Category Archives: injuries

One Problem with Recovery

I just looked at the “laundry list” for the adult children of alcoholics or dysfunctional families. Here’s a link.  Almost all of that pertained to me in the past. Almost none of it fits me now, thankfully.

If you look down the page, you’ll find the flip side of that list.  My problem is with #5. This one:

We stop living life from the standpoint of victims and are not attracted by this trait in our important relationships.

That’s pretty easy to see. What I don’t see addressed here (and haven’t found elsewhere) is how you deal with those who were in your life before — getting them to change the unspoken “givens” in your relationship? Demands don’t work. At least in my case, neither does asking reasonably. My answer has been to cut off my family and all but one of my oldest friends. I’d like to have relationships with them, but in most cases I’ve moved on and they haven’t. Or, in a few exceptional cases, they’ve moved on and I’m not enough like I was to be “interesting” any more.

Says a lot about your value to someone, ‘eh? Either you’re valuable because you’re someone to be “better” than or “entertaining” or you have no value. If I did something extraordinary, that made me well known, these people would almost all in my estimation reclaim their relationship with me, whatever it is. But as an ex-victim, ex-emotionally unstable, non-victim, stable, older, housewife, who lives in the middle of nowhere, without drama — I’m unimportant.

And if I did something important, why would I want to be connected to these folks?

My old friends, I thought would be happy for me, because they cared about me, and I was stable and happy. Nope. Almost without fail, they were bored by me, because I wasn’t “exciting” any more.

My family? Well, that’s more complicated. I think they’d also claim their relationship with  me if I did something “important.” But it’s probably easier to call me “overly sensitive” or some such, now, than realize that the only way I will allow them to have any but the most casual contact with me is to rewrite the premises.  I’m not less than them. Different? Yes. Less? No!

Much of the problem of course is of my own creation. I thought for decades that being less and interesting/unconventional were some of the only real assets I had, as I was damned with some undefined piece. So, I started all relationships with the idea that I was less.

I changed, but that doesn’t mean that others want or need to.

 

 

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I Have Heard

that people are having problems getting off of antidepressants. Well, yes, I wonder what they expected?

The notion that “I’m sick, my brain chemistry is wrong,” is okay. But just fiddling with your chemistry and doing nothing to change your circumstances otherwise means that the drugs are what’s changing your life and that’s it. So, at the very least I’d expect people to have emotional withdrawal problems from the drugs.

Why did we stop asking people to learn how to cope? Yes, they may be sick or have issues, I’m not disputing that. But since when does that mean that you don’t give Stephen Hawking a wheelchair? Teach him how to talk into his mic? Come on people! Everyone has issues of some sort to cope with — everyone. Having issues doesn’t give you a pass for the rest of your life.

Somehow we got the idea that “better living through chemistry” meant that those pills were all you needed.

NOT!

I get that everyone isn’t a fighter, although it’s hard for me since I am one, to understand. But I get it. That doesn’t give you a pass as far as I’m concerned either.

Why? Because there are so many other people in the world. They outnumber us, by a huge margin. Absolutely, irrevocably, overwhelm us. It’s their world  and THAT is the piece you can’t run away from. To be successful, you have to live in their world.

I wrote this some time ago. I’m pretty sure I haven’t published it here, yet. I wrote it originally in response to an article at The Atlantic, but I was too wimpy to submit it. (Yes, I’m a wimp too. Not proud of it, but I admit it.)


I grew up in the 60s and 70s. Kids supposedly weren’t mentally ill then. We were expected to cope. No trigger warnings, no antidepressants (or not many), no safety net. A lot of therapy was Rogerian mirroring. Being told, “Well, I understand that you’re not that happy.” when I’d spent an hour crying about something wasn’t helpful. I needed something I could do, I needed coping strategies and eventually, I found them on my own.

It seems to me we’ve gone too far the other way perhaps? Maybe we’ve coddled the now-diagnosed a bit too much? What happened to being expected to cope? Don’t tell me it’s too hard. Who guaranteed anyone an easy life and when?

The United States holds approximately 318 million people, about 61 million have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness. The world is full of people who either haven’t been diagnosed or aren’t mentally ill. Diagnosis isn’t an excuse to give up and say “I’m wounded. I can’t help it!” It is a challenge to be met and overcome as much as possible.

Coping doesn’t mean you don’t hurt or don’t have problems. It means you realize there’s only one of you and several million other people in the country and you have to live in their world, just because they overwhelmingly outnumber you.

I expect to be called all sorts of nasty things because of this, and I expect to be told several times, “You don’t understand!” Except, I do. I’m not a doctor or a clinician. I’m someone who has lived through this. I’ve got PTSD, have since I was 3. The first time I was called crazy was in 3rd grade. I’m also a traumatic brain injury and rape survivor. I tried to kill myself twice before I was 20. My PTSD was diagnosed at 45. I’m 60 now — I’m still mentally ill. I always will be.

Below are my coping strategies. Hopefully, they’ll help someone else as they’ve helped me.

Herding Continents

Getting your ducks in a row, enabling the growth/change, herding cats. My visualization of this is walking in fog and pushing it with my hands in front of me.

Many times, the actual first step in almost anything is research and/or analysis, the background work which makes the goal possible, right?

If the goal is a PhD in psychology say, this could be research and deciding what type of psych. you think you’d want to do? Where are the best schools for that? Which schools can you afford? Are you eligible for scholarships? How much is it likely to cost to live in that area? How long will it take? Is the notion realistic, based on your personality, finances, skills and circumstances?

Next Step

The very next piece required to go in the general direction you want to go. Because I tended to beat myself up if I hadn’t achieved X goal nearly instantaneously, I’d dump negativity on myself, which usually just caused me to come to a screeching halt.

Next Step is my counter for that. My visualization of this is to look at my feet, then the direction I want to go and sidle one small step in that general direction. If you do this often enough, they add up! [Many people call this “baby steps” a term I loathe. It diminishes how hard it is, the cumulative effect of the steps (which can be huge) and insults my adulthood.]

To continue the example above, this could be applying to the school of your choice. Talking to the psych. department chair or sending a note, or . . ?

Achievements, Not Goals

Again, because I tend to beat myself up if I don’t do things nearly instantaneously, I had to find a way to celebrate my progress without just beating myself up because I still had not finished something.

Think about when you first started contemplating this goal, when you Herded Continents, if you did that. Then list the Next Steps you’ve taken. Give yourself a pat on the back for every step you’ve taken. You’ve done x and y and z. Again, to use the example above:

  1. Figured out you want to go into Psychology
  2. Researched different types of psychology and decided clinical research sounded the most interesting.
  3. Also researched schools and prominent people in the field. Am especially drawn to the work of Dr. X, teaching at University UX.
  4. Sent Dr. X a note asking about the program at University UX
  5. Received an answer which . . .
  6. Applied to University UX. [Or, decided that maybe clinical research isn’t for me and did more thinking and digging to find something that might be a better fit .]

What the outside world sees, as “concrete” steps are 4 and 6. But to get there took 4 other steps.

If you only judge what you’ve done by what others can see, you’re shorting yourself! Background work is often more extensive than the actual finished piece. If you think about a movie, you can easily see this is true. Behind the 3-4 hours on the screen are the weeks of work.

A movie may only have 10 characters, the actors. But there are all those people listed in the credits and frequently more that aren’t. Not to mention the years of learning and work everyone had to do to be able to do the work. If you only talk about the 3-4 hours you see, the finished product, you ignore much of the actual work.

Life is like this too. Herding Continents is frequently all the background work which others rarely see, Next Steps are often the more visible. Both count. That is what Achievements, Not Goals is about. Give yourself credit for everything you’ve done. This has a secondary benefit. If you have a tendency to berate yourself because you haven’t gotten to the end — yet — this is a celebration of what has been done, rather than only looking at what hasn’t.

Reframing is what I do when my approach doesn’t seem to work. When I was a girl and just starting to use make up, someone in one of my classes said, “She looks like a little girl playing with her mother’s makeup!” which was true. I hadn’t had make up to play with because I was raised by my Dad. I practiced a lot and got better. but I was still insecure about it because I’d never been taught what was right or wrong — or why.

My Reframing the issue was this: I was a theater makeup major for two years in college. This removed the insecurity. I made sure I got the training I felt I lacked. Reframing, coming at the problem another way, (taking workshops and majoring in the field for a while) eliminated the problem — my insecurity.

SF Tweak: The short science fiction I grew up reading was mostly written to John W. Campbell’s general pattern: hero has a problem, tries to fix it, that doesn’t work, tries again. That doesn’t work either. Depending on the author and/or the length of the piece the third try might work or only appear to, but if there was a fourth try, it almost always did.

Seems like an odd model for fixing problems, doesn’t it? But what I learned from this was that answers are not always obvious, if the first solution doesn’t work, modify it slightly farther away from the piece that didn’t work — and try again.

Turn it Around/Counter: When I have a persistent problem, that is I’m getting in my own way a lot, I find a way to turn it around or counter what I can’t change. Sounds wonderful and easy, right? Not!

At 19, I decided I had to do something different or I’d likely end up institutionalized for much of the rest of my life. I couldn’t fight the pain everyone expected me to just let go. I couldn’t let it go, and it never went away. So what to do? I decided that the Counter to the pain was joy (its opposite) and I would celebrate that and nurture it. (See Nurture Joy below.)

The trick to this is to find either something which stops the issue (like my Reframing example above) or if you can’t, find its positive flip side.

Nurture Joy At 19 I was hospitalized. And, when I faced that I was likely looking at years of being institutionalized if I didn’t learn better coping skills, this was one of the first techniques I developed. My problem was swamping pain which never changed. It seemed to be the pain from losing my mother at 3. Since I couldn’t apparently fix the problem, what could I do instead? The opposite of pain is joy. I decided I had to nurture my joy. I was stuck with a three year-old’s pain. I’d nurture the three year-old’s joy as well.

I had to find things which made me happy or happier anyway to balance or help manage that pain. I looked at it long and hard. I couldn’t rely on anyone else to do or say exactly the right thing all the time, so that was the first rule:

1. I had to do whatever it is by myself.

I had known alcoholics and addicts and it seemed to me the problem was that at some point, inevitably, you’re sober. Again, I wanted something which seemed like it would work all the time, or nearly so. Second rule:

2. No drugs or alcohol.

If I wanted to avoid being institutionalized, then I couldn’t do self-harm, harm others or creatures, or destroy property. Third rule:

3. No harm to anyone or anything.

For me, what fit the rules were certain places, books, music, and crafts.

When I was in college, I worked with a group of people, many of whom didn’t like me much (it was mutual). The job involved being there early in the morning. I discovered a certain route to work over a hill with grass, but no houses. There were birds and trees, other animals, still.. The days I used that route, it was easier to deal with the snarky comments at work. So I Nurtured My Joy I started leaving earlier so I could always travel that way, coming & going. It didn’t alter my difficult work situation, but it made it easier to deal with.

In the years since, I’ve discovered certain books, short stories, other locations which have this effect. I make sure I notice when I find them, so I can use them again and again. Also, because it’s a three year-old’s joy, I’ve been known to play jacks, color and do hopscotch and I won’t apologize for it or be embarrassed. I’m stuck with the three year-old, I damned well will take BOTH sides of her, not just the pain!

Life List is a technique I was given by a friend after I got out of that hospital at 19. I had believed that everyone knew better than I who/what I was. (This is a problem I’m told that many abused people have.) I distrusted my self-perception. My friend suggested that I make a list of things that were just mine, not from anyone else. At first this was just taste: side seam pockets, long skirts, and so on. But after a while I started finding that place inside me that hadn’t been touched by the abuse or by the years of accepting others’ opinions as truth.

Rage Engine: One thing about myself which always terrified me was the rage. I had a great vast pool of it. I knew I had homicidal rage, but I didn’t have any way to deal with it. I couldn’t really come up with its opposite and my other techniques didn’t work. I discovered that when I was being hurt and the rage came up that what I could do was use it as a goad to get myself to work towards health. There were many hours of “They’ll be sorry!” (The rage is a small child’s too.) But it worked. I’m not enraged at my family any more or even my abuser. I understand we’re all victims, but in different ways.

No Shoulds. This is consciously looking to see if the imposed standard is a goal or a requirement or mandate.

It’s easy to beat yourself up because you can’t do everything for everyone, or at least it’s easy for me. I fall into this over and over, if I’m not careful.

Give yourself a break and pay attention to whether it’s a goal someone has given you or a requirement! Requirements tend to be more concrete, like “100 pages covering the life and times of Jesse James, written for high schoolers.” Goals are usually more nebulous: “Write me something stupendous about Jesse James!” Well, yes, you can bust your ass and write the best piece you ever have, for the wrong audience. If you don’t know who the audience is, right? Learn to see the difference between a vague direction and the more concrete requirement. If you need more exacting information, ask for it.

As a technical writer, I wrote a piece for a client I worked on for months. I was proud of it. A technical person and I worked on it. We got down on paper and in one place the details of a lab which had never been documented before, except a little here and there. I was later told that the person paying for it didn’t want that documented, but another aspect of the lab. It would have been nice to be told before I delivered the finished product (and it had been accepted) that what I’d written wasn’t what he wanted! (He saw various pieces midstream and could have seen all of it at any time.)

Good Radio I have used this technique for years, but didn’t have a name for it. I stole the name and example from a friend. (Thanks Linda!) My friend was in college and living in a suite. Most of the women would wake up in the morning grumbling about coffee, classes, the day’s work, etc. One woman day after day greeted the others (including Linda) with “Good morning!” and Linda noticed her day was better after that.

I have done this for years, but not with words: I smile. When I am feeling really down, unless I’m crying, I make myself smile in passing at other people. Frequently, they smile back. It’s a technique with a payback. Their smiles make me feel better. There are potential problems with this, yes. I’ve had men think I was trying to pick them up. The most notable example was a guy in a car

I was on the way to the airport to pick up my husband. I’d been having a crappy day and I looked over and smiled at the car next to me. BIG mistake. He and I were going roughly the same direction. He pulled up next to me, did a BIG round wave and grin! I sort of faintly waved back. He reared his head back like an enraged Italianate opera singer and floored it out of the intersection. I’m more careful about where I smile these days!

New Direction

I have changed the idea I had about what I was going to do, next, for money and work.

I had thought I’d get retail job or a cleaning job and use the $ to pay down our debt. It’s a fine idea, but I didn’t figure on my elbow. My elbow is fine, mostly, except every now and then…when it hurts like the dickens when I do too much. I have no idea if I will ever again be able to do the heavy work which was my normal. Until I know I can do it without disabling myself, the prudent plan is to assume that I won’t.

Given that, what then? I need to make money. I need to get rid of stuff. I need some way to do both which doesn’t require lots of heavy lifting or physical work. Hmm.

What I came up with was a way to incorporate the things I already do, and have already started, into a comprehensive whole. The memoir, various other writings, themes throughout the writing, and other pieces I’ve started through the years. So, at some point in the not too distant future, this blog may change radically.

street signs

The first piece is something I intend to implement this month.  I’ve been held up because my editing work has suddenly gotten very busy. Since that’s the gig which pays the quickest right now, and there’s someone else who I’d be holding up if I didn’t do the work in a timely basis, it gets top priority.

But new content! Spring cleaning, that is, culling the less read/viewed parts and reorganization of this site’s content ahead!

Put Off

The lists are not going to be updated tomorrow. Not because it hasn’t been 2 weeks since I’ve done it or anything like that.

I fell yesterday on a hill covered with snow on top of ice. Fell hard. I am bruised and swollen. I am going to the doctor tomorrow. Hopefully, I didn’t do anything like crack my elbow, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I had. I fractured it, sigh. Has made everything go more slowly than it would have otherwise! Certainly it put paid to my ideas about getting the downstairs cleaned up, making Christmas bread, and clearing out the storage unit… I’m not supposed to lift > 2 lbs. Ack!

So, until further notice, I’m not writing blogs or updating “to do” lists!

Have a great holiday season, of whatever stripe you follow!

J

PURSUE Happiness

This is what I used as a reminder and still do, when appropriate:

Put Up, Remember, Shut Up, & Endure

When things got really bad, I’d use the “pursuit of happiness” idea, with this as an acronym, to get myself through. I’d remind myself to be greedy and/or fiercely vigilante, that I deserved happiness, it was something I’d wanted and worked for, for decades.

This is for dealing with others’ actions. Sometimes I had to grit my teeth, shut up, and deal. (Often my being able to “deal” wasn’t being able to deal with whatever was going on currently, but a focus on the future, the possibility that things would change at some undefined future point.) I expect this to be true for the rest of my life.

When people have called me “brave” or “strong” I’ve always said that’s not true.

It isn’t true — I am STUBBORN. I use PURSUE to remind myself that stubbornness, an unwillingness to accept that the world is F’d up beyond hope is my “superpower.” It’s my form of being passive aggressive. I put up, shut up and endured, while dreaming not of hurting the person harming me, not of a world where whatever wasn’t happening, but of a world where what was happening here/now was a distant and unimportant piece of long ago.

I encourage you to be stubborn, in appropriate ways. The world doesn’t owe you anything, others don’t owe you anything. But you owe yourself to try and make your future the best and brightest you can. That means not hurting others, not lashing out, not blaming, but getting on with your life with joy — when you can.

It’s what George Herbert said: “Living well is the best revenge.”

I’m just an unfortunate soul

. . . who’s been dealing with a lot o’ crapola for most of my life. Doesn’t make me an expert on what’s good for anyone other than me.

Yes, I’m opinionated. Yes, I’m stubborn. Yes, I hold grudges. No, I’m not a model for anyone to do anything at all. What I am is someone who’s been tackling the emotional crap for a long, long time. My job as a human as I see it, is to help other humans. If it seems that I might know something you want to know, ask. If I think I know something which might help you, I’ll offer it.

I almost always run from self-proclaimed experts. (Real experts just show you they know what they’re doing usually, no proclamations required.)  My Abuser was an expert you see, about everything and everyone and how they saw/affected *me*. Having come away from that experience after decades of work, I am leery, to say the least, when someone tells me they have the answer.

I have issues with people who want to tell me how to live my life, and over the decades, this has happened many times. It  usually starts with something like, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but you need to know it for your own good. . . .” Which is “code” for “I don’t want to get in trouble by admitting that I’m telling you how to live (I don’t know how to tell you this. . . .). And: If you just would do/feel/be what I say, then I’ll feel better and I’m egocentric enough to think there’s an easy, simple fix to what ails you (you need to know it for your own good).

People have told me: I’m feeling sorry for myself, to give it to God, to grow up, rubbed their fingers together (world’s smallest violin), get over it, just ignore it, you like being miserable, you want attention, yada yada . . . .

There are only a few real “answers” I’ve found: concrete and practical steps towards an answer almost always, for me, are better than large quantities of psychobabble. I have a friend who was very depressed as they’d been out of work for some time. I offered to and did revise their resume. They got a job, eventually. Was it my resume? I doubt it. This person was overqualified for work they were trying to get.  Did the resume help? I hope it did, but that isn’t why I offered it.

Where this person was is an absence of hope and belief that things might get better. A new resume was something concrete I could give to counter that. It took me some time, but that’s also what someone needs when they’re this depressed I’ve found. They need to know they’re valuable enough to someone to spend some time helping them. Saying, “I’m sorry you’re not happy,” isn’t very useful. Listening is useful and problem solving or potential problem solving is very useful.

So, my approach to my own and others’ problems is concrete and practical, by design, when I can. It’s something the mental health field seems to ignore almost entirely. But I know how useful it can be to have someone’s help. And instead of “feel good” words, I try and give in this way.

If you find this notion of mine helpful — that’s great!

J

An Adventure & Cooler Reviews

I was on my way up the stairs, decided I’d grab the sanding block. Got to the entry  — oh that spot just there– over my head, just.

Got wallboard dust in my eyes. Wound up doing an emergency visit to the eye doctor. This was annoying because I’ve been, in the weeks we’ve been working on the living room very diligent about standing to one side, not sanding things I’m looking up to, etc. Except this one time. The doc’s assistant says it’s that way for pros too, they see people who just don’t think about things like this, but if you do, it’s the one time you don’t take precautions. . . . So now I have safety glasses and I didn’t get much done yesterday on the home front; because I was gone!

I also paid the storage, tried to go to one of my fave thrift shops (in a basement, got flooded in our torrential rain the other night) and went to the two antique shops and a consignment shop. In front of the consignment shop was an old zinc wall ice box. If it had been < $100 I would have bought it, just to use as that California closet, eh? It wasn’t. I did call DH and rib him that I’d found our new fridge. (He wasn’t real amused.) It looked a bit like this, except no wood.

old wood ice box

 

No news on the refrigerator saga, except we tossed more produce on the compost heap last night when DH refreshed the ice. We have learned a few things: If you’re going to buy a styro cooler, buy one where the lid seats to the body, like this:

lifoam huskee cooler

We have one of this line (huskee), works best of the three lifoam chests we now own.

The one which works the least well has plastic clips which hold the lid down. Like this:

0415187a-eddf-472f-9794-9f213014c257_1.016f569ea019ba3d3ea7a50eb3409654

So, simpler is better. We have a thinner walled plain chest too. That isn’t quite as good as the “Huskee” like the first one shown, but works better than the one with the plastic clips.