Tag Archives: PTSD

I Hate Complex-PTSD

(Trigger Warning – Discussion about Trauma)

I hate Complex-PTSD. There is no way around it, I hate it.  I got triggered today.  All it took was for me to be sent spiraling was for me to notice that a relative of mine had changed their profile picture on Facebook.  It was a completely innocent thing for them to do.  There was nothing wrong with the picture that my relative chose, but for me, it was enough to trigger a cascading effect of interacting layers of trauma that I have accumulated over the years.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape.”

C-PSTD can occur in such cases of:

  • domestic emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • entrapment or kidnapping.
  • slavery or enforced labor.
  • long term imprisonment and torture
  • repeated violations of personal boundaries.
  • long-term objectification.
  • exposure to gaslighting & false accusations
  • long-term exposure to inconsistent, push-pull, splitting or alternating raging & hoovering behaviors.
  • long-term taking care of mentally ill or chronically sick family members.
  • long term exposure to crisis conditions.

How did I get to this point? I grew up in an emotionally neglectful and abusive household.  I married what I knew and the covert emotional manipulation and emotional abuse only got worse.  I have also been taking care of mentally ill family members for over 16 years now.  Then there is the medical trauma I endured 15 years ago that resulted in my initial diagnosis of PTSD which eventually grew to C-PTSD when more and more layers of trauma were exposed.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and C-PTSD are similar, but they do differ in causes and symptoms. C-PTSD results more from chronic repetitive stress from which there is little to no chance of escape. PTSD can result from single events or short term exposure to extreme stress or trauma.

***Remember, C-PTSD is a stress disorder, not a weakness or defect of character nor is it a personality disorder although it is often misdiagnosed as Borderline Personality Disorder.

From The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders:

CPTSD Symptoms

People who have gone through a long-standing, extremely traumatic situation may exhibit both physical and emotional symptoms related to their ordeal.

Emotional symptoms may include:

  • Rage displayed through violence, destruction of property, or theft
  • Depression, denial, fear of abandonment, thoughts of suicide, anger issues
  • Low self-esteem, panic attacks, self-loathing
  • Perfectionism, blaming others instead of dealing with a situation, selective memory
  • Loss of faith in humanity, distrust, isolation, inability to form close personal relationships
  • Shame, guilt, focusing on wanting revenge
  • Flashbacks, memory repression, dissociation

Victims of C-PTSD may also have physical symptoms, such as:

  • Eating disorders, substance abuse, alcoholism, promiscuity
  • Chronic pain
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Gastrointestinal problems.
  • Migraines

From Out of the Storm:

Symptoms Shared by CPTSD and PTSD

According to Cloitre et al (2016), CPTSD shares three main symptoms with PTSD which include:

  • Re-experiencing the past – in the form of nightmares and flashbacks.  While in PTSD flashbacks tend to be visual, in CPTSD they are often emotional.  That is,  a sudden, overwhelming rush of emotions such as anger, shame, humiliation, abandonment, and of being small and powerless much like a child would feel when abused.  These are referred to as Emotional Flashbacks (EFs). and can last for minutes, hours or even days (Walker, 2013) . 
  • Sense of threat – constantly on guard or hypervigilant, strong startle reaction
  • Avoidance – of thoughts, feelings, people, places, activities relating to the trauma (e.g., dissociation, derealization)

Symptoms of CPTSD Only

Cloitre et al (2014) suggest that CPTSD differs from PTSD in that it has three additional symptoms:

  • Emotion regulation – Emotional sensitivity; reduced ability to respond to situations in an emotionally appropriate and flexible manner  
  • Negative self-concept – Feeling of worthlessness and defectiveness. Walker suggests that those with CPTSD suffer from toxic shame and have a virulent Inner and Outer Critic.
  • Interpersonal problems – Difficulty feeling close to another person; feeling disconnected, distant or cut off from other people (depersonalization, social anxiety). 

Everyone is unique and the above list of symptoms is not complete and not everyone with C-PTSD will exhibit all the symptoms listed. I, for one, do not have the physical symptoms of “Eating disorders, substance abuse, alcoholism, promiscuity”. There was a time I wanted revenge, but I couldn’t stand that feeling and fought hard against it. Revenge never solves anything and can ultimately destroy the person seeking revenge. I have wanted to die, but I have never had suicidal thoughts.  I also have never been violent, destroyed property, nor committed theft. I do not have cardiovascular problems, but I do experience chest pain during anxiety and panic attacks. I have had to establish healthy boundaries and am no longer in contact with certain family members beyond an occasional email.  I also never lost my ability to form close personal relationships with others.

What makes experiencing all this worse for me is that things that trigger me are typically seen as happy moments by most people, so there is little to no understanding as to why I cut myself off from exposure to reminders and why an unexpected exposure to a photograph of my happy sister, her happy husband, and her new baby affected me so badly.  I didn’t experience anger seeing that photo.  I was terrified!  Pregnancy and children birth reminders are horrible, panic inducing triggers for me. The reason for this is my medical trauma resulted from me being pregnant and giving birth.  I am not going to go into detail, but more information can be found here and here.

I got triggered this morning by a reminder of that horrific time in my life that was my medical trauma, the lack of emotional support I experienced from my family and continue to experience, and all the loss I experienced and continue to experience.  That one trigger not only triggered me regarding my medical trauma, but every  emotional trauma after it. There is a lot.  As I stated before, I was in an emotionally abusive marriage and came from an emotionally manipulative and neglectful home life that followed me into adulthood.    

It is 11:31PM now. I am still struggling. I have been crying off and on all day, but most of my crying was this morning.  How have I coped?  I used music and running.  I let myself ride the melody and lyrics of specifically chosen songs and played them over and over again.  I let the music flow through me and let the emotion flow with it.  I had to.  No more pretending.  I am safe now.  I don’t have to hide my anguish anymore. I have to let my pain out, but I have to do it in a health way.  I have been a runner for 24 years.  Running helps me regulate my anxiety and helps me control my meltdowns.  Running is not for everyone, but it is a way for me to help ground myself when the whole world feels like it is collapsing all around me like it did today.

My theme song today was “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler.  I felt this song fit with how I was feeling and how I wanted to express myself, because I had no words, just tears and pain.  (Lyrics) 

After my run tonight I found myself still feeling lost. The song I needed to listen to was “Send me an Angel” by Real Life.  (Lyrics)

I have been waking up lately with this song playing in my head. I wouldn’t mind at all having an angel sent to me right now with some guidance and emotional support. Days like this are so hard, but they do eventually get better.  I just have to keep moving forward.  A better day will come.  

 

 

Advertisements

“I Don’t Know What To Do.” – A Parent’s Dilemma

NOTE: This blog was posted with my children’s permission. It may be removed at any time if my children feel they no longer want this information shared in this public format. Information contained in this blog involves the struggle with mental illness in conjunction with autism. 

Trigger Warning: Reference to suicidal thoughts and plans for suicide. 

I don’t know what to do.

For seven and a half years we have been trying to find the “right” path, the “right” combinations of medications, the “right” program for school, the “right” way to handle issues at home. I don’t know what the “right” way is anymore.

You can’t help a person who doesn’t want to be helped.

I have to keep reminding myself that. You can’t help a person who doesn’t want to be helped.  All you can do is give them a door and directions on how to go through that door.  They have to decide if they (1) want to go through that door and (2) if they want to put in the effort necessary to go through the door.

Even if they do what is necessary to go through the door, they also have to keep putting in the effort to be able to stay on that other side of the door. If they don’t, they fall backwards.  I understand that maintaining that effort is hard, especially in the beginning.  It is like one step forward and two steps back. This is why proper support is so important.  It keeps the person from sliding too far back.  They need a hand to hold on to, a hand that can help guide them, especially on those really difficult days

The thing is, that hand that is always there can only do so much. That hand can beg, plead, bargain, demand, surrender one day only to try again the next.  The hand can keep doing that day after day, but that hand will start to question how long they can keep at it. How long do they keep putting in the effort when the other person that they are trying to help refuses to grab hold? How long do they allow the other person to continue to disrupt the lives of others in the family? 

It sounds selfish, I know. A parent should not waiver when helping their child.  A parent needs to be there always, right?

I just don’t know what to do anymore.

We have tried so damn much, even tried things multiple times just to make sure. This week my oldest will be ending her 90 day outpatient treatment program and I am afraid for her.  I am afraid what is going to happen next and the stress that it will put on her and our family. The first month and a half had been very promising.  She was calmer than I had seen her in such a long time.  She was excited to go the program. After losing three months of school due to emotional distress, she actually wanted to go to this school/counseling/outpatient program.  Unfortunately, things have taken a rather negative turn.  Over the last month and a half and she has had two depression break through periods.

She never made it to the program last week and only managed three hours of school work. That doesn’t bode well for passing 10th grade.

Seven and a half years ago, my daughter was diagnosed with bipolar. Over the years, that diagnosis evolved into Bipolar II and Autism Level 2 with accompanying expressive language impairment.  She has started on psychiatric medication when she was only eight years old. She has been on as many as six different medications at a time taking them 3 – 5 times a day and still we have been no closer to establishing stabilization of her moods.  She will tell you that the medications have slowed down her mood fluctuations, but that is it. The official term for the type of bipolar she has is Juvenile Onset Bipolar – “Fear of Harm” Phenotype that is ultra-rapid cycling. 

For more information about “Fear of Harm” Phenotype – The 6 Dimensions of the Fear of Harm (FOH) Phenotype

For more information about rapid cycling Bipolar – Rapid Cycling and its Treatment

She ended up in the hospital this past spring due to hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. The voices were telling my daughter to use knives to kill herself. At that time it was thought that maybe what we are dealing with is Schizioaffective Disorder – Bipolar TypeMy daughter has talked about her hallucinations for years, but this was the first time the voices were telling her a suicide plan.  Only time will tell if her diagnosis evolves again.

Whatever my daughter is struggling with, we have yet to find a combination of therapy and medications that will help her stabilize. Our goal is six months of stable moods before we consider her stabilized.

It is not just the rapid mood cycling that is causing issues, it is also the mixture of bipolar and autism. Problems arise, because treatment for one will cause the symptoms of the other to worsen. This requires a very delicate balance of care.  There is also her age to consider.  In the state where we live in, once you turn 13 years old, you have a choice regarding your mental health care.  You can chose to not receive care, you can chose to not have your therapist disclose information to your parents, you can chose outpatient or inpatient care.  Inpatient care can be involuntary, but that takes a very long paper trail documenting pain, struggle, and failure.

We were fortunate enough to be able to have access to the outpatient treatment program that my daughter is just now finishing. It is two hours away from our house and it is an all-day affair (8:00AM to 4:30PM) Monday – Friday. At first it was workable.  It was summer time. I wasn’t working (I’m a teacher). We had been able to get fuel vouchers from Special Mobility Services, but only for a short time.  Our fuel vouchers were revoked for reasons we still do not fully understand and neither does the treatment center nor my daughter’s counselor. 

I live in a state that is rated 49th in mental health care.  What the treatment facility told us was that we had fallen victim to a system that is broken. There was nothing we could do.  I wasn’t going to pull my daughter out of a program that was helping and that she wanted to attend. This meant paying for all that fuel ourselves.  We are a low income family. Having to pay for the fuel in order to get my daughter needed medical care has put a considerable financial hardship on us.  Food is scarce in my house. Bills are paid late or are only partially paid. I stay in town for 8 ½ hours at the library Monday – Friday waiting for my daughter to finish her day, then we drive two hours to get home.  Most days my son joins us so he doesn’t have to be home alone.  We don’t have internet at our house or television services.  Being at the library allows my son access to the internet so he is able to work on school assignments.

Both my children are autistic and both are students of our local Home Link/homeschool program. They have recently started school in a third school district. The first failed to follow my son’s IEP, the second was honest with us about not knowing how to help my son. When people ask my son why he is in home school, he often tells them, “The school district didn’t know how to help me with my mental illness”.  He has debilitating anxiety issues (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia, and Social Anxiety) as well as depression. He also has misophonia  which causes considerable problems for him. Just to be clear, Autism is not a mental illness.  It is a developmental disorder.  When my son speaks about his mental illness, he means exactly that.  He is not talking about his autism.

For more information about Misophonia – The Symptoms & Triggers of Misophonia

The first school district refused to grant my daughter an IEP citing loopholes as the reason. When we moved to the second school district, we discovered that she was three years behind her peers in reading ability. I ended up getting my daughter a private tutor to reteach her how to read and my son how to write. My daughter has gained ground these past four years, but is now four-five years behind her peers in reading ability.  It took nearly four years and a hospital stay before the second school district granted my daughter an IEP.  Both my children are highly intelligent, but struggle with learning disabilities.  Both have dysgraphia and my daughter also has dyslexia. Both need extra social and emotional support at school.

All four of us, both of my children, my husband, and me tend to have paradoxical effects from medications that are designed to affect the brain in some way. If not paradoxical effects, then no effects at all, meaning no benefit from the medication. Whether it is psychiatric medications (all of us) or pain medications (mainly me) it just doesn’t work for us.  Between adolescence and the sensitivity issue with medication, finding the “right” combination of medication has proven to be quite a challenge for my daughter. 

The most recent change was introducing Lithium. Yes, Lithium, the go to drug for bipolar, has been tried. It affected her bladder, her eyes, and caused agitation. Her body also metabolized it too fast. We could never get a high enough therapeutic dose in her body and the medication was increased three times to pretty high levels. We went back to using Tegretol which she has had some success with in slowing down her mood cycles. Hydroxyzine, which is an allergy medication, has helped with her high levels of anxiety. It is fast acting, but not enough. She was also taking Geodon (another mood stabilizer) that helped strengthen the effects of the Tegretol, but has since stopped due to insurance problems with getting that particular medication. She takes medication three times a day and is able to add a smaller hydroxyzine dose two more times to address her anxiety if needed.

Next week she starts half-day attendance at our local high school where she will receive the services listed on her IEP. The rest of her schooling will be at home.  This past week she fell into another depression period. She stopped caring for herself, stopped caring about anything, becoming defiant and aggressive. 

Part of this is not her fault. She has no control over what her brain does.  What she does have control over is using her skills, not hurting people verbally or physically, and wanting to get help. I understand that when you use up too many “spoons”, using your skills is just not an option.  I get that.  I have been there many times.

I don’t have the same struggles as she does, but I am personally familiar with some of them, and I also have the advantage of being an adult. I have had years of practice in developing my coping skills. I am autistic as well.  I struggle with debilitating anxiety and I also struggle with depression and Complex-PTSD, but I don’t have bipolar.  I have no idea what it is like to be at war with yourself in the way she describes.

I can help guide her in calming strategies and help her establish a sensory friendly environment. I can help her break down her school work into more understandable parts. I can remind her to take her medication and I can take her to her counseling appointments. I can advocate for her both with the doctors and with the school.  I can be there when she needs a hug and encouraging words when all her internal struggles become too much. I can tell her that I love her and will always love her even when her brain is telling her that everyone hates her or when her brain tells her that she hates everyone.  I can be that hand that is always there for her, but she needs to put in effort as well.

I can’t do everything for her. I understand that she is developmentally delayed, much more so than her brother and me, but she is also a teenager with typical teenage behaviors. She does not need to be coddled.  She needs to be treated as the 15 year old that she is.  She is a capable person, but either doesn’t believe it or doesn’t want to be. She regularly pulls out her helpless card citing that she can’t do anything; this includes school work, house work, and any every day thing.  She doesn’t like to be told that she is 15, but says instead that she is nine years old or six years old depending on the day and the level of her anxiety.  Sometimes she is clearly 15 years old and makes it well known, especially when she wants to control everything and everyone. The age she feels fluctuates with her moods.

I often remind myself, particularly on harder days, of all the amazing things that makes my daughter who she is. She loves Doctor Who and Star Wars.  She also loves Science Fiction, Action Adventure, and Fantasy. Her, her brother and I often communicate using echolalia from these different genera.  She speaks the language of science and often talks about becoming a limnologist when she grows up. She is the “Blue Earth Saver” as she is known on the computer games she plays.  She loves animals and is so gentle with them.  She is an incredibly perceptive and empathetic person who is deeply affected by stories of war, violence, death, and struggle. Her school work has to be adjusted for this reason.

My daughter is such a strong person and has such clarity when she is between mood swings. She has been through more crap during her short time on this planet than most adults have had to deal with their entire lives. This is why I think she is tired.  She is tired of the constant struggle.  She is tired of nothing working.  She says the medications just covers things up, just a Band-Aid, they don’t work. She tired of the constant war in her head and feeling afraid to leave our house. She is tired of everything hurting. Too bright, too loud, too rough, too many expectations, no understanding, no order, no predictability.  Home is safe,  home makes sense, home is where her things are, home is where her pets are, home is where she can escape into unconsciousness and sleep the day away.  

Therein lies the problem. She has been progressively giving up. Giving up her dreams of the future, giving up trying to do well in school (she was on the honor roll all through middle school), giving up on practicing her skills, giving up on trying to work with the family as a team, giving up self-care, just plain giving up on everyone and everything.  She is done.  That is it. No more trying. She is done with it all.

With the days getting shorter and colder, she is already beginning to slide backwards. The outpatient center was helping her, but continued progression requires her to put in the effort. She is done.  No more effort. 

So, what does a parent do in this situation? Just let her continue to decline?  Have her end up back in the hospital over and over again?  Have a judge end up finally taking her rights away so she can become an involuntary inpatient? Have a judge take mine and my husband’s rights away as parents which would lead to her being pulled out of our house and put into the system where a social worker controls her life?

These options are unacceptable to me.

I don’t know what to do.

I don’t know what else I can do to help her.

Seven and a half years of fighting for services from the schools, doctors, and the government. Seven and a half years of struggling to find the “right” combinations of medications. Seven and a half years of constant questioning and research on my part in trying to settle that little voice in my head that says we are missing something. She shouldn’t be struggling so much. WE ARE MISSING SOMETHING!!!!

Her autism wasn’t diagnosed until she was 10 years old, two years after she was diagnosed with bipolar and a year after her brother was diagnosed with autism. When she was a toddler, she was tested twice for autism, but they told me she didn’t have a high enough score for the diagnosis.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that they were using a criterion that was biased towards boys. I had to push for her to be reevaluated to check for autism, because once she was put on medication, her autistic traits started to really show. The bipolar was overshadowing her autism.  I had to push to have her evaluated for learning disabilities.  I knew as a teacher and a mom that something wasn’t right, but, once again, she was over looked.  She wasn’t a behavior problem at school.  She was quiet and could be ignored. I had to get outside professionals to evaluate both my children, because the school didn’t see a problem, didn’t see how they both struggled far too much.

I have actually fought for longer than seven and a half years. I have fought for my children’s well-being since they were born. I have been a parent for 15 ½ years.  I am also tired and I am running out of options. 

My hand is there and I will continue to offer it to my daughter no matter what, even if she doesn’t take it. I am a parent.  It is my job. I am not giving up on her. She is my Sunshine and always will be.  

Panic Attacks – A Comprehensive Emotional Nightmare

(Trigger Warning: Discussion about panic attacks and emotional trauma.)

It happened again. I got triggered and the result was a bad panic attack.  Actually, I would say all panic attacks are bad.  The reason I say this last one was particularly bad is because of where I was at the time and who I was with.  I was in public with my family at a festival/carnival in a town that I did not live in. I had no safe place to go, but I knew I had to get out of there, so I told my family I was going to take a moment and I just started walking fast away from everything.  I just kept walking and walking. 

I probably would have ended up in the hills outside of town if I hadn’t set myself down in a secluded spot away from people and the commotion of what was going on in town.  I set myself down, because I could still think semi-rationally.  I realized I had the keys to our van, so I couldn’t just keep walking.  I also realized that the panic attack was winning.  I couldn’t stop it.  I knew that I needed to stop to just let myself cry, so that is what I did.  I sat down in the grass with my back to the world and just let the panic attack over take me. 

The panic attack didn’t just happen out of nothing. There was a very specific reason for it. It wasn’t the environment that triggered the panic attack. I was actually having a fun time with my family exploring the various wares on display at the different tables.  My son had just gone on a carnival ride with his friend and my daughter had just finished a snow cone.  We were laughing, enjoying our family outing.  We were just getting ready to get something to eat when she showed up with no warning.

I don’t know why this person who triggered me felt she needed to come up to my family and me. She had been told to keep a respectful distance from us some time ago. She claimed it was the polite thing to do to come up to us. In most cases, when you see someone you know, it is considered polite to come up and say “hi”, but in this particular case it was just thoughtless and disrespectful behavior on her part. She won’t see this, but I want to say to her, “Stay away from me and my family! Stay away from my husband! Leave us alone so we can heal!”

I have no idea if she is even aware of the amount of psychological and emotional damage that she contributed to. She was the first to contribute to three years of hell for myself and my family.  I have Complex-PTSD and those three years of pain only added to the layers of trauma that I had already acquired. 

My panic attack yesterday left me feeling in a way that I am having trouble describing. Drained, depressed, embarrassed, still full of anxiety, sick to my stomach, headachy, dizzy, fearful, teary-eyed, emotionally sensitive, brain-fog, internally numb, out-of-control, remorseful, disconnected, disassociated, the list goes on.

A panic attack can only be described as a comprehensive emotional nightmare.

“A panic attack typically lasts several long minutes and is one of the most distressing conditions a person can experience. In some cases, panic attacks have been known to last for longer periods of time or to recur very quickly over and over again.

The aftermath of a panic attack is very painful. Feelings of depression and helplessness are usually experienced. The greatest fear is that the panic attack will come back again and again, making life too miserable to bear.

Panic is not necessarily brought on by a recognizable circumstance, and it may remain a mystery to the person involved. These attacks come “out of the blue”. At other times, excessive stress or other negative life conditions can trigger an attack.”

Panic attack symptoms can include:

  • rapid heart rate
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • shortness of breath
  • hyperventilation
  • chills
  • hot flashes
  • nausea
  •  abdominal cramping
  • chest pain
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • faintness
  • tightness in your throat
  • trouble swallowing
  • sense of impending death
  • tingling in your hands or feet

“A panic attack takes a very powerful emotional toll on the person affected. In addition to the overwhelming sense of fear in that is its primary symptom, the person can also be subject to more tangible symptoms associated with the fear of physical loss of control, perceived heart attack or even possible death. The realness, immediacy and overwhelming intensity of her feelings during these moments of helplessness and desperation cannot be overemphasized.”

For me, when a panic attack is triggered, it stems from prolonged emotional trauma. We need to remember that stress can trigger a panic attack. You do not have to have endured an emotional trauma to experience a panic attack.  We also need to realize that trauma is stress that has run amuck. There is a difference between routine stress and emotional and psychological trauma.

According to Emotional and Psychological Trauma: Causes and Effects, Symptoms and Treatment,

“Stress dis-regulates our nervous systems – but for only a relatively short period of time. Within a few days or weeks, our nervous systems calm down and we revert to a normal state of equilibrium. This return to normalcy is not the case when we have been traumatized. One way to tell the difference between stress and emotional trauma is by looking at the outcome – how much residual effect an upsetting event is having on our lives, relationships, and overall functioning. Traumatic distress can be distinguished from routine stress by assessing the following:

  • how quickly upset is triggered
  • how frequently upset is triggered
  • how intensely threatening the source of upset is
  • how long upset lasts
  • how long it takes to calm down

If we can communicate our distress to people who care about us and can respond adequately, and if we return to a state of equilibrium following a stressful event, we are in the realm of stress. If we become frozen in a state of active emotional intensity, we are experiencing an emotional trauma – even though sometimes we may not be consciously aware of the level of distress we are experiencing.”

How do you deal with all of this, how do you cope? First thing to remember when experiencing a panic attack is that you will survive even though it may feel like the world is ending, you can’t breathe, and your chest feels like it is going to explode.  Anxiety BC put together helpful strategies to help you get through a panic attack.  The tool box starts on page three and these strategies are also helpful for people who are witnessing another person having a panic attack.

Some of the strategies that Anxiety BC listed that I often use include:

1.  Calm Breathing: This is a strategy that you can use to help reduce some of the physical symptoms experienced during a panic attack. We tend to breathe faster when we are anxious, which can make us feel dizzy and lightheaded, which in turn can make us even more anxious. Calm breathing involves taking slow, regular breaths through your nose. However, it is important to realize that the goal of calm breathing is not to stop a panic attack because it’s dangerous, but to make it a little easier to “ride out” the feelings.

For more information, see How to do Calm Breathing.

KEY POINT: If you are using relaxation to help you STOP a panic attack, this is NOT helpful. If you are using relaxation to help you turn down the volume on the feelings (but not avoid them) this IS helpful!

2.  Muscle Relaxation: Another helpful strategy involves learning to relax your body. This technique involves tensing various muscles and then relaxing them, to help lower overall tension and stress levels, which can contribute to panic attacks.

 For more information, see How To Do Progressive Muscle Relaxation.

 Things you should NOT say or do while a person is experiencing a panic attack:

 DON’T:

  • tell them to calm down.
  • get angry with them.
  • yell at them.
  • tell them to get over it.
  • tell them they are being ridiculous.
  • freak out.

Things you SHOULD say or do while a person is experiencing a panic attack:

 DO:

  • Tell them they are safe. Repeatedly.
  • Tell them you are there for them.
  • Tell them they are not alone.
  • Remind them to breathe.
  • Take deep breaths with them.
  • Listen to what they need. Offer choices if they can’t tell you what they need.
  • Hold them if they need you too. Keep a respectful distance if they don’t.

The rate a person recovers from a panic attack, or trauma for that matter, really matters on those around them. Don’t try to put the person back into the fire if they have just calmed down.  There is an aftermath of a panic attack that has to be gone through.  Putting a person right back into a situation that triggered them in the first place will most likely just trigger another panic attack.  Healing takes time and it is different for everyone.  Understanding and patience are necessary in this situation.

 According to Ellen McGrath in Recovering from Trauma,

 “Not everyone who endures a traumatic experience is scarred by it; the human psyche has a tremendous capacity for recovery and even growth. Recovering from a traumatic experience requires that the painful emotions be thoroughly processed. Trauma feelings can not be repressed or forgotten. If they are not dealt with directly, the distressing feelings and troubling events replay over and over in the course of a lifetime, creating a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder.

 Whatever inner resources people need to mobilize for recovery, they still can not accomplish the task alone. Depression and trauma are disconnective disorders. They do not improve in isolation. To fix them you have to be connected to others.”

My husband did the right thing yesterday. He didn’t get mad at me, he made sure I was safe by texting me, and he stayed with our children and made sure they were alright.  I had wished he could have been with me to help me remember to breathe, but I needed to protect our children first.  They did not need to see their mother falling apart like I was.

When we all reunited, my husband told me that he felt what that person did was thoughtless and that he was not impressed which was affirmation to me that he understood why I was triggered.  He also got us all home, got the kids settled, and then took me out for some medicinal nachos and respectful and supportive talking.  None of this on his part would have happened four years ago.  This is how much we grown as a couple after three years of hell.

PTSD sucks. Anxiety sucks.  Panic attacks sucks. Depression sucks.  Having supportive people that you can turn too makes all the difference.  I didn’t have that for so long, but now I do. There is still a lot of healing and processing that needs to take place, but we will get there, together, as a family.  This is the journey we are on now, a journey that will lead to healing for all of us. The road is going to be bumpy, with hiccups here and there, and occasionally sliding backwards, but we are all in it together to offer a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on, and warm arms to feel safe in.

ohana-family-quote-glitch-dailyinspired

quotesgram.com

 

 

** Image linked to source.

Anxiety – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

(Trigger Warning: References to PTSD, Trauma, Bad Dreams)

Anxiety

Anxiety is the bane of my existence.

Now, don’t get me wrong, anxiety is actually very important to have for survival. Dr. Jelena Nesic Goranovic  explains the necessity of having anxiety:

“The emotional experience of fear and the physiological stress reaction (the ‘fight or flight’ reaction: increased heart rate, faster breathing, sweating etc.) are very useful responses to dangerous situations or objects: our ancestors had it, apes and mice have it, even reptiles do. If it wasn’t for this unconditioned response to danger, most species – humans included – would not have survived the natural selection. Apart from enabling us to fight, freeze or flee in the face of danger, the physiological stress reaction also enables us to learn to avoid the same dangerous situation or object in future.”

This explanation is all well and good, but, for me (and others who experience debilitating anxiety) that “fight or flight” response happens way too often and it can wreak havoc in our lives. If we need anxiety as a survival mechanism, when does anxiety start becoming a bad thing? David Pitonyak, who is a very good story teller, has an interesting take on the matter. In his video, David discusses the pros and cons of having anxiety and also discusses how anxiety changes us, our physiology of our bodies, our homeostasis, if you will.

David Pitonyak talks about Anxiety

(Video – Length 6mins 53secs)

The problem arises when anxiety starts to interfere with your life. Basically, our imbedded survival mechanism backfires causing us significant distress. This is when anxiety begins to be considered a disorder.  There are many different types of anxiety that are considered disorders. 

Types of Anxiety Disorders: List of Anxiety Disorders

List of Short-Term Anxiety Disorders

Some types of anxiety disorders are short-term and often resolve themselves with the removal of a stressor. Here’s a list of anxiety disorders that are typically short-term:

  • Acute stress disorder – diagnosed when anxiety symptoms occur immediately following a trauma, but are short-lived.
  • Adjustment disorder with anxious features – diagnosed when a person develops anxiety symptoms in relation to a major life-changing event – like getting married or moving to another city. Symptoms generally start within three months of the stressful event and occur for six months or less.
  • Substance-induced anxiety disorder – generally resolves when the substance is discontinued or when withdrawal from the substance is over.

List of Long-Term Anxiety Disorders

Other types of anxiety disorders develop and remain long-term. Many start in childhood and last long into adulthood, particularly if treatment has not been sought.

This list of anxiety disorders includes:

  • Agoraphobiaa fear of being in a public place where escape would be embarrassing or difficult. This is particularly prevalent when a person fears they may have a panic attack.
  • Anxiety due to a general medical condition – this type of anxiety disorder can be short- or long-term depending on the medical condition. Anxiety often develops in relation to illnesses like heart conditions.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) anxiety symptoms occur in multiple environments and due to multiple objects or situations. Anxiety symptoms may not have a known cause.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)anxiety symptoms are in the form of intrusive, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors (or mental acts). OCD is considered a chronic type of anxiety disorder.
  • Panic disorder consists of severe, immediate anxiety symptoms (a panic attack) due to a variety of causes, as well as the worry over having another panic attack.
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) anxiety symptoms that occur after a trauma and are long-term in nature.
  • Social phobia, also referred to as social anxiety disorder anxiety symptoms occur in social or performance situations and stem from the fear of being humiliated or embarrassed.
  • Specific phobia (also known as a simple phobia) anxiety symptoms occur around a specific object or situation which results in avoidance.

Anxiety causes a loooong list of symptoms. You can find a comprehensive list here – Anxiety Symptoms. What happens to the body when a person is overwhelmed with anxiety? David Pitonyak, again, has an interesting take on the matter and it involves what David calls the “limbic brain”. In his video, David tells the story of what happened to his body during an anxiety provoking experience he had involving what he thought was a black bear in his office doorway. He then continues on to discuss the connection of a traumatic experience with developing PTSD. 

David Pitonyak Talks about the “Limbic Brain”and PTSD

(Video Length – 21 min 27secs)

I am Autistic and I have the anxiety that is commonly found in association with Autism. When you deal with the constant onslaught of sensory information bombarding your brain and body, you are going to experience apprehension when you leave a safe, familiar place that has been designed to fit your needs. When you have slow adaptability to change, you are going to feel apprehension when you are presented with an unexpected change.  I have worked hard to try to respond to an unexpected change in a manner where I say, “Let me process it for a little bit.”, or “Let me think about it for a little bit.”  This is a difficult thing for me to do, because my body and brain are screaming, “NO!!!!!” Many times, however, there is no chance to give my brain more time to process the unexpected change and it is painful when this happens.

I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD ) and it sucks. My brain will get stuck on a feedback loop over a worry that, for some reason, it cannot process adequately.  The worry is very real, but my brain will cycle the worry over and over again making it worse every time it cycles. The worry escalates and I can’t get my brain to calm down.  I am able to logically tell myself that this is not rational thinking on my part, but I can’t stop the feedback loop. When I get like this I need to be talked down. A lot of times I will send out an S.O.S. with an explanation online just to release the worry out into cyberspace. Other times I will talk to my husband in some form, electronically or verbally.

PTSD is a form of intense anxiety. I actually have Complex-PTSD and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The difference between PTSD and Complex-PTSD is that in PTSD there is usually just one specific trauma that is experienced. In Complex-PTSD, there are many layers of trauma that occurred over many years. 

More about my story on having Complex-PTSD ——> The Hell that is Spring

A year ago I found an article called PTSD Spirituality: Understanding & Identifying PTSD Triggers. I came across this article after I had been horribly triggered which lead me to finally writing The Volcano is Awake. This was my response to the article:

“It took me 10 years after I was diagnosed with PTSD before I could even write about my experiences. I have never been able to write it all in one setting, just chunks here and there. As for talking about, it took me a very long time to say anything other to my counselor or an immediate family member. I have managed over the years to say out loud to people that I have PTSD and that it developed mainly from medical trauma and lack of support and care that occurred over a period of three years.

I make a point to stay away from my triggers, but sometimes the triggers are out of your control. I was badly triggered last week. The anxiety and panic attacks have started again. I can’t verbalize what is happening to me right now. Every time I try I feel the panic rise. I am living my ordeal over again, but over these past 12 years since the initial trauma, I have learned coping skills. I know what is happening to me and I have been going through my list of reminders as I try to process this latest trigger. I feel this article is a great resource for the reminders that I need. I hope this information may also help others who are struggling with PTSD. Remember, you are not alone.”

Both my children struggle immensely with anxiety. My daughter is Autistic and has separation anxiety, and symptoms of GAD, Social Anxiety, and OCD. All these types of anxiety have been continuously discussed by her care team for years. Her anxiety has often been described by her counselor as “Through the roof!”  My son is also Autistic and was officially diagnosed with Social Anxiety, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder, and PTSD.  His anxiety has been so bad that half way through sixth grade he could no longer attend public school.

Anxiety is something that is all too familiar in my family. My husband also struggles with his own version of anxiety, but he doesn’t talk about it much.  One thing that is often left out of articles written about anxiety is information about stress dreams.  I am plagued by stress dreams, otherwise known as anxiety dreams. 

In When Anxiety Gives You Bad Dreams That Give You More Anxiety and Bad Dreams, Sarah Emerson states:

“Anxiety dreams, in their most elementary form, are bad dreams that cause the overwhelming feelings of panic and unease associated with waking anxiety. They’re very similar to nightmares, but instead of lurching you awake in a cold sweat, they sort of prod you into consciousness by jacking up your stress levels. Both occur during REM sleep, that critical period in which our most vivid and memorable dreams manifest.”

She also states:

“There’s “a correlation between sleep quality and how we process traumatic experiences,” she [Dr. Ina Djonlagic] added, which may help to explain why bad dreams, insomnia, and real-life anxiety can sometimes seem so hard to divorce.”

As I stated before, I am plagued by stress (anxiety) dreams. I have actually written about my experience. You can find more about that here – The Strange Nature of Dreams. Last night was no different.  Again, another difficult night of stress dreaming, which lead me to not being able to really function well the next day.  In trying to explain to my husband why I was not functioning well this morning, I sent him this message:

“Feeling out of sync today in body and mind. Dreams about sexual predators, escape, sickness, worry, and long awaited reunion, but unresolved and potentially unhappy ending. My dream left me feeling that great loss and grief were imminent. Epic stress dreaming on my part. No wonder I feel so out of sync. My brain couldn’t seem to pull it self into reality this morning.”

Anxiety is the bane of my existence.

I can’t get away from it, it’s always there in multiple forms. It haunts me in my waking hours and in my sleep. I am intolerant to medications that are typically prescribed to people with debilitating anxiety.  I also cannot tolerate any type of antidepressant or sleep aid.  What does a person do when they are struggling with anxiety?  I can only speak of myself, but what I do is run. I am a runner and have been a runner for over 20 years.  My body has been steadily falling apart due to being born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, but I keep running for my own sanity.  If I don’t, I know I will end up in the middle of the floor screaming or banging my head against a wall.  I am not exaggerating. I know this, because it has happened before many times.  I run, and when I have access to a pool, I lap swim.  I also write and I write and I write.  I create art, too. Draw, paint, sculpt, and design, etc., anything to direct all the energy that is coursing through my body that the anxiety feeds on.  I must keep my mind busy or it will busy itself in ways that are not healthy for me, draining my body of life energy, and leading to me not being able to really function and, if it continues longs enough, eventually contributing to burnout.

More information on burnout —-> The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout … Do You Have Them?

“And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.

I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.

Make it on the good days too.”

Neil Gaiman, Make Good Art 

Quotes from Neil Gaiman – Inspirational Commencement Speech at the University of the Arts 2012.

Dealing With Emotional Abuse in Families

(Trigger Warning: Personal Experiences Discussed)

Families.  What makes a family?  What does it mean to be a family?  What does it mean to be emotionally supportive? At what point do you say that you have had enough? At which point do you have to walk away for your own protection?

These are loaded questions and not something that can be easily answered.  These are questions that I have been grappling with lately.  Well, to be honest, I have been grappling with these questions for some time now.

What brought me to this place, a place where I am finding I am at a loss as to how to even address these questions?  It first started when I realized I had been in emotionally abusive situation for some time and it had been coming from several directions.  One direction had been from my husband who was crumbling from a lifetime of untreated mental illness.  The situation he was in is not an excuse for his behavior, but it is a fact that his refusal to acknowledge that he was mentally ill contributed greatly to his inevitable decline and eventual self-destructive behavior.  He had to lose everything and stay there for a while before he realized what was really important to him, me and our two children.  The ordeal that led up to a three year nightmare eventually had a happy ending.  He finally got help and eventually came home.  He moved back in five months ago.

We are a family again. During that three year-long nightmare, I questioned if he really was part of the family anymore.  He didn’t want to be, or it appeared that he didn’t want to be, but he was still genetically connected to our children and we had 15 years of marriage together.  You also don’t have to be genetically linked to be family.  Was he still considered family?  In the end, the answer to that question was a resounding “Yes!”  Surprisingly, our bond survived all that destruction that had taken place over those three years.  The love was still there.

In many other cases, the situation is so bad that there is no more love, only abuse and pain.  I don’t know why I held on to hope that my ex-husband would eventually have an epiphany and would find his way home.  You could say we got lucky, but there was more to it than that.  We are determined to make this work.  We are taking the necessary steps with family counseling and working on our communication skills.  We are still going through the healing process, still figuring our roles as a family of four. It is going to take time, but we are on a positive path to recovery.

My daughter asked recently what love was.  I told her love is when you don’t give up on someone. For us, this statement is true.   I never gave up on the man that I married even when he had given up on himself.  Please understand, not giving up on someone is not the same as walking away. I had to walk away and give the man I loved the time and space he needed to figure things out.  You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.  Sometimes you have to walk away.  In our case, it worked out.  Unfortunately, much of the time it does not.  You have to move on; otherwise an emotionally abusive situation could potentially destroy you.

I wrote more about emotional abuse —> Invisible Scars – A Tale of Emotional Abuse

I am facing the question of walking away again.  I had to put up a healthy boundary in regards to three family members in my life.  This occurred almost a year ago.  I had to do this for my own mental wellbeing, for my own protection.  I have Complex-PTSD and last June I had the worst trigger I have ever had apart from a medical trauma that led to my diagnosis of PTSD in the first place twelve years ago. I know they didn’t mean to cause me such harm, but it was through their lack of understanding that led me to being is so much pain.  I couldn’t stop the flashbacks.  I was back in that hell again.  I could hardly function for days.  It was a horrid experience.  You can find more about that experience here —> The Volcano is Awake

For more information on my experience with Complex-PTSD —> The Hell that is Spring

When I tried to explain to these families members what had happened and why I had to have the healthy boundary, I was met with “I thought you were over this.” and “I am so angry at you right now!” and “Don’t you care how your sister feels? You hurt her feelings.”  Ya, it wasn’t pleasant. I was so full of guilt and pain, but it didn’t seem to matter to this person. They just dumped more guilt and pain on to me.  These comments were made by one person out of the three.  One of the others hasn’t communicated with me for a year now and the third is keeping a respectful distance.

It hurts to even discuss this.  How can person get mad at another for having an excruciating panic attack that lasted for days?  How can a person who claims that they have unconditional love for another end up throwing guilt on to them during their most vulnerable moments? I was told that I was wrong to feel the way I did. A person has no right to tell another how they are supposed to feel.  I don’t understand it.  I don’t understand the behavior and this has been happening to me for as long as I can remember.

This week I was told I had a fevered brain by this same person.  When I asked for clarification, I did not receive any.  I have been told I am full of anger, hatred, and disdain.  I have been told that my words are full of vitriol and that there is a disconnect between what I write and how I perceive it.  I don’t understand where this is coming from.  I am not full of anger or hatred or disdain.  What I do feel is sadness, frustration, and fear.

My blogs reflect my journey through loss, grief, healing, and self-discovery. It is natural to experience anger as you go through a grief cycle and everyone is different when it comes to grief. Working through grief is really a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff. Any reflection of anger would have been expressed in my blogs at the time I was experiencing it.  As you continue to read through my blogs, you see a definite change.  I have changed.  This is why I do not understand where these accusations of anger, hatred, and disdain are coming from are coming from.

For more about my journey through grief, click on the following links:

—> Autism, Empathy, and Grief – A Personal Story (Dec 16, 2013)

—> Grieving (Mar 30, 2015)

—> Sadness – Moving Through Grief and Finding Understanding (Aug 22, 2015)

My relationship with this person is not healthy, but this person seems to think that I am at fault for the situation that we are currently in. I suppose in some respect I am at fault.  I chose to put up a healthy boundary, but then was accused of pushing the family away. Growing up, I was never taught about healthy boundaries or how to say “no”.  I was taught to comply. I had to comply or face the wrath of yelling, crushing disappointment of a parent, or a major guilt trip. I had no defense against guilt being place upon me.  I was basically taught to be a co-dependent, which is not healthy at all.  I only learned how to overcome my co-dependency these last few years since my diagnosis. I didn’t even know about co-dependency until my marriage failed, and that co-dependency, that extreme feeling of wanting to help people that I have always carried contributed to my marriage failing.  I learned how to say “no” as an adult in my 30s. This is why I have been teaching my children the power of “no”. I want them to understand that they can say “no”, too.

This same person said I was “a fairly happy child despite of the problems autism put upon you”.  I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until I was 36 years old and I have a real problem with the wording of this comment.  Did I struggle growing up? Yes.  Did this person try to get me help? No.  Was there any discussion about my struggles?  Only that I needed to “come out of my shell” or questioned why I wasn’t more like my sister.  I was labeled shy and quiet and left to be.

To be clear, autism didn’t put problems upon me. Autism is not some separate entity that squishes people and holds them down.  My autism is not separate from me.  I am Autistic. The problems I faced growing up were a direct result of me not having the type of supports that I needed to be successful. I had to struggle on my own, because my autism was not recognized.  I was a girl, after all, born in the mid-70s and growing up in the 80s and early 90s.  There wasn’t a whole lot known about autism then, definitely not Asperger Syndrome, which is what I was originally diagnosed with in late 2011.

Okay, I am starting to rant now, back to the topic of families.

What does it mean to grow up in an emotionally abusive home and not realize it?  It took me a long time to accept what my home life was like even though as a child I felt something was off.  I didn’t understand what was happening to me, because it was all I knew.  How do you know that there is something wrong if a certain environment is all you know? I always had food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over my head.  I was always told that I was loved, but something wasn’t right and I never understood what it was until after I became a parent. Why didn’t I feel comfortable at home?  Why was I always so tense?  Why did I spend so much time alone in my room?

Facing the truth of one’s emotional child abuse takes a special kind of courage. But to be an emotionally healthy adult, the truth must be known, so that healing can begin, and the pattern doesn’t repeat.

An emotionally abused child who does not, as an adult, face the truth of their childhood is in great danger of repeating the cycle of emotional abuse with his or her own children.

“As long as [the experience of cruelty] remains hidden behind their idealized picture of a happy childhood, they will have no awareness of it and will therefore be unable to avoid passing it on. It is absolutely urgent that people become aware of the degree to which this disrespect of children is persistently transmitted from one generation to the next, perpetuating destructive behavior.” (Alice Miller, “The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for Self”)

Unfortunately, because emotional abuse is often tolerated or because the abusive parents are very secretive in their abuse (hiding their true selves when in public), emotionally abused children will assume that how they were treated at home was natural. They have no frame of reference. And so, the child will develop a skewed sense of what a healthy relationship is.

Emotionally abused children become adults with little or no self-esteem; a deep, pervasive sadness; problems bonding with others; and a tendency towards self-destruction.

For me, I never have had a tendency towards self-destruction, but more towards survival and always feeling that I had to move forward in life. I have to keep going no matter what.  I have had quite a bit of trouble with self-esteem and pervasive sadness, though. I also form very strong bonds.

An emotionally abused child usually continues being emotionally abused by the parents long into adulthood. The patterns have already been established since the child’s earliest years. The dynamics of the family have been set into place. Nothing is to drastically change it—unless the child grown up awakens.

Some adults experience a jolt, a sudden flash of memory, that is triggered by an event, a song, a movie scene, anything, really. Others remain asleep until the abusive parents become abusive grandparents—continuing the cycle of emotional abuse to the adult survivor’s children. Others will just reach the point where they cannot take it anymore; enough is enough.

And the abused child-turned-adult awakens, slowly realizing that not everything is as it has seemed. Everything is different now.

Taking the red pill regarding your emotionally abusive childhood leads to a very difficult path—but the important thing is that it is a path. You no longer remain stuck, wondering about the pervasive depression or sorrow.

I started fighting back after my children were born. Something inside insisted that I had to raise my children differently than the way I was raised.  They were going to get the emotional support I never got.  I was going to be their advocate, because I never had one.  I have been a parent now for fifteen years.  I tolerated much of my parents’ behavior over the years.  I tried to ignore it, tried to make excuses, tried to tell myself that it was just how they were and I had to accept it.  The finally straw came last June when I was slammed with the trigger.  There was absolutely no emotional support provided.  I was dying all over again and absolutely no shit was given.  Enough was enough.  I feel the most disabled when I am with my parents.  I am also always on guard.  I can’t relax.  There is something wrong, something very wrong, but whenever I have tried to discuss the matter I get nowhere.

Here I am again, asking those questions about family.  They are my parents.  There is a genetic link.  The love is still there, but this time it is different.  There seems to be no sense of responsibility on the part of my parents. No sense that there is something wrong with the situation.  Maybe I am being naive, but I want to make it right.  I want to feel safe with my family members.  My sister has kept a respectful distance, but she doesn’t feel there is a problem. She makes the same excuses I once did.  She also seems to have trouble seeing me as disabled.  I am her big sister.  I am not supposed to be disabled, or at least that is the impression I get.  She seems to want her idea of how the family is supposed to be to be true.  She did express some understanding of why I couldn’t talk on the phone, because many weeks after my trigger occurred she miscarried at 14 weeks. She found herself not able to talk on the phone either.  I really appreciate it that my sister contacted me to let me know what had happened.  I was able to give her words of comfort which she in turn greatly appreciated.

Families can make amends, it takes time, but healing can happen if both parties are willing to work with each other.  The healing might not look like the way you want it to or go as fast as you want it to.  It most likely will never be like it once was, but the important part to remember is that you don’t give up on each other.  You might have to walk away, but you don’t give up.

As for my situation with my parents, at this point in time I need to keep my healthy boundary up for my own protection.

“Adult children who have never spiritually and emotionally separated from their parents often need time away. They have spent their whole lives embracing and keeping and have been afraid to refrain from embracing and to throw away from of their outgrown ways of relating. They need to spend some time building boundaries against the old ways and creating new ways of relating that for a while may feel alienating to their parents.” (“Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No and Take Control of Your Life”, pg. 38)

Here are some suggestions from For Adult Survivors of Emotional Child Abuse that will help you to begin your path to healing:

  1. Seek professional help from someone who understands emotional child abuse. 
  2. Create some distance between you and your abusive parent.

You will find it difficult to put your new thoughts in perspective if you are still immersed into your parents’ lives. So, you need to create some space. Let them know that you need time to think about things.  In some cases, adult children will find healing, and they will eventually find new ways of communicating with their parents that is healthy.

  1. Don’t give up! Stay awake, stay vigilant.
  2. Take your time.
  3. Educate yourself about emotional child abuse.

You’ll be going through myriad emotions, so you should read to better understand how healing is a process and will not happen overnight. You can find a starter’s recommended readings here.  In the book “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No and Take Control of Your Life” by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, the clinical psychologists discuss the severe impact of being raised without boundaries and its affects into adulthood. Also, look at the various sites here for information about emotional child abuse and healing.

  1. Be patient and loving with yourself. 
  2. Surround yourself with good, supportive friends.
  3. Understand you may lose friends and family members—but let them go.
  4. Keep a journal.
  5. Be mindful of your relationships.
  6. Pray or meditate.
  7. Let yourself receive love.
  8. Accept change.
  9. Find a creative outlet.
  10. Don’t give up.

Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Rest, sure. Take a little time to just lose yourself in music or TV or books for a little while… then continue on. DON’T QUIT. Don’t stop on your path to healing. Sometimes, the sorrow will be biting and cold—but don’t quit.

Know you are worthy of love, of respect, of kindness, of happiness, of dignity.

Know you matter.

Know that your life does make a difference.

**All quotes are from For Adult Survivors of Emotional Child Abuse.

Thoughts About Diagnosis, Therapy, and Early Intervention

(Trigger Warning: ABA Reference)

Both my kids were diagnosed with Autism when they were both already in elementary school. The school had nothing to do with it. I went to a private psychologist for the evaluations. I actually had to convince the school that both were autistic. To them, an autistic boy was someone who threw chairs and did not understand puns.

The school wouldn’t believe me when I showed either of my children’s evaluations. My son is a textbook autistic child, has been that way since day one, but he internalizes his stress and shuts down rather than explodes. He also loves puns.

Mytumblr_inline_nobw3kbKgp1rxc9ln_540 daughter is also a textbook autistic child, but she is a girl who is quiet at school and tries her best to hide and go unnoticed. She internalizes everything, then when she is in a safe place, like home, she explodes. 

Here is a post I wrote addressing stereotypes and misconceptions about autistic children – Stereotypes and Misconceptions – There is more to the Story.

My son was seven years old when he was diagnosed. He was the first of us to be diagnosed only because he was in counseling for depression and the counselor noticed he wasn’t making eye contact. My daughter was ten years old when she was diagnosed and was diagnosed with Bipolar two years prior. I was diagnosed after both my children were at the age of 36. That was almost five years ago.

People have asked me why my children were diagnosed so late, since kids are now diagnosed as preschoolers and sometimes even younger. I tell them that I saw nothing out of the ordinary with them. They were like me and I hadn’t been diagnosed yet. You can read more about that here – How I Found Out I Was An Aspergirl.

Here is a reflection I wrote after the one year anniversary of being officially diagnosed – Life as an Aspergirl – Reflection.

Lots has changed since I made my reflection post, lots of detours, redirection, and starting overs, but that is a story for another time. 

tumblr_inline_mfz8qqCvrS1rxc9ln

Both my children have been in counseling for mental health issues since they were very young. Counseling also served to teach them coping skills once the determination of Autism was made. They needed help in learning how to navigate in a world that is not designed for them. They also needed help dealing with depression and debilitating anxiety.

I never once put them in ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis). I wouldn’t put them in ABA even if I had known about their Autism earlier. ABA is torture, pure and simple. Many adults have come out stating the abuse they suffered, many developing PTSD due to their experiences with ABA as children. I never went through ABA myself, but I observed through a two way mirror a three hour period of time of two boys being subjected to ABA. You can read about that experience here – Intial Reaction to ABA.

I am a teacher. I understand the importance of early intervention. I wish I had known early on that I am Autistic. I might have been spared much of my struggles over the years had I known. I didn’t get the luxury of an early diagnosis and early intervention, yet I made it through.

I want people to understand that there is no magic window that everything has to be accomplished during a specific time when a child is growing and developing. Hope is not lost when this supposed magic window closes. I know this from personal experience as a teacher, as a parent and as an actual autistic person who wasn’t diagnosed until adulthood. I had to relearn some skills and over come other unhealthy ones that I had developed on my own as I tried to survive in a world I didn’t understand. The point is, you have time and all children develop when they are ready and at their own pace.

Yes, a majority reach their milestones about the same time, but just like all pregnancies are different, all children are different. My son has dysgraphia, something that wasn’t diagnosed until he was in sixth grade. I once had my son’s first preschool teacher tell me that if he didn’t figure out how to hold a pencil correctly by four years old, he never will. That claim she made was complete bull.

I had many, many kindergartners come into my science classroom over the years that had never held a pencil, or used scissors, or even knew their colors, numbers, or letters. Guess what? They all learned how to hold a pencil by the end of the school year.

Both my children struggle with holding pencils. Both have dygraphia that was diagnosed when they were older. They both use those fat kindergarten pencils as an accommodation, a pencil that they both can hold correctly. If that preschool teacher of my son’s had bothered to try to have him use a kindergarten pencil or put a thicker finger holder on a regular sized pencil, he wouldn’t have struggled so much with holding a pencil in the first place, but I digress.

KeychainAs I have stated, both my children have been in counseling for some time. My daughter is now 15 years old and my son is 13 years old. I live in Washington State. Here, when a child turns 13 that child has the right to decline treatment unless it is inpatient care. At 13 years old, children in this state sign their own release forms.

My children can legally refuse to go to counseling, but they don’t. They actually ask to go, because they were never forced, they were never pushed into compliance training (ABA), and they were always told why they were being asked to attend counseling sessions.  They had buy-in into the treatment they were receiving, and it made a huge difference in how affective the type of treatment they were receiving was. 

My daughter had OT (Occupational Therapy) at four years old. She has always wanted to go back, but we were living where we didn’t have access to a private OT and the school wouldn’t qualify her for OT services. OT is available where we live now and my daughter is once again back in OT by choice. I feel my son would really benefit from OT, but it is up to him. The OT therapist is going to allow my son to observe during his sister’s OT sessions to help him feel more comfortable. If he decides to give OT a try, then great! If not, then I will respect his decision. It is his body and he has the right to decide what happens to it. 

I understand that there is a problem with giving very young children a say about the type of therapy they receive, but my son was six years old when we started talking to him about counseling. He was depressed. He knew something was wrong even if he didn’t know the word “depression”. He was tired of being sad and angry all the time. He wanted help. My daughter was eight years old and she didn’t like how she felt with all her ups and downs. She also felt so guilty after her rages. She wanted help.

Kids can understand a lot more than many adults give them credit for. Sit down and talk to them. Even non-speaking autistic children communicate and understand a lot more than it might appear. Let them have some sort of say in what happens to them and let them express their concerns.

Here is a useful link for healthy interventions – 10 ‘Autism Interventions’ for Families Embracing the Neurodiversity Paradigm.

autism-tshirt-1If you have to fight to get them to therapy, something is wrong. If they fight with the therapist, something is wrong. If they are quiet and subdued during therapy, but loud and talkative at home, something is wrong. If they crumble into shutdown or meltdown after therapy, something is wrong.

That “wrong” thing could be incompatibility with the therapist, ineffective therapy strategies, unsafe sensory environment, abusive techniques, or a missing diagnosis. My children have been evaluated twice and discovered additional conditions each time. It now looks like my daughter will have to be evaluated a third time soon due to questions regarding her co-existing conditions. My daughter was born autistic, but her Autism was overlooked by the so-called “experts” for years for various reasons.

For more information regarding those various reasons, click here. There is a link to an additional article by Tania A. Marshall embedded in the title. 

Also, not all conditions show up early on. Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, can be hard to diagnose early on. My daughter was nearly 13 years old before she was officially diagnosed even though it had been suspected since she was eight.

Unfortunately, life can be hard and traumatic, especially when adults do stupid things without regard to children in their care. My son developed PTSD and agoraphobia at 11 years old due to irresponsible choices an important adult in his life made. Mental illnesses can show up later. Personality disorders can’t be diagnosed until the child is much older, closer to 18 years old. This is what we are facing with my daughter right now. 

Neurological evaluations are expensive, so trust your gut and do the research. Learn what traits are actually autistic traits. Don’t just assume or excuse certain challenging behaviors as autistic. These challenging behaviors could be an untreated co-existing condition.

Listen to people who have these diagnoses. They are the true experts. If you feel something is not right or is missing, then you are probably right. Don’t just take the so-called “experts” advice or conclusions. My children and I have been on this journey for a long time. You have to keep moving forward, don’t give up, and find what works without causing trauma.

The story of my son’s anthem – Keep Moving Forward – Move Along.

A poem by my daughter – “The Sun and the Moon” – Expressions of PosAutivity: #AutismPositivity2014.

tumblr_inline_n4s5adbpR41rxc9ln

(Image found at naruhinaph.tumblr.com)

**I do not own any image used in this post. Unless cited, all credits are linked with each image.

 

The Hell that is Spring

(Trigger Warning:  References to PTSD and C-PTSD)

For most people, spring is a time of year that is looked fondly at and is welcomed. Not me.  Spring time only means pain for me.  Not only is it too bright with strong smells and loud noises of life re-emerging after a long winter, it is also a time that I fall into depression. My depression is experienced as profound loss mixed with anxiety.  It has been this way for twelve years.  I am here again, another February, another spring. 

I have been having trouble sleeping and eating. Nightmares mixed with bad dreams and stress dreams.  No appetite.  No drive to do anything, because what is the point? Of course, my logical part of my brain is fighting back.  There is always a point when it comes to the things that need to be done.  It didn’t seem to matter, though.  Why was this happening? 

My body remembered why even though my brain was distracted with everything going on in my life. I have been focusing on my responsibilities and family, not even clicking in on to the reasons as to why I found myself suddenly feeling very strange, sick with nausea and fatigue, and not able to describe how I was feeling.  All I knew was that I was unwell. It would be another week or so before I realized that the symptoms I was experiencing were those of depression.  It was that time of year again.  

The flashbacks have also returned like it does every year at this time and I find that I am struggling to remain in the present. PTSD is very complicated and is usually diagnosed based on one trauma.  When layers of multiple years of trauma are mixed in, it gets even more complex, hence the name Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or C-PTSD.  I have C-PTSD and it sucks.

I am here again, struggling to remain in the moment and not get dragged back to that day when my life as I knew it ended. The person I was died that day back in February 2004, one year after my son was born, one year after all hell broke loose.  I am not going to go into detail about what happened.  It took me eleven years to write that blog, the one that told the story of what happened on that long ago day and continued to happened for years afterward.  You can find that blog here – The Volcano is Awake.

Tonight, as I type these words, I am looking more for therapeutic means rather than telling my story. It took me eleven years to get to the point where I could even write my story and still it feels that not everything was written.  I tried reading my story again a few months ago.  My writing seemed disjointed.  It didn’t flow well.  Eleven years and I am still having trouble telling my story.

Perhaps, one day, I can write my story again, make it flow better, add missing details and the changes that have happened since I originally wrote it, but tonight is not the night. Tonight, I just want the tears to stop.  I have been crying most of the day as I try to stay in February 2016, not February 2004. 

How long will this hell last? How many more years must I endure reliving what I went through all those years ago?  There are no answers to these questions, unfortunately.   I just have to keep going even when I have no “spoons” left.  I have to keep reaching for tomorrow.  One day it will be better.  I just have to keep holding on.  I can’t give up.   

Side to SideA personal poem I wrote in May 2015 about holding on.

Depression and GAD.png

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as well.  I am currently experiencing all these symptoms except suicidality.  This graphic was found at ADAA.

Helpful Links:

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)  

  • What it Feels Like, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

 POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER SELF-TEST

  • “If you suspect that you, or a loved one might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, complete the following self-test by clicking the “yes or “no” boxes next to each question. If you or a loved one has experienced trauma and has answered “yes” to some of these questions, discuss them with your doctor.”

Out of the Storm – for those affected by Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • “As a community of peers, we share information about our understanding of CPTSD and our experiences of living with CPTSD, and support one another as we move forward in learning, healing and recovering.”