Tag: fear

Getting stuck on a loop

I’m gradually coming to notice when I re-experience feelings associated to long past experiences of abuse. I’ve described this as emotional flashbacks. They can include re-experiencing physical sensations of events, but also and often more overwhelmingly, emotional experiences. This often leads to certain thoughts being triggered and impulsive, uncontrollable actions that aren’t necessarily helpful for me or others. (I say uncontrollable. I must still take responsibility for them though I do not yet manage successfully control them and the impact the feelings have on me.)

I’m also noticing that I re-experience feelings and thoughts associated to more recent events; events which are not nearly as damaging as the abuse and trauma I experienced as a child. Sometimes, I can identify that the event triggered a deeper memory, which to some extent explains my reaction. But frequently, I can’t identify this. It is like feeling stuck on a loop. It causes me a lot of guilt and anger at myself. I feel I am being childish and self-centred because I should just get over it. I feel guilty, especially when it leads me to think over and over a time when somebody upset or hurt me, because I ought to be forgiving them. If I am repeatedly thinking of the hurt and wrong caused to me, I am holding it against them, not truly forgiving and I am keeping a barrier between them and me. God forgives us fully and it is as though our offences are blotted out. When we receive his forgiveness, we are washed “whiter than snow” and He does not look any more on our transgressions. Who am I to think I’m so important that things that hurt me play over and over in my mind? I’m reminded of someone close to me telling me “nobody else is responsible for making you feel better” “I’m going to be completely straight with you and I don’t have to think about what you’re feeling”. Am I making other people responsible for my feelings by my inability to move on? Am I making everything about me? I really fear that.

An example of such an event and consequentially getting “stuck in a loop” occurred this weekend. It’s a fairly low intensity example. Yesterday, I was in the street when I was stopped by a charity fundraiser – there are many of these people in shopping streets in my city, stopping people and wanting to take their personal details and sign them up to make regular donations. This person both irritated and intimidated me immediately. I watched him approach a lady who was a little way in front of me and follow her up the street. He then came up to me, coming uncomfortably close and half-blocking my path. I think this kind of approach is particularly intimidating to me since I’m disabled, unsteady on my feet and walk with a stick (and in my mind it is insensitive and inappropriate to approach in this way someone who you do not know, especially someone who is clearly physically vulnerable). He started to ask me questions and I simply replied “no thank you,” and carried on walking as best I could. I am in no position to give money at the moment and do not want to be signed up to anything, and think the best approach is to firmly but politely refuse to engage with this kind of approach. He then continued to follow me up the street, very close, muttering behind me sarcastically “oh, well that’s just charming” and so on. I was at once frightened and suddenly angry. I turned round and by no means shouting, but firmly, told him “Would you please stop following me. I am not obliged to give you my details. I do not want you to follow me.” “Well that’s incredibly [*&$% expletive deleted] rude of you” he retorted. I told him this was highly inappropriate and asked for the details of the organisation he was working for as I would be making a complaint. Fortunately, I was able to get sight of the ID badge he was wearing as he told me “Good, I hope that you do, because you’re incredibly unpleasant!” and noted the details.

Now, this event should probably no longer be in my mind. I was not hurt. I was probably not in any danger despite his intimidating and verbally aggressive behaviour. Likely as not I will never see him again. I have never heard of the organisation he was working for and have no dealings with them. It was nasty but probably not personally directed at me. It is an unpleasant way for anyone to behave, and all the more inappropriate on the part of someone representing a charity. I felt strongly about that. But it isn’t really an important event. The damage caused to me wasn’t major or worth thinking about (beyond that tomorrow I may make a complaint to the charity as I don’t think he should carry on representing them so poorly or treating other passers-by in the way he treated me and the lady in front of me).

The intensity of the fear and anger I felt at the time was much more than it should have been. It flicked me to come very close to an outburst of upset and anger that wouldn’t have helped anyone. I was able to stop that by the grace of God. I went some way into dissociating, hurting, being out of it but thoughts spiralling in a way too much to catch, being on the edge of going into a nearby shop and impulsively spending, which is one of the responses I’m most at risk of when I’m suddenly angry or upset. Again, I was able to stop myself. Mixed into this was the thought, what if someone was watching me, what would they think of what I had done? Was it my fault and was I wrong? I went home. I felt very low and was starting to shut down and everything I’d planned to do that evening was too much. I’m ashamed to admit this.

I’m more worried right now though, that instead of this whole minor incident now being over, it has come back on this loop in my mind today, several times. My mind has compulsively played over the incident many times, very vividly, but until this has been going on for a period of time, I’ve been unable to acknowledge what’s happening, whilst also being detached from what’s occurring in the present (for instance, no longer hearing the TV that was on, no longer doing the task I was doing). The way my mind has been playing this experience over has been similar to the way obsessional OCD thoughts about bad things I’ve done or am going to do, take hold of my mind. All the emotions I experienced at the time of the incident have come back again. With each obsessional repetition in this loop, my doubt of myself and my own actions in the situation increases, so that I am more convinced that I did wrong, that it must have been my fault, that people were watching me and now know how nasty I am.

Why am I unable to move on from even such an unimportant event? Why are my feelings so extreme at the time and no lower some time after? Why am I so unable to limit the impact of the emotion and the memory of the emotion and event? Does it in some way I do not yet understand, send me back to memory of a more damaging experience? That would give some explanation at least. Or is my experience just totally out of proportion, making me self-centred, self-obsessed, childish?

This event wasn’t particularly emotive in comparison to events that take place with people I know and care about. When upsetting interactions with friends and family get stuck on a loop in this way, it can completely affect and impede my future interactions with them and feelings towards them. I feel this is all my fault through my faulty reactions, emotions and thinking. Ultimately I end up self-punishing and self-harming as the only possible escape and a desperate attempt to punish myself enough for my failure to be an adult and my failure to forgive.

Writing this, it occurs to me that this feeling of being stuck in a loop does not only apply to things done against me. It applies equally to hurt I have caused or fear I have caused others, and other mistakes I have made. Wrong things and stupid things I have done play over and over in my head. The intense feelings of guilt, shame, horror, pain, etc, play over in my head and diminish little in intensity over the years. I regularly have vivid memories of, for example, things said during an argument with my dad and step-mum 3 years ago, or something wrong I did in my work that I worried endangered a patient 5 years ago, a time I stepped out of line with something I said to my boss in a meeting 8 or more years ago… I re-experience all the feelings and they can really shake me. I become afraid of any situations similar to those in which these events occurred, maybe because I believe I’ll do the same wrong again.

Again I wonder if all the feelings I have, whether it be a situation of wrong done by me to others, or a situation of wrong done by others to me and consequential hurt, in some way are (a lesser intensity of) feelings that were overwhelming and terrifying during the years of my abuse.

I also know that in personality disorders, emotions usually reach a higher intensity more quickly, and stay at the higher intensity for longer, than in people without personality disorder. I guess that explains to some extent why the feeling hangs around for longer, though not the vivid mental replaying of inconsequential events.

I desperately want an answer and I think I’ll talk about this in my 1:1 therapy tomorrow.

***

I wonder have you had similar experiences? Have you felt stuck on a loop remembering experiences or having thoughts and emotions you want to let go, but can’t?

Ginny xxx

Fear, tears, pain, joy, guilt, thankful, anger, strength, shaken…

The emotions are crashing over me now. They stayed temporarily a little distant in the activity of yesterday afternoon and today. Now the activity has stopped. The rush of mixed experiences of the past week is temporarily still. I am physically utterly exhausted, shaky and hurting and it’s all I can do to get across the room. Sitting I feel like I’m being crushed. I’m cold and my chest aches deeply. I’m curled up in my dressing gown and blanket, needing all the comfort and grounding I can get. I feel childish and guilty for saying that, because I have no right to – what have I been through that’s so bad? – but it is true.

There’s so much to take in right now.

Intense waves of scary emotions jolted me through the week, especially fear and anxiety I cannot attribute to a logical cause that was there at the time. On reflection perhaps it was an emotional flashback to earlier times and threats, both distant (childhood) and more recent.

The hallucinations strengthened – auditory, visual, sensory – and scared me more.

My escape imaginary world was closer than ever and its pull stronger than ever.

Anger is raging and rising uncontrollably in me against my stepmother. All at once I feel huge guilt, fear, hurt, rage, the need to express what I feel and the impossibility and danger of ever actually doing so.

It’s feeding anger against my dad again; then against both of them together.

More memories of specific painful derogatory, demeaning, restricting, humiliating things my abuser did have been coming to the fore, along with memories of how her abusive power was perpetuated, and then in turn, more thoughts of how it feels – and this is so scary to write – similar patterns still repeat in my family. I need to get away from that.

It was goodbye to a friend in my therapy group for whom I care very very much. I’m still crying for her.

Another member of my therapy group to whom I also feel a particular connection, has suffered an unimaginable avalanche of hurts, struggles and illnesses. Now, he has been diagnosed with cancer which is likely to be late stage. The end of his life could be close. I’m crying for him.

Today was a special day. I had a little coffee morning to fundraise for Macmillan Cancer Support (part of the “World’s Biggest Coffee Morning” Macmillan run nationally). It is the first time I have ever done an event like this at home (following on from the courage I gained from having had some close friends over for my birthday earlier in the year). My anxiety was huge. I put as much as I could into the preparations. Good things happened today. My guests’ care and kindness was wonderful. This fills me up with gratitude.

So here I am now, afterwards, with this whole mix of soaring emotions. All of them I need to face and there is a lot of work for me to do. My individual therapy is tomorrow and I’m so glad. When the emotions are too much, every so often, I’m going to try to return to the thankfulness for today and remember everyone’s enjoyment and generosity. Somehow, this just a little restorative.

Ginny xxx

As long as we have HOPE

As long as we have HOPE

katniss prim hands

“Fear does not work as long as they have hope, and Katniss Everdeen is giving them hope.” – President Snow, in The Hunger Games – Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Of all possible characters in the Hunger Games trilogy, I did not expect to be quoting President Snow! However, I think Suzanne Collins has voiced a truth here that we can hold on to.

prim volunteer hunger games

Fear does not work as long as you have hope. I’m learning this. I’ve been thinking on it for a few days and it’s a message particularly for today. There has been another terrorist attack in Europe, a lorry driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice in France, killing over 80 people. Waking up to learn this, I felt fear, grief, sadness, helplessness, unable to know what to do, seeing nothing I can do to make the hurt and tragedy better for everyone suffering in this. I can’t imagine how afraid everyone in Nice is.

Fear does not work as long as you have hope. Watching the news there seem to be fewer safe places, nowhere out of reach of the hurt and damage that comes from anger, terrorism and extremism. It comes closer to home both in these violent acts and in the people fleeing even further violence as refugees.

Terrorism is designed to take away hope. I cannot do anything to directly practically change what happened in Nice, or at the Bataclan, or Baghdad, or Turkey. But – as long as we have hope. Hope can start very small and very close to home. I can choose to carry out every little action, with care and attention and love. I can choose thankfulness in my day to day life. I can choose to replace an angry response with a questioning one or a loving one. I can’t get back the lives the terrorists have taken. I can kneel and pray with the grieving. Nothing takes away the suffering for those who have lost lives and lost loved ones, but in choosing to place HOPE in God, in love, in goodness, in every moment being an opportunity for us to be thankful and love, I can stop the terrorists also taking over my heart with the fear and hurt and hate they spread. Every time such frightening and destructive things happen, I can try to be a little more conscious of my choice to hold onto hope and my choice to love others around me. And I have to say – Tammi Kale, you inspired me to take this approach in a comment you left on one of my earlier posts. So a big big THANK YOU to you Tammi.

The same applies to the path of recovering from the fear placed in me by my abuser.  What has happened is terrible and letting her have my heart would be worse – by me becoming fear, hurt, rage, or even cold and numb and unable to bring any fruit. This will be a very long journey, I know, because her grip on my heart and my memories is still very great. Strongest is the deeply planted doubt that it was my fault, that nobody would ever believe a child could be so bad but it was all because of me really, and the doubt that pulls me apart when I dare to speak and the voices that taunt me and scream at me and tell me I’m a fake and a liar and ugly and disgusting. I couldn’t have any hope when I started my treatment. I really needed someone to hold it for me. Gradually, I am learning to hold onto hope for myself. I am learning that I can act in love. I am learning that carrying hurt, pain, need, crying, does not make me evil. I am learning that admitting these feelings does not make me dangerous. I am learning that I am not the feelings.

I am learning to believe in a God who is not repulsed or driven away by darkness and failure. My God says the night is just the same as day to Him. My God says He created me – and you – in His image. His image, not evil, is at the centre of my poor heart, although it is small and hurting and I feel very weak. He has placed us here to become more and more like Him, more closely united to Him, and to be His hands to carry His merciful love in this hurting world. In order to do this, I must learn to be loved, first. And it dawned on me that perhaps I do not know how to be loved because the fear planted by my abuser has taken over so much of my heart. This is going to be a long road, as I said. Being formed into our loving God’s image, and learning to be loved, gives a hope that cannot be taken away. Learning to be loved takes away fear.

katniss prim Hope catching fire

Prim – Since the last games, something is different, I can see it.

Katniss – What can you see?

Prim – Hope.

– The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (movie)

[Stills of Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) and Willow Shields (Prim) from The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire; property of Suzanne Collins / Lionsgate Entertainment. Images sourced from fanpop.com and thehungergames.wikia.com]

Sad for what we cannot heal

I don’t watch the news very often. I feel bad about that. I worry it’s irresponsible, running away from the world, detaching or not caring enough. I think lots of people would say I need to be more engaged. But in fact the reason I can’t watch is precisely the opposite of not caring enough. When I watch all I see is danger, anger, loss, violence, threats, pain, instability…. all I feel is dread, fear, sadness, grief, shaken, panic, disintegrating… and I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know how to carry the feelings, or what the proper response is. What do we do with this hurt we can’t heal and trauma we can’t stop?

I don’t know if the world is on the whole becoming a more dangerous place. On the one hand I can’t say there’s no hope. Our God has assured us of His love for us and that no war, disaster or loss can separate us from Him. There is always something in this world to give hope. I think there’s always somewhere in each crisis where you can find some tiny piece of good. On the radio a while back I heard someone say when we are afraid of the bad things we see happening, look for the people who are trying to help and do good because they are always there somewhere.

On the other hand, there does seem to be more and more danger, terrorism, violence and unrest. What was once distant and occasional now seems a real and present danger. So many people are suffering and afraid and trying to escape threats to their homes and their lives. The scale of it scares me too.

Other people sometimes say, we have come through worse and we will get through this. Especially people who lived in the Cold War era. Perhaps it’s a great difference of perspective.

It all still leaves me with the question of what to do. How are we supposed to respond when fear seems to be taking hold and when we see so much suffering that we can’t do anything directly to heal? How do we cope with the scale of such unrest, when we don’t know what good we can do and it feels so out of control?

These questions really shake me at the moment.

Ginny xxx

Inexplicably disturbed

Near the end of the day at work today, someone was apprehended in the store for shoplifting. She looked young, about 14 or 15 or maybe younger; a small,  plainly dressed girl, who would have been almost studious looking in another context.

Something had been going on all day because all afternoon whilst I was working on the till, our security staff were on the shop floor in much higher numbers than usual, all apparently observing a particular area of the shop. It was one of those situations where your gut tells you “something is not right” – apart from the security presence my attention kept being drawn to a similar area of the store as if clocking something unusual that was slightly off.

I get those feelings. I group them with the way I pick up too strongly on others’ emotions and sense and know things others don’t. It can be a help, empathising, or sensing danger faster, but it’s so draining and an aching weight too.

For some reason as I watched a policeman and two security guards handling this young girl and escorting her, gripped tightly, off the shop floor, suddenly I felt a surge of fear. Not just anxietybut fear. I was completely disturbed. I wanted to run. It took a massive effort to concentrate on helping close down the till and complete my tasks. I can still feel this fear now over an hour later.

Why? Why was I frightened? What of? Was I frightened for her? She was silent but struggling and clearly very strong. I couldn’t read fear in her eyes exactly but something was wrong, not there. After some time the conscious thought occurred to me that she wasn’t alone shoplifting, she was someone’s marionette.

Admittedly I was stressed already, tired and feeling physically ill from the latest OD (don’t worry not life threatening or anything) and I’d had several difficult interactions with customers already.

Yet I can’t understand the level of fear I felt. Perhaps I was reminded of the police having to forcibly “escort” my mother into the transport to hospital, restraining her, with her alternately violently struggling or “playing dead”. Did I remember that? But I didn’t see and hear it although the level of emotion was the same as in a flashback.

Can you have a flashback only of emotion?

Ginny xxx

Deeper Still

I feel so tired and cold inside today. Last night and this morning my emotions were rocking between extremes of sadness and anxiety and hurt and I cannot justify any of it. Now, even though I have done some nice things today and received some very good news, which really is a gift – I went to coffee group this morning so I was not on my own, and my offer of work was finalised which means I will have some form of financial security – despite all these things, instead of feeling thankful, I’m feeling scared, empty, useless, lost and numb. I’ve slipped into that cold state of feeling that I am only watching and desperately wishing I were not alone, sad but angry with myself at the same time.

These times make me doubt even more what’s really in my heart.

I’ve been listening to this prayer song :-

Deeper Still by Bebo Norman

She turned her head as if to hide, there was just nowhere to go. ‘Cause standing tall on every side, the mighty fear of letting go. She said, my God I’m so ashamed, thirty years a tragedy. I still believed that he could change, but he pulled me down like gravity.
He broke my will, but it’s deeper still, deeper still .

She told me morning was the time, when the sun burned bright and clean, and love grew fragile on the vine, all wrapped up in gold and green. ‘Cause after all we know we all are after all the same things – but for the sun no rain would fall, and it burned him up and turned him mean.
This fire that kills me, it’s deeper still, deeper still.
Tonight I rose up with the moon, and looking down from high above, I saw a world carved and confused into valleys deep in need of love, and falling down all thick with grace, Heaven’s cloud of mystery was filling every empty space, down to the depth of human need.
This love that heals, it’s deeper still.

Love that heals me, love that heals me, love that’s deeper still.

This love that heals me, it’s deeper still, it’s deeper still.

“Broke my will, but it’s deeper still; this fire that kills me is deeper still; and filling every empty space, Heaven’s cloud of mystery – this love that heals is deeper still.” This is the only thing that lets me carry on in these times. Without it I am nothing. The promise that no matter how black and cold it is in our reality of this moment, how matter how much we are hurting, no matter how much we fear what is within us, what is always deeper still is God’s love for us that created us to do good, God’s love that longs to fill us in every empty depth of our hearts.

I hate what I see that I am and the fight that goes on in my head and the frozen darkness that stops me seeing anything good. But this does not change the truth that God is love, God is beside us on this road, and the greater my emptiness and my need, all I have to do is cry out to Him, plainly admitting how things are and everything I cannot change. Then, deeper still, deeper still, will He come into my need and sustain me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJ7g9Gf64ns – not my video. With grateful thanks to Marco Bonaccorso. From Bebo Norman’s album “Ten Thousand Days”.

Ginny xx