Vulnerability, Self-Empowerment – and the Common Asshole

OK, in attempts of putting things of the last few days and two weeks in a broader perspective – something I had to teach myself as far as getting by in life – I am arriving at a number of tentative conclusions.

1. I am still suffering from an aggravated vulnerability as far as getting triggered. The latter currently seems to be presented as an irreversible damage as part of the outcomes of early and later repeated childhood trauma, followed by experiences of abuse (I challenge and object that finding, b.t.w.). This comes as a partially devastating realization, in particular so as I have been following an agenda of removing as many triggers as possible. While isolation and solitude have ensued as consequences, my top priority was to be calmer, more settled, more peaceful. I am not sure any longer, whether this strategy really worked out for me. Let’s say it did and it didn’t in parts of 70:30 I’ll tentatively say.

2. Finally overcoming my fear of reexperiencing the very initial childhood trauma from going to hospital in order to have a long due surgery performed on me, reminded me of how I have been coping for the most part of my entire adult life: By overcoming those fears, one by one and everytime I experienced it. The latter came at the expense of latent anxiety often culminating in panic attacks throughout the day and especially at night, in particular in or following an atmosphere of intimacy. But I had managed to lead a self-sustaining life. In other words: I had not allowed anxiety and damage to rule me, but chosen in favor of empowering myself. I feel the need to get back on that road in order to get to socialize more and the latter coming from having exhausted my resilience in terms of experiencing isolation and solitude for the past six years.

3. As far as 2., there is one major fear: What if I experience getting bullied for my condition again? If it were a commonly accepted disability, technically speaking I could sue the asshole doing so. But as my/our condition is not recognized as a disability in my country yet – or anywhere else as far as I know -, threatening to sue as a last resort falls through. No. 3. is actually something, I haven’t managed to find an answer for, neither for myself nor with commonly recommended therapies like CBT or DBT. But I have to (find answers) as getting bullied has happened and is fairly certain to happen again as soon as I “mingle” on a more constant basis. I have learnt to defend myself very well, but I’m not sure about whether or not I’ll manage to regulate myself to the point where my responses are socially and commonly acceptable. I might not, in which case I’ll get singled out again from whatever context or situation the getting bullied happens. This is a major problem and fear. It puts me into a spot I have trouble accepting for myself. After all, trauma is an emotional injury disrupting the sense of self and integrity. If I’m to heal from that, restoring and defending integrity as well as getting at eye’s level with any regular Joe or Jane is part of the recovery – or so I’d think. Finding the right leverage in standing up for myself will be crucial. I haven’t done a good job with that in the past to be all honest. Or when I did, I often times lost anyway for I had no lobby or alliance backing me up, the latter probably from being perceived as “weird” or different. I can’t even know the reasons as bullies aren’t exactly known for explaining themselves very often…

4. Emotional “hygiene”. I seem to close in on the insight that management of emotions – and along with that management of thoughts – is crucial. In other words: I will be well advised to see to it I take in as many positive stimuli as possible. I also think – and know so in part from experience – that the most healing properties come from positive experiences with people in general. The latter goes hand in hand with my realization that receding to a safe niche doesn’t seem to work out for me as a long term solution. While finding safe and quiet places has had beneficial effects on my overall and more or less permanent state of hyperarousal, while finding some solitude and quietude has helped me to recharge my batteries, it doesn’t seem to provide healthy grounds to operate from on a long term basis. After all, human beings are social animals and I’m no exception. Quite on the contrary: I seem to have identified for myself that communicating is essential, in particular in terms of managing anxiety and hypervigilance. The more I talk with people – ideally in non-confronting, mutually friendly ways and manner -, the greater my sense of confidence and being self-assured. I also think, I have made progress in modulating responses to known stressors, at least in part. Situations of the unknown,  where I have no way of quickly assessing the “threat potential” – and the latter by way of an instant cognitive/intellectual analysis instead of on the gut level -, have left me either producing a full fight-or-flight-reflex associated with common physical symptoms like e.g. accelerated pulse, sweating, labored or accelerated breathing, moist palms of hands etc. etc. or left me in a state of “shock paralysis” also known as the “feigning death” phenomenon from higher developped animals. Modulating those outcomes by way of cognitive intervention seems inevitable. I have done some practicing in that regard and believed to have progressed there. Mind you – all this happened without standardized inpatient or outpatient therapy as the latter have become largely inaccessible to me. I found out for myself (yeah, patting my own back there for a sec, why not? ;))

5. Self-empowerment vs. asking for help. I’ve always found experiences of self-efficacy to have larger healing potential than needing to lean on someone else. While I seem to have learnt the latter as well – for reasons of having exhausted all other options -, I still lean towards saying that self-empowerment and self-efficacy are superior to other forms of managing the condition in terms of their outcomes. This is my personal opinion and experience and everyone is welcome to hold their own positions on the matter. However, as our western societies seem to promote a “do it yourself/provide for yourself” course of action at an ever-increasing pace, in particular so in the U.S., but ever more radically so in parts of Europe and Germany as well and in complete oblivion of the elderly and needy in our societies, I seem to find advocating for self-help essential. And the latter also coming from experiences of having been let down or openly opposed and targeted by the medical and social system often and in crucial aspects. In hindsight, I must be thankful for apparently having followed a path of “take care of yourself” all along for the most part or else the shocking experiences with the system would have probably driven me into suicide. Truth be told, there was a long stretch of time and several occasions, where I had lost all faith, hope, spirit and found myself in a position of having exhausted all options, thus beginning to seriously contemplate an early exit. I realize that the latter observation is mixed in with depression and outcomes of the condition, yes. But how many times can a person cry for help from those authorities which are in place for that very reason and get turned away?! Or get denied much needed help?! It happened throughout this entire journey of the past few years. I now know for a fact that I’m not alone with that, but I was not prepared to the experience of the system making it extra hard for me and people with special needs in general. It’s the crime of the decade in my opinion and my personal experiences have jump started my political consciousness.

6. Employing the emotional GPS. I keep referring to emotional and more importantly physical responses as the emotional GPS. In simple language it’s meant to describe a process of becoming aware of any kind of response, emotional and/or physical of the bodymind to day-to-day experiences. In other words: Take a minute to reflect on things. Travel back to the experience and take a look at the setting it took place in and the personal outcome it produced. I’m aware that particularly the latter will be difficult bordering on impossible when one finds themselves in an environment of “punching the clock” or being a single parent or both. However, as one of my – more helpful – doctors said: Ultimately, your body will tell you what’s right for you. Spot on! We have forgotten to listen to our bodies and our physical needs from having been drilled into becoming this “human resource”, this quantifiable and ultimately disposable company asset of sorts. While I think I understand the economics behind this, I am also convinced that our current modern lives run counter to literally every human need we were born with. And emotions seem to have become this disposable luxury employers and bosses typically have no room for. Or if they do, then often in abusive ways. “Punching the clock” is never going to work for me – ever again. That much I have come to understand about myself. It sounds like a severe limitation and by all standards in place it is. Hence, some work will need to be done in getting a condition of (C-) PTSD commonly acknowledged as a broad spectrum disability. Because managing the condition has a victim of it preoccupied for a large portion of the time. In other words: We already have a more or less full time job – that of healing and rolling back the mess someone else have left us with. There can be only so much capacity left for dealing with other things. But I’ve digressed by now. The advocat seems to kick in ever more often as of late.

So what to do about the common asshole, who thinks we were weak, dumb and helpless? Guess, for starters and tentatively speaking it may suffice to let them know that they’re assholes. Self-modulation and impulse control will remain to be crucial in that area so as to keep ensuing trouble at a minimum. I don’t think I need an experience of getting hospitalized or jailed in order to know that I’m different from the bulk of people.

Oh,

7. Laughter. Laugh as often as possible. I find this to be an excellent source of healing. And

8. Some and mild medication. I’m going to have to keep looking into that as a helpful means of managing utterly stressful situations, when 1 through 7 don’t yield enough “bang”. I am reluctant to go out and buy marijuana, as I haven’t been too lucky with the last two experiences both happening around 2004. I produced an allergic reaction and one of those getting me hospitalized for a night. I recall this experience as one of the most disconcerting ones so far and coming within close reach of the major panic attack in 2009, which had me pass out from too big a shock on the system. So medication is a tricky one and I have remained unsuccessful in that regard so far. Hopefully, we’ll find some medication that I can derive some alleviating effects from.

Peace.

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6 thoughts on “Vulnerability, Self-Empowerment – and the Common Asshole

  1. You are SO right about this: “We already have a more or less full time job – that of healing and rolling back the mess someone else have left us with.” Looking back, I don’t know how I managed to teach in the community college for thirteen years. It was a full-time, 7-day-a-week job when I count grading papers each weekend. And all that time I was busy dealing with the mess other people had left. I get very angry–wutend??–when I think that other people have put this mess on me. Those people are out of my life now, and I’m left to mop up after them. I have nothing but contempt for my ex husband. He laid his mess on my son, my daughter, and me, and now we are left to clean up after him. My parents laid their messes on me to start with . . . and on and on it goes. I don’t go there often in my thoughts because I get really upset, and there is nothing I can do but forge ahead. Mr. Natural had it right: Keep on truckin’!

    I’ve never encountered any bullying, but then gender may have something to do with that fact. If I had been a guy, I may have been bullied. People need to be educated on C-PTSD, its causes, and its effects. That seems to be happening slowly in this country as more veterans act out and commit murders and kill themselves. One plan I have is to talk about C-PTSD to groups, but so far I have not “launched.” It all takes energy, and energy can be hard to come by at times.

    You are so smart and so with it, and I’m so glad to know you! Jean

    • I agree, Jean: There needs to be more awareness in the general public on how debilitating the condition is. And not only for those directly affected, but those around them as well.

      Yes, I’m fairly sure that gender has a part in the getting bullied. I don’t think, it can get any harder and bitter than this. BUT: I have now firmly decided to return to “living above” the condition and only letting on as much as absolutely inevitable to let on. The “special needs” card I mentioned a few posts back – I’m going to play it in the most vital areas. On the other hand, I’m realizing – again – that I’ll remain vulnerable in those vital areas and that it’s never going to be all possible to meet my needs there. That will be the subject of another posting.

      As far as family and in my case, I went down the questionable route of trying to reconcile and practice forgiveness. I don’t know, whether it’s going to last and it’s not even for reasons of meaning to be “the bigger man”. I think, it came from seeing myself defeated to the point of having exhausted ALL other available options at the time and being let down by someone, whom I had considered my best friend. (no more so, needless to say). In other words: It’s been a brutal grind all along, but I found myself in a position, where the grind came to a screeching halt – and put me in a place of almost needing to commit suicide for lack of perspective and hope. It was at this point that I turned to those, whom I hold responsible IN PART for the outcomes (not so much the early trauma with hospital, but later behaviors, which provide all the ingredients of abuse). I am not sure, what I’m going to do with that situation, but I have other priorities to think of and deal with. One being, that I’m going to try and be sociable more often and try to come back to performing on stage more often, but with moderation (not full time, of course). The other one being that I need to continue building an external situation that will make things a little easier for me. Currently, I’m back to sleep deprivation, which has always been a taxing problem. I’m going to have to move, but can’t risk going back to an apartment complex or something like that, as I’ll be CERTAIN to make the outside situation worse for myself. However, lack of privacy and too little sleep has become a problem here again. Fatigue is brutal and I’m beginning to realize that many other problems were its consequence, like e.g. lack of motivation from exhaustion along with being cranky and repulsive and thus attracting more problems throughout the day, ultimately boiling down to depression.

      Maybe I’ll sum up my own experiences in a formal, better structured manner at some point, if I find a good angle that has sum potential for offering practical advice for others. So far, I haven’t found that angle, yet. Hence this blog, which is more personal and of a “to whom it may concern” nature.

      Anyway… gotta keep on truckin’, exactly! Have a nice sunday. (and thanks for your kind words in the closing statement 😉 I must return the compliment!)

  2. Again, I am awed by the distance you have come in your gaining insights into all this. I just sent you a long comment on your other post, so this will probably be much shorter. But I need to say a few words about the hospitalization trauma.

    That happened to me, too. In my case, my mother developed a kidney problem when I was born, and I was left in the hospital nursery for some weeks after birth. My mother took great pleasure in letting me know when I was a kid that it cost just $1 a day to keep me in the nursery! Never did she express regret that I had to begin life in a sterile, loveless environment, only being touched by human beings every four hours. And then just for utilitarian purposes. Also, when I was about six, I developed chronic ear infections to the point where the infection invaded my mastoid area. I remember being rushed to the hospital and “dumped” there in the middle of the night, being poked with needles, and being left in the dark room with no other kids, just a few adults who yelled at me to be quiet and stop crying. I was there for about a month. According to the article, both hospital traumas damaged my brain physically, and I’m going to ask my therapist tomorrow about the prospects for undoing the damage. However, I suspect that all I can do is what I’m doing–trying to rewire my brain to detour around the damage. Release the built-up trauma energy and build new and “happier” pathways. Sounds simple, but you and I know it isn’t!

    The bit in that article describing the response of the baby to its mother’s indifference hit me in the gut! That was my childhood. Luckily, I was resourceful and bright enough to make my own path and not depend upon my parents for anything other than food, shelter, clothing, and medical/dental care. They did well with those. But needs beyond those basics went unmet. When I was about 10, I began babysitting in the neighborhood. That was my great awakening: I studied interactions in other families and realized that my family was not “normal.” That discovery led me to realize that my parents were never going to meet my emotional needs no matter how much I wanted or needed them to do that. A very bitter pill for a child to swallow! But I knew reality when I met it head on. So I fell back on–of all things–my cats. They became my family. All four of them slept in my bed at night, and each morning I emerged with new flea bites.

    Eventually, of course, I had to accept the reality that cats were not people and that they did not live long and probably did not want me as part of their “herd.” And so it went. . . on into a 20-year marriage with a man who believed that sexual brutality and abuse would get his needs met. So now I’m an old lady, trying frantically to sort all this mess into something I can work with in the hope that the last few years of my life will be better than the first 42 years. I believe it’s happening. But, as Cowboy says, “It’s a rough ride.”

    To shift slightly, Cowboy has a certain amount of good, ol’ horse sense. Just outside the town where I plan to live is a ranch that provides equine therapy for people with trauma damage. I may look into that possibility. Here is a link you might find interesting: humanequinealliance.org. Hell, if we have so much horse shit to slog through, we may as well deal with the real thing from time to time! Cowboy said that!

    On that note, I’ll close. ]; ) Namaste . . . Jean

    • I hear you loud and clear and feel you in almost all regards above, Jean! Since you mention it: I also have a history of frequent ear infections as child. In some other article a few years back I learnt that they link those to symptoms of teenage and adult ADHS. (I had to train myself into staying focussed and it usually only works if and when something has the highest possible intellectual stimulus, i.e. articles on the particle research at CERN or Quantum Physics and such cups of teas… or: Our own condition and scientific findings about it. B.t.w. and in that context: Researchers based at Max Planck Institute here in Germany recently published a study on the chances of incurring a vulnerability for producing symptoms of PTSD following traumatic experiences via information encoded into the DNA!!! Find the news and extracts (in English) here: http://www.mpg.de/6643282/childhood-trauma-dna?filter_order=L&research_topic=

      However, there is also a field called epigenetics, which found that genetic markers NEED not be read by the system and can be influenced employing – the MIND! We HAVE TO LOOK AT THE BRIGHT SIDE to become better! It’s our first line of defense! I can’t stress that enough! Any negative – we have all the right to respond to it in mildly violent ways, thus drawing the line! If CBT/DBT doesn’t provide this – then they suck and aren’t of any good, where I’m concerned (something, I seem to have identified a tendency for in all scientifc/academic research. After all – it might even also just boil down to making money like denying us known cures of cancer etc. etc. – think about it….)

      I have restored faith in that we can heal to the point of getting in close(r) touch with our authentic selves and experience genuine feelings of joy and also some pain, of course, but in ways we were MEANT to experience them from the beginning, prior to all the injuries others inflicted on us. We may all have to have that cowboy within close reach at all times, but why not? And I think your idea with equine therapy is excellent! I’ve often thought about something like that – if only my health insurance paid for it. Quite recently and since last week, I guess, re-employing something that has worked fairly well for me previously, might be the path to go for myself – with some modifications following new insights into this.

      I don’t know about you, but I am determined to feel as much and as authentically as possible. To use a quote from an article I recently read (and originally attributed to Charles Bukovski) about someone having dramatically changed his life by becoming an internationally touring classical concert pianist: “Find what you love – and let it kill you.” There! 😉

  3. I found this part most helpful: “However, as one of my – more helpful – doctors said: Ultimately, your body will tell you what’s right for you. Spot on! We have forgotten to listen to our bodies and our physical needs from having been drilled into becoming this “human resource”, this quantifiable and ultimately disposable company asset of sorts. While I think I understand the economics behind this, I am also convinced that our current modern lives run counter to literally every human need we were born with.”

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