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Topics - I like vanilla

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I am not quite sure where this one ought to be posted but since it is related to the fact face masks are **HUGELY TRIGGERING** for me, I am putting it in the triggers section.

I am also recognizing that this is a controversial topic and that I might again get ad hominem comments on this board. However, I did want to let others in a similar situation to me know that there might be a potential option out there to help us. This posting is for those of us who are triggered by wearing face masks so that it is difficult if not impossible to wear one. It is also those who have, or who know someone who has, a good reason (e.g. physical, mental, and/or emotional health) for not being able to wear a face mask. I am in NO way advocating against face masks nor am I making judgements about those who wear them (though for the record I generally feel favourably to people who do). I am simply pointing out an option that might be helpful to those of us who have good reasons to not wear a mask, because some of us do have good reasons for not being able to wear a face mask even though we still wish to be good citizens of our communities.


A friend of mine, knowing of my inability to wear a face mask, recently suggested to me to try a face shield instead. I did not know that that was even an option, or even exactly what that was so I looked it up (part of the reason I am posting here because others might also not know about it). A face shield is like a clear, plastic visor that, well, shields your face. It hangs across the wear's face off a band that goes around the top of a wear's head. Ideally, a face shield for disease protection should go from ear-to-ear and extend lower than your chin (based on what I have read on the internet about them). Another friend let me borrow her shop face shield (yes, we managed it from from 2 m apart with appropriate cleaning and disinfecting). For me, the face shield was wonderful. I found it to be different enough from a face mask that it was not triggering for me. The only downside for me was that the shield was a bit heavy, but that is because it was a shop shield designed to protect people from potentially flying bits of metal, machinery, etc. in a fabrication shop (it also serves the covid-19 purposes but is too much for just covid-19 shielding). The ones designed for disease control are much more light weight. I also learned that while not as easily available as face masks, a drugstore chain where I live does carry them. I did not check online but imagine there are sources there. Also, there are directions to make your own, including some patterns to run on 3D printers (not an option for everyone but I have a couple of friends who have 3D printers and I am hoping they will try it).

I know that others might have a different experience, and that still others have underlying reasons to not cover their faces or to not have something around their heads, etc. that would negate the option of face shields, and I send sympathy to everyone in these situations. However, for at least some of us who want to (and/or who are being legally mandated to) participate in this part of the covid-19 safety practices but who have physical, emotional, psychological, or other real barriers to do so, a face shield might be an option that allows us to go out of our homes and participate in activities like those who are able to wear face masks. That said, I am no lawyer, so do not know how legal officials will respond to the face shields vs. masks in various regions where masks are mandated. I am fortunate that while they are encouraged here, masks are not mandatory where I live, but I do plan to wear a shield now on public transit and for similar activities. I do know that health care and government officials in a growing number of places are arguing that face shields also be an allowed option.

Right now, the research about face shields, especially covid-19 specific data, is disappointingly lacking, though I read recently that a number of labs have been doing the testing - hopefully, we will have results out soon. However, using and extrapolating from other research (e.g. related to the Spanish Flu), looking at how the average person uses cloth face masks, and adding information about what we know about the covid-19 virus, many health-care professionals are arguing in favour of face shields as a viable alternative to face masks. (see I do know about science - I actually am, in fact, a scientist - sorry defensive response from above-mentioned ad hominem comments).

For example, an infectious disease expert from John Hopkins Centre for Health Security recently (June 2020) said that the most important strategies remain: wash our hands frequently, avoid touching our faces, and keep at least 2 m apart from each other as much as possible (agreeing with experts worldwide) but then also noted that face shields might eventually supplant face masks because the shields have the added benefits of keeping us from touching our faces and of protecting our eyes (agreeing with a growing number of healthcare professionals and infections disease experts). Finally, he said that more research is being done. So, hopefully we will have some solid data soon. I would post the article but the licensing terms that I agreed to to use the journal articles database, and the copyright laws of my country, prevent me from doing so. I will, however, keep an eye on the hopefully-soon upcoming results of the research and try to post updates as they come up (did I mention that I am, in fact a scientist? Oh, and, yeah, I read the journal articles as well as the news and instead of the social-media postings - wow, I am starting to realize how triggering this forum has been made for me...).

From what I can find, the only real drawbacks that people cite are:

1) shields are relatively bulky, especially compared to masks
For me, the choice of carrying a shield vs. debilitating EFs makes that an easy decision

2) shields are relatively expensive compared to masks
In the initial outlay, yes maybe (a shield at the drugstore chain I mentioned above is about $10) but the shields can be washed and reused almost indefinitely where the one-time use masks cannot and should really be replaced immediately once someone has sneezed or coughed in it (though I have never seen that happen even though I have seen many coughs and sneezes by those wearing them).
That said, yes, other cloth masks of varying levels of effectiveness can be washed too, so expense is still a concern, especially when times are extra tight financially for many of us. I won't deny that. For me, again, it is worth the extra cost, but I would never want to speak for someone else's budget decisions.

So, there is hope for those of us who have difficulty wearing face masks. Face shields might be an option for some of us. If nothing else, it might be worth looking into. And, so I am posting on the board because until a caring friend mentioned it to me, I had no idea that it was even an option. I wanted to pass the information on to others who might find it useful or needed in their lives. I hope that some of you find it helpful.



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Where I live they are gradually reopening the province, with physical distancing protocols in effect. Our pubic health officer while recommending facial masks is also adamant that she will not mandate them because many people have good reasons for not wearing one. I am one of those people and am really glad that I am not forced to wear one for riding on public transit, etc. or I would be really stuck because I really cannot wear one. It is a HUGE trigger for me.


***TW DETAILS OF CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE BELOW***

For as long as I can remember a much older 'cousin' (W) of mine would come over to visit when his mother visited with my NM (our mothers are cousins and we have always just called him my cousin). Starting when I was about 3 years old W, who would have been about 14 or 15 at the time, would tie me up, usually to a chair (using my own skipping rope), gag me, and molest me. Because I was so young and traumatized, I have very few detailed memories, but I think he would remove the gag in order to make me perform oral sex on him, then put the gag back on. I don't think he had PIV sex with me but he did use his fingers and objects on and in me, all the while I was gagging on that cloth and trying to 'not be there' (I am sure I was dissociating a lot then, part of the reason my memories are so hazy).

I do know that the first-ish(?) time that it happened, I ran screaming to my mother for help, but being that young I was unable to articulate what had happened - what W had done to me. My mother got me in trouble for disturbing the nice visit that she was having with W's mother, why did I always have to be so noisy?, why did I always have to make trouble?, etc., etc. W did not even need to make up a story because never once did NM even ask why I was that upset...

I also suspect that my NM and certainly W's mother had some idea that W had some kind of problems. His mother would give us his old picture books and colouring books - over all of the people and many of the animals W had used markers to draw ropes and gags and torture and blood, and other forms of violence. The colouring pages were not coloured, just these torture drawings added to them and to picture books (not meant to be coloured/drawn on either way). My NM would give these books to us (me and my siblings) without ever thinking how inappropriate that was.

I also suspect my NM suspected something about what W was doing to me because after I ran screaming to her, whenever W and his mother would come to visit, she would dress me up in a nice dress, and frilly underwear (!) (I remember so few details but I remember the frilly underwear...), and tell me to behave myself and play nicely with W while NM visited with W's mother... and so of course, W had free rein to do as he liked with me. They visited 5-10 times each year.

After a few years (!) I think W no longer needed to tie me and gag me (I had given up) but he would because it was fun for him to do so. But, one time, I remember when he was done with me he stood me on a table (I am quite short and he tall so I probably came up to his knees, max to his mid thighs then) so that he could pull my frilly underwear back up and help me to put my stockings back on. He was having difficulty with the stockings - I was squirming and trying to not touch him or he me. He made me put my hands on his shoulders to steady me while he pulled on the stockings. At that time, NM came downstairs to get something, saw what was happening, and threw a fit... at me... for 'making W do bad things to me' and claiming that IF (NM still denying it all) anything happened it was totally my fault for wearing such a fancy dress and frilly underwear (clothing that she put me in) to entice him to treat me this way. It was never spoken of again.

I think W came over less often with his mother after that, though my NM still left him alone with me when he did. After a while he moved overseas for a job. I know other people did other stuff to me after that, though it is all fairly hazy, and that would be a different post.

So yeah, having any type of cloth/mask over my mouth like that is HUGELY problematic for me. And is now a great big trigger as masks are everywhere. I live in a place where people with colds already often wore them (pre-covid-19) so I can stand seeing others wear them, especially when it is not everyone, but for me it is a huge NO, not doing it, no way, no how...

**END OF DETAILS OF CSA (though some general discussions still contained below)**

I have dealt with this problem as much as possible during therapy. I thought things were OK. I had even started a healthy, sexual relationship with someone and it was going well (he knows about my past and we talk and he is careful and gentle and wonderful with and to me). Then BANG covid-19 happens and facial masks happen and I am thrown back into my childhood and helplessness and gagging and getting into trouble for it (and being betrayed by my mother for it). The face masks are almost literally driving me crazy. Oh, and even if I could go there, my therapist retired at the end of December and I have no income and no benefits and no ability (financially, physically, or emotionally) to find a new person.

I am fortunate that the government here is not mandating the facial masks. But some stores are still making it mandatory for entry. In many cases, I can just avoid that location and go to a different place. But earlier this week I needed something for my computer (under warranty) and so there was only one place I could go (ahem-apple-ahem-ahem). I had no choice but to don a mask because there is no entry otherwise, no other place for me to go, and I really need to use my computer as my business partners and I have put as much of our work as possible online to try and save the business and have some income). I even tried explaining it to them, but no go; I had to wear one. I almost threw up, I almost passed out, I definitely had a major dissociative episode. I am still, days later, in emotional flashbacks - oh, and now using my computer is also a triggery thing (thanks apple). I am barely functioning when I most need to function. OH and on top of all of that, masked people give me the stink eye because I am on transit (as little as possible but sometimes necessary) or in the store with no mask on, as if I have no right to get groceries or go to the dentist because I have a psychological injury from childhood abuse. I am afraid that more places will mandate masks and I won't be able to do the most basic of life activities. I have figured out that there is nothing at all that will ever make me put another one of those masks on, but that just narrows my world even, and I am afraid that it will narrow again. I want to tell them to stop and to make it fair, but who to tell? the person who is expert on the topic has already made it official that masks will not be mandatory because many people are unable to wear them - who is going to listen to me? And now, ironically, if I need something from a place requiring masks my only choice will be to get a friend - someone not in my household (my cat cannot go) - to get it, and how does that fit social distancing? BLARGH! I don't know what I am going to do if more places mandate masks... BLARGH!


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OK, there is a lot about this social distancing that is freaking me out, including: that I just went self-employed and this was supposed to be my busy season and now instead I have zero income for the foreseeable future, a friend has been notified that he has been in contact with someone with covid-19, all of my anchors are gone (no volunteer work, no weekly walk with my friend, no art class at the community centre, etc, etc.), and the complete inability to legitimately get a hug. (I live alone with my cat), etc.. On top of all of that, my therapist retired at the end of December 2019, and I have been grieving that loss.

But, what I am really, really, really get tired of are the well-meaning posts everywhere on the internet reminding us to care about our 'loving parents' and/or our 'loving families' at home, to remember to not bring the disease to them, to tell them how much we love them just in case, etc., etc., etc. I know these people really are well meaning, but BLARGH!!!! I had to close down a site and walk around my apartment a few times to prevent myself from freaking out and YELLING at someone who posted one of these friendly reminders. Why should I care about these xxx people when they not only failed to care about me, they went out their way to cause me harm?!?!?

In February I celebrated 10 years no contact with my abusive parents and about about half of my many siblings (the ones who took NM's and EF's sides). It was bittersweet, but mostly sweet because I finally chose my Self over their abuse. It was the right decision but it is one that still pains me sometimes. And now, everywhere I look I get reminders that 'everyone else' has loving parents to care about them and to worry about during these crazy times, and admonishments that I ought to be caring about mine... when in the meantime I cannot even get a legitimate hug from anyone. BLARGH! I also often feel hugely guilty because I realized that I would not be that upset if my parents died - I have been grieving their loss, or at least the loss of my illusions of who they were, for years. I feel even guiltier because the first couple times I saw these reminders that my parents could die any minute I thought 'good'. Now, I just think 'please, make it stop!'

I get these people are well meaning. I also get that it is not personal to me. But I really wish they would stop with their constant reminders about caring for and about our 'loving families'. The overwhelming majority of mine was not loving, and was actively harmful. BLARGH! And I cannot yell at the people making these postings because they really do mean well.

Plus, I did not even get to have my 10-year anniversary party with my loving, not-biologically-related-to-me family (I live far away from my biological family so the in-contact siblings would not be able to come either way).


Please, could people send hugs? I really need a hug.

Please too, if anyone has any ideas on what to write in response I would be interesting in hearing your thoughts, even if it is 'don't respond just keep saying BLARGH! to yourself and move on'. Or maybe there is a separate post that I could put on my own wall? 'Please remember some of us never had loving parents, so maybe stop giving that as a motivation for us to stay home (especially because that might be what prompts some of us to join the biggest party that we can find...)'?

BLARGH!!!

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Having an Exceptionally Difficult Day / My Therapist is Retiring
« on: February 22, 2019, 03:06:06 PM »
So, I found out last appointment (earlier this week) that my therapist is retiring this summer.

At first I was fairly numb about it. But, now the feelings are hitting me and they are unhappy ones - fear, anger, sadness, and a few other related ones. UGH! I am trying to stay in the moment, and practise self-care, but this week I have slid back somewhat, with dissociation, and emotional flashbacks that I have not had in this way for quite some time. I also have a lot of things going on in my life right now (many of them positive), and a number are looking to come to a head this summer... after my therapist retires. UGH!

That is as far as I have gotten with all of this. UGH!

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Frustrated? Set Backs? / steps forward - internal backlash in return
« on: October 12, 2018, 01:29:10 AM »
So, I have been taking a number of positive steps in my life: caring for my health (diet and exercise), networking for my career, making sure to stay in touch with friends, flirting with a guy I like, etc.

And now, big surprise (<sarcasm) I feel like crap. My inner self - those cancerous mental and emotional tumours my NM implanted and fostered in me since I was born are not just festering but actively trying to kill me again. I now feel sad and unmotivated and tired and sad and more sad and more and more sad and the suicidal ideation is back full force (not suicidal but not different enough from suicidal either). And instead of enjoying progress, I just want to go to bed and hide and cry and sleep and cry some more. But I can't because I have work and a life that I am trying to hold on to so I will force myself to keep going enough though I do not want to.

UGH! Does it never stop?!? Can I never just make progress and be happy about it without this internal backlash? It takes enough energy to just take these steps. I have none left to also fight the backlash.

UGH! 


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Successes, Progress? / I am a person! Yay!!
« on: February 21, 2018, 03:48:53 AM »
I had my regular appointment with my T yesterday.

I was feeling good because in the last little while I had been practising boundaries and assertiveness, coincidentally including having heated discussions with two friends (separate times) where we disagreed about ideas that were fairly important to us but then were still friends afterward. This is a new development for me and terrifying because when I was growing up disagreeing with, ahem, 'loved ones' (my FOO, especially abusive parents) meant isolation, derision, punishment, and abandonment. To disagree with friends was tremendously difficult because I was scared they would leave me as a result, but I thought having my own Self was more important so I had those discussions.

During my discussions with my T, out of the blue, I responded to one of his questions with 'Because I am a Person'. Then realized that I absolutely meant it, and that I had never, not ever, said that before in such a way and never, not ever, have I believed it so firmly. I could tell from the look on my T's face that he had realized that too. I took a moment to feel that and let it settle (feeling feelings is a huge part of the therapy I am doing now) and realized that I believe that I am a Person in my whole being. Every part of me is happy with that idea. I have boundaries, and thoughts, and feelings, and ideas, and successes, and mistakes, and Being that belong to me, and just to me. Because I am a Person.

I am a Person.

And it feels good.

I am a Person.

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Family of Origin (FOO) / She's trying to hoover me... UGH!
« on: December 16, 2017, 04:41:12 AM »
I have been no contact with my parents for more than seven years, and low contact for several years more than that (including several attempts at no contact before getting hoovered up again). I have been making peace with the idea that my parents never really loved me. My mother is an uNP and my father an enabler with abusive, explosive rage. I suffered all forms of abuse at their hands.

I have found a good therapist, whom I have been seeing for three years. I have been working hard at recovery and at having a good life with good loving people in it. I have largely been succeeding, with some snags, obstacles, and hiccups along the way I am moving forward step by step. I have even started being good with the idea that I will likely be spending the holidays on my own (my friends are out of town with their families and the parts of my family that I still speak to are far away). I have had a rough few months (fighting suicidal ideation, etc.) and am finally getting my feet under me.  I have made plans for self care days with activities that feel good to me and have actually been looking forward to a nurturing break.

Then - KAPOW! I get home today and discover that my NM has sent me a Christmas card. UGH! Seriously?!? How does she always seem to know when I am starting to feel a bit better??? I feel like someone has tried to pull the rug out from under me. UGH!!! It has been years since I have heard from her, the last about four years ago with emotional blackmail with the veiled threat that my father was ill and I must see them before 'it's too late'... then blissful nothing. But now THIS!! Do the hoovering attempts ever stop?!?

Please, someone tell me that the hoovering will stop at some point... OK maybe don't because I suppose I unfortunately would not believe it anyway.

UGH!!

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Successes, Progress? / Stood up to manterruption
« on: November 21, 2017, 03:10:39 PM »
Yesterday, I learned a new word 'manterruption': when a man speaks over top of a women as if she were not even there.

This happened to me at a seminar at work yesterday. During the Q&A several men asked questions of the male speaker; one of these men even taking up much more than his share of the Q&A time. Finally, there was a space for me to ask my question. Before I had gotten even half a sentence out, the speaker spoke right over the top of me, responding to the question that he thought I was asking rather than the question that I would have asked had I been allowed to speak. I spun into an emotional flashback and missed both his response 'to me' and the rest of the session. I left the session shaking and upset and went to hide in my office. Then, I got angry.

I went back to the seminar room. The speaker and some of the audience were still there, so I waited until he had moved away from the main group (almost chickening out but holding my ground). I then approached him and politely but assertively said 'I feel frustrated because I tried to ask a question but you interrupted me halfway through the sentence'. During this sentence he tried to jump in and interrupt me to make excuses, so I had to start the sentence again and repeat the whole thing. I could see him realizing that he had just done it again. I continued 'you let the men finish their questions but spoke right over me while I was talking. I need you to know that. I need you to be aware of that because I felt really dismissed.' Fortunately, this time he got it. He apologized for having spoken over me and thanked me for pointing it out to him. I am not sure that he fully got it but do think that he got it enough that he will take it away and think about it.

I feel so proud of myself for having done this. Partly, I am happy because the speaker teaches post-secondary classes and really does need to be aware that he does this because if he did it to me, a colleague, it is likely he is also doing so to his students who are somewhat lower on the arbitrary hierarchies that exist in academia (and the students are in much less position to object). Mostly, I am happy because that was REALLY difficult for me to do - I had to go and cry in the washroom afterward because it was so emotionally stressful to me. I am (re)realizing how strongly conditioned by my FOO I was that I both had the initial response to accept being spoken over as if my voice does not matter, and that it was also so difficult to speak up to an older man about his poor behaviour. In my family my NM was the largest, most obvious problem and speaking up against her was lethal. But, I was also raised in a 'father knows best' household (all of us ignored mother behind the scenes), and had a father who would explode in vicious rage-filled temper tantrums when thwarted by someone lower on the hierarchy than he was. So, to stand up to someone who is so much like my father was particularly difficult and I DID IT. And I know that I was right to do it. I feel no guilt or regret, just proud of myself for standing up for myself. I DID IT!


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Successes, Progress? / At least I got something out of it
« on: November 19, 2017, 04:55:31 AM »
I hope I am on the correct board for this topic, and am OK if the moderators need to move it to a different board.

Since the summer I have been working with a career counsellor to move on from my dead-end job with an abusive work culture. At the start of the process, the career counsellor interviewed me, including discussing my FOO (as it is relevant to a number of topics such as management styles and preferred boss's style, etc.) as well as a number of standardized aptitude, personality, skills, and other tests. My counsellor and I went over the test results, combined with his impressions and intuition based on his experiences as a both a clinical and career counsellor. During the discussions, I realized how many of my really strong traits arose or were honed by experiences in my abusive FOO. I am the second-oldest of many siblings, and the oldest of the girls. Because my parents practise a particular form of conservative Christianity, and because my older brother is the golden child and likely somewhere in the cluster B world, I was the parentified child who raised my siblings, my parents, and myself from a very young age (in the single-digits). This situation necessarily forced me to learn skills and to hone traits in a very intense context - I am learning that from my child-self's perspective a life-and-death context. 

So, in going over the lists of my strengths and skills, I have started thinking, well, at least I got something out of it. Here is what I have gotten out of being raised in my position in my FOO:


I am gifted at intraspection
-I am extremely adept at reading a situation and knowing how everything, and for me more so everyone, fits together
-e.g. who is fighting with whom, who is having a bad day, who wants to be in charge, who is in charge, etc., etc.
-this is a skill I learned/honed keeping track of everyone and everything going on in my FOO because I was responsible for it and them all

I am very adaptable
-I can adjust to changing circumstances and not be phased if something does not go as planned
-actually, I rarely make plans (e.g. I go on vacation and decide each day what to do after I get there)
-being the responsible person in the chaos in my family forced me to learn this skill

I am able to work independently with little or no supervision
-that is the story of my life...
-of course, the other side of the coin is that I feel suffocated by a boss who pays too much (read any) attention to what I am doing

I am articulate
-I had the role of making my FOO look like the perfect family to the outside world, so I learned to speak well and present well to others

I am good at getting things done despite the BS going on around me
-again, the chaos of my FOO combined with my role as the only responsible person meant that I had to learn how to do this growing up
-currently, I work in the social justice/environmental movement where getting stuff done despite the BS is pretty much the way things are done
-and research shows many of us who were abused as children end up in 'helping careers' so I suppose my career path was also somewhat a result of my childhood (and I enjoy being in the sector I am in, even though I dislike my current employment)

I am resilient
-I can be hurt and disappointed but keep moving forward
-many people have hurt me, many of them FOO, along the way and I have had many disappointments, but overall I am functioning surprisingly well
--I have not accomplished this alone, having received support from my friends, sisters, T, and others along the way, but I have also had to do the work of overcoming my circumstances
-the downside is that I am now having to learn to feel my feelings and still keep going on (oh, that and I got CPTSD)

I think there are probably a few other traits and skills that I have gained or honed because of my, ahem, 'upbringing' but these are some of the strengths that were highlighted in my discussions with my career counsellor. Now, CERTAINLY, I had some of these traits to begin with and likely could have practised them in more healthy ways (and I am finding these ways as I move forward in my healing journey). And CERTAINLY, I would NEVER have and NEVER would choose to gain and hone these skills through being abused. NOR would I ever wish this type of practising on anyone else (there are a small number of people I might wish evil upon, but in other ways...). BUT since I did have the childhood that I had, and since I have no time machine to go back and find my infant self a better home, now what I can do at least is think 'well, at least I got something out of it...'

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General Discussion / Recovering to 'Me Now'
« on: November 19, 2017, 04:14:31 AM »
I am not sure if this is in the correct category, so am OK if the moderators move it. It is about recovery but also a bit of a philosophical exercise too.

There have been discussions on this forum, and in my life, about the 'me before', in the sense that resources for people with PTSD talk about 'getting back to the you you were before the bad thing happened'. Of course, for those of us with CPTSD there are 'bad things' that happened.

More complicated, for many of us who have CPTSD as a result of childhood trauma and abuse (including me), the 'before' does not really exist. For me, the abuse likely started from the day I was born, and continued until I separated from my FOO. Actually, beyond that as the legacy of my FOO meant that I was still choosing abusive relationships until I got further along on my healing journey. In my case, as for many of us here, the 'before' would be 'infancy' (at, ahem, 'best') but really 'pre-natal' would likely be more accurate. So, there is no 'me before the bad thing(s) happened' to go back to. Now what?

Lately, I have been working with a career counsellor. After hours of aptitude, personality, skills, etc. tests, we have come up with a number of career paths that I would likely be really good at. I have narrowed these down to about seven those that I would be good at and would likely also make me happy and fit my values. I am excited about these possibilities and can see myself doing any or all of them.

During this process, I have been realizing how much of the abuse directed toward me by my FOO, in particular my uNM, was focused on stifling the person that I was trying to be, at that time mostly just an independent Self separate from her. The messages were also aimed toward hindering me from undertaking activities that might lead me to happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment, or any type of 'success' (where I define success as the three characteristics listed, plus making a positive contribution to the world). As I got older these stifling and hindering messages also included ideas that I may never find work that I find satisfying and fulfilling. I am also unfortunately discovering how many of these stifling messages I have internalized and which I must now fight against as I continue moving forward in my career work.

Along the way, it also occurred to me that these potential career paths are essentially the 'mes' that I would have/could have been had I had a good or even good enough FOO. In exploring these career paths, I feel like I am entering parallel universes where I can see myself as I had grown up with a good enough FOO. I also feel like I am being given an opportunity to re-capture the me that was lost to me - really that was stolen from me by my FOO.

So, now I think part of my healing journey has a goal to figure out not who the 'me was before the bad things' but who the 'me is now that I can reclaim her'... if that makes sense?  I had despaired over the idea of any ability to claim the 'me before' as that goal is essentially impossible. But, now I have some hope, because figuring out who I am now, and who I can be, is possible... and I am excited and curious to find out who I am...

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Books & Articles / Book Recommendation - The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« on: November 06, 2017, 04:42:06 PM »
I just finished Julie de Azevedo Hanks' book The Assertiveness Guide for Women. I am recommending it here because I have been benefitting from the information, exercises, and advice in the book and think it might be helpful for others on this forum.

When I picked-up the book I had been expecting a typical list of suggestions for various situations: 'when your boss asks you to work overtime, here are some ways to turn the boss down'; 'when your children wish to borrow the car, here are some assertive ways of saying no' etc. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. There were virtually none of these suggestions in Hanks' book - she does include some helpful ideas on how to begin 'saying no' conversations but these are only in general terms which could be applied in most contexts and which are included only to help the reader get started on a difficult conversation.

While the book is not what I had expected, it is better because it is something different. In The Assertiveness Guide for Women, Hanks empowers readers by helping us to build a strong foundation to stand on while being assertive. Hanks uses attachment theory to help the reader learn more about herself, her interactions with others, and her communication style. Having this information is helpful because these underlying ways of being influence our ways of asserting ourselves, and our ability to do so. Hanks is descriptive rather than prescriptive, noting that those with avoidant style have a different approach than those with anxious style, and so each has its own challenges in being assertive without ever judging a particular style as 'right' or 'wrong'. She then gives helpful ideas on how to work with our own styles, overcome (or get around) the challenges, and even move toward a more secure style of being and communication.

Hanks also includes information and exercises on the differences between thoughts and feelings, and between needs and wants. She includes information on how to learn what our own thoughts and feelings are and what our own wants and needs are. All of these, Hanks correctly argues, are inherently important, but also vital in being assertive - how can we assert our thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants if we do not know what these are ourselves? (that, at the beginning has been an issue for me)

Finally, as the title suggests, Hanks examines the individual, and more importantly social context that creates particular challenges for women learning and trying to be assertive. Without stereotyping, Hanks recognizes that many women value relationships and often focus on these to the expense of our own well-being. She discusses this challenges and shows that we can have both healthy, assertive communication and care for self as well as healthy relationships. Indeed, she convincingly (and I think correctly) argues that it is only through our ability to be assertive that we can build close relationships with others because being assertive allows us to be honest about ourselves with others and so promotes closer connections with them. Hanks also touches on the difference between assertive and aggressive communications, where the former helps build well-being and healthy connections with others while the latter has the opposite effect.

Hanks' approach is based on solid science as well as her own experiences and those of her clients. But her approach is also compassionate and supportive. She has suffered these hurdles herself, as have many of her many clients. She understands that we are a product of our individual natures, our upbringings, and our societal context. She recognizes that if we are starting in a less-than-assertive place then that is not our faults, but believes that we can move beyond our less-than-assertive approach to healthier ways of being. For me, reading the book was like getting advice from a good friend or a favourite aunt who wishes me to do well and believes that if I have the correct information, some exercises to give me practice, and support along the way then I am capable of developing an assertive style that matches who I am, and that leads me to a more secure and healthy place of relating to and communicating with others. Rather than saying 'here is what you should say and do' Hanks instead says 'I know that you can do it, let me support you and give you materials that will help you get there'. I find the former approach disempowering - what if the boss does not follow the script? what if I can't remember my line? , etc. On the other hand, I find Hanks' approach empowering as she gives me the tools I need to move forward, advice on how the tools might work for me, and trust that I have the ability to use them in ways that work for me (and understanding and support if I sometimes make mistakes and need to try again).

Overall, I found that this is a solid resource both for learning how to be more assertive and also for getting to know myself as a person. Having been raised in an abusive home, I had been taught that learning either of these things was bad and wrong (and punishable offenses). This guide is tremendously useful in countering those messages and helping me to learn a healthier way of being and communicating in the world. I recommend it to others in need of such support.


12
The Cafe / The Love of Libraries
« on: October 26, 2017, 01:23:08 AM »
In a different thread, I became the third person to post about a shared love of libraries. So, I am starting a new thread to avoid completely usurping the original topic (the original is a very interesting one on how people chose their OOTF names).

So, this new thread is for a shared love of libraries.

For me, libraries have always been a safe haven. I learned to read before pre-school (I was about 2 yr. old at the time). I have been reading pretty much continuously ever since; I even read in the bath tub (but not the shower, even with my waterproof e-book reader  ;)). One of the positive things my NM did for us (me and my siblings) was to take us to the library from an early age. I have had a library card as long as I can remember.

Of all my siblings, I think the love of libraries only stuck with me. Overall, a positive factor in my life. In the summer breaks from school, where there was no where else to escape from my NM, abusive older brother, and needy younger siblings (I was the parentified one who raised them), there was the library. I would ride my bike there at least once a week, spending hours browsing the shelves, smelling the books, enjoying the quiet, safe calmness of the space. I would walk the rows of shelves sometimes picking a book at random on a topic completely unfamiliar to me. Other times, I would head straight for my favourite sections to see what was new by my favourite authors. Usually it was a bit of both. I would often spend the day there, just enjoying being at the library. Then, eventually I would have to go home, but I would do so with stacks of books that I would gobble up in hidden corners of my parents' home, and large backyard.

Now, I still love libraries. I still enjoy the smell of books and the quiet calmness and the ability to walk in and learn about anything that catches my curiosity. Books and libraries for me have been ways of feeding my hungry brain (hungry for knowledge, ideas, fantasies, etc.), ways to escape from my circumstances (less so now as I am healing), and safe havens of peace and quiet and enjoyment. The only word I can think of is 'angenehm' - it is a German word which really has no equivalent in English but is a mix of 'pleasant, enjoyable, good-feeling, comfortable, agreeable', and similar words. In short, the way that I feel in libraries.

Libraries.  :cloud9:

13
Suicide Ideation/Self Harm / It's trying to kill me...
« on: September 02, 2017, 01:40:13 AM »
For this one, I will say a general trigger warning for the topic but there are no specific details about abuse.

I have this awful voice, this horrible, terrible part of me that hates me and is trying to kill me. It has told me it hates me, and exactly why it does (such horrible, hateful words it has for me and about me).

It tells me to throw myself in front of the train during my commute. Recently, I went hiking on a trail that had a large cliff. I had to turn back as it urged me to run off the edge. How is it fair for it to bother me on my recreation time?!? How is it fair to bother me at all?!?

**I** am NOT suicidal. I very much want to live (case in point, I left the bluff area). I have worked really hard to get where I am in life, I have worked really hard to get where I am on my healing journey. I am continuing to work very hard on both. BUT that horrible, terrible, part of my hates me and keeps sending horrible, terrible suggestions.

I have told my T about this problem. I was scared as I was sure he would get the people with the butterfly nets to haul me away (pardon the noir humour but I am in a noir mood). But, he (the T) reassured me that that is not the case. Ideation and fighting are different and I am fighting. But that voice. It is getting louder and more insistent. I continue to fight but it is making me so tired and so scared. I wish Monday were not a holiday as it means my T appointment got bumped into later in the week. I want to just hide in bed until then but I must work in between.

I hate that there is this part of me that hates me so much. I hate that I have to fight it so much. I hate that I have no idea what to do about it - I have tried fighting, discussing, negotiating, ignoring, and even befriending it. It has no interest in anything except hating me. I plan to hold on and keep trying, but some days I am less hopeful than others about ever beating it.


I just needed to tell that to someone(s) who might understand where I am coming from.

14
I have such a strange problem. I have been making progress with my new T (not that new as I started seeing him over 2 years ago). I have been learning to have boundaries, trust my gut, interact with people, etc. As a result, I have started for the first time in my 40+ years of life been developing friendships with good, decent people, who treat me well, know me for who I am and still want to be friends with me (that last part continues to astonish me - ah, something to talk to the T about).

The problem? The situation is freaking me out.  :aaauuugh: I have no idea how to handle friendships. I am also finding that a part of me is certain that making friends will literally kill me. Aside from that, that part of me is trying to really kill me so that I have to enact strategies such as standing very far from the edge of the subway platform (not suicidal but fighting the part of me that wants to kill me for having friends). I have spoken to my T about these issues and he is helping me work through them.

But in the meantime, I have been isolating to the point that my friends worry about me - I do not return phone calls or emails, and worry that I will lose my friends over this behaviour. The problem? They know me, all of me, know what I am going through and understand and are patient. That should not be a problem but their care triggers me more and an incredibly negative positive feedback loop has been created.

ARGH!!! How unfair is that?!? I have worked so hard and my seeming success is becoming my downfall. ARGH!!!

Does it ever end? Will there ever be a time when I can just stop struggling with this? Will every step forward lead to retaliation by my inner demons? I want to have friends, but I am afraid of friendship. ARGH!!!

Sorry, I just needed to vent. Argh!

15
The Cafe / Happy Women's Day
« on: March 08, 2016, 03:30:58 PM »
Hello,

I just wanted to wish everyone a

Happy International Women's Day!

 :party: :band: :party:


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