety and eventually triggered a flashback that consisted of the physical sensation of someone choking me.

I think it was at least three at night before I was calm enough to fall asleep. Not that it was very restful, but at least it was sleep. Even so, this morning I feel done for. My eyes are itchy from crying so much, my nose is stuffy and my head hurts. I’m weary and irritable and would like for the whole world to leave me alone, but at the same time I panic when mom only so much as walks a few steps away from me. And I already dread the next night.

I guess it’s progress, though, that even through most of this crap Christmas blowback, I can keep my self-observing me switched on, instead of being fully immersed in the moment only. I’m more aware than I used to be. For example I have always begged mom to give me some drug in the past, because I felt like I was not going to survive without, and I did not this time, because even when it felt awful, I was still aware it WAS going to get better eventually, even when it felt nothing like getting better at the time and drugs weren’t going to make it a shorter struggle in the long run. This kind of double consciousness, for the situation as well as reflections upon the situation, is new.

So what do we do instead of drugs? Mom and I made a battle plan during breakfast:

  • keeping to my usual sleep schedule, getting up in the morning even when I’m tired, without sleeping or napping during the day
  • keeping to a healthy diet of unprocessed foods, avoiding sugary snacks, sugary drinks etc.
  • going outside every day to catch some sun and fresh air
  • making an effort to resolve feelings from the day before going to bed
  • making an effort to make bedtime a safe, cozy time again
  • cuddling and calm talking and stuff before sleeping
  • no going to bed and falling asleep alone, so I can turn to mom for help early on when I notice things start to go bad, instead of waiting too long and ending up in the thick of it
  • lots of feelings-of-safety enhancing stuff during the day, like getting back to our familiar routines, sensible quality time, etc.
  • and as a long term goal keeping on working on reducing the PTSD effects during therapy, obviously

So far so good. I dearly hope It won’t take too long until the worst sleep shit goes away again. I’m not keen on giving the last crap night too many repeats. Ah well, whatever. I’m sleep deprived, so I’d probably start rambling if I kept on writing. So I figure I’ll start the day instead and see what it brings. Have a good one, everyone!

Borderline, PTSD and Trust Issues

Trust BPD PTSD 1

Trust ~ the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, character or strength of someone or something.

The inability to trust is a painful thing. Both BPD and PTSD make it difficult for me to trust people, to trust situations, to trust myself. Struggling to trust makes it hard to feel safe. Not feeling safe makes it hard to stay calm. Thusly being in a constant state of vigilance, stress and anxiety is exhausting and it’s terrible and unhealthy.

In healthy people trust develops when they are babies. When they experience – over and over and over again, with no major exceptions – that their cries are heard, their needs attended to, that they are the cause of joy and smiling faces, that touch is pleasant, warm and comforting and that good things happen when they call attention to themselves. That is how children come to trust that other people are good, that they mean it when they are being nice, that the world is a safe enough place and that they are good and capable little people who can rely on themselves.

This very first kind of trust – achieved by a healthy and secure attachment to a caregiver – can be seen as a foundation for all other kinds of trust people develop later in life.

As you can read on my page Borderline in more detail, I have, for myself, come to the conclusion that BPD is essentially a relationship disorder. That it’s not my personality that’s damaged, but my view on relationships. That by the way relationships worked at my childhood home, I have come to expect that they are dangerous, unstable and all-or-nothing. That people will change in the bat of an eye. That words are deceptive. That nobody will protect me or stand by me. That promises are empty and care is shallow. That trust leads to pain.

That the traumas I experienced where solely interpersonal (as in caused by people, not by circumstances or natural disasters or anything) only reinforced that nobody and nothing is to be trusted. That no situation is truly safe. That I can’t trust myself to keep me safe. That even I can’t trust my body not to betray me. So lack of trust is an essential part of my PTSD, too.

In daily life so many crap results from that, I don’t even know where to start. I think most of my issues actually do go back to trust, either directly – like second guessing people’s intentions, feeling incapable or suspecting that getting abandoned is an imminent danger – or indirectly – like my impulsivity (if nothing seems really stable or permanent, what do I go by other than the impulse?) or my dissociation (if I don’t trust myself to be able to cope with something, don’t trust the situation to turn out okay, don’t trust anyone else to keep me safe, then disconnecting myself from everything seems like the only option left) and even my feelings of emptiness (nothing is “real” enough to fill the gaping void, everything appears too shallow or like it won’t last anyway).

 So if trust is such an issue, yet at the same time the foundation I got when I grew up means that my default setting is now “DISTRUST” – what can be done about it?

Let’s start optimistic and with the good news: I am increasingly able to trust.

The bad news: it requires constant effort.

Trust DistrustMy ability to trust works like a light switch. At first it had been jammed in the distrust position, but after lots of work it can now go up to where it says ‘trust’. But it doesn’t stay there by itself yet. The moment you let it go, gravity pulls it back down to ‘distrust’. It’s still the default setting.

But hey, at least it isn’t permanently stuck on distrust anymore. That makes a big difference for me.

So what kind of work helped against the jamming? I must admit I couldn’t really say all by myself, so I asked mom. This is what she said helped me:

  1. Considering the emotional age regarding my ability to trust
    Well, let’s just say my emotional trusting age started out at below zero. Mom said that at the beginning I was like an infant in this regard, that either I got my needs met now, or I could not emotionally understand why not and reacted with distrust and pushing her away. And go figure. I can only second that. I still remember that I didn’t even trust her consistency and immediateness for a long time and pushed away despite it.
  2. Reinforcing trust on as many levels as possible to make it more palpable
    I have a hard time trusting words. I have a hard time trusting actions. I have a hard time trusting affection. Or experiences. Or my feelings. So each of those channels alone isn’t sufficient, because each lets through only a weak impulse towards trust. Combining them increases the strength.
  3. Awareness that trust needs to be earned
    So often a little bit of trust was the reward for a hard struggle mom and I had with each other. I test. A lot. That’s what being distrustful does. Trust is what can lie on the other end of the struggle if all goes well. So one needs the willingness to get there together, even when getting through sucks real bad.
  4. Willingness to take risks  
    On both sides. My mom never knew for sure if it was going to work out. Neither did I. I suppose what kept both of us going was that the relationship appeared worth some risk taking.
  5. Monitoring the switch together
    Mom says it’s important she knows where my switch is – on trust, on distrust, or in between – and let’s just say she’s very good at reading my behavior to figure it out. But she says it’s just as important I learn to become more aware of what the switch is doing early on, too, so that I can learn to recognize that it’s sliding out of place before it is all the way down. So we talk about it a lot to monitor it together.
  6. Being trustworthy
    Maybe a no-brainer, but mom said I should add it anyway. So I decided to write a follow-up post on being trustworthy: How to be Trustworthy.

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