Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Flashbacks from Dealing with Pain/Intense Emotions

About a week ago Tempy, from Crackers & Juiceboxes posted a blog entry about how being suicidal (whether you ever attempt or not) is in itself a traumatic event that can continue to haunt you even after you are no longer suicidal. Click here to ready Tempy's post. The truth of this realization and concept really resonated with me. Being someone who was chronically suicidal for close to 5 years and who prayed for death years before that, I am filled with intense anxiety any time I have feelings that are remotely similar to those I felt when suicidal.

Yesterday, I spent a lot of my session with therapist talking about something I've recently realized and how it's proving to be a challenge to me in my current life. My realization: feelings feel the same no matter what the situation. Sadness feels like sadness no matter what the situation that caused the sadness. Excitement, anxiety, fear, happiness, anger - they always feel the same even if the situations evoking the feelings are as different as night and day. For example: Anxiety about starting a new job resonates the same way in me that anxiety surrounding a memory or flashback does.

As a result, days that I am sad or depressed due to (sometimes normal) present day issues, can lead to panic attacks and irrational fears if not cognitively challenged because the association of these feelings with the low, scary, nearly impossible place I was in 3 years ago is sooooooooooo strong. Because these feelings were associated with me just trying to stay alive for so long, the association is automatic. I have to consciously make myself separate them out. I have to constantly remind myself that a bad day today does not mean I am automatically headed into another 5 year stint of being chronically suicidal. Panic tends to set in quickly when sadness, anxiety, or depression are strong b/c there is a HUGE fear of returning to the place that we were. My initial reaction is to think I'd rather die than go back there again. I'd like to differentiate that I am not suicidal when I have these thoughts, but more it just shows how huge our aversion of living like that again is. In these moments, it's almost as if I'm having flashbacks and some PTSD around my adult years of trying to work through my past and surviving my present.

Last evening I had the honor of talking to a friend of mine who has lived through things that I can't even imagine. Our lives are so different, but oddly we always seem to be in the same general spot in healing. I do believe her feelings and struggles are more intense than mine b/c she lived through more years of abuse and more intense abuse. I don't say this to downplay what happened to me, but more to validate her struggles. Sometimes I believe she feels like a failure in her fight b/c she compares her functioning to that of other abuse survivors who just didn't live through the same intensity and severity of abuse that she endured. Last night my friend was very panicked and she was having trouble being grounded. It was hard for her to form her thoughts, but the more she was able to share what she was feeling and thinking, the more it felt like she was living what I'd just been talking to therapist about an hour earlier. Most of her sentiments revolved around saying that she couldn't go back to that life of being chronically suicidal... of day in day out struggles to just breathe. She had experienced some rough feelings and memories recently (she's going through more tough therapeutic work). I am not an expert, but it appeared to me that the depression, anxiety, sadness, etc. that she was feeling seemed to be panicking her more out of a fear of returning to the place she used to be than b/c the present feelings were too overwhelming. It appeared as if she was in a flashback from 2 years ago when she was barely alive more so than that she was in a flashback from her childhood.

Speaking to her last night validated my belief that surviving memories, feelings, and therapy as an adult can have traumatic implications that may often times get overlooked b/c even clients don't give their struggles as an adult enough credence. Please hear me. THE PREVIOUS STATEMENT IS NOT BASHING THERAPY. I would have been dealing with all of this whether I was in therapy or not. Therapy and the care, concern, and respect of my counselor is what kept me alive. I merely am just trying to share my realization that the intensity of what one may feel as an adult when having to deal with childhood abuse can be traumatic in and of itself. This realization has actually helped me combat some present day panic attacks b/c I can reality test and call my feelings what they truly are - not a backslide, but a fear of backsliding into that hell hole of a living space. It's for sure not a magic cure, and it doesn't work every time, but many times it can help to keep feelings manageable and not overwhelming.

I guess calling a spade, a spade truly does have it's benefits.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A new wall goes up

Yesterday in therapy, I was telling therapist that it felt like there was a ton going on in my head - parts running this way and that way - and it felt pretty organized. I also told her that I wasn't able to see what was going on in my head - like it was being blocked from my view. I was having some anxiety about it yesterday, but therapist and I were both hoping I was overreacting... that it would turn out to be nothing...

Well, it's definitely not nothing. I'm not saying it's the end of the world. I don't know. This could have a relatively easy solution, but I have no clue right now. All I know is that in the past 24 hours, a massive wall made of stone has been built internally separating me and a few other parts from the rest. It appears to be soundproof, and I haven't found a way over or around the wall yet. Those left on this side of the wall are those of us who "run our external life" on a daily basis. It appears as though everyone else has voluntarily gone or possibly been forced to go to the other side of the wall.

I find myself in a mixed space. On one hand, I can think a lot more clearly right now than I've been able to in weeks, and I'm not feeling overwhelmed by any feelings or memories. This is nice. On the other hand, when things like this happen, it's usually followed by a wild and tumultuous ride. So far we've survived them all, so I have hope for this one too, but that feeling of dread coupled with not knowing exactly what or when something will happen or how easy or difficult it may be is rather anxiety provoking. I hate being left in the dark!

Yesterday I was telling therapist how I am learning that I do just have to sit and wait with this stuff. I can't make anyone share, process, or heal any faster than what they choose. I had a lot more control the first 'go round when we were primarily dealing with my stuff even though I didn't realize it then. Dealing with memories and feelings that aren't originally mine but belong to another part of me is a whole new ballgame... new rules to learn apparently... and one of the biggest of those is patience. I've gotten used to attacking issues head on, and these I cannot until the one holding them chooses to share.

So for now, I'm going to try and enjoy my weekend. If nothing has changed by Monday afternoon, I'll talk to therapist about it and get her opinions. Going to do my best not to push anything for now. Maybe letting everyone be for a few days and leaving this new wall as is for now is the best way I can be helpful.

I swear sometimes understanding my brain is like trying to find your way through a maze in the dark with no flashlight.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Slowing Down and Relaxing

Hey everyone! I'm still here. It's my Spring Break, and I've really been taking time to slow things down a bit. I've used the past few days to catch up on things I'd been putting off and to rest. I've also not delved into too much internally. Everyone and every thing's still there, but I've allowed myself some time to recuperate. There is much work to be done, but I am learning the importance of downtime and not always barreling ahead into the next task/issue to overcome.

It's okay to rest and I don't have to go out of town to do so. This is such a hard concept for me to grasp. In the house I grew up in, downtime was wasting time. You could lie down if you were sleeping or if you were sick. Otherwise, there were things to do and resting for 'no good reason' was wasting the day. While I believe in being a hard worker and being productive, I am learning that downtime is just as important. I think many times I apply this same "go, go, go" attitude to my therapeutic work. As long as there's work to be done, I shouldn't be resting. I can rest when it's all done. This approach to therapy does NOT work. It runs me into the ground. I become overwhelmed and exhausted.

I wish I could explain why I always feel I'm on a time crunch with therapy. Things will be worked through in good time. Healing will come. Yet somehow, if it's not on the time frame I feel it should be on, I naturally assume that I'm not working hard enough on healing myself. Sometimes I really wonder where I get these crazy ideas.

My life is good. I have so many blessings. I really am okay with where I am in my life right now. What am I trying to rush through? Where am I trying to get? Sure, I'd like to get through these most recent struggles and memories, but why am I racing with myself to do so?

Anyways, I'm trying to use this break as a chance to just let myself rest. If things need to be discussed in therapy, we'll discuss them. However, a break in my job doesn't mean that I have to amp up the therapy work just because I have the time. I'll post again soon. Until then, just know that I'm here, trying to rest and not be so hard on myself.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why I don't want to be a School Counselor...

I wanted to write this post over the weekend, but I never found the time. Now I think I’m glad I had a few more days b/c I have even more clarity on the topic.

I graduated in December with my School Counseling degree. I got my Master’s in Counseling back in 2005. Individual and small group counseling is what my heart’s always been drawn towards, but for many years my own issues kept me from being in a place to truly support my clients like they deserved. I worked an administrative and research job for 3 ½ years after graduating in 2005. The job was okay, but my heart wasn’t in it. I still wanted to do counseling, but after several hospitalizations and warnings from my inpatient treatment team that pursuing mental health counseling as a job could be very detrimental to my well-being, I gave up on the idea of using my Master’s degree.

Still wanting to be in some sort of counseling, I went back to school and obtained my Ed.S. in school counseling. It’s a stressful job, but in very different ways than mental health counseling. While I was in school, I had a graduate assistantship in the counseling office on campus. Since I had my master’s degree, they set me up in an office and had me counseling college students. I'll admit it. I was nervous about doing real counseling, but my heart still wanted to give it a try. I LOVED it!! I liked the one on one time with my clients. I liked getting to know them. I liked being able to talk to them for a good 45 minutes to an hour. It turns out, I’m not too shabby of a counselor either. I for sure still have TONS to learn, but it’s cool knowing that I helped some people during my time there.

For the past 6 weeks, I’ve been working as a school counselor at a local high school for a counselor who’s been on maternity leave. I don’t mind this job. I like the people I work with, and schools desperately need school counselors. With that said, I know without a doubt that this is NOT what I want to do for the rest of my life. Last Friday and yesterday gave me a tangible example of why this job will never be satisfying for me.

A student brought a doctor's note in on Friday on a prescription pad. The doctor had written a prescription for this student to listen to her iPod whenever she wanted due to severe anxiety and depression issues. Obviously schools don't allow this, so as a guidance department, we had to inform the teachers and work out a plan so this student could listen to her music when she got overwhelmed. After only 5 weeks on the job, I found myself rolling my eyes at this doctor's prescription. I automatically assumed this student had her doctor snowed, and I assumed this doctor must be a quack. See, as a school counselor, you're forced to make judgments about students all the time. You must decide who is really in crisis and who just wants attention. You can't talk to a student just b/c they walk in and want to talk b/c every minute you spend talking to them is a minute they're not in the classroom running. On top of that, you have about 400 students you're in charge of and have to meet the needs of. Students need to know you're there, but you must have even more strict boundaries about what that means. All we have time for is "band-aid" therapy. If students need extra help or long-term therapy, we refer them to a community counselor or social worker.

Anyways, I didn't think much about it that morning. I didn't personally talk to the student, and I was running in a million different directions that day. Later in the day, I received a call from the principal asking me to call that student up and talk to her. This student had her cell phone taken up b/c she had it out and our school has a strict 'no phone' policy. Our principal was enforcing the punishment, but she did want us to check on the student and make sure she was okay. I called the student up and talked to her for about 15 minutes. My heart sank. This poor girl really does have major anxiety issues.. and not faked ones. I could see so much of what I feel a lot of the time all over her face and in her body movements. She desperately needed someone to care and support. Obviously I couldn't reverse the punishment, but I let her talk. I asked her to share with me what helps her anxiety decrease and we worked on simple stuff like deep breathing and reality testing in my office. I did call this student's mom for her. The mom agreed to come by the school at the end of the day and pick up the girl's cell phone. If a parent comes and gets the phone, they can get it at the end of the same day it's taken up. Otherwise, the student doesn't get the phone back for 2 school days (in this case it would have been over a weekend too). I was able to send the student back to class a little less shakey and with a small smile on her face. I thought this was enough to convince me that I didn't want to be a school counselor who barely got to be there for the people she works with. I wanted to be a counselor who really helps people work through their issues and helps them help themselves through it.

Yesterday, I saw this student again briefly. It was for a completely unrelated matter, but she walked in my office, sat down in a chair and smiled at me. I got the chance to ask her about her weekend and make sure she was able to get her cell phone Friday afternoon. It's obvious she still has constant anxiety issues, but I made a small difference for her, and I could see it in her eyes on Monday. I want to be able to do this on a regular basis - not on the random occassion that my job allows.

This job ends on Thursday. I don't have another job lined up, and husband and I are moving to another state in 5 1/2 months, so it may be awhile before I can get a counseling job, but I know it's what I'm being called to, and I look forward to walking it out with others when God says the time is right for me to have a job like that again.

Monday, March 14, 2011


The past few days I've found myself questioning everything in my history... I'm pretty sure it's because a new string of events/memories has started surfacing internally... These memories don't feel anything like mine. It feels like I could be telling another person's story...

In therapy today I found myself confessing to therapist that I'm starting to question everything in my past again. I find myself wondering if the abuse really happened? If so, is it really to the extent of these newest memories... or even the older ones? Am I sure I'm DID? Maybe I just have a great imagination. Maybe I'm a fabulous liar.

I expected therapist to roll her eyes at me like she does (playfully) when I am being irrational. It doesn't change the way I feel, but I can recognize that she disagrees with my thinking and work to understand where the disconnect within me is. Today, though, therapist just looked at me with sadness in her eyes. She said this is what trauma does. Trauma blurs everything and has you questioning your reality. It's so true. I can't tell what is truth and what may be me just filling in gaps. Therapist says I don't have to tease out every little detail and run it through the microscope of fact or fiction. She's confident after 5 years of working together that I wouldn't make stuff up just for the sake of making things up. I wish I had her same confidence.

I wish I could explain why it feel so important to me to know every detail is the truth.... to know I can fully be believed b/c I believe myself. One of the biggest fears that I still hold is being disproved by my abuser. What if he comes around and proves my accusations false? What if he can poke enough holes in my story to prove that I'm a liar? What if my entire life for the past 12 years has been a continuous lie I've created for myself? And what kind of person creates their own hell on earth and perpetually keeps themself there?

Trauma or no trauma. Abuse history or none... It sucks to feel my reality being shaken so drastically again. Mentally I understand this is part of the process. More parts other than A. are starting to express feeling and memories, and it's just shaking things up internally a lot. So much so that I don't feel like I'm doing a great job expressing myself tonight.

This is for sure rough, but I still feel very blessed. I'm not struggling with any major self-injury impulses, not every moment of every day is horrible, and my God is continuing to sustain me in ways I never expected. This road is not and will not be easy, but I know the end of this journey does exist and it will be totally worth it!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Insurance Co - Win, Patient - Lose

After a 9 month of petitions, correspondence, phone calls, e-mails, faxes, and waiting, my insurance company finally responded to my request for them to cover Therapist. Well, they're response is to not respond. Therapist finally got to talk to someone yesterday afternoon who gave her a direct, indirect answer.

See, my government health insurance divides the US by regions. When I moved to live in the same city as husband (even though I'm still in the same state), I was considered (by my insurance) to have changed regions. Now I live 10 miles outside of the region that Therapist is covered by. I am 40 miles away from Therapist, but if I lived 10 miles further South, they would allow me to see her and cover me. Now, it's taken 9 months to get this much information from them. The only reason we know this much is because Therapist continued to contact them b/c they were not responding to any of our submissions - either from her or from my PCP. When Therapist talked to them yesterday, she was told that they would never have contacted her or me or ever sent me a denial letter. Apparently my request is just automatically voided because I live in a different region that she practices in. I can't even get a denial letter. And we wouldn't have gotten any explanation if therapist hadn't been so persistent. I now know that for them to approve her, I will have to get written documentation from every provider in my region saying they can't or won't treat me. So, if someone 5 hours away (but in my region) agrees, I can drive 5 hours to therapy and they'll pay, but they won't pay if I drive 40 minutes in the 'wrong' direction to see Therapist who I've been with almost 5 years.

What pisses me off more than anything, isn't that they won't cover me (and that pisses me off A LOT). It pisses me off that for 9 months we haven't been able to get a direct answer out of anyone, and they think an acceptable answer is no response at all. Just ignore the request and hope I give up eventually? See, if they give me a denial letter, I have the right to appeal and submit paperwork to present my case. But if they don't respond at all, then I can't appeal and they don't have to grant coverage either. Glad to know the government is really looking out for the mental health of deployed soldiers' families like they claim to be...

Maybe government health care is more affordable. I can go to the doctor whenever I need to and not worry about cost. I do appreciate that. However, I didn't get to choose my doctor - any of my doctors for that matter. And when I really need specific help from a specific provider that my insurance recognizes in another region, I'm not even given a chance to present my case. Heck, the people reviewing my case probably don't even know what DID is, so how are they gonna understand the importance of working with a therapist that we trust?

I think I need to stop for now. I'm liable to post some not nice things that I'll wish I hadn't later. I'm feeling bitter about a lot of so called support I'm supposed to be getting while my husband is risking his life to keep our country safe that I'm not seeing, and this is just kind of the straw that broke the camel's back.

I don't regret the life my husband and I have chosen. I am so proud of him for what he does. It's just frustrating to hear the government say they're gonna cut you a break, and instead feel you're being treated like a number and that money is more important to them than me. It'd be easier if I was never promised anything. I wouldn't know any different.

I just think this whole thing is stupid. If I'd gotten this answer back in August, I'd have adjusted and budgeted and wouldn't be in huge debt to therapist right now. Therapist is cool about the money I owe her. I can back pay her as I'm able, but if either of us had known this would be the end result, we'd have made other provisions a lot sooner.

It makes me a little sick right now looking at my insurance card. In big letters across the top it says, "The World's Best Health Care for the World's Best Military." Forgive me if I don't agree with their statement about being the world's best health care right now.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Satan's Tactics

Last night I had a horrible dream. I've always been a vivid dreamer. My dreams are usually so intricate and detailed, that I am unable to tell that I am dreaming until after I wake up. Many times it takes me awhile after I wake up to fully realize that what just happened was in a dream and not my reality. This morning was one of those mornings. I woke up shaking. I could tell I'd been crying a lot, and for a good 5 minutes, I was convinced my dream was real. Only when I was able to truly realize where I was and what was going on around me did I begin to realize it was a dream and be able to calm down.

Last night I dreamt that my husband was home. He'd been home from deployment for a bit and was daily walking through my current therapy struggles with me. Long story short, in my dream he told me that he'd had enough... that my crazy and my issues were too much for him... he was done.. it was over between us... and there was nothing I can do change his mind. I was heartbroken. The man who has done more to understand than any other man in my life; The man who promised me forever; The man who I adored was walking out. In my dream I was thinking if he wouldn't stay, no one ever will.

Praise God this was only a dream!!! Even though it was a dream, I found myself having a hard time shaking the feelings this morning. I wanted nothing more to call hubby and have him put my mind and heart at ease. Unfortunately, I couldn't do that since he is deployed. Fortunately, I serve a God who is always available. As I turned to God to relieve my pain and fears from this dream, I got hit with a couple of realities:

1. I didn't reach for God first to calm my fears. I was looking for human comfort first. Now, I believe human comfort is good and very much needed. However, I've been learning over the past several years that human comfort doesn't compare to the peace and contentment that God can provide. I'm not beating myself up over this, but it was a good reality check and a good opportunity to refocus my mind on God first and on my family and friends second.

2. Satan uses anything he can to undermine anything positive and healthy in our lives. When I think back over my life, dreams/nightmares are a way that satan has always reached me and tormented me. It's pretty creative and sneaky to attack me in my sleep.. to plant doubts, fears, and horrors in my mind while I sleep. These type of attacks are so much harder to recognize and combat than the obvious and blatant ones. I have no doubt that satan knows this and uses it to his advantage.

These two realities, while not fun, really helped me to regain focus this morning, reality test the dream and put satan back in his place. I ended up having a pretty decent day today. In the past, I would have stayed debilitated internally by a dream like this, but today we let it go and trusted God that he was watching over us, our husband, and the truth.

I count this as a victory, but I wish sometimes there weren't so many battles to fight. The only promise any of us have been given though is that God will see us through all of them and He has won them all. Praise Him for that!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hubby's birthday

Today is hubby's birthday. His work schedule is such right now that it's hard to catch him online. He's asleep when I'm free, and I'm asleep when he's free. I did get to talk to him for a few minutes, and it sounds like he had as good of a birthday as one can while deployed in a war zone.

I on the other hand hated not having him around today. I couldn't give him his gift on his birthday (the USPS has it somewhere in the Middle East, but it hasn't reached him yet); I couldn't cook him dinner and make his favorite dessert; I couldn't plan a party for him with all of his friends; and I couldn't even give him a birthday kiss.

Tomorrow will be 5 weeks since he left. I keep thinking he should be coming home soon. All of his trainings over the past year lasted an average of 3-4 weeks. I'm ready for him to be home, but instead it's still just the beginning of this trip. In another week or two we'll adjust to the idea that he's not coming home soon, and the feelings will lessen. I'm thankful for that, but today I'm sad that he's so far away on his birthday and that I can't be with him.

Wow, I'm kinda feeling pretty sorry for myself tonight, huh? Well, I do know I'm more sensitive to EVERYTHING right now with so much internal stuff stirred up. I'm going to choc it up to that and actually not beat myself up over something tonight.

Time for some mindless TV to get lost in and help turn my brain off.