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On my blog entry entitled Awakening to My Anxiety Issues, a reader posted the following comment:

I have at times had people tell me I come off as anxious or intense. It really pisses me off when someone tells me that because I am not aware of feeling anxious at the time, and although I know what intensity looks like when I see it in others, I do not feel like I am coming off as intense when people say this to me. It is like I am trying to figure out how not to appear anxious or intense, even if I am on the inside. ~ Elaine

Elaine’s entire comment really resonated with me, but I want to focus specifically on this part of the comment for this blog entry. As I read her comment, I just nodded my head in agreement because I feel like that a lot of the time.

At my core, I am an intense person (as you probably picked up on based on the content of this blog!). I can joke around and have fun at times, but that is not my baseline. I am an intense person because I have endured intense things, and healing from those intense traumas is equally intense.

Like Elaine, I have found myself in uncomfortable situations when I “freaked out” other people by my intensity, and I was completely unaware of being intense in the moment. One example was with a couple of close friends. We were talking about our parenting when our children were babies. I thought I was just sharing how much more uptight I used to be about making sure my child got enough vegetable, etc., versus now. Apparently my sharing was far too intense for either of them. One friend got up and said she needed a few minutes to breathe. I looked at the other, truly puzzled. She said that I got way too intense there. The message I take away from these incidents is that it is not okay for me to be myself.

Like Elaine, I can recognize intensity in others but not in myself. When I see someone who is more intense than I am, I think to myself, “You really need to breathe, dear.” Quite frankly, most people are more laid back than I am, so whenever I view someone else as intense, I know that they are really tightly wound.

I don’t like having to pretend that I am not who I am. I am an intense person. I try to match my behavior to the situation, but I always want to be me. For example, out of respect for the members of my Sunday School class, I will refrain from using foul language. I am still myself: I am just being respectful of who I am with. However, when it comes to friendships, I need my friends to be able to accept “me,” and who I am is intense at times. In fairness, both of the friends in my example have been there for me through intense stuff. I apparently just caught them off guard in this situation.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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The past few weeks have been rough. I have not been sleeping well for weeks, with lots of nightmares when I can sleep. I finally took some prescription strength medication to get a good night’s rest a couple of nights ago. That moved into me feeling lethargic all day yesterday, like I was fighting off a cold (and maybe I was).

I got a lot of sleep and rest yesterday. Today, I just feel kind of depressed. It’s like I had all of this intensity going from the visit to my hometown, and now that the intensity has passed, it has left a dark pit of depression in its wake. The weird part is that I really thought I was okay while I was in my hometown. Perhaps I was just dissociating?? I don’t know.

It doesn’t help that we have a full moon tonight or that Mother’s Day is approaching, with my mother/abuser coming to my state. She told my sister that she might swing by my house to drop off a video whether I am there or not … should be interesting if hub is home! My son and I will be in another state. We will be gone from Friday evening through Sunday evening, so we will miss her passing through.

I have decided not to acknowledge my mother/abuser in any way for Mother’s Day. I am finished with contact. I wonder if I am dissociating my feelings about all of this. Perhaps a part of me is saddened by this decision?? I don’t know. I just know that she makes me feel crazy, and I am tired of her ability to wield this kind of power over me. I have decided to write “return to sender” on anything she sends me, and I will not be contacting her any more. So, perhaps my funk ties into that??

I don’t know. It is all very annoying. If I have to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it would be nice to know why I am triggered so I can heal it and move on. I feel like I am trapped in this awful place of feeling pain without knowing why or how to fix it. It is very frustrating.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have recently gotten hooked on the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Although I am not generally interested in vampire stories, I can relate to how Edward and his family feel like outsiders. I have felt like an outsider for most of my life.

Edward and his family try to pretend that they are something that they are not. They are strong enough to lift a car, but they pretend to have the same limitations as the humans around them. They can run faster than the wind, but they walk like humans so that they will fit in.

While I am certainly not that strong or fast, I have an intensity inside of myself that fuels me in ways that make me feel like as much of an anomaly as Edward’s family. I have to work hard to control the intensity because it causes others to raise their eyebrows whenever I show it. A friend of mine recently told me she that thinks people simply assume that my son’s attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) comes from me because we are both so much more “extreme” than others. Of course, his issues are much different than mine, but what we have in common is that we both have an enormous amount of energy inside of us that is always pushing for release.

Sometimes my intensity shows itself through talking very fast. Other times, it shows itself through working tirelessly to complete a project as I take on the work of five people and help others complete their parts. Once people get over the shock of seeing some sort of evidence of my intensity, they appreciate it and want to use it in completing their goals (generally through volunteer work).

As with Bella’s fascination with Edward’s family, people don’t seem to see the downside. I long to spend an hour or two relaxing, but I don’t know how to do that. I spend most of my life channeling my intensity through working, blogging, and volunteering. I need to get it out so I can sleep at night. It is very hard for me to sit back and “unwind,” and I generally need to take some sort of substance (wine, Xanax, etc.) to accomplish that.

It can be hard being an outsider. I feel like the lyrics in the Superman (It’s Not Easy) song. I have been given this gift of having much more energy than those around me, and it wears me out sometimes. People tell me they wish they could accomplish all I do in a day. I wish I could accomplish being still and resting.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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Does anyone else talk very fast whenever you are triggered? I used to talk fast all of the time (before therapy), so I guess I was always triggered and/or always feeling an enormous amount of intensity. I would guess that it takes an enormous amount of intensity to stay split into multiple parts.

My therapist told me that, even if we had met under different circumstances, such as a party, he would know that I had a story to tell based upon my rate of speech. He said that people who talk very fast frequently do so because they want to get the words out before they are silenced. They are people who have a story to tell but have not yet been heard. I was fascinated when he told me that my rate of speech would probably slow down after therapy.

My therapist was correct. When I am not triggered, my speech is much slower than it used to be. However, whenever I am triggered, I start talking very fast again. I have an offline friend who has picked up on this. She will immediately start asking what’s going on with me when I am talking fast. The funny thing is that, about half the time, I am not even aware that I am triggered. However, after my friend inquires, I will notice that I have been feeling the urge to overeat or other symptoms that I am triggered. I sort of have to “step back” and recognize the intensity in myself.

I now recognize this dynamic in others. When I am in a “good place” and talking at a normal pace, I will notice other people whose words are spilling out on top of each other. This is a red flag that they need someone to listen.

I used to talk very fast all the time. Now, when I get triggered, talking so fast wears out my tongue. I will notice that I cannot get certain words out clearly because they are tumbling over one another so fast. No matter how hard I try to slow down, I cannot do it because the intensity inside of myself is driving the speed.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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A friend of mine told me that a recent issue of Oprah’s magazine included an article about binge eating. According to the article, a person has binge eating disorder if he binge eats twice a week for six months.

I died laughing when my friend told me this.

I did not laugh because I disagree. I laughed because binge eating only twice a week for six months falls close to my definition of being “cured” of binge eating. If I could dial it back to twice a week, I would be feeling like I had conquered my eating disorder and doing a jig.

I guess it is only now hitting me just how f@#$ed up I was (and still am in a lot of ways). While many people might look at my aftereffects today and see the profile of a person with serious post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) issues, I see myself as doing pretty well compared to where I was. I guess it is all relative.

I got to thinking about the dissociation continuum. On the far left is normal dissociation, and on the far right is dissociative identity disorder (DID). PTSD falls right in the middle.

A mere three years ago, I will still living on the very far right as a person with DID. Since then, I have been dialing it back and moving toward PTSD on the continuum. To me, this is major progress. However, I must recognize that I still have a long way to go to be on the other side of PTSD on the continuum. I also need to face that I might never get there.

Also, DID comes with its own issues, so those were my focus. The PTSD elements were not as severe as the DID ones, so they were not a priority for the few first years of my healing.

Now that I am becoming healthier, the PTSD stuff is bothering me more. It was always there, but it was comparatively less severe. As I dial it back, I see that there is still work aplenty to do.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I love reading the comments that my readers post because they frequently get me thinking and help me along my own healing journey. That was my reaction when I read the following comment, which was posted on my blog entry entitled Channeling your Intensity after Child Abuse:

part of me is very intense too – especially when a task is to be done : 100 % . however, a person i greatly respect once told me that 80 % is good enough. when he said that another part of me felt such relief that maybe the possibility existed for us to “let up ” a little. we tried the 80 % idea and it opened up a new world for us, it allowed us to look beyond what we had previously narrowed to a fine focus point, it allowed us to step aside from black and white and – yes – it allowed us to see that trivialities are actually a significant part of life. maybe the egg-shell blue relaxes a little more than the half-white. maybe what someone had for lunch with xyz matters because it helps us to understand more about their personhood and maybe that matters because it helps us see life outside of our direct experience zone and when it all boils down to it life is about relationships and relationships can best be understood when the seemingly trivial are taken into account. Onepiece of soil is nthing on its own but many maketh the world. ~ Gracie

I have been thinking about the suggestion of downshifting to 80% ever since I read this comment. I wonder if I have the ability to do this. Then, I got to thinking about the areas in my life in which I have relaxed the standard.

I used to believe that I had to be the “perfect” parent. My therapist kept trying to get me to see that perfection was not possible or required. My son has special needs (the most difficult being attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD), which made it significantly harder to be a “perfect” parent.

I finally accepted that being a good parent was going to have to be enough. I also had to accept that part of being a good parent was cutting myself some slack and giving myself some breaks. I am now much happier in my role as a parent since I downshifted to 80%.

I have also done a pretty good job in cutting back my work time to 80%. As a stay-at-home mom of a child with ADHD, trying to work after school hours is pointless. So, I cram in a ton of work during the hours that he is at school. I finally recognized that I deserved a lunch break just like anyone else. So, even when I am super-busy (which is most of the time), I stop and watch a TV show or read a magazine while I eat lunch. When I added up the time, it realized that it was about 20% of my non-kid time, which is working at 80% and not 100%.

I have also cut back on my professional blog at Adoption Under One Roof. I used to post every day on that blog. Now, I am only posting on weekdays like I do here. That was like cutting back to 80% as well.

So, I guess I really can do this in other parts of my life as well. Wish me luck!

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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If there is one adjective that people use frequently to describe me, it is intense. I honestly do not know how to be any other way. Shallow people who flit around and talk about meaningless topics bore me to tears. I am sure that I scare them to death!

Being an intense person has its drawbacks. I have actually been “called on the carpet” for doing too well on a job! The concern is always that I am going to burn out, and then the company will lose a good employee. I am baffled that I must justify why I meet deadlines early and do a good job. Isn’t the goal to be the best that you can be?

Over the years, friends have tried to explain why I need to rein in my intensity. It freaks a lot of people out. For the most part, I don’t care. I am not going to do a bad job just because other people can’t keep up. I am not going to waste my time talking about inane things like comparing and contrasting the benefits of eggshell paint over off-white – Who the h@#$ cares?? (Yes, I know that less intense people do, but I am absolutely baffled as to why.)

Sometimes I will beat myself up over being too intense. But then I will have a nightmare/flashback, and I will “remember” how I got to be so intense in the first place. My childhood was about survival, not paint colors.

I recently watched a biography about the fabulous Richard Gere. Throughout his biography, the word intense kept coming up, but it was not in a negative way like I hear about myself. Richard Gere is able to take his intensity and use it to create believable (and yes, intense) characters on the big screen.

That got me thinking about myself. I do that here. Goodness knows, this blog is an intense one, but it is also a very healing one for some of the most hurting people out there. So, intensity does not have to be a bad thing. It is all in how you use that intensity.

And the bottom line is that, once people get to know me over a period of time, they realize that I am not going to burn myself out. I have a lot of energy, and I channel that energy in whatever direction I deem worthy of my time. Whether that means writing blogs, teaching a class, or volunteering at my kid’s school, I am going to give it all I have. The recipients of my intensity generally respond with gratitude, not rejection.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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