Category Archives: behaviors

Stigma & Shame Links

I found this about stigma the other day. You might be interested? link

And while we’re talking about the good or bad the internet can bring, you may want to listen to this TED talk I found last week which talks about shame as well.

My personal experience was that shame was the biggest single thing which kept me from healing. link

J

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Crossed by Many, Chased by Rainbows

I went to the farm today. On the way out of the valley where the farm is, on the state highway, a youngish rabbit crossed the road in front of me. Not slam on the brakes in front of me,  I slowed down. I thought it odd because usually they’re either dead in the road  or I’ve seen them on the side of the road, but not crossing it.

I got to the college town, where I can catch the freeway home, but as usual when it’s hot, I opted for the back route, more trees, cooler and much more pleasant. Got past the town where I helped get their library’s card catalog established and started around the lake. Didn’t take me long to realize that there was a rainbow ending on the far shore and we were traveling around the lake at a steady pace. I got to the end of the lake, there’s a small inlet on the other side and there was the beginning of the rainbow. I thought that was that. Except that every time I emerged from the trees for some time, there was a rainbow to my right.

Near the end of the trees/openings, I had an owl or hawk (for some reason I thought it was an owl) swoop down low right in front of me. Could plainly see the brown stripes across its lighter wings.

The road around the lake Ts on a state road. I turned left and got to the marsh and stopped, flashers going because the rainbow to my right was just dazzling, I took 2 pictures, which I’m sure won’t show it. Just as I started up a small beaver skittered off into the pond ahead of me.

Where that road stops is the major route to our town; it’s one of the 3 state highways intersecting in or near our downtown. There were big puffy cumulus clouds ahead of me with dark patches — it was drizzling — but to my left it was still brilliant sunshiney blue skies with shock-white lenticular clouds.

So a trip full of avatars or?  I researched.

  • Rabbit caution, fertility, rebirth, safety in numbers.
  • Rainbow path of the holy spirit,
  • Owl wisdom, swift & silent, sees things clearly, creature of the night.
  • Beaver creative/artistic abilities, builder, resourcefulness, determination.

rainbow

(image via google images)

All of which means exactly nothing except that there were a lot of animals fleeing the rain!

Two Types of Flashbacks

The last time I was cleaning 5 days a week (my goal) except for dishes/food clean up was last month. On the 15th, I wrote this blog saying, “I’m doing it!” and started waking up in full panic: heart pounding, palms sweating, shaking, the whole thing. When I have a full, emotional flashback, it’s a two-week readjustment, but not a cleaning flashback. Those take longer, about 4 weeks.

What I’ve done successfully, is to make the routines, at least a minimum of them just habit. So, for the past 4 weeks, I’ve done some laundry, but haven’t put it away consistently. Done some dishes every day, but rarely are all of them done, etc. There aren’t 4 weeks of accumulated laundry and dishes to do. I haven’t gotten much sleep and my stress levels are up, but I’ve dealt with it.

My challenge is to either 1)Try and add to what I can do in the “bad times.” or 2)Lengthen the period when I can clean. The problem with either and this challenge is that if I notice what I’m doing — the panic starts.

I’m really sick of fighting this stuff! I’m in my 60s — I am honestly, truly tired of being affected by things which happened in my childhood. But they gave me PTSD and all of it, the mess to hide in and the other events or adaptations I made to protect myself, are all wrapped together as my flashback. Push on any piece too hard and there I go down the flashback rabbit hole.

The only difference is that when I’m pushed emotionally, I have a successful route I forged back. From something like the movie thing, it takes a day or two. If someone attacks me? It takes two full weeks.

I don’t have such a mechanism for the panic attacks/cleaning flashbacks. What I originally did with the emotional ones was to recreate my growth, one step at a time away from the painful place I used to live. I haven’t managed anything except the very first steps away from the panic/stress.

  1. I understand the root of the panic.
  2. I also understand that the reason it was and is so hard to fight is that when it occurs, I’m in full fight/flight panic mode.
  3. I have realized that the only way I know which might work is to habitualize the cleaning.

That’s worked to some extent or the other.

What hasn’t worked? Finding a way to notice that I’m cleaning and not go into a full-blown panic attack/flashback.


There’s hope. Until I typed what’s above and remembered what I’d done for the emotional attacks, I’d forgotten that I ritualized the steps away from the bad old days. I did that for years until my therapist said, “Do you really have to recreate each step, one after the other these days? Next time, see if you can’t condense some of it.” And I could!

So, hope exists. But it took me 20 years or so to heal enough that I could conceive of  recreating the healing route. Twenty months longer on the cleaning/panic is about 18 months more than I want to spend….

But, of course, the being dictating the rate I can go isn’t my conscious, adult brain, but that wounded little girl, whose body remembers all the trauma. She and the body run the roadways and determine how much I can do and how fast. train image from target

My adult self just has to sit back, be patient, and wait. It sometimes feels as if I’m a passenger on an electric train. I got on, the doors closed and locked. All I can do is patiently wait until it stops!

trolley

 

Spring Cleaning — and Not

It’s spring so I did my annual search — looking for spring cleaning lists. I’m always trying to find things I may have forgotten.

Of course, there always are things I haven’t done, but many I do get done without a reminder. Fridge shelves get pulled, about 1 a week. We have bins on the doors and I just started doing these, again. Did the bottom bin last week. The next bin up the door will get cleaned this week. I’ll just keep going: bottom to top on the door bins, then top to bottom on the shelves, then do it again… Means the fridge is never ever completely clean top to bottom, but it also means that it never is a disaster everywhere either!  The only big problem with this is that the overall fridge doesn’t get wiped down. I do behind the bins and shelves I’m removing, but not otherwise. I guess I should add a week of just doing the rest of the door or large cavity after I get the shelves done? The freezer, on the other hand, only gets cleaned about once a year.

Another aspect people recommend as part of spring cleaning are pieces I clean as a part of the walls, windows, doors, floors, and ceilings: that is, things attached to those places. When the curtains become part of the window and you wash the window, you also put the curtains through the dryer to remove dust and clean the hardware at the same time. Again, my goal isn’t to have an immaculate house, but a house which doesn’t need marathon cleaning.

So I try and deep clean a few items every week so I don’t have to deep clean a lot of things at once. True of everything from bedding to yard work. (Works better for the bedding than the yard work, can’t pick up leaves midwinter, no matter how much you may want to!)

When I do this regularly, the house gets cleaner. Actually, it works too well and leans on the PTSD, so it gets done in fits & starts, like everything else. That said, it used to be that I only really decluttered and did maintenance cleaning in fits and starts.  These days, I regularly cull and declutter a bit and do maintenance cleaning almost all the time. I deep clean a little more regularly than I ever have. So progress, just slow.

More nibbling!

broom-cartoon

5/24: Started the reorganization required by the bathroom construction. That isn’t complete, and won’t be, until the constuction is entirely finished. Also started the cull/clean/reorganization of the pantry.

Fail

We failed. Well, sort of ?

We got an energy comparison thing from our electric company. We use 94% more power than people with comparable houses do, on average.

I will call them tomorrow, Monday, and ask them about how much that changes when folks work at home. We both work at home.  No commuting, no lunches in restaurants, no driving, no coffee at the coffee shop or other such.

There are a few things we could do, yes. Making sure we turn off lights would help. Turning off the computers when they won’t be used for more than 1 hour would probably also help. Getting a night light for the bathroom instead of leaving a light on at night would help. But aside from that? Most of our lights are LED, and we sleep, cook, eat, work, read, etc. in the same space day in and day out. We have an energy star fridge and washer/dryer. We have an on-demand water heater. [We wash dishes by hand, a dish washer might be more efficient?] We usually heat with wood and a fan, no furnace going day in and day out.

homelectricityuse

The lights, computers, dishwasher I’m sure would help. I think the phantom load we have because of the computers is probably a large part of it, but I’ll never get DH to shut everything off, unless we were starving. Of course, if it is the computers, then it should be fairly “normal” because most people will have that when they leave for work. Our difference, again, is that we work here. DH works regular hours and I work randomly, day or night, 7 days a week.

It will be interesting to see what they say about home office workers, two of us, both in the same house!


I called. I’m not disputing that we’ve used more energy than last year, but the 94% over “comparable” homes in my area seems suspect. We have a log home, which might make a difference as well as the fact that we both work at home.

They’re going to call us back, tomorrow probably. We’ll see what they say!

I am so lucky

By sheer dumb luck (?) I didn’t get disassociation; Gawd knows, I’d never have come back. Likewise clinical depression, I avoided it too.

I think if I’d been physically or sexually abused one or both of those would certainly have been my reality.

The journey I took was hard enough because of a variety of factors: the biggest one being that no one seemed to think (including my early shrinks) that there was anything really wrong with me I couldn’t just change. Little girls didn’t get PTSD in the 1950s. I was white, upperclass, etc. What problems could I have? Well, yes I didn’t have a mother, but I had caretakers, dorm mothers, camp counselors, doctors (and more doctors), shrinks . . . .  what was my problem?

The description I’ve got in the memoir is that it was like I was a balloon, with a large rip underneath, which no one else saw. They all expected me to soar! I had all these things going for me: beautiful home, enough $, educated family, etc. etc. etc. But I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried  —  they didn’t get it. No one did. And that just layered atop the Abuser’s narrative: there was something wrong with me, at my DNA or such. And for whatever reason, for 42 years before diagnosis, I just kept trying to prove her wrong. I kept trying to get my family to tell me they approved of me. I kept trying. I’d win once in a while, but I’d lose more often. Then I’d despair. I became increasingly more bitter and cynical.

Then this 6’1″ miracle happened to me. And things started to change because I believed one person didn’t think I was horrible. I called him my “shield against the world” for most of the first 10 years we were married. Whenever he was out of town, my anxiety went back up to the old levels  — I was back in the hell I’d lived in before: the hostile universe, the world where people would take anything and everything they could from me, because it was me.

It took a long time and a lot of work on his part before I really got that people didn’t see some devil mark on me, that said they should be nasty or whatever. That many people in the world would like me, if I gave them 1/2 a chance. That I wasn’t sub-human, stupid, ugly, and inherently unlovable.  I was starting down that path when my hormones went ape for the 2nd time and I had my midlife crisis, over 20 years ago now.

And got a hugely lucky break. The marriage counseling we got was from a woman who knew about PTSD.

She diagnosed and helped me learn how to  deal with it. We learned to deal with the things we hadn’t been able to and I kept seeing her, over 12 years by the time she retired.

Somewhere around 55, I stopped hurting. That was so phenomenal! The really odd thing for me was that no one noticed! I wanted a parade, a statue put up, something !!! It had been my goal as long as I could remember: “Don’t hurt.”

I still carry the pain, but these days it’s not ever-present, it’s associated with my past. And, yes, I still chose every day to deal or cope with it, or not. But because it’s no longer associated with HERE and NOW I can make that decision nearly automatically to NOT deal with it, not have it be part of my narrative today. I finally have a life which is not wrapped around hiding the pain, excusing the pain, explaining the pain, showing the pain or denying its existence.

It’s there, and most days I don’t have to deal with it any more; most days. Of course, this is PTSD, which means that at any moment, life could just pick me up and throw me into the fun house and away we go. The Hallmark movie not too long ago was one. A bigger one was the knitting. Both completely unexpected — SURPRISE!!!!

Gee thanks.

 I still say I’ve been incredibly lucky. And that’s a good thing. I’m sure I would have otherwise not attempted suicide; I would have killed myself.

Without my husband, without diagnosis, without the work from all of us: myself, husband and therapist, I would still be living in that fun house, that hostile and pain-filled universe. It was unbearable at 16, when I first attempted suicide, because as I said at the time, “I can’t imagine living this way until I’m 40.”

It was hard. It was awful. And I’d love to find out if life has something else I can do? We’ll see. My luck may have been all been used up, getting here — or maybe not?

(The image below AND the quote (obviously) are not mine!)

P.S. I don’t know if I agree with the quote actually, but it fit the post nicely! (I’m enough of a writer/editor to find that irresistible.)

P.S.2: The more I think about it, the less I agree with the quote. It was good luck that I was born white, privileged and into an educated family. Had nothing to do with my work or willingness to work. Although if I hadn’t done the mental health work, yes, I would still be where I was. Change takes work AND luck, but luck (or lack of it) starts with things out of your control: skin color, relative amount of available money for education, educational levels of people around you, area of residence, etc. None of that has anything to do with a child’s work when it is born.

Walter Mosley, the author, was a McDowell scholar one year. He came in the bookstore. He is an educated, articlulate man, who was born and raised in Watts. We were the antithesis of each other, as I was raised in a white, well-to-do enclave in Los Angeles in the same period. My mental illness and such caused me to not make use of many advantages I was born into. His hard work and abilities caused him to become the celebrated man he is.  Which of us is lucky? Him for being able to become the person he was or me for becoming the person I have?

Without the money, etc. I had behind me, I could not have focused on my mental health. I would have had to focus on making money to eat and put a roof over my head. In that way, I was really, really lucky. And, again, I had nothing to do with it.

Quotation-Barbara-Sher-The-amount-of-good-luck-coming-your-way-depends-on-66-82-62

I find the “just work harder” notion promoted by many really bizarre. If you are working 3 jobs just to feed yourself and your kids getting a PhD or even an AA isn’t an exercise in hard work, but a magical ability to make 24 hours into more.

Equally, the “save 1/2 of your food bill” idea only works if you can do things like buy 5 lbs of flour instead of 1 or buy a pot roast to cut up, or go to multiple stores to buy things on sale, or . . . when you are truly on the edge of or just over a survival level that is not realistic.

It’s easy to forget that.

And that’s my problem with the quote above. It presumes that you have the resources to act on your behalf, not that you are doing everything you can to simply survive.

Stress Fest

So, the “I’ve won” post? Well, it triggered me, of course. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, full panic attacks: heart pounding, palms sweating, shaking, the whole bit, every night since.  The trauma had to work itself out somewhere, ‘eh?

So, the only thing I know to fight this is well, there’s 2 things:

  1.  Stop doing whatever it is which is making me stressed.
  2. Go to sleep so late that I literally sleep through this. Works when it isn’t a full blown panic attack like these have been, and works sometimes with them.

So, I’ve been binge reading, playing games online, watching youtube, because any or all of those will keep me up/engaged way past being simply “tired” till I get to exhausted. Exhausted is the only way I can sleep through a full panic attack. Or, if I don’t sleep through it, I’ll wake up, roll over and go back to sleep.

Otherwise? All that adrenaline dumped into my system causes me to be instantly awake, really awake. When this first started, I woke up full-blown attack, ONE HOUR after I’d gone to sleep.

Several hours later, when I finally went to sleep again, I was so tired I slept through the night.

The first option, stopping what I was doing that caused the panic? Well that’s dishes, laundry, making the bed, and cleaning the bathroom counter. I haven’t entirely stopped, but I slowed down. The dishes aren’t all done now when I go to bed. The laundry isn’t all downstairs either in the washer or dryer, etc. I stopped being on top of it — I’ve let it slide, but I haven’t quit entirely — that’s the best I can do right now.

And that’s good enough — it has to be good enough because it’s all I can do.

Don’t know what I’m referring to? Here.