Category Archives: flashbacks

What If REcovery Is Not What You Need To Survive? The Role of DIScovery and UNcovering in Trauma and Abuse Healing

 

This re-blogged nugget of wisdom is from the awesome YA author-advocate G. Donald Cribbs. I take no credit for any of the following words or thoughts but do align with many of the thought provoking points he makes.  We have both had the opportunity to join forces with Bobbi L. Parish to be part of her first-ever Trauma Recovery Coaching Certification class. And oh yeah, check out his books and buy a few for someone you love!

 

*****Trigger Warning*****
What if recovery is the wrong word, the wrong approach, the wrong lens to view the treatment and healing process? This question brought me to at least attempt to process this thought all the way through and blog about it so you have the opportunity to join the conversation, which I hope you’ll do in the comment section below. Let’s begin.
First, let’s start with the question, what is recovery anyway?
The definition gives us a few inroads and insights to begin from, but it doesn’t really get at what recovery is, or hopes, or attempts to be for a person in the treatment and healing process. The first definition, “a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength,” implies that there is a right state of health or wellness, and there is a wrong state. This sounds very much like a victim of abuse must choose whether they are on one side or the other. Thus, a person who is in “recovery,” carries with himself or herself a stigma that they are not well, and further, that they are in fact in a wrong state of wellness. Victim blaming, anyone? Ouch. That one stings a bit.
The second definition, “the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost,” suggests that a trauma that has occurred has somehow robbed the victim of his or her innocence, and he or she should strive to “get back,” what is rightfully his or hers to own. The heart or intent of this sentiment is at first a nice thought: surely, every child has a right to retain his or her innocence, right?
We have a right to be a child when we are children, and not be thrust into the very adult world of child sexual abuse, where our childhoods are essentially robbed from us, right? Every survivor of child sexual abuse knows this just isn’t true. We know what that horror feels like every day that follows from the moment our sexual abuse first began. But the truth is: the world isn’t a safe place where children retain their right to be innocent and free from the weight of being thrust forward into adulthood. We don’t all chase butterflies, or toss copious amounts of glitter on things, or frolic with unicorns. So the idea of regaining something I never had seems ludicrous to me. I never had that fantasy or fairytale childhood. It didn’t exist for me. Instead, I found myself forced to make the very adult choice to take the bullet and comply with my abuser’s sexual demands in order to spare my siblings from this horror, not realizing the world isn’t fair, and my abuser had no intention of holding up his end of the bargain. I cannot regain what I never had. Sure, I was robbed. So for me, that happened when I was only four years old. As I approach my own treatment and healing from child sexual abuse, I am no longer certain recovery is the right approach. Another way to state this is recovery may not be the right word.

So where does that leave us? It’s such a common feeling for a survivor to not fit in with “normal” people. We are outsiders. We don’t belong. We are the quintessential square peg trying to fit into a round hole. We just don’t. Fit, that is.

For a survivor of child sexual abuse, recovery just isn’t a good fit. For us, we need something that meets our unique healing and treatment needs. This led me to the following thought:

What if REcovery was more like DIScovery and UNcovering our TRUE SELVES?

Give that a minute to soak in. Feeling okay? Are you ready to move forward? It might take a few moments for you to fully absorb what I’m saying here. Let me try another way: I’m going to break each of these down a bit further to help clarify:

REcovery is supposed to equal getting back what was taken from you. This seems legitimate as long as you had something prior to your abuse that was taken, apart from your right to live an abuse-free life, that you can “RE,” or RE-COVER, or get back.

 
What if you could, instead, DIScover, or not focus on getting something that was lost or stolen back in the first place? What if, instead, you could choose to do what YOU want to do with the cover. For me, “cover” represents the aspect of abuse that is hidden or covered up.
 
When you work to regain yourself, you pull the covers off, and reveal the secret. This step can be very triggering, and should not be attempted without the help and support necessary to fully go through this process. If you are considering this step, don’t do it alone. Make sure you are ready, and you have professional support with a licensed professional, preferably one who is trauma-informed, and can attend to your unique therapeutic needs.
 
Before I can get to the final step in the “cover” process, I need to veer off from the main topic for a bit. You see, our abuser took all his or her responsibility for the abuse they inflicted on us, and placed the blame entirely on our shoulders. We tried to resist this, but over time, they wore us down. Eventually, we succumbed to their repeated statements (gas lighting) and treatment. They told us we were nothing, we were worthless, it was our fault. Then, they treated us as if we were nothing, as if we were worthless, and as if it was actually our fault.
 
To truly understand the process that took me from REcovery to DIScovery to UNcovering the TRUE SELF, check out “The Lying Triad and it’s Dark Guard,” by Bobbi L. Parish, MA on YouTube:

 

This brings me to the UNcover part: that the true task is to 1: Uncover the secret of the abuse, rip the cover off of the secret, and expose it for what it is. By taking the lie off of ourselves, we reveal what has been hidden all along: the lie our abuser gave to us, (that you are broken, deserving of your abuse, and essentially the Lying Triad and the Dark Guard Bobbi was talking about,) in order to avoid facing any consequences for abusing us, is finally given back to our abuser, and our TRUE SELF is seen for the first time. 2: The second task is to seek to fully know and embrace the TRUE SELF and allow the TRUE SELF to regain his or her power back.
 
If we as survivors are ever to regain anything, it is the truth of our TRUE SELVES. And this very important part of our healing journey can only be achieved if we move from REcovery to DIScovery and eventually arrive at UNcovering what has been hidden by our abuse: our TRUE SELVES.
 
If you’ve read this entire blog post, from the bottom of my heart to the tips of my toes and the top of my head, I thank you. I appreciate you hearing me out. You may not agree with anything I’ve said here. You might agree with some parts of it, or all of it. I invite you to join the conversation. Sound off in the comments below and let me know what this brought up for you, how you connect or disconnect from this concept about the recovery process. Healing from trauma and abuse have unique aspects that are not the same as other treatment and healing processes.
 
It is my hope that this can be the beginning of a conversation about those needs for true recovery and healing to happen in the survivor community. If you have an idea for a blog post in response to this one, I hope you’ll post a link in the comments below and I look forward to reading your reactions, comments, and posts.
 
I will close with a checklist for recovery, “Guiding Principles of Recovery”:
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Grieving out loud…

For those of you that can’t handle my extreme and unbridled rage right now, let this serve as a TRIGGER WARNING.  And here is a picture of a bunny to give you the opportunity to get the heck out of here.

Hey, I'm a hot mess, time to scramble...

Hey, I’m a hot mess, time to scramble…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the rant begin.  This moment, right now, I’m furious.  I’ve snapped with grief and I’m tired and exhausted and insulted and unwilling to hold it in any longer. The music is on full blast with Janis Joplin screaming I’ll say come on, come on, come on, come on and take it!
Take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby.
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now

I’ve cleaned and cried and smoked cigarettes as I look at my home that I’ve finally decided has to be divided.  How the hell did I get here?  Did I not try hard enough?  Did I not bleed enough for this relationship?  When did my beloved home turn into a cold gilded cage?  Where are my plants going to live now?  The wisteria planted in the early days of love that is deeply intertwined among the trellis and surrounding trees, how do I tell it to unwind, that there is no place for it here now?

I’m full of rage as I look at the items deciding what’s mine and what’s his.  I hate his socks right now.  They are everywhere, haunting me from the place where they were discarded at the foot of the couch for an intimate moment.  His socks are mocking me.  I still love, he doesn’t.

I’m seething at any person, at any time, for any reason has questioned my sanity.  My brain, while different and reacting unlike normal people (whoever the fuck they are) is not crazy.  It was changed.  It was changed as a child when my father and my uncles for numerous years raped the children in my family.  They forever and permanently changed the way that I see the world and severely limited my ability to trust.  But they never stole my ability to love because that I do fiercely, deeply and with loyalty to a fault. But back to crazy, I’m not.  And I’m fucking tired of folks too ignorant and lazy to become informed before slicing me and other survivors open with insane stupid comments and blatant arrogance that you know better.  You don’t.

And by the way, disassociation is a thing. A real fucking thing.  It happens because its the wondrous coping mechanism of the human under attack.  When the pain becomes too traumatic, too difficult, too much for tiny little children’s minds to process, it splits.  Bam, just like that.  You go somewhere else, someplace safer than the place you are in where your uncle is raping you at gunpoint. And guess what, when you’re gone, you’re gone.  And to the major asshole who said that my disassociative episodes were a ploy for attention, well simply put, go fuck yourself.  You speak with ignorance and venom.  Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I try and try and then I fucking try some more to be the best, intact, whole person I can be given my history.  To say anything less than that of me is cruel and unforgivable.

No, I’m not done yet, there’s more. I’m enraged at any person, for any reason who turns a blind eye to pain.  This happens in so many ways; through denial of wanting to acknowledge a person’s pain, therefore maybe having to deal with it OR being frustrated that said person struggles a lot so you offer a platitude in order to get the hell away from this person you’ve judged as insane.  Again, look at the above bunny and leave me the hell alone.  You don’t have to hurt me just to get a safe distance away.  I get it, of all people I understand that this is tough fucking shit and not everyone has the stomach for it.  BUT…there’s always the option of offering love and leaving anyway.  Bottom line, I’m left here to deal with this confusing mess of neurons on a daily basis and it’s no walk in the park. It takes hourly awareness and diligent practice to stay centered and even heal from these traumas.  Don’t add to them.  And especially don’t pretend it’s in the name of love.  I’m calling bullshit on that one.

While I’m ranting, I may as well cuss the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture drugs to make lots of money that are prescribed by asshole doctors.  My anti-depressants are giving me such incredible suicide ideation that the ideation is now taking form and making a plan.  And getting off this shit is a bitch.  Again, another mind-bending bitch to contend with.  And yes, suicide ideation and self harm is a real thing too.  It’s not just words that we in a secret meeting of the I’ve-been-molested club got together and invented.  These are real psychological phenomena.  Google it, you’ll see.  We don’t just get up in the morning, feed the dogs, have a cup of coffee and say “I think I’ll go slice on myself today and maybe for fun, I’ll go sit in the garage with the car running and see how fast I’ll puff up from carbon monoxide”.   But seriously, people talk to us as if we do this self-loathing, self-harming shit for attention.  Really?  Do you really believe that I’d prefer that method of coping to say…. working at the dog rescue shelter or taking some flowers to the old ladies at the nursing home?  If you believe that, you need a quick reality check and a good therapist.

The rant winds down here.  Be kind, everyone is struggling.  If you don’t know how to help and you want to, ask.  It’s that simple.  Is there anything I can do to help?  If you don’t care or are just socially awkward, flash a peace sign, say Kumbaya my Lord or offer a hug.  If you don’t have more, that’s fine but if you think you can fake concern, use condescension or just toss a crappy cliche’ toward me, you’re wrong.  Because here’s the other thing that develops in survivors as we are fending off our nasty fathers and uncles, we became ultra-sensitive.  I’m talking over-the-top, can practically read-your-feelings-without-you-knowing-it, living and floating in an emotional bizarre dimension that few know anything about.  We know when you’re lying and we know when you’re trying to be cruel.

End of rant.  For those who stuck around to the end, well, thanks.  You’re tougher than most.  For those who didn’t stay, block me on FB and have a good life. Kumbaya.

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10 Tips for Understanding Someone with PTSD

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Reblogged from Heal My PTSD by Michele Rosenthal.

 

PTSD makes communication difficult. Many survivors can’t find the words to express what they’re feeling. Even when they do, it’s very normal for them not to be comfortable sharing their experience. Elements of shame, fear, anger, guilt and grief often get in the way of a calm, focused discussion.

Friends and family (and anyone else who is not the source of the PTSD but is standing by while someone attempts to heal) need something that translates PTSD language. Armed with knowledge, insight and awareness you’ll have an easier time knowing how to react, respond and relate to your PTSD loved one during the healing process. The more you appreciate things from the PTSD perspective the more helpful and supportive you can be. Now is the time for empathy, compassion and patience.

The list below will give you an overview of things to understand. For more in-depth information – plus content specifically geared for you, the caregiver – check out the free archives of our radio show, CHANGING DIRECTION, which features professionals and experts weighing in on what you need to know about PTSD and your role.

#1 – Knowledge is power. Understanding the process of a triggering event, the psychic reaction to trauma, the warning signs and symptoms of PTSD, and available treatment options for PTSD allows you to help recognize, support and guide your PTSD loved one toward diagnosis, treatment and healing.
We need you to be clearheaded, pulled together and informed.

#2 – Trauma changes us. After trauma we want to believe —as do you—that life can return to the way it was; that we can continue as who we were. This is not how it works. Trauma leaves a huge and indelible impact on the soul. It is not possible to endure trauma and not experience a psychic shift.
Expect us to be changed. Accept our need to evolve. Support us on this journey.

#3 – PTSD hijacks our identity. One of the largest problems with PTSD is that it takes over our entire view of ourselves. We no longer see clearly. We no longer see the world as we experienced it before trauma. Now every moment is dangerous, unpredictable and threatening. Gently remind us and offer opportunities to engage in an identity outside of trauma and PTSD.

#4 – We are no longer grounded in our true selves. In light of trauma our real selves retreat and a coping self emerges to keep us safe. Believe in us; our true selves still exist, even if they are momentarily buried.

#5 – We cannot help how we behave. Since we are operating on a sort of autopilot we are not always in control. PTSD is an exaggerated state of survival mode. We experience emotions that frighten and overwhelm us. We act out accordingly in defense of those feelings we cannot control.
Be patient with us; we often cannot stop the anger, tears or other disruptive behaviors that are so difficult for you to endure.

#6 – We cannot be logical. Since our perspective is driven by fear we don’t always think straight, nor do we always accept the advice of those who do. Keep reaching out, even when your words don’t seem to reach us. You never know when we will think of something you said and it will comfort, guide, soothe or inspire us.

#7 – We cannot just ‘get over it’. From the outside it’s easy to imagine a certain amount of time passes and memories fade and trauma gets relegated to the history of a life. Unfortunately, with PTSD nothing fades. Our bodies will not let us forget. Because of surging chemicals that reinforce every memory, we cannot walk away from the past anymore than you can walk away from us.
Honor our struggle to make peace with events. Do not rush us. Trying to speed our recovery will only make us cling to it more.

#8 – We’re not in denial—we’re coping! It takes a tremendous effort to live with PTSD. Even if we don’t admit it, we know there’s something wrong. When you approach us and we deny there’s a problem that’s really code for, “I’m doing the best I can.” Taking the actions you suggest would require too much energy, dividing focus from what is holding us together. Sometimes, simply getting up and continuing our daily routine is the biggest step toward recovery we make.
Alleviate our stress by giving us a safe space in which we can find support.

#9 – We do not hate you. Contrary to the ways we might behave when you intervene, somewhere inside we do know that you are not the source of the problem. Unfortunately, in the moment we may use your face as PTSD’s image. Since we cannot directly address our PTSD issues sometimes it’s easier to address you. Continue to approach us. We need you to!

#10 – Your presence matters. PTSD creates a great sense of isolation. In our post-traumatic state, it makes a difference to know that there are people who will stand by us. It matters that although we lash out, don’t respond and are not ourselves, you are still there, no matter what.

Don’t give up, we’re doing our best.

What have you experienced that you feel should be added to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments…. 

Michele Rosenthal is a PTSD survivor, author, speaker and Post-Trauma Coach. She is the author of Before the World Intruded:Conquering the Past and Creating the Future and Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices for Reclaiming Your Identity

 

 


Why Too Many Flashbacks Might Be a Warning of Deeper Story Problems

I just enjoyed the heck out of this post.

It’s part stand-up comedy, enough vulnerability to make Brene Brown proud and teeming with great points about flashbacks.

Survivors live in the world of flashbacks. We experience them often in our day-to-day, hour-to-hour lives until our heads hit the pillow and then they often dominate our unconscious dream time.

What appeals to me here is that it gives us an element of control to our otherwise uncontrollable lives. Many of us owe our past a debt of gratitude for making us a fierce, strong warriors of the present. We’ve endured some major shit and can often yawn in the face of adversity as adults. But this gives us the tools to pull the meat of those experiences off the bone and finally end that pointless blabbering of our flashbacks.

Kudos to Kristen Lamb for this gem.
http://authorkristenlamb.com

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi. Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

This week we have been discussing flashbacks. What are they? Why do readers, agents, editors generally want to stab them in the face? Is it truly a flashback or is the writer employing an unorthodox plotting structure (The Green Mile or The English Patient)? Shifting time IS a legitimate literary device, but like ALL literary devices, it has strengths and weaknesses.

Theme is wonderful. But if we lay it on too thick, we can turn off readers because our story comes across as preachy or lecturing. Symbolism? Love it! But overdo this and readers can get irritated. Can the drapes JUST BE BLUE? Deus ex machina IS a legitimate literary device. Feel free to use it. I wouldn’t recommend it, but knock yourself out.

As I like to say, Have fun storming the castle! *waves and grins*

Deus…

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