Tag: flashbacks

Where have I been?

TRIGGER WARNING for mention of self-harm in one paragraph. The paragraph is flagged at the start and end so please skip past it if you need or want to.

It seems I do nothing but apologise for why I haven’t followed through on my planned and promised blog revamp and new posting schedule. I need to change this. Life is not going to change any time soon so I need to develop a way to still achieve my objectives within the current circumstances. After all this is some little work I can do to hopefully help readers, as well as being a way to help keep myself well. However, I don’t know how to do this. I feel as if I’m desperately and barely keeping on running, controlled by the barrage of difficulties, re-presented trauma, fear, anxiety, my sense of uselessness, unpredictable distressing events for people I love and for me; I don’t know where the next blow will come from and I know I’m closer and closer to loss of any control, emotional explosion, fragmenting psychologically, total physical exhaustion – but I must carry on because I have a duty and responsibility to those I love, to God, to those who care about me. Stopping isn’t allowed. Breaking isn’t an option. When is it okay to say I can’t do it anymore? I know my resilience to daily life is so very low, because of this barrage of trauma my husband and I seem to be trapped in.

I never want to say “why me?” and I know it must seem as if I’m whining like that. It’s not what I feel or mean. I went into this with my eyes open. I so much WANT to support my loved ones. I so much WANT to learn to love more, more selflessly, through what God is permitting us to suffer right now. I so much want NOT to be powerless, like a scared child in every situation. I want to choose good, loving, positive actions.

How?

I reached crisis point the week before last. My angry identity and my little child identity both got out at the same time in a violent emotional explosion and a long period of dissociation. ***Trigger warning for mention of self-harm actions ~~~I drank alcohol, took an overdose of prescription tablets, scratched and cut myself and threw and smashed things in the house. When I started to mentally freeze afterwards and then came through that “shut down”, I was terrified at the physical evidence of gruesome, violent emotion. I was terrified I had hurt my husband physically though he assured me I did not and did not try to. ~~~ End of trigger warning***

I am horrified and ashamed at what I said and did and what is inside me in these two out of control identities that burst out when I’m under stress. I have been utterly exhausted since. Chunks of my memory around that time have disappeared. It’s clearer and clearer I’m not coping with basic life.

I’ve not been able to make any sense from this post or bring it to a conclusion. It’s taken me days to get this far. I’m posting this just to write something, try to move on. It’s 1.15am and I’m in so much pain I can’t sleep. My brain is unable to shut down. Never felt such a mess.

Ginny xx

A question for bloggers, and the outline of my blog

A question for bloggers, and the outline of my blog

A special thank you to those of you who have commented on what posting schedule you’d like to see and those who have shown their support. Today I’m writing to update you on the new outline and posting schedule I’ve decided on; also to ask a question to other bloggers.

From your responses so far to my recent posts, it seems that topics you would particularly like me to write on are eating disorders and life with / after trauma and abuse. I will make these topics main categories on this blog. The main categories will be: PTSD (including life with and after abuse and other trauma); eating disorders and body image; borderline personality disorder and dissociative disorders; mental health and finances; mental health and work; living with physical health disabilities as well as mental health conditions; question time (writing in response to questions you and others have asked me – this will of course encompass a wide range of aspects of mental health conditions and cross over with other categories on this blog); in the future I want to add a “help” section where I will outline coping strategies that help me, mainly regarding PTSD for instance things you can do that may help during a flashback.

The posting schedule I’m going to start off with is one weekly journal-style post and one weekly post on one of the above topics. I may be able to increase this but I think this is a reasonable aim to begin with. As mentioned before I will post outside this schedule at times. I think I need to choose what days of the week I will make my two regular posts. I’m thinking Wednesdays and Saturdays but I may change this – I’ll let you know when I next write.

You will have noticed the change of name to Dignity Beyond Trauma and at the end of the week I will write a post explaining the new name.

I have upgraded my site plan so will be giving this site a new and hopefully more accessible look over the next few days.

Finally, I have a question for other bloggers. Do you use another form of social media as well as your blog, for example Instagram or Twitter? If so what benefits do you feel this brings to you and to your readers? What should one consider before linking your blog to another kind of social media? It’s something I’ve been considering doing; I am not going to attempt it right now as I need to focus on sorting this blog but I am interested in the future. I’d be very grateful to know how it worked out for you. Thank you in advance.

Ginny xxx

Changes ahead

Changes ahead

I’m going to make some big changes to this blog over the next week.

It has been many weeks since I’ve posted regularly. My husband has been coming through major surgery for cancer. Another family member has been through severe trauma. We have been struggling through a heavy load of financial issues since last autumn. My PTSD symptoms are worse. I’m not coping with day to day basics as I want and expect myself to. I could go on.

However a big reason I want to make changes in this blog is that my posts have been too sporadic and too distressed and distressing. I don’t want this site to be just me venting and screaming about how hurt I am. That doesn’t help anyone.

Yes, I want to be totally honest in what I post. Totally real. I don’t want to turn the blog into a falsely cheerful, superficially positive story. After all I’m talking about very present and painful trauma, illnesses and struggles. I am not going to pretend that I have all the answers or that I’m “over it” and nothing can touch me.

Yet I am more than the damage done to me and the hurt of every day. I want to try to find that. I want to write about that. I want to be thankful for all of me and all of every day. Also, I want to incorporate more focus on what helps me cope and even heal.

I want to have a regular posting schedule and more defined sections on this site so I can share what’s happening in my life week to week, but also share information about what helps me and may help readers, answer readers’ questions, post in response to reflection about what’s happened to me in the past, how I tried to cope and why. I want this blog to be helpful to readers, partly through reflecting what living with PTSD and borderline personality disorder is like, partly through sharing resources and information.

Big changes are coming up. Please watch this space! Thank you!

Ginny xxx

The guilt I feel when I’m met with no response – Part 2

This is Part 2 of a 3 part post. You can find Part 1 HERE

I wonder how much of my misinterpretation of emotional facial expressions is because the people I grew up with, my current family members and I myself express emotions in a different way from the typical?

It occurs to me that I’m told that often I show no emotion outwardly, or that people can’t work out what I’m feeling. In a family member’s words, “we just have to have some kind of reaction out of you,” and “we have no idea what on earth is going on with you so it feels like – aargh – we can’t be dealing with this!” I’m often told this when internally I’m having really strong emotions of loss, hurt, upset, abandonment and fear, and having flashbacks. Sometimes I’ve wanted to keep my emotions hidden. Almost always I’ve tried to turn my feelings inwardly so as not to bother or hurt anyone else with them.

However at the same time I’ve frequently thought other people understand what I’m feeling inside (but don’t want to discuss it so I just have to keep going) when it may later transpire they had no idea what I was feeling. I will then find it really hard to believe they had no idea. I will also be upset because my attempt to keep inside the sad feelings I have, to keep going as you’re meant to and not draw attention to myself, then backfired and seems to cause anger and upset and accusations of being childish, spoiled, rude or disrespectful, and of making other people responsible for me. People have said things like “It looks like you’re accusing me of not looking after you,” “I’m not responsible for how you feel,” “Its not anyone else’s job to make you feel better,” “You’re a spoiled little brat”; I’m told I have to stop thinking about my own problems, should push them aside, should think what other people have gone for me, etc. Which is often exactly what I’ve been trying to do and nearly broken under the strain. I don’t know how I get it so wrong. I don’t know what other people are seeing at these times that is childish or rude etc. If I did I would have some chance of correcting it.

This reminds me that as a child being abused, I was daily really distressed, inevitably expressed it (til I learnt better) and got no help. I was at best ignored. More often the punishments redoubled and threats got worse – more threats of how I was breaking up the family, of how the couple of people I had and loved would die because of me and graphically how I would find them, of how my parents would be taken away. I was told I was a liar, faking what I was feeling, behaving as I was in order to cause worry and hurt to my abuser, to punish them because in some way I didn’t get what I wanted. One of my abuser’s paranoia about us being watched increased too. Her bizarre, possibly psychotic behaviour, and ridiculing of me, came to the fore. I tried my hardest not to express any feelings, even physical feelings. When I got ill I was terrified what would happen when my abuser and others complicit in the abuse found out. Basically I got no response or a terrible response, and none of the help I needed, from my main abuser and the person enabling her.

Both my abuser when I showed my emotions as a child, and family members now when I try not to show my emotions, said/say that I am childish, spoiled and hurting others.

When I do express my emotions now, the reaction from my family is rarely positive. Occasionally it is, but often it isn’t. The fact that it fluctuates is really hard to deal with. But that’s another story for another post.

My abuser’s emotions could change in a couple of seconds so I had to be constantly on the alert and do what I could to stay safe. She was either emotionless in all her expressions, or furious, or distraught, or ridiculing me. Occasionally she was happy but you got the sense it was only on the surface and sometimes it seemed like a trick, especially when it quickly flipped to anger or ridicule. (Her severe psychotic episodes were somewhat different.) Whilst I had to be on the alert to her emotions, I didn’t learn anything from her about normal emotional expression.

My other immediate family members’ emotions are also hard for me to judge, in facial expressions and verbally. I can fail to spot the onset of anger with me. At other times I’m overwhelmed by how they express it. I often interpret anger when they are actually feeling concern or upset. I interpret disinterest or rejection when they say there is none there.

So…. on the whole that does seem quite messed up, doesn’t it!?

To be continued in Part 3 (which will be what I thought I was going to write about originally!)

The guilt I feel when I’m met with no response – Part 1

I was reading about how people with borderline personality disorder interpret emotion in facial expressions. I came across a study that had found that people with BPD are quite similar to people without any personality disorder in how we perceive emotions in facial expressions, however, those of us with BPD are likely to perceive neutral facial expressions as communicating “negative” emotions*. If someone is not displaying a positive feeling in their expression, we are likely to interpret a negative feeling. Of course, facial expressions are a somewhat personal and subjective thing. Additionally, I am not sure whether the finding was that we tend to interpret the perceived negative emotion as directed at us (eg the person is fed up with us) or as a non-personally-directed emotion (eg the person is sad, the person is frustrated after a bad day). Perhaps the study didn’t differentiate. I must try to revisit the study online and I’ll post a link in the comments if I find it.

Two things rang true to me. First I agree that I’m likely to infer from an expression that isn’t warm / positive that the person feels negatively. I’m not sure whether I actually see the expression as negative, or know it’s neutral (maybe “not letting anything on”) but a neutral expression for me means the person’s feeling is negative. Second, once I interpret a negative emotion (from whatever expression) I will usually be absolutely sure it’s directed at or because of me. Even if there are abundant clues that it’s because of something else, even if logically it can’t be because of me, this is my default assumption. Cue massive guilt and a desperate urgency to put things right. My first thoughts, my deepest emotions, my bodily reactions, are all based on that. Even flashbacks or memories involving deep guilt (where I know I hurt someone in the past) can follow.

This can all happen before any words are spoken.

However, I do the equivalent with speech and writing too. If anything is left open, ambiguous or ignored, I often feel I’ve done something wrong, or caused irritation or anger or displeasure, or that the person doesn’t believe me.

To be continued in Part 2.

* Note: by “negative” I mean feelings like sad, angry and so on. I don’t like using the word “negative” as it suggests something wrong with the feeling. This isn’t what I mean. All feelings are valid. I couldn’t think of another word. Perhaps “unhappy”?

Looking for an app to track mood and pain

I am seeing a psychologist at the pain clinic for a short number of sessions. When I was first sent an appointment to do therapy I was really worried and almost angry about it, feeling I’d had enough of therapy in other services where I couldn’t trust the therapists or the community team and I couldn’t risk making myself vulnerable again. On top of that I was sure the therapy would be from the point of view that nothing is wrong with me, the pain I have is unnecessary and my fault because I’ve rested too much and not pushed myself enough, which is an attitude I’ve encountered too many times on so-called pain management courses. Amazingly it has turned out to be a very different experience.

I don’t tend to find pain is terribly related to my mood, beyond the fact that I’m more anxious and low when the pain is worse. It’s also connected to flashbacks but I don’t quite know how. We identified in therapy today that I find awareness of my body very difficult. Maybe that is common in personality disorder and certainly in dissociative identity disorder.

I want to try tracking my pain and my mood together to see if this may show up any links I’m not aware of. I’ve done the two separately before as part of learning to pace activity (I did not find the recording gave me any new insights) but I’ve not really done the two together, not over an extended period anyway.

Phone apps exist to track your mood but I’m looking for an app that tracks mood and pain. Ideally I’d like an app where I could record a numerical score for my pain and my mood every couple of hours through the day, with space to make a brief note if something very significant happened (for example if I have flashbacks or an event triggers traumatic memories or dissociation).

Have you used an app like this and did you learn from it? Any recommendations would be very helpful.

Ginny xx

Brave

“Brave” by Sara Bareilles / video by SaraBareillesVEVO (c) 2013 Epic Records a division of Sony Music Entertainment

In my lowest times I look back and wish I had just stopped speaking. I think the idea took hold about a year before I was first in hospital but I used to think it as a child too. I know partly why but I don’t want to think about that right now.

This song tugs at my mind. Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out… I couldn’t. I feel my throat close over when I have the flashbacks, or when the voices are loud, or my mind is spinning as the multiple possibilities of disasters I could cause wrap tight around me. Even though my history of silence never did any good.

Some of healing is letting out the words I need to say. It is not an easy fix. It is not as simple as “get it all out and you’ll feel better”. Often getting it out isn’t okay. It’s almost never okay. I wish I could speak and live sure that I wouldn’t cause terrible harm to other people. I wish I could be sure that I’m not all bad really, after all. I wish I were untangled. Perhaps I can never be sure unless I’m brave enough to risk a little more.

To be continued.

Ginny xx

The worst thing they can make you fear

TRIGGER WARNING for discussion of abuse and control

The worst thing my abuser made me fear was not what she would do to me. Actually I accepted that without question.

The worst thing to be afraid of is myself. That’s what my abuser made me most afraid of. Me. What I really am. What I can’t stop. What I would do to her. What I would do to everyone I loved. What everyone would find out in the end about me. What the people watching thought and how they’d take my loved ones away because of me (the watchers didn’t exist, I’m told, but it was too deeply engrained for that to make any difference now).

I was supposed to love my abuser, and that made it worse, because the revulsion I felt showed I should be repulsed at myself.

When rarely, I told what had happened, nobody heard or nobody believed, but she’d already told me they wouldn’t.

I escaped from my abuser, in physical terms. And I know I’m very fortunate because so many don’t.

The one thing we can certainly never ever escape from is ourselves. The one way my abuser ensured her power over my present and future as well as my past is this terror of myself. Add to that my “alters” (the child that screams unendingly because no-one heard her when it mattered; the violent lunatic full of anger as I’m tricked again and again by those who supposedly love me) – and my abuser is not only in my mind now but sickeningly in every current relationship and interaction.

I can feel her laughter and ridicule now. I feel surrounded.

X

The peculiar significance of treacle

Every year I forget how evocative certain Christmas smells are. Not just the more obvious things like candles and oranges and mincemeat and brandy, but certain specifics. It was black treacle and spices the other day, as I was making gingerbread dough. Suddenly as I counted out the syrupy spoonfuls I was taken back to being stood in front of another cooker, aged maybe 7, stirring the pan dissolving the sugars, with my mother watching. Chain smoking, of course. A knot of emotions expanded inside me as they did then. Excitement for Christmas. Some kind of enjoyment of doing a grown up thing. Delight at wanting to make pretty biscuits. Wanting to get it right and please my mother…. well, the desperate need to get it right, impeccably following the process she had shown me. That meant tenterhooks and anxiety and churning emotions, too often teetering on the edge of me ruining everything again (I thought). One mistake, one deviation from her instructions, her watching would explode into anger, ridicule, accusations and threats. Hours of shouting and violence would follow. And everything, I had made her do, and each time I’d have that sick terror inside that this time it was over and the threats were being fulfilled. Looking back and seeing how little was needed to tip us into that disaster, it’s bizarre. Laying a biscuit onto the baking tray in the “wrong” way (ie not the precise arrangement she required), not getting the bow on a package right fast enough, touching the wrong switch on the oven – even simply letting any of my anxiety show. It sounds almost as if it should be funny. But it isn’t funny when someone has you isolated, under their power and in fear; not in fear of them but in fear of yourself. Because one sure thing to me at the time was that it was my fault.

So, standing there measuring the treacle it all came back. As I’ve been making the biscuits over the last day or so, I keep being catapulted into so many emotions and suddenly reliving snatches of good and bad … And to tell the truth I’ve been pulled into the bad too much. Exhausted.

I’m fighting it, because there’s no way my abuser’s having this Christmas. This Christmas is for God and the present and my fiancé and it’s about all the good we can do and are thankful for today. I speak briefly, quietly to God as I roll the dough, cut, bake , ice, package these cookies. I’m pushing through the dissociation to do all I can to hope for this Christmas and for every flashback find twice as much I’m thankful for today.

Ginny xxx

They’ve found her

My mother has been found. My abuser has been found.

It has been a little over a year since I first reported to the police the abuse done to me by my mother in my childhood and early adulthood.

Since I made my statement, the police had been searching for my mother to question her. It had come to the point that with her not being found for so long, part of me felt perhaps she never would be. Had she chosen to disappear? She had gone from her last known address, disappeared and ceased contact with the hospital that was treating her, no information about her whereabouts was known by the very few former friends and similar, and none of the few leads I could think of helped (a relative she might have had contact with, a place she worked a very long time ago and so on). Even the police’s searches of records held by places like the DWP or tax office yielded nothing (very strange since she must surely be claiming a Benefit, or a pension, or working). The police had even searched the death and marriages registers and were talking about the possibility she may have passed away. It was in my mind whether the time would come that I might have to accept that, though bizarrely without ever really knowing what happened to her.

Then at the weekend I got the news that the police have found her.

Shock. I was stunned.

So, now I am to meet with the DC who is working on my case, the same person who took my statement. He has spoken to my mother. I don’t know if he has interviewed her. I expect he must have. He has things he needs to tell me but felt we need to meet face to face to talk about it.

I’m in a sort of suspense til our conversation. There are so many questions and uncertainties and fears. Where was she? Probably the DC won’t be allowed to tell me. How did they find her? Perhaps he will be able to tell me how. What state is her health in? She was not in good physical health when I last saw her and her mental health conditions are severe; she never believed she was ill though. Has that changed? I doubt it – but perhaps that’s too much of an assumption. No, actually, it isn’t; given the years and years history anything else would be astonishing. What has happened to her since our contact ceased? She disappeared from contact with the hospital team – not surprising, sadly – so has she had no treatment since? What’s she doing? What danger is she in? And what danger is she to others, that’s in my mind too, because of what she did to me, and because of her violence when she is ill.

For me, what now? If she’s been questionned, what happened? What did she say? What do we do now? I can imagine what she will have said to the police about me. I’m trying not to imagine too much in general about this, as it can lead to no good. There is no point in imagining scenarios until I meet the DC. A big issue will be her mental state now, I think, and whether she has capacity to understand proceedings. I think another big issue will be how will there be any evidence of what I went through? So much happened when I was alone and isolated with her. The lack of evidence gives the voices in my head power and I’m stifled and paralysed quickly with the flashbacks on the one hand, the voices telling me liar, disgusting, your fault, you wanted it….

The last 2 days dissociative episodes have taken hold scarily often. I’m fighting them, sometimes. But often that makes me break too much or I’m too far in.

If I have to make some decisions over what happens next, how can I choose for good?

Ginny xxx