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Archive for July, 2011

This blog entry continues from yesterday.

One reason I have so much trouble feeling safe and protected is because I have had abuse lie dormant and then resurface. My mother went 10 years without abusing me and then attacked me again after my father died, so a part of myself is always on alert for when the other shoe is going to drop. No matter how much time has passed without being abused, a part of me lives in fear of it happening again.

For the most part, I do a good job knowing what my triggers are and how to diffuse them. However, getting blindsided by the theme park has rocked my confidence in my ability to keep myself safe, which leads to my feeling the need to take more control, which is what prompted my focus on control this week.

The thing is that I was objectively safe at Legoland. Nobody hurt me there. Nobody was even rude to me despite my terrible attitude in my triggered state. However, being immersed in a “land” of something that is clearly a trigger for severe trauma (based upon my severe reaction) has caused the traumatized child in me to feel extremely unsafe.

I have always loved to travel because I can let go of control and feel safe because I am physically far away from the threat. Now that part of myself fears leaving home because who knows what terrible trigger is lurking out there? I am working hard to dismantle this pattern. I don’t want to spend my life looking backward and navigating the landmines of potential triggers.

I am sick to death of my life being controlled by my childhood. I lived in the trauma for ~ 20 years. I have lived longer without the trauma, so why do the bad years get dibs? The war is behind me – I am so tired of living in a foxhole now that the war has ended.

I really want to move forward. I did not invest all of that hard work and money into healing and therapy so I can still feel unsafe most of the time. The little girl inside is screaming that the “safe” part of the world just got much, much smaller, but I am fighting back – I am not giving up something I love (traveling) because of one big trigger.

The other thing is that I am not going to put a bunch of work into trying to recover the memory this time. I remember enough to have a pretty good idea of the level of trauma associated with the Legos. I don’t have to relive it to heal this. I am sick to death of reliving past trauma – I haven’t really gotten “new” information in years, just more of the same. My abusers were sadistic bastards who tried to break my will, but they didn’t succeed. I want to move forward, not continue focusing on the past. I think it is enough to acknowledge that Legos are a trigger, accept that the trauma was really, really bad, and compassionately move myself forward. I never need to put myself around Legos (and certainly not Legoland) again, but I also don’t need to live in fear of them. They are just Legos.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Blooming Lotus is currently a “Featured Blogger” on TeachStreet. I am glad this happened after I got back to blogging daily! :0)

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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Traveling to new places has been a wonderful way for me to let go of control and enjoy the moment. I loved visiting Los Angeles last year. I felt so free and safe … so far away from home and not responsible for doing anything but having fun at Disneyland.

This year did not go that way. I did not know that Legos trigger me until I walked into Legoland and had a complete meltdown. In retrospect, the signs were there. I had been very excited about our trip. Then, when we added that theme park to our agenda (my friend’s younger son is very into Legos), I kept procrastinating scheduling the trip and really was not looking forward to it any longer. Hindsight is 20/20 – I just thought this was spillover for all of the other stuff I was dealing with at the beginning of the summer.

I had no idea that I was triggered, but I felt the intense need for a Xanax as soon as we entered the gate. I thought it was the crowds at first. I was slammed with intense hatred – I hated every single thing about the place and kept visualizing blowing up all of the Lego statues.

Outwardly, I kept b@#$%ing about how juvenile the place was. (Our boys are nine and ten – it looked more appealing to the kindergarten crowd in my fully biased opinion.) Inwardly, my skin was crawling, and I wanted to use my fingernails to peel it off my body. I got angrier when I learned that it is a “dry” theme park (most theme parks do serve alcohol) because I wanted to stay inebriated the entire day. I kept counting down the hours until we could leave. I was lightheaded and immersed in anger and shame.

I was so incredibly triggered afterward – so much so that my friend kept bringing me rum punches. (I haven’t had that much to drink in years.) She had no idea why I was being so intense about the place. I told her that I simply could not go back. I would do anything she wanted – lie, cheat, steal – but I would not go back. (We had two-day passes.) I wound up spending the next day seeing the new “Harry Potter” movie while my friend took the kids back. For the next few days, I struggled with very strong suicidal and self-injury urges.

That experience really shook me, and I have been prone to triggering and panic attacks ever since, which is why I am putting so much focus on staying in the moment, reminding myself that I am safe at this very moment, etc. Being slammed by that intense of a trigger without having any idea it was coming has really rocked me. More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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This week, I have been exploring my strong need to be in control of the situations in my life and how to dismantle this need for control. I received lots of great advice yesterday – please keep it coming!

I don’t want to have to feel responsible for so much in my life, and I certainly don’t want the responsibility that comes with being in control of so many things. So, I put some thought into why I do this since control is not something that I want in and of itself. The answer came to me during yoga and meditation – I try to take control to help me feel protected and safe.

When abusers were in control of my life as a child, I was neither protected nor safe. I thought that, if I was in control, then I would be both protected and safe. Now, taking control has become my go-to reaction whenever I feel unsafe. OK – That’s progress. At least I understand the trigger that leads me to take control.

So, rather than telling myself “don’t judge anything” and “don’t take control,” which isn’t working very well, I am changing tactics (and will probably continue to change tactics as I consider all of the wonderful advice that all of you are providing!).

I started thinking about when and where I feel protected and safe in my life even though I am not in control. My first thought was my friend’s house. We have been friends for almost 10 years now, and she was my go-to friend during the therapy years. My son and I hang out with my friend and her daughter every Saturday at her house, and I am always very relaxed while we are there. I realized that this is because I feel protected and safe, even though I am not in control.

I also feel protected and safe at my church and when I am at the gym even though I am not in control. That tells me that it is possible for me to feel protected and safe without having to seize control of the circumstances. (I also used to feel protected and safe when I traveled, but that all blew up last week. I’ll write about that situation in another blog.) So, it is possible for me to feel relaxed while not in control, but just writing that is triggering me – clearly parts of me are not ready to do that.

I have been working again on mindfulness and staying in the moment. For example, because of what I just wrote, I feel triggered. In reaction, I am taking deep breaths, and I am analyzing the facts of my present situation. At this moment, I am completely safe. I am in my home office in front of my computer with a full stomach (just ate dinner). I don’t have to worry about whether or not I will be unsafe at a future moment. Right now, in this moment, I am completely safe. So far, this has been helping me bring myself back down.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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As I shared yesterday, I am in a difficult place of healing. I am feeling a strong pull to let go of the need to be in control all of the time and to stop making myself feel responsible for everything that goes on around me. For someone whose life has always felt out of control unless I took charge, that’s a very tall order.

I know exactly how and why I grew into a control freak. As a child, I could not trust those who were in charge because they were either abusive or, at best, negligent (such as my father and grandparents, who did not abuse me but also did not stop the abuse). When my father died (during my senior year of high school), having my mother/abuser in charge of my money (college tuition) was pure hell, and I swore to myself that I would never let anyone else control my pocketbook again. So, I completely understand how I got this way and am not beating myself up for the choices that I have made up until this point. However, I do feel the need not to live the rest of my life this way – in reaction to my childhood.

A friend had some interesting advice about letting go of control. I told her that I know what I need to do (let go of being in control) but now how to do it. Her observation was that having to be in control ties into judgment – judging different events as “good” or “bad.” For example, my luggage not arriving at my destination until 10-1/2 hours after I did was simply a fact. I am the one who made the judgment that not having my luggage arrive on my flight with me was a “bad” thing.

However, I don’t have the first clue about how to remove judgment from events that happen around me. Right now, I have no personal income despite the fact that I have two part-time jobs. (Don’t worry – hub provides amply for necessities. This is “my” money to spend however I want without hub getting a say in how I spend it.) Both jobs are adjunct education positions, and neither one has work for me until the end of August. This is simply a fact, but I judge it as “bad” because I want an income and really hate the thought of having none for a month.

My guess is that my friend would say that I could choose to view this hiatus as a “good” thing because it is a reduction in my responsibilities. It p@$$es me off, though, because I did not choose this hiatus – it happened out of my control. That makes it hard for me to view this as a “good” thing.

My understanding is that some faiths (Buddhist, maybe??) recommend removing judgment of anything being “good” or “bad.” By removing the emotional attachment to what happens, you find freedom from what happens. I am not quite sure how to do that, though. Any suggestions?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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My son and I just returned from our trip across the country. We were gone for over a week, and I did not access the blog at all while we were gone. So, please bear with me as I approve comments in the moderator queue, etc.

In a nutshell, here is what is going on with me…I had a full-fledged panic attack/meltdown at the beginning of the summer. I still do not know exactly what triggered it, and I also have not fully recovered from it. My therapist thinks I don’t nurture myself enough, which is true but not enough to explain the intensity of the breakdown.

I have felt a strong pull to let go of feeling so responsible for everything around me and try to let go of the need to be in control all of the time. The problem is that so many things keep going wrong when I do let go of the control. For example, our flight got delayed due to mechanical issues, causing us to miss our connection across the country. The airline put us in a hotel and said that arriving one hour before our replacement flight (a 6:00 a.m. flight – oh, joy!) would be plenty of time. It wasn’t. We barely made our flight, and my luggage missed it. Don’t even get me started on the inconvenience of being sleep-deprived with no luggage, sunscreen, etc. I even had to buy my kid a change of clothes.

My personal rule is to arrive at least two hours before a flight, but I chose not to “be in control” and trust the expertise of the airline personnel, which also equated to getting to sleep until 4:00 a.m. instead of having to get up at 3:00 a.m. (neither of which would have been necessary if the d@#$ed flight had not been delayed). If I had just followed my own instincts, I wouldn’t have been so panicked trying to check our baggage and get through security before the flight left, and my luggage would have arrived with me.

That’s just one example, but you get the point. So, this whole “letting go of control” thing isn’t working out very well so far, but I also feel a strong pull to do it. I simply don’t know how. More on that tomorrow…

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Update on Me

Hi, all.

Thank you for your patience during my hiatus. On Saturday, I will be traveling across the country for a trip that will last over a week. I plan to return to blogging at the beginning of August.

I am in a period of transition and transformation right now. I am feeling a strong pull to stop spending so much of my time looking backward and, instead, focus on who I am becoming. At first, I wasn’t sure how this would affect my blogging — and, to be quite honest, I am still not sure. I will just do what I have always done — write about where I am.

More to come in August…

~ Faith

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