I can’t tell? Is this fear?

I suspect I should be feeling more. A curious gift of CPTSD is that when times are hard, when the world shakes, we carry on. After all, it’s just another day.

Continue reading “I can’t tell? Is this fear?”

A letter to someone who is struggling with CPTSD and recovery.

First off. You are enough. You are worthy of love.

Secondly. Things can get better. And, no, not everyone will leave.

Continue reading “A letter to someone who is struggling with CPTSD and recovery.”

Such a tiny thing, which can seem so very dangerous

Facebook, how you bring all my insecurities to light.

I could hate you for that.
Or I could embrace you.
I’m not sure which. Check back in an hour.

Continue reading “Such a tiny thing, which can seem so very dangerous”

A Mashup of Thoughts on Kanye, Mental Health, and Something My First Therapist Said That Blew My Mind.

This might not be my most coherent essay. 

It’s more some random thoughts that all got mashed together. 
So, the first item is a discussion that I had with friends over on Facebook about Kanye
Let me give you a recap:
Friend 2: He is. So, why doesn’t he do something about it? 
Friend 3: He has the resources and money to get help. I would kill for that situation. 
Friend 2: Honey, do we need to talk? 
Friend 3: Oh, no, I wasn’t being literal. Geez. I’m taking my meds. 
Friend 1: Yes, it would be nice if Kanye got help, but you can’t force people to seek help. 
Friend 2: But, there is a distinct difference between supporting someone and enabling them. 
Friend 1: Why do you say he is being enabled? 
Friend 3: It’s pretty obvious he isn’t being helped by the people around him. 

So here we get to the next item. Personal responsibility and mental health.
This is an idea that I bump into pretty regularly. 
A common scenario is when someone behaves horribly and then says ‘oh, I was off my meds’ or ‘I didn’t know I was so messed up. I’m in therapy now.’ Essentially, when mental health is used as an excuse to justify bad behavior. 
I won’t argue that sometimes we have bad days. I have a stack of ‘oh, wow, that wasn’t good’ moments in my past. Thankfully there was no internet in my youth. I’m sure we all have moments that we can look back on and see how our mental illness influenced a situation. 
So, I employ the ‘innocent’ man rule. I assume everyone is NOT casually using ‘mental health’ as an excuse. That is until I have evidence to the contrary. Because I would rather support/ attempt to support anyone who was having a mental health issue, even if that means there are some posers in the group. 

Another point in this knot of thoughts is: 
What responsibility do we have to the mental health community to seek treatment?
Bear with me. 
I don’t think it can be argued that in the past mental health was very misunderstood. And, that the mental health institutions of the day were pretty horrific. The mental health system was also abused as a place to confine those who opposed the social order. And we, the mental health community, still bear the brunt of a mountain of stigma. 
So, what do I owe to other people, not just myself, to understand my issues, my triggers, my tools for handling flashbacks? 
I think I do owe something to the mental health community as a whole to demonstrate that even though my brain is wired differently, I can still operate within society. Even though I carry the label of ‘Neuroatypical’ (I hope I got that right.) I see it as a way – a responsibility – to help break the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. 

This brings me to the third point. When I first began therapy all I knew was that I was depressed out of my skull. I also had a sense of being permanently stuck. I think I described it as ‘paddling in eternal concentric circles.’ 
Sometime in my first few sessions, my therapist hit me with an idea that I found mind-blowing.
She told me, don’t laugh, that I was responsible for my own happiness.
*MIND BLOWN* 
I’ll admit I feel a little silly looking at that now, because, honestly isn’t that something everyone knows?
And yet, the idea was new to me. I was always the dutiful one. The good one. The reliable one. The invisible one. The one that never caused trouble. The one that never needed, anything. 
I was maybe 20 at this time, and I was just putting my foot on the mental health path. At that time the knowledge of #CPTSD had not trickled down to where I was.
I spent another 30+ years trying to root out the problem, to understand myself. In those 30 years, I accumulated a lot of wreckage in my wake. The ability to understand myself and to look back over my past is both gratifying and horrifying. But, in both the good and the bad I can see how my mental problems influenced me, or trapped me. 

To tie all this up with a neat little bow, I’ll circle back to Kanye. 
Sometimes our mental health, or ill-health, is all we know. It is our ‘normal’. I understand that he is bipolar, and I will readily admit that I have no experience with being bipolar. But, I do understand what an untreated mental health issue can do to your life, your relationships, your goals. For that reason, I hope he can make the commitment for himself to pursue some help before the wreckage he leaves behind spans decades.

The Image that Sparks a Rethinking of Symbols

It’s interesting. I’ve seen many reactions to this image.

What I am hearing is at odds with what I think the intended message of the piece is.

Continue reading “The Image that Sparks a Rethinking of Symbols”

Positives we have learned from CPTSD

Weird title, right?

I saw a thread over on Twitter, some of you all may have seen or participated in it as well.

What it was about was looking at the positive side of the traits of CPTSD that we have. I was skeptical at first. It struck me as rather ‘wishful thinking’. But, I stuck around and listened and I realized there was something amazing happening.

Folks in the thread were giving examples of the parts of CPTSD that they struggle with, and sometimes another reader would turn that struggle into a positive. Sometimes the person who still struggled with the trait could express how it influenced their life in a positive way.

It was, for me, a lightbulb moment. So I started thinking: What is one of the biggest things I struggle with or a trait of CPTSD that still influences me? And, has that had any positive outcomes in my life?

For me, a trait that I know I still possess is the inability to ask for anything. Which results in a distinct pride of being able to do without, or do with less. To make do. I’ve been called Spartan in the manner that I live.

The positive side of this is that I have skills that are quickly vanishing from the 1st world. I can preserve food, I can mend just about anything, I know basic carpentry and electrical work, and I’m thrifty.
And those are some worthwhile skills to have.

What is it for you? Give it a think. Perhaps you can see the positive outgrowth of some of your traits. Please share them so that others who might be struggling with something similar can see that there are some useful/positive aspects that we can dig out of the mud of our past.

Unicorn Farts and Lollipops

I saw this meme this morning and it just made me cock my head to the side to take another look at it. And I thought about it. Probably too much.

Continue reading “Unicorn Farts and Lollipops”

Minefield

I don’t know when I discovered that not everyone had a family like mine. But, I do remember the shock. The disbelief that other people didn’t have to hide or make themselves invisible rocked me to my core. I always thought my childhood was good. To admit that my family had problems and that those problems affect me to this day was one of the most painful parts of moving from denial into healing.

I Am Found – Elsa’s Journey as a Template for #cptsd recovery.

Recently I went to see a movie from Disney about a pair of sisters who have an adventure. And I’m going to talk about one of those characters in-depth today.

I see so many parallels in Elsa’s story to that of someone with C-PTSD.

Hold on. Don’t abandon the idea just yet.

Think about it.

As a child, she locked herself away to prevent herself from harming her family. Her father continued the pattern with the gloves and the words “Conceal it, don’t feel it.” He helped her freeze and withdraw. So instead of learning, she simply went into a pattern of being and fearing who she was.

So here we come to the first installment of the movie. (Frozen, in case you haven’t guessed by now.) And in this film we see Anna reach out to her sister and at great personal cost save Elsa. Bet before we get there we see how Elsa is alone. Alone in her room. Alone in the palace. Alone even on the evening of her coronation. She has made herself singular so that her ‘flaw’ doesn’t hurt someone she loves deeply.

Then her balance is upset. And in the moments that follow she is out of control. Everything that she has held so tightly finally escapes. At first, in the palace, in the village, she is terrified. And she sees that other people around her are also terrified and repulsed by what they see. Her flaw. Her power. Her true nature.

And so, Elsa flees to the top of a mountain, where once again she is alone.

With distance from her life, her responsibilities she can see the restrictions she has placed on herself.
When she sings “the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all” she’s recognizing the limitations she has resigned herself to until now.

What follows is an ecstatic release of all the self-imposed restraints falling away. She recognizes that she is different, but in those first moments she is unafraid. And as she builds her castle on the hill she rejects all the expectations of those around her and her own skewed view of herself.

Pardon the language, but she truly “Let’s it go.”

To me, that moment echos the moment when I could stand back and see all the ways I had bent or buried myself in order to be accepted by my family. It was the moment I could see the cage I had constructed around myself. And, although I would have loved to have resolved all my issues in the length of a phrase of music, it was also the moment when I knew there was no going back.

The past was in the past. And Elsa emerges from that song changed, and not changed.

She is changed in that she has embraced who she is and accepted her ‘problem’ as another part of her. She is not changed in that when Anna finds her, Elsa is still terrified of what she could do to her sister. So, in that regard, Elsa is still frozen in the past.

By the end of the first movie, Elsa embraces herself and her ability to love, long suppressed, is the key to saving the kingdom from the icy clutches of winter. In this sense, Elsa is saved and drawn into the family. But, still unaddressed, is what she believes to be the fundamental reason why she is different.

In someone who suffers from c-ptsd this might be reflected in all the work we do to make connections. To draw ourselves out of our own restrictions, and to distance ourselves from those who would make us less. But, while it makes us functional, it leaves us with that all too common sensation of emptiness. And from there Elsa in the second installment of the movie reflects our interaction with the world.

In Frozen II, Elsa is in the world, indeed she’s a very important part of the world. She’s the queen. But, at the same time, she is uncomfortable. She worries that she could fail. And she feels the pull, the need, the call to define herself. Accepting the role she was expected to fill is no longer enough.

So, with support from family and friends, she sets out to find the truth, and in the process finds her truth. Throughout the first part of the movie, Elsa is tested. These challenges don’t just come from the entities of the forest that she needs to confront. They also come from Anna. Who insists that Elsa not shut her out again.

But, Elsa needs room to grow. Something that perhaps Anna isn’t ready to accept.

When the sisters are separated each follows a path that is essential to their growth.

Elsa enters the glacier with anticipation and a growing sense of the coming connection. It fires her from within. And as she steps into the center of the circle that was made for her she proclaims – “I am found.”

Three words that strip away the last of her doubt about herself. The moment she finds a purpose for herself. The moment that empty wound in her center is closed.

One day I hope that I can say those words. Or even I am healed that would do. But, for those of us out here in reality that moment won’t transpire in a rush or a glorious shower of magic.

Instead, our path to finding ourselves and healing our wounds will come in incremental steps. One small victory at a time. A boundary set there. A refusal to accept ‘less than.’ A moment when we discover something new. Tiny victories that will string together to heal our centers and define us.

Elsa’s tale, and her growth, in my mind, are reflections of the journey that many, perhaps most of us with c-ptsd need to make. One constant arc to reclaiming our lives, made of tiny victories, first to free ourselves and then to find ourselves.

Meme: Compassion is strength

I made this last night. The image is from fb/PlanetTiger.  It’s a great cause to support.

#cptsd