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Frustrated? Set Backs? / The Vast Grey Ocean
« on: January 13, 2015, 11:29:48 PM »
Hi all,

I haven't been around much due to setbacks that have made it difficult to communicate. I liken it to floating in a vast grey ocean, where the only emotions are misery and fear.

Maybe this setback will one day become part of recovery, because what set this off was uncovering a bunch of truths that sent me headlong into despair. Once I can work through these truths, it will be beneficial. Right now, though, it's just hard.

Writing this down may help sort this out in my mind. Sorry if it's disjointed - it really is a big mess of emotions, all twisted into bizarre shapes by my upbringing. But I do want to sort them out.

I mentioned here on the board once about how in the past I'd felt "haunted" somehow, and that it might have been related to grief but it wasn't clear how. Talking about it, my husband mentioned that what I described did seem most similar to grief, but enlarged exponentially and sort of split off, so it became a landscape I was living in, instead of an emotion inside of me.

Indeed, I had (privately) noted some months earlier that by the time I was 21, I'd already experienced more loss than I would ever recover from. At 21, I only suspected this, and hoped it wasn't true. but at my age now, I realize, it was true - the kinds of loss I had experienced by then were the kind that most people carry with them forever. This is just life - this is the past and I can't change it now, no matter how much I want to - it's the same, probably, for anyone who's gone through this sort of thing. But the revelation that came with this was what knocked me into the "grey ocean" - that as huge as the losses I'd suffered, I'd somehow shoved my grief aside because my emotions were invalidated. I wasn't "allowed" real emotions in my FOO.

Sorry if this this sounds nonsensical. It is quite peculiar. Who isn't allowed to have real emotions? The best way I can explain is this:

My mother is a malignant narcissist. I've learned through experience - If you are happy, she will knock it right out of you. If you are having a negative emotion, she will somehow feed on it. (No, I can't really explain, it's like a vampire though - the word "negaholic" describes her perfectly) She may try to take the emotions over- say, if you are angry, she'll become more angry. If you are sad, it's as if it's something you did to her. If you are grieving, she will use it for a sense of her own power. If there is a tragedy on the news, for instance, she seems to get an actual high off of it, as if it's a drug (When she crashes after the high wears off, there will be a rage). So, suffice it to say, it's not safe to have emotions around Nmom.

But there is another component to this, too. NM will invalidate other's feelings. it's as if she's the only one who is allowed to have real feelings at all. Just the other week I was shocked (but not surprised) to hear her tell a grieving woman that she had no right to feel sad over the death of her husband of 50 years - her life wasn't anywhere near as bad as NM's! This is pretty much par for the course for those outside the immediate FOO circle - so one can imagine how she treats those inside. short, NM will feed off other's feelings while at the same time invalidating them and saying they don't exist or they have no right to them.

This is all background for my realization, really. In light of all this, I realized that, as a youngster, I'd imagined (or was told, maybe) that I'd be able to have real feelings when I was a real grown up, like NM. When I could think like her (she's big on wanting people to "think with her mind") then I would be a real grown up and know what it was like to have real emotions like NM. In the meantime, everything I believed I felt was made up or fake.

Nuts, I know. But it's true. All my life, no matter how much it wasn't real. Only NM could hurt. Heartbroken? Made up silliness. Grief, loss? It somehow belonged to NM, instead. Things like being a victim of crime? It's as if it was all done to embarrass NM and shouldn't affect the victim at all. We should all feel sorry for NM's embarrassment at someone else's victimization. The victim has no right to feel anything at all, except maybe ashamed for embarrassing NM. As over the top as that sounds, that's exactly what it's been like for me and I daresay many other persons in NM's family. All my life, I was capable of the most peculiar thing - I could be suffering a physical injury and fully believe I was "just faking", despite crying from the pain. That's how much I'd accepted the invalidation of my feelings.

Well, the reality of this has finally hit me. That all that pain and grief I felt? It was actually real  pain and grief. NM being the "real grown up" and the rest of us not being able to experience grown up feelings? Not true! NM's emotional age is very young, maybe 9 at the most, and usually younger. In truth, I've been more mature than her since childhood. I'd actually been grown up and had a right to my feelings all this time. My problem was that I'd believed her when she'd said all those things. She'd used humiliation as such an effective teaching tool, you see.

So, anyway, these last weeks it's as if I've been re-experiencing all these hurts and losses and griefs, but with the knowledge that they were real, that it wasn't just my imagination, that it wasn't just something I was imitating or learned in a book (a popular accusation - "you don't feel that way, you just read it in a book"), or trying to steal from NM, or anything else - it was real, grown up grief. Now I have to feel it that way.

It's hard, but hopefully, I'll get through it eventually.

Successes, Progress? / Success With Butterfly Hug Method
« on: December 19, 2014, 10:51:41 AM »
Hi. I just thought I'd let you all know that I've had some success dealing with EF's though the butterfly hug method. 

For anyone who doesn't know, the butterfly hug is a self-soothing method that uses bilateral stimulation. The person crosses their arms across their chest (as if they were giving themselves a hug) and places the right hand on the left shoulder and the left hand on the right shoulder. The person then gives each shoulder a tap or squeeze in an alternating pattern, much like a heart beat. The bilateral stimulation, a bit like EMDR, helps the emotions come together with the rational mind in order to process the emotions or the flashback.

This can be part of therapy, but it can also be a self-soothing method for someone who is in the midst of a flashback when there is no one around to help.

I was surprised that such a simple method had profound effects, but it has. I've finally been able to learn (understand, in a deep internal way) things that could never sink in before. The best way to describe is probably by example. So, I'll give an example of the mental process of working through one of my EF's. I'll call the different parts of my feeling and thinking the emotional mind and the rational mind.

Early morning EF hits while sitting in the garden.

Emotional mind: I'm afraid! I'm afraid! Something bad is going to happen!
(start butterfly hug process)

Rational mind: Why are you afraid?

Emotional mind: I don't know! I'm dissolving in terror. Something is bad and wrong!

Rational mind: What is bad and wrong?

Emotional mind: I am bad and wrong. They are going to find out. They are going to catch me!

Rational mind: Who is going to catch you?

Emotional mind: The authorities will catch me! They'll catch me and judge me and I'll find out the truth and my mind will shatter!

Rational mind: What authorities? What law have you broken by sitting here in the garden?

Emotional mind: My mother. Mother is the authority. She will catch me.
(blur of panic here)

Rational mind: For what reason will your mother catch and punish you?

Emotional mind: I don't know. She'll catch me just being here, being myself. Not being her. I'm paralyzed. The fear won't let me move!

(Something happens here, as if the parts of my mind/emotions begin to come together)

Rational mind: It's interesting that you're afraid of being caught by your mother, when your mother has much more to fear from being caught. She has done many unethical, even illegal things, yet it's you who are afraid of being caught and judged.

Emotional mind: Blank - no articulated thought/feeling

Rational mind: It's interesting that you fear being caught and judged by a person who has no grounds to judge you, based on her own actions.

Emotional mind: Relaxing. Begins to see the wisdom in that. 

Rational mind: In fact, your mother seems remarkably free of the guilt and fear that you've been experiencing.

Emotional mind: Begins to feel relief sweeping away the EF

Rational mind: You are feeling your mother's guilt. She transferred it to you.

Emotional mind: But why would she do that? 

Rational mind: By transferring the guilt feelings and responsibilities for her wrongs onto you, she
can remain innocent and free of this type of fear in her own mind.

Emotional mind: Ooooh! I get it! I finally get it!!

At that point, I experienced complete relief from the EF and ended the process. And you know what, I really did "get it'. The thing about my mother's transferring guilt onto others is something  I knew rationally but would not sink in emotionally. But it's been about four days now, and the knowledge is stll there, internalized.  :thumbup:

Because this is a fairly mild process and I have a lot of EF's this is something I have to do quite a bit, but it really does help dissolve them and sometimes there's an incident like above where the EF is completely processed and new knowledge takes its place.

I just thought I'd offer up my experience in case it might help someone else.

General Discussion / What Does It Mean To Confront Trauma?
« on: December 07, 2014, 11:57:36 PM »
It the practical sense, I mean. It may be a dumb question, but the answer is proving elusive.

So many times we're told we must confront trauma in order to heal, which makes sense if we are avoiding it. But with the waves of EF's, intrusive memories and constant triggers, how many of us are truly avoiding? The trauma, the memories and the emotions of the trauma seem to be with us all the time. In my case, at least, there's no hiding from them.

Right now my cold weather/December EF's are giving me a tough time. I know why I have these flashbacks, I do remember the troubling details all too well, and re-experience the emotions of it again and again. Is there something else that goes into confronting  it? This seems a bit like the shame issue for me, in which I felt I was missing something (I was - Sandals unearthed it by mentioning innocence and the tendency to blame the child-self, which I had been unconsciously doing). Is there something else one is meant to find out when confronting trauma? Some underlying meaning that has to be absorbed?

This comes to mind because I've discovered that I can either write about the bare, factual details of what happened, or write about how it felt - but not at the same time. Trying to write about both causes a massive freeze response. I can talk about both at the same time, but putting it in writing is something else. So, I wrote a blog post that skipped the details and just talked about the feelings, or other things that were related to the feelings. It may have not made a lot of sense, but it was fairly cathartic. One of my blog followers was understanding, but commented again that I needed to confront the trauma. A Google search on the subject turned up things like acceptance of the traumatic events. This is confusing, as I've been accepting the impact of these events for 30 years now, only to get whacked again every December without feeling a bit stronger.  ???

My husband (who's heard the details more often than he'd like) read the post. I thought maybe he could see something in it that I couldn't (perhaps coming from the unknown self we talked about in the shame thread) and he said that the underlying feeling he got was a profound sense of  abandonment, backed up by the descriptions of isolated landscapes, ghost towns and abandoned houses that were part of the story. I hadn't actually meant to address abandonment in the post, and never really linked the traumatic events to feeling abandoned, but there it is.
The unknown self seems to be broadcasting "abandonment" loud and clear, so that's one thing.

Is there more to it? What else can be done to confront it successfully?

I don't know if this is a "symptom" or even what category it would fall under. I'm taking a chance and posting in this forum and hoping it's correct.

EFT has helped a lot of people, and I have tried it quite a few times over the years, with little success. The problem is, the sessions always begin with something like "even though (fill in the blank), I completely love and accept myself."

I just can't get past this. It's actually triggering to me. It feels as if "loving and accepting" myself is the worst thing I could ever do, a betrayal and a sin worse even than murder. Indeed, since I was a little girl, I always had a strong feeling that I had done something worse than murder, but had no clue as to what that could be.

*trigger warning*
It may be pertinent here to mention that when I was older (late teens through early 20's), my mother would frequently rage at me that I was a murderer, "worse than any criminal in any jail", that I deserved to be executed for what I'd done, and that I had committed crimes against humanity. The things I'd done were not always clear, but when they were, they ranged from going to visit my cousin to getting raped, so...logically, there was nothing there that seemed akin to murder (at least to my mind). If I begged her to tell me what I'd done, she'd just say "you know what you did" so no clarification was forthcoming. But as I said, this is when I was older, and if she said these things to me as a child, I don't remember it.

Whatever the case, the feelings have been there since childhood, and the phrase "I completely love and accept myself" really triggers some harsh feelings, even deep anger at myself.
Once I even tried to reason with the feelings, saying "well, if I can't be on my own side, who will be?" and that triggered more anger at myself for even considering betraying this Force? Command? I don't even know what it is that I feel would be betrayed.

But obviously it's holding me back from recovery in a big way. If anyone has any idea what's going on here, I'd be grateful for your input.

Inner Child Work / Troubling Beliefs of the Inner Child
« on: November 24, 2014, 10:25:23 AM »
Hi all, I hope you don't mind if I ask for some opinions/advice on IC work.
This thread deals with feelings about physical appearance. Hopefully, this won't be triggering to anyone, but this can be a sensitive issue so I just want to give a forewarning on the subject matter.

By following the advice in another thread, I was able to finally begin a dialogue with my inner child. When she finally began to talk and answer questions, I was very surprised and troubled at what came forth. She has some deeply held beliefs that my adult self does not share, in fact, I've vehemently disagreed with these ideas for years. Yet, I can tell my IC is very attached to them.

When my IC first talked back to me (this version of the IC was about 7 years old) I was shocked to discover that most of her concerns were about not being pretty. I asked questions like "what do you like to do?" "What makes you happy?" "what do you want to do in life?" and all the answers centered around not being able to do much of anything, because she wasn't pretty enough. Not even pretty enough to be loved. Almost every dream was destined to remain unfulfilled, because of this curse of being unattractive.

Some backstory here - my older GC sister was "the pretty one" and I was the ugly sister, much like a fairy tale. (and you know in fairy tales, the ugliness of the "ugly" sister was a symbol of her bad nature, too). I don't recall how often people used that term to describe me, but there was a lot of tsk-tsking about the misfortune of my looks and unfavorable comparisons with my (admittedly) beautiful sister, at least within the family. It doesn't help that my brother also is harshly critical any woman who doesn't meet his very specific standard of beauty. My Body Dysmorphic Disorder began in those days, probably.

The issue of appearance is tough for most women, as we are so often judged on our looks, even objectified because of them. When I reached my teens and began to attract male attention, my family role just made this more confusing. I had some really bad relationships in those days!

Eventually, this lead to studying the subject in depth, and I came to some hard-won conclusions about beauty, attraction and love. (More or less, that it's what's inside that counts). I felt there were a lot of misconceptions out there, and my proudest achievement has been my work online with people who felt unable to find love or even date, usually because of their looks. Having people who once thought they were too ugly to be loved write to say that now they are happily married is amazing. I spent years dedicated to that, with a lot of success.

So you can imagine what a shock it was to find my 7 year-old self still had these beliefs that my adult self had debunked years ago. And is quite stubborn about them, too, despite how defeatist they are, despite how false I now know them to be. The memories of how it felt back then came flooding back, in painful detail. Clearly all the years spent educating myself and helping others with the very same issue did not repair this damage, and I can tell...feel...there are lasting scars on the psyche. But I don't know what do to help.

Does anyone have an idea of what to do next?

Hi all.

Emotional Flashbacks are a many and varied thing with me, but there is one particular, dreaded kind I am suffering lately, related to the weather.

The winter that I was 10 years old, a series of disturbing and traumatic events happened in my family. This period was marked by a certain kind of weather and atmosphere - frigid wind, a leaden gray sky, a bleached-out landscape that seemed hopelessly bleak. For 20 years (thankfully) I lived far away from the place where the events happened, and the weather and geography were quite different. Winter could still be depressing, but it wasn't always triggering, in and of itself.

Now, however, I'm living back in my childhood hometown, and the EF's that accompany cold, dark weather are unbearable. It's hard to describe how it feels. "Creeping horror" is a phrase that comes to mind. Vulnerable, unsafe, sensing a growing threat that I can't see, can't predict, can't prevent. Because the feelings come with the cold, it seems to get inside my bones the way cold does, and it's impossible to keep it away. It's nauseating.

The music that was popular at the time also affects me, though generally only if the weather is the same. I can listen to those old songs if the day is hot and sunny without too much effect, but if the weather is dark and cold, oh,'s just awful. I know this because last year I thought I'd try some self-created "exposure therapy" by listening to that music during the dreaded time of year. Huge mistake!! This is obviously not something I can deal with through getting used to it. 

I've tried writing about it, too. Because the events took place over a series of weeks, it seemed important to try to get the whole story (or at least my experience of it) down in detail, how it all fit together. Another mistake. That caused an emotional crash that lasted a couple of months. I've even tried to make an art project about it, even before we moved back to this town.
Again, that ended in distress.

There were other kids, family members who experienced these events along with me, but it's no good talking to them for relief - they were just as traumatized as I was. Whenever it's come up, we just say "that winter" and shudder. It's not that the events are too horrible or complicated to talk about, just that something about it created such a deep disturbance in us that, for our peace of mind, we don't want to bring those feelings to the surface again.
Except when the weather is like this - then it can't be helped.

So I know what not to do.  Is there any advice on what might help?

Recovery Journals / Zazu's Journal
« on: November 10, 2014, 12:06:01 PM »
*warning - possible triggers*

Also, no one need feel obligated to read anything I write here - it's just me trying to sort out my feelings and hopefully gain some insight and strength. It's a little embarrassing to be babbling so much.

So, how does one start a recovery journal? I don't know whether to try to describe who I am/what I know about myself or describe the problems I'm trying to recover from, first.

On one hand, it would seem more positive to establish some sort of identity, a real one outside of the one other people have projected onto me. On the other, sometimes I feel like I'm more a collection of symptoms than person. The mental health issues influence so much of how I interact with the world. At any rate, I am going to try to limit descriptions and explantations that are too distressing or exhausting. I've tried writing to sort out my feelings before, but when it comes to describing the actions of my disordered FOO and my reactions, it's absolutely exhausting and leaves me unable to go on. I've often said that it takes 5 hours to describe what a personality-disordered person can do in 5 minutes. At this point in time, I'm simply not strong enough to do that.

So, I guess I'll start with facts I know for sure. I'm a woman in her early 40's. I have a husband and children whom I love very much. I adore animals and can't even bear to harm insects. I enjoy the arts, music and books. I read all the time for information and escape. I love brand new, creative things as well as the more classical. To know that people are out there making art, music, fashion, literature, any forms of creative expression - this brings me joy. But other things are important too, like compassion and caring and trying to make the world a better place. The hope people can find some common ground and be able lift each other up. That life should not have to be the "short, nasty and brutish" thing it so often is. In this, though, I wish I could do more. I'm interested in science and spirituality both, and believe the world and the universe are full of strange and wonderful things. My favorite color is blue-violet. My favorite food is veggie.

This is how I describe myself.
The people who knew me in all the years being away from my FOO, who never met my FOO, tended to describe me (when they did) as sweet though a bit sad, helpful, somewhat quirky, a caring, well-intentioned parent, the kind of "yoga mom" who supports public television and eats a lot of granola. :p It matches fairly well with how I see myself.

The people who knew me in the years after I moved out on my own but remained in the same town and in contact with my FOO, tended to describe me as strange, fragile, strong, child-like, promiscuous, needy, a loner, cold, withdrawn. Some people thought I was super-intelligent and some thought I was very stupid. In some ways this matches  how I saw myself and in others seems very off-base.

The people who knew me in the years I was growing up with my FOO, or who primarily know me through stories from my FOO, see me as extremely unstable, violent, a liar, a thief, irresponsble, cruel, neglectful, a person too "crazy and stupid" to ever work, take care of herself or others, too unstable and irresponsible to even be taught to cook or drive a car. Later in life, I was called a drunk and drug addict, as well as a "sadistic psychopath" by my mother.

In some ways I bought this description when I was growing up, but in others it confuses me to no end. I understood as a youngster that I was in mental distress, depressed, irritable, withdrawn and without self-confidence. I did believe that I was profoundly stupid. But things like liar and thief, cruel and violent...where did these things come from? They seem to be describing someone I've never met. And I know very well that I dislike alcohol and never take drugs besides NSAIDs. But my FOO proceeds as if these things they've said are an obvious truth, an intrinsic part of me. I know this because I hear it all the time. Even trying to pass on a simple piece of information to my FOO, this comes into play. The things I say are assumed to be lies or just wrong because of my subnormal intellect, and this affects how they react.

If I am this way, then how come in all the years I was away from my FOO, I never had this reputation, no one ever said this about me? How come no one outside of FOO and their circle accuses me of doing these things? Why also do they say things about my husband and children that I absolutely know not to be true? Even things that can be easily checked in the public records are denied or dismissed as lies or delusions. Evidence that can be seen with their own eyes (like the fact that I can cook and can drive a car, for instance) is repeatedly denied with an almost crazed fervor, as if their world would collapse if they had to accept these (seemingly small and pointless) truths.

I know how it sounds - the answer is easy. my FOO is dysfunctional and disturbed.  My husband knows it; my kids know it. Intellectually I know it, too. But in my heart I am troubled and confused, deeply distressed by the extreme difference in my own beliefs about myself and their beliefs about me. If they are the disturbed ones, then why do I feel so crazy? Why do I feel as if I'm being broken up into pieces and disappearing every time they confront me with "what I am"?

It's as if, in my heart of hearts, I can't really believe they would tell a lie, or that they could be wrong. Even though intellectually I know it, have seen it, confirmed it with others. I'm agonizingly caught between what I know and what I feel. The effects of this can be unbearable at times.

So, even in just trying to describe who I am to begin this journal, the projections and beliefs of others have to be addressed, to sort out who I think I am from what others say.

If we had our way, my FOC and I would break off all relations with my FOO forever, with no regret. Unfortunately, this isn't possible at this time. So the emotional pain is just being inflicted again and again, despite every attempt to avoid it. It's as if it's fresh each time - as if I never learned from experience, "toughened up" the way mother says children should toughen up. At my advanced age, obviously I'm not going to "toughen up". But maybe I can become stronger in other ways.

Introductory Post / Just Saying Hello
« on: November 05, 2014, 12:21:47 PM »
Hey everyone,

I'm zazu, you may know me from Out Of The Fog.
I don't have a formal diagnosis of c-ptsd (does anyone formally diagnose that yet?) But I have been diagnosed with PTSD, as well as major depression, GAD, panic disorder and body dysmorphic disorder. So in other words, I'm a real piece of work.  :wave:

The topics on this board are the kinds of things I struggle with every day, so I'm really glad this place is here.

Looking forward to doing some real work on these issues.
Thanks for having me. :) 

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