Category Archives: Identity disturbance

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

 

 

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Robin Williams Lived

There by the grace of God go I….this could have been me, this is me. By posting this article, I reach out my hand to another person with mental illness, a brain disorder, trauma or depression. It’s time we make our families and neighbors talk to us. We won’t survive in silence.

Please take my hand and hold on,  stay with us. If you can, please stay.

We can share this together, the dark and the light, eventually circling the world with love and the new definition of who we are.

We will circle the world until we are whole and dancing again.

Sarah Griffith Lund

Robin Williams lived a life that brought laughter and joy to millions through his comedy and acting.

He died at his home from suicide on Monday, August 11, 2014, at the age 63. He battled a brain disease that included severe depression. Even with treatment, support from loved ones, and a successful career, mental illness still can be a deadly disease, especially when paired with addiction to drugs and alcohol.

I remember when I first learned that Robin Williams had a mental illness and I was encouraged by his openness. I loved his work in Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, and his role as Mork from Mork and Mindy. My favorite work of his was stand-up comedy.

He had a brilliant brain. And he had a brain with a disease. He richly blessed us with his life.

May all of us find ways today…

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Identity Disturbance…

Identity Disturbance is a relatively and equally fascinating new term to me and since I haven’t researched it to my satisfaction to be able to write about it, I thought I would begin here by re-blogging this article from The Bernard Bert-A Borderline Adventure.  This author did a great job of streamlining and breaking down the components of this condition.  Hoping this continues to shed some light on the many shades of mental illness and reduce the stigma attached.~~Thanks!  Little L~~

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Identity Disturbance, November14, 2013

Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self image or sense of self.

“Identity disturbance has many different aspects/features making it a very complexed issue even if it is a lone problem, but with the added factor of other BPD symptoms, it can be an overwhelming and complicated thing to understand and deal with!

In a 2000 study of patients with identity disturbances, Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, and Drew Westen identified four types of identity disturbance:

Role absorption (in which patients tend to define themselves in terms of a single role or cause),

Painful incoherence (a subjective sense of lack of coherence),

Inconsistency (in thought, feeling, and behavior),

Lack of commitment (e.g., to jobs or values).

A stable sense of identity means being able to see yourself as the same person in the past, present, and future.Identity is quite broad, and includes many aspects of the self and is probably made up of your beliefs, attitudes, abilities, history, ways of behaving, personality, temperament, knowledge, opinions, and roles.

A healthy identity includes the ability to choose an appropriate avenue for industry, achieve intimacy with another, and find a place in the larger society by having developed a sense of continuity over time; emotional commitment to a set of self-defining representations of self, role relationships,and core values and ideal self-standards;development or acceptance of a world view that gives life meaning; and some recognition of one’s place in the world by significant others.

“Who are you?”  – If asked this question, many people with BPD would be unable to answer and will only be able to reply with – “I don’t know”, “I’m not sure” or “It depends on who I’m with.”  This uncertinaty makes them feel empty and lost, confused and lonely.

Considering that identity is comprised of stability, continuity, understanding and acceptance of ones self over time, it is painfully obvious to see why this doesn’t happen in the self identity of someone with BPD.Nothing is stable, everything is changing and totally reactive; all that is left is a fragmented self left with a chronic feeling of inner emptiness caused by the inability to integrate into a coherent sense of self identity.

These unanticipated changes can range from relatively minor things, such as changes in appearance, to aspects central to the life of the individual, such as gender, sexuality and life goals.

People with Identity disturbance may experience:

Experiencing frequent changes in sense of self-worth.

Difficulty committing to roles and occupational choices.

Feeling conflicted or unsure about own gender or sexuality.

Feels as though he or she is a different person depending on who they are with.

Does not know who own self is.

Tends to feel empty inside – hollow, something ‘missing’ and a desire to fill the void.

Who they would like to be are unstable and ever changing.

Views & feelings of self change rapidly or unpredictably .

Has memories only available under certain states sometimes feels unreal.

Tends to feel like a “false self” whose social persona does not match inner experience.

Some of the noticeable changes for those who know the person with the identity issue are:

Lack of consistently invested goals, values, ideals, and relationships.

Their personality changes dramatically periodically.

They are “chameleon-like” depending on who they are with.

Values tend to change frequently / does not seem to have a constant set of core values.

Difficulty choosing and committing to an occupation.

Beliefs,actions and behaviors often seem contradictory.

Has trouble committing to long-term goals or aspirations.

As a way to ‘fit in’ they may:

Identity seems to revolve around a “cause” or shifting causes.Defines self in terms of a label that provides a sense of identity.Depend on relationship to a charismatic other. Tends to be in the orbit of a strong personality.People with BPD can be very “chameleon-like” in an effort to integrate.

The tendency to confuse one’s own attributes, feelings,and desires with those of another person, especially in intimate relationships, means that when a breakdown in a relationship occurs it can lead the person with BPD to fear a loss of personal identity.

The large inconsistencies in behavior,over time and across situations, lead to difficulty integrating multiple representations of self, a lack of a coherent life narrative or sense of continuity over time;and a lack of continuity of relationships that leaves significant parts of the BPD’s past “deposited” with people who are no longer part of the individuals life , and hence the loss of shared memories that help define the self over time.

One contributing factor to borderline identity disturbance is dissociation.  When we compartmentalize our experiences rather than integrating them into one meaningful whole, our sense of self fragments causing  us to feel lost, empty, and confused.

As this empty feeling and loss of inner self becomes more problematic and chronic (in some cases) a refuge world or fantasy self can at times take the stage by means of dissociation from the painful reality the BPD is forced to live in if they remain in their current state consciousness/awareness – making it similar but not the same as DID  – Key points of difference are that those who suffer DID (dissociative identity disorder) usually remain unaware of their other fragmented selves (referred to as alters) which are more concrete, unique individuals, accompanied by blacked out memories/loss of time, whereas BPD’s remain more coherent through their changes in persona.

Identity disturbances in individuals with BPD usually reflect efforts to preserve a sense of self-worth in the presence of interpersonal turmoil.

Because of the inconsistencies in what the person with BPD is doing and saying, non BPD’s may accuse them of “faking it” “Lying” or “putting it on” but this really isn’t the case, they just may not be aware of it and by saying these things to them may actually hinder their progress in changing thier behaviour by making them doubt themselves,their worth and their relationship with you and others.

Other issues that may arise are eating disorders, substance misuse or reckless/impulsive behaviours, (these may also a seperate issue for people with BPD regardless of whether or not the have identity disturbance); all which may feel like a form of control over their lives that they are lacking in other areas.

If you have the associated,emotional instability,impulsive behaviour and black and white thinking of BPD you may have difficulty forming a coherent sense of self because your internal experiences and outward actions are not consistent. In addition, many people with BPD come from chaotic or abusive backgrounds which may contribute to unstable sense of self. If you determine who you are based on others’ reactions to you, and those reactions have been unpredictable and/or scary, you have no framework for developing a strong sense of identity.

However, it’s not all bad, on the positive side of things not knowing who you are allows you to start from scratch, experiment, explore and to build yourself up into the person you want to be!

So how do we tackle this issue and find out who we are?

Treatment/therapy with a trained professional is the most highly recommended way to deal with these issues as they can help to guide you through the process of self discovery; but there are also things you can do yourself too.

One way is by observing your own emotions, thoughts, and feelings, in addition to others’ reactions to you.

Questions and reflection on things like:

How do I want to be seen by others?

What are the things most imporant to me?

Who do I admire and what positive traits do they possess that I respect and could incorperate into my own life?

What am I passionate about?

What talents/attributes do I have?

Another way is to try and work out which areas you would like/need to focus on by writing a list which includes:

Intimate

Relationships

Parenting

Family

Friendships/Socializing

Education/Personal

GrowthCareer

Recreation

Spirituality/Religion

Physical Health

Helping Others

Goals

Values

How would you like to act/react to each section? What can you do to make this possible?

These are the things that help to give us identity and allow us to form a more stable sense of self. Due to the complexity of the issue, the road to ‘finding yourself’ is a life long journey of discovery and one which may take you to some upexpected, intense and even pleasurable places emotionally!

No one can tell you who you are, they can discribe you but ultimatly it is up to you, you are the one who can make the changes, the one who can decide as to how you act and what you believe and stand for.  Who/whatever you decide to be/do, remember that you are worthy of love, to be treated with respect and to live a life that you want and deserve.

I hope that this helps explain a little of what and why we feel this way and, fingers crossed, we can start to finally build the jig-saw of ourselves that has been in so many pieces for so long! ~ Emma.”

The Bernard Bert

 


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