CHANGING DIRECTION: How To Move Into the Future Despite Your Past

Michele Rosenthal 2013Guest Post by Michele Rosenthal, Author, Speaker, Post-Trauma Coach
Founder, www.healmyptsd.com 

Host, CHANGING DIRECTION, a weekly radio program

Author, BEFORE THE WORLD INTRUDED: Conquering the Past and Creating the Future

Have you ever felt like something that happened long ago still defines you today? Sometimes the smallest stress or the largest trauma moves you into situations that imprint so deeply they become a part of who you are. Sometimes, too, those events change who you are: Consequent beliefs, assumptions, interpretations and perceptions alter how you see yourself, others and the outside world.

I know how easily all of this can make you be not such a good friend to yourself! For over twenty-five years I was actually very unkind to myself as the negative events in my life shaped and distorted my inner self connection. Then, I went on a healing rampage. I knew that life was so much more than simply existing or struggling to exist and I wanted to feel better and be happier. It took years to find what process would set me free. Finally, I learned how to shed the past and now have dedicated my life to helping others find healing (much more quickly than I did!) after life’s big and small traumas.

What I’ve learned through education, training, countless conversations, direct interactions and coaching others is that simply finding a path to healing is not enough. As individuals we want to move in a direction that is positive, proactive, and productive. Figuring out how to do that can be challenging, which is why I’ve decided to expand (and retitle) my radio show to talk about how we go about “CHANGING DIRECTION.”

Beginning the week of April 29th, CHANGING DIRECTION will air twice every week: Monday’s and Wednesday’s at 2pm EST/11am PST. The shows will be thirty minutes in length so that you get in-depth, concentrated content in a timeframe that adapts to your on-the-go lifestyle. In addition to the healing support and information we currently provide our dedicated audience, we will also begin providing expert insights on how to reclaim yourself and transform your life in the areas of personal growth, career, health and fitness, finances, relationships, fun and recreation, and family life. Interviewing experts in all of these areas CHANGING DIRECTION offers ideas for how you can change the direction of your life day after day.

In celebration of this shift, we’re offering all of our new listeners a complimentary ebook gift: “52 Ways To Transform Your Life After Trauma” gives you one idea per week to discover new ways to be a friend to yourself by deepening your internal connection and challenging you to explore what it really means to be you. To claim your gift, click here.

You have enormous healing potential; the goal is learning to access it. You can do this. Dig deep. I believe in you!

I thank Michele Rosenthal for her guest post today, her courage to invite us to team with her in this this and her transparent beauty of character.

Michele Rosenthal is a keynote speaker, award-nominated author, post-trauma coach, and radio show host. To learn more about how you can be a friend to yourself by healing your past visit, ChangeYouChoose.com

Follow Michele Rosenthal on Twitter @ChangeYouChoose. Connect with her on Facebook: Michele Rosenthal, plus the Heal My PTSD fan page

 

Sleep Is The Vital Sign Of Psychiatry

Yesterdays brief post, Just Go To Sleep, provoked and inspired many of us.  Perhaps it was its brevity, it’s mostly blank canvas in other words, that allowed for such freedom.  The comments ranged from major depressive disorder hypersomnia type, to insomnia related to anxiety.  We covered medication induced sleep, to parasomnias.  Some of us have to fight hard for our sleep time and others of us fight to get away from sleep.

I’ve covered a bit already on sleep in previous posts you can read if you want to review:

What I haven’t done is organize for you, as you did so well for me in your comments yesterday, the different reasons we sleep the way we do.  This isn’t a quick flick to show you but I will touch on Carl D’Agostino‘s question when talking about depression with increased sleep,

“Is our brain allowing us to escape the depression this way?”

English: Monitor of vital signs in intensive c...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love this question because it discloses simply by inquiry the full body involvement in the disease process of major depressive disorder.  Sleep is known as the vital signs of psychiatry.  It reflects what’s happening in the whole system, the whole person even down to a sore on your foot to the ravages of post traumatic stress disorder in your hypothalamus.  When sleep changes, we know to look into things.  There’s an investigation to be done.

 

 

We can, each of us, be part of the investigation:

  1. Maintain sleep hygiene.  Don’t indulge when we don’t want to go to bed.
  2. Observe our nights – is our sleep solid?
  3. If yes, is it restful?  Do we feel refreshed in the morning?  How is our day time energy?
  4. If not refreshing, why?  For example, do we snore?
  5. When do we have the most trouble – falling asleep, staying asleep, or falling back to sleep if we awaken?

When our sleep deteriorates, if nothing else has yet, we can bet it will soon if we don’t get our sleep restored.  Not everyone knows that during sleep, we heel, our hormones replenish and our memories consolidate.  Marie from blog-site, livingvictoriously, told us yesterday about her day time inattention after poor sleep,

“I have had nights with very little sleep that have left me feeling like I am unable to concentrate well the following day.” 

We all become a little drunk, disinhibited, inattentive and impulsive when we get little sleep.  Or opposite, as Carl described, with too much sleep we feel,

“vapid and uneventful.”  (Good word Carl, vapid.)

One of the sad times for me in clinic is when I meet a new patient who has suffered with insomnia for a long time along with another one or more combined brain illnesses and I fall into the, “what if’s?”  Knowing how much healing they would have gotten so long ago simply by getting sleep gets to me and I have to push it down and be grateful for the now, when I know they will find some relief.

Don’t minimize the role of sleep in our life.  Don’t minimize any changes in our sleep.  Take sleep seriously.  More serious than the rest of the stuff we usually ruminate over, like offenses taken, our appearance and the weight of our road bike.  If sleep changes, get a professional consultation.  If it doesn’t resolve, get another consultation and push and fight for your sleep.  It may be that health and lifestyle changes must happen.  Whatever it is, do it.  It is a friendly thing to do.

Questions:  What have you noticed about your whole body’s relationship to brain illness?  Has sleep been a part of it?  Did sleep harold any other important changes in your medical/emotional health?  Please tell us about it.

Self-Care Tip – Forget about sleep.  Just kidding.  Sleep well my friends.

Safety in Connections With Others

Nami 01

Marcy came in looking like a question mark.  Despite her gorgeous face and swank, she still looked uncertain.

Marcy was born into chaos.  Get this.  Her father who spent her whole childhood using drugs, alcohol and strange women, who was emotionally and mentally absent most of her life, who is possibly still using, is the one person in the whole world Marcy calls her confidante.  “He gets me.  I can really talk to him.  Even my husband doesn’t understand me like he does, you know, emotions.”

Marcy, despite years of fear, panic attacks, the survivor of abuse and neglect was clinging to her dad.

Marcy was lost in the headlights of the oncoming life.  She thought after having spent her entire life afraid, it was time to heal so she though she’d give medication therapy “a try.”

After initiating medications for Marcy’s post-traumatic stress disorder and after her panic-attacks stopped, Marcy started attending NAMI.  What a believer in NAMI she became!

They just make it easy for me to talk about myself, say things I can’t even tell my husband, and they know what I’m going through.

Listening to her talk about them was letting fresh air into our room.  Hope floated in.  Now Marci doesn’t believe that her dad is the only one in the world she can connect with at this level.  Now Marci does not feel as alone.  Why?  Because she went and got connected.  She whacked through the briar hedge of misperceptions, biases and insecurities between her and others.

Marci still thinks largely of her father, but he’s not the only one.  He has some competition to the throne which means, Marci has a better chance of being influenced by someone healthier.  Rather than attack Marci’s attachment with her Father, NAMI is giving her more to fill her heart with.

Self-Care Tip #285 – Find safety in healthy connections with others.

Questions:  When have the connections in your life saved you from warped views?  How do you think we could do better with this?  Please tell me your story.

Bullying That Includes Life-Threatening Behavior

Bullying:  Series Continued.

  • #144 Leave Space In Your Beliefs To Grow
  • #163 “He’s Never Hit Me.” Abuse.
  • #251 Just Ordinary Bullying – The Bully and The Bullied
  • #253 How to Be A Friend To Yourself When Thinking About Your Bully
  • #254 Free To Do Self-Care, Despite Our Bully

Bullying is a broad term.  We could call it “dirty,” meaning non-specific.  Here we’ve spent several days discussing it and stil trip on the dirt.  What we want to do is tease life-threatening events included in the broad category of bullying apart from the…, I don’t know, can we call them lesser degrees of bullying?  Anything that isn’t perceived as life-threatening can lay in that heap, let’s say.

Teddy bear - Rory

Image via Wikipedia

Each of us must figure out where we are in these two categories.  What type of bully did I or do I have?  (I have to smile when I say “My bully.”  Sounds like a teddy bear or blankie.  And it sooo is not!)  I think when we can do this, we can know even more about our self-care options.

There is a main category named, “Bullied.”

Event perceived as life-threatening -> you folks on the right.

Event perceived as non-life-threatening -> you folks on the left.

On the right, we have some who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and some who don’t.  I’ve seen mothers get it after a traumatic birth and post-partum period when their baby might have died.  I’ve seen people get it from watching terribly violent movies.  Of course we’ve all seen or been survivors of abuse, war, or other near death experiences who become angry, irritable, nervous and suspicious of others.  We’ve watched our once cuddly personality disappear.  Everyone in this system is hurt and hurting – bully and bullied and those connected to either.

Not all survivors go on to develop PTSD after life-threatening events and we can’t clearly say why.  These people on the right straddle the line with those on the left.

We also have current events and past events.  We can number there order of passing in our lives.  For example,  1.  saw our mother beat up for years by our father, 2. watched Silence of The Lambs, 3.  excluded and conspired against in high school by mean click, 4.  neighbor strong-arms you into getting rid of your dog and paying him money for perceived damages.

PTSD can set in at any point on that time line because of the conditioning/changes the life-threatening event did to the brain.

Those on the left didn’t get much attention today.  I’m sorry about that.  You guys are just as important but my agenda today was to clarify.

Questions:  How does this clarification help you, if at all?  How would you try to define bullying?

Self-Care Tip #255 – Know what type of bully you had or have to know how to approach yourself in friendship.

Free To Do Self-Care, Despite Our Bully

Demonstration in London supporting Serbia

Image via Wikipedia

Bullying:  Series Continued.  (I didn’t even realize I was writing a series until now!)

  • #144 Leave Space In Your Beliefs To Grow
  • #163 “He’s Never Hit Me.” Abuse.
  • #251 Just Ordinary Bullying – The Bully and The Bullied
  • #253 How to Be A Friend To Yourself When Thinking About Your Bully

Bit’s and parts of us are unbelieving in what number of options to self-care that we have, when it comes to being bullied.  I don’t say this lightly about terrors.  Terrors change us irrevocably and hurt to the brink of our own abyss.

The question is, are we free to do self-care even when we are bullied?

Yesterday, Carl in his candid way, said,

Empathy and forgiveness? You gotta be kidding. Do you know what it is like for a twelve year-old to face this…  for an entire school term? Probably not? Cope? Isn’t coping with a chronic negative stimulus as debilitating as being unable to cope….  There may be situations where “book smart” stuff is not applicable because we cannot negotiate with the bully.

Go Serbia

Image by SanforaQ8 via Flickr

We cannot negotiate with the bully.  True, to the degree that Carl said, if I understand him.  (Carl you will surely set me straight soon.)

It is true that people who like to fight, fight well.  People who bully generally will bully better than I can ever defend myself.  They have had a lot more practice.  Have you heard this?  You never want to go up against someone who has nothing to lose because the only one that will lose is you.

When someone is agitated, in psychiatry we learn that it is good not to make eye-contact.  Avert the body.  Keep your voice low and don’t engage as much as possible.  It reminds me of letting the mist of early morning dew expire the coals in the camp fire.  Getting attacked is something we want to avoid.

Early on in my training, I was rounding on the inpatient psychiatry ward.  We often have people who are agitated admitted there and this morning, I remember it was about seven AM on a Sunday….  This particular patient hadn’t slept well.  He wasn’t well-groomed and he scowled.  All the nurses where in another room in a nurses meeting and I didn’t notice he and I were alone in the hallway.  I looked him in the eyes directly.  I didn’t concern myself with tempering my interview.  I was still sleepy myself and wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible to start my Sunday stuff at home.  (I know.  Stellar attitude for a resident-physician, right?)  He grabbed me around the waist and I nearly lost my water!  I screamed at him like a she-dog and he let go.  That was all.  No big deal right?  Well I was ticked at him and at the nurses for not being available.  No one was at the nurses station, which is illegal too.

In truth, I was pretty much an idiot on all accounts.  It doesn’t condone the assault but I have since been better about not negotiating with the bully.  

That probably wasn’t exactly what Carl was talking about but it is related.  It is by no means a full year of negative harassment, but when responding to the concept of not being able to negotiate with the bully, I don’t know at what point in degrees of trauma experiences that becomes true for us.  Perhaps it isn’t a matter of qualifying them or quantifying them.  Perhaps more depends on the victim.  I don’t know.  Do you?

What I do know, is that Carl and I are both partly wrong.  We can.  I don’t know about then.  We can now.  We are free even from those molesting monsters because of who we are.  We were created free and those horrors can’t extinguish that bit of us.  We are free not because of the protection or lack of protection we’ve lived in life.  We are free.

We don’t claim to know all the innumerable forms of suffering out there.  That is not what this self-care engages with.

Questions:  How do you find yourself free at this time in your life, despite it all?  How do you describe your freedom, even with your bully?  How have you seen others in this context?    Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip #254 – Free yourself from your bully.

Additional Resources:

How To Be a Friend to Yourself When Thinking About Your Bully?

I love real life John Waters freeze-frames

Image by TheeErin via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #253 – Humanize and forgive your bully.

How to be a friend to yourself when thinking about your bully?

Have you noticed that when we think about our bully, we don’t feel so good.  Just thinking about him!  Sheeze!  In our last post on bullying, Nancy said,

Wow! This one brought up WAY too much pain. I’m feeling very vulnerable and uncomfortable and hurt and stupid at the moment. 

There are jumbled emotions that flood us, such as anger, shame, helplessness, anxiety or more.  Our autonomics may even trigger, making us hypervigilant as if we were being attacked.  We are in defense mode – all the while sitting alone in a chair at our desk, in the quiet of our bed while falling asleep, or any other place of our generally hum-drum lives.  These feelings and nervous system changes come in a time and place when we are not in danger.  They come without us realizing their approach, stealth feet and skilled hands; we are in their company before we know it.

Is there no hope?  What can we do so we don’t feel victimized all over again.

Humanize

1.  Do research on the bully.  Find out about him on the internet.  See what others have said about him.

This helps us:

  1. see him as a human, mortal, without superhuman powers.
  2. feel like we are less alone in this.
  3. realize that we are not chosen, so to speak, to suffer at his hands.  He is a bully and not just around “Me.”
  4. we didn’t cause his behaviors.  He chooses his behaviors because of the same biopsychosocial paradigm that we choose ours.
  5. realize that he hasn’t chosen to do his self-care, making him more vulnerable to his own negative feelings and behaviors.

Forgive

  1. Humanizing our bully helps us move towards empathy and forgiveness.
  2. Anger debts only hurt Me and that’s not friendly to Me.

Grow our self-confidence

  1. Such as doing our own thing.
  2. Grow our own natural genius.  Work hard at it and see how it is there for us, like a friend when we are feeling pushed down.  Our friend will be standing beside us, reminding us of our value when this remembering tries to beat us down.  Our friend will be there reminding us that this negative event in our life does not define us.

Now if they continue, these rememberings, and if these rememberings are frequent enough that we believe our quality of life is affected, we may be looking at something else.  There are other medical illnesses that can disable our abilities to cope.  In this scenario, I am thinking especially about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)

In PTSD, we relive experiences of trauma (which we perceived to have been life threatening to ourselves or observed by us in other(s).)  We may also feel hypervigilant, as if we are about to be attacked at times when our lives are not threatened.  We might have nightmares and avoid things that remind us of the trauma event as well.

PTSD is easily reactivated by other stressful situations – such as being bullied.  When we have a history of PTSD that has been quiet for a time, even years, we are more vulnerable to stressors reactivating it’s symptoms.  Then, although the said stressor may not have been a life-threatening stressor, we perceive similar feelings and neurologic changes we did when in the life-threatening situation.  Then, although the said stressor may be over and not recurring, those PTSD symptoms start happening all over again and may continue indeterminately – propagated by the disease process and not our bully event.

This might be endured and it may go away in time without treatment.  But it isn’t good for anyone while it is happening.  PTSD can improve with medical therapies.

Question:  How have you been able to humanize and forgive your bully?  Please tell me your story.

When You Are Pushed Down, Push Back

A Push and a Shove

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #185 – When you are pushed down, deliberately push back with The Force in  you.  Be a friend to yourself.

So much in life pushes down on us.  I am amazed that we push back – considering how awful some of it is.  After 7 years of private practice in psychiatry, I still get caught off guard by some of the particularly horrible stories I am told.  Blinking my own stinging eyes, I look in amazement at the person in front of me.  What I see is this pushing-back Force.

Last week after diagnosing PTSD in Margie, a mother of a murdered son, I could hardly believe that she still chooses life.  She takes care of herself despite.  That’s how amazing she is.  And I’m her psychiatrist!  It’s such an honor.  And thinking about that straining towards life, that thread in us, all of us – I saw that it was the best description of the brilliance and power that is God.  True, sickness can mute our perception of this beautiful thing in us, whether it’s depression or liver disease.  But all of us have seen some of how hard the thrashing against that loss is.

In thinking on this amazing force, this thrashing about, this straining against the push of whatever is set at tipping us over, I named it God in us.  And I thought, for all the time I spend on the stuff pushing me around in bad ways, I’m going to more actively team up with the struggle to live.  I’m going to choose to strain and thrash about and move at that chink of space in the dark room as much as I can.  Hopefully I can be brave too, like that mother of a murdered son, Margie.

I can choose to ally myself, with what I want to live for.  I’m going to partner with that Force that keeps me thrashing against the push and be stronger, like you have readers.

After our post on suicide a couple days ago, many of you responded with your own stories about how you were pushed and pushed back.  Karal said,

Like all difficult experiences we face in life, there is the possibility of growth from the ashes.  It requires strength and a willingness to walk through that fire.  Unfortunately for survivors of suicide (i’m referring to those left behind) we’re often chastised into feeling that our grieving, our walking through the fire is both wrong, and  unnecessary.  I totally disagree.  Like you said, caring for people is a choice, and being a friend to yourself means making sense of, or at least peace with, what may never make sense.

Karal is allying herself with that Force to make as much sense of what will always be jumbled.  I’m not going to quote all the rest of the brilliant comments.  Please read them.  They were amazing demonstrations of pushing back in a collaborative way with The Force that makes their lives worth living.  This is active in us at times, and not deliberate at others.  Being better to ourselves, we could more deliberately choose when given the push.  We are not thrashing alone.  Push back.

Question:  How do you deliberately choose your alliances in your life for working against what pushed you down?  How do you define that Force in you that pushes back?  Please tell me your story.