#WeekendCoffeeShare (March 12, 2021)

And this time I’m extremely early with my #WeekendCoffeeShare. This week was rather eventful, especially the last couple of days. I just had my afternoon coffee today. You can probably get a cup of coffee, tea or a soft drink from the staff, but I’m so glad this meeting is actually virtual.

After all, if we were having coffee, first I’d share that I’m in room-based isolation. I started having a sore throat yesterday, but wasn’t sure it was the fact that I’d just had a screaming fit or it was actually a symptom of illness. The staff on shift yesterday tried to reassure me. Today though, I woke up very sniffy. I warned the staff, but at first she wasn’t concerned this time either. After she talked to a colleague though, I had to be in room-based isolation. The staff are now wearing protective clothing when entering my room. I’m usually in my room anyway when not walking. For this reason, if I do have COVID, it’s unlikely the other clients will have caught it too, at least from me. The staff though, well, they’ve definitely been at risk.

Thankfully, one of my home’s staff is one of my facility’s appointed testers. She swabbed me right this morning and the test should be at the lab right now. Please all pray that it’ll come back negative.

As for how I’m feeling, well, I’m okay. I’m a little sick to my stomach in addition to the cold symptoms, but overall it’s manageable. I don’t have a fever and my oxygen saturation was normal too.

If we were having coffee, then I’d tell you that I didn’t have as good a walking week this week as I had last week. The reason is that, besides not being allowed out today, I wasn’t allowed outside of the home on Tuesday either. Another client had to be tested for COVID. Thankfully, his test came back negative. I heard this the next morning, but today the staff told me they’d been informed already Tuesday evening at 10PM. I asked the staff to wake me up if this happens with my test too (only if it’s negative).

If we were having coffee, I would share that I had a really productive appointment with my psychiatric nurse practitioner yesterday. The staff who’d seen the PTSD video with me last week, accompanied me. Together, we were able to explain my continuing issues with hypervigilance, flashbacks and emotional dysregulation. I was able to explain about some of my traumas, including traumatic experiences within the psychiatric system. My nurse practitioner was able to validate me from his own perspective as a former psych hospital nurse.

If we were having coffee, lastly I would share that I made a coconut-mango smoothie this morning. It didn’t taste as good as it could have and I’m not sure whether to blame my cold symptoms or the chunks of coconut that weren’t properly blended.

What’s been going on in your life?

#WeekendCoffeeShare (March 7, 2021)

Okay, I’m so very late with my #WeekendCoffeeShare post for this week. Sorry! I was in Lobith yesterday and, though I returned already before noon today, I really didn’t find the time to write. I have so many things I want to write about and yet none come out clearly onto the screen. So let me just ramble. There might still be coffee here or you can grab a soft drink. Let’s chat.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m still struggling with hypervigilance and emotional flashbacks. If anyone is familiar with complex PTSD, I’d love to know your tips for dealing with these. I mean, I’m constantly on high alert and on the edge of flight.

It doesn’t help that I have no idea what triggered me. I mean, could it still be the dentist’s appointment at the main institution last Tuesday? I’m pretty sure that’s not it. In any case, I’m trying to cope the best I can.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that, on Friday, I showed a staff a case video from the Center for Consultation and Expertise on a woman with severe (complex) PTSD. It helped clarify some of the issues I’m facing.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I had a bit of a meltdown when I came back to the care facility from Lobith early this afternoon. I wasn’t happy about the student staff doing my one-on-one this evening. Thankfully though, the staff reassured me that the student or I could call for another staff if needed. It wasn’t needed ultimately.

If we were having coffee, I’d then try to lighten the mood by talking about the weather. It’s cold here for March, with tempts dropping below freezing at night. Still, it’s quite sunny. The weather forecast predicts rain for all of the upcoming week though.

If we were having coffee, I’d share about my husband’s great chicken wraps that he’d made me yesterday. They were especially great with tabasco sauce in them.

If we were having coffee, lastly, I would proudly announce that I got in over 10K steps five days in the past week and over 12K steps on three of those. Today and yesterday, I didn’t do so well, but I still got in over 5K steps each day. That’s what my husband says the scientific community has calculated as the real recommended minimum step count each day. My husband said the 10K mark was made up by the inventor of the activity tracker. Regardless, I did average over 10K steps over the past seven days. Unfortunately, my sister still beat me on Fitbit. Oh well.

What’s been going on in your life?

Gratitude List (March 5, 2021) #TToT

It’s Friday again and I badly want to write. I’m feeling quite distressed by emotional flashbacks right now. To turn my mood around, I thought I’d do a gratitude list again. As usual, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT).

1. I am grateful to live in a care facility. I feel very insecure about my living arrangement right now, but my staff reassure me that I don’t have to leave. I am so extremely grateful for my staff’s patience with my anxiety!

2. I am grateful my staff make sure someone comes to sub when a staff is ill or has other obligations. Today, my day activities staff had to leave unexpectedly at around 1PM, but the staff made sure someone came to take her place. In the psychiatric hospital, we’d just be left with fewer staff if this happened.

3. I am grateful for chicken Siam. A fellow client and staff cooked that up for this evening and I totally love it! This client can’t have the cashews that normally go in, so there’s more left for me. 😉

4. I am grateful I got my second shot of the vaccine yesterday. I am also grateful that I didn’t experience any side effects. In fact, I hardly even felt the needle go in, so worried at first that they were doing something wrong. I try to trust that I got the vaccine correctly though.

5. I am grateful for God’s presence in my life. I have been extra involved with my Bible reading lately. I am grateful I finally figured out how to bookmark, highlight or copy verses in the YouVersion app and how to add notes or prayers.

6. I am grateful for all the lovely treats the staff who left our home last week, left for us. We had winegums, candy bars, ice cream and more.

7. I am grateful for no rain this week. It’s cold outside, but usually sunny. For this reason, I was able to get in over 10K steps each day of the week so far (not counting today, but I will later).

8. I am grateful I’m done with dentistry appts for at least another several months. My experience at the dentist’s was pretty bad last Tuesday, by no fault of the dentist. Let me just say I’m glad I’ve got it over with.

9. I am grateful I got to talk to my parents on the phone on Monday and that they are well. I had a nice chat. I will need to phone my sister later too. My parents were going to visit her and her family on Tuesday.

10. I am grateful for the ability to chat to other clients, including those from other homes within my care facility. I chatted some with a guy from the home next to us while we met outside of the day center a few days back. We used to go on walks together with the staff and also have coffee at each other’s homes, but due to COVID restrictions we no longer can. I am looking forward to being able to hang out more with him and other clients once the restrictions are lifted.

Wow, this turned out much better than I expected and it certainly did help.

What are you grateful for?

Appointment With My CPN

Yesterday, we had an appt with our community psychiatric nurse (CPN). I can’t remember all that we discussed. I went into some detail about our sadness and overwhelm over the last few weeks and explained that we had signed a letter to the manager requesting more help.

I tried to ask my CPN to get me an appt with the psychiatrist to discuss my meds, as my overload and irritability are increasing. While I was trying to get this out, I constantly heard someone in my mind say I shouldn’t be asking this as it’s attention seeking or drug seeking or whatever. I don’t even want a med increase per se. In fact, I’m at the maximum dose for both my antipsychotic and antidepressant already. I might want something to help with sleep and especially the restless dreams/nightmares. I feel intense shame about discussing that though, as my nightmares aren’t your standard PTSD nightmares. In fact, my trauma isn’t your standard PTSD trauma.

That is another issue I’m facing. Yesterday, I read an elementary school friend’s story of child abuse. It triggered me to an extent, because I can relate. Still, my trauma wasn’t that bad. She is a child sexual abuse survivor. I am not. Though I endured some physical abuse, it wasn’t that which caused my complex PTSD and dissociative symptoms. The most significant trauma in my life was the emotional abuse and neglect.

Of course, I just told another survivor that childhood emotional neglect and emotional abuse can cause C-PTSD and dissociative disorders too. In fact, dissociative disorders are largely attachment-based, so anything that disrupts normal attachment, can cause it. Still, to apply that knowledge to myself, is quite a bit harder.

I eventually did ask my CPN to refer me to the psychiatrist. My nurse practitioner would normally prescribe my medication, but he does consult with the psychiatrist also. Besides, I’ve never even seen the psychiatrist. So my CPN was more than happy to get me an appt.

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.

I Think We Found a Relatively New Alter

So last Friday we for whatever reason landed in a bit of a crisis. Our husband would be visiting us on Saturday and for some reason, we convinced ourselves he was coming to say he wanted to break up with us. Like I said yesterday, it turned out he wasn’t. He’s such a great hubby!

The night staff checked on us at around 10:45PM. This had been agreed on after our crisis last week, because we were scared to press the call button at night. We told the night staff that we were anxious. She tried to tell us to try to get some sleep. Obviously that didn’t work out.

After we’d been going on the computer for a bit, we decided to E-mail our husband. Then, for some reason, we eloped and wandered around outside of the care facility for a bit. We after about half an hour tried to find our way back, but the doors to our home and to all other homes were locked. We started to scream out for help and finally, the sleepover staff heard us. She and the night staff came to our rescue. Of course, we were asked why we hadn’t pressed the call button. So far, I have no idea.

Then yesterday evening, we were watching a video on the Dutch Center for Consultation and Expertise website. It was about a young woman with severe attachment disorder. In the midst of it, our staff came into our room for something, I can’t remember what. We got really agitated and that’s when I realized this might be a relatively new alter. The girl in the video was called Deborah, so that’s the name this new one chose.

What is so unique about her, is her tendency to “test” the staff’s willingness to help us. Some of us, and this may include her, get triggered when we perceive we’re getting less help than we think we need. Some of us express this appropriately, but Deborah doesn’t. She, rather, gets really agitated and self-destructive. Unlike the Deborah in the video, she hasn’t been aggressive towards others as of yet, though inside she definitely feels like it.

We discussed Deborah’s needs with our assigned support worker just yet. She tried to reassure us that we don’t need to leave the care home. Deborah is lucky that she had me (Clarissa) nearby to explain.

Our staff will have a meeting with the behavior specialist and physician tomorrow to discuss our care. We may get a door sensor, which alerts the night staff when we leave our room. After last week’s crisis, we also gave some of the things we were thinking of using as self-harm tools to the staff. This should hopefully be enough, though Deborah’s behavior is in some ways getting worse. We hope it doesn’t get so bad that we need more support than our home can provide.

Clarissa

What Day Is It Anyway? (March 23, 2020) #WDIIA

Well, this thing called What Day Is It Anyway? (#WDIIA) is presumably a daily feature during the COVID-19 crisis. However, I won’t promise I’ll make it a daily feature. I’d like to participate when I can though, as I must admit I lose track of the days too.

Today is Monday, March 23. I awoke at 8:29AM according to my Fitbit activity tracker. I got showered, brushed my teeth and got dressed. I then had nice yoghurt with crunchy muesli with nuts for breakfast. I bought it with the staff on Saturday.

Then I went back to my room for a bit, until it was time to have coffee in the living room, which is our day room now that the day center is closed. The day activities staff are still figuring out how to best help all clients in the seven homes that are part of the facility.

I went for two walks during the day, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Then after dinner I went on the elliptical. Then finally while prime minister Rutte was delivering a press conference on the COVID-19 situation, I took another long walk. I reached nearly 12000 steps today.

As such, I didn’t hear myself what the prime minister had to say. I later heard on the news that people found gathering in even small groups can be fined up to €400 per person. It’s up to each city’s mayor though to take appropriate safety measures. Shops can (and probably should) have strict limitations on the number of people entering at a time. All events and festivals have been canceled until June 1. The prime minister will give out further details about school closures next week. But the good news is… no complete lockdown for now! Though the prime minister did say that people should really go outside alone if they’re outside at all, I doubt I’ll be fined for taking walks outdoors with just one staff. I hope not at least, as walks are true stress-relievers for me in normal times already and this time is definitely more stressful than normal.

Then again, I’m not sure I’m affected more by this situation than most others, or maybe even less. I am constantly on edge, but that’s my normal. That’s what living life with (C-)PTSD and BPD traits is like everyday. My distress level simply is never at a one and this time is no exception. Though obviously the lack of routine is distressing, I must honestly say it’s really more the usual things that cause me overwhelm.

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.