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Topics - schrödinger's cat

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Checking Out / short break
« on: April 12, 2015, 07:19:37 AM »
Hi everyone,

I'm going to take a short break from OOTS. Something has triggered me, and it's a trigger closely connected to my initial trauma and to the time I was retraumatized. It's best if I deal with this first before I do anything else. I wish all of you all the best!  :hug:

schrödinger's cat

I'd like to pick your brains about something. What do you do after you've had a flashback? Is there anything specific you do to recover, or soothe yourself, or work through the feelings the EF brought up?

I thought this might be an interesting topic to talk about. I'm only just starting to be kinder to myself. In the olden days (up until a few weeks ago), I used to just feel relief, push the flashback out of my mind as soon as possible, and beat myself up with guilt and shame about not handling things better. And it occurs to me that this isn't the most helpful thing to do. So now, after a flashback, I'm trying to squish my toxic Inner Critic and be kind to myself. I'm also taking things easier instead of pushing myself too hard. That's a start. Well done, me. But I'm sure there's a lot more.

What works for you? Methods, techniques, lifestyle changes, grounding techniques, Inner Child work, flashback management techniques...?

It occurred to me yesterday that this board is full of useful tips about recovery. But they're scattered everywhere, and I keep on forgetting about them. If you're new to Out Of the Storm, it's probably a daunting task to face the many, many, many threads. No chance is any new member going to find every last useful tip, not unless they take a week off and do nothing but read.

So how about we start a list where we collect everything?

It would be a pity if we missed people's input, so I thought I'd start a new thread straight away. Below is the up-to-date version of our list.

Do you think it could be helpful to collect all the things we've found out about dealing with CPTSD? Not sure how much sense that makes. After all, each of us has a different story.

But I thought today: "Man, I wish I'd known about titration a lot earlier." And it occurred to me: each of us probably has something we wish we'd known earlier, or a bit of encouragement we'd tell ourselves, or a warning about side-effects to watch out for. And if we had a thread full of such things, that might be an interesting thing for OOTS members who only just found out about CPTSD.

So if you could go in time and meet your past self shortly after you realized you had CPTSD, what would you tell yourself?

Ideas/Tools for Recovery / Self-referencing
« on: March 02, 2015, 10:32:42 AM »
I came across that word in several texts on CPTSD recovery. Apparently, we have to become self-referencing in order to heal. I didn't pay much attention to that at the time. It seemed like just another abstract concept.

It's starting to dawn upon me now, though. And I'm pretty excited by it. Because once I know what the problem is - and that it's not any character failing of mine, nor simply the way this world works for everyone - then it follows logically that it can be changed. It can be slowly nudged towards a more bearable state of affairs, or given a good kick, whatever, but it can and will be shifted. This feels like I've lived all my life in a house that had a piano stuck in the hallway, and everyone had to crawl around it, and everyone thought it couldn't be moved, but now, huzzah, a solution is within reach.

Which might just be the usual enthusiasm one gets before falling flat on one's face. Who knows. But the concept is interesting. So I thought maybe we could talk about it? Just in general, sharing our stories. Because I still think that the word is too abstract to be easily understood. So sharing our experiences might clarify the matter. I'm still groping about in the dark too.

So! Here's what I found out. Since I'm nervous about writing this, it'll be brief, because I want to rush through this before I lose my nerve.

Possible causes: narcissistic family systems => the entire family is focussed on the needs of the parents => the child grows up having the parents' needs as her focal point. Her own needs are sidelined, maybe even seen as mere obstacles for parental needs. Abuse undermines your sense of self, your sense of self-worth. It undermines your ability to trust in your own voice - after all, you constantly experience yourself as weaker than others. Some kinds of abuse purposely try to make you other-referencing:
-- name-calling and labelling (the abuser sends us the underlying message: "what I think about you is true")
-- trivializing and minimizing ("how I assess your situation is correct")
-- giving "advice", asking probing questions, analyzing, offering solutions ("there's no need for me to listen to your side of the story", "I know best", "I solve your problem")
-- invalidating, gaslighting ("I know what happened, I decide what's real")
-- withholding, withdrawing, stonewalling => a form of exerting passive-aggressive control: an attempt to switch us off
-- countering: ("my point of view is the only acceptable one, so align yourself with me")
-- minimizing: ("I know how your experiences have truly affected you")
-- trivializing: directly devalues and belittles our contributions, our perceptions, our experiences, and our normal human dignity

-- you constantly second-guess yourself - "was it really so", "maybe I'm just being oversensitive", etc
-- difficulty making decisions
-- it's VERY hard to accept criticism, because we've been taught to connect our sense of self-worth directly to other people's reactions to us - so if a neighbour or the kid next door looks at us funny, we're sunk
-- for that reason, we become people-pleasers
-- we think in terms of "should" and "ought to"

Phew! I'm done. Was this okay? This is what I remember from the books I'm reading. So it's not a complete list, and it's not official, it's just "things Cat had buzzing about at the back of her head".

No clear idea yet how to fix things. So far, I'm trying to become aware of what caused this. That helps me realize that these are just introjects - things someone else wanted me to believe. And that makes it easier to show them the proverbial middle finger. I'm trying to see when and in what ways I'm other-referencing, and to see how I could do things differently. Even just finding out what I'm feeling is a bit of a task.

It's easier to do silly little things. Like a self-referencing to-do list. Just writing down "laundry, shopping, mop floors" feels like yet another list of OUGHTs. I can almost see my mother's admonishing look and her raised index finger. So instead, I wrote down "Cat wants a clean house" and "it's inconsiderate not to do laundry" and "Cat REALLY needs to buy coffee". Aaaand... I actually got a few more things done than I would have with ordinary lists. Knowing myself, I'll probably forget about that bright and shiny idea soon enough, but it was a funny experience.

So how about you? What are your experiences with being self-referencing? Or with NOT being it? What are the areas this affects? Do you have any strategies, any favourite method, any one experience that felt particularly liberating?

The Cafe / Something that made me believe in people again
« on: February 17, 2015, 06:38:44 PM »
It's called BACA, Bikers Against Child Abuse. They're all of them volunteers, all of them bikers, and several are survivors of child abuse themselves. I found it on this comedy website (of all things):

When the family of an abused kid requests BACA's help via a therapist or government agency, a group of bikers head over to the child's house and present themselves at his or her service. From that point on, if the kid's abuser bothers him or her in any way, a group of g*d**mn bikers will show up outside the house and stand guard. They'll come over even if the kid had a nightmare and is feeling scared.

The idea behind child-abuse-fighting biker gangs is that children are usually incredibly intimidated by their abusers, who are of course bigger and stronger than them. But f*** that, bikers are more intimidating, and it turns out the tough guys who abuse children aren't quite so tough when their alleged victims are surrounded by huge wooly mammoths in human form.

This intimidation-for-good can also help children during the legal process. Testifying against an abuser is bad enough for adults, let alone for a frightened kid. So BACA bikers often accompany children to court or parole hearings and then sit down where they're clearly visible to the abuser. If you haven't had your daily dose of schadenfreude yet, imagine the look on some *'s face when he's expecting a kid to show up with nothing but a scrawny lawyer, and instead sees a f****** biker gang file in.

If only they'd existed back when we were kids. But it feels good to know that somewhere out there, this is happening.

Alright, I'll try to be concise. I'm feeling a bit low today, and in such times I usually either ramble at length or say absolutely nothing. So. Onwards.

Some time in December, I went LC (low contact) with my family of origin. Something happened that wasn't too dramatic in itself, but it was just the last straw. Since then, I'm suddenly able to remember and process my childhood and teenage years a LOT better. And I'm starting to wonder...

Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?

When I'm reading the descriptions of "roles in dysfunctional families", the scapegoat is often called "the rebel", and they sound like something taken from West Side Story - prone to drinking, drug-taking, high-risk behaviour, misunderstood yet courageously honest and authentic. Aaaand... I'm not like that. No drugs, no drinks, no promiscuity. Not because I'm virtuous, but because I never felt safe enough to try.

And my family isn't openly abusive. If you met them now, you'd like them. They come across as competent, generously helpful, cheerful people. And they are. They're good people, in their own ways, to anyone who isn't me. Even during my teenage years and childhood, there was no SA at all, and very very little physical violence.

And it's only now that I'm beginning to wonder about our roles. My brother is very much the Golden Child, with a bit of the Mascot thrown in. And when we were teens, I was a combination of Lost Child + Scapegoat. When I look at the function of this scapegoat role - yes, that's what it was like. The one screw-up in a family of golden people. But in mild ways, easy to miss.

(Here are details about it. Might be triggering, so I'm whiting them out. Highlight to read.) I screwed up by having all the symptoms of a depression, at first: I withdrew, I spent too much time reading and watching TV, I didn't take the initiative when it came to socializing, I was quiet, I was sad. Then, once my CPTSD began to hit in, I was absent-minded, I constantly forgot anything and everything, my room was a mess of truly epic proportions, I had so little energy - I remember one day I was relieved and glad when I reached the school bus, because it had been THAT hard to focus enough on walking through town. (Histamine intolerance plus stress, it turns out. Leave out histamine, get back your brain. I wish I'd found that out decades ago.) I screwed up by navelgazing too much. I screwed up by being indoors instead of going outside to enjoy the sunshine. I screwed up by not liking my mother's favourite kind of herbal tea. I screwed up by "navelgazing". I screwed up by not being able to find my happiness in doing my duty. (I find my happiness in happiness instead. Weird, eh?) I screwed up by being too much like a woman - women, my mother thinks, are notoriously prone to backbiting, gossipping, shallowness, and lack of backbone, so I MUST prove to her that I'm not those things, or she'd... well, she wouldn't say anything outright, but she'd hint at things, she'd give me pointed looks... the message came across very clearly. I screwed up by preferring jeans and t-shirts to ladylike clothing. I screwed up by wearing my hair long. I screwed up by not letting her cut my bangs. I screwed up by being tense and resentful during her many, many jokes she made: "Oh look, here's a pair of scissors, why don't I cut your bangs?" I screwed up by taking a step back when she'd point her fingers as if they were scissors and take hold of my hair, giving me a look that wasn't playful at all, but scrutinizing and serious and tight-lipped.

I screwed up about ten years ago, when once again I slipped into this funny, navel-gazing, self-absorbed mood: the one where I'm just lazy and un-proactive instead of cheerfully and determinedly seizing life by the horns. I told her I was diagnosed with PTSD, which disappointed her. She very graciously didn't hold it against me though, instead just saying: "Oh, you know, I wouldn't put too much truck in all that psychological stuff if I were you." ---- That's how she saw it. The truth was, I wasn't just sad. I wasn't even just depressed. I had so many CPTSD and PTSD symptoms, I was a walking textbook case. Dissociation, depersonalization, derealization, elevated startle response, defensiveness, no trust in anyone, lack of object constancy, suicidal ideation, somatic symptoms. Also, I was grieving about a dead friend, I had a years-long EF because she'd died in a way that reminded me of my father's dead, I was jobless, I'd just been through a close encounter with a narcissist who'd singled me out as a viable target for abuse (and hey, she was right!), I had no money at all, my therapist tried EMDR and it triggered a days-long EF, I had no friends, I had abysmal job prospects----

Ugh, now I'm ranting. Sorry. The point is: it's not BAD, the things she does. Not if you look at each of them in isolation. It's just the big picture that's bad. All of those little, little things taken together. And the big picture is:

She doesn't respect me. She doesn't take me seriously. Anything I say is wrong. If I argue in favour of something, she immediately argues against it. She doesn't just take my word for things. She seems honestly taken aback that I don't share her preferences, and often tries to argue me into it. She constantly warns me of danger. We had whole thirty-minutes-long phonecalls that consisted of me trying to small-talk, her responding with admonitions and warnings. Seriously. WHOLE PHONECALLS. EVERYTHING I said - she'd argue against it, she'd warn me, or she'd ask minute, intrusive questions that made me feel like I was being cross-examined.

Tiny. Subtle. Mild. This forum is full of people who'd be glad to have such a mother, right? She's functional, she's sane, she's not batshit crazy...

Ugh, I even forgot what the point of this post was. All of those things came up today, so I'm not feeling too well. Thing is, I should really go have my hair cut - but I'm afraid. Know why? Because, after growing up in my family and around my peers, I'm now deadly afraid of being less than perfect - because that will make people despise me. And that feeling told me something of what my adolescence was like. And it fits what I'm reading about being a scapegoat.

So. Does anyone else feel like this? Does anyone else have this subtle form of scapegoating and boundary-breaking going on? Or do you all have openly abusive mothers who make the hag from Disney's Tangled look sane?

Parenting (Children, Teens & Adult Children) / Teenage kids
« on: January 28, 2015, 08:37:45 AM »
Does any of you have some miracle advice on how to deal with teenage tantrums without getting triggered? PLEASE let there be some miracle advice. One little thing that I can do and then everything will be fine. Yes?

So, I've taken a deep breath and reconnected to my reasonable-and-sensible side. Of course I know that there's no miracle cure. It's probably going to be simply just another area of my life where I have to work harder than the average person to get worse results, all due to the ever-lasting gift that is CPTSD. ... Hm, I was aiming at something positive-sounding, and I think I've failed. Sorry. I had kind of a sh*tty morning. I need a hug. I also need to hear that YES, this is normal. I've gone a decade without being called "stupid Mom!", so it was probably high time I got my share of that particular piece of parenting normality.

Tantruming people trigger me. So maybe it's time to work through that? Grief work and so on? So I'll become more self-aware, and better able to tell past pain from present annoyance? I'm usually surprisingly good at not taking my kids' frustration personally.

Frustrated? Set Backs? / Locus of control
« on: January 20, 2015, 09:57:28 AM »
I finally hit upon what makes things so difficult for me right now. Here's something from Wikipedia, translated from psychologese into normal-people language (I hope).

Locus of control = the extent to which you believe you can control events affecting you. "Locus" is Latin for "place/location". An internal locus of control = you believe you can control your life. An external locus of control = you believe your life is controlled by something outside yourself, by things or people or fate or chance, by something you can't influence or change.

And I think mine are messed up. I'm blaming things on myself when really there wasn't anything I could have done. So, for example, my oldest kid will throw a teenager-grade wobbly, and I'll think it's because I did something wrong. But she's a teenager. Teenagers throw tantrums. It just happens. I know this NOW - why couldn't I remember it this morning, when she was acting up?

Or take my FOO's behaviour. They're patronizing and withdrawing even now, and we're actually officially "getting along", so it's not remotely as bad as it was in the Eighties. But again, it's like the locus of control is entirely within me. It's my fault. I'm to blame. They're exempt from all blame - they're in the right, I'm in the wrong.

If it stopped right there, it'd be hard enough work to fix. But it doesn't. Instead, when I do have a problem that I'd have to fix, I fall into this mindset where there's nothing I can do about it, nothing at all. WHY ON EARTH do I do that? I've got a good degree, I lived abroad, I know I can do things, I've proved it to myself. But still - our landlord raised our rent quite a bit, and now the sensible thing to do would be to find another flat. It's not easy, hereabouts. And I feel absolutely, totally terrified. Why?! Why am I scared of browsing websites? It doesn't make a lick of sense.

AND I think it's because of this thing. Locus of control. Because back when I was a child and a teen, if there was any problem, there was never anything I could do. Never. Not even a teensy bit. My mother overworked herself, and my brother and I saw it clearly and wanted to help - but she's a HSP (highly sensitive) and sometimes just needed to be by herself. So she'd send us away saying: "Oh, no, go outside and play, I'll do the chores on my own", even though we could see how exhausted she was already. (NOW I can make sense of it. Back then? Not a chance.) My father was very very ill, but there was nothing I could do. There wasn't even a way to really understand what was the matter. My classmates bullied me - they bullied me when I did something stupid (like constantly forget to do my homework), when I failed at something I couldn't help failing at (I'm epically bad at sports), when I did something good ---- whenever I did anything, ANYTHING AT ALL, that drew attention to myself, WHAM! came the verbal abuse. And yes, I know this is easy compared to physical abuse or worse. The point is, it wasn't anything I could control. There wasn't anything I could do. It was completely out of my control - I learned that the hard way.

Because if someone has you in their crosshairs, there's nothing you can do as a kid to get back out. If it's a grown-up and you're a kid, you're in the weaker position. If it's a bunch of kids and you're the lone outsider - well, there's usually a weird group dynamic going on, like a more harmless version of Lord of the Flies, and you get pushed into the role of scapegoat and you can never, ever get back out.

And in that way, quite accurately, you again - and again - and again experience problems as something YOU CAN'T EVER DO ANYTHING ABOUT. It's an accurate way of perceiving your situation. It's not just you being fatalistic. It's how things are. Whenever you're suffering, whenever you've got a problem: you realize that THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN EVER DO to make the SLIGHTEST bit of difference. You learn that slowly, over the years. It gets etched deep into your psyche.

And whenever someone else has got a problem, whenever someone around you feels * and starts taking it out on you: they teach you that they're exempt from blame, they're "just being honest" or they're "just being tired" or it's just "clearing the air" or it's just "kids being kids" or - I don't even know WHAT other whitewashing, b*llshitting, a**holish excuses people come up with, and I don't care. It's convenient for them. They take their behaviour, and then shunt all the blame for it onto you. They take something that's entirely THEIRS to control, and then pretend that it's YOURS entirely.

All those excuses. Those master-pieces of gas-lighting we've all of us been exposed to at one point or another. The lies. The euphemisms. We've all been taught that OUR perceptions don't matter: THEIRS do. We've all been taught that OUR feelings don't have any weight: THEIRS do. We've all been taught that OUR value doesn't matter: THEIR does. So let's talk about it in those terms. The locus of control for THEIR trouble? Us. The way they see it, they can't help being nasty, they're just innocent little angels exposed to our irritating presence, no wonder they act out. WE are in control of THEIR frustration or anger. And because we were too young and too sad and too exhausted to resist, we took this on board. We got brainwashed into accepting that belief. And any problem that truly affects US, anything that makes OUR life difficult - where's the control then? With THEM! That's what they wanted. They didn't fancy letting us have power. They didn't want to let us have a say in things. They wanted to hover above us like a watchful god, and when we did the slightest thing wrong, they'd smite us. And that's what we learned. That's what they conditioned us to believe. That we're powerless. That there's nothing we can do. That we're victims, have always been victims, will always be victims.

And that, I think, is why I'm so tired and discouraged and afraid right now, and have been for the past few weeks. It's a visit from my past self. And I hope I'll now be able to teach myself that I'm not a victim, I'm a good person who's had the misfortune to grow up surrounded by jerks.

Ideas/Tools for Recovery / Less exhaustion through HSP-friendly life (?)
« on: December 15, 2014, 11:05:14 AM »
Hi everyone. I'm a highly sensitive person (HSP). I started researching this after a thread Rain started. So far, it's brought me a series of smaller and bigger epiphanies. It explains... not everything, but a LOT. Since it's usually a safe bet that any symptom/oddity I have is going to be shared by someone here, I thought I'd start a thread where we can talk abut HSP and how it can impact our recovery.

To start with, here are my epiphanies so far. They're about what HSP means for my daily life. (Sorry for the bold text, I wanted to make things easier to read.)

0. (the REALLY BIG epiphany): I'm an HSP. This isn't something I can change. If I live a life suited to normal-type sensitivity, I'm going to be constantly overwhelmed, overextended, and exhausted. When I'm exhausted, I'm less able to deal with flashbacks, and I'm likely to get more of them. If I find a lifestyle that minimizes exhaustion, it'll be very worth my while.

1. HSPs are "oversensitive" because they notice more things. Of course, we can still interpret this data the wrong way. But the basic input is usually spot on (or close). If you've ever had your perceptions dismissed out of hand, this is going to feel validating. It's also a lot more positive than telling myself "I'm oversensitive" or "I should grow a thicker skin". For an HSP, growing a thicker skin isn't an option. Coping strategies: YES. Changing my nature: NO.

2. HS is exhausting. After all, there's all this data storming in on us. Some of it is contradictory. It's like there's less of a filter keeping unimportant stuff out.
Also, if you're HSP, you might have highly complex thoughts building themselves up within the blink of an eye. Even when you're alone and at peace, you can STILL become overstimulated by worry / ruminations / feelings. Which is where CPTSD comes in! Who among us hasn't been entirely alone, doing nothing, but simply just having CPTSD and thinking about it or feeling it is already enough to leave you exhausted? IMO, simply just having CPTSD takes up so much of our available runtime, it's like a certain percentage of our energy is always taken up with coping strategies - and that's BEFORE we do any other work. Then put HS into the mix... you see?
If you're able to live an HSP-friendly life, then this won't matter so much. But I'd suspect that most of us don't. It seems likely that we've all been pressured into copying normal-sensitive-people kinds of behaviour. ("Why, you can't be exhausted already, we've only just arrived at the mall!" - "Come OOONN, loud parties are fun!" - "Why the h*ll are you reading a book, young lady, there's chores to be done!"). So the cruel world classically conditions you towards over-extending yourself. Which leaves you permanently exhausted.

3. In order to become less exhausted, it doesn't quite work to simply do normal-sensitive-people stuff, like for example:
a) Sitting still and doing nothing. If you're HSP, that leaves you more time to worry, ruminate over old problems, obsess over a tiny mistake you made a week ago, plan your chores, and try to solve the problem of world peace. The book I'm reading says it's often easier to relax if you're DOING something - something that keeps your mind pleasantly busy with a low-level, relaxed kind of busy-ness, like taking a walk. I relax FABULOUSLY while I'm crocheting. But only while I'm not yet practiced enough. If I am practiced, I can actually THINK while I'm crocheting, and so I begin to worry again.
b) Other normal-people-stuff that doesn't relax HSPs is anything that exposes you to an overwhelming level of stimulation. What stimulates you depends on what you're highly sensitive to (obviously). Listening to the radio can annoy you if you're the sensory-type HSP who overreacts to shrill singing voices or wonky harmonies or repetitive lyrics. Loud, crowded venues can make you highly uneasy. Meeting many stranges, all of whom you have to leave a positive impression with, can totally drain you of the will to live. Even if you actually enjoy doing it, it can still leave you completely exhausted afterwards.
c) It gets yet more complicated. HSPs hate overstimulation, but they also hate boredom. Say your colleagues want to go have a drink after work. You go straight home, because you've had a busy day and your levels of stimulation are already too high. Now. Normal-sensitive people are more likely to pick ONE thing to do and then ENJOY it. HSPs are likely to feel frazzled, go home, chill out... then chill out beyond what's comfortable... then sit there morosely and ponder about how the rain outside is the perfect metaphor for our empty, friendless lives. Essentially, HSPs have to take their mental/emotional pulse regularly, then adjust things accordingly. My mother would have a coronary if she heard that experts are encouraging me to navelgaze MORE.  ;D)

4. HSPs are usually really good at sensing other people's expectations of them. They tend to be highly adaptable. This is good. It's a talent. BUT: quite often, it makes sure you have a * childhood. Let's say your mother is constantly cranky or overextended. An HSP kid will be unable to simply shrug this off. She'll worry that she herself is the cause, and she'll try to make herself inconspicuous. All through life, HSPs are likely to sense what other people need and expect, and to try and act accordingly. Very often, this takes up a lot of energy. And very often, people take it for granted. You get no praise, no appreciation. That in turn lowers your self-esteem. If you go through much pains to do something, and no one even SEES it, you end up feeling that your contribution isn't really worthy. Apparently, it's not unusual for HSPs to arrive at middle age and realize: all our lives have been about OTHER PEOPLE, we've always adapted, always put ourselves second, and... we have nothing to show for it. So we're entitled to some kind of productive midlife-crisis, where we discover our own values, our own needs, and then learn to care for ourselves. This isn't egotism, it's simply basic care and maintenance of our most valuable resource.

5. HSPs have high standards. If we're not aware of that, we're going to exhaust ourselves. After all, we're not simply just perfectionists - we're perfectionists who sense the SLIGHTEST thing wrong with what we're doing and then see ALL THE IMPLICATIONS of this, and we tend to worry a lot. The author of the book I read recommends seeing our high standards the way we see our fondness for coffee: as a longing, but not one that has to be put into reality ALL THE TIME.

6. HSPs are less able to separate between "thing that concerns me" and "thing that doesn't concern me". Example: witnessing a quarrel between strangers, and feeling bad for each of them; EITHER seeing where each of them had a point and where they went wrong OR not seeing it and then obsessing over that; being preoccupied for a long time by how this might be fixed.

7. HSPs react strongly to things like
-- lack of sleep
-- feeling rushed, lacking time
-- too many people
-- too much tension (a novel I read had a character say: "there's unhappiness in the room, but I'm not sure who has it, me or you", and I can relate so well)
-- caffeine and other stimulants
-- our diet (even cold foods vs hot foods has an effect - hot foods tend to feel more soothing, particularly to HSPs)
-- background noises and/or complete silence
-- physical discomfort
-- sudden changes (they tend to feel alarming, even when it's about something nice)
If you're TOO overstimulated, you're likely to reach a point where you just bluescreen. Sudden, total exhaustion out of nowhere: you're unable to think clearly, you're annoyed and snippy, and you've no idea why.

8. Everything you experience stays with you for a long time - even quarrels between strangers, like I said. Or mistakes I made. Or people I talked to and that seemed an EENSY bit tense ("OH DEAR I MUST HAVE DONE SOMETHING WRONG"). I've grown up in a FOO that expected me to let things glide off of me like water off a duck's back. This didn't work out. But apparently, I'm normal. I'm just HSP-normal instead of normal-normal, but I can work with that. I suppose that's why I like some CBT methods - it's like a way to teach myself to see the world in a normal-normal way.

9. If you were shamed for your HS, it's likely that you decided to NOT be hyper-sensitive WHATEVER THE COST.

10. Most HSPs tend to be introverts, but it's very possible to be an extraverted HSP (like myself). In that case, you'll tend to feel overstimulated and overwhelmed by THINGS (where introverts might feel overwhelmed by too many PEOPLE). Example: feeling overwhelmed when you're having to take on too many projects at once. (In my case, also: multi-tasking, constant interruptions, clutter.)

12. Living in accordance with your values, strengths, and needs will give you energy. Living in opposition to them will sap your energy. This might be true for everyone, but it's particularly true for HSPs.

I've been excited about this for the last few days. There's so many echoes here of things people said on this forum. Like, "why can't I have my own opinion, why do I adapt all the time, why am I such a chameleon?" Or, "I'm constantly exhausted and demotivated and I don't know why" (HSP isn't THE reason, but it might be one reason among others?). We spent several threads puzzling about the answers to that. And now, here's something that might help explain this? Or does it? What do you think?

Then: even when you're normally sensitive - wouldn't CPTSD alone give you a higher level of stimulation than is normal? The flashbacks, the worries, the constant depression, the many unpleasant associations connected to everyday objects or places or songs, the hypervigilance...? I'm not sure. I just wondered, would HSP coping skills then benefit others among us (those without HS)?

As before, I'm summing up threads to make it a bit easier for new members to delve into things. PM me if there's any mistake you spot. If you want to comment, it's best if you do that in the original thread, otherwise this thread will become long and hard to keep track of. Thanks.

(I'm not planning to update every single summary all the time... OOF, can you imagine the work?! Yikes. But still, it's better than nothing.)

Keep in mind that these summaries reflect the experiences and opinions of forum members, none of whom are therapists. We're all sitting at the same table here.

EDITED TO ADD: done now. I'll leave the shorter threads un-summarized, because they're a lot easier to wade through.

RE - Re-experiencing the Past (eg Flashbacks, Triggers) / Dimmer switch
« on: October 29, 2014, 06:43:51 PM »
Hi everyone. I've had something today, and I'm trying to decide what it is. It doesn't sound like a flashback, but it responds like one.

My mother came to visit yesterday, and our interaction was as usual - not too bad, but not good either. It's nothing like the stories I hear from people here about their mothers, oh my goodness no, and so I'm quite aware of how fortunate I am. But the fact still remains, we're not close, she can't see me, she treats me as though I were her past self, and if I don't fit into that pattern, she reacts in rejecting/defensive/critical ways.

And today, things were weird. It was like someone had hit a dimmer switch for everything. I wasn't motivated to do anything. I felt tense, I kept having this weird itch; I just felt uncomfortable in my own skin, literally so. I found nearly everything pointless, even things I usually like doing. I felt at once lethargic and antsy. It wasn't bad enough to have me go "ah ha! emotional flashback!". I'm not at all sure what this even was. I felt as if everything was normal, I was fine - I was simply just foggy-minded, emotionally numb and utterly without any motivation to do anything. (Coming to think of it, I suppose that only qualifies as "fine" if you've got CPTSD... talk about low standards....)

I got better once I realized what about my mother's behaviour had triggered which past memories, and once I had grieved about that a little.

Does anyone else ever get that? What do you think this is, just normal frustration, an EF, or something else?

Recovery Journals / schrödinger's journal
« on: October 27, 2014, 08:35:03 AM »
I had a dream tonight. I was cooking for a whole bunch of people, and it just didn't work as I wanted it to. I was running this way and that way to fetch things, I was always busybusybusy. I was doing all the work, completely on my own. I'd never done it before and I didn't even know where everything was. When I was done, I ended up with only half the food I'd set out to cook - and someone tried some and dropped still more of it, which I then began to pick up.

It's made me think about my role in relationships. My mother was parentalized at a young age, and she often assumes a "helper" role. She's actually very good at that: she comes across as wise and steady, strong and kind, someone you want to have on your side. The flipside of this is, she's absolutely crap at accepting help or showing herself weak. We're not really close. We can't be. After all, her way of relating to people is to distance herself if they get too close, and (since she's a widow) who's closer than a daughter? She has a much easier time being close to my cousins, or to strangers, because those don't depend on her so much, they all have their own sets of parents, and most of them have supportive brothers or sisters they're close to.

And obviously, that's what I learned. It's funny. I have this steady, strong, competent persona - but that's just how people are in my house. I learned this like a language. It's an advantage sometimes, but I have such a hard time showing myself weak. It's like, if I do that, people will walk away. I'm beginning to realize that this is because - well, that's what would truly have happened in my house. If I want to talk about the time my father was gravely ill (which he was for the first 20 years of my life), my mother and brother say: "It was hard, but it's made us stronger." They're saying it in this resolute way that's clearly a conversation stopper. The only possible way of being is strong and competent enough to never truly need anyone's help.

This way of being made me less able to relate to people. It made me less able to relate to myself. It's also a very efficient road to burnout. And it makes me less motivated to do anything, because there's always this element of compulsion and pressure behind it.

So I've begun to practice this - allowing myself to be not fully competent/strong/independent. It's less a change of attitude, more like overcoming habits. I'm calling it 'alignment', because I needed a short buzzword I could memorize. 'Remembering-how-to-figure-out-how-I-actually-feel-and-then-working-to-behave-accordingly' is a tad bit unwieldy. So now, I'm sometimes doing the UNTHINKABLE and, if I'm feeling tired, I actually walk a little more slowly. I know! Shocking! Or, when I've been writing non-stop for two or three hours to the point where nothing more will come, it's perfectly okay to simply stop writing.

So maybe that's something I can do today - some recovery-related work that's easy and not triggering - simply just starting a list of all the possible less-than-strong states of mind there are, and then ways to behave accordingly. Things like "feel sad --> look sad (instead of pressuring myself to smile)". That's why I like the word alignment so much. It reminds me that this isn't about self-indulgence or weakness, it's about finding out where I'm truly at, and then bringing everything else into alignment with it. It's then easier to remember that fully aligned things are usually a lot stronger. Even in situations where it's best to keep a lid on things, I can always do something - even if it's just allowing myself to be a little quieter than usual.

General Discussion / triggering situations
« on: October 24, 2014, 08:48:33 AM »
I've recently found out that I find Sunday afternoons triggering. Seriously. Once I thought about it, it made sense, and I could identify why this was so. (Short version: emotional neglect, explosive parental rages, spending my entire free time by myself keeping myself busy doing quiet and inobtrusive things - that always was worst on Sunday.) But still - Sunday afternoons? Of all the weird things that can trigger you...!  :blink:

Another situation that triggers me (mildly) is dropping my kid off at school. I did that today and I'm still spooked. I'm feeling antsy and fidgety, like something bad happened or like I did something wrong and I'm just not sure yet what it is. I know everything's okay, but I don't know it know it. It feels a bit like this ---->

Sooo... I'm now wondering: how on earth do I deal with this? I'll probably have to do some grounding/relaxation kind of things, and I'll have to confront the past trauma that got me these triggers in the first place. Bleargh. I'd been hoping to put that off for another while. But if I simply skip that step, those EFs simply don't stop. They're on the mild-ish side, but they last for a looong time. Soothing my inner child probably helps, too. Or angering. Angering's doable. I'm too afraid to grieve or be sad - it would make me feel even more vulnerable/helpless.

How do you deal with situations you find triggering? I'm talking of situations that are almost always triggering and yet happen with dismaying regularity. Do you have methods in place for dealing with this?

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