Tag Archives: therapy

survivor?

I was at a women’s health fair this past weekend and I stopped by the domestic violence/sexual assault prevention and support booth. I picked up little ribbons that signified support and somehow ended up telling the women there that I had PTSD from being abused. This was a big step for me. One to admit it out loud and two to tell someone else. What happened next though stunned me more and it’s something I have been left thinking about since then.

The woman who runs the center responded to my telling her of my history by saying – “oh you’re a survivor!”. This completely stopped me in my tracks. A survivor? Me. No certainly not. I don’t deserve to have that title. Plus to say you are a survivor means that you had to have survived something significant. Yes I was abused and yes I’m here but survived it…that makes it sound like it was important or something.

I have a hard time wrapping my head around these facts. Denial? Yes, most defiantly. I’ve been in enough therapy to know it when I see it. I don’t know if I’m ready to look at my past and see it for what it was. At times I am. I can sometimes say parts of it out loud like I did initially to the woman but then I balk and retreat away from my story.

I’m closer to accepting it and being able to process it in therapy than I ever have been before. Perhaps it’s time to start that work. I’ve done very little trauma work..  And so I leave for Wichita in a few hours (psychiatrist, dietitian and therapist) and perhaps today in my session I’ll start talking.  And if I go in with at least somewhat of the beginnings of the belief that I am a survivor it will go that much better.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under abuse, feminism, Hope, life events, Life Story, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma

i am kate. i go to therapy. i am not ashamed.

I’ve gotten some questions/suggestions lately that perhaps I should pursue therapy. I’m not offended in the slightest. I think most of the comments came from a fairly good place and therapy ceased to embarrass me a long time ago. Because the truth is that I do see a therapist. Twice a week right now but this is actually the least amount of treatment I’ve had in four years.

In January 2009, after ending an abusive relationship I began seeing a therapist (a really crappy one but that’s another story). I was humiliated and embarrassed that my anxiety had become such that I couldn’t function in everyday life and that I had to seek professional help. The whole idea that I was seeing a “shrink” embarrassed me beyond belief to the point I went at great lengths to hide the fact from my college classmates that I was driving an hour once a week to seek help. I truly believed that it was “just anxiety” that was causing my obvious decline in my mental health but instead of getting better from treatment I felt downhill. Fast.

In September of 2009 I entered treatment for anorexia at Laureate’s eating disorder program. I stayed for ten months going through inpatient, residential, transitional living and back to inpatient for another short stint. I left OK (where Laureate is located). This was in July 2010. By September 2010 I was hospitalized again this time at The Center for Change in Orem Utah. This treatment stay was focused on my eating disorder and my PTSD. I left in February 2011 (after five and a half months) in a much better place, stable mentally for the first time in many years and armed with coping skills.

The next two years were rough. I was in and out of the psychiatric hospital. For a stretch of time I was in every month. In December of 2011 I went to Washington DC to The Psychiatric Institute of Washington’s Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I learned a lot here but it also opened a lot of wounds and closed memories and so my cycle in and out of the hospital continued until July of 2012. This is when my service  dog Ben entered my life.

Since Ben arrived I have been stable. I have not had to be hospitalized for my eating disorder, self-harm, depression, anxiety or PTSD. I receive the least treatment I have in four years, simply seeing my wonderful therapist twice a week.

I tell you all of this because like I mentioned at one time I was so filled with shame that I was in therapy. I saw it as a weakness, an embarrassment, a sign of failure and something that made me somehow “less than” everyone else in my life. I went so far as to tell professors when leaving college to go to treatment that it was due to heart problems (not a lie at that point my heart was severely compromised due to my eating disorder) instead of due to my anorexia (however they probably guessed anyways).

Therapy is so stigmatized. Especially by young people. I believe that this is due to a number of factors but a primarily one being the lack of information regarding mental health. This not only harms those who struggle with diagnosed mental illnesses but also those who need help but refuse to seek it out of shame. The media does not help. Crimes (such as the recent Naval Yard shooting) are blamed on mental illness. Yes, this may be the cause however the media fails to mention that the majority of people who suffer from mental illness are in no ways violent or dangerous. How can someone feel unashamed of their mental struggles when they unintentionally compare themselves to a deranged man who killed many people?

The reality is that seeking help is a sign of strength. I never would have believed this four years ago but working through treatment and recovery has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Much harder than making straight A’s in high-school, much harder than transitioning to college and much much harder than staying stuck in my illnesses.

So yes, I see a therapist and no I am not ashamed. Not anymore and I can say this:

I am Kate. I have PTSD, depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. I see a therapist. I have been hospitalized for my mental illness. I have a psychiatric service dog who without I would not be able to function. But I am no less a person because of these things.

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 7.23.51 PM

2009 – 2013 – happier and healthier thanks to therapy and treatment

2 Comments

Filed under coping skills, culture, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, Hope, Identity, Life Story, New Life, psychiatric service dog, PTSD, Recovery, service dog, society, survivor, trauma

i’m stable…

I had a psychiatrist appointment this past Wednesday. Since seeing this psychiatrist shortly after retuning from CFC I have seen him consistently every other week. My meds were being adjusted yes, but it was more of a “just in case Kate needs to be hospitalized” kind of thing. For the first time at the end of the appointment he announced that he didn’t think he needed to see me for a whole month.

This doesn’t seem like much I suppose to the outsider looking in but it’s huge to me. I couldn’t quite put it into words until someone in our CFC alumni group said “doesn’t it feel great to be STABLE”. And that’s what I am. I’m stable.

Whoa, I’m stable.

I’ve been medically and eating disordered stable for awhile now. In fact, since returning from CFC. But psychologically? Not so much. In the year I spent waiting for Ben I was hospitalized for sucidial ideation, self-harm thoughts/behaviors or other psychiatric problems probably around eleven times. That’s a lot of time spent in hospitals and psych. wards.

Since receiving Ben I’ve been pretty stable psychologically. I struggle with the effects of my trauma and my therapist would probably say that I’m not quite stable in that area in the terms of dissociation and related behaviors  But self-destructive behaviors and thoughts? By and large those are gone or well managed. In fact, it has confused me lately because I have been having trouble sleeping due to some trauma stuff and I haven’t felt like doing anything (meaning hurting myself). I shuffle around my apartment crafting, messing around on the internet, watching netflix, lying in bed, talking to Benny or just generally doing stuff to pass the time but self-destructing I am not. I’ve never done this. I’ve never felt the fear, experienced the trauma without everything going to hell in a handbasket.

It feels really, really, really weird to say the least. Foreign. Wrong but yet very right at the same time. Is this what living is like? Is this what moving on feels like? Is this what I have to look forward to?

I know I face struggles ahead. I know I probably still face some times when I won’t be as stable and may have a few short stays in the lovely PV resort as AL fondly (or not so much) call it but right now I am stable and I’m getting a taste of how life can be managed without self-destructing, wasting way or wondering around in a fog. And it feels pretty good.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Ben, coping skills, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, Hope, Independence, life events, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, trauma

beginning to dig through the yucky, yucky past

I’ve been thinking lately about where I am at in recovery in regards to my trauma work. For those of you who don’t know I have a pretty significant trauma history. Go here to understand psychological trauma. And because of that I have a variety of diagnoses relating to my trauma. My trauma also occurred over a number of years so it spans a vast majority of my life. One of the main reasons Ben, my service dog is in my life is to help counteract the symtoms of my trauma.

Past trauma affects many of my recovery sisters (including myself) on a day to day basis. It’s hard to describe to someone without a trauma history how hard it is to function when you live part of your life in fear of the past or spend the days avoiding triggers that could take you back to a memory that feels as though it is happening again. The worst symtoms of my trauma appeared while I was at Laureate and capitalized at CFC. I will go into details about those at some point because I think it is important to realize just how much the brain can affect the body and the past can affect the present but for now all I will say is I relived nightmare after nightmare for months

And so now I’ve been asking myself exactly where I am at in my trauma recovery. Some significant things in my life have settled down, I have been stable from self-harming behaviors for six months now (the longest since 2009), I am learning how to cope with one of my newest diagnoses, Ben and I are beginning to work out just how we can help each other the best, my support system is growing, I have goals and dreams and therefore a purpose for life, I’ve had some huge triggers thrown my way but worked through them with lots of tears and grief but no harm to myself. In short, it looks like it might be time to begin to work on things.

When I left CFC all of my trauma work got put on hold. I couldn’t be stable and do the work. I wasn’t stable at CFC when we did it but my therapist and I did it anyways. They had the means to keep me safe (albiet uncomfortable ones – hellloooo caution and blue scrubs) and we got a heck of a lot done. Yesterday in therapy for the first time since leaving CFC I pulled out my HUGE binder and started reading through the work we did. The recounting of my trauma, the shame, the guilt, the grief, the anger, the details – the nasty, gory, horrible, disgusting, gut wrenching, details. I wasn’t okay when I left. Benny and I sat in the waiting room for a long time cuddling (he managed to fit his entire body onto my lap – how is that possible?) with his head on my shoulder while I breathed slowly and willed the world to come back but then I got up, called a friend and drove home. I had nightmares last night. And the intrusive memories are there but the difference is that I’m determined. I’m determined to work on this yucky, yucky stuff. I have a purpose and a plan, one which I can’t share yet. But there is a reason to dig through this horrible reality of my past. And now I think just maybe I can do it. With the help of Benny and my support system, I’m going to be able to look back into my past and dig through it and finally come through to the other side and be able to say “I Made It”. That is what I want.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Ben, bullying, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, family, friends, Hope, life events, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma

i am NOT a victim – four years was long enough

I wrote a post the other day. If you read my blog regularly I’m sure you read it. I’m not going to link to it because quite honestly I don’t like the post. I talk about how I am a survivor but also a victim. I could take down the post but that would be dishonoring how I felt in that moment and still do at times. This blog chronicles my journey and I made a pledge this year to tell my life story and part of my life-story is very much wrapped up around what prompted me to write that blog the other night. So hear is the back story that I left out.

 

There are people in my life who I hope and pray I never see again. I’m sure there are those people in everyone’s life like that. The list I have includes the usual – the classmates who were there when I went through my most awkward stages of development, those that betrayed confidences, the kid who shoes I passed out on while waiting in line in the college cafeteria (ok maybe that one isn’t that normal) who also happened to be the radio DJ who then talked about it on the college radio station, the professor whose class I had to take an incomplete in and then turn in a horrible paper that my starved brain somehow managed to produce, the music judge where I horribly messed up my piece and on goes the list.

However, then there is this other list. The list that includes the people who hurt me. I don’t want to see people on this list because of so many reasons. The memories that the encounter would produce. The possible flashbacks. The danger (yes danger). The vivid reminders of those times of my life. The absolute fear that these people still produce in me and the horrible reversal from survivor to victim.

The other night when I wrote that post. I was in a more victim stance. And why was I that way? It was because I had seen one of those people who had hurt me. Not in person. No thank God. However, as I waited for the elevator in my apartment complex I happened to glance at a photograph that hung on the wall that had previously been covered up by holiday decorations. My apartment decorates with pictures from all over my city. I like it. It’s unique and special. However, something about this picture was wrong. Immediantly, those little things that go off in my brain when faced with trauma triggers erupted because in the middle of the picture of our local swimming pool stood one of my tormentors. He was lifeguarding.

It was just a picture. I know this. However, to my brain in that moment (and actually still to some extent) this person and everyone who I associate with had suddenly invaded my apartment. My safe space. The space that I have created. The place I call my own. The place where I try to live without fear. Suddenly, my apartment was dirty. Unsafe. Invaded.

It was a rough night and next day. And in that mindset I wrote that blog. This picture is still up. I’d like to rip it from the wall or scribble over his face or draw a pig over it or do any of the other things my recovery sisters have suggested however this would be a bad idea considering there are cameras and I’m pretty sure not only would I get kicked out of my apartment but also get arrested. So my focus is going to have to be on how I’m going to handle this. I’m not sure right now. Beth is going to have to help me with this one. She’s going to have to help me figure out a way to make my safe place safe again. And she’s going to have to help me move out of the victim role into the survivor role again. Because I don’t want to stay in this fearful, scary place.

I don’t want this person or any or the other people who are associated with him to have any control of my life. They did for four long years. I think that’s long enough don’t you?

2 Comments

Filed under bullying, coping skills, eating disorder, eating disorders, Hope, Identity, Independence, life events, Life Story, New Life, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma

Sunday Song: Dog Days Are Over performed by Glee

Well, first the good news. I am no longer as stuck in my rut. I have done a lot of thinking and a lot of journaling the past week and have dug myself a little out of my hole. I am anxious (both the scared kind of anxious and the good kind of anxious) for therapy tomorrow. I have come to some much needed insights that I think are going to help me move forward. I’m not sure I’ll blog about them but if I do it will be later this week.

So, now onto my Sunday song. I picked the song Dog Days are Over performed by Glee for my Sunday Song. Enjoy. 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under coping skills, depression, music, Recovery, Sunday Songs

3-2-1 therapy goals!

Yesterday Beth asked me what my end goal of therapy is. As is when I’m done. Finished. Forever. Not that particular session or week. No – when I leave her (or some other therapists) doors and never return.

I was completely speechless. I had no idea. Right now so many things seem insurmountable. Albiet, many things that were so huge a year ago are now more manageable and perhaps no longer issues (?).  She asked what my goals were for life and how therapy would help me get there. Again, no answer. She asked me specifically if I would like a significant other in my life. Once she reestablished I was not a lesbian (I have no problems with me or anyone else being gay – I’m just not) she asked that if an available man was to ask me out would I say yes and would a relationship be something I would want in my life. I told her I had no idea and I couldn’t even begin to imagine where that man would come from. She suggested church or the Kennel Club which really made me laugh considering church has NO young men anywhere near college age and the Kennel Club is filled with mostly women and the few men who are around are considerable older than me.

Sooo – the subject of being able to function in a romantic relationship is really not a therapeutic goal at the moment (or maybe ever). I just honestly don’t care. So throw that goal off the table.

That leaves a whole wide range of topics for goals that she sent me away to think about. Actually, she didn’t give me any guidance at all or even suggest I think about it. It was just one of those therapy topics that are thrown out there that you know she wants you to consider but she’s not going to say that. Ha! I have your therapeutic tricks down Beth!

So I have managed to come up with a few categories that I think could possibly be end goals of therapy (whenever that end will be).

Here they are….

1) Jobs – I need to be able to function at  a full time job and support my self

2) Safety- I need to be able to say that I can and will always be safe

3) I need to stay out of psych hospitals or treatment

4) I need to be 100% symptom free

5) I need to have relationships in my life that will provide emotional support

6) I need to be able to take my medication responsibly

7) I need to have worked significantly through my trauma (no idea what this looks like)

8) eight is not something I want to share

9) I need to be able to function without fear of the world

10) My self-hatred needs to disappear

Okay so that’s what I have for now. Pretty general and broad but it’s a start I suppose. I’ll make them more specific as time goes by. I’m  sure each will take many, many sessions and perhaps years to achieve but I suppose it’s important that I at least have some direction of where I’m aiming.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under body image, coping skills, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, family, friends, Independence, Job, life events, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, trauma

weight blah blah blah

Well after saying I was going to get back to posting I missed my normal Sunday song post. Oh well.

Today I had my usual Monday afternoon therapy session. Since I have an hour session on Monday and an hour an a half session on Wednesday, Monday sessions are reserved for coping skills or ‘light’ content while Wednesday is heavy processing stuff(i.e. trauma – yuck). This Monday we went over the usual checklist. Are you using behaviors? No. Are you sure? Yes. Let’s go through the list to make sure? Self-harm? No. None? Restricting? No. None. Overexercising? No. None. Blah..blah…blah

Can you tell I was really not enthusiastic about therapy today?

One of the things that we began to discuss in earnest was my weight. One of the side effect of the one of the (many) meds I take is weight gain. Now a normal person would find this uncomfortable, discouraging or annoying but to an eating disordered individual it can be a downright catastrophe. It’s already hard to tell when my thoughts about body image stop becoming based in reality and become entrenched  in the illogical world that is  an eating disorder. I suppose now is the time to mention that just because I am in recovery from my eating disorder I am not recovered. I do not act on symptoms but the thoughts have no left nor has my desire to be thinner and at times the near panic I feel at what I perceive as being fat disappeared completely. 

Lately, there have been more of these panic episodes than normal. Part it is yes my eating disorder leading me to believe I am much larger than I am but part of it is true. I do weigh more than I did when I left treatment. And that was the discussion I had with Beth. I want to know why! And Beth wouldn’t give me an answer. Well I take that back she couldn’t give me an answer because she doesn’t know. As much as I want it to be my weight is not an exact science. Even when I tried to make it that back when I was actively engaging in symptom or eating ‘by the book’ and following all my exchanges I was never in complete control of my weight. Because, weight just isn’t like that. Our bodies aren’t like that. And as much as I wish and complain or count carbs, calories, fat or whatever (don’t worry I’m not counting anything) I still won’t have complete control over my weight. And this drives me crazy.

So my weight gain could be for several reasons or a combination of several reasons. Beth’s point is that I don’t know and that I have to be ok with not knowing. As long as I am healthy I have to learn to accept my weight. If I am eating and exercising moderately and normally then my weight is going to do what it needs to do. I’m not quite sure I believe her. Okay I’m extremely skeptical and I want to figure out what is going on with my meds but for now I’ve agreed to leave my weight where it is at. Starting up using symptoms won’t help so for once in my life I’m going to do the responsible thing and start with my health care providers and ask them to run some labs and for some more education about my medication. It won’t be the quick fix I’m looking for and as Beth loves to remind me it also might not change anything but it’s something.

So here goes nothing.

 

1 Comment

Filed under body image, eating disorder, eating disorders, Identity, Recovery

it’s time for the past to be the past

I didn’t post last week because I didn’t really have anything to say. I am even more sure about my decision to stop school for the semester. I feel much, much less stressed. Also, it has become clear that my therapist and I need to begin working on some serious trauma stuff. We’ve been patching things over with band-aids and that’s not working anymore. Going to school while working on trauma would have been so hard especially because we are going to begin addressing what happened in school to me in earnest.

Trauma is an odd thing. It sneaks up on you when you think you are totally fine. You can have processed and processed and processed and still one day you wake up and it’s looming it’s head and you feel completely stuck in the past.  And that’s not to mention the memories, the flashbacks and the panic attacks. I’m dealing with all of this. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten used to it. CFC  taught me how to function when the past seems more present than the future. I owe that to the wonder therapist WJ. Coping skills truly are wondrous things.

But there comes a time when you have to decide if it’s time to dig underneath and really begin to process the memories. I did some of this surrounded by the four walls of CFC but haven’t since I left. When I was there I was forced to stay safe, sit with memories and ask for help. I used those coping skills they taught me and by the time I left I was ready to face the world head on. But I wasn’t ready to resume the heavy part of the trauma work.

Now it’s time.

Am I terrified? Yes. Do I know if I’m going to be able to stay safe all the time while working? No. Could it include some short term stays at ‘the resort’? Yes, possible. But am I going to do it? Yes.

It’s time for the past to stop haunting me. I probably face the biggest challenge of my recovery that I have yet encountered. But it is the next step. And I’m ready to move forward.

5 Comments

Filed under bullying, coping skills, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, Hope, Identity, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past

the Ben effect

Tomorrow, ends the first week of school. For me that has meant three different courses, two therapy appointments and some wonderful (and much needed) friend time. Oh and also a lot of Ben bonding. 🙂

Ben has in fact settled into school easier and quicker than I have. He starts waiting at the door fifteen minutes early and loves prancing through campus or the halls. It’s so interesting to observe how people respond to him and I. Today was the third day of school and I talked to three girls who asked about them. I even told one girl that he was a mental health dog instead of my alert dog (which is the truth but a mental health dog is dog is what he really is) and told her I had severe anxiety. She told me she had several friends who had struggled.

And I’m learning a dog is a great equalizer. No matter race, class, gender (which is a constructed concept as I learned today) or age people tell me that Ben is beautiful or that he is such a great dog. Dog lovers and other people cannot help but react to Ben no matter who they are. Ben also brings out people’s vulnerable side as they talk or pet to him. I disappear as Ben becomes the object of their affection. An older gentlemen came all the way out to my car in the parking lot so he could say hi to Ben. Students who are so intent on keeping people away let their guard down when they pet or whisper things to Ben. I see a vulnerable side of people that I am learning to call the Ben effect. And this vulnerability  has two sides to the same coin. For some (many students) they have perfected a facade that on the outside says everything is fine but when they pet Ben I can see all that fall away and realize like me they are hurting in ways too. And then there are the people who are obviously hurting. When they pet Ben some of that sadness falls away and is replaced by joy.

I spent two years as a psychology major thinking I was learning about what was wrong with me (yeah…that didn’t work) and how I could someday figure out what was wrong with others but for Ben this takes two seconds. And all he does is wave his tail, melt when petted or give them looks of adoration. And I just stand back and watch Ben do what comes naturally to him – love others.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Ben, depression, dogs, friends, Hope, life events, New Life, survivor