Week 2: Stage One, Step One

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C.

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Week 2: Stage One, Step One
« on: March 08, 2015, 09:01:14 PM »
Given it isn't too long I thought I'd go ahead and simply post the individual work pages for Step One here.  Feel free to begin to discussing whenever you're ready! :thumbup:

STEP ONE

I am in a breakthrough crisis, having gained some sense of my abuse.

For many survivors, this first step represents the first sign that their past has caught up with them.  Survivors at this point often experience a "breakthrough crisis":  something happens to release a flood of old memories, feelings and even physical sensations of the abuse. Although this crisis does not necessarily destabilize all survivors, for many it can be the most harrowing time in recovery, and it often provides the impetus to finally face the past.
For those of you who experienced less severe abuse, the breakthrough crisis may manifest itself not as a new crisis, but rather as a low-grade, perpetual state of disorganization in which everything that can go wrong does go wrong.  This reinforces your anxiety, depression and shame  all your worst feelings about yourself.  Survivors of extreme and prolonged physical and/or sexual abuse in which terror or violence typically occurred often experience a more dramatic breakthrough crisis.  This is usually triggered by some event: seeing a movie, engaging in a relationship that unexpectedly turns abusive or having a sexual experience that somehow parallels the childhood sexual abuse.  This leaves you feeling like the scared little child again, lacking any sort of adult control over your life.  You may even think you are going crazy and may come up with all sorts of possible explanations for what is going on.
As a child, you developed formidable psychological defenses to protect yourself against this massive assault, and you probably continued to rely on these rigid defenses well into adulthood, until they no longer worked for you.  This is where you may be now.  In a breakthrough crisis, your psyche realigns itself in order to bring the past into harmony with the present.  Like an earthquake, this realignment results in the release of  powerful feelings and energy, and can create periods of disorganization, helplessness and incredible fear.  If you are a survivor of truly severe abuse, you may have mini-breakthrough crises as each new set of abuse memories surfaces, although these smaller crises are usually not as tumultuous as the first.
The breakthrough crisis is actually quite normal, although it certainly does not feel normal to you.  Crises are scary.  You have been used to screening out all stimuli that might trigger your out-of-control feelings, only to feel that now you have lost control over your mind.  Although it is frightening to do so, it is best in the long run to let these feelings out.  Rest assured that this is a temporary experience which will gradually subside as you express feelings and develop a more flexible type of control over your life.
Although the breakthrough crisis is normal, you should take special precautions during this time to preserve your safety and to promote healthy integration of these memories and feelings.  Anyone is vulnerable in a crisis, and there have been reports of survivors attempting suicide or engaging in other selfdestructive behaviors in response to the crisis.  Remember that the Chinese definition of crisis translates to "danger and opportunity."  Your task during the breakthrough crisis is to minimize the danger to yourself by reaching out for help while riding the tidal wave of feelings safely into shore.

Self-Help
1.   Give yourself permission to get whatever help you need to face this crisis.Reaching out to a therapist, support group and family and friends means that you do not have to be alone anymore.  Your ASCA support network and ASCA meetings can be invaluable at this time.

2.   Write some positive affirmations about the breakthrough crisis in your journal.For example,  "I survived the abuse, I can survive this also," or "Out of crisis, there can be opportunity."  Even if you don't feel that positive right now, try to write down whatever sentiments come to you about managing this crisis in a positive manner.  Do whatever is necessary to give yourself the hope and strength you desperately need.

3.   Learn and practice this simple 7-part relaxation technique:  1) sit comfortablyand close your eyes; 2) imagine lying down at an ocean beach; 3) listen to the waves build, crest and wash over the sand; 4) feel your breathing; 5) focus on your breathing by inhaling, holding your breath for 3 seconds and releasing; 6) repeat the cycle of breathing and focusing on your breathing until the tension gradually washes away from your body and you feel relaxed from head to toes; 7) continue the cycle, all the while attaining ever-deeper levels of relaxation.

4.   During the time you work this step, relieve yourself of unnecessary pressureson yourself.  If the disruption to your life is extreme, and if you can afford to do so, you may want to give yourself a sabbatical from work, school or normal domestic duties while you struggle with the breakthrough memories.  Of course, you may actually prefer to work during this crisis as a way of coping.  Judge for yourself how much time you will need for taking care of yourself during this period and adjust your schedule to the extent possible.

5.   Don't make any big decisions during this time.  It may be hard to think clearlyright now, and you don't want to complicate your predicament by acting impulsively.  If you are suicidal or fear you might harm yourself or another, reach out to friends and empathetic family for help.  If you are in therapy, call your therapist and schedule an emergency appointment.  If your therapist is not available, call a suicide or crisis hotline.  One day in the future when your life is better, you will be glad you did.

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Kizzie

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Re: Week 2: Stage One, Step One
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2015, 05:04:42 PM »
I have had two major epiphanies this week based on discussions here and in the forum, and a lot of dreams which are almost but not quite nightmares.  I am having some breakthroughs but I'm also feeling overwhelmed.   :stars:

WRT the dreams, I think perhaps because my abuse was covert they tend to be on the subtle side and very anxiety-oriented.  I've had this type of dream forever, but usually it's me alone (and that in and of itself is telling), trying to get on the right bus to get somewhere and not knowing which one or where the info is and not having enough change or even knowing what the fare is.  Then there's the starting a new year in university one in which I can't find where to pick up my class schedule (never seems to come into my dream that I could get this online - age related dreaming I guess lol), can't find my classroom, and so on....... 

So I'm having these anxiety dreams more but now my FOO is in them, as though I have gone back to being a child, teenager and young adult - I am still quite anxious but now there's more of me being an actor in doing something about whatever situation comes up (integrating, psyche realigning itself?). Good stuff  :thumbup: 

Last night though I had an out and out nightmare that my wonderfully loving, always supportive H found someone else and it was like he turned off any connection we have, he did not love me any more, and he abandoned me, cut me out of his life. I could not reconnect with him no matter what I did or said.  It has left me feeling so disoriented this morning, not an EF per se but more of a clear feeling of what abandonment and rejection feels like. It's awful as an adult so by extension I can see how terrifying that must have been as a child. When my NPDM was through with her sweetest M on earth act behind closed doors, any connection (it wasn't real but I wanted it to be) was gone, the light switch was turned off and she abandoned me. This happened over and over and when I think about it by my F too given he would drink shutting me out, disconnecting from me and abandoning me.

So I'm able to see that this whole abandonment issue and lack of connection or real attachment is something that lies below the surface and impacts my sense of safety and security and attachment today still, even with a partner who has always been there for me.  I remember thinking in the dream - it's not fair, I am a good person, but then seeing myself in comparison to this shiny new woman and thinking no wonder he wants to move on.  I had no idea where I would go or what I would do and I felt completely alone and very empty with this cold, gray utterly depressing landscape stretching out all around me.  It really confirms for me just how devastating covert emotional abuse can be.

I do feel a bit like I am in a breakthrough although I wouldn't quite call it a crisis. That said, I am concerned about whether or not this group work will  become destabilizing. I am really busy with work for the next few months and am not certain I have the resources for both. Clearly I need to think about this and figure out what is best for me.   :yes:

« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 08:44:23 PM by Kizzie »

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C.

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Re: Week 2: Stage One, Step One
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2015, 06:24:44 PM »
I'm working a lot this week again...but I look forward to doing the activities as I have time and discussions here.

That sounds like quite a meaningful breakthrough Kizzie.  I know that I need 10 hours of sleep right now and probably for the dreams.

How do you help yourself remember and process the dreams?

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Kizzie

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Re: Week 2: Stage One, Step One
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2015, 06:42:45 PM »
Hey KF - tks for the hug, I needed one!  It has taken a few hours but I do feel less overwhelmed and more grounded. I've been working (teach online) but I didn't push all that dark matter away or down while I was - something I've done a lot in the past (use work to dissociate). Instead I let myself be mindful of being up, reading and typing away, sipping tea, looking out at the great view from my office window, and just being in the here and now seems to be helping.

 It also really helped to write about it.  It's like bringing something really frightening out into the light of day so I can really see and feel it, not just sense it there in some deep dark place I keep separate.  And in doing so here I know others will send hugs and write about their experiences and insights, and I will not feel so alone with this any more.     :hug:   I am feeling quite tired though, as though I have been going through some mental and emotional gymnastics.

Isn't that strange about dreaming as a somewhat empowered younger me lol?!  I like to think that it reflects the process of natural development starting up that Walker talks about as having being arrested when we were kids.  It just seems so well, obvious but if that's what it is then huzzah!  :thumbup:

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Kizzie

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Re: Week 2: Stage One, Step One
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2015, 07:03:45 PM »
Hi C - I just wake up remembering them vividly, always have.  Processing - hmmmmm.  I used to lie there and ruminate a lot but that seemed to make things worse so now I go over the dream but then get up ASAP. Planting my feet on the floor seems to help ground me - literally and figuratively  ;D 

I don't know that I actively tried to process the dreams beyond that, maybe think about how I am not that person in the dreams, out of control, unprepared, off kilter and let the dream fade. Until last night I didn't realize there were underlying abandonment issues to this constant feeling of anxiety alseep or awake - so now that I have that piece of the puzzle, I will give it some direct attention. 

Certainly I am going to hug the heck out of my H today  :yes:

« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 08:41:55 PM by Kizzie »

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C.

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Re: Week 2: Stage One, Step One
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2015, 07:29:55 PM »
I am going to try the planting my feet idea.  Thanks! ;)  I think this was all a reminder for me to allow myself to remember and process my dreams.  I go in and out of doing so.  Maybe we need a dream thread on OOTS.

Re: Week 2: Stage One, Step One
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2015, 07:58:40 PM »
Hi Kizzie, is it okay if I send you a hug too? This one:  :hug:  I want to say something clever and comforting, but my mind is empty.

I'm a bit flattened by... actually by something that reminds me of your own experience. At least in this one aspect: this indirect approach towards one's memories. Like with your dream: you dreamed of an abandonment experience, and then concluded that your previous abandonment must have felt just as scary. For me, it was seeing a friend who lies dying. She's in a coma, and her situation has parallels to my father's illness. I feel shaken to the core.

I hadn't even realized how unsettling it was back then, seeing my father so ill. Back then, it was like it mustn't be unsettling. The person in trouble was my father, not me: we must all of us be very brave and very sensible, and we must put our own silly concerns aside for the moment and work together to find help for my father. It was only on OOTS that people were unafraid and able to clearly imagine what it must have been like for my brother and me.

So this is something I'm grateful for: that people here have so often this unflinching ability to let the truth remain the truth. Maybe that comes from having known so much pain and trouble yourselves, even worse than I had, pain of a kind I can't even imagine. It made me want to hug everyone here. Simply just knowing this made such a difference. What a gift this is, to be able to let the truth be the truth.

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Kizzie

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Re: Week 2: Stage One, Step One
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2015, 09:04:27 PM »
Thanks Cat, all hugs are appreciated and here's one for you  :hug:  I am so sorry about your friend, I know you're really finding that difficult and that's a normal reaction, but then when you overlay the trauma of your F's illness I can see that it would shake you to the core.   

I think we watch over ourselves by making these somewhat indirect associations until we are able to face the pain of our trauma straight on. I suspect I will continue to have dreams about being abandoned as an adult, but one of these days or nights I will once again be the abandoned child I was, feel all that she felt and then be able to "let the truth be the truth."

   

Re: Week 2: Stage One, Step One
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2015, 01:22:51 PM »
Thanks, keepfighting.  :hug:  No, you didn't overstep anything. I've been using that kind of approach myself, actually, to get some perspective on my mother's choices and actions. And I absolutely agree with you and with your neighbour's daughter: the main thing for a child is to feel cared for and welcomed. The rest is just window dressing.

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Kizzie

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Re: Week 2: Stage One, Step One
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2015, 05:09:56 PM »
Egads KF, I hadn't thought of dealing with teenage me lol!   :aaauuugh:  It was bad enough going through all that hormonal stuff the first time  :stars:

Actually, there has been a teenage me in the dreams and she is starting to speak up to my FOO (although at this stage she's not getting far, but she is trying).  The other thing that's changing in the dreams is that a lot of the anxiety comes from dealing with my FOO more than from being alone and trying to catch the right bus, get to the right class, find my room, whatever.  Maybe that's me acknowledging where the anxiety came from in the first place and trying to do something about it now.

Mom said something like: "I am sorry you didn't have a happy childhood, that it was so clouded by your father's many problems and there was barely time and opportunity for us to do all the normal fun things together."D then said: "But mom, I did have a happy childhood! I know about all the problems we had to face in the aftermath of dad's accident, but I never wanted for anything! Whenever I needed you, you were there for me and I know that both you and dad loved me. I did have a happy childhood and you made it possible for me." My neighbour told me with tears in her eyes and you could tell that she was still not fully convinced, but I believe that her d was telling the truth: Her m (and f) being emotionally available for her whenever she needed them, would make for a happy childhood. All the other things (like vacations and fun days out) are less important. You don't need any of those grand gestures to make a child feel welcome and loved. 

As KF suggests Cat contrast that with your experience (or any of the experiences we all had) and there you have it - that's the way through trauma and out the other side -- intact, functioning, healthy.  Perhaps here, in T and with those we do trust, bearing witness to our trauma is what will help us to come out the other side finally.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2015, 05:08:38 AM by Kizzie »

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bee

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Re: Week 2: Stage One, Step One
« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2015, 03:54:31 AM »
I've had this type of dream forever, but usually it's me alone (and that in and of itself is telling), trying to get on the right bus to get somewhere and not knowing which one or where the info is and not having enough change or even knowing what the fare is.  Then there's the starting a new year in university one in which I can't find where to pick up my class schedule (never seems to come into my dream that I could get this online - age related dreaming I guess lol), can't find my classroom, and so on....... 

I had nearly the same dream. In high school and I either can't find my locker or when I do I can't remember my combination. Or in high school/college and can't remember my class schedule or how to find the classrooms. I've never picked up on the fact that I am always alone. I also have one where I miss the school bus.  I think it is a good sign that they are starting to change for you.

WRT the one with your husband. I totally get how unsettling such a dreams is. :hug:
If this works for you great, if not please ignore.
My T thinks that dreams can sometimes make sense if you view the characters in them as parts of yourself. Maybe a parts of you is afraid it will be replaced/abandoned by you in the healing process.

a clear feeling of what abandonment and rejection feels like. It's awful as an adult so by extension I can see how terrifying that must have been as a child. When my NPDM was through with her sweetest M on earth act behind closed doors, any connection (it wasn't real but I wanted it to be) was gone, the light switch was turned off and she abandoned me. This happened over and over and when I think about it by my F too given he would drink shutting me out, disconnecting from me and abandoning me.

So I'm able to see that this whole abandonment issue and lack of connection or real attachment is something that lies below the surface and impacts my sense of safety and security and attachment today still, even with a partner who has always been there for me.

This has made me think. Seeing the switch my m made from public nice to private monster as an experience of abandonment to me as a child.  I don't know what to say about this, just... thanks for the epiphany.

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C.

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Re: Week 2: Stage One, Step One
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2015, 10:27:15 PM »
New topic related to step 1 and I felt like sharing it...

I saw my T yesterday and discussed this first step a little.  I realized that I, like a lot of others I think, had the “crisis” break through before now (3 years ago for me).  When I re-read this description I was hit by a couple of powerful thoughts and feelings. 

First, I was irritated and simply ignored the words that talked about “lesser” abuse.  As has been stated before, that’s based on prior understanding (ignorance).  In reality abuse is just that, abuse.  There are “types” such as physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, neglect, covert, overt, etc. but I know that it’s literally dangerous (emotional abuse) to “grade” abuse by calling one more, less, medium, etc.  It invalidates a lot of people which truly is a form of neglect as I see it.  However, I know that part of the workbook is wrong and I want to work through these steps.

Second, I was able to really “feel” the gravity of abuse for everyone who’s experienced it.  Basically everyone who’s experience abuse WILL have a crisis breakthrough.  Some people start there during childhood or adolescence, either recovering and healing, or winding up in hospitals/jail/etc.  Others have the crisis when they have children, or finish raising their children, or experience a break-up, a death, etc.  Perhaps others live longer in denial, but I suspect it’s very few.  So I was able to cry and really feel the “seriousness” of my experience. 

I think that with that feeling and understanding I was able to be more fully honest with my feelings during my T session.  A good sign was I felt much better afterwards.
Dreams – I’ve been remembering them now too.  They’ve been VERY tragic.  And not true.  I rather not share details, but definitely my worst fears made real.  So perhaps this is a normal in recovery like Kizzie mentioned.