From An Optimist’s Calendar—with a special weekend spin.
Well the Job That Never Starts actually started. I have to say, I’m underwhelmed. I spent four days doing absolutely nothing, basically. My suspicion that this company didn’t have their shit together, evidenced by their inability to get the contract signed, has proven to be correct. They are wildly understaffed, and morale is low. The first day, there was no userid for me, so I couldn’t sign in to my pc. So, I sat at my desk, looking at my phone and feeling useless. I went to two meetings at the end of the day.
The second day, finally there was a userid, but then no password. So there was a whole process to get the password reset. Finally, signed in! My boss spent about two hours with me, showing me some sites and documents I should become familiar with. He told me to spend the rest of the day studying those sites and documents. That is basically what I did for the rest of the week. No more time spent with the boss.
I’m curious how many people with Bipolar also have Misophonia, or basically a strong sensitivity to sound. I have some degree of it. My sister, who is not Bipolar, has it to a much greater degree than me so anyway I know it runs in our family. In the cubicle land where I sit (I hate cubicle land), there is a guy who is very loud and never shuts up. Over the course of the week he got on my nerves more and more, and by Friday I could feel myself going into a rage. Trying to put a lid on the rage and keep myself under control, I took 1/2 a Xanax. I also chewed lots of gum, both Nicorette and regular gum. And I sat with my hands over my ears, reading the information on my monitor. There is also a person out there in cubicle land who coughs up a lung and sounds like they have whooping cough, this both gets on my nerves and makes me nervous. I can’t afford to get sick, with no sick leave as a contractor. So as you can see my anxiety levels got pretty high.
By Friday I was ready, more than ready, for the week to be over. The only things that saved me were 1) My long mornings – I must have a couple of hours in the mornings for “me” time to recharge my batteries. People think I’m crazy for getting up at 4am, but I get in a crazy bad mood if I don’t get my long morning. 2) I would sit there doing nothing (or next to nothing) and count up how much money I was earning, before taxes I almost earned enough to pay a month’s rent! So YEAH!!
I’m sure it will be easier once I know what I’m doing and can just do it. I know this company is kind of a sinking ship, but I am going to focus on learning as much as I can and then finding another job. It is just a three-month contract and I won’t count on them renewing it (because again they don’t have their shit together duh). But I’m working in Information Security!!! Not Desktop Support!!! So this is a WIN!!!!! I have to remember that.
Hope you all had a great week, and that you’re enjoying your weekend. Please let me know how you are in the Comments. Peach out!!
A great and comprehensive article about recovery from childhood trauma and how to stop self sabotage. Definitely worth reading if you were abused as a child.
You will see light in the darkness
You will make some sense of this
And when you’ve made your secret journey
You will find this love you miss — The Police
It isn’t easy to deal with developmental trauma, and many readers have responded with their own heartfelt stories. Because so many people struggle with these issues, I wanted to offer some thoughts on how to proactively deal with them. There is no substitute for doing the work, but I hope these unavoidably incomplete ideas will be useful:
1. Know what you are dealing with. When making a plan to address any complex problem, it is necessary to know what we are dealing with. Developmental trauma is no exception. However, because one of the most common ways of responding to distress is with avoidance, in adulthood developmental trauma can manifest in many ways which are not obviously connected with earlier experiences. In my experience, although public awareness is higher and health-care provider training better, many people only recognize the traumatic origin of their problem after years of suffering.
It’s not uncommon to have been diagnosed with other mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder and various personality disorders, before the developmental component is recognized (bearing in mind that traumatic issues are often co-present with other problems). Post-traumatic and dissociative symptoms fly under the radar, and the enactments of those issues in personal relationships, self-care, and professional life are attributed to other factors — often reinforcing self-blame, self-defeating patterns, and the tendency to push others away. Why? Because there is often a “don’t ask, don’t tell” feeling to trauma. This is typically institutionalized, and is arguably a core component of our culture — to ignore and downplay trauma. Doing so helps maintain the status quo, preserving stability at great expense.
Even in clinical evaluation settings, it is very common for patients to omit traumatic experiences, and clinicians are often poorly trained about how to evaluate for them and their consequences. Often the focus is on a presenting problem — depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, and so on — and sometimes trying to address the underlying factors leads to individual and family resistance. The omission of addressing the underlying problems creates a vicious cycle, often driven by feelings such as shame and psychological pain, to create chronic non-recognition. Patients often repeat a core pattern from their family of origin, intended to cover up abuse and neglect and pretend everything was fine.
Work toward putting trauma in perspective: Even suggesting keeping trauma in perspective can feel like an insult to someone who has lived through terrible experiences. It is difficult to recognize the presence of developmental trauma in oneself, because of the challenging feelings evoked, and the tendency to either avoid or become overly preoccupied with it. It is a delicate balancing act that takes time. Being over-identified with trauma can reinforce an identity of victimization, leading one to live only as a traumatic self in a traumatizing world. Likewise, with unresolved trauma, we are more likely to perpetrate against others without knowing it. We may become compulsive caregivers, sometimes even over-empathizing with those in need, to our own detriment. Putting traumatic experiences in perspective — working toward having a context for understanding trauma in the broader sweep of one’s life, while building new experiences which are healthy and self — can lead to greater empowerment and a shift toward a non-traumatic sense of self.
2. Be aware in the moment. Emotional dysregulation is a common feature of unresolved trauma. Often there is numbing and dissociation, as well as fixation and preoccupation, or some mix of either extreme. Because traumatic experience is often driven by avoidance of one’s core self, memories, and emotions, many people with unresolved or resolving developmental trauma struggle to remain present with themselves and others. That basic capacity to sit with and name difficult experiences didn’t develop properly because of early trauma, but can be cultivated as part of recovery and post-traumatic growth. Various forms of meditation, typically in the mindfulness tradition, can be helpful for this. There are structured forms of mindfulness as well, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, which are becoming more common in clinical practice. Compassion-based meditations and loving-kindness practice, based on eastern traditions such as Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism, can be additionally useful, because they are intended to directly fix core consequences of developmental trauma. However, mindfulness and compassion-based practices can sometimes be problematic, because they can make one aware of emotions and memories which one is not ready to handle properly, can lead to the worsening of other problems in response, triggering re-traumatization, and generally are most effective as part of a broader recovery plan. It’s important to take self-awareness in small doses, building up proficiency and gradually digesting whatever experiences come up.
Learn to regulate emotions: Because of the emotional regulation challenges that unresolved trauma presents, it is crucial to learn how to cope differently. This goes hand in hand with basic awareness, because having effective coping tools empowers one to recognize and respond to challenging experiences in oneself without as much fear of making things worse as a result. Rather than getting stuck in vicious cycles of failed recognition and further suffering, focusing on basic coping and awareness can lead to virtuous cycles of developing greater capacity and making headway with problems which once were intractable. It’s typically a slow process, especially in the beginning, but positive changes build up over time and become more established, hopefully eventually leading to stable and enduring changes. Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Skills Training in Affect and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIRS), and Trauma Affect Regulation: Guide for Education and Therapy (TARGET) are examples of structured approaches which start with basic awareness and skills and move on to more advanced work in a step-wise format.
3. Rewrite your story. Because fear-based brain systems dominate in trauma, one’s story of oneself becomes dominated by generally one-sided, negative perceptions of oneself and others, as well as the expectation of an unsafe and indifferent, or even malevolent, world. This is a self-protective story, but sadly comes with high costs as a result of erring on the side of staying away from new experiences, which may be positive and useful because of exaggerated fears. It is common to interpret others’ intentions and events in one’s life negatively to manage expectations and try to avoid repetition of injury and disappointment. Mistrust is a dominant theme and shapes decisions. It makes sense — surviving a traumatic developmental experience often called for such measures, but out of context in adulthood, as a sole view of life, it is too rigid and too often leads to repetition, which is painful, but confirms the belief in a traumatizing world.
Rewriting one’s story, putting trauma in context, has been shown to be an effective method for getting out of survival mode and shifting our approach to ourselves, others, and life in general. It’s easier said than done, because doing so involves further engagement with very challenging subjects. Narrative therapy and narrative exposure therapy are structured approaches that are intended to recontextualize trauma, and help to re-tune the brain so that fear-based systems exert the right amount of control — neither too much nor too little. Regular talk therapy may also be useful, but sometimes is not geared toward addressing trauma and related issues specifically.
It’s key to practice new patterns in real life as part of rewriting our stories. Seeking out positive experiences, cautiously at first, over time leads to building a track record of more optimistic expectations and chips away at the belief that life is incontrovertibly bad. Even just the idea of doing so can feel upsetting, challenging basic adaptations to chronic distress, and the suggestion of doing so can be met with confusion, anxiety, and even hostility. Making a sustained effort to be rationally optimistic can seem like a very misguided concept. Hand in hand with banking positive experiences, resisting repetitive negative experiences is just as important, and just as challenging. For one thing, as mentioned, a lot of self-protective perspectives and behaviors, out of context, lead back into disappointment and even re-traumatization.
Further, many drivers of traumatic experience are habitual or unconscious, and efforts to make better choices can lead to disappointment and feelings of helplessness when they inadvertently don’t work out. It’s important to have the basic ability to be aware of and manage emotions in order to understand that unlearning old patterns and re-learning new ones is going to have ups and downs before becoming more consistent and reliable. There’s a lot more to this, because taking emotional risks isn’t always going to work, and the times it doesn’t can lead to major setbacks if one is not well-prepared.
4. Practice self-care. Unresolved developmental trauma too often leads to a negative sense of self. We can feel undeserving of love and care, we can be too self-blaming and have a basic sense of unworthiness, and we can come to belief that any attention to ourselves is “selfish.” In addition, taking care of oneself can simply be unfamiliar, a skill set which never fully developed, especially if self-care is overly focused on basic survival. Self-care is about both taking care of oneself physically, but also emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
The basic orientation toward self-care can be minimal, almost absent, and the idea of anything more than the barest minimum, especially if neglect was a major part of one’s upbringing, can be alien. It’s important to work toward self-care in a gradual manner as well, first working toward accepting the idea that self-care is not only not bad, is not only ok, but also is potentially a source of accomplishment and even enjoyment. Building self-care over time leads to a sense of greater self-efficacy, creates resilience, and reduces the negative health impacts of trauma, both mental and physical. Forgiveness, permission to grieve, gratitude, and related practices can come with time, and are an important part of self-care as well.
5. Work with others. Because trauma often divides people, especially in families, leading to fragmentation and an “every man for himself” mentality, it is important to recognize that working on recovery alone may not be efficient, and may even stall at some point. Working with others can be informal, or can involve seeking out groups of people in different settings ranging from meditation groups to recovery groups and clinical settings. Being able to ask for help is an important part of self-care, and can be difficult to do, especially when trauma came from trusted others who betrayed that trust. Having a supportive group is important during periods of forward motion as well as during challenging periods, and having a plan to reach out for help, especially when things are at their worst, is often the decisive factor.
6. Cultivate patience. Growth takes time. There are periods where things may get better, and other times where it looks very bleak and terrible things happen. The overall goal is to establish a different pattern and to have a goal of maintaining the process, rather than focusing on short-term successes and failures (though goals along the way are useful to establish, as long as they are flexible). Patience, compassion, and curiosity are likewise long-term process goals, good to cultivate with the understanding that the ongoing effort is worthwhile, rather than having an expectation of developing them overnight. Our basic attitude about change itself may change, providing relief and room for development in new directions.
I don’t keep office hours on Friday, so I am home early since for once I don’t have any type of test to give. Now I need to do laundry and get ready for the weekend.
I have a dilemma. I wanted to take Forms in Fiction I next fall, but they are offering it this spring and I don’t know when they will offer it again. I’ll need to talk to Dr. Dunkelberg about this and see what this will do to my plans through the next two and a half years. I don’t want to take two classes at a time but I was really looking forward to taking fiction workshop this spring. WE will see.
My middle child was accepted into the Co-op Program at Mississippi State–she’ll be going to Carrollton, GA for a job next semester instead of going to school. She’ll go back to school in the summer, then work in the fall, then go to school the next spring, then work in the next summer. I’m excited for her. I think it will be a good way for her to find out if this kind of work is really what she wants to do.
I found out I’m not being observed next Monday like I thought–he stopped me in the balcony and said that he was going to have to reschedule it to next semester. So I’m not sure what that is all about. But I have been put in for next semester for another section of British Lit so that will be good. I will maybe have more students since I’m going to be available for them to register early and the class should fill up better than it did this year. But that will be all right, I think. I’m doing very well at this point and should keep doing so I think if I keep losing weight and easing down on stress and everything else I’m doing.
Hope everyone has a good weekend!
First….this post has nothing to do with U2. I really am not into that band. For me, they rank up with Rush-ughhh. (sorry,Mr. M!)…but their song did remind me of what tonight was like for me. (***Disclaimer…I recognize the contribution both of those bands have made to the music world over the years, it’s still not the poison I’d pick.)
By some miracle I staved off the disgruntled shop customer to not take their business elsewhere til Monday (fuck you, asshole postal service,don’t tell me it’s delayed without an explanation!) Like, literally, 20 minutes before I left, all the while wishing they wouldn’t call and ask and me have to deliver bad news, again…But I guess by being sincerely obsequious (is it an oxymoron? Because, yes, I gushed gratitude for their understanding but it wasn’t at all insincere), I bought a day or two for ASS TRASH POSTAL SERVICE to do their damned job properly…(After I sent a pissy email to the ebay seller, oops, what a bitch I am!). Stress makes me panic and panic makes me an enormous bitch beast. Anyway, I miraculously held off that dragon.
Tonight my plan was to have my kid inside, bathed, and fed by 5:30 p.m.
Man makes plans, God, sacred pegacorn, and the flying spaghetti monster laugh.
I kept wondering why neighbor kids were showing up to play in their Halloween costumes..only to be informed there some ‘safe trick or treat’ shindig tonight. Which I had no notice of prior to 20 minutes before it began. And one of Spook’s friends asked if she could go and I said, yeah, long as I talk to an adult for approval. Well, that mom said no. Never mind all I do for these kids and me having them all here giving their parents a break…no, they can’t do fuck all to reciprocate. Then my kid started in. And I don’t do ‘on the spot’. In theory, spontaneous is amazing. In practice with mood swings and panic disorders….it’s terrifying and threatening.
I told her I’d research the local paper on line for details and consider it. THEN I found the article and it said last years between 5p.m. and 8 p.m OVER 1000 KIDS ATTENDERD. Which means at least 1/4 at least had 2 parents with them thus raising th crowd number…And I freaked. I told myself, noooooooooooooooo, you’re gonna end up in the rubber room.
Then my kid raised the ante and asked if her two devil girl friends could come with us. And I felt shitty cos I know (assholes they are) their parents have only one car and the mom had it at work so going with us was their only chance to attend…I said okay. Then wondered why I said okay.
I took 2mg Xanax (No, it doesn’t make me sleepy or impair me, not after 25 years) and the kids costumed up and I took them…Relieved to find a parking space I could easily escape, and also, the line was only 30 people long. I was anxious, I was terrified of losing one of 3 kids, but I was also giggling and taking pics of the Halloween displays…I overheated, nearly choked on a beloved fruit flavored Tootsie Roll, and could have done cartwheels when we finally ‘escaped’…But it wasn’t all terrible. It was stressful to an extent but I tried to bolster myself with the 3 girls’ enthusiasm.
I even let them play in the yard an hour after we got back so they could check out and swap their candy.
Then I had a generic ‘rita to steady my nerves and help me sleep because, dammit, I earned it. I have been so damned strong, so determined…I will pay eventually, but right now…I put my kid ahead of my own needs or likes, I even managed to conquer my own terror and panic for her enjoyment…No resentment. Just…
WOW! I fucking did this!!!!! Not just with my kid, but with two extras in tow! How awesome am I?
I recognize this for what it is. An aberrant manic-mixed episode where I amaze myself with my uber functionality and think WOO HOO I AM BLOODY WELL CURED!!!!
But I’m not. I am dancing on a razor’s edge. Not pessimistic. Realistic.
But, for once….I was tough enough to put my kid’s needs first and just.do.it. I will pay the price this weekend and probably be unable to stumble out of bed beyond going pee and feeding my kid but…for tonight…
I felt like Wonderwoman. It was a good feeling. I just wish mental illness gave a damn and would let it stick the landing.
(Creepy pix to follow…at some point)
Day 3 in the dish. Started out lethargic but determined because yesterday my anxiety was so bad, I couldn’t even manage a trip to the grocery store. To punish myself, er, push my limits, I did let my kid have company when I got home yesterday. 4 kids, playing inside. Nerve racking, annoying, loud, icky…But since I let myself delay the shopping trip cos I was so rattled, I figured I could atone for the guilt of feeling weak by allowing my inner sanctum to be invaded. By six thirty when the church bus came, I was ready to do a fucking mamba. 7 kids playing in my yard, all of them bickering or crying, sooo much drama…When I punish myself, I do it well.
Today has me in confrontation anxiety. R has a customer who’s been waiting for 5 weeks for a repair, they’ve sent one wrong part, one never got sent at all even though ebay said it did, and the current one was supposed to have arrived today at the latest…but it’s not here. And the customer wants to take the TV back, he is mega irritated and pissed and I don’t blame him. I hope I can hold him off til tomorrow at least. This confrontation thing is a huge anxiety trigger for me and it’s not even really my damned drama. The worse part is, R is out of state the next 4 days for his youngest daughter’s wedding which means even if the customer agrees to wait til tomorrow and the board comes…Who’s gonna install it? Oh, right, ME. I’ve never done that before. I tear them down. I don’t put them together. I’m a bull in a china shop, ffs. But hey, I’ll give it a whirl and do my best. Though I’m not sure the customer will wait even 24 more hours. This is the sort of stuff that gives me pretzel gut and digestive issues, it’s so stressful. I don’t do confrontation.
What I do, however, do, is improvise when possible. R has been on me for over a week about moving a big 65 inch TV to the back, get Kenny or someone to help me…I got sick of waiting for help to be available so I dragged the fucker back by myself this morning. My sister offered to come help, but honestly…asking for help is just so not me. If I can possibly do it myself, I will. And I did, even if it wasn’t exactly ‘gentle’. Screen is still in tact. One plus of being raised by a redneck who wanted boys instead of girls…my sis and I are more hardcore than a large percentage of men. We have the truck driver/sailor on shore leave swearing to prove it, fuck yeah! Which is one more thing about my idget father that cracks me up. He swears all the time, one of the first words I remember him saying when I was a kid was “motherfucker!” when the car wouldn’t start…and it’s okay for him but my sis and I swear and he says we’d make sailors run back to the ship in horror. WTF kind of male bullshit is that? He taught us most of the words, anyway. I guess me and sis really suck at the being girly thing, wonder why…
Am I awful hoping the disgruntled guy doesn’t call? Earlier I was feeling more level ut a couple hours of noise and another ‘not fixed right’ return…My nerves are starting to fray. I had an idea that might have worked but of course, R missed a couple of repairs so I can’t even do a substitute with an abandoned set. Frustration also feeds anxiety.
That’s all my blog has come to, isn’t it? Nervous, nervous, anxiety, anxiety. I don’t like it, either, but I write it because out there might be someone struggling through it, perhaps even undiagnosed, and if they read that someone else knows what it’s like…it can be of some small comfort. It’s so easy to feel all alone with mental stuff. Kind of like having invisible leprosy and being shunted to your own island. Sucks.
Now…something cute I can’t resist posting. My kid got this ‘finger’ drumset at a yard sale then parked Mr. Brownstone at it. (Yeah, the cat is named after the G’N’R song, sue me.)
(Yes, the carpet is gross but that’s the doorway where a dozen kids stampede daily, I quit fighting it. Look at the cute kitty, damn it!)
Yesterday was hectic so I didn’t get a chance to post. Sorry about that.
I graded my makeup exams and gave a B, a C, and an F. SO that was not very rewarding on my part. But they’re done and I can concentrate on the last two tests very soon. I also have my class evaluation coming up so that is going to be a little nerve-wracking, but I don’t anticipate any difficulties with that. It’s on Jonathan Swift, and I know a good bit about him. So I’m not terribly worried.
WEnt to brunch with Jo yesterday for her birthday and we had a good visit. Talked about our kids, work, therapy, all that good stuff. We ate at Panera Bread, which I had only ben to once. I had to call and ask her directions because I couldn’t remember which side of Lakeland Drive it was on. But I got there and it went well.
Just got the strangest email from my W program director that I don’t feel fully able to disclose. Suffice it to say that it was very strange and not a situation I have been in since graduate school the first time. I answered it as best I could and we will see what happens with it.
Hope every has a good rest of the week as we head into the weekend.