I have been trying for the past couple of days to try to develop a more positive attitude in the mornings. I still think this is worth the effort and may be helpful to some degree. But, after reading this quote today (from Grace to Survive), I realize that at the same time I must not condemn myself for feeling badly. This is what I was doing. Seeing it as another shortcoming in myself. Seeing it as a sign of weakness. I am not hard on other people; I need to stop being so hard on myself. Compassion is not pity. It is empathy with understanding I think. So, tomorrow morning I will not berate myself. Instead, I will remember that the pain is not my fault and accept it, yet gently invite myself to think upon the good and even wonderful things that life has to offer.
This quote spoke to me. Choosing and making choices does not come easily to me as these were taken away from me as a child. I was taught that what I wanted or needed did not matter. So, making choices is a skill that I have to work at. And coping with Complex PTSD, this feels like it takes away my choices as it has a will of it’s own and decides daily what I will have to struggle with each day. But, amid these two challenges, the thought of having a choice about who I will be caused me to hope. That I am more and can be more than just a walking, talking response to severe abuse. Looking back, I remember reading Leo Buscaglia’s book Love as a teenager, and deciding that I wanted to be like him — loving, warm, friendly and having a positive effect on those around me. This was a challenge since I had a great deal of social anxiety. But, focusing on how others felt rather than my fears allowed me to put forth a friendly face and have positive interactions with people.
Another choice I made was to not be like my mother. Aside from being abusive, she was a bitter, hate-filled, controlling shrew of a woman who spoke to me endlessly and daily about how others had wronged her. I remember praying passionately for God to help me not be like her almost daily for years as a teenager. Thankfully, I am nothing like her. Other dreams I have dreamt have come to fruition too. To realize. after reading this quote, that I have successfully made choices in the past gives me hope that I can make choices today about the person that I want to be. It just takes a lot more courage now and a willingness to see past my perceived limitations. I have been feeling less than thrilled at the possibility of another possible thirty years on this planet since my fifty-eighth birthday because my future looked solely full of endless coping with PTSD. But, maybe, it could be much more. So, this week I will dream about what else I would like to accomplish in this life and dust off some ancient dreams that I had given up on. If I can imagine it, it well may be that I can do it.
(I borrowed the header quote from the blog Grace to Survive, which I try to never miss a post of. All others are from Bing.)
I made a promise to myself many years ago to pursue reality. I was in an emotionally and mentally abusive marriage at the time. Denial had been my coping mechanism; that and pretending that he was an alien from another planet to explain his cold-heartedness and lack of empathy. It’s taken years to see the full arsenal of weapons he used. Also, to fully appreciate that it was a deliberate choice on his part and not something he couldn’t help. At times, I have felt stupid for having been fooled. But these realizations were nothing compared to recovering the memories of rape and incest I experienced as a child and teenager. Despite the heartbreak of finding out that my father was not the good and loving man that I loved, I still would choose reality. Those that have been abused live in a different reality though. The world does not make sense. Life does not make sense. Parents and people are not to be trusted.
Family is often not a good word but a term that is filled with pain. But, with good therapy and good friends, (and kind pets – I must add) small steps can be taken to start to engage with your fellow humans and stop expecting the worse. Still I feel, at times, that I have come from a different planet than many of the people I know. And I wonder sometimes if others can sense that I am different. Sure, I try to fit in and laugh along at the jokes. So often though, it is a huge act. There’s a feeling of isolation that crops up suddenly sometimes. Because I don’t talk about my past to the majority of the populace. Its a secret that I carry around. A secret that has been kept so long, since childhood. This disconnection from other people is part of my reality.
But, reality is the price that I paid for not going mad. As I slowly wake in the mornings after a night of strange dreams, I check in to see if I am still sane. I usually am not sure I am till after two cups of coffee and reading through my fellow bloggers latest blogs. I then start to notice the world around me. I hear planes overhead, bird calls and see whether the sun is out or hiding. Its another day. Another day for learning new ways to live and accepting the reality of now with both it’s blessings and challenges. Reality can be both bad and good; there is darkness and light. And just for today, I will try to embrace the goodness in this world.
I feel this relates to all types of abuse and neglect..
“The aftereffects of Post-Incest Syndrome are not ‘problems’ to be ‘overcome’, but coping mechanisms that have negative side-effects. By attaching the concept of ‘disorder’ to these consequences, we damn the incest survivor to weakness instead of attributing to her the strength of spirit, creativity, and endurance that she deserves–that she has earned.”
It is hard to find people in this world who will try to understand just what PTSD is, let alone how it impacts your life. Even people who love you are apt to know more about the president’s dog than PTSD. Even if they read up on it, they may not understand it in an empathetic way since it is not something they experience. There are days that I feel more understood by the cat than a dear friend. (Of course, this is anthropomorphism — but heh, whatever gets me through the day… 😉 ) But, here at WordPress, I can find others who walk my path — who “get it” — because they are walking it too. It may not be PTSD, but instead depression, anxiety, OCD, DID, bi-polar disorder, or any number of mental and emotional health challenges. But, we can understand each other because we have shared experiences. Some days, we write a post and feel heard when we see a “like” on it. We press “like” when we find a post we can relate to. Sometimes we even comment on each others blogs and share a thought or two. We see others on the path sharing our journey. The loneliness abates. Other people’s ignorance is easier to bear. There are others who understand and whom we understand and this is a very good thing.
If you are looking for some honest feedback from me you will have to request it passionately. As someone who has had enough criticism to last a lifetime from my mother and first husband, I don’t like to dole it out to others. I understand that healthy criticism can be helpful; but, its been rare that I have been on the receiving end of this type. I think healthy criticism should include comments about what someone did right, along with remarks about what could have been better. A spirit of humility should also be present. After all, it is just one fallible human’s opinion.
But how do you withstand criticism from those that are hyper-critical? Those that consistently tear others down rather than build them up? Some you can kick to the curb and get on with your life. But others are a permanent fixture in your life. I think it helps to recognize that the criticism says more about them than you. They have issues. Probably, they do not feel very good about themselves or were subject to a lot of criticism growing up.
But, how do you handle it? Can a certain response decrease the amount of negative feedback you get from the critical ones? I am looking for ideas on how to cope and respond to this dilemma. Please share your ideas if you have any.