Ready to jump out of your skin?

Erratic, sporadic, unpredictable, unforeseeable and out of the blue . . . these are the ways anxious people describe the life events which triggered their anxiety. These life events may be from a childhood spent in a dysfunctional family, a childhood illness, a history of being bullied at home or at school, critical parents, a striving for perfectionism, a yearning for approval and attention, or any of a million other reasons. Somehow, somewhere, sometime, you were blindsided and you started trying to protect yourself by being hyper-vigilant and ever-ready. That constant, unrelenting, exhausting state of tension rules your waking hours and disrupts your sleeping hours.

Just a quick detour before we go on talking about anxiety. Separating anxiety, depression and PTSD are like separating sneezing, sore throats and coughing. You have a cold. You have an internal dissonance and upheaval which prevent peace and serenity — this may be mainly anxiety, predominately PTSD or dominantly depression, but the result is so similar as to be frequently indistinguishable. Anxiety and depression are said to be two sides of the same coin, and I have never, personally, met someone who is anxious or depressed who has not experienced a trauma.

A second detour . . . childhood trauma is the least diagnosed and most overlooked cause of physical and emotional problems in adults. The trauma often manifests in adulthood as anxiety or depression because so many adults minimize the horror and devastation of the tsunami that was their childhood. And it was often the out of left field, unforeseeable, unpredictable, erratic, and sporadic happenings — the moodiness, rigidity, meanness, cruelty, neglect or abuse by parents, caregivers, siblings, and relatives which destroys confidence,  creates confusion, steals self-control and and causes adults to say: “I didn’t have a childhood” — or, “I don’t remember big chunks of my childhood” — or, (my personal favorite,) “Other people had it much worse than I did!”

So, we end up anxious adults. We may learn to fake really well. The anxiety may be internal as opposed to the foot-swinging, toe-tapping, hair-pulling external signs. People always look at me aghast when I say I suffer from anxiety and take anti-anxiety medication. “But you’re so calm,” they argue. Yup. That’s me. Except for inside.

My out of left field experience came when I was in my fifties. My father died, and then two people I trusted implicitly betrayed and abandoned me within a short period of time. I never saw either of those betrayals and abandonments coming. So, I’m a late-in-life anxious person, but my physical body tells the truth: my heart was broken and has been out of whack ever since. That’s my story. Each of us has a story. None of our stories are any more significant or worthwhile or important  than anyone else’s. In the introduction to the PTSD book (The Many Faces of PTSD) I quote Elisabeth Kubler Ross as saying, “It doesn’t matter if the elephant is standing on your little toe or your whole foot.”

Just today a client said to me, “When my father came home from work, we always checked to see if he had that ‘I’m gonna kill you’ look on his face.” It was sporadic, erratic, unforeseeable, unpredictable and terrifying because it always came out of the blue. No identifiable cause. Just the same humiliating, painful effect.

Let’s just take a moment to talk about some immediate anxiety neutralizers: plenty of deep, restful sleep; good, healthy food; a safe environment (I recommend a security system); a supportive faith community; a trusted friend; a therapist and a physician who help rather than panicking; positive self-talk; affirmations; meditation; yoga; exercise; time in nature; and a pet. Sleep is number one for a reason: if you don’t sleep well you begin each day at a disadvantage. You need all electronics and technology off a hour before bed. You need a cool, dark, silent (except for white noise) room. Try herbal teas first. Try a schedule — going to sleep at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning. Next try ONE Tylenol P.M. or ONE benadryl of any kind. As a last resort,. try other over the counter sleep aids and then, if necessary, prescribed sleep medication, preferably not a benzodiazepine. But, if necessary, a benzodiazepine. YOU MUST SLEEP. The body, mind, heart and spirit only heal when we sleep. (A hot bath or shower an hour before bed — when you turn off the technology — is really helpful. The body cools down an hour after a hot shower or bath to the temperature the body is at when the body begins sleeping. At least your body will sleep!) DO NOT keep your phone in the bedroom with you unless you are a brain or heart surgeon who is on call.

If you began your anxiety journey when you were a child, I encourage you to say to yourself, frequently and vehemently, “THAT WAS THEN AND THIS IS NOW.” When you were a child, you were defenseless and vulnerable. Now you are an adult with car keys, a bank account, and coping skills. If your anxiety began as an adult, you are fortunate to have had an anxiety-free childhood which gives you a resiliency anxious kids don’t enjoy. No matter when or why or how, take your anxiety very seriously. Know it has changed your body chemistry. The fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis, or auto-immune disorder from which you suffer are made worse by, or possibly caused by, that unrelenting tension and tightness of anxiety.

One last word for now about anxiety. We will, of course be coming back to this topic. For today, just put this thought in your heart and hold on to it. The bastards and bitches of the world are never anxious. It is only the good guys who CARE and have some degree of sensitivity and compassion who suffer from anxiety (and depression). Some call anxiety and depression, “The price of caring.”

Love to each of you who care from one of you, Susan

 

 

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December 1, 2018 at 9:06 AM Leave a comment

The Holiday Blues

If you are here reading a blog which speaks to and for those suffering from PTSD, depression and/or anxiety, the chances are really good that presently you are feeling the Holiday Blues. Those with any of the triad of what I call The Bermuda Triangle of Misery, anxiety, depression, and PTSD, are sensitive people. Like it or not, we feel things more deeply than others who have thicker skin. We often care more. Our feelings are more easily hurt. We are tender-hearted and empathic. As Carl Jung says, “Our greatest blessings” — and is it a blessing to be sensitive — “are our greatest curses” — and it is a curse to be sensitive.

The Holiday Blues create suffering of many magnitudes, but the Buddhists are clear that suffering is the difference between what is and what we wish it would be. Have you each noticed that the holidays are never quite — or never anywhere near — what you think they should be? Your points of comparison might be childhood memories, romanticized expectations, or scenes from Hallmark cards and movies. I wish I could sit on the floor and watch my brother’s train circle endlessly under the Christmas tree. I have a friend who always expects that this year her family will treat her differently — kindly and with respect, as though they want her there in their midst. The beautiful, perfect, intact family named Hallmark is wildly different from the family — dysfunctional, feuding, sarcastic, disorganized — that bears our last names.

How do we minimize our suffering? We have to come to grips with what we have. What we have is simply what we have, whatever it may be. My ten year old car with the sunroof that doesn’t open is my car. No amount of romanticizing is going to change that. To expect that the next time I go to the garage a different car will be there is only going to make me dissatisfied and unhappy. I’d like a horse and buggy ride in the snow, like on a Hallmark movie. That is not my reality, either. The more I focus on what I don’t have, the more miserable I become. The more I honestly embrace what I do have, the happier I am. I don’t have a car payment, and I’m not freezing out in the snow.

No one has a perfect family. I’ve been a therapist for thirty years and gotten glimpses into a great many families. Every single family has its issues. We are not living a romance novel life, my friends. This is earth school, and it’s challenging. We have to keep our wits about us and remember we are here to learn, not to be coddled and entertained. We forget that we are sacred beings having an experience in a physical body, not humans searching for a spiritual connection.

The Holiday Blues demand a couple contingency plans and a whole batch of self-care options.

Contingency plans: If I find myself home alone, I will do the following things I love and never have time for: (Make a list.)

If I am invited somewhere I do not wish to go I will politely decline with no excuse or explanation — I’m so sorry I can’t. (Rule #1 of assertiveness: NEVER EXPLAIN, JUSTIFY OR DEFEND.)

If I am somewhere and get uncomfortable I will simply say, “Thanks so much. I need to be going.” Oh, but we were just about to . . . eat, play a game, take a walk, etc. “That sounds lovely, but I’ll have to take a rain check.”

Contingency plans keep us from being caught off guard. Contingency plans allow us to be self-loyal. Contingency plans paired with assertiveness work!!!

Self-care options over the holidays range from politely refusing dessert (“The pie looks great, but dinner was delicious and I am quite full, thank you.”) to listening politely and feeling no need to participate in a conversation other than listening, to having a list of things to do if you find yourself with time on your hands. It is Christmas morning, for example, and you are home alone: it is a great time to put a mask on your face, soak in Epsom salts and when you’re clean and beautiful, sit and meditate, read a Christmas story, play Christmas music and do nothing other than relax while listening to it.

We have to be really careful not to let others steal our power or our pleasure.

Viktor Frankl’s lesson from the concentration camps of World War II is an imperative one for us never to forget: We may not be able to control our circumstances or what happens to us, but we can always control our attitude toward those circumstances. In fact, the only thing we can always control is our attitude. When we don’t control our attitude, we suffer. We suffer, as the Buddhists say, because what we have and what we want are two different things. Learning to tolerate and then thrive with what we have is the secret to serenity. Remembering that we are already sacred beings having an earthly experience will keep us calm and cool in the changing tides of earth life.

Holiday Blues BE GONE. I will entertain you no more.

Love to each of you, Susan

 

November 24, 2018 at 9:03 AM Leave a comment

Listening to the Wolves of Yellowstone

“When people talk about the language of wolves, they usually focus on howling, but there’s so much more. Pack rallies culminate in a howl, but before and after that climax, we’ve always heard the wolves making lively conversation — and it’s very clear to me that their vocalizations are expressions of family solidarity. We’ve heard Kamots talking discreetly to his timid brother when Lakota needed encouragement. Wyakin and Wahots, inseparable siblings, would converse with each other as they’d gang up on their littermate, Chemukh. Amani and Motomo would sometimes work together to outsmart their leader, Kamots, and snatch extra food, and we could hear them hatching plans in their quiet voices before springing into action. It has occurred to me that most wolf observations take place at a distance that is too far away to hear such subtle language. Only because the Sawtooth Pack awarded us their trust and allowed us to live within their territory were we able to hear them. It proved to me that wolves are interacting all the time, touching base with each other, communicating moods and reaffirming their family bonds.

The years after Wahots, Wyakin, and Chemukh joined the pack were the richest years of our project. We watched as the Sawtooth Pack grew from a mellow clan of five males, to a proper pack of six males and two females, and at last to a dynamic family of 11. Whether it was their adoption of Wahots, Wyakin and Chemukh or the arrival of their own litter of Ayet, Motaki, and Piyip two years later, the Sawtooth wolves rejoiced when their family grew. That is not to say there were not family squabbles. Lakota may have had to endure the omega status at the bottom of the hierarchy for many years, but he was as much a cherished member of the family as any of the others. He always ate, he howled with the group, he played with his packmates, and he helped raise the pups.

We have marveled at each individual wolf’s intelligence and been fascinated by observing each unique personality, but the family bond shared among these wolves is what we have admired the most. Caring for the young ones — and for each other — was the central mission in their lives. A wolf is impelled by many individual desires — it wants to breed, hunt, perhaps explore — but its most profound desire is the one that touches us at our very core as human beings: A wolf wants to belong.”

During this Thanksgiving week may we each feel sharply and clearly that we belong to the family of man. We are each unique, “impelled by many individual desires,” but may we, as members of the pack, always remember our most profound responsibility and embrace it as our dearest desire: “to care for the young ones and for each other.”

My thanks to Jim and Jamie Dutcher who lived for years in the Idaho wild so they could bring us their fascinating book: The Wisdom of Wolves

Also, thanks to each of you for your incomparable and unequaled role in enriching the lives of many, including me. Love, Susan

 

 

November 17, 2018 at 9:40 AM Leave a comment

Getting Out of Bed

Depression is exhausting. Depression is isolating. Depression is a state many of us visit, but depression is a state where some people live.

If you are one of the people who suffers from a depressive disorder — and there are many such disorders which have many different causes and a multitude of different symptoms — I’m willing to bet that the biggest challenge of the day is “Getting Out of Bed.”

What is it that makes it so difficult to get out of bed?

Bed is where we sleep. Anxious people sleep fitfully, trauma survivors sleep lightly, always listening and on guard, but depressed people sleep and sleep and sleep. I’ve known depressed clients who sleep 16 – 18 hours a day. I think the long slippery slide into depression is so wearing and tiring that by the time a person is actually “depressed,” clinically depressed, they have no reserves of energy, imagination, or ambition. They’re flat and feeling futile.

People who are sleeping are not expected to do the dishes, engage in conversation, or close a business deal. They are not expected to brush their teeth, comb their hair or be well-dressed. There is virtually no pressure on people who are sleeping.

Once one gets out of bed, though, the world starts with the expectations.

Something really sad happens when depression sets in. When you break your leg, you are physically limited. When you lose a job or a marriage or a loved one, you are emotionally changed. When you have memory problems or intellectual challenges, you have mental issues. However, when you are depressed, you are physically lethargic, emotionally bereft, and mentally in a fog which keeps you from being able to think and function. Depression is a total physical, mental, emotional disorder.

Professionals will tell you that if you are depressed and there is a cause, you shouldn’t worry. It’s when you are depressed and there is no cause that you should be concerned. I think that’s much too glib an explanation. MOST, if not all depression, starts with a cause. Sometimes the cause is visible, conscious and socially acceptable — like the death of a loved one. In that case, people are usually willing to give you a certain “allotted” amount of time — six months to a year, usually — and then you are expected to “snap out of it” and get back to “normal.” For one thing, the depression has changed your body chemistry. You now have your very physiology fighting against you. Secondly, all the causes of depression, like grief, are complex. If you’ve had a “complicated grief,” which, of course results from a complicated relationship — say the person who died was your father who was a deacon in the church and beloved in the community but who was an abuser at home with his family — now, there’s some complicated grief. And that’s just an example.

Also if you happen to be a sensitive person, an NF on the Myers-Briggs, your grief is not going to be tied up and put in a box very quickly. You are the kind of person who feels things deeply and needs time to digest and process. Also, if you take more than one hit at a time — lose your mother and get left by your husband –get down-sized at work and watch your wife die of cancer –again, just examples, you will not be bouncing back in the “prescribed” time. In fact, I dare say you are very likely to slide down the slippery slope and into a deep, dark well of depression.

Different situations, different times of life, different temperaments all lead to different outcomes. I want to take my broom to people when I hear them say, “What does she have to be depressed about?” Do not ever use those words around me. Unless you have walked three miles in her moccasins, you have no right to be anything other than kind and empathetic. Three of the most depressed people I ever worked with were among the best fakers I ever met in my life. All three were teachers, interestingly, and parents. When needed, they held their students in the palms of their hands and parented their children with finesse and wisdom. Then, in the silence of their own thoughts and feelings, they slid deeper and deeper into the well the longer they were called on to “fake good.”

And then, to top off the heaviness and the burden, there is the spiritual piece of depression. Here is the drivel and lie that others tell us if we mention to church friends that we’re struggling: People of faith are not supposed to be depressed. If you are a person of faith suffering from depression, you apparently are not very faithful, or you would not be depressed. (Henri Nouwen and Mother Teresa both suffered from severe depression all their lives.) The three most depressed clients I mentioned earlier are all Christians who have been slammed with the false requirement that Christians, for example, are not supposed to be depressed. So, there’s the blow that often takes people down. “I can’t even do that right! God is disappointed in me because I don’t have enough faith to fight off this depression.” Once again, do not ever use those words around me.

Let’s see: you can’t take medication because that makes you weak. You can’t talk about how you feel because that makes you a failure in your faith community. You haven’t “snapped out of your grief,” or gotten over your abuse, or recovered from your losses. You have no energy to meet your friends, no stamina to keep yourself together in the face of your robust, clueless family, and no belief that things will ever get better. That about sums it up. You are depressed.

I wish there was a magic bullet, a syllabus of do’s and don’ts, a template for how to climb out of the well, but there is not. You slipped into depression slowly and you will recover from depression slowly. Most of the work to be done to “bounce back” is solitary and PAINFULLY SLOW. Obviously, having a therapist to walk the path with you will really help, as will a supportive spouse or best friend who simply listens and doesn’t judge. But it can be an arduous journey. Like recovering from devastating physical challenges, most of the work will be done by the patient, and most of the work will be a battle of the voices in your head.

We all have voices. We have our own tentative, hopeful voice which tells us our truth. Then we have the other voices. One of my clients used to call these external voices “the chorus.” The chorus can get deafening. Most of the things they say begin with SHOULD, OUGHT TO, HAVE TO AND MUST. Those are the warning signals that you are immobilized between loyalty to yourself and the lessons of your family, neighborhood, church, school, scout leader or news commentator. Although my experience with people’s choruses is that their mothers and fathers are the main soloists. Just saying.

Be brave, pace yourself and focus on what you need to be true to yourself. It is lovely to have someone to walk this lonesome valley with you, but, most importantly, you need to be your own best friend by listening to your own voice and following your north star.

Peace as we do the best we can, and some days that is simply to breath. It is enough. Love, Susan

November 10, 2018 at 10:15 AM Leave a comment

A Season without Reason

More cause, my friends, for trauma reactions, anxiety and depression. It feels like a season without reason, this season of violence. In each of us the horrific news elicits a different response. My college roommate was from the Squirrel Hill suburb of Pittsburgh. She writes that they are heartbroken that this recent hate crime happened three minutes from the quiet street on which she grew up. The week before it was a shooting in Kentucky which corresponded with my spending that week with two friends who had grown up in the same area of Kentucky. We are all closely touched, traumatized, fearful and sad.

Meanwhile the political drama escalates to pipe bombs and attempted murders. It isn’t enough that they decimate and denigrate each other, the Democrats and the Republicans, but now the stakes have risen, thanks to a fanatical fringe, and we have the pawns of the fear mongers and haters translating their speech into action.

A New York Times column this week by David Brooks was titled, “After the shooting there’s always a lonely man.” This lonely man lived in his car or flew under the radar or seemed nice enough, although nobody ever talked to him. Or he plastered the internet with hate-filled speech, but who knew he was going to act on the speech. Or his van was covered with pro-Trump signs interspersed with pictures of Trump’s opponents caught in the crosshairs of a gun. And the perpetrator seems always to be “a lonely man.”

Everything in life, including sanity and safety relies on, in the words of David Brooks, “a network of relationships and connections and trust.” This network “is failing,” he concludes.  Everything about society today has become impersonal as we have moved, in the last generations, from our stable small communities to a mobile, disconnected metropolis.  We don’t know our neighbors, we don’t see our families, and we don’t feel supported by our co-workers. It’s every man for himself. Sex precedes a relationship, marriages are expendable, churches are closing by the droves, and kids are increasingly coming home to empty homes where they fend for themselves for meals and homework. Children are learning how to become adults from television shows and X-Box games. People on buses have their heads down and are playing Candy Crush on their phones. People at the gym walk around with earbuds and vacant stares.

Loneliness is the epidemic of this season without reason. Money, not kindness or loyalty or compassion, is the currency of this season without reason. Hatred is the underlying emotion of this season without reason. Hatred of what? As Alana Levandoski sings in her song, “Divine Obedience,”hatred of anything different.  (Go to the See all the Updates section under the petition at bit.ly/barmentoday to find the link to Alana’s song which begins: “The sheep’s clothing came off.” In the twenty-four hours after she released this song, Alana lost 130 followers. Be sure to LIKE her if the song moves you as it has me.)

We are actually lucky there isn’t more crime resulting from this gigantic, gaping disconnect. (Surely, there are many, many more lonely men and women than there are lonely men and women who have turned violent as a result of their soul-destroying isolation.) David Brooks calls these people “the rippers.” They are ripped asunder and so they rip others. Richard Rohr calls these people “the transmitters.” In marriage and family therapy these are the people who pass their ripped material from one generation to the next, things like sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, nastiness, ridicule, hatred, betrayal and cowardice, not to mention alcoholism, drug addictions and criminal behavior that ranges from cheating on taxes to neglect and abandonment of the most vulnerable in society. Much of the ripped transmission is against the law — all of it is immoral.

As far as I can tell we have only one yardstick by which to measure our responses to this dilemma: What is under our control and what is not? If we can’t control it — like I can’t control the tone of the political ads — we can’t really do anything about it. We have all learned, however, that where we put our money influences advertisers, companies and even politicians. I may not be able to get the negative ad off the television, but if I and a few million of my closest friends refuse to support any politician who uses smear, insult, hatred, racism and division, we might be able to get the politicians to cut back and nicen up. I remember hearing a police officer who spoke to our neighborhood meeting tell us that the best way to keep our neighborhood safe was to acknowledge and engage strangers. If someone walked or drove through the neighborhood and we smiled at them and talked to them, they were very unlikely to commit any crimes in our neighborhood. We can control who and what we support and who and what we open our arms and heart to.

We all know “that lonely man.” I ran into him, although it was a her, in the grocery store last week. She definitely needed a human connection. She was talking to herself, so I joined the conversation. And I have friends and acquaintances from Utah to Virginia to Alabama who are withering from loneliness. I need to up my game. I can control sending a text, an email, a card or a note. When is the last time you got something handwritten in the mail? How did it make you feel? Who do you know who is in a health care facility or is homebound? We all know people. It may make us feel awkward to go visit someone, but the joy we give and the difference we make in a life is measurable. I worked with a client today who “fakes good” most of the time, but when I read her Facebook posts I can hear the loneliness, isolation, and despair. I don’t have to limit my contact, care or prayer to the one hour a week when she’s paying me.

David Brooks calls us “the weavers.” We are re-weaving the torn and tattered fabric of society. We can give this season a reason, each of us. We can make this the season of awareness and action. It doesn’t have to be big or constant. It doesn’t have to cost anything but some time and some thoughtfulness. Richard Rohr calls us the “transformers.” He says we either transmit what was given to us, or we transform what we were handed. In therapy sessions I have been so impressed by the  clients who refused to pass on what they endured. By sheer grit and determination, they have become weavers and transformers. This is the most we can ask of ourselves. Those who do this I call courageous.

Love and peace as we transform this season and weave new, soul-sustaining connections, Susan

 

November 3, 2018 at 10:32 AM Leave a comment

A Season of Fear

I know it’s Halloween, but that is not the season of fear which I . . . fear. I fear what is happening in our country in this present unfolding of what I can only call insanity. Most puzzling, how can the unwavering, unquestioning base of Donald Trump be evangelical, fundamental Christians?  It was my understanding that this large group of believers took the Bible literally. Jesus says there are two commandments: Love God and love your neighbor. It is really quite simple and straight forward.

When we love God, we embrace the divinity of God which resides as DNA in each of us. We each have a soul, and this soul we each have is a part of God tucked within us like a homing device so that when the time comes, we know the direction home to God’s arms. Loving our neighbor is equally transparent. We are COMMANDED, by that God we love, to love our neighbor as ourselves. I would not beat myself up, as supporters of Donald Trump have been asked to do to protesters; mock myself, as Donald Trump has done to sexual assault survivors; belittle myself as Donald Trump has done to disabled people; name-call (“rapists”) as Donald Trump has done to whole cultures of people. I would not step in front of the Queen of England or keep the umbrella over myself so my wife was pummeled by the rain and I was snuggy dry. How are any of these things examples of loving thy neighbor, or thy wife — whom I believe Paul tells husbands to treat like Christ treats the church — as thyself?

I have spent the last three weeks blogging about anxiety, depression and PTSD because all three of the major mental health issues have been triggered by recent, unfortunate and despicable events. (I haven’t even gotten to the children in cages.) Yet good Christian people continue to support Donald Trump and this administration. Good Christian people continue to assist and allow this president and this administration to put the financial gain of the few — the owners of coal mines, for example — ahead of the lives of their workers or the health of the nation.

I think it comes down to two questions: #1: Are we our brother’s keeper or is it every man for himself? Questions #2: Do we value money or human dignity and human rights? We are at a crossroads in history. Civilization has gone both ways over the course of time.

What matters to you? And what are you willing to do about it?

Your answers decide whether anxiety, depression and PTSD will exponentially expand or slowly but surely decrease. As long as we live in a culture and season of fear, only one thing will happen: things will get worse and people will get more desperate and the situation will become more dire. Fear begets fear.

The antidote to fear is faith. In what do you put your faith? What is rock solid in your life and in your belief system? If your faith is in people, as mine so often has been, I hope you fare better than I have. Is your faith in money and the financial system? Is your faith in industry, the stock market, or your bank? Look back at history. All of these human inventions have failed people as has human love and devotion.

Choose your loyalties carefully. Guard your heart and your pocketbook and your home.

I pray for each of you that where you place your faith turns out to be a solid investment which will not let you down.

I read something interesting today which came from an author and a book which I didn’t particularly like, but I think this conclusion on his part is spot on: Our prayers are answered when we realize that we have people gathering around us, God beside us, and  a growing feeling of strength, power and courage within us. (From Rabbi Kushner When Bad Things Happen to Good People.)

We are anxious when we feel dependent on our own resources. We are depressed when we feel alone and unprotected. We are survivors of PTSD because humans have let us down.

God bless you each as you put your faith in something greater than, more dependable than, and wiser and kinder than, anything human.

Namaste, my friends.

October 27, 2018 at 10:25 AM 1 comment

A PTSD Quiz for survivors of sexual trauma among other brave, courageous souls.

Does posttraumatic stress disorder have a grip on your life?

Ask yourself these questions:

#1: Do you feel like you have survived a trauma, and after the trauma your whole life changed, and you are still in some way suffering from the trauma?

#2: Do you have secrets?

#3: Have you forgotten segments of your past?

#4: Do you feel like an air traffic controller, constantly searching the skies around you for incoming danger?

#5: Do you start panicking if there’s nothing wrong and things are going smoothly?

#6: Are you a wreck unless you are in control of everything in your life?

#7: Are you overly passive, trying never to make waves?

#8: Are you overly aggressive, uncomfortable unless you’re calling the shots?

#9: Do you have trouble (probably BIG trouble) trusting people?

#10: Do you prefer animals to people?

#11: Do you have gastro-intestinal problems like IBS, acid reflux, or Crohn’s?

#12: Do you have physical problems which are difficult to diagnose but disabling, like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, or intolerance to dairy or gluten?

#13: Are your tears uncontrollable? Either you can’t get them to start or you can’t get them to stop?

#14: Do you have nightmares?

#15: Do you awaken in cold sweats?

#16: Do you have flashbacks, where you feel transported to a past trauma?

#17: Do you think or see or smell or feel or hear things which aren’t there in real time?

#18: Can you read people extremely well?

#19: Can you sense the energy of a good person or a bad person?

#20: Do you hate surprises, even good surprises?

#21: Have the events of the last few weeks catapulted you back to some trauma of your own?

#22: Are you enraged that a trauma survivor would be questioned instead of believed?

#23: Do you feel dirty or ashamed or guilt-ridden because of things which were done to you in the past?

#24: Is it difficult for you to understand that PTSD is a disease of anger because you were an innocent victim of someone else’s despicable behavior?

 

So, how’d you do? Any of these apply to you? Many of these apply to you? This is just the tip of the iceberg of the symptoms people experience when they suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder. PTSD teaches you that this is an unreliable, undependable, unpredictable world, and you better not let your guard down or you’ll be very, very sorry. It isn’t safe to trust people or believe what they say, and things are rarely as they appear. If you don’t know what’s happening every moment and aren’t in control, YOU ARE NOT SAFE. When you do feel safe, if you ever do, you had better get your radar turned back on, because this safety you feel is a tricky illusion and not to be trusted.

If this is you, please know there is help available. Knowledge is power, and awareness is 90% of every battle. If this is you, become aware that PTSD is the name of what you suffer from. Here are some things that help: Therapy; reading about PTSD; medication (as holistic as possible); meditation; physical exercise; learning to breathe deeply and evenly and slowly; joining a group of other PTSD survivors and working together to understand and reduce PTSD symptoms (under the eye of a trained mental health professional); studying your faith and deepening your reliance on it. These are just a few of the ways you might begin to turn the corner from being controlled by your PTSD to being in control of your PTSD.

Anger and rage are the predominant emotions of PTSD.  Because your control was taken away from you, you are enraged and mad as hell. How dare anyone control me, my body, my mind, my heart, and my soul? No one should ever be able to control another human being. That is why trauma and abuse resulting in PTSD, on the battlefield or in a home, as an adult or as a small child, is simply and unequivocally WRONG.

Seek therapy. Try to find a marriage and family therapist as our training is especially appropriate for PTSD. If you cannot find a therapist, send me a text (330.687.0707) or an email (sraustocker@yahoo.com) and I will do everything in my power to help you find a GOOD therapist. In lieu of that, I will do phone sessions with you. We will find a way to get you qualified, compassionate help.

I know that Christine Blasey Ford has triggered the nation. God bless her for her strength and courage. Now so many of us can get the help we need and deserve.

Be of good strength and know that this will all turn out right.

Love, Susan

I had this blog ready to go when I received an amazing gift. As many of you know, I am one of the seven authors of Barmen Today. (If you haven’t heard of Barmen Today and/or have not had a chance to read it, see bit.ly/barmentoday to read the declaration and, should you choose, join the more than 3,000 signatories of the petition.) Alana Levanowski, a professional musician, read Barmen Today and was inspired to write a song based on the message of the declaration. Here’s the link to her blog on which she explains and debuts the song. You can also hear her on youtube and/or Facebook. The song is entitled “Divine Obedience.” She sings, “There comes a time.” My dear friends, that time is now.

https://www.alanalevandoski.com/sundaysongandrumination

 

October 20, 2018 at 3:56 PM Leave a comment

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