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Messages - woodsgnome

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Ideas/Tools for Recovery / HOPE...
« on: May 28, 2015, 08:55:59 PM »

CPTSD is such a roller-coaster. The 1 step ahead, 2 back cliche kicks in here. But sometimes it feels more like 1 forward, 10 or 100 back. And then you start over again. Maybe. So from where do we derive hope? This has been a daily challenge for me for years. But I often wonder why...why so hard; why so repetitive; so enticing; so endlessly disappointing?

For a while I felt the answer was self-acceptance, and that certainly helps—it's still a work in progress, and I still have trouble with it. I don't know. The danger of self-acceptance is it can become stupid resignation, like ho-hum this happened, poor me, now I go on—just like all the well-meaning folks who prattle their “you'll get over it” wisdom. And of course in reality all life is lived now, in this moment only, and what's past or future is really irrelevant. Fine. But I still hurt, and it stems from the past and it lives via flashbacks that rein me in, and I flee into safe retreat mode yet again.

So where is my hope or do I just cycle round to accepting again? And doesn't self-acceptance seem like just another compromise, sellout, false promise, foolish notion? Always more questions than answers, and they drive me stir-crazy. Hope? Yeah, right.

My best recent inspiration to find and accept hope stems from a story about a teenager from a couple years back. He was dying, slowly, of a rare bone cancer, and was fully aware of that every excruciating day. He wanted somehow to help others once his own fate was sealed, but he had no idea or plan as to how to make that happen. His mother suggested he write some goodbye letters to friends—he tried, it just didn't feel right for him. But he did love his guitar, and he had gotten confident enough with it to start playing around with songwriting. He liked that notion better than mere letters—write and record some songs for people he knew, and by which they'd remember him. So he started scribbling some lyrics and set them to music.

A series of events led to his recording some tunes, and one in particular (“Clouds” by Zach Sobiech) touched millions more than the few friends he thought would ever hear it.  It was about falling, into a hole where there is no hope, but ends with a forward vision and...a hope. Not for cures, or for ease, or any specific--just hope, despite his line “I'll never get my chance”. The upbeat tune matched the hope, but the message was both dark/bright and there's a perceptible drag towards despair right in the middle of the song, where the hope seems about to fade, but doesn't. It did eventually make its way to I-Tunes (all the proceeds to cancer research), YouTube, 2 documentaries, tons of news stories, and was a worldwide sensation of sorts, this tale of a boy and how he lived his wish to help others see the beauty in life in spite of it all and just this vague...hope. And within a couple of months, he was gone.

Some of you may be familiar with this story, but what always struck me was how/why/where did he get this hope from? And, really, hope for what...? One thing I did note from reading about him was that he had a strong, loving family. Well, okay, I didn't (that hope burned), but the story still resonated--how there was hope in spite of no-hope. It didn't make the most sense, which is part of its appeal, I suppose.

His sister wrote a blog about how his death affected her and she notes:

“People often say you need to “have hope”- like it’s this thing you can capture, cage, and keep with you.

“But you don’t just “have” hope when your life is threatened with zealous bone cells or slogged through chemo machines. You don’t just “have” hope when you watch helplessly as your brother dies, when you try to pack all the future, past, and present love you feel into a weak whisper an inch away from a cooling ear. Because every needle p****, every inflamed rash, every pulsing and tender tumor forces the decision to hope to be made over and over. Hope takes practice and intention.

“Zach had to decide that threat of death would not take him alive, that the best case scenario could be real. Even at the end, when there was no best case scenario, he made one. He hoped anyway. I saw him fight for it.”

(Her full blog entry is at and is the entry for August 27, 2014, near the top, titled “To Hope, Anyway”).

She actually surmised that he made hope look easy, and found out in her own grief that it wasn't, that he had just decided on the hope, anyway, and lived it in his own best way.

Combined with some other things in my life, I found the story inspiring and it gave me a new affirmation—to hope, anyway. No, his hope wasn't directly tied to what we call cptsd, but to me cptsd is sort of a death in another guise. And to just have it, illogical as it sounds, and to put it in my heart each day, is what I strive for. My box of pain is still there, close to the flame of hope. But...sounds easy, and then...

I get wildly discouraged...lately I've fallen into a sleepless pattern where the attempt to rest falls apart as memories revive my own cptsd scars, haunting my quest for peace. Why? Why? Why? ...the hope always seems just...out of reach. It comes into view and then fades, sometimes well beyond the progress I thought I'd made, so eagerly, so desperately fought for, so easily gone.

You know what I mean, and it's nice to be on this site where those explanations aren't always necessary. So my question for you is, simply, what's your take on the hope conundrum? Is it always up ahead, or like Zach, can we indeed hope, anyway?   

Ideas/Tools for Recovery / Re: Self-referencing
« on: May 27, 2015, 08:43:01 PM »
A huge thank you, CAT...

Your post represents a big reason I joined find others who've been on the trail and who choose to communicate their discoveries on our common yet individualized journeys as we search for ways around that "piano in the hallway" blocking our steps to the door and into the sunshine.

My own steps feel a little lighter, at long last, for having been here. Thanks again.

This is a frequent EF symptom for me...the waking can/can not be related to a dream, it seems, but I often awake and feel like I'm a kid trying to feel or some notion that I'm not safe. I sometimes hear a distant "inner" voice with an admonishing tone, too. One difference nowadays is I can talk back to the voice, which I couldn't do when younger and which seems to help clear some anger that I bear. One of my cptsd symptoms is hyper-vigilance, so night is also a vulnerable time--something bad could happen, etc.

Nights were often a push-pull for my emotions when young. I was asthmatic, and sometimes awoke with a severe bout of it cutting off my breath. The caregivers gave me meds, and then left me to my own devices--i.e. you're a nuisance, I did my duty to give you drugs, now shut up, sit there, and you're on your own, you didn't die. I felt scorned for being a problem...which wasn't only related to night--but nights spent in a chair after the asthma, awash with thoughts of other familial and school stuff going on; yeah, nights became a real terror. There were other occasional nighttime triggers, but I don't want to get lost in that swamp here.

Regardless of the "then" story, the cycle of waking up in panic mode, and with no obvious present trigger, still happens.  That's kind of what this seems like, with the terrified part being the only constant. Once awake, though, there's other layers that activate a whole line of emotional reaction and I can't get back to sleep--a combo of feeling scared, abandoned, scorned, and then the thoughts expand, grabbing all the loose memories and making me into one scared little boy again. My only remedy is to put on soft Celtic music--my own form of music therapy, I guess. I'm now an expert on that genre.



Yes, and kudos for finding your way through.

I've many reservations about affirmations as well, but sometimes they can work.

And seeing the past as past, that's key and soooo difficult, especially when one finds themselves within a trigger-prone situation.

Something I've tried to incorporate is just a different way of viewing the life story, starting with the idea that it is indeed a story. Albeit the story kind of continues, but how it affects me now can be altered from the trigger-patterns that have been so strong. Full change is very hard, as the "stuff" got so ingrained, but "one step at a time" comes into play.

We all tend to view our lives as singular linear straight-line journeys, when in fact what's ever truly constant? I know it gets overplayed, but a popular observation nowadays is to realize that life is never constant and always changing.

So a favorite thing I try to do is picture "myself" as a movie screen. On it I run a host of screenings ranging from comedies to tragedies and horror flicks, through tragi-comedies to documentaries, and of course I'm often the major character I see. And, like happens with any movie or stage production, I can get drawn into thinking it's all real, right now.

Then the show ends, the lights come back up, there's the stage or screen and what was seen there is nowhere to be found. I can have memories of it, some of them powerful. But the show is over. Nothing changed. Or...?

I might stumble on my way from the theater, I might laugh, or cry, or wonder, maybe even want to run away (again) but then I realize--I'm not in that production anymore. I am free...feel! Now!

First, Indigochild...yes, I'm the same as you--wonder if and especially why anyone should care about what I write, etc., that old self-esteem/compassion conundrum. I just don't feel worthy, but one reason I'm here in the first place is to not feel alone, so I plod on and yes, hope I'm not boring others...and yes, this is supposed to be about mutual support, not just info, and certainly not just to not be boring, but I'd better get myself out of this self-revelatory word-ditch and back on track...

Birthdays. Abhor them. Trigger City. Mainly it involves who's pulling the trigger, but for years even the thought of my birthday being a big deal--nah, not me. And I was able to do it, lots of times--but eventually I "allowed" some friends to make it worthy of some attention. Fair enough, I reasoned, and as it never involved FOOs or other trigger-vibes, it was usually okay.

There was one last remnant, though--my sister sent me a card every blasted year...trouble is, she factors big-time in my cptsd story and I'd brace myself for triggers that would blast me from that card, but I'd never respond (she doesn't live close either, which is cool). Nonetheless, every single year it would happen, and even if I didn't open the card, the triggers blew my psyche to shreds to think that she, of all people, would....I'm stopping myself there.

But here comes the better news--no card this year. Two friends wanted to come over and it was tranquil, peaceful, fun, and what I needed for what I still don't regard as a big day.

Feeling has always been difficult for me. I recall being in groups and the leader would say in a guided meditation...”feel this in your body” and...I'd feel nothing...I was just numb, and my body matched my hollow inside self. Nothing.

Now emptiness is sometimes quite a desired trait, a goal of many who meditate, and they strive hard to be empty—so maybe this is a blessing. One could think that—but mine isn't that sort of empty; it's an injured empty that doesn't want to feel, for it brings up all the old fear/shame/aching my case, the strongest is the fear that I can't love, don't deserve it, can't have it, not for me, too risky...ever, ever, ever. And the cycle turns over and over, no matter what some very sincere people have told me to the contrary.

In my very small social circle (outside of employment, I was very hermit-like), there was a lady who sensed my inner loneliness...until she died last year, she'd call me just to remind me, out of the blue, “We (her family and mutual friends) love you.” She did this many times in her last years and I'd try and accept the sentiment, but the old sense of no, love isn't really for me, she's just saying that, would resurface no matter what. Always the freeze effect returns, and even after years of therapy and reading, some bodywork, etc—the numb feelings always settle in. The door just won't open, or if it does the fears obscure the view. What's weird now is,  most of the ones I know have died, and I've become more isolated than ever and I ask it all gone?  Then the mind voice-over says: “Figures--you don't deserve love, anyway.”

My vocational life often involved intense feelings--hospice work, teaching, always a social component despite my own hermit tendencies. I was absolutely adored by children and others I assisted with their lives, but in my own life I was still untouchable--love all around and none for me.

Okay...stuck in circles of unworthiness. Is there really a way through? Or perhaps there is no way, it's always/already here, and this confusion is the only reality? Or...please help me becomes my nightly mantra, and memories rush in, and my response relives the fear, agony, confusion, bitterness, helplessness, until I go numb, again, my only sure escape, not to feel. Numbness fills the void and I give up.  It's almost as if it's my natural state, like walking around in a block of ice that never melts.  Some writers suggest this is love too, just in disguise. I try to grasp this, want to feel it, and...numbness. Maybe the trying is, indeed, the obstacle. And so I wonder, and wander, in this awful search to feel.

Web Sites, Support Groups & Organizations / A Healing Space blog
« on: May 21, 2015, 11:23:41 PM »
These days there are literally tons of materials out there. It takes a lot of winnowing to find something that grabs you and speaks to your most vital needs.

I have a site I like to retreat to. It's simply called "A Loving Healing Space:

It's the product of Boulder, CO-based therapist Matt Licata, and its tagline speaks of his intent to provide a "warm, loving, and provocative space for the mysteries of your heart to unfold..."  The key word for me in that statement is the easy bromides here, and the material speaks to the paradox of finding wisdom in those cracks in our bad times to allow some form of love to creep in.

I've found some of his messages challenging to understand, but when I allow them to sink in, find lots of tender wisdom within the messages. A sample:

“It's okay to give up, even for just a moment, and let go of the need to hold it all together any longer. Your sadness, your aloneness, your despair, and your longing— if you will provide these primordial friends with sanctuary inside you, you will connect with all beings everywhere.

At times it will appear that everything is falling apart, while at other times you will feel so together. Though this may seem like bad news, you can take refuge in groundlessness as your true nature – empty of the known and what has come before, yet radiant and alive with pure love.

Rest in your true nature and give your heart to this weary world.”
If you take a look, wander around a bit--he's been writing these for several years...some of them, as I said, are challenging, especially trying to make sense of deep despairs we encounter in cptsd work.

General Discussion / Re: Do you laugh out loud often?
« on: May 20, 2015, 04:17:17 AM »
Sorry, but I had to relay some trouble concerning humor, which I'm fairly sure results from cptsd issues (fantasy, dissociation, etc). Namely, I have a marked tendency to let my humor slide into cynicism of a high order. So sometimes I fret that maybe it's taken the wrong way...okay, but I'd still rather balance the humor; when I don't have it it's like the emotional ghosts rush into the opening. It helps, but can hurt--always the balance is risky.

General Discussion / Re: Do you laugh out loud often?
« on: May 20, 2015, 02:05:54 AM »
I've had an interesting ride with humor. Some have noted I can have an almost absurd funny bone. I've used it a lot, but once I really needed it, and I'm convinced it helped me survive (if not thrive) and/or save my life when I was young.

Indeed, as an adult many have enjoyed my humorous takes on things; what they usually miss is the pain from which it springs, so while they're chuckling I'm really wincing inside. I wholeheartedly agree with some who do sense something, and surmise that I'm hiding behind it. Oh, for sure. That half-truth doesn't change anything, but I know it helped smooth my tortuous path, somehow/sometimes. I'd rather be able to find a light touch, even within heavy emotional seas.

As a lonely, depressed kid, I still somehow found that in the midst of all the madness around me I had some inner light--or shall we say perhaps I was prone to fantasize, and mine took the form of an inner jokester. This provided another lens with which to view and/or survive as best I could. Although I didn't name my inner friend, the term "holy fool" fits well, as my tormentors considered themselves supreme holy sorts (I have other, coarser names for them, but no one needs to know--although I tend to call them the GAWDawfuls).

That outlook followed me into adulthood, and helped salve the shame and grief of the early years--notice I say helped but not "cured" (I've given up on that concept). But I'm grateful to have somehow/someway developed that internal humor--external would have been dangerous in those situations. The oddity, if such, is that the blessing might never have happened without the curse. Or, maybe that's not so odd after all.

If they only knew that I could secretly trust my inner comic to laugh at them, they would have beat me even more, shamed and belittled me ten times worse, but I managed to keep the candle lit inside, and yes, I know it saved my life. Never easy, and I don't understand the "how" of its presence, but I'm so glad it was there.

So keep laughing...sometimes it was my only grasp at sanity, and I treasure it -- may yours thrive as well. 

General Discussion / Re: Finally Started Therapy
« on: May 20, 2015, 12:51:28 AM »
Kudos to you, and your therapist for sensing the anger and the need to incorporate it into your therapy, whatever/wherever it leads. It takes a lot of courage to plunge into that area, but having a safe therapist to be there while you explore is a good sign. The T can guide, but it's your journey, and in this instance it sounds like you made an important step, albeit one filled with exhaustive mental/emotional/physical stretching.

I had a similar type of event in a group I was part of, once, but it went sadly awry, and I ended up being angry at myself, the very last thing I needed; suffice to say the group dynamic itself became confrontational, and the leader (not really a therapist) didn't handle the situation smoothly--she was nice in many areas but not geared to cptsd sensitivities at all. Or so it seemed.

So it's nice to hear your experience, albeit challenging, turned out in a fashion that bodes well. So--good for you! May you be able to build on that.         

Introductory Post / Re: A LONG WILDERNESS TRAIL
« on: May 19, 2015, 04:00:24 PM »
I have to say, that I really FEEL the support, the hand-holding, those who have joined by the fire, and held and squeezed my hand. I can't thank you enough.

It's only happened rarely in recent years, but when some would try and touch me, they could sense my discomfort and didn't try again. It hurt me that they didn't, but I just never knew how to trust anyone's touch; my hyper-vigilance was so intense to even the best-intended people, and they'd not try again.

Self-love, self-compassion...yes, it's been an extreme hurdle. But thanks to your sincere touch, I can breathe easier, and feel that there are friends for me, too. And not judge myself as needy or selfish, but only as a human who has friends who can see behind my wall of pain, because they've been living there too, all along. And I'm so happy to be able to gently squeeze back, and love you for who you are.

This is prompted by another sleepless night, that started out alright, and then...

So I had the radio on faintly; there was some indecipherable talk going on and then the words I never seem to miss, and flinch/wince when I do.

Those simple two words--"Loved Ones". They say you outgrow some things--I've never outgrown (and I'm 65!) in my automatic drawback from the sound of those words. The simple word "love" can also trigger, but now it's more just a passing reaction like, hmm, wonder what that is. And yes I'm an adult and yes it "shouldn't" bother but sorry, it always has. And sometimes the pain may not hit directly, but other know.

It's not like I avoid the topic entirely--I absolutely crave true instances of love that I hear about...and I marvel sometimes at the depth to be found when I see it in action.

I've gotten better at witnessing instances of loving interaction (mostly between parents/children but also teacher-student, for instance) without having my first reaction turn personal, and I've learned to be amazed at what this nefarious love-thing can look like. And then...'s always over there, for them. Good for them, too. But...well, you know the drift I'm in, we all do. 

No more to say, but perhaps in doing so I've helped someone know they're not alone, even though we're confined to these screens to enable us to reach each other. But at least it's there...unlike the love that never was.

And maybe I'll even sleep tonight, and not wake up to find tears on the pillow again.

General Discussion / Re: So What is CPTSD?
« on: May 16, 2015, 09:03:48 PM »
I'm still new at negotiating all the topics here, so hope this is the right place to critique some of the terminology, in particular the use of the tag "disorder" to describe our condition.

This actually kept me from realizing some of my problem over the years--either from denial or retreat or just plain fear of what else lay lurking in the fog/storm (those terms I can relate to for sure!).

Chronic? Yup. Traumatic? For sure. Stress? Spot on. But Disorder is, well, harder to swallow, in my experience.

I don't know, I just felt so out of whack to be described as having a "disorder". It sounds somewhat demeaning, or sinister, and almost places the blame back in one's own lap--"if only you weren't...fill in the blank". And try explaining what's going on to someone else and use the word "disorder"--on come the "poor you" stares or the knowing looks of "oh, we understand" (you poor diseased schmuck).

Personally, I've come to disregard the "D"; it's bad enough without a word that defines you as something or somebody less than worthy because of the dis- word.

I know, mental health clinicians need a label, and it works for them. Meanwhile, I think part of our work here is to work with the labels and this may just affect me--I want words to mean what they mean (so many people in my early years, and unfortunately later, never said what they really meant and/or used them to manipulate, etc. I'm sure many of you can relate--hypocrisy is an apt description, I think.

So while I accept the term in its clinical use, it would be so cool if it didn't sound so demeaning. But then what do I know? I'm a disordered person, by definition.

Books & Articles / Re: Jeff Foster
« on: May 11, 2015, 04:16:26 PM »

So here's another of his takes, from his current newsletter:

If you feel sad for no reason,
embrace the reasonless spontaneity of your sadness!
In the first light of morning,
when you hear a bird singing her spontanous song,
you're not pushing for reasons.
Sadness does not arise to be healed.
It arises to be heard.
It arises to be held,
here, in the loving arms of awareness.
- Jeff Foster

There's also a facebook page with very poetic quotes which I find quite insightful and comforting:


Books & Articles / Re: Jeff Foster
« on: May 11, 2015, 01:11:24 AM »

Well, okay, here I am again, with a brief addendum.

While Jeff Foster isn't specifically CPTSD, the book that helped the most with those issues is probably known to most of you--Pete Walker's COMPLEX PTSD: FROM SURVIVING TO THRIVING.

It's thorough coverage blew me away, although I was disappointed to find it doesn't have an index.

I've seen it refereed to on some other feeds, and concur with one commentator who noted that she has to absorb it in slow chunks. I found my own read (and re-reads) like that, too--plus just the delving dredges up flashbacks.

It's a beatiful book.

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