Saturday, December 31, 2016

Talking about Traumatic Memories

I’ve talked briefly about my traumatic experience, but it feels like it’s time to talk more about it.  Trying to access memories that your mind hid from you because they were just too much to deal with is…well it’s very difficult.  I’ve been reading The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk and it does an excellent job of explaining traumatic memories.  These memories tend to be visceral, jagged, and non-sequential.  They don’t really make any kind of sense because when a person is truly traumatized their rational brain is bypassed and the experience goes straight to their emotional brain.  In other words, the experience is recorded by images, sensations, sounds, smells, but no coherent story. 

One very caring person suggested that maybe I was just picking up on someone else’s experience rather than it having been my own.  Now, I do tend to pick up on everybody else’s stuff (hazards of being an INFJ), but this was different.  Other peoples’ stuff has a fuzzy, disconnected feel to it.  I feel it, but it’s not mind.  When my trauma began to really raise its head the feelings were sharp, discordant, and very much mine.  Traumatic flashbacks are very visceral.  They catch you up and drag you along and all you can do is hang on for the ride and try to put yourself back together afterwards.

The private practice I’m completing my residential hours for my counseling license at has several unique services.  One of these is a brain queue using EEG, otherwise known as a brain map.  I’ve had two done – one before I had any memories from my trauma and another one recently.  The new brain map shows just how big an impact my trauma has had on me.  These are just a few of the things that show up on my recent brain map:  re-experiences intrusive memories; emotional numbing; dissociative episodes; amnestic disorder; mood disturbances aggression, rage; and the biggest one was the evidence of a concussion that I also don’t remember.

I’m going to do doing some more intensive self-help over the next few months.  Very soon I’ll be seeing a specialist who is trained in EMDR to help with the continuing process of dealing with my trauma.  I’m also going to be doing more intensive neurofeedback to help my brain networks operate more optimally and again, help deal with my trauma.  There are some unusual opportunities coming my way and I’m going to do my best to keep myself in good enough shape to take advantage of these opportunities.  All I can really do for now is wake up every morning, do the best I can to take care of myself and my kiddos, and go to bed every night.  The rest will come one way or another. 

To anyone reading this who knows someone else who has experienced trauma – be easy with them.  It takes a great deal of time and patience to effectively feel safe after having a truly traumatic experience.  My brain kept my memories from me for 36 years, so now I get to spend the time I have left nurturing myself.  Healing takes time, patience, and trust.  Hopefully I’ll be able to use some of my skills to help heal myself.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Roll with it

Helplessness is not a feeling I deal with very well.  There have been several times in my life when helplessness became overwhelming (Lightning's birth with transposition of the great arteries and all that entailed being one of them) and I really have to fight not to just curl up into a ball and let the world fade away.  Still haven't pinpointed it (although I'm thinking it had a lot to do with the dolphins celebrating my birthday this year) but something has shifted within me.  Instead of giving in to the helplessness of not being able to do very much about the many things affecting my life right now I'm choosing a different tactic.  I'm going to look at my strengths and do what I can to make small changes in my world.

Having a chronic nerve pain condition along with hypoglycemia has made it difficult for me to do anything physical for long amounts of time anymore.  I can still do a reasonable amount of work, but I can't start a lawn mower.  Accepting that you simply can't do the things you used to be able to do with ease was difficult.  But.  Thanks to my education and my life experience there are lots of other things I can do to help both myself and others.  I've got a plan in works right now that will help a great many people, but I'm making myself wait for it to come together instead of trying to rush it.  The Universe seems to be intent on helping with this, so I'm going to let it come together in its own time.

Another thing I can do to help both myself and others:  There will be a new additional section to my Narcissism Resources post on dealing with a President-Elect who has NPD (that's narcissism personality disorder to any newcomers.)  Quite frankly DT's electoral college win terrified me because I've lived with a person who has NPD in my life and they are just the worst to deal with.  Especially if they're in a position of power.  So...there will be new articles and information available soon in that area.

The kitten we rescued in Hazard, KY ended up being a 2 year old male cat who was so malnourished he looked like a kitten.  Ginger has now been neutered and has his shots (that was a bit of an ordeal, but he was fine when I picked him up) and we're very slowly introducing the two cats.  Calypso is handling it better than I expected her to.  Based on her behaviors now, I'm thinking her previous owner punished her more than praised her.  We're giving her lots of reassurances and attention while letting Ginger get used to being inside the house and so far all is going well.

I'm also going to be doing more tarot readings and posting them here in case anyone else is interested in seeing them.  Part of being an INFJ personality type is getting flashes of crap affecting people and not being able to do a damn thing about it.  It pretty much sucks.  Tarot helps me interpret what some of those flashes are.

Another thing I'm doing more of is EEG neurofeedback at the office where I work.  We have a protcol called Alpha Theta that really helps with PTSD.  Neurofeedback has been helping me cope with some of my PTSD symptoms.  When I do Alpha Theta I will often feel as if I'm making a connection to the Universe that I've been lacking for a very long time.  It's helping me let go of some of the shame and helplessness that CSA instills in children and adults.

That's pretty much it for now.  I'll try to update fairly frequently, but since the Holiday Death Spiral is in full spin don't count on it.  There are cookies to bake, gifts to wrap, and mother in laws not to decapitate.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Tarot Reading: Focus on Election 2016's Ramifications

I began reading tarot cards in my late teens, but didn't really feel proficient with them until my first pregnancy.  All those hormones unlocked my sense of intuition, but it wasn't until I got the first deck that really called to me that the readings became, well, oddly accurate.  I'm out of practice because the birth of my sons threw everything off, but I've been slowly getting the cards back out over the last year.   So after the election results came out I took several days to just get over feeling sick and betrayed, and then it occurred to me that a reading might help.  Cuz why not?  It couldn't make anything worse.'s what the cards and I came up with.

Because my focus was on the election and its ramifications I used my Legend:  The Arthurian Tarot deck.  Its rich mythology correlates well with politics and the many, many people this election has affected.  Also, I'm using my own spread.  The one I made looks kind of like an eye with six cards on top and three on the bottom.  And anytime I have a question or need more information from one of those cards I lay three off of them.

In order of appearance I had the Queen of Swords, Five of Spears, Ace of Swords, Four of Cups, 0 The Fool, Eight of Spears, Ten of Cups, Four of Swords, and Six of Shields.  Now I don't assign any particular order other than I read the top six, left to right then go down to the bottom and read the last 3 left to right.

In this case I started with the first six and what stood out to me (other than my cat Calypso sneaking her way into my reading cuz her duplicate is sitting right there with Morgause) was that I wasn't sure what the Queen of Swords was standing for.  In this deck she's Morgause, who was a very smart, well read woman who made a bit political move for herself in the Arthurian legends.  So I laid three cards off of her to get:  the 4 of spears, the King of Cups, and the 5 of swords.  With the other three I was able to see Morgause represented Hillary Clinton and the Democratic era.  In this deck the 4 of spears shows the wedding celebration of La Cote Male Tail and Maledisant, the King of Cups is the Fisher King, and the Five of Swords is Gawain's Penance.

In putting these 4 cards together they said to me that Hillary had put a ton of effort most of her life into this moment, the 4 of Spears and Fisher King represent Obama's era (working with Hillary Clinton as well), and the 5 of swords is the beginning of the end of that era.

Moving on to the other cards we have the 5 of Spears which in this deck is the Pursuit of Igraine.  So for those of you who don't know, Igraine was King Arthur's mother, but he was conceived through deceit as Uther Pendragon had his army fight Igraine's husband's army while Uther had Merlin disguise him.  In other words, lots of work was put into this.  (It's a very integral part of the legend of King Arhur.)  In regards to the election it actually IS the election.  All the work that ALL the politicians and their teams put into the nasty election we had is right there.  The next card (Ace of Swords) also plays into this.  We all know the election was not pleasant, was sharp and could be compared to a sword or knife cut with all its stinging and swiping.

The 4 of Cups (Fading Fellowship) is the outward end of Camelot and Arthur's vision.  I literally felt the end of the Democratic era the evening of the election.  It damn near made me physically ill.  This card shows decay and ruin, disgust and disillusionment.

Going on to the next one we have 0 The Fool (played by Percivale in this deck.)  This is Donald Trump.  He doesn't know the first thing about running a country, didn't do any preparation, and is going to make a colossal mess of things.  He may gain some valuable knowledge, but we are going to have a shitty time while he's learning.

Next up is the 8 of Spears.  Now this one really jumped out because it's The White Hart which plays a big part in both Arthurian and Celtic mythology.  In Arthurian mythology the White Hart was considered a messenger of the Gods and ran into the banquet hall after the wedding of Arthur and Guinevere.  This caused a series of events to unfold that took a very long time to end.  Merlin advised the knights of Arthur's court that until the series of events were concluded the court wouldn't retain its honor.  Now, my understanding of the Celtic version is that the White Hart is the 'ideal goal' and that one will literally tear oneself to pieces trying to achieve it.  In the view of the election the White Hart represents the ideal goals of both major parties.  And if everyone is trying to gain their ideal goals it's going to create strife around the country.  Expect riots, more hate crimes, possibly a recession before this takes care of itself.  Best thing you can do is take care of yourself and do something if you see other people doing things they shouldn't be doing.  And don't ask me how long that's going to go on, because I have no idea.

So after that doozy the next card was the 10 of Cups which made no sense.  I couldn't see how the hell we got from chaos to the successful completion of a long term goal with nothing in between, so I laid three cards off of it.  The resulting three cards were 1 The Magician, the 6 of Spears, and 9 The Hermit.

So seeing two major arcana cards in those three means something big is taking place.  In this deck The Magician is represented by Merlin, who we've seen influencing other cards in this spread.  Merlin was the ultimate adviser to King Arthur and was also a powerful Druid with mystical powers.  The 6 of Spears is the Return of Ambrosius or commitment to change for the better and gaining control of a worrisome situation.  Followed by that is The Hermit which is Lancelot in Exile or the almighty self-care card after you've been through a horrible time.  When I first laid these three down I thought it was pointing to an actual person, but the more I think about it I think it's an overall movement.  Or the work of several advisers working together.  It signifies once we're through this hell hole we're in right now things will get better, but it's going to take a lot of work and recuperation later.

The 4 of Swords is next which is Isolt of the White Hands and is all about recuperation and healing.  I think this is just reinforcing the message of The Hermit.  It's not going to be an easy time, but healing will take place eventually.

Last card is the 6 of Shields which is the only shield card in this spread and stands for the Castle of Maidens in this deck.  In the Arthurian mythology Galahad frees many women from the enforced prostitution they'd been enduring, then proceeds to give the castle back to the daughter of the old lord of the castle.  Its meaning is receiving help from others, receiving a gift, and an improvement in circumstances.

Here's what the spread looked like when it was finished:

So there's that.  I'm still not sure if The Magician is representing a single adviser or a group of them, but it's clear there will be a big influence either way.  We're going to have to deal with some nasty crap before we get clear of all this, but it will eventually come to an end.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


The evening of the election my intuition spiked and gave me a feeling something horrible was going to happen.  Sometimes it really sucks to be right.  Anyway, now that Trump was given the election by the electoral college rather than the popular vote, change is going to happen.  But I seriously doubt it's going to be the type of change most of his voters are looking for.  Keep in mind this is a man who showed a marked lack of empathy during his campaign.  To expect him to take responsibility for his actions and decry the hateful rhetoric that he inflamed and used during his campaign to the point that nobody should be surprised hateful rhetoric is sweeping the United States right now that many people are enduring on a daily basis is to expect Trump to be a man he simply isn't.  Minority communities are facing hate crimes all over the country and unfortunately that isn't going to stop anytime soon.  When Trump goes back on most of his campaign promises expect his more fervent followers to act out.  This is only the beginning and now we just have to get through it.

Things you can do to help those besieged by hate right now might be uncomfortable, but we should still do them.  Talk to your friends and family members about this ongoing spewing of hateful bias and ask them how they plan to make victims feel safe.  If you see hateful bias happening in front of you, don't just stand there do something.  Go and stand with the person being bullied.  Tell the person doing the bullying to go home.  Offer comfort both to yourself and to the people who are being actively bullied.  If you hear a coworker talking in a hateful or racist way, confront them.  This is a problem on a national level and hoping it will go away on its own isn't going to cut it.

There are many calls for unity by politicians on media right now, but that's just not going to work.  The United States is a festering wound right now, and putting a band aid on it just isn't going to help.  People are genuinely frightened that terrible things are going to happen to them, and telling them to shut up and color demeans what they're going through.

Other things that are probably going to be a concern in the next four years include trade embargos going down the toilet.  Prices will go up and many people are not going to be able to afford the same things they're purchasing now.  I'm currently tossing anything we don't need to gain more storage space for non-perishable food items like rice, beans, and peanut butter.  If you're not the gardening type get to know someone who is because fresh fruits and vegetables are going to get more expensive.  Economically we may experience a higher unemployment rating during the next 4 years.  Here's hoping the economy won't tank into a recession, but I wouldn't count it out.

Friendships may change and family relationships are going to be difficult.  There are going to be people who just want to fall in line and let the world pass them by.  I've never been one who can stand by and watch anyone be bullied or pushed around.  I fully expect some people to stop talking to me when I encourage them to stop being complicit in hateful bias, but I'm not going to stop.  To do nothing in the face of such behaviors would invalidate everything I have ever stood for.

That's all I've got for now.  Take care of yourselves as best as you can and know that there's light at the end of the tunnel.  We will get through this.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Creative Spark

I've been wanting to write this one for awhile, but couldn't really find a good way to begin.  So I'm just going to write, let the words flow, and hope for the best.  Here's hoping it helps others who might be having some of the same issues I have.

This election year has been bad.  It's been the worst election stress wise for the United States as long as I've been an adult who could vote.  Many of the comments by Donald Trump about 'those he doesn't feel he represents' which is basically anyone who isn't rich and white have triggered me.  A friend and I were talking about incidents that happened while we were driving, and the drivers behind us were so obviously stressed and driving erratically that both my friend and I felt we needed to be extra cautionary.  People all over the United States are feeling the stress from the polarization of this election.  I'm in no position to move outside of the United States, but the sheer nastiness that has surfaced during this election has cemented my decision to pursue a doctoral degree at some point for the simple reason that with a PhD I'll be able to get employment outside of the U.S.  2016 has been filled with a gaping void of suck, and like many others I've struggled to deal with it.

Like many times in my life when terrible things happened I turned to the arts to help deal.  Particularly, Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton the Musical and Lindsey Stirling's album Brave Enough.  I doubt very seriously when either of these creative geniuses began writing their music they thought it might help someone through stress and trauma.  But I'm still very grateful to both of them for persevering their vision and releasing it for public consumption.  Both of these works are available for streaming on Amazon Prime if you haven't heard them.  Here are the pieces which have helped me the most, although I really can't say enough for the entirety of both.

Miranda's song Wait For It is written from Aaron Burr's point of view, which is ironic since eventually Burr shot Hamilton in a duel.  But the specific part of the song which speaks to me really speaks to anyone who's survived trauma.  Part of the healing process with trauma is patience with yourself.  The knowledge that you're going to have setbacks and that setbacks are okay because you're still alive, breathing, and better than you were when the trauma was happening helps those of us who are survivors to just keep going.  Sometimes the lyrics of a song jump out of the headphones you're listening to and scream this is you.  That's what wait for it did for me.  Here's the bit that really stands out for me, as sung by the character of Aaron Burr:

Wait for it

I am the one thing in life I can control

I am inimitable
I am an original

I’m not falling behind or running late

I’m not standing still
I am lying in wait

For me specifically, I'm lying in wait to allow myself to heal.  There are so many things in our lives that we can't control, but believing that we can heal, and become whole again is something we can do.  I listen to this song a lot, and thank Lin-Manuel Miranda every time I hear it.

Lindsey Stirling's new album is highly influenced by the death of her friend and band-mate, Gavi.  It is beautiful and bittersweet and is recommended for anyone who loves music.  The three main songs that have been speaking to me on her album are:  The Arena, Where Do We Go, and Don't Let this Feeling Fade.  The Arena is an instrumental track, while the other two are vocal pieces.  I'm not sure what it is about The Arena, but it helps me fight off the feelings of emptiness that my trauma brings.  Where Do We Go quite eloquently speaks of what you do when you've done all you can, and it just didn't work.  Don't Let This Feeling Fade reminds me that good things happen, you just have to remember to look for them.

Sometimes when you're highly stressed out and have been through a traumatic event creativity can help you to process and deal with those weird, convoluted feelings.  Sometimes they can give you a reason to keep waking up and face the world.  So thanks so much to all the artists out there that keep creating.  I promise you someone is looking at what you made and thanking you.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Recommendation versus Reality

So I talked to a friend of mine about this frustration I was feeling watching videos put up by well intentioned psychologists and other professionals on how to get out of a narcissistic relationship.  (Or any emotionally abusive relationship for that matter.)  She was also frustrated (for the same reason I was) so I decided to write about it just in case there are others out there feeling the same thing.

Most of the videos on youtube by mental health professionals on this subject feature a well dressed, older individual who obviously has no financial worries.  In contrast, a lot of the people in these situations are living paycheck to paycheck.  Some of them worry about keeping a roof over their heads for both themselves and their children.  To hear an educated individual tell someone who's already struggling financially to "put some money away in an emergency fund until the time comes when you can leave" almost makes it feel worse.  It makes it feel like getting away to safety is an even more impossible goal because you know you have to choose between the possibility of safety and keeping your kids fed, clothed, and housed.  This is not the best way to be helpful to people with lower socioeconomic status, but I really do think these videos are coming from a well-intentioned place.  Most mental health providers really want to help people, so I think it's just a lack of understanding that many people in these types of relationships just don't have the funds for this type of escape route.

In a perfect world hahaha imagine that cuz it's sure not happening right now there'd be a system set up to help people get out of these types of relationships.  That's not ever going to happen, so here's a bit of fantasy that just might be possible.  Remember the underground railroad?  Something similar could be set up with families or individuals who have money to help out families who don't get out of these awful relationships.  Because the reality is that most of us can't just up and leave.  We don't have the income for that.  But if there was a way for us to flee safely and not have to worry about feeding, clothing, and housing our kids in the beginning, that would make it a viable goal.  And that would give us hope.  In abusive relationships it's sometimes very hard to hold onto the idea of hope.

So there's my fantasy for others like me who can't leave because of basic need issues.  If you are in an  emotionally abusive relationship and you can't leave, don't beat yourself up.  Take care of yourself as best you can just get through it one minute at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time.  If you have children teach them not to take this kind of behavior from others as adults.  And if a time comes when you can get it, don't hesitate.  Take your kids and run because you deserve better than this.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

40 Isn't Half Bad

There was a time in my life I didn't expect to live past 18.  Once I managed that my brain moved it to 25.  After I survived the birth of my first kid (and yes, it was kind of a big deal cuz they almost had to do emergency surgery) I kind of coasted along wondering if I'd make it to 40.  My life has been unique in that I had some massive trauma in childhood that, in order to keep me alive and sane, my brain and central nervous system tucked away into a deep, dark corner.  It stayed in that dark place until I met someone I trusted enough on a level that I wasn't even aware of.  The shitty thing about repressed trauma is that when it does come back, you don't feel safe anymore.  And while there is that aspect of it, I've been dealing with memories coming back whenever they feel like it for 4 years now.  You kind of build up a tolerance.  Although I've definitely got some behaviors I would characterize as symptomatic of PTSD, in general I'm in a better mental and physical place than I've been at for a while.

My birthdays have (for as long as I can remember) been something that I detest.  I'm really not kidding - I HATE my birthday.  It's a day that I never mark on calendars.  I never ask my family or my family of origin to celebrate it.  It's just a day to get past in my experience.  Yes, I'm aware this is not a normal reaction to one's origin on the planet.  In fact, I'm pretty sure the traumatic abuse from my childhood is tied to my birthday in some way.  And I feel like I need to slip in here that this abuse didn't occur by my family of origin.  I doubt they even know about it.  While I suspect what may have happened, I can't remember it and I have to trust my body that there's a reason for this inexplicable hatred of the day representing my birth.

So this year I didn't ask for any gifts (in fact I asked my parental units not to send me anything, which they ignored) but I did go purchase an ice cream cake and make plans to go to the Ft. Monroe beach on the evening of my birthday.  The beach is one of my favorite places to be during the summer, so this was kind of a big deal.  Even though I wasn't doing much, I was doing something for my birthday.  The Universe decided to step in and put on a show and I still can't get the huge grin off my face remembering what happened.

Shortly after we arrived a Naval Air Craft Carrier began making its way from port to the bridge tunnel off to our right.  We've been to this beach at least a dozen times and never had we seen something like this.  I called out to the boys to get their attention right around the same time my husband yelled back at me "Did you see the dolphins?"  There was a pod of at least 20 dolphins swimming just past the buoyed off portion of the beach and I became I ten year old jumping up and down in the water.  It was amazing!  The ever present pain in my body was gone while in the water and we got to see dolphins swimming, playing, jumping, and just generally being themselves about 15 feet away from us.  We've also never seen dolphins at this beach, either.  They hung around for about 40 minutes and the joy I felt was such a strange feeling.  I'm NEVER happy on my birthday, but this year I was.  It didn't feel like my birthday usually feels, it felt like an actual celebration for once.

On the way home I looked over to my left to see a beautiful thunderstorm back lit by the sun setting.  It was yet another amazing moment on a day that I normally struggle to get through.  Perhaps this is a sign that things will be getting better, and brighter than they have been in a long time.  Perhaps I can finally stop hating my birthday and just let it be another day.