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Messages - 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

General Discussion / Re: Feeling Lonely
« on: April 10, 2015, 03:51:37 PM »
That was such a kind thing to say. Thanks, Rrecovery.  :hug:

Hm, about why we don't have friends... in my country, we have a word for when you're afraid of entering into a new situation that's as yet unfamiliar to you and that might be a teensy bit challenging. It translates as "threshold-fear". So I have threshold-fear when it comes to getting to know new people, because I'm rather self-conscious a lot of times. The second threshold is when I get to the stage where we'd really become friends, or close friends. I'm afraid they'll realize how awful I am and leave. So during each of those stages, I'm probably withdrawing and detaching without even noticing it: simply because that's what I do when I'm nervous. And other people might interpret my nervousness and tension as resentment or something. I'm usually not even aware of it, but I look quite grim and grumpy when I'm feeling tense. A bit like Wednesday Addams, just even grumpier. So I can see how that might discourage people.

Okay, I'll give it a shot. This feels slightly scary, strangely.

You were under a lot of pressure. I realize that. Who better than I? My brother spent a lot of his time in his room, or with his friends. My father was too ill. And no one else took the time to really look at us - to see through our pretenses and realize just how hard it really was to cope with Dad's illness. Our entire lives were built up around him. It was like cramming an elephant into a tiny room: there was room for very little else. He came first. We had to find a cure. If I'm honest, I still can't see a way how we could have avoided this. How anyone could have avoided this.

And for many years, that was all I saw. That was what I believed. "It was hard, but we had no choice." My eyes only opened to the reality of it when I had kids of my own. When my own life got stressful and I had as little energy as you had - and I still racked my brains on how to spend time with them, how to make their lives fun, how to make sure their needs were fulfilled. My oldest isn't an easy child, she's as sensitive as I ever was and as unlikely to just say what's bothering her. But I'm going out of my way to make sure I'm treating her differently than you treated me. Because even while I was still in denial about what happened to me, I knew this deep in my bones: that NO WAY am I ever going to treat my babies the way you treated me.

Your chores always came first. The house had to be pristine. We always had to keep up appearances. We had to be very wary of the outside world - but you never put the blame on the outside world: "people are like that, they're shallow and likely to believe the first impression they have of someone" - so yes, maybe it's like that - but why couldn't you just cheerfully say: "so pick which ones you want to impress and tell the rest to sod off"? Nooo, it was all: "--and therefore, you must always take care that your appearance is above reproach". Your life was chaotic and out of control - so you made up for it by controlling me. You saw that I was suffering, that I couldn't cope, that even our daily life was insupportable to me ---- and what did you do? You told me what attitude I ought to have. And then you left me to it. And it's b******* to say that you simply "didn't have enough time". For when your chores were done and my father was taken care of, you chose to occupy yourself with your siblings' constant drama, you chose to do charity work, you chose to do anything but spend time with me or take adequate care of yourself. You did have a choice. You could have seen how bad it was for me. You didn't. And every time I told you, you left me to it.

You left me to die. That's overdramatizing things a bit, of course. But that's how it felt. A death of the soul. I could feel how the damage kept on creeping deeper and deeper. I could feel how I lost layer after layer of my true self, my inner power, my sense of self-worth. I could feel that I slowly ceased being me. It was terrifying.

And you told me what attitude I ought to have and then left me to it. You saw that I was crying every day, that I had no friends, that I was struggling, and you told me to "find my joy in doing my duty". I was depressed, and you told me to fix it with hospital corners and keeping a neat notebook for my school work. If only I'd have used an ink eraser instead of just crossing things out! Ah, then happiness would surely have settled on me like spring dew. But nooo, I kept on crossing things out and I was chronically late and my room was a mess. So you washed your hands off of me.

I gave you more than enough time to reconnect with me. We were fine all through the Nineties - because I'd learned to cope with things by adopting a strong Fawn/Flight response. You approved. You liked how fast I was when I was doing my chores. You liked how neat I looked. You liked how successful I was. You liked that the focus of our conversations could be entirely on your concerns: on your plans for the house, your chores, your protegés. When I was depressed, jobless, grieving for a good friend, and struggling with PTSD, you went back to how you'd always dealt with that. You told me what attitude I ought to have, and you left me to it. You told me to do my chores properly. I was so depressed I was fighting suicidal thoughts, and you talked at length about how important was to make one's bed in the mornings. That entire story, and THAT was what you focussed on: hospital corners.

Get out. I'm done. I'm through. I'm done with your mindgames. I'm done with your hints. I've completely and utterly and absolutely lost any patience I ever had with your constant warnings, your constant worried looks, your constant reminders that I do my duty. I'm done with the manipulation. And I'm absolutely, one hundred percent done with your constant over-control. Get out. You chose to keep your distance. Now go keep it.

And you know what? For the first time in forever, my attitude is just fine.

Thanks for your kind words, Anne.  :hug:  It's from a seminar on dealing with difficult customers. My favourite colleague went there and then later told me all about it. The irony was that most of our customers were a lot less difficult than our boss was. Well, on the other hand, once I'd worked out how to cope with our boss, the customers were a doddle.

Something I do is talk to my dh about what I'd like to tell my mother. When it comes to my history with my FOO, he really gets it, and he's also compassionate and unflappable, so he's fine with that. It's a lot easier to be my grown-up 'strong' self while I'm talking to him. So maybe that method is a bit of a cop-out, but... well, baby steps, right?

Thanks, C.  :hug:  I wasn't ever angry in my teens. In my early twenties, I was finally for the first time angry after someone had annoyed me. It felt incredibly freeing. It was just healthy, easily controlled anger, and I didn't even express it, but simply just feeling the emotion was blissfully empowering.

There is right and there is wrong.  You must always be right in order to be ok.  We determine what is right, so listen and do it.  It’s your choice but you’ll only find love and happiness if you do/are what we know is right.

You must prove everything you think, say or feel to be right.

Oh my words, I know that mindset. Good grief, yes. It's like living in a dictatorship - you have to be ready at all times to defend your own actions and to prove that "yes, comrade, I uphold the values of our glorious leadership!". That might be why I love Russian jokes so much - so many are about subverting that kind of mind-control. But isn't it weird? - to look at one's family and to look at what one knows about cults and dictatorships... then to look back at one's family... and back to the cults... and back to one's family...

Thanks for that explanation, Annegirl.  :hug:  I'm glad that your therapist is such a kind woman, and that the method is working for you.

Maybe it's different if you're doing it with a therapist. I stumbled upon the website once, and my experience was very like that of VeryFoggy - there are the worksheets, and you're supposed to do them, and that's it. The explanations covered the usual situations (i.e. normal people dealing with other normal people), not the exceptions: what if you've got (C)PTSD, what if you're dealing with someone who's got a personality disorder, what if you're trying to work through issues of child abuse or bullying, what if you're a victim of systemic abuse like racism etc. It's probably a limitation of the format. I mean, if you included AAALL the exceptions in the worksheets themselves, they'd be long enough to be used as wallpaper.

The underlying theory - well, yes, that's something that sounds sensible. I worked as a shop assistant once, and we were told something like this - if a client is being impatient or difficult, they're simply giving us information about themselves. So if they're glaring at us and saying: "WHY is that thing I ordered not here already??!", that might feel like they're telling us we've been slow or incompetent, but in reality, they're just telling us how urgently they want this item. I was able to use this method with my very irascible workaholic boss, and it worked a right treat. Most bullies thirst and hunger for opposition. They want a real opponent they can dig their fangs into. Calmly validating my boss took the wind out of his sails. Which was a relief, given that my boss started picking on me shortly after my father died. The whole story was rather sad, because the way my boss reacted made it clear that it had never been about the things he'd criticized. He was just predatory: spotting weakness, homing in on it, responding to fear by making himself look even bigger and stronger. I have respect for his achievements, his sense of humour, his energy - but his social skills and attitude towards others? He's a playground bully.

And I'm using the word the way I'd call someone a "passenger" or a "host" or a "guest" - simply as a description of what someone's doing. So it's not like I'm saying "he's a bully" the way I'd call someone a "man" or a "child" or a "genius", as descriptions of who someone is. I'm assuming your therapist's words about not believing in bullies is about that latter thing, where people think that a bully or victim is what someone is.

Annegirl, I'm absolutely puzzled by your therapist. Just saying yes to an abusive person? Wouldn't this be incredibly triggering?

What about your right to leave an abusive situation? Doesn't this method mean that you have to stay in that abusive situation or the method won't work? Like, if you keep on thinking "oh, if it gets worse, I'll walk away", that method would automatically chalk that up as some kind of failure? Isn't that a lot of pressure? Or are there failsaves, or a Plan B for when the yelling turns even more abusive, or a plan for how to care for yourself and recover from the triggers afterwards?

That method is based on the assumption is that the yelling and such will just run off of you like water off a duck's back. But when you've got CPTSD, nothing "runs off". I'm amazed that you could it once.

...she doesn't believe in victims or bullies, she believes when we are empowered we won't be victims anymore.

Hm. I wrote several replies but ended up deleting all of them because of excessive swearing. But maybe I'm simply just getting this all wrong? I mean, maybe you do feel safe with that therapist and she isn't putting undue pressure on you. But why does your therapist talk of empowering you - and then she sends you up against yellers with no better defence than validating the abuser (???) - and she puts the focus on your mother's life story and on your mother's expectations before you're done with your own lifestory and your own right for respect? I don't understand.

General Discussion / Re: Feeling Lonely
« on: April 09, 2015, 03:26:35 PM »
All the hugs in the world, Rrecovery.  :hug:  :hug:  :hug:

I could relate to several parts of your story. It's only recently dawned on me that most of my friendships have ended badly. Of the people I was fondest of, three died - which, given how few friends I have, is a startlingly high number. Of the rest, four people broke things off because I was in trouble and would have needed support, and my role before had been to support them. Then there was one friend who just became distant and stopped contacting me. The rest just petered out. Aaand... that's it.

So now, I'm living like a hermit crab. I know I've got to go and find friends. But a large part of my subconscious remembers my previous friendships and goes: "Find friends?! Are you nuts?!!"

So your questions about loneliness are more or less like my own questions about loneliness.

One thing I wonder: what do you think, this persistent, agonizing emotional pain about being lonely - is that about the present or is it a flashback? Or both?

General Discussion / Re: Everything is a trigger (possible triggers)
« on: April 09, 2015, 03:16:43 PM »
Thanks for asking, no_more_guilt. We're having to move out of our flat within the next year or two, which wouldn't be bad - but my oldest kid had a rough few years recently, and she's extremely close with her best friend... and as a highly sensitive child, she's finding change hard to deal with and prefers things to stay as they are. So the very thought of moving made her claw her way up the drapes. I was so afraid of traumatizing her. Also, in our town, rents are up and everyone keeps telling me it's nigh impossible to find anything. So there was this sense of insecurity and helplessness. That triggered a flashback to how I felt when we were in financial trouble and my mother didn't tell us: I grew up with this sense that we were hovering over a black abyss and might fall in any moment. It was a relief when I figured out that this fear was just a flashback: it was all about my past, not really about my present. Also, I talked to my kid just now, and she seemed totally calm and confident about the idea of moving to a suburb or to another town. I'm so relieved.

Trying to feel emotions is scary to me right now.

Yes, that's something many of us say. So I'm getting the impression that there's a time and a place for feeling emotions, particularly overwhelming ones. It's not ideal, feeling numb or purposely numbing and distracting ourselves. But if the alternative is getting flattened by flashbacky feelings, then... well, what can you do? It's sometimes just the only option, or it seems like that - to wait until we're feeling more stable, and to take it little by little, in very tiny portions.

I had no idea *families* could be narsasistic. Makes sense.  Thanks for the warning about taking it slow. Never done that with a book before. Just read and it hits you like a tonne of bricks.

Yes, I learned that the hard way, too.  We even have an emoticon for it:  :fallingbricks:

I see how a family with those sorts of problems would be very hard to grow up in. .....was that realisation hard for you or a shock? Or did you sort of expect it? Did you sense before that something was wrong at home?

Both. All of it. There was one incident where I suddenly realized that my mother keeps on crossing my boundaries, that she doesn't respect me at all, and that she's constantly distancing herself from me. THAT was a shock. It all made sense in hindsight, and I realized I'd always sensed that something was off. But I'd kept on explaining it away. I kept on thinking it was MY problem - that I'd caused it and that I simply had to do things the right way to fix it. In short, that I'd simply have to keep on jumping through hoops and things would turn out well, she'd finally like me and treat me with kindness. So when that house of cards collapsed, it was hard to digest. It felt mostly like grief, like abandonment. But you see, I'm now convinced that I can only heal if and as long as I'm keeping my distance from her. So that step was VERY necessary. And it was also a great relief to find out that it wasn't just me - that I'm not THAT unlovable or incompetent.

Before talking to never occurred to me that trying to make everything ok and to please your parents or trying to be invisible etc etc. you put away parts of you...therefore your identify isn't totally there.
Rejection has a lot to do with it...but i never thought of this simple can you have an identity and be yourself when your too busy trying to stay safe.

Yes, exactly. In abusive situations, so much of one's energy and brainpower is used to think up ways of pleasing our abusers, of dodging abuse, of being invisible. Meanwhile, our peers used that same energy and brainpower to discover themselves, to assume different roles and see which one fit, to explore the world... So if there's now this sense that we have deficits when it comes to a stable identity (or social skills etc) - well, we've come by it honestly. It wasn't our fault.

If I'm honest, I'm sometimes finding it enjoyable that I've got this fluid sense of identity, and that I'm not yet done finding my place in the world. Most days I find it annoying, but sometimes it just brings this incredible sense of freshness and newness to the whole world.

Thanks for asking how I'm doing. I'm better now - I had a flashbacky day yesterday, because we might have to move and I was afraid of not finding a place where my kids will be happy. My oldest seemed VERY against moving even to the next street, let alone to another town. She's the kind of kids who doesn't have many friends, but who's extremely loyal and close with the two, three friends she has. So taking her away from them? Yikes. And sometimes our kids' troubles triggers flashbacks to times when we were in a similar situation. But I talked to her just now, and she seemed a lot more open to the idea of moving elsewhere, without any panic or fear at all. PHEW.

Introductory Post / Re: Do I belong here?
« on: April 09, 2015, 02:52:00 PM »
Thanks for saying that, Cottonanx.

I could (should?) have asked for help from church and extended family, but I felt I would have to pay them back somehow, and I was already so overwhelmed that I couldn't do it. Besides, my job was making my parents look good, and asking for help would have made them look bad.

And from what you said, I'm not exactly getting the impression that you were ever in a role where you could ask for help and it was this natural, easy thing. You seem to have been the designated the helper, not the helpee. I mean, you were just a kid back then, younger than eighteen - and yet when you thought about having a grown-up help you, your first thought was: "ugh, I'll have to repay them". Isn't that how grown-ups interact among each other? So it sounds like you were simply THAT parentalized... or like your parents minimized and trivialized your workload and your deprivations THAT much... or maybe both.

Hi, Bruised Reed. I'm sorry to hear that your mother said such an awful thing to you. My mother made a few remarks on my looks, but they were a lot milder - and I still felt profoundly rejected. For a long time, I couldn't really remember many details of my childhood and teenage years, but I always, always remembered those things with crystal clarity, down to her matter-of-fact tone of voice, even where she stood while she said it. It's got to be so much worse for you.

So we're in the same boat.

It's making me feel really pissed off at both our mothers. Good grief, couldn't they have kept their mouths shut for just ONE moment? If they're insecure about themselves, fine. But to project all that insecurity onto a kid is just such a petty, thoughtless, cruel, enormously * thing to do.

I'm not sure I've got advice on how to shake it. I had a flashback yesterday, comparatively mild but long-lasting and unsettling, so it's not like I'm all that good at shaking them off myself. If I have time, I sometimes go to a coffeeshop and journal a bit, because getting the whole situation down on paper somehow makes it less... how do I put it... less like this brainwashed alternate reality I'm stuck in. Instead, it becomes something objective, something outside of myself, something I can look at and think about and grieve about.

Another thing that's helped is finding out just where I first had this feeling. So, yesterday I felt anxious, afraid, profoundly unsettled. Still do. But I'm now starting to realize it's because my father was ill, and my mother was very afraid and unsettled, and trying desperately to find a cure while also struggling with financial troubles a few times, and she was completely on her own and people around her hindered her instead of helping - but she never told us. So all that reached me was a sense that we were hovering over a black abyss and could fall at any moment. So that's the feeling I had yesterday. Knowing that doesn't fix things, but it makes it a little bit easier to remind myself that this isn't real NOW. It was real THEN. It's a window into the heart and thoughts of my past self.

I guess the next step would be to use self-mothering strategies, but I'm very very new to using those.

Lastly... I don't know whether that'll make any difference for you, but for me, it was a profound relief to realize that I DO have the right to grieve. I used to feel afraid of my fear, and ashamed of my shame, and I used to be sad that I was grieving so often - like the shame and grief and fear were problems I had to fix ASAP, and when I couldn't manage to do that, I felt like it was a sign of how defective I was. But now, I'm seeing it as belated grief. Grief work. I've got a right to grieve, and I'll move through it and out the other side.

I hope life will treat you kindly now, and that you'll feel a bit more at ease soon.  :hug:  You never deserved any of those remarks your mother threw at you.

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