Category Archives: self-interest

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 was 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 the  recreating the healing route. Twenty months longer on this 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 successfully and how fast. train image from target

My adult self just has to sit back and 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, and all I can do is wait until it stops.

trolley

 

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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!

My Friends

are people I admire, not surprisingly. That said, it occurred to me tonight that my friends, as diverse as they are: sf writers, bibliophiles, computer geeks, teachers, artists, antique/vintage retailers — all have at least one thing in common.

They all feel strongly about what they believe. Whether I agree with them, or not. Whether I share the perspective/history which got them there, or not, we share that. We’re passionate about our beliefs.

I’m not only talking about religion, although that’s included, but also issues related to the flow of history, societies, mankind’s future, etc. I think to be my friend requires the commitment to your own beliefs as well as the manners to help me find our common ground, if we disagree.

When the conversation starts “I’m right; you’re wrong.” It’s a pretty short trip to good bye for me.

That statement echoes abuse, right? Abusers all start with the notion that THEY are right.

I don’t require agreement, but tolerance — acceptance of differing opinions as having value, even when not shared. I don’t need you to agree with me, but I do need real manners: not couching your “acceptance” in such a way that is really isn’t. That’s what most of the people of my old life do — say the right words, in the wrong ways. The intellectuals sneer; the monied hold themselves superior. Me? I walk away.

Not surprisingly, I have no tolerance or patience for the underlying attitude which creates abuse in my life now. Yes, that makes me just as bad. I know it; I admit it. And no, I won’t change it. No matter who it might be, they aren’t worth the trip through hell that being around an abusive person, again, would bring.

There are relationships I mourn since I walked away. I’m sure there will be more still. I have this gut belief that all people are valuable, if you just know how to look. All people have a worthwhile story. All people.

Some people I can’t get away from my damnable past when they’re in my life, so I’ve removed them. It doesn’t mean I don’t love or care for them; it means I love me more, as I should.


I wrote this originally 4/4/2018, and I have no idea why I didn’t publish it? Should have!

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!

Blame it on Hugh Jackman

Might as well, right?

I am anxious to see The Greatest Showman, I have it on preorder at itunes as I missed it hereabouts. This means that once or twice a week I go to youtube and look to see if there’s anything new there about the movie. I think I’ve watched every Greatest Showman related piece and read about the ticket numbers, etc. at least twice.

Okay. I’m a fan. Not necessary of movies or Hugh Jackman, but I’m that type of person. I was a sf book dealer for 20 years, right? And looking for something new while you wait for a movie to show up isn’t being obnoxious? I haven’t written 1,000 emails or tried to get all my friends to see the movie or, or, or… believe me, after 20 years of being an sf book dealer, I saw fandom at its best — and worst.

So, what am I blaming the talented Mr. Jackman for? Those songs. He didn’t write them. I know. It isn’t that. It’s what those songs have done.

I’d decided to kill the memoir, remember? After 10+ years of working on the thing, picking my wounds open again and again – to try and make it both true to my story AND entertaining without turning it into a novel was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it. I’d work on the memoir until I’d start to cry and couldn’t stop. Or, another way: it’s the roadmap to my personal hell. Whether the writing is any good. Even if the story, as such, falls apart and it’s a dead bore. It is STILL, for me, the map to and through my particular hell.

I was going to let it die. I’m over 60. I fought that battle for 50+ years, so why do I need to bleed in public? I don’t.

Except those stupid songs won’t get out of my head. And they’ve got me believing, again, that maybe I can actually do the job: tell the story and make it entertaining, or at least not a dead bore. Maybe. Or, that someone might actually be interested. Maybe.

And so, today, and other days, I’ve been going down that particular path to hell. Again.

And THAT I blame Mr. Jackman for. It may not be a bad thing, but it sure isn’t easy. I keep hoping the movie will show up on itunes so I can just WATCH the silly thing and maybe, just maybe, I can dig up the grave and bury the memoir, for good this time.

Or, I suppose the movie could just make this much worse and I’ll have to actually FINISH the stupid thing and let it go into the world.

I’ll get flamed, I know. I’ll get (again) told I’m a wimp. (I know.) I’ll get told, one more time — or several — that I should just GET OVER IT or GIVE IT TO GOD!

Yes, I know.

 

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

Becoming OCD: Symptoms

I have many indicators that I am slipping to the other side:

  1. I’m scraping off the “dirty” part of the soap bar and using that when I wash my hands.
  2. I’m thinking that scissors and other tools with dark handles save cleaning fingerprints from them.
  3. When I toss something, almost anything, I think, “One less piece of clutter . . . “
  4. I started wrapping the cord to the upright vac with crossed loops. Fewer loops, much neater!
  5. Our TP holder has room for a 2nd roll behind. I stopped putting the 2nd roll hole forward and instead put it the same way as the roll we’re using… less visual clutter.
  6. I’ve been cataloging, pricing, and tagging items before I leave home. No more wondering if I’d paid $2 for something or $4? I know the mark-up is adequate, and since I know my pricing schema, I know enough when I start mark downs what I likely paid for the item.  $3 is my bottom price, if I can’t sell something for $3 in a week, it’s not worth bothering with. That is the hard-won knowledge of years of retailing and my old inclination to keep things. I’m getting ruthless!
  7. Becoming OCD is catching, did you know? DH is reorganizing his workshop. He’s using a Space Budget (although he doesn’t call it that).
  8. I’ve decided that I love contractions, abbreviations, ampersands & question marks: shorter and tidier writing. (I really am OCD! Tidy writing??? )

Any minute now, I will become that monster: the woman who won’t go outside because her hair gets messed, who wipes the table whenever anyone lifts a cup from it!

If you know me IRL, please TELL me if when I go too far. Please! How do you avoid falling off a cliff?