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.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Codependence Looking In

This is something I wrote at my kids' soccer practice.  So much of my marriage has been dealing with my husband's codependency, which goes oh so well with his mother's narcissism.  It just felt like something I needed to write, so I did.

Always needing reassurance
Never feeling complete 
by yourself.  
Confidence is having 
someone by your side
to make decisions for you.
Love for you was
meeting an expectation.  
You didn't get 
the nurturing every
child deserves,
and now as an adult
that child stares back 
from your eyes.
No one can help you
when you won't see
your own reflection.
The lonely child inside you
forever waits for
loving acceptance.

Needing to know
what's happening
at all times.
Never happy
unless you're in charge.
Trust is telling
other people what to do.
If the ones
you loved the most
were in a glass cage
of your making
then you would feel
What others see
as controlling
is what you see
as showing love.
The mirror is broken.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Talking with a Ghost

Mind the tags - this post is about my experience of childhood trauma.  If this triggers you I am very sorry.

There was once a little girl who had a special friend she liked to spend time with.  One night when she was spending the night with her friend the girl found a monster in the night.  She awoke in her friend’s room, but her friend wasn’t there.  She walked down the hallway and heard strange noises coming from the basement.  Walking down into that room, the girl saw her friend and her friend’s father.  Her friend’s father was doing something the girl didn’t understand to her friend, but it didn’t look like her friend liked it.  And it didn’t look like something any grown up should be doing to a child.  So the girl ran across the room and yelled at the man to stop.  The man turned to look at the girl and stared.  He said “I am a man of God.  If this was wrong then God would strike me down.”  He was quiet for a moment then he pointed at the girl. “If you tell anyone I’ll hurt your brothers.  You have to do what I tell you from now on.”  And that was when the girl understood that monsters hide behind familiar faces.

          When I decided to start blogging about what I can remember about my childhood trauma I decided to use a narrative method.  It allows me to talk about what happened and how it felt without fully pouring into that madness.  There are huge chunks in my memory from around the ages of 7-10 and I’m guessing that’s when the abuse happened, but the truth is I just can’t remember.  It’s funny what the human mind will do to protect itself.  In my case I forgot.  I learned to ignore things that didn’t make sense because looking at things too closely would tear down those walls my mind put up.  Forgetting worked for over twenty years, and then things started coming back.  Small things came to me:  I remembered I inexplicably stopped talking to my friend in middle school and never got into another conversation with her until the night we were leaving high school.  I started having dreams about that house.  I started to notice things I had done since childhood – never leaving my bedroom door closed, sleepwalking, and always keeping my finger nails long enough to scratch if need be.  Looking at these things now they all speak the same language:  possible escape.  If they door was open I might be able to get away.  Sleepwalking got me out without me even being aware of it.  And those fingernails could be quite effective in warning someone off. 

          There was a counselor I was working with that I was going to talk to about the trauma once my cancer surgery was done.  But.  He died unexpectedly and I feel like I’m dangling in the wind now.  It is HARD to find someone to open up to about this.  This is not fun to talk about.  It hurts to write about it.  But I don’t want to be a victim to that man of God anymore.  He has no power over me.  And so I’m going to write.  Until I can find another counselor who I feel safe with and won’t make my trauma worse, I will write.  Because this anger/grief/shame/not-feeling-safe needs an outlet.  Writing about this feels like talking about the ghost of my childhood.  I don’t know if I tried to talk to anyone about it when I was a child, but I do know I escaped into books.  Words helped me to survive then and they will now.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Delicate Balance

Last week or so I posted a video on Twitter that had a really good description of narcissistic behavior.  The video's called How to speak to a narcissist and is by Dr. Greg Hamlin and about halfway through it he talks about the title of the video - speaking to a narcissist.  A fellow person who's had a Narcissist in their life (I'll call her Z) tweeted that appealing to a narcissist's needs felt like manipulation.  So I'm going to talk about that a bit cuz it brings up this really interesting point about empathy.

There have been numerous psychological studies done on human children to see if empathy is something we're taught or if it's ingrained.  The general consensus is that it's a combination of both nature and nurture, but that by the age of 9 months most children are capable of showing empathy to another human being.  

When it comes to narcissists there are a ton of theories on why these people are empathy deficient.  Personally I think a combination of things make up a narcissist, but whatever it is that makes them the way they are makes it very difficult to try to understand why someone else would be hurting, or upset, or feeling used.  Anger they can understand, but those more subtle emotions are really beyond their ability to recognize.  Enter into this a person who's extremely empathetic...they get when a person is hurting or upset or feeling used.  They instinctively try to make that other person feel better.  The narcissist will jump all over this person because this person gives their attention to them freely, at least in the beginning.  In a normal relationship (which is what the empathetic person is used to) there is a give and take.  An exchange happens in a normal, healthy relationship (whether it's a friendship or a romance) so that each person receives support and feels like they are appreciated.  Unfortunately, when one person in a relationship is a narcissist, the relationship becomes a vacuum with the narcissist constantly pulling from the other person.  

The great thing about the comment that started this little post is that saying 'it feels like manipulation to appeal to a narcissist's needs' shows that the person making that comment is very high in empathy.  Because if you're worried that you're hurting them, then you're feeling something a true narcissist can't.    

The other thing I wanted to mention is how invested in the relationship the narcissist is.  I haven't seen this discussed much, and have only my own experience with my mother-in-law Narcissist to go by, so take this with a grain of salt.  The example in the video is of someone going to talk to their boss, who is a narcissist.  In this example the narcissist has an investment in the relationship, but it isn't an emotional investment so negotiating both parties' needs might be relatively easy.  Keep in mind I mean relatively easy in terms of dealing with a narcissist.  If the narcissist in your life has no emotional investment in the relationship with you then forget about any negotiations.  If there is an emotional investment then the narcissist may attempt to compromise on some points and the other half of the relationship may get some of their needs met.  But.  That won't happen unless the narcissist is getting something to fill that vacuum I mentioned earlier.  And typically if the narcissist isn't invested then they're getting nothing in that emotional vacuum of theirs from that particular relationship.

So my big take away from this whole thing is - it's good to be empathetic, but you've also got to watch out for yourself.  Self care means stepping back from relationships that leave you feeling drained or vacuumed out.  It really is okay to say no, step back, and leave some people to fend for themselves.  Sometimes as an INFJ and HSP this can be difficult, but not stepping back is worse.  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Loss and Life in General

So far 2016 has not been an easy year for me.  Was given the skin cancer diagnosis on January 21st and things have been pretty par for the course since then.  The trials and tribulations of being married to an adult child of a narcissist (who also happens to be in complete denial of the face that his mother is a narcissist) have not gotten any easier.  This past Monday (March 7) we found out the counselor we've been working with for months died suddenly and unexpectedly.  It affected me quite profoundly and has left me feeling the loss of the support he provided.  At this point I'm not willing to even consider finding another counselor because we put in so much emotional work and I just don't feel like I can do that again anytime soon.  Building a good relationship with any counselor is crucial to getting anything constructive done and I just don't have the emotional energy available for that.  The other part of this, of course, is dealing with Donald's constant need for reassurance at the expense of my feeling of emotional stability.  It's not a good combination and with the death of our counselor the separation will probably come sooner rather than later.  The other major issue with Father Eugene's unexpected death is I'm now left with either finding another counselor who's dealt with childhood sexual trauma before or just dealing with it on my own.  And right now I just don't know how to proceed with that.

Update on the pre-op appointment is next, although if you've got a problem with needles you may want to stop reading here. might be best to talk a bit about the mass that was removed from my right eyelid in December before I get into the pre-op info.  The ophthalmologist at Langley AFB and an assistant removed the bulk of the tumor on my eyelid with a local anesthetic.  This means they used lots of eye drops the numb the hell out of my eye, and finally inserted a needle with general anesthetic several places around the eyelid and finally into the eye itself.  It sucked.  I'm not afraid of needles and could get shots all day long, but having a needled inserted into my eyeball was quite anxiety producing.  After that needle it was a piece of cake.

Now, moving on to the pre-op....the very nice dermatology specialists had several of us folks who were going to be receiving MOHS surgery to have their cancer tumors removed watch a video.  The video was great except that it talked about taking some extra tissue around the actual tumor to ensure all the cancer was removed.  That particular method isn't going to work well with me because there IS no extra tissue on the human eyelid.  The other issue the video raised that concerned me was the fact that is talked about doing multiple sessions of general anesthetic to get all the cancer.

I was less than thrilled by the idea of having a needle go into my eyeball not only once, but possibly several times.  It was a concern I raised with the surgeon who was understanding, but said the only other possibility was to put me to sleep for the day so they could do the removals as necessary.  Being put to sleep was not a thrilling idea either because I need to be able to eat frequently to manage my hypoglycemia.  There are times I'm amazed my body functions at all with the multitude of individual problems it has.  The surgeon was confident he'd be able to remove the mass in one go, but of course he can't guarantee that because once the mass is off they have to cut the skin into layers and look at each layer under a microscope to make sure they got all the cancerous tissue off.  So we decided that instead of having to go through my eye more than once he'd instead go through a nerve in my mouth.  Which I'm much more on board for, so yay I suppose.  The surgery itself is scheduled for May 10 and we've pretty much been told to expect to be at the hospital for most of the day.

The other super great thing that happened is I got the results back from the biopsy done on the other side of my face.  It's showing pre-cancerous (which means it's on its way to becoming cancerous, but isn't quite there yet) which brought me a lecture to do all the things I'm already doing when I'm in the Sun but hey, who's counting wear sunscreen and reapply every two hours, wear a wide-brimmed hat, put on clothing with SPF, and wear sunglasses.  Okay, I don't wear sunglasses all that often because I have prescription glasses, but I guess I'll be wearing them over the summer now.  Ugh.  At least I know when the hell they're going to cut my eyelid now -_-

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Round and Round we go

It's been a couple of weeks since the last counseling session Donald and I went to.  (Feels so odd using the handle of Donald for the spouse since Trump is EVERYWHERE online right now, but that's the name we're sticking with for blogging purposes.)  Overall it was a good counseling session for me.  Not so much for Donald, but that's mainly because he's having to deal with some hard truths and he's so very steeped in denial that it's like his world is crumbling.  

The counselor asked us how we were doing since the holidays and Donald and I just looked at each other uncomfortably.  I've noticed my tolerance for his defense mechanisms and the general bullshit that surrounds his family of origin is pretty much gone since getting the skin cancer diagnosis and this session really showed it.  One of the first things I said to the counselor was that the holidays really showcased for me especially since we'd done all that work in counseling right before the holidays that as long as I'm married to Donald I'll be taking second place to his mother.  (For anyone who's reading this and is confused just follow the NPD and dysfunctional family tags on the blog and you'll catch up really quickly.)  The counselor simply nodded to acknowledge this fact while Donald's comeback was 'I don't think you'll be happy until I cut her out of my life.'  Now.  There's a huge difference between letting your mother control you which is what's been happening the 15.5 years of our marriage and setting healthy boundaries.  Donald is unable to see this because he was raised with the understanding that to show love to your mother is to let her make all your decisions.

I gave the example of the N taking video of Bess over Thanksgiving and lying to her about it.  The counselor agreed with me that this was a breach of trust, especially given that Donald has basically tried to place the N in a position of power over our family.  The counselor castigated Donald for not taking any action in the situation.  There was then a discussion where the counselor advised Donald he really needed to listen to me in regards to boundaries and the overall safety of the kids because my instincts were very good whereas he was too passive.  This was so very validating for me because for YEARS Donald has told me I'm too aggressive in dealing with the N which is bullshit.  I'm building boundaries and standing up for myself and the kids.  But the whole setting boundaries thing goes against everything he was ever taught going up, so of course he'd find it aggressive.  The power differential in his family of origin is ridiculously tilted in his mother's favor, but rather than acknowledge any of this Donald would rather stay within his cloud of denial.  It makes his life with his mother safer for him, but it makes life hell for me and the kids.

The other major thing that came up in the counseling session was what happened when I set a boundary with the N.  She'd sent us both an email that had no text and only had an appointment time at JC Penney portrait studios.  The subject line said pictures for me and the kids.  I asked Donald if she'd said anything to him about this over Thanksgiving and of course she hadn't.  We both felt the email was demanding so I handled it.  I replied to her email with one stating we didn't mind that she wanted pics with the kids, but we did mind that with no prior warning she'd sent us an appointment date and just expected us to comply with it.  I also pointed out that she could've said something to one of us while we were all at the Aunt's home for Thanksgiving.  Finally, I told her that she needed to give us a heads up for anything like pictures with the kids so we could be prepared instead of feeling like we had to drop everything to make this happen.  Her reply simply stated she'd discussed it with Donald over the Summer and she'd take my request into consideration for the future.

After explaining what had happened to the counselor he agreed that she treated me as inferior.  He also praised me for standing up for myself and the kids because Bess hadn't wanted to do the pictures for the simple reason that we'd had no notice.  The boys didn't really care, and that was fine.  Other than the N being an N the thing that really irritated me about the whole thing was all Donald did was try to soothe his mother's ruffled feathers.  He never really backed me up which is basically how this marriage works.  I'm on my own trying to take care of myself and the kids and he's constantly trying to take care of the N.

So goals for the year continue to be:  become cancer free; get gainful employment; and get separated.  Finishing up the last class of this master's degree and it's a doozy.  But it will end and eventually life will become less complicated.  Spring is coming soon and I can't wait to welcome it back ;-)

Monday, January 25, 2016

The one where you find out you have skin cancer

I'm very proud of my cultural heritage and it always amuses me a bit when people are surprised I don't consider myself just 'White'.  The bulk of my heritage is Irish, Italian, and Native American and while I think the only thing I inherited from my Native ancestry are my cheekbones, it's still very much part of me.  Because I got the Irish skin I've always been very careful with it - it rarely tans and often burns.  As a child I broke into awful rashes in the summer that the local doctors could never figure out and finally just said I had an allergy to the sun.  Because of this I've always slathered myself (and the kids now, as well) with sunscreen and taken very good care of my skin. can't really put sunscreen on your eyelid cuz it burns when it gets into your eye.  So it figures the one place I couldn't put sunscreen on would be the place I end up getting skin cancer.  

I had a sty like mass removed from my eye last month because the thing just would not go away on its own.  Got the phone call yesterday from the very nice ophthalmologist who removed it that it was in face, caner.  Nodular basal cell carcinoma to get technical.  I've been looking around online to see what I can find out about it and the good news is most bcc is rather easy to remove.  The crappier thing in my case is I had this thing for probably a good 3 years because I kept getting told it was a sty.  So I get to go see a dermatologist (which isn't a bad idea because I have a ton of moles) as well as a specialist who will perform MOHS micrographically controlled surgery on the remainder of the nbcc because unfortunately when the bulk was taken off they didn't get it all.  As long as the bcc hasn't gone back too far I should be fine and this should be a relatively non-invasive experience.  

I've been reminding myself since last Thursday that the world doesn't stop just because you've been told you have cancer.  Nature is always able to recover after natural disasters and I'm looking at this in much the same way.  Just because I got some shitty news doesn't mean I get to go hide in a hole and if my seasonal depression hasn't put me in that hole yet, this sure as hell isn't going to.  But it is a bit frightening because I've been telling the doctors for at least as long as I've had that thing that I'm just so energy level has plummeted from what it used to be.  And I have no idea if it's from this cancer, or a combination of both it and the L5 radiculopathy that's been continuously eating away at my leg muscles.  Advocating for health used to be something I only had to do for my kids, but for the last few years it seems more and more like I'm doing nothing but this for my own health.  And military health care is not an easy beast to deal with.  It's almost impossible to find an actual doctor (not a PA) who doesn't changes duty stations within 3 years.  I'm beginning to think I just need to get my care switched to the civilian sector so that I have the continuity of the same health care provider instead of having to constantly explain this to every new doctor I get assigned to.

Anyhow, life will continue.  The kids will keep growing, I will finish my degree, the world will keep on turning, and eventually this will be something I can look back on with appreciation for the experience it gave me.  But for now I just want to get through it.  And I'm not going to hide from the sun because that's no way to live.  Just keep on applying that sunscreen and enjoy the time that I have because no one lives forever and no one should.  We all get one life and we just have to make the best of it.  So that's the game plan.  I'll update my blog about this occasionally, but it's not going to overtake my life.  If anything, it will make me even more determined to enjoy what I have.  So I'll be over here doing the self-care thing while the world keeps turning.  And eagerly awaiting the end of Winter.