Tag Archives: trauma

All I can write is this quote tonight:

 

One Day I will forgive you; until then there are scabs everywhere that you have touched me

– Salvador Plascencia, The People of Paper

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Filed under abuse, Life Story, PTSD, quotes, survivor, the past, trauma

nightmares of treatments past

It’s not unusual for me to have nightmares. I have PTSD. Nightmares are a part of the territory. What is unusual is the what the content has been about lately. I’ve been waking up in cold sweats and shakes having dreamt about treatment and the physically sickest times of my eating disorder. It’s been almost five years since I admitted into my first treatment center. I was deathly ill. Almost dead. And honestly this fact has not truly dawned on me until recently. I knew intellectually that I was close to death but recently I have actually known I almost died.

I don’t know why it’s finally sinking in. Maybe it’s because of that short lapse awhile back or perhaps because it’s simply the amount of time gone by. I know there is a part of anorexia where sufferers simply don’t comprehend how sick they are. Maybe I’m past that. I don’t know. But regardless it’s terrifying me.

I’m remembering things I have forgotten and finally connecting the dots of what things truly mean. The fact that I couldn’t walk because my muscles atrophied. I was tube fed because I needed nutrition and I needed it faster than could be done through eating (I ate too but it was supplemented every night by tube feeds). I was sent off the hospital campus for MRIs, CAT scans and PET scans too see if my brain was functioning normal because I was falling so frequently and there was no obvious explanation. Test after test. And all the while stuck in that damn wheelchair. I slept on a mattress underneath the nurses station for a long time. Partly, because they were scared I would exercise but also because I would fall out of bed. Did I do that? I don’t remember. I don’t remember a lot of things.

I do remember how scary it was to not know why I was falling apart mentally. My PTSD was undiagnosed and I had no idea what a flashback was or what the hell was happening to me when I vividly began to remember abuse scenes. And the dissociation. Oh my God. The dissociation was so bad. And I had no words to even attempt to explain that. A friend guessed but the professionals didn’t. They missed it completely. And if I’m honest I still resent that. They believed I was making things up. Attention seeking. So did the other patients. The feeling of total loneliness and isolation still terrifies me.

I won’t go into details about particular scenes I am remembering but there are ones that are replaying over and over in my mind. I apologize for the amount of details I shared. I don’t like sharing a lot about the depths of my illness for the danger of being misread as competing with others or triggering them. But I needed to talk about this. It just seems all so….unreal but yet all too real at the same time. I needed to write it down. Somehow I needed to see it on paper. Get it out of my mind.

Has anyone else who has been in treatment experienced these kind of intrusive memories about the worst of their sickness and hospitalization. Am I unique in this? Please share if you can.

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Filed under anxiety, eating disorder, eating disorders, life events, Life Story, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma

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.

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

 

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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.

 

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

What No Longer Defines Me: 

My eating disorder

Hospitalizations/treatment

This mythical idea of the ‘perfect’ job

This locked in view of who God is

The image of the ‘sheltered one’

Being a ‘drummer’

My school status

Choosing to be “the quiet one”

The victim role

What Still Defines Me But I am Working to Let Go Off

My PTSD

Memories

My fear

That illness

The option of self-destruction

Self-Blame

Shame

The hold they have over me

The attachment to the past

What Does Define Me

My relationship with Ben

The idea that my spirituality and faith can be fluid and changing. I don’t have it all figured out and I don’t have to fit into a mold and that’s okay.

My friendships. The true meaningful ones.

Giving back. Loving more.

Family, friends

Self-respect

Self-esteem

Recovery

Writing

Finding my passions and pursuing them

Dreaming and following those dreams

Allowing myself to Live. Truly live.

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Filed under Ben, depression, dogs, eating disorder, eating disorders, faith, family, friends, Hope, Identity, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma

“No” is a complete sentence. – Oprah

“Just say no!” That was the chant we learned in D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). In high school a bored health teacher told a group of us equally bored sophomores that in a relationship no means no. In reality, no means different things. No, means keep convincing your parents until they say yes. It means nagging your friend until they are peer pressured into doing the dumb thing you want them to do with them. We are a society where no means – “convince me” or “it’s not over yet”.

However, there should be no more powerful word than the word no. It should be the end all be all. It should stop a child pleas for a toy, a friends pressure, a bullies taunts and a man’s hands. The reality? It doesn’t. I know from experience. For many years I have lived with the assumption and the belief that my voice has no value. That it is not heard. That because my “no’s” went unheeded time and time again the world remains an unsafe place that will continue to hurt me. The world will never change. It will always be a place of abuse, neglect and terror. A place where no matter what I say – I cannot stop the things that happen to me.

In therapy, we have recently begun to discuss how unless I begin to let myself believe that perhaps the world is safe and I can exist in it without being hurt I can never truly heal. I’m not sure I agree and I’m really not sure I can do this. To let go of my many, many layers of protection, to work through the fear in therapy would require a vulnerability that terrifies me to no end.

While browsing tumblr the other day I came across the quote:

“No” is a complete sentence. – Oprah

I stopped. Scrolled past it and then scrolled up again. And something inside me shifted it. Never in my young adult and adult life had my no’s been treated as complete sentences. They were invitations for manipulation, convincing, cunning, threats and force. Yet here was a woman who is known all over American for being wise saying that the word “no” is a complete sentence. This had never occured to me. Perhaps, I had done what I was supposed to have done. Perhaps my no should have been enough and it was the other people who were wrong. Not me. But them because they listen to my no. They didn’t hear it as a complete sentence even though it was.

So then maybe my work not only lies in not only in seeing this world differently but seeing myself and my past differently. That a no is a no and a no is a complete sentence. It wasn’t me that had it wrong but the other people in my life. And perhaps that should terrify me more. Knowing that I had no control over how someone reacted to something I said even though it was the right thing but for some reason it doesn’t. It makes me sit back and look at my past and think how messed up the people were who hurt me were. How messed up they were that they didn’t know that no was a complete sentence. And how if they haven’t learned that by now they are going to get in trouble in someway in the future.

So, I’m still terrified of giving up the belief that the world is an unsafe place. I’m not ready to do that yet but this does reframe things for me a little bit. It allows me to see that I did try to use my voice. It wasn’t heard but I did try to use it. And I did the right thing. And knowing I did the right thing  is a step towards lifting s a large amount of guilt and shame off of my shoulders

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Filed under bullying, Hope, PTSD, quotes, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma, Tumblr

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?

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

i am a survivor but i was first a victim

In this blog I talk a bit about trama and victimization. It may be triggering to those who have experienced trauma. 

According to the American Psychological Association trauma is defined as follows:

an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives.

Okay, so I’m one of those people who have “difficulty moving on with their lives”. And I’m one of those people who have those longer term reactions  All of those mentioned plus a whole host of others. Yay.

Ever since I’m learned and acknowledged (learned and acknowledged are two vastly different things – trust me) that I’ve experienced trauma, therapists have been trying to convince me and teach me how to be a survivor and not a victim. How to let my experiences be a part of life story but not define my life. Not let trauma run my life but instead let my actions be that of a person who is fighting for her life back instead of living trapped inside of the limitations placed upon it by herself or her abusers.

So the question is; am I a survivor or a victim?

In the treatment world being accused of being a victim is a terribly bad thing to be called. At least in my experience that is. It implies that you are not taking responsibility for your recovery. As a survivor you are fighting for your recovery tooth and nail and doing everything you can to move on and towards a new world.

But my question is can you be both?

I think the answer is yes. Sort of. I am a survivor. I work everyday to move past the affects of what happened to me but am I am victim of horrible people’s actions? Yes. But perhaps a better way to describe what happened to me is that I was victimized. However, that’s just playing with semantics. The reason why I can’t totally let go of the word victim is because I believe it let’s my abuser’s off the hook. It implies that I’ve forgiven them. That as a SURVIVOR I have taken all responsibility for the events that happened. Yes, I have to take responsibility for my healing. The people who harmed me cannot do that. But to loose the word victim entirely I think lessens the blame that should be laid at the abusers door.

But do I want to be referred to as a victim? NO. Please do not call me one. Call me a survivor because that is what I am. However, I am a survivor because I was first a victim.

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Filed under bullying, Identity, life events, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, trauma

look at your life and know what you already have – i don’t want your pity

Last night I was virtually up all night because I didn’t feel well. I passed the time by watching TED talks. I chose to watch one particular talk given by Brene Brown called “The Price of Invulnerability” (it’s a good talk – go watch it!). Now whether it was because it was 4 am and I was feeling pretty crummy physically and also emotionally after a hard day or if it was just because it is an amazing talk I spent part of the time watching it close to tears. And when she said one thing the tears erupted. She said something (roughly) like this:

People who are trauma survivors have told me ‘I don’t want your sympathy. I don’t want your pity. I want you to look at your life and know what you already have’.

For me this is it. I don’t want my friend’s pity or something for what I have had to endure, my diagnosis or my past. All I want is for them to have gratitude for what they already have. I have run into people in the treatment world who wish for trauma, who make it up or embellish it. I go through times when this makes me angry and times when it simply makes me sad and times when it makes me both. I suppose the wishing/embellishing/making up comes from a place of trying to relate to other or validate why they struggle with what they struggle with. That anyways is the nice answer I can pull out of the hat.

P and I were trying to put the exact concept of gratitude that Brene Brown does so succiently above into words the other day. We were talking of our treatment friends (and they are always there) who are like this. I think to a degree we can intellectually understand it like I described above but like me P, is also a trauma survivor and there is a deep seated pain and anguish that arises when people ‘wish’ for trauma or embellish their experiences. We also talked about how we would like others to relate to us and we tossed around words like we wished other knew how ‘lucky’ they were. How they by some shade of fate or whatever just happened to have all the right hands in the deck tossed at them so they avoided trauma. We talked that we don’t want the pity or sadness which we sometimes receive from people, we just want them to know damn lucky they are. ie – all we want from others is that they know what they already have.

It’s hard not to get mad at people when they show me pity or sympathy. In my mind these are very different emotions than empathy. Empathy to me is much more of an equalizer  It put both the empathizer and the one receiving the empathy on the same level. There is no ‘looking down upon’ or feeling sorry which pity and sympathy entails. Empathy is not static. It moves with a person and allows someone to heal. Pity keeps a person in a box. A box in which the peson who feels pity towards them sees that the situation that happened to them is ‘so sad’ and makes that individual a victim. There is no room to move away from that box. And I believe that there is no room to move in a relationship when one individual feels pity for another. I believe that the pittyier so to say naturally feels somewhat superior while the one who is pitied tends to feel demeaned.

And to those who do not have trauma nor can they understand my past? I don’t want that pity. I don’t want that sympathy. It doesn’t make me feel loved. It doesn’t make me feel understood. As Brene Brown reported I just want people to know what they already have. I want you or whoever is reading this to be able to feel grateful that you have been spared (if you have) by luck, fate, faith (whatever you believe in) the devastating effects of trauma. Not all are so lucky. I have not been so lucky. Be grateful for what you have and for what you have been spared. As Brene Brown says “look at your life and know what you already have’. That’s all I want or need from you as a survivor.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under coping skills, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, faith, family, friends, Identity, life events, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma