If I Have a Good Day…: Ramblings on Fear of Joy

Today is a slightly better day than yesterday. I actually managed to make a soap for a staff and also go on walks. I even reached my daily step goal! In addition, I have been exploring my faith.

Still, fear of joy is haunting me. Until a few years ago, I never knew it was a thing. That is, I had read about it on a fellow trauma survivor’s website. That was many years ago already, but I never quite understood what it meant. I never realized I experience it. And yet I do.

I think this fear is intertwined with my core belief that, if people truly knew me, they’d abandon me. It is the exact opposite, in a way, and yet it’s similar too. I mean, if people abandon me regardless, why bother trying my best?

Deep down, I feel that people are going to abandon me if they find out how wicked I am. I also, conversely, feel that people are going to abandon me if they think I can cope fine on my own. And these different views are not mutually exclusive. After all, my psychologist at the mental hospital thought I was bad and manipulative, and yet she also thought I would cope fine on my own.

My belief that people don’t see the real me, the wicked, attention-seeking, manipulative me, makes me want to disappear. It makes me feel ashamed of my needs. But it also causes intense anger, because at the core maybe I want to prove myself right.

On the other hand, my belief that people don’t see my genuine need and think I can cope fine on my own, leads to actual care-seeking behavior. It’s not the same as attention-seeking, but maybe in my current context of a care facility, it’s worse.

I have a sense that both of these beliefs cause me to fear joy. On Sunday, I felt abandoned by the staff. Then on Monday, I was trying to “prove” that I’m more needy and hence more wicked than my staff believe. Today though, I’m feeling slightly better, but this scares me. It scares me because I’m convinced I’ll be expected to cope on my own if I’m managing.

Maybe that psychologist was right after all that I have dependency issues. I worry the staff will agree at some point and this in fact reinforces care-seeking behaviors. Which, of course, is counterproductive.

If The Staff Saw My True Nature…: Reflections on Not Belonging

Yesterday, I was in yet another crisis. I was majorly triggered when a staff told me at the dinner table to calm down or go to my room because she had other clients to attend to as well. This triggered both my fight and flight responses. I was completely convinced that this one remark proved that, if staff truly know me, they’ll abandon me. After all, if they truly knew my nature, they’d know I needed more support than they can offer. I was and still am intensely ashamed of this nature of mine, but for whatever reason, I cannot seem to change it.

I cannot stop this part of mine who thinks she needs almost literally one-on-one support all day. It isn’t even a sense of entitlement, since I don’t feel that I’m somehow deserving of more attention than the other clients. Or maybe at the core I do believe this. I’m not sure. My parents would say I do believe I’m somehow entitled to endless attention.

At one point, I lashed out at the staff member. This led to further intense shame. I was convinced that, in that moment, the staff had seen my true nature and that she was going to make sure I’d be kicked out.

For whatever reason, she didn’t. She did, I assume, write an incident report. Other than that, I must say she was incredibly nice all evening.

And yet all day I was convinced that, if the staff nor the manager were going to kick me out, they must not have seen how wicked I really am. I do know that, in truth, this was one of my worst outbursts of aggression ever. I’ve done more harmful things, but those were harmful only to myself.

The manager came to talk to me late in the afternoon. She reassured me that I won’t be kicked out. I tried to tell her that, despite my desire to be good, I feel I might need more support than my current home can provide. I wasn’t trying to elicit her pity or convince her to apply for more funding for me, but I was trying to make it clear that I may be more of a burden than she can handle. I don’t want to feel attached to the staff and the home and even some of the other clients only to be told in a month or two that after all I’m too much of a handful. The manager sort of reassured me.

And yet, when she was gone, I went online and looked at other places I might be able to move to. Not because I really want to move, but because that’s what I’m used to. I’m used to not being wanted anywhere. And it’s tempting to believe that, with how often I end up in crisis here, I don’t really want to live here myself. Ugh, I don’t know how to answer that question.

Mother As Place of Attachment

It’s already been eighteen months since I last wrote about what I read in The Emotionally Absent Mother. Still, the book hasn’t just sat there. I struggled to move on from Mother As Source. The next section is titled Mother As Place of Attachment. Somehow, this is a really hard section. I don’t really know why. I mean, yes, part of the reason I struggle to move on in writing about this book, is that I do it publicly and what if my parents read this? Then again, I don’t really care. I’m in groups on Facebook for childhood emotional neglect and emotional abuse survivors too. Though the member list of private groups isn’t available to non-members, I’m pretty sure they know somehow. Honestly, regarding this, I care more about my husband’s opinion than my parents’.

But there’s something specifically about this section that is hard. I’m not even sure what. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have a lot of early memories of my mother. I attribute this to my father being the homemaker and primary caretaker in our household. But fathers can “mother” too.

The first question asked in the section on your mother as place of attachment, is to rate your sense of connectedness to your mother on a scale of 1 to 10. The next question is how your sense of connectedness evolved over the years.

Well, with my mother, I am generally at a 5. I don’t feel she “gets” me, but we do get along okay. Like I said when discussing mother as source, I don’t feel that I’m made of her, but she isn’t from another planet either. Or maybe she’s from Venus. I mean, we’re not constantly disconnected.

Over the years, my sense of connectedness to my mother has stayed the same. I never quite felt like we had a strong bond, but I didn’t feel totally alienated either.

My father is a different story. We had a strong connection, maybe around 8, when I was a child. Now we’re at a 3 at best. Like I said in my mother as source post, as a child, I saw my father as the embodiment of intelligence, success and well what other positive characteristics are there really? When I got to question his having sole ownership of the truth at around age 15, things started to change. Or did things change earlier on? I’m not sure.

Another question is about bodily contact. This is where I get to question whether the schism occurred earlier than age 15. When I was a young child, my father definitely did give both my sister and me lots of opportunities for bodily contact. I remember when my sister and I were little, my father would wrap us in a towel and drag us to our bedroom. He called this “swordfish” and my sister always asked for “sordsish”.

My mother says that, around age 7 or 8, I stopped wanting to sit in my parents’ lap. From then on, bodily contact like hugging or good-night kisses was very ritualistic. I remember around age 11, being forced to read a certain number of pages in Braille if I wanted a good-night kiss. This at the time felt very distressing. I haven’t studied emotional development except in the context of intellectual disability, so I have really no idea whether it’s normal to still want good-night kisses at that age. I guess not.

As a side note, I did initiate physical contact such as hand-holding with practically every adult until I was at least 12. In my psych eval report from age 11, the ed psych notes that I claim not to need a cane but grab her hand immediately anyway. That first bit was no doubt related to my difficult accepting my blindness, but I don’t think the second bit is fully. Even as an adult, I truly crave physical contact and am a bit indiscriminate in who can give it to me. I mean, I am pretty clear that no male staff can provide me with physical comfort (or help me with personal care). With regards to female staff though (and the entire current staff of my home is female), I do accept physical comfort. I honestly don’t know how my husband feels about this.

PoCoLo
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

When This Is All Over: A Letter From My Future Self

I am feeling rather low right now. I am in fact struggling somewhat with suicidal thoughts. To motivate myself to keep going, I’m writing a letter as if it were say 2021 (because in 2021, everything will be okay) and I am writing to myself right now. In other words, I am writing a letter from my future self to my current self. Of course, in this letter, I’m assuming that by 2021, I’ll be in long-term care. I really hope and pray I’ll be in long-term care much sooner, but I know that at least they won’t be able to deny me funding by 2021.

Dear you,

I see you. I feel your pain. I understand 2021 seems like far away and I know you hope to be granted long-term care funding earlier. I know you need it. I know you’re struggling right now, seeing that your application is likely to be turned down. I know your support staff are fighting like lions to get you funding. Please appreciate that.

Please don’t end your life now. Things will get better. I am here, in a suitable supported housing facility, looking at you. Look at me and please give me a chance. I don’t want to be dead.

Please, for the sake of me, keep going. You’ve been through so much already. I know that isn’t particularly motivating to keep going, as each disappointment drags you further down the rabbit hole of depression. However, I am here to guide you through.

Please, for your husband, keep going. He loves you. He supported you through the twelve years up to this point and he’ll support you through the rest of the time needed to finish this thing.

Please, for your parents, keep going. They may see you as manipulative. They may have felt in 2007 that the main reason not to kill yourself is that they’d have to pay for your funeral. They no longer do, but they don’t deserve to be proven right about the manipulativeness. Please keep on fighting and show them you can be a happy, positive person.

Please, for your support staff, keep going. You have the best support coordinator you could wish for. She fights like a lioness for what you need. She believes you. Please don’t let her down.

I know you want to be included on the Autistic Memorial Blog if your suicide is successful. Fine by me but I’d rather you be a living person rather than a statistic on a blog. I know you say that your suicide might wake up the politicians and policy-makers involved in healthcare, but they’re already working on changing the law. They can’t speed up things just because you’re gone.

And what if you attempt suicide but fail? Then you’ll be exactly where you are now, except that you’ll be there to remember your parents being proven right about your manipulativeness. Because quite frankly, killing yourself for political reasons is manipulative. I know that, if you ultimately decide to attempt suicide, you’ll not be thinking about this, as you’ll most likely act in an impulse. However, I am here on your blog to remind you that, as shit as this may be, suicidality won’t get you what you want, or even what you need. Look back at yourself in 2007 for that. You might get temporary relief from the current situation, but it won’t last and you won’t be relieved from yourself, except if you truly die. Which I know isn’t what you want or need either. Please, stay safe.

Me

Healing From Childhood Trauma: Progress I’ve Made #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the #AtoZChallenge, day eight. It’s already nearly 9PM as I start writing this post. I wasn’t home from day activities till 5PM, then had dinner and then drove 50 minutes one way with my husband to pick something up he had bought. On our way back, we stopped by McDonald’s, which was fun.

Anyway, today’s theme is healing. I was inspired to choose this theme by yesterday’s post, in which my final goal was to heal from my childhood trauma. Let me share today how far I’ve come on my journey.

My trauma-based symptoms first became fully apparent in 2009 or 2010. I had moved from a locked acute psych unit to a resocialization unit in early 2009. Once I developed trust in my staff, I apparently felt more ready to uncover the trauma-based conditions I’ve been living with all my life. You see, my trauma started early on and is in some respects ongoing.

When I started to open up about my symptoms, it still took a long time for them to be diagnosed as first dissociative identity disorder and PTSD and later borderline personality disorder. Borderline personality disorder shares a ton of symptoms with complex PTSD and I think that’s what I have.

I have never been in formal trauma therapy. The reason is that, first, it was hard to find a therapist with expertise on DID. Once I’d found one, my diagnosis had been changed and I was assumed to be making it up.

As a result, I’ve done most healing on my own. I got the book Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation as soon as it came out in 2011. I worked through some of it on my own, but that wasn’t helping much. Talking a lot about my experiences was.

After I’d been talking through my experiences for a long while with my resocialization unit staff, my classic PTSD symptoms started to fade. Unfortunately, they’ve been back to an extent lately. However, my emotion regulation issues are a lot less pronounced.

I still have dissociative symptoms. Accepting them and validating my alters has helped me manage these symptoms.

Since I experience ongoing stress that reminds me of my trauma, I don’t expect to find the peace to fully heal anytime soon. However, I really hope I can continue to make progress.

Was I Sometimes Raised as a Golden Child?

I have been feeling really off lately. I keep having flashbacks. I also keep having what I’d describe as flashforwards, where I imagine my parents’ reaction to the different possible outcomes of the long-term care situation. These then lead to more flashbacks. One particular flashback I keep having is to a phone conversation I had with my mother when I’d just been admitted to the mental hospital in 2007, or maybe it was shortly before then. She yelled at me “You can’t even wipe your butt without your support worker there”. While this was and still is exaggerated, I do have issues with my personal hygiene, including sometimes with toileting.

I have noticed that there’s a lot of shame attached to my needs. Like, there is this constant nagging voice in my mind saying that I really do manipulate everyone into giving me more care. After all, am I not getting by? This part of me is telling me to erase everyone from my life and just go live on my own, since even if I lived with my husband and no support, there was still my husband to be manipulated.

I was discussing all this with my nurse practitioner last Thursday. He said even if I do manipulate people (and I no doubt do, as does everyone else), these people also let themselves be manipulated. Like, if they have an attitude like they’d rather help me with every little thing than endure my frustration, it’s no wonder I become dependent.

There was this show on Dutch television last Sunday about a second grade class. I didn’t see it, but a term used in it that was repeated often throughout the week, was “curling mother”. I have no idea whether that’s the correct English term, but it refers to a parent who helps their child with everything until they’re eighteen and then magically expects them to have learned independence and leave the nest. My nurse practitioner was reminded of this when I described my parents. It feels odd, because even though yes my parents did help me with every little thing, this expectation that I move out at eighteen was made very explicit from an early age on. It wasn’t like my parents were hoovering over me not realizing that they’d not be there for me forever. In fact, I’m pretty sure they couldn’t wait for me to move out. It just ugh, feels so off. Like I was spoiled somehow because my parents did everything for me.

At this point, I remember a discussion in an inner child healing group in which the original poster commented on some author or speaker saying that the golden child of narcissistic parents suffers a lot. This person was confused, because the golden child is the child favorited by the narcissistic parent, the child who doesn’t get abused (or so it seems). Some people said that the golden child suffers a lot because, well, they are only the narcissist’s favorite as long as they live up to their perfect standards.

I was raised in a household where the golden child/scapegoat roles reversed repeatedly. For those not aware, the scapegoat is the main target of obvious abuse in a narcissistic family. As such, I can relate to a lot of golden child attributes. Like, I was often praised excessively, bragged about and let off the hook. Then again, I was, and this was always very clear, expected to livve up to my parents’ perfect-image plan for me. Once I stopped doing this, I was placed in a clearer scapegoat role.

It still feels off to think of myself as having been spoiled. I know Pete Walker says spoiling is a severe kind of trauma too. However, in society, it is often treated like the spoiled child is to blame for being spoiled. And they definitely aren’t. Only as adults can they choose to undo the effects of this trauma, but they have to admit it first. I have to accept this.

A Letter to the Insiders

I want to write, but I don’t know where this is going. In fact, until I wrote down the title of this blog post just minutes ago, I had no idea I was even going to write a letter to my alters. I was inspired to do it by the recovery-based letters some people write to their mental health conditions.

Another thing that inspired me subconsciously, was a conversation with a dear friend on the need to integrate as part of treatment for dissociative identity disorder. This is often seen as the only possible end goal, and this dear friend was even told so on her first appointment with a therapist. We feel very strongly about this. First of all, integration is the third and last phase of treatment for DID, so it feels very wrong to discuss it at the very start. Second, integration can also mean living a functional life (ie. integration into society). I know many therapists, including I think our psychiatrists, feel a merger of all alters as somehow more healthy than living as a functional multiple. Well, agree to disagree.

The first phase of treatment is stabilization. This includes getting to know your system, learning to deal with feelings, developing inner communication, etc. After this, the second phase is trauma processing. Only once all traumas have been processed can you begin to integrate.

We don’t do DID treatment and aren’t likely to get it ever at all. After all, the diagnosis process scares the crap out of us and we’re unlikely to be believed. As such, it’s all the more important that we validate ourselves.

Dear you,

Welcome. We appreciate you. We are glad that you’re here, for you helped us survive. Without you, we wouldn’t be where we’re now. Thanks for that!

We know you may feel sad, or angry, or confused. that’s all okay. It may not feel okay to you, but that too is okay. Your feelings are valid. They’re there for a reason.

We want you to know there are people out there to support you. Inside, you have an entire system of alters that will help you be the best you you can be. If we work together – and that includes you -, we’ll heal.

Outside of the body, you’ll meet our support staff. Maybe you’ll be able to meet our mental health team too. Most of the people in our current life are supportive. We know this hasn’t always been the case and that’s one reason you’re here. We are here to help you heal from those experiences. You can trust us.

You may not be able to disclose your true identity as an alter to everyone, but there are people in the DID community you can talk to as yourself.

We hope this letter helped you feel a little bit safe. It’s still scary, but things will get better.

Love,

Us

Self-Care: Doing Absolutely Nothing

Sienna over at Therapy Bits wrote about self-care today. She had a day of doing absolutely nothing, as she worded it. I loved the idea. Too often, my attempts at “self-care” include making all kinds of resolutions to do things for myself and not doing anything at all. Like, I’ve been starting and restarting blog posts for today at least half a dozen times, thinking I needed and wanted to write. However, then I quickly deleted the post again, thinking it was pointless. Maybe it is, but maybe that’s the point.

Self-care, to me, means listening to your own body and mind without judgment. It means not considering what others will think of your attempts to care for yourself (within ethical and legal limits, of course).

I consider writing an important act of self-care, but I also often judge my blogging attempts. I don’t write often enough, or my writing isn’t good enough, or whatever. Today, I am setting these limiting beliefs aside and just taking care of myself.

Besides writing, another good self-care practice is meditation. I often find myself judging myself over not doing it enough too, or not being focused enough when doing it. At other times, when I do successfully meditate, I find that the effect wears off quickly and I end up beating myself up over that.

Today, I have been looking at affirmations and inspirational quotes. I love them, but I still find myself wanting to do something “productive” with them. Like, several of these blog posts I started then deleted, were quote-of-the-day posts that I deleted for being pointless.

Maybe the point of self-care, of this blog and of my life in general is not to fulfill other people’s expectations of me, but to be who I am. To be who we are. There, Sienna’s “doing absolutely nothing” sounds appealing. I do “nothing” much of the time, but then I’m usually beating myself up over it. What if I could stop judging myself and start being in the present?

Mother As Source

I was finally able to read The Emotionally Absent Mother again, since transferring it from my computer to my iPhone. Until I did this, I was unable to read any of my EPUB eBooks, because the program I used for it was no longer supported by my screen reader. I missed reading this book in particular, since it had a lot of eye-opening questions in it. I last wrote about it last August, when I shared about good enough mother messages. Now, I am moving on in the book and starting with the roles good enough mothers have. The first one is mother as source.

This section starts with the assertion that mother is what we’re made of. It goes on to assert that, both literally and on a more spiritual level, we come from mother. Literally, we come out of her womb. Spiritually, nature is often seen as coming from the ocean, which is in mythology seen as a mother goddess.

This whole assertion seems a bit off to me. Like I said in my post last August, I was raised primarily by my father as a child. Obviously, I came from my mother’s womb, but this is hard to imagine.

One of the thought-provoking questions in this section is to imagine yourself in your mother’s womb. If you can’t imagine this, you are encouraged to imagine being engulfed by her energy. This gave me uneasy feelings. I have never felt able to see that I come from my mother. In fact, my parents used to joke that the neonatologist brought me into the world, not my mother.

Good enough mother-sources are able to create a positive and welcoming environment for their children with their presence. They make the child feel proud to be of her. As such, the next question in the book is whether you wanted to be similar to your mother or as different as possible (or anything in between). If someone were to say you’re so like your mother, would you be proud?

I have to clarify here that my mother herself didn’t and still doesn’t have the healthiest self-esteem. She used to say, and it came across only half jokingly, that I inherited all my bad characteristics from her and all the good ones from my father. As untrue as this is, I didn’t grow up feeling proud to be like my mother, because she didn’t convey that she had any characteristics to be proud of.

With respect to my father, who primarily raised me, I wanted to be like him as much as possible. Until I was an adolescent, I saw my father as the ultimate embodiment of success and every other positive quality. Then I started realizing that he too has his flaws. I now feel more closely related to my mother than to him.

The next question is whether you can imagine being proud to be of your mother. Do you identify yourself in relation to her? My short answer to this is “No”. I identify myself more in relation to my mother-in-law than my own mother.

In short, I do not feel my mother was able to be a good enough source. Of course, physically she wasn’t, by no fault of her own. By this I mean that all her pregnancies were complicated and the one with me ended in my premature birth. I don’t want to say that somehow she rejected me, because I know she didn’t. Once I was born, in fact, I was more unconditionally – or should I say less conditionally? – welcomed by her than by my father.

Of course, the stress of having had four pregnancy losses prior to being pregnant with me, could’ve caused her body to be less welcoming to a fetus. That, however, and I want to be very clear about this, isn’t her fault, or anyone’s fault. There is nothing my mother did to cause my premature birth!

Activities That Give Me Inner Peace

I’ve been feeling a bit low again, but not as low as I was early last month. I’m not even really depressed, but just rather uninspired. I’d rather play games on my iPHone than do something productive, like blogging. To get myself writing again, I looked at The Self Exploration Journal once again. One of the prompts is about activities that give you inner peace. Here goes.

1. Yoga. I really need to do this more often. I don’t practice yoga much, as it feels like exercise yet doesn’t lead to weight loss. However, it does have other benefits. For example, it can help with my flexibility. It can also definitely help me find inner peace.

2. Meditation. I have Insight Timer, a free meditation app, on my phone. I love it, but I don’t practice meditation nearly enough. I tried it again yesterday, but when I was in the middle of a guided meditation, my husband came home.

3. Listening to soothing music. I used to always have calming whale sounds on when in the snoezelen (sensory) room at my old day activities. Unfortunately, I couldn’t copy the CD when moving day activities and it’s no longer being sold. I have yet to try to listen to my own soothing music on Spotify when in the sensory room. I really want to do more imagery-based activities using soothing music too.

4. Walking. I love going for walks. It truly helps me process my thoughts and move towards greater inner peace. It’s a more active way of creating inner balance, whereas the above three activities are more passive. I mean, yes, yoga requires movement, but it doesn’t require as much movement as does walking.

5. Exercise. Going on the elliptical has the same effect as walking, but amplified. I do this alone, whereas I always go on walks with other people. This means that I can quietly process my thoughts when on the elliptical, while at the same time getting my much-needed activity.

6. Writing. I really want to do this everyday, like I did when starting this blog. I really want to do more freewrites or diary entries too. This should definitely help me process my thoughts and gain inner peace.

What activities give you inner peace?