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Topics - plantsandworms

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Going Low/No Contact with Abusers / Neverending Nightmares after Years of NC
« on: September 04, 2018, 03:47:03 PM »
I've been NC with my FOO for about six years now. In so many ways it has been the most freeing thing I have ever done for myself. In other ways it feels like a wound that will never close. My FOO is huge and I've always existed within the context of my many family members. Now, being a family unto myself leaves me feeling deeply deeply alone. I have chosen family and I love them and often they are enough, but they do not fill the wound.

Anyway, I am plagued by nightmares about my parents. Often in my nightmares I am being chased by them. Sometimes in my nightmares one of my parents commits suicide and I discover it and believe I am the cause. Sometimes it's just nightmares of flashbacks of abuse, or frightening memories. But then last night I had a nightmare where I was a teenager again, and my mom was being her usual verbally abusive self. But in the dream I start berating her, so much so that she is stunned into silence and begins to cry. In the dream it's coming out of my mouth like a flood and I just continue to verbally eviscerate her just to see her pain. Dream-me gets a deep satisfaction and a feeling like I am better than her and like I have won. I woke up feeling horrible, guilty, disgusting. It left me feeling like... like the only way I know how to seize my own power is through taking on the role of abuser and seeking my revenge. It left me with a lot to think about, but mostly it left me with a lot of pain and guilt and self-hatred.

My therapist talks to me a lot about techniques to reduce my nightmares - but I can't help but feeling like my dreams are trying to tell me something about myself or clue me into something I need to do or reflect on. Do others experience these types of dreams? Do you find them insightful, or are they just a symptom that needs managing? Are they useful at all?

Poetry & Creative Writing / Failure To Thrive
« on: August 18, 2018, 03:08:51 AM »
I am the child
of a miserable man waiting to die
and an angry woman so desperate to live that
life just slipped through trembling hands,
I am the self-centered daughter
of eclipsing emotional black holes
born through starving,
I am chaos. I am a hungry void,
there is no end to what I am missing.
I donít need anything
or anyone, just this familiar state of wanting,
this inertia forever waiting
for life to start in spite of me,
what kind of child gets kidnapped,
just like that?
What kind of kidnapped child
gets returned?
I am unwanted baggage,
too old now to claim.

I am my own,
and most days I rebuke this gag gift,
donít you know?
You cannot nurture a life force
that was never there,
you cannot reach inside yourself
and find something never given,
not everyone is born
with all the tools inside of them.

This is the story I tell myself.
This is the legacy I lead,
but somewhere inside me
still lives a seed.

Having an Exceptionally Difficult Day / Struggling To Feel Worthwhile
« on: August 18, 2018, 03:05:35 AM »
I tried first to talk to someone on an online depression support chat but they didnít have any volunteers available. Then I just called a suicide hotline and they left me on hold for 20 mins before I got disconnected. This all comes after feeling the urge to email my therapist to ask if I could come in for a weekend appt but Iím too scared sheíll say no and I canít take that right now. My two closest friends are out of town and anyway I will feel too guilty to wreck their vacations with my endless melodrama by calling them.

The only area of my life where I have good self esteem is at work. And lately I havenít been feeling good enough there, which means that Iíve lost the one thing worthwhile about me. Just feeling very pathetic and unlovable and stupid and useless and like Iím just a pain or annoyance to have around. And now Iíve cried and panicked myself into numbness and sleepiness so Iím just gonna try to go to sleep. Posting here because I donít know where else to go right now for encouragement but I really need some encouragement to keep going tomorrow. Feeling like a slow motion car wreck that nobody cares to watch.  Feel like a self absorbed black hole that greedily sucks up any positive attention but I donít know how else to get what I need.

General Discussion / Some Kind of Mental Paralysis
« on: July 30, 2018, 01:50:25 PM »
When I was a kid in the thick of my traumatization, I missed a lot of school due to "sickness." I would be sick to my stomach, often to the point of puking, and would feel so certain that I was going to die that I felt my only option was to hide under the covers in my bed and try to fall back asleep. I know now that the sickness I was suffering from was psychosomatic - brought on by the complete emotional overwhelm I was experiencing in my home circumstances. I had always been at the top of my class in school (I was thrilled to soak in any positive attention from teachers) so my mom let me stay home with this sickness whenever I wanted - which ended up being two or three times per week for YEARS until I finally graduated high school. I would only be able to bring myself to go to school if I felt that there would be significant consequences - like missing an important test that would affect my grade significantly. It's as if I was waiting for the last possible second to break out of my mental paralysis, fueled by fear that overhwelmed the toxic shame and anxiety that kept me from living my life - fear that finally helped me to move my body.

It's an exhausting cycle and it continues to this day. The stomach upset has gotten better, but I still lay in bed waiting for death to strike me when I can't seem to move my body and get to work. When I have deadlines, I am only able to start my work when I feel that any second more of waiting will spell certain doom. I know people call this "procrastination" but I think it really is just my toxic shame and crippling anxiety. I look back and I wish my mom had made me go to school - taught me how to face the anxieties in my life instead of isolating endlessly to avoid them. Or even more, I wish someone had recognized how much I was suffering, how badly I needed guidance in learning how to regulate my emotions and manage my stress.

Does anyone else experience this? How do you work with it? How do you get yourself out of bed? How do you break the cycle?

Frustrated? Set Backs? / There Is A War Going On Inside Of Me
« on: July 26, 2018, 06:09:52 PM »
I have been teetering on the edge for a while. Tiny things set me off into spirals of self-hatred, like forgetting to put out the trash bin or failing to return a phone call. Today in therapy I started sobbing because I confessed to my therapist I told a work client I would call them back in 20 minutes TWO DAYS AGO. I told her about how it brought up every single deadline I've blown, ever single phone call I haven't answered, every single friendship I've failed to nurture because I was too busy trying to get out of bed. I told her how it made me want to give up. And then I started telling her how angry I am at myself for crying in therapy over a phone call and how it's so cliche and how I'm so sick of myself. My T pointed out that I'm being so hard on myself I'm not even giving myself permission to make space for my feelings in therapy.

On the drive home from my appointment all I could think about was how much I wanted to kill myself. The funny thing is that I really don't want to die. I really want to live long enough to get better and to experience all the joys of life more fully than I've ever been able to. And I realized it isn't me that wants to kill me, it's the little critic in my head who is always telling me how worthless I am, what a failure I am, what a waste of energy.

I came home and took a long nap, even though I'd only been awake for three hours and I was supposed to go to work after my appointment. Now I'm awake again and feeling hungover almost, drained and exhausted but more emotionally stable. I'm trying not to give up. I feel like there's a war going on inside of me. I don't allow myself any gentleness, any vulnerability, any safety because this voice inside my head says I'm not worth it. I hope I can figure out how to win this fight.

Employment / Working With Other Trauma Survivors - Hurting Myself?
« on: July 24, 2018, 09:34:11 PM »
Does anyone else on this board have a highly stressful job with a lot of secondary trauma working with other trauma survivors? I do and I've really found myself struggling lately with this career path. I feel so driven to do this kind of work and make this kind of difference in people's lives - but sometimes I wonder why I don't just allow myself a job that makes me happy without piling on all the other stuff and reopening my old wounds? Why don't I just let myself heal without trying to help a bunch of other people at the same time? When I've worked clock-in-clock-out type jobs I just feel useless and pointless and like my life has no meaning. Is it better to feel useful and meaningful but also exhausted, re-traumatized, constantly stressed? I really love my job, but my world has become so so small to accommodate the extra emotional work that sometimes I feel like I'm choosing between having this job and having a life outside of it. I would love to hear how others have approached this.

My health insurance is threatening to cut off my access to therapy. They said I'm too "high functioning" and they don't want me to become "dependent" on therapy as a maintenance tool. And it just makes me want to laugh/cry at the same time because the only reason I've been so "high functioning" is because therapy has stabilized me enough to keep a job and a roof over my head. Whenever I have to miss a weekly appointment I end up having such a hard time, and I can't imagine what will happen to me if I can't go to therapy at all anymore. I am so angry that capitalistic norms about "productivity" are keeping me from getting the help that I need to maintain a normal life. I am starting to spiral now before it's even happened because I just want to give up at the idea that I will have to crash and burn on a regular basis as they toggle my mental health services on and off. I don't want to keep doing this forever. I don't have family. I don't have a safety net. I'm trying not to feel terrified. I can't do this alone.

General Discussion / Intrusive Thoughts About Danger??
« on: July 12, 2018, 08:26:57 PM »
Does anyone else get really disturbing intrusive thoughts about danger when they're stressed/overwhelmed? I think it's related to the hypervigilance I experience, but basically what happens is that I have these periods of days or weeks during triggering/stressful times in my life where my brain frantically communicates with me about every possible danger under the sun. If I'm outside or near a window in my house or office I think "Someone could shoot me in the head right now." Whenever I drive through intersections I brace myself for impact of a car accident even with no threat in sight, or when driving around curves I see images of myself continuing straight into the ditch. If I'm ironing or boiling water or chopping things with a knife I think of all the million ways I could trip or slip and seriously injure myself. When people walk near me I expect them to attack, when I'm in a crowd I expect there to be a catastrophe. I am able to remind myself when I have these thoughts that "right here right now I'm safe" but my brain can't seem to stop thinking "what if? what if?". Less disturbing but still concerning, in social situations I sometimes get those same intrusive thoughts except it's more like "What if you just slapped/kissed this person right now?"

I talked with a close friend about the thoughts recently and she had a sort of fear reaction like I'm going to harm her or something, which was kind of hurtful. It's not like voices telling me things or telling me to do things or even me having desires to do certain things, it's just my brain worrying about all the million wild things that could happen at any given time. I don't know. Anyone else know about this?

General Discussion / When Did My World Become So Small?
« on: June 24, 2018, 01:54:29 PM »
I spent the day yesterday with a close friend of mine, for the first time in quite a while. We got to reflecting on the history of our friendship and our lives over the past decade and I realized - my world has gotten really really small. As I've gotten older I've picked up more and more triggers, and I can't seem to lessen their effects. I've experienced a few additional major traumatic events in the past few years (major car accident, close family death, terrifying home invasion while I was home), and also have a highly stressful job that comes with a great deal of secondary trauma (social work field). I'm in therapy now with the correct diagnoses (finally) and digging through all this old and new stuff leaves me feeling so raw all the time. In the name of safety and self-care, my interactions with others outside of work the past couple years are at an all-time low because of how exhausted and fragile I feel. There are so many places I don't go or things I don't do because of the memories they are tied to. I barely see my close friends and I haven't dated in years. I used to think I was on an uphill climb to ultimate healing, but I look around me and my world is smaller than ever. I want things to change but don't feel that I have the capacity unless I want to be tearful and numb all the time from the emotional overwhelm. I'm not sure how to proceed. I guess I have some decisions to make.

General Discussion / Can't Shut Up, Feel Like A Narcissist???
« on: June 20, 2018, 05:14:14 PM »
I talk openly about my trauma/healing work all the time. Even when it was happening, I would tell "funny" stories about the chaos in my childhood to the other kids at school (it kept people from bullying me and turned my experiences into social currency, something useful). Pretty much all my friends and some of my coworkers know my "story" or at least the highlights. I write openly about aspects my trauma/healing on social media when I'm feeling triggered, because I feel like it helps me bring it into the light and not be ashamed. I write poems about it, essays. I go to trauma groups (or on this forum) and speak about it with others.

Honestly I'm sick of hearing myself. Sometimes when I'm talking or writing about my trauma, it feels like a faucet I can't figure out how to shut off. I get mad at myself for being so self absorbed that it's all I think about. I get mad at myself for giving everyone the "TMI" version of everything, of being unable to edit myself for my context. I get mad at myself for how eager I am to talk in cry in therapy -- I feel pathetic that no one ever has to draw it out of me, I just spill it everywhere all the time. I have a deathly fear of being a narcissist, like my mother. I see so much of her in me. I have a deathly fear that everyone in my life is sick of hearing me, sick of my self pity and my sad stories. But I also can't let go of telling it. If I don't talk about it, it eats me up inside. How do I let go and shut up? I just want to learn to shut the faucet off and not feel any pain.

Therapy / Who decided what "healthy boundaries" are???
« on: June 18, 2018, 04:56:55 PM »
This has been knocking around in my brain for a while. My therapist and I talk a lot about building healthy boundaries, what is or isn't my "responsibility" in inter-personal relationships, and what sort of things my parents were involving me in as a child that "shouldn't have been my job." For the most part I find it to be a great relief and very validating to know that I am able to draw that line for myself and that I shouldn't have to suffer so endlessly at the hands of those closest to me - and that the things that happened when I was a kid were not supposed to be that way. But I feel like I also keep hitting roadblocks in giving myself permission to view my life through the lens of those boundaries because.... who decided what they are?

In an ideal world, they make sense. My parents shouldn't have been counting on me (their child) to meet their basic needs and those needs of my siblings and myself. But I feel like all these rules about boundaries take people totally out of context. For example, my family was very poor. I have ten siblings and my parents were making barely above minimum wage. Adding to that, my parents are also survivors of extreme trauma themselves who were never able to access help due to their financial circumstances and other burdens. Considering all that, it makes perfect sense that they couldn't meet our family's needs on their own and that they leaned on me (the oldest child) for help. I have a hard time looking back on my childhood and saying "They should have done X instead" because the circumstances of our lives were so inescapable. I feel like there are so many circumstances that prevent people from thriving on their own - like I think about communities of people who are oppressed in one way or another and how (by necessity) their social relationships and boundaries look different from the ones we talk about in therapy. Is the concept of "healthy boundaries" culturally bound? Socio-economically bound? Does anybody know what I mean?

Frustrated? Set Backs? / Maintaining my life - for what?
« on: June 13, 2018, 05:51:47 PM »
I have always felt like an outsider in my own life - probably because I began disassociating and engaging in escapism from a very early age. My own story has never felt like the central story. The central story was the book I was reading, or my damaged parents, or the character on TV I was over-identifying with that week. I used to sob when I was done with a book or a movie because there I was, back in my horrible and chaotic life again.

In adulthood, I've found stability. Cut off my family, found my chosen family, threw myself into therapy and finding a career. I'm having major dissasociative breakdowns less and less frequently (though the PTSD and depression are ever-present). Two weeks ago I closed on my first home. I am the first person in my family to ever own a home and I never thought I would make it to this milestone. I thought I would feel.... relieved? proud? accomplished? safe? Instead, I feel a mix of emptiness and fear. I've gotten to a point where I've learned how to secure and maintain a "normal" existence and all I can think is FOR WHAT? I know that's an awful and ungrateful way to feel. It's just that I still feel like an outsider in my own life. I still feel more engaged with people in books or on TV than with myself. I still feel emotionally lightyears away from the "chosen family" people in my life. I wake up every day and go to work and come home and call the electrician or argue with the cable company or shoot the * about the weather in the elevator and it all feels so empty and pointless? What is the point??? I'm not even sure I'm really alive unless I pinch myself???? And then there's the fear - this feeling like everything I'm building is just a tower I've locked myself inside of. I feel trapped and alone, like I've always felt. I don't know where to go from here.

Frustrated? Set Backs? / At Least I See The Signs
« on: April 09, 2018, 08:09:01 PM »
One of the hallmark features of my C-PTSD is that sometimes when I'm triggered or lonely or exhausted I fall into these deep depressive disassociative episodes. The world (and my own identity) will start to feel not real, like a dream or like I'm underwater, and the basic framework and obligations in my life start to feel flimsy and trivial for days or weeks. It makes it really hard to do things like fight for a parking spot downtown for work for example, because it's hard for me to remember why it matters or what I used to care about. It makes it hard to cook good meals for myself, or meet deadlines, or be a good friend, or show up to appointments. This used to happen about once every six months, and I would always be blissfully unaware until my life was in shambles around me. Then I would wrestle with my guilt and my shame until my survival instincts would kick in and I would right the ship that is my life.

Over time, I've tried to learn the signs that I'm about to slide down into the abyss. I know that if I give into wanting to stay home from work one day, it will be even harder to go in the next day. I know that if I don't eat a single home cooked meal in several days my self-esteem and feelings of wellness will plummet. I'm not saying I've figured out how to stop these problems at the source - it's hard to listen to and take good care of myself all the time. But the more I try to pay attention during the rough spots, the less appealing it will be to give in next time (I hope).

Today did not go as I hoped or planned, and I struggle not to feel guilt, shame, worthlessness over the way I wasted this day and let myself down. But at least I'm paying attention to the lesson. It's not all good days, but I'm getting better all the time.

Frustrated? Set Backs? / Spending the rest of my life out of context?
« on: April 04, 2018, 06:05:57 PM »
I think one of the worst parts of being no-contact with my whole family is the fact that I feel completely taken out of context. Chaotic as it was, abusive as it was, traumatic as it was, those are still my roots. And now that I have made the decision to surgically remove myself from my family unit (truly my best chance at survival) I feel perpetually uprooted. And so I bring up my trauma in conversations inappropriately, or I read books about dysfunctional families, or watch them on TV. It's all I want to think about and talk about, because if I stop thinking about it or talking about it I will lose my context. And that context is important to me. I have this (probably inappropriate) pride about being raised the way I was raised and exposed to all those crazy things. It made me resilient, a risk-taker. It also made me anxious and depressed and full of triggers, but it's what makes me ME. I think about spending the rest of my life this way, removed from my context, and I feel deep despair. But the idea of going back to them fills me with even deeper despair.

I have found other context and other chosen family and other community, but it still feels temporary. It doesn't feel as unbreakable as family. If starting tomorrow I went without seeing my friends for ten years, I would move on. But I feel I will never fully move on from my family roots. I hear them calling out to me, all the time. And I try to love my family in my own way, far away and without them knowing. I will love them all for the rest of my life, if we never speak again. I wish that I wouldn't. I'm just so frustrated and jumbled and tired. Forever going around in circles.

Having an Exceptionally Difficult Day / Emotionally Empty
« on: April 03, 2018, 06:55:31 PM »
I am a pretty introverted person. I have lots of casual friends and acquaintances but I have a very limited amount of people that I feel truly comfortable allowing them to really get to know me, because I find the maintenance of close friendships to be very overwhelming so I try to keep my circle tight and manageable. There are two people in my life I consider to be my very closest friends and my chosen family. I have known both for many years, since before going no-contact with my family, and their friendships are so valuable to me. For the last two years I have been going through intensive therapy and my social life has all but disappeared due to the fact that I feel triggered all the time, but I still try to see these two people about once per week with some texting in between.

However, both of these people have recently expressed to me that they feel as if I do not emotionally reciprocate or support them in the ways that they need. This came as a gut punch to me. I am still reeling from it. The traumas in my childhood have definitely done a number on me and I know i struggle with certain things, but what I've never been able to say in words I have always tried to make up for in actions or tokens of appreciation. Both of these close friends, separately and at different times in the last month, have told me that they need more from me. The trouble is that I literally don't have anything to give. I have not yet learned what love looks like or feels like or what's abusive and what's not or what's a healthy boundary and what's isolating - so I err on the side of distance. I am either numb or completely bursting with emotion at any given time and it's hard to know what normal emotions are like. I thought all this time that  I was showing love to these friends and that they understand me as I am. I worry that my chosen family is outgrowing me, and that my healing is not keeping up. And feeling rushed makes it even worse.

I'm just constantly exhausted and part of me wants to just give up now and tell them to go on without me because I cannot be who they want me to be. I have always kept an insulating distance between myself and others and the idea of chipping away at that makes me feel like I'm coming apart at the seams. I will lose what stability I have if I try to upend those dynamics before I am ready - and I really am working toward that, even if it's slow. I wish they could just show a little more patience for my journey, but at the same time how can I ask them to sign on for dissatisfying friendship without any idea when I will catch up? I know they are on their own path. It just hurts to have it coming at me from both sides, with no family or anything at all to fall back on. And if these friendships fall apart, I do not have much hope for my future.

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