Tag: CPTSD

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!)

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Sleepless at the latest precipice on our path – PIP, and hospital

I so want to be asleep right now but my brain’s awake with useless whirring energy. This week has seemed so long already. My partner was admitted into hospital on Monday night after a fall and worrying symptoms. He was “only” in til Tuesday evening and thankfully is now safe at home but more question marks are hanging over his complex health difficulties right now. We feel so lost navigating the way through to get him the treatment he needs and cope with the process.

On top of this we found out today – through a text message he received whilst he was in hospital – that a big chunk of his PIP (a Benefit paid to people with disabilities) has been taken away following a review he had a few weeks ago. No warning, just stopped; just a text message with no details and no support. We are waiting for the letter detailing the decision. It seems crazy as his condition has worsened so much since his last assessment but it was what I feared would happen, because of my own prior experiences with PIP assessments. This is what seems to happen to so many claimants. With this cut, he will lose his car, because he has it through a mobility scheme tied to the component of PIP they’ve taken away from him. We are both dependent on the car to get anywhere. I will now be housebound except for when I can afford door to door taxis as I am too physically disabled to reach the bus stop and can’t manage on and off a bus without help. He will be in a similar situation. I don’t know how we will get to his almost daily hospital appointments. £25 – £30 per day on taxis there and back is impossible on our budget. I don’t know if we will qualify for hospital transport. Thankfully there are a few weeks before the car is taken away. We can appeal the decision on his PIP but I doubt a new decision will be made before we lose the car. His other Benefits may well also be affected because the rates paid are linked to receiving a certain rate of PIP or not.

So at a time when my partner is already under utmost pressure and stress with his physical and mental health, a legal case relating to one of his injuries, anniversaries of painful bereavements and traumas, finances, and multiple problems involving lies and deceit from people we placed trust in (leading to the collapse of several projects that we so hoped would bring stability and security to us and another family member and the apparent loss to waste of hundreds of hours of work) – now this. Now that one bit of security is gone.

It is hard to know how to carry on. It is hard to know where to get the emotional and physical energy to do what we have to do. I don’t know how to act or respond seeing the person I love suffering, hurting, being treated terribly, being let down and abandoned. My brain kicks into gear with the adrenaline in some way and buzzes with lists of what we have to do now, different outcomes and scenarios. But my emotions can’t keep up. Nor does my physical body. Right when my partner most needs me and I most want to be there.

It feels as though we are trying to find our way on a path through a jungle. Each side of us is dense vegetation and tall trees we cannot see through. We work our hardest at following the path, staying on the path, walking onward. We cannot see far ahead as there are always blind bends. Beyond each blind corner we don’t know how the track may twist or split. Even trying to be prepared for each possible eventuality isn’t enough. There’s always a stone, a thick fog, a sudden precipice you couldn’t see. Worse still, sometimes there are gaps in the foliage and you see through to sunlight and in the distance, a view stretching ahead of a safe and beautiful place. You work out the route you need to take on the rocky path you’re on right now, to reach that place, and your steps are a little lighter. Then without warning, a branch bends down from the trees surrounding you, coils round your middle, it drags you high in the air, spinning, crushing you, and then flings you as hard as it can and you fall back into the jungle again. Any sign of the safe place is gone. You find yourself beside another path but you have no idea what path it is; certainly it’s no longer the one you had worked so hard to follow.

It’s hard to keep on getting back on the path and you lose hope that any of the paths really lead out of the jungle. You almost know that the moment you think of the beautiful place, a branch will grab you and fling you as far away as possible from everything that have you hope.

That’s what it feels like. It’s self indulgent to express it but that’s what it feels like. Focusing only on our pain does no good, but that’s what it feels like.

We do still have homes. We do have the chance to appeal this decision. We can choose hope. We can do all we can to save money. We have so much more than many people and our lives are so different together. I can at least be here always, for my partner. We can trust that Jesus is with us, beside us, reaching for our hands.

I just needed to get it out tonight. Thank you for listening.

Ginny xxx

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”?

Panic about planning

My partner and I had to go into town today to buy some items for Easter and for volunteer work next week; also to meet a friend for coffee. There were 5 items on the list, to be bought in a couple of different shops.

Why did I go into a full panic attack?!

The task seemed completely insurmountable, more and more insurmountable as the minutes passed; and the more insurmountable it seemed, the angrier I got with myself. If it hadn’t been for my partner I would not have left the house. I’d have hidden away under my blanket at home. Yes, like a three year old.

I could not make any decision on where to go. Nowhere would have everything. There was a potential problem with every potential store we could go to. There was a reason not to go to this or that place, but also to go to this or that same place. I was exhausted. I wanted sleep. But I had to get everything on the list or I’d let people down at work. If I did go, what order should I go to different shops? All the possibilities made a desperate screaming noise in my head and it was impossible to choose and any choice felt disastrous.

Why? Why am I so unable to cope with the simplest choice and task? Decisions are always harder than I think they should be but not usually this bad.

There seemed to be too many combinations of possible outcomes to make a choice but I don’t know why this was so paralysing. Why there was so much noise and crushing pressure in my head. My reaction to not being able to choose was very much a child’s – want to stop, want to hide and so on. Had I dissociated and my little-child-self was in the fore and unable to cope with the decision-making? Or is my adult self so overwhelmed I can’t go through a normal choice process? Or both….

My partner made the choice in the end. We made it out. I had two other near panic attacks when things went wrong while we were out. We were glad to see our friend. I’m home now, utterly wiped out, pain off the scale. On days like this I’m astounded my partner wants to be with me.

Ginny xxx

For you alone and all of you

Today is Good Friday. Today at 3pm we commemorate Our Lord Jesus’ passion and death for us on the cross.

It is more than a commemoration. As we pray, as we venerate the cross, as we approach the altar and receive Jesus, Body and Blood given for us, we take part in the sacrifice He makes for us and the redemption that flows from His Sacred Heart.

On a Good Friday several years ago, the Priest gave the briefest and possibly most powerful sermon I have ever heard. After the reading of the narrative of Christ’s Passion he simply said: Jesus did this for you, and He would have done it for only you. That very simple amazing truth about the cross lifted me right into the arms of Our Lord.

At the Cross, if I only stop there and look at my Jesus, there is no hiding and no pride. None of my sin, need, failure, weakness, pain, despair, is bigger than what He did on the Cross. And none of my pain, longing or grief is too small or stupid for Jesus to care about either, even the things I try to hide from everyone because I feel they are so childish or bad. Jesus did this for me and for all of me.

It is really hard for me to comprehend a love that wants all of me. So often I set myself apart, sure that this love cannot be for me really because I am too bad inside, sure of an angry God and that I deserve punishment. As a child my abusers convinced me utterly of my evil, the awful things I did and would do and the awful intentions and desires that were inside me. They set up a world where I believed they were the only ones who knew the terrible person I really was and the only ones who could stop the terrible consequences if I did what they demanded. They proclaimed their love for me but looking back I don’t know how I understood this love or how the supposed love was shown. In a way might it have been simpler if they just outright hated me?!

The understanding of me and of love that this left me with is so far from the love of God. He created us in His image. When we messed up, He sent His Son Jesus, right into our dark and confused world, drawing us back to follow Him to God the Father. He didn’t demand our perfection. Rather the opposite. He takes on all our imperfection, suffers and dies for us, and rises again, so that weak as we are we can do the same and follow Him to His Father’s house. The fact Jesus wants me, only me, all of me, is something it will take me a long long time to truly understand. The Cross is a good place to start and ask Jesus for the grace for His truth to replace the lies and confusion in my heart, so that I can lay down all of me and let Him love me, even though for all the years I have so wanted to believe, I don’t know yet what this kind of love is.

My prayer for you today is that Jesus show you tenderly how He loves all of you.

Ginny xxx

With thanks:

Image 1 from Mount Carmel Edmonton

Image 2 from Slideshare.net

Image 3 with thanks to Bertha Chelemu from Sermon quotes.com

Gesthemane

Today is Holy Thursday, or Mandy Thursday. Today we remember – and share in – Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist, the Last Supper where He gave His Body and His Blood for us, so that we should never be apart from Him again. We also recall Jesus’ prayer and suffering that night in the garden of Gesthemane. We wait and watch in prayer.

I was not well enough physically or mentally to go to Mass tonight and watching at the altar. I have been trying to pray, read, listen at home. I wanted to find some words to say, some hopeful answer or some words to write here…. and I can’t. I don’t know what is happening to me. And I feel so guilty. In the liturgy of today, my God and Saviour Jesus has just given the most indescribable gift to us that makes us one with Him forever. He is about to suffer death for us. For me, so that I am lifted up with Him in His resurrection to God. And what do I feel? I feel empty, blank and cannot see for panic and hurt and darkness. Right when I should be thankful, grateful, filled with hope. Maybe what I most hate about this illness, and about myself as I am with this illness, is that unbearable emotions block out everything even what I most believe to be truth.

Jesus asks his disciples “Will you not watch one hour with me?” They also struggled. They were overcome with exhaustion, confusion, grief and fear. Jesus went away a little distance to pray and returned to find them sleeping.

Will you not watch one hour with me?

Here I am, Lord Jesus. My Jesus, I am here, but I do not know what to do or say. I am with You, yet I fear. You give Yourself to me, yet I lose hope. You died for me, yet I deny You and forget You when I despair and when I am consumed by anger or fear. You call me Your own, but I do not know who I am and I’m terrified of what is inside me, of my “others”. You are Love, You made me to love, but when it matters most, I do not feel.

Right after the Last Supper, came the darkness and agony of Gesthemane. Christ was still to go through His ultimate suffering and sacrifice. There was still the Cross, and still the Resurrection, without which everything before would have been meaningless. The way was not instantly rejoicing and light and the disciples did not yet understand what was to come and that Jesus would be risen from the dead. But the darkness and confusion did not mean Jesus’ love was gone away. It did not mean He had abandoned us. Rather, in suffering His love was about to be poured out for the whole world. Everything and everyone was part of His redemptive plan.

Please Lord Jesus, help me know that when it is dark You have not abandoned me. Please help me lay down now the terror of what I am, the terror that I am beyond Your help and beyond Your love. Because that denies the enormity of what You did for us, when I think You came for everyone but me. Here I am Lord, all of me. Please give me the grace to know You came for me.

Xxx

Trying not to choose destructive “safety”

I’m buzzing with anxiety and I don’t know what about. There are loads of things I have been really worried and upset about. But I can’t work out what’s bothering me right now. My stomach is knotted around a cold ache. An actual physical pain. My head feels the same as when my thoughts spiral but there aren’t any thoughts I can catch, just dizzy blankness. My legs are shaky and I’ve lost balance several times. It’s different from the dizziness and fainting that comes with the POTS. I wish I could make it stop. My tablets I regularly take in the evening usually sedate me a bit but it isn’t working. If I could walk for ages, or go running, maybe it would channel the feeling out of me (but I can’t since I can only walk a few yards with crutches).

If I knew why it would help. It’s scarier when the feeling is separated from thoughts. The emotional state seems to have a tighter and limitless hold on me even if rationally I ought to know it will pass. An emotion that shouldn’t be unbearable becomes so because of confusion, fear, and I realise now, the dread that is wrapped up in the associations of previous experiences of this emotion (abuse, being trapped, feeling guilty, feeling unable to stop terrible things happening because of me).

I desperately want to numb it and stop it. Drink, or cut, or binge, or take enough tablets to knock me into sleep. That seems to be the default response my mind and body make. I’m asking God to help me stay right here and feel and know I am with Jesus. This week leading up to Easter we are particularly close to Him in the suffering He went through so we could be with Him. In this small struggle that feels big right now, He hasn’t left me. I will keep on reaching out for His hand, praying and reminding myself of His goodness. Every moment is His way of coming to us now and sometimes we are with Him on a steep path, a storm or a lonely place. What matters is we are with Him.

It seems I’m saying what I really want to believe, rather than give in to the false security of numbness through destructive actions.

Jesus, please hold me, Mother Mary, please help me.

To be continued…

Ginny xxx

Moth to a flame

I’ve been drawn back to a website that has been harmful for me before. Another page I follow posted a link to it. I should never have looked at it again in the first place. Definitely not the second, third, fourth time… until I was being drawn back compulsively, hurting more and more each time but still going back like the proverbial moth to a flame. Or to a fluorescent artificial bulb, which seems more appropriate in this case. Why? Is it some kind of self-harm? Some unwilling fascination like not being able to look away from something awful, a crash or accident scene – except the awful thing in this case is what I fear that I am inside.

I don’t want to say what the site is or what was written as that would do no good to readers. In summary it promoted fear of people like me with personality disorders and the harm we do and made various claims about how we think and what our motivations are. It was not new to me, the claims are nothing new and I’ve been well aware of these ideas about people with personality disorders for some time. What was written drew me right in. It activated particular fears and past memories for me. It’s worse because on the face of it at least, the site is highly regarded (though I have suspicions) and because in the past before coming across the harmful articles, I had found some pages on the site about surviving abuse to be helpful and relatable. It’s not as though I stumbled across just any webpage on a spur of the moment search.

It is very hard to hold any sense of my identity apart from what this site “says” I am and what I now fear I am. I was afraid before and continuously doubt myself and my motivation, thought processes, whether I actually love, actually want good and care about people in my life or if actually I’m selfish, if someone thinks I’m good am I actually deceiving them, and it’s never ending. What I’ve read has multiplied and sped up all these thoughts.

The last 3 nights I barely slept, not really knowing why, though this unending thought process is probably a large part of it.

Xxx

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