STORYTELLING, UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

I Hear You, Panic Attack, I’m Listening

Panic attacks.

I get them when I’m triggered.

I get them at 3 am in the morning.

I get them at 5 am in the morning.

I get them when I have to wake up to start my day.

I get them after reading an email.

They scare me and they demoralize me. They bring me to my knees.

My panic attacks can feel like a thousand chaotic voices.

This isn’t good.

That isn’t done.

You aren’t good enough.

What a failure.

When they start, I end up with waves of fear from my futile attempts to ward off the attacks.

I try silencing the voices.

I recoil in terror from all their accusations and predictions of doom and gloom.

My brain vibrates from the yelling and the shrinking, the pointing and the defending.

* * * * *

I’m learning to thank them, yes, appreciate their intention to protect me from — well — danger.

Danger from harm to the core of who I am.

Somehow, I ended up with a blinding fear of criticism about my judgment and decision-making abilities.

I have had to change my attitude of fear of criticism about my past unchangeable decisions.

* * * * *

Now I try to to tell myself:

  • I accept the past
  • I did the best that I could with what I had
  • There are consequences to all decisions
  • The only thing I can do is think about moving forward
  • My new decisions might still not be ideal
  • In the future I will be dealing with the consequences of my choices today
  • A knee-jerk reaction will be counterproductive
  • What’s the one baby step I can take right now that at least moves me in the right direction?

Okay panic attacks.

I’m ready for you.

I’m ready to listen to your warnings.

But I’m going to respond in a calm way to let you know that I can only do my best, that I did my best in the past, and that hounding me about what a terrible person I am is not going to make my life better. It’s making my present and future worse.

But I thank you for trying to protect me.

I thank you for trying to teach me.

So — now that I’ve heard you, I need you to be quiet so that I can figure out what next step to take.

BOOK REVIEW, FOCUS ON YOU, UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

Complex PTSD by Pete Walker

Without a properly functioning ego, you have no center for making healthy choices and decisions. All too often, your decisions are based on the fear of getting in trouble or getting abandoned, rather than on the principles of having meaningful and equitable interactions with the world.

How does one review a book that is so deeply personal, a book that shifted me from wandering around in despair to starting a healing journey? I know, I’ll write him a thank you note!

Dear Mr. Walker,

During the most difficult time of my life, I started searching the terms “depression,” “anxiety,” “panic attacks” etc. to try to figure out what was going on. I knew I needed help, but I couldn’t seem to find help that actually—well—helped. I also often seemed okay; I know how to fake it very well.

Needing anything from others can feel especially dangerous. The survivor’s innate capacity to experience comfort and support in relationship becomes very limited or non-existent. This is despite the fact that many high functioning survivors learn to socially function quite adequately.

It wasn’t until I found your website that I felt truly understood or even knew what kind of help I needed. I wrote to you and asked if you could take me on as a client. You very graciously answered me immediately with empathy for my suffering but also that you did not have room to take anyone else on. You suggested that I read your book, so I bought it right away and started reading.

That was a time in my life when I thought my brain was permanently damaged and that I would never be able to function normally again. Your book gave me hope and a path. It somehow normalized a lot of what I was struggling with and both reassured me that I wasn’t weak and gave me cautious optimism that it was fixable. Until I read your work, I couldn’t figure out what it actually was.

The inner critic commonly increases the intensity of a flashback via a barrage of… attacks… Flashbacks can devolve into increasingly painful levels of the abandonment depression. One attack can repetitively bleed into another and tumble us further down a spiral of hopelessness. It is awful enough to take a single punch in a fight, but when the punches keep coming, the victim is severely thrashed.

You named a condition that seemed to explain more to me than any other word or phrase. Most of the other terms I was searching just seemed to describe symptoms. Other books just wanted me to be more mindful, feel gratitude, or learn to think differently. None of them were wrong per se (and you make those suggestions too); however, the positive effects of doing those things didn’t seem to last and I couldn’t seem to get to the source of the nonstop triggering from so many potential situations, many of which seemed benign on the face of them. Why was I always so tense and ready to fight? Why did I always want to run away? Why do people scare me, especially if they pooh pooh me or, even worse, if they LIKE me and want to be my friend?

The person who never wrote in her textbooks could not stop writing notes in your book. The person who thought she could never sit through an entire book ever again read your book from cover to cover. The person who never reads the appendices in books pored over the toolboxes.

In summary, your book was exactly what I needed when I needed it and helped me heal and turn my life around. Thank you for what you do.

Sincerely,

Sherry

FOCUS ON YOU, PODCAST INTERVIEW, UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

Healing from Complex PTSD

Heal from CPTSD with Linda Meredith as your guide.

Linda Meredith is Australia’s first Certified Trauma Recovery Coach and the founder of the world’s first Trauma Recovery Academy. She is the mother of three grown children and about to be a grandmother!

Through her own healing journey, Linda has developed a gentle but powerful way to heal CPTSD – at one point, she lost all her cognitive functions. Her recovery is miraculous, but even more inspiring is what she does now to help people.

Linda has made her courses, worksheets, resources and videos available to the public.

She is a coach and a counsellor who is working to make the world an emotionally safer place for all of us, as individuals, parents and children. What a thrill it was to interview her at her home in Brisbane, Australia.

Healing from CPTSD with Linda Meredith

Of course I got the time difference wrong, so I was sitting around waiting for her and had an entire hour free from distraction (what a gift) as the husband and the kids were told to give me quiet time in the kitchen after dinner. I used the time to watch a few more of her videos and ended up getting engaged, the hour went by in a flash. Linda’s videos are short, personable, and accessible. I felt completely heard, understood, and supported. And this was BEFORE I had actually spoken to her in person.

She joined the Zoom call and immediately I just felt, well, safe. She exudes this strong yet gentle, passionate but not overwhelming personality. She has a ready smile and great screen presence. She really knows her stuff and has helped countless people understand what they are going through. In our conversation during and after the interview, she made me feel important and that I had something meaningful to contribute to the conversation.

My journey of recovery from CPTSD has been greatly enhanced by exploring her website, Facebook Community Page, Instagram, and YouTube videos.

In our podcast, we talk about:

  • CPTSD (Complex Post-Trauma Stress Disorder) and how it comes from things like ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), inter-generational abandonment issues, or emotional neglect.
  • How unspoken rules like “When anything bad happens, we don’t talk about it” are so dangerous for children.
  • She shared some of the changes she made as a parent, such as, wanting to know her kids as individuals, even down to what they liked eating.
  • She touches on how unconditional love of children is non-negotiable; otherwise it impedes their ability to keep being curious, which they need in order to develop.
  • Linda knows what it’s like to be a single mom who struggles, has financial barriers, and wants better for her children. That’s why she makes so much of her work available for free.

Her Key Message: Believe in yourself! You have to be willing to make changes where you won’t see results until your children become adults! Your vision as a parent is to make changes that impact not just your children, but also your children’s children.

I hope you enjoy ‘working’ with Linda as much as I do!

UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

How Low Will You Go?

Depression is like sliding down a hole in the ground.

Anxiety gets the body moving to try to stop the slide, like pulling at the roots or jamming your foot to slow it down. Anxiety gives you the adrenaline to climb up or look up towards the sky. Depression makes you wonder what’s the point of doing anything, going down is inevitable.

Your fingernails get dirty from the desperate clawing along the sides of the hole. Sometimes you’re just freefalling.

There are times when you’re just sliding along and not aware of how far down you’ve gone. There are days when you’re thinking, this is as low as I’ll go, I can’t go any further. I refuse to go any lower. It has to stop here.

Light shines through the hole at the top, but sometimes you are so far down, you can no longer see the natural light. It can be difficult to remember what the light looked or felt like.

One day, you say to yourself, this is as far as I go. Any further down and I’m going to hit a point of no return. I don’t want to hit that point, because I want to get out of this hole. And yet, it can also feel comfortable and safe when it is warm and dry. The days when it rains or when someone tosses dirt on top of your head are hard and very, very uncomfortable. Painful, really.

Sometimes you feel a rope that someone threw down. You may have the strength to use it to climb up or your hands get so tired, you cannot even grab it. Or if you know how, you tie a loop to sit in and rest.

When the dirt is being tossed down, you may yell at the people to stop throwing dirt on you! You can feel it throwing you off balance, like it’s going to cause you to lose ground and fall backwards again.

When you are too far down, people at the top yelling at you to come up doesn’t help at all. It’s a little discouraging. But as you get closer, you can see them and they have their hands out to grab you and pull you up. Then you realize that they were there the whole time, trying to find ways to help… even those throwing dirt… they thought they could help fill the hole so you could get your feet on solid ground. But since they didn’t know how deep it was, they didn’t realize they were just tossing dirt on your head and in your face.

When you finally get out of the hole, you just never want to fall back in. But there are holes everywhere… so the goal is to work hard not to fall in, but if you do, you know how to stop the slide and you know how to get out and you know how to ask for help.

UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

Learning from Overwhelm

The past month has been incredibly challenging as the feeling of overwhelming stress crashed upon me. There were physical manifestations and mental lows.

Many of my friends seem to suffer from this especially during the fall. The days get shorter, the temperature chillier, and for those of us who do not love winter, the season of mush and sleet looms drearily ahead. Aches and pains get worse, fatigue sets in, and the day after a night where sleep is allusive, mini despair and spiraling start: I am tired. Why am I always tired? I didn’t get {such and such} done. I should have gotten it done. Why didn’t {so and so} do it? They don’t care about me. My back is sore. I want to nap. I really shouldn’t nap. I should doing {this and that}. Oh look at how together that person looks. I’m such a loser. I can’t make my life work. And so on.

The slide is a steep ride right down to: I don’t like this feeling. I don’t like where this is going. If I get any more anxious or depressed, I’m going to end up at that horrible moment at the (mental) cliff, the precipice, that line I really, really don’t want to cross.

So we try all sorts of things:

  • meditation (can’t because brain is chaotically in madness and won’t quiet down)
  • distraction (helps a bit, but is only temporary)
  • eating (helps a lot, but also temporary and has side effects that have to be undone at a later date)
  • yelling (sort of a distraction and valve to let off steam, but temporary too and hurts relationships)

The only way past it is through it. I hear that a lot, but didn’t really know what it meant. So many things just start sounding like clichés and sound bites. But today, I had an ah ha moment. Through it means feeling it, not running away from it. Through it means listening to it, not ignoring it. Through it means experiencing it to learn from it.

Okay then. I asked myself: What does my stress tell me? What are my feelings trying to tell me?

Emotions are what we feel after we compare our Expectations with the Reality. If the outcome is good, we feel positive. If the outcome is bad, we sad or mad.

Then I wondered: WHY do I think my emotions are trying to tell me something? And who is it exactly that is using my emotions to talk to me? Is it their language?

My theory: My body is host to so many ecosystems that make it possible for me to function. And when I feel overwhelmed, it is because what I want to get done is more than what is possible to get done with the systems in place and the resources needed. So the systems start shutting down or slowing down to rest. And the systems that haven’t done so start to bear the burden even more and then they start to shut down or slow down. As different ones respond at different times, different feelings emerge – they are the symptoms of what is happening.

My conscious mind is governed by thoughts that I try to control. And it will say things like: Suck it up. Don’t be such a baby. Just do it. You can do this. Don’t be lazy. You can’t afford to stop.

My subconscious mind is the one who is listening to the systems and making sense of it all. It knows when it’s time to stop, secure and start. It can sense when a system is breaking down. It can see when a system is slowing down.

If I listen carefully when I’m overwhelmed, I think I hear:

  • Rest and retreat
  • Recover and repair
  • Reflect and remember
  • Restart

It certainly feels a bit counterintuitive to slow down when everything in my conscious mind is screaming DO MORE! GET IT DONE! HURRY UP! But, when I do, I realize that my subconscious has been working on a solution that may be more creative, efficient or enjoyable. Or it’s trying to warn me of potential roadblocks ahead that need to be considered.

In any case, I’m learning not to panic now when I feel overwhelmed. I’m learning to just stop and let the chaos run its course, come apart and then come together again. It’s very hard and I’ve only tried this a couple of times, but inevitably after I emerge from the overwhelm with some energy or headspace to productively handle something that has been bothering me.

FOCUS ON YOU

Not Doin’ Nothin’ This Weekend

According to the World Health Organisation, stress is the health epidemic of the 21st Century. Everywhere you turn, people are stressed. There are many reasons for this, but it mainly boils down to our busy modern lifestyle and the way our reptilian brain is programmed to help us avoid life threatening situations through the fight or flight response. But prolonged exposure to this level of heightened anxiety compromises our immune system and causes inflammatory responses. Chronic stress leads to chronic illnesses and pain. Dude, people are stressed. Not just adults, but youth, little kids, the elderly… like… everyone!

So this has now spawned a billion and one (money making) ways for us to cope with the stress, you know, overcome this challenge, manage our response, because it’s our RESPONSE that’s the problem, not the problem itself. It’s not what happens that matters, it’s how we deal with what happens that matters.

Right?

So we need to work hard everyday on our physical and mental health, eat well (vegetarian? keto?), get enough and good quality sleep (but… insomnia!), exercise (at the gym with weird equipment? rigorously? 30 minutes? 7 minutes?), be positive, be mindful (meditate, do yoga, qigong)… CBT… CBD? THC!? use essential oils, vaccinate, don’t vaccinate, but we have to focus on developing relationships, because relationships are everything, be kind, time flies, the clock is ticking, so we have to seize the day, make every minute count, be a good parent (attachment, authentic, free range, tiger), be a good spouse (thoughtful, organized, do your fair share), be a good employee, manager (get ahead at work, achieve your potential, network, manage up, get along with everyone), learn languages, be good at math, make sure your kids learn languages and are good at math, kids should play competitive sports to develop skills that will help them succeed in the future, travel the world with your kids, if your kids cannot sit still in class, they may have something that requires them to get drugged, be patient, do you have enough money for retirement? make a bucket list, skydive in Paris, eat Wendy’s no antibiotics meat free burger at 11 pm when you’re binge watching all the Must See shows before the Oscars and Emmys, sign up for Oprah’s newly revamped Weight Watchers, while you look at the Must Read Goodreads for your book club piling up by your bed, save your money, make your lunches, but working mothers are happier if they hire someone to clean their houses, every 20 minutes, look up for 20 seconds at something 20 feet away… get fresh air, get sunshine, take your vitamins, blend flaxseeds into your breakfast smoothie, brush your hair and look good, get organized and develop good habits that will make you successful… make a to do list, no don’t make a to do list because it doesn’t work, use a project management approach, break it down into little doable pieces… don’t overshare and don’t forget to keep your kids privacy private because companies make money off of their information… hardwire happiness, make happiness a project, Marie Kondoize your house!

You’ve got this. JUST DO IT!

If you can’t do all this successfully, happily, and through beautiful photos on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Snapchat, Vimeo, Whatsapp, WeChat, you are an utter failure and it’s your own fault that you are stressed.

Because it all boils down to you doing the right thing at the right time…

Now even thinking about things that are supposed to help with stress is stressing people out!

So… I’ve decided… I’m not going to do anything this weekend.

I’m not going to make a list, I’m not going to feel guilty, I’m not going to pressure myself into working on being a better person.