Vulnerability

I’m experiencing a hard shut down, triggered by vulnerability. “Vulnerability refers to the inability (of a system or a unit) to withstand the effects of a hostile environment.” [Source: Wikipedia.] I recognize my vulnerabilities as triggers for dissociation, panic attacks, flashbacks and nightmares, or any other symptom of anxiety, depression, or PTSD. My triggers for the defense mechanisms that serve to protect me are these vulnerabilities:

  • Specific Trigger Dates:
    • New Year’s Eve — Partly due to losing SSDI and partly due to a horribly triggering event that began this blog
    • January 11 — date my divorce became final
    • January 15 — my dad’s birthday
    • March 1 — my oldest son’s birthday
    • April 11/12 — date of first rape
    • April 14 — the day my dad died
    • April 27 — my youngest son’s birthday; memories associated with giving him up for adoption
    • May 2 — the day I left my husband and son
    • August 11 — date of second rape
    • September 11 — the day we, as a nation, were traumatized
    • September 23 — KR broke up with me
    • October 20 — KR told me about his affairs
    • November 26 — the day I moved in with KR
    • December 3 — marriage anniversary
  • Suicide Attempts (Possible trigger dates):
    1. August 9, 1996
    2. April 12, 1998
    3. October 14, 1998
    4. December 4, 2004
  • Holidays that I recognize as being triggering:
    • Easter
    • Mother’s Day
    • My birthday
    • Thanksgiving
    • Christmas
  • Certain strong emotions, e.g. rage, grief, terror, contempt, disappointment, despair, hopelessness, disrespect, humiliation, frustration, overwhelm, shame, confusion, and shock.
  • Confrontation, arguments, fighting.
  • Harsh or negative criticism and judgement by others, feeling persecuted.
  • Acts of aggression and violence (hostility). I’m horribly sensitive to media coverage that is gruesome or hateful or violent, etc. Coverage of stories regarding rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, or even sexual harassment can be triggering for me.
  • Exhaustion — whether it’s physical, emotional, mental, or all of the above.
  • Feeling exposed, out in the open, insecure paranoia.
  • Injustice. Feeling taken advantage of or inequality.
  • Abandonment.
  • Rejection.
  • Loss of safety or insecure environment. Threat of homelessness, starvation, or abuse make me catatonic, totally checked out.
  • Feeling misunderstood, unheard, or not believed.
  • Lack of consistency, routine, or structure in my daily life.
  • Change — big or small, I don’t do well with change.
  • Healthcare — mental health or physical health, either one. I still, to this day, have “institutional” type nightmares; and I never stayed at any psychiatric facility for more than one month. I have no faith left in the medical community, no faith in our doctors to actually listen, hear what they’re being told, and understand that I know my body better than they ever will given the brevity of time spent with patients. I have no patience left for psychiatry. I’m right there on that cliff of anti-psychiatry, ready to jump off. I don’t even have any trust left to give to another counselor or therapist. I have absolutely no cause to believe that corporations (pharmaceutical, healthcare related and insurance related) will grow a conscience and do what is “right” for the American people. And absolutely NO confidence in our government to protect us from their predatory greed.
  • Sex — everything about sex is triggering for me, everything. Some sexual acts are more triggering, like oral sex or anal sex (I would rather be tarred and feathered than do either); but even straight-up, vanilla, missionary position sex can cause hyperventilation or dissociation during sexual encounters with my boyfriend unless I focus on my breathing to control the physical and emotional pain I feel (and I mean, really focus on breathing, consciously aware, mindful breathing). The physical pain I feel during and after intercourse is almost as bad as the emotional baggage that prevents me from enjoying it, and sometimes that physical pain lasts for days afterward. It’s not just the actual sexual acts that are triggering for me, but also the pressure I feel to “perform” or fulfill KR’s needs. Any sexual touching triggers my startle reflex even on a good day. Waking up to KR snuggling or touching me in this way is a huge trigger! I can’t watch porn because it disgusts me to the point of dry heaving. I can’t even allow myself to feel “sexy” because in my mind, that would warrant sexual attention that I do not want. Sex was a huge issue for me long before the rapes, from the moment I lost my virginity. The rapes, sexual assaults, and sexual harassment I’ve endured throughout my adult life only further complicated this matter.*

*UPDATE: I plan to continue updating this list of triggers. I’m only now, after 23 years of on-and-off-again-therapy, beginning to recognize what triggers me.

 

Advertisements

I’m not giving up and neither should you.

I, quite seriously, feel like I’m losing my mind. I’m back to questioning whether I’m alive or dead. Nothing feels real, so I’m going with the latter. What if I’m the only person who knows we’re all dead and trying to work out our past life’s traumas? All of this talk of moving on is meant to push us into the next life — reincarnate to try again in a never-ending cycle of life and death.

I’m really struggling right now.

I feel like I don’t belong here, like an alien stranded on some strange — very disturbing — planet that’s about to veer off course into its sun. Half the population is creating hell while the other half of us are simply trying to connect the dots, prove there’s a better way to deal with suffering. Progress based in love and compassion is our only way forward. Hate and exclusion moves us backward to repeat past mistakes over and over again. Everything seems so black and white, good or evil, positive or negative. Polar opposites. The balance is teetering on the brink of destruction and each side keeps rocking the boat.

Chaos is winning.

I feel lost. I feel like nothing more than an observer, silenced by overwhelm, suffocating from too many triggers, buried alive under so much hate. I’m “out of my mind.” I feel like I’m experiencing all of this out of my body, lost and untethered, with no desire to bother coming back. Content to watch the world crash and burn, taking my soul with it, I mourn for our planet as much as myself as even she has lost the will to live.

The rape of our planet’s resources is the perfect metaphor for the crushing disappointment in humanity to defend and honor the female population.

What chance do women have in a barbaric patriarchy that treats us like objects to be used for their sick and twisted amusement?

This election and its aftermath left me in a state of shock and dismay. To say I’m disappointed in its outcome would be the understatement of the year. I find myself fighting dissociation, that familiar numb disconnect fueled by a desperation to survive the suicidal ideation triggered by the events of the past few weeks. I’ve had nightmares for at least the last 3 nights in a row. The flashbacks are intense, invasive and graphic memories causing severe panic. KR, trying to be helpful, took me to buy pepper spray. It was a sweet gesture; but knowing my freeze response when I feel threatened, I would never get the chance to use it.

In response to a comment someone left on a link I shared on Facebook, I wrote:

As a direct result of Trump’s language throughout his campaign and that leaked video, every time I see that man’s face come across my news feed or hear another ignorant thing he says, I feel triggered. I know, that’s *my* problem to deal with; and I’m coping to the best of my ability. However, I associate Trump’s face with every man who ever sexually harassed me, with every man who ever sexually assaulted me (grabbed or otherwise touched me inappropriately), and with the men who raped me.

THAT is what Trump represents for me. Half of the voters in this country validated his words and actions JUST by voting for him. I accept the fact that Trump won this election, but acceptance does NOT mean I have to tolerate his hate speech. Acceptance does NOT mean I condone his behavior or validate his twisted beliefs. Acceptance is NOT approval.

What I’m feeling isn’t “fear.” It’s disgust — not just for Trump but also for the 47% of Americans who voted for him, who condone the behavior of a bully and sexual predator. Disgust and contempt.

And that is what all of this boils down to. I’m not usually so open about my private struggles under my “real” identity. I was taught from an early age not to burden others with my problems, especially not family; but this election sparked an unbridled rage within me to speak out that I’ve never felt before. I broke down after writing that response.

I called RAINN’s support line for, ya know, support. I was transferred to an organization out of Murfreesboro, TN. I told the woman who answered, “I think I need to talk to someone.” She seemed annoyed when I gave my reason for calling. I immediately regretted having reached out to a total stranger for help. I thought, “I must be wasting her time over an issue that took place over 18 years ago.” I felt weak for allowing the political climate to trigger such a strong response within me. She took my name and phone number and said someone would call me back.

I’m still waiting 4 days later to “talk” to someone.

could have called any other crisis line; but I chose RAINN because I thought, “They’re trained specifically to deal with issues of this nature.” Right?

I never wanted to be a part of Trump’s reality, but I am. I have been for a long time. Men, who think they can grab a woman’s private parts because… they can? Consent means nothing to a sexual predator. It was bad enough that someone running for our highest office here in the US bragged about this type of behavior, but for that same man to actually become President of the United States?!

It’s not just a slap in the face to anyone victimized in this way. It’s like being sexually assaulted and raped all over again.

No. I’m not okay.

A lot of women are struggling today with these same emotions and triggers as a result of this election. Know that you’re not alone. I know from experience, too often it feels that way. I’m still searching for the emotional support and connection to people who understand what I’ve been through, but…

I’m not giving up and neither should you.

Broken

Broken

“What the hell is wrong with me? I feel like I’m going insane.”

Her words spoke to each of us, all locked within her pain.

Broken heart.

Broken dreams.

Shattered soul.

Silenced screams.

Stuck in limbo, time’s meaning lost,

Eternity couldn’t pay the cost.

Lost deep inside where nothing’s real,

Detached and numb, nothing to feel.

Without warning, a momentary lapse,

Jerked into consciousness, falling prey to traps.

The ever-present danger is all around.

Quiet, now, don’t make a sound.

Panic manifests in gasps for breath.

What is this crazy dance with death?

Racing heart.

Weak knees.

Mind gone blank.

Stop.

Freeze!

No time to delineate,

Everything fades in that dreamlike state.

Soothe her fears,

Calm her tears,

Just make sure she perseveres.


 

I had another lengthy post written out for today; but in the end, the Critic won out. I left that post on private. My apologies, but I worry about sharing too much negativity here. No sense in “beating a dead horse with a stick.” I’m attempting to push through this creative block by writing poetry. Sometimes, that works. This poem describes what dissociation feels like to me. 

I also want to share two songs I’m kind of stuck on right now:

Disturbed — The Sound of Silence < Probably one of the best covers of this song I have ever heard!

AWOLNATION – Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf) < This one — just because I love it.

My Story – Part 6 (Trying to Survive)

Continued from My Story – Part 5 (The Aftermath)

In glancing back over my old journals, I realized I may have my timeline a little confused in my mind. I rely on my journals to keep my memory in check because I wrote honestly and directly about the things that were going on at the time of each entry. Time has a funny way of distorting memories even for the most sane among us. When a person’s mind fragments in the way that mine always seems to during difficult times (this is very hard for me to explain, as I don’t even understand it), it makes life feel a lot more chaotic, leaving me to question reality and struggling to understand what feels like misplaced emotions. My emotions are very detached from my story because I simply compartmentalize emotions differently than memories. In my journals, however, the memories and the emotions are written together, in black and white, often times very raw with brutal intensity.

The particular journal I’m reviewing for this time period (the end of 2002 through 2004) is strange because the entries seem to lack any consistent order; and the entries are sporadic, at best. However, by November 2002, I had moved in with my boyfriend at the time, P.I., while struggling to attend classes at APSU. I dropped a couple of those classes early on in that semester. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I began missing classes and getting further and further behind in my school work. By the middle of November, I quit going to classes altogether which resulted in receiving an “F” in each one. Ten or so classes away from my Bachelor’s Degree in graphic design, I dropped out completely. I fear the debt that I incurred as a result of my mistake in going back to college will follow me to the grave. When I left college, I was a little over $20,000 in debt just on student loans. Even after making payments on these loans for much of the last 11 years, I still owe right at $23,000. I still struggle to understand how this is possible.

Sometime in September, I quit working at the beer bar where I had been working since May, following several instances of sexual harassment from bar patrons. One of these instances, I wrote about in my journal on August 11, 2002 (again, the day before my birthday):

I am getting so tired of working at the bar. Tonight Corona Bob pinned me up against the sink while I was washing dishes. He kept touching me and feeling me up. I got away from him and called [the owner of the bar] to close up early. Later, he did it again and I lost my temper after telling him to stop several times.

Unfortunately, this was a common occurrence while I worked there. Several different men who frequented the bar made similar advances. My guess is that this is fairly “typical” behavior in environments like these and even considered part of the job description. However, that does not make it okay (men, for God’s sake, look but don’t touch!!!). At the time, I really didn’t connect these experiences to triggers of PTSD, having very little knowledge of the condition (re-reading my journals, now, makes me realize that I was experiencing many of the symptoms of PTSD). In 2002, I was still in denial about having been raped in 1998. I blamed myself not only for the rapes, but also for these unwanted advances. I thought I deserved to be treated badly, confirmation that I was nothing more than an object. Looking back now, I can see why I was struggling so much to maintain my sanity and concentrate on college classes.

After dropping out of college that second time in 2002, the depression and anxiety continued to worsen. I became mostly nonfunctional through the remainder of the year. My therapist added either Schizoaffective Disorder or Schizotypal Personality Disorder. I just know I heard of both at different points in therapy with one of the two being added around this time. By this point, I wasn’t really keeping track of labels anymore because they changed so frequently. My psychiatrist continued to up the dosages of my medications and add more. At this point, I was taking a cocktail of Abilify, Effexor, Seroquel, and Lexapro. I found myself constantly exhausted with living, my mind in a hazy fog. I didn’t have the motivation to do anything, let alone find another job. I was also feeling extremely suicidal at the time, as expressed in a poem I wrote in my journal on November 12, 2002:

I pray that when I close my eyes,
Sleep will come and break the ties
To all earthly things that hold me here
And all the people I find so dear.
Never let me wake again.
Let my soul find freedom then.
Take me away from all the pain.
Give me peace, and break the chain.

By January 2003, my boyfriend, P.I. placed so much pressure on me to find a job that I ended up going back to work at the beer bar because I could find nothing else. This job was even worse the second time around. The sexual harassment from bar patrons escalated into my becoming very promiscuous again. As I completely lost the will to live due to the extreme situations I often found myself in, I gave-in to the pressures that surrounded me at this bar. Much of this time is lost with no memory, while other parts come back in frightening flashes. No journal entries exist, either. I completely stopped writing in my journal from June 2003 through December 2004. Because of the things I was doing to myself (self-harming through drugs and alcohol, starving myself, and promiscuity – even though I was in a relationship with P.I.), I knew that my lifestyle prevented me from having a relationship with my son. I had given up hope. I struggled through life the best way I could, the only way I knew how. Marijuana was my drug of choice, and I never had to pay for it because the patrons of the bar so often left it as a tip. I’m ashamed to admit that I also tried cocaine, crack, ecstasy, and snorting prescription drugs – each briefly, for the experience, hoping one would kill me. I self-medicated right alongside my alcoholic boyfriend almost the entire time we were together. (To be clear, I have absolutely nothing against marijuana. Honestly, I feel that it is far safer than prescription drugs and alcohol, and far more useful. The abuse of drugs and alcohol is in the mindset of the person using these substances in order to escape reality. And during this time period of my life, I was using anything I could get my hands on to escape reality.)

Then, on April 14th, 2004, my dad died from complications with diabetes. He had been on dialysis for many years, and his body finally gave out. P.I. and I were there at the hospital with him when he died. Everyone else had gone home for the night. I, honestly, did not realize how much my father’s death affected me until years later. His death truly devastated me. My dad always seemed to be the only person in my family who really understood me. We never really needed words because it only took a look to understand what the other was thinking or feeling. Daddy’s funeral was one of the few times that I actually got to see my son. In the years leading up to my father’s death, things between my sister and I became particularly strained. She blamed me for not helping her deal with Mom and Dad and their health issues. I had so much going on in my life (much of which I was too ashamed to even acknowledge); and I lived 5 hours away. Much of that time, I didn’t even own a reliable car, let alone being able to take time off from school and work. I know she became overwhelmed with caring for our parents, but I also couldn’t drop everything to go home every time she called. I did go home whenever I could manage it and when things became serious with Daddy, but I couldn’t go every time.

In May 2004, I quit working at the beer bar after a night of drunken brawls and an out of control crowd tested the strength of my courage. Life working at that beer bar became way too intense. I hated that job, more than any other I’ve ever had. It left me with far more emotional scars than I care to admit. The owner of the bar was furious with me for quitting (as was P.I.), threatening to report my under-the-table status to the district attorney who was handling my ex-husband’s child support case. I didn’t care anymore. I just knew I had to get away from the drugs and alcohol and sexual abuse that I was enduring while employed there.

The relationship with P.I. became increasingly unpredictable over the next few months, especially after his parents moved in with us. As he drank more and more, his words cut like knives. Our household became extremely chaotic. I began the disability process for the first time at some point in 2004 with his mother’s encouragement. I was denied later that same year. P.I. grew impatient with me, continuing to pressure me about finding a job. I felt I had no choice but to find work again; no one else would take care of me, despite my instability. The first job lasted no more than 3 days. The second attempt was not much better. I went back to work at Wal-Mart, only lasting two weeks. The stress of working with the public was too much. That evening when he found out I quit, P.I. was furious with me, scolding me like a small child. This scolding was reiterated the next night in a second round of beratements, pushing me over the edge when he basically told me to “get out.”

In an act of complete desperation (as is common in those of us diagnosed with BPD when faced with abandonment), I attempted suicide again (Suicide attempt #4 – overdose – and Hospitalization #6). The suicidal thoughts had been constant for the majority of 2002 through 2004. That’s a long time to feel suicidal. It’s difficult to explain the depth of despair and hopelessness that one feels at the moment of a suicide attempt, but this is the best description I have ever written of what I was feeling at the time:

Cold darkness fills my soul as death creeps closer to my inner being. Scratching, tearing, ripping away at the small amount of esteem that exists at my core. Swallowed by darkness, I feel ever so close to death’s grips, falling deeper, deeper into a hole of nothingness called Hell. The farther I fall, the less connection I have to this reality known as life. Life falls away as easily as leaves fall away from dying trees in autumn. Only, there is no hope of rebirth during spring. Mythical creatures loom in the darkness away from my sight, waiting patiently for the call of death’s screams. No light can be seen in this ominous abode, this destructive cavern of Hell’s inferno. Agony awaits my soul’s defeat. Perdition, the abyss of darkness, looms over me ready to devour my spirit. What affliction possesses me and won’t dismiss my pitiful essence to be free? Suicide is its name. Depression is the affliction. Death, the outcome of years of struggling to free myself from that spiraling hole that swallows me like quick sand. No hope left, I give in….

I think I’ll stop at this point today and continue my story in another post as this one has already reached over to 2000 words. I almost hope that no one reads this part of my story because it is very depressing, and I’m sorry for that. Unfortunately, suicidal ideation is part of my battle; and my story would not be complete without addressing it in this way.

To be continued….