Who Are You Calling a Liar? Parkland Shooting Edition

Image result for parkland shootingProbably the most pervasive problem that trauma survivors deal with is not being believed on account of not sounding, looking, acting or thinking how people think a victim should in the aftermath of the trauma.

If we smile or laugh, we’re lying because we should be grief stricken.

If we cry hysterically, we’re acting because we’re over the top.

If we stumble over our words, we’re having a hard time keeping our lies straight.

If we speak eloquently, we’re lying because we’re too composed.

If we throw ourselves into another dangerous situation, we’re lying because we should be seeking safety.

If we hide away, we’re lying and can’t withstand people asking questions.

If we don’t tell anyone, we’re lying because if it happened, we’d tell people.

If we shout what happened from the rooftops, we’re lying to get attention.

If we become an activist, we’re lying for personal gain.

If we never want to speak of the subject again, we’re lying because we should want to fix it.

If our traumatized brains have a hard time remembering details or maintaining focus, that’s evidence we’re lying.

If we are calm, cool, collected and on point, then we’re lying because we should be struggling to hold ourselves together.

It literally doesn’t matter what trauma victims do or how we react, there are people who will use it as evidence against us. Why? Because some people are evil, pure and simple. Remember this as you watch the way some people are talking about the kids and parents speaking out after the Parkland shooting. Those who have partnered with evil are exposing themselves. Pay attention to these people and don’t forget who they are. Not everyone is a good person.

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All People Are Real

I’ve mentioned a couple of times now that I have a dissociative disorder. A derealization disorder, in fact. Which means that when my dissociative disorder is triggered, nothing around me seems real. Sometimes things literally look like movie sets and sound stages to me. I can’t even watch movies when it’s bad because when everything already looks fake, bad acting takes on a whole new meaning. When it comes to dealing with people, it’s like being locked inside a glass bubble where sounds can get through, but they’re muffled and removed from much of their meaning somehow. I read an article about it once which described disrealization as the loneliness disease. Obviously you can’t connect with anyone when you have a hard time even seeing them as real.

Because my dissociative disorder started by the time I was 17 months old, I grew up with no conscious experience of being able to consistently see other people as real. I just assumed that this was what it was like to be human. It certainly explained the way people treated each other; if the people around you feel like objects, then you’re going to treat them like objects, right? But I knew that other people actually are real, even when they don’t feel real. And I knew what it was like to be treated like objects. I didn’t want other people to feel like that, so I decided that part of growing up and being fully alive must include learning to see other people as real rather than as actors in my environment.

Probably around age 11 I started just watching people, trying to imagine what it must be like to be them. I would watch the way they reacted to things and think, “why did they have that reaction and not a different one?” After I became a committed Christian in early adolescence, I became more intentional about it. I’d pick out people who seemed the least real, the most scary or the least appealing and think about what it might be like to be them. I’d look for things to love about them. In the process, I learned to see people as real. And to this day, whenever I notice that they don’t seem real to me anymore, I make myself really look and think about and try to imagine loving them.

Of course, I wasn’t diagnosed with the dissociative disorder until the summer of 2014, so I didn’t know that the rest of y’all didn’t need to spend nearly so much time thinking about other people in order to remember that they are real. Apparently it’s happens instinctively and unconsciously for some people. Who knew? Thankfully, I was motivated by the teaching to love our enemies and the least to really work at dealing with the problem. And then some, because I am an American after all. If a little is good, more must be better. Continue reading

Falling Together

Everyone I know is at least a little worried about me. And I can understand why. I have long moments when I am completely certain that I have lost my mind. I am continually sick and am in pain on a daily basis. I can barely keep up with my minimum standards that I rely on to keep my children from showing up at school looking and smelling like they might have spent the night in a homeless shelter.

At least the money situation’s looking up. My husband was laid off – again. So he’s using the severance package he got to pay the bills while he gets a new business he was asked to be CEO of off the ground. And without the costs of a daily commute, we’re even paying the utility’s down! Yay us!

Anyhow, I suppose I can understand why people are a bit worried about me. But I have the very distinct feeling of having just fallen together. Which really looks an awful lot like falling apart and is at least as scary.

Those of you who have been reading my writing for a while may have noticed an ongoing theme that I touch on from time to time which I believe the technical term for is “abject misery”. Or maybe you were fooled by the occasional off colored joke. I can be pretty good at hiding my true feelings sometimes. But you know, I may have given off a few telltale signs.

Anyhow, the truth is that what is alarming about me and my life right now are the same things that are letting me know that I’m coming together rather than apart. I’m finally safe enough to let go of the last threads of my sanity so that the mess that my life is can finally be redeemed. I’ve never been (or felt) this safe before. I’m finally able let myself fall apart, confident that God has placed people around me that I needed to survive and come out the other side as something other than a crazy bag lady and drug addict.

(Yes, that is an actual picture of me writing with a child sitting on my shoulders.)

(Yes, that is an actual picture of me writing with a child sitting on my shoulders.)

I’m sure that as time goes on, I’ll be able to share more about the process, which I learned a great deal from. But that’s like a book and I’m ready to tap out at about the 400 word mark here. However, I did discover what’s behind my super amazing ability to write with a child on my shoulders. It’s not nearly as amusing as that picture of Olivia sitting on my shoulders, unfortunately. It turns out that along with depression and a history of PTSD, I have a dissociative disorder that dates back to before I could talk.

Which is yet another reason I’m making the people around me nervous. Unlike other mental health problems, dissociative disorders don’t have any genetic basis. They are always the result of trauma and are almost certainly much more widespread than is commonly thought. Many people who have them are completely unaware of the fact that they are having problems.

The most severe type of dissociative disorder is dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder. You know – 1 woman, 69 personalities. The very definition of shockingly crazy. Fortunately, I don’t have that. My various personalities all know they aren’t real and are serving in a strictly advisory capacity.

Looking back, I can see that I have a history of overcoming the problem and making it work somehow. Like being able to write with a kid on my shoulders. For me, the biggest problem is the way it affects my memory and attention when I am not in control of it. Like when I have to ask my kids to repeat themselves 4 or 5 times because Mommy can’t focus on what they are saying at all. Or when I send out a post without a title again.

A dissociative disorder is always alarming because of it’s roots in severe trauma and the fact that it’s associated with a lot of negative life outcomes, some of which I have experienced. But mostly, when I learned that I have a dissociative disorder, I felt like I was being given permission to own my cool super power.

Well, that’s what I feel like in between the times when I think I’ve lost my grip on reality and have to go to my husband for reassurances that our children aren’t in any danger of being removed from our care because of me. Which is progress. I spent most of July and August asking him how he can be so sure that none of the kids is laying in bed at night wishing they were dead. Which might alarm some people, I suppose. But it’s just part of the process. It’s an ugly process, but at least now I understand what’s happening.

At any rate, as I mentioned above, I was showing signs of this problem at an age when I could barely talk. Between the ages of 1 and 3, I frequently displayed signs of having withdrawn entirely from my surroundings and sometimes from my main caregiver for extended periods. This is usually considered the worst case scenario for a child who has experienced trauma – that he or she would withdraw so completely that they would come to find their own internal reality much more interesting and engaging than the world around them. (And yes, I know for a fact that some of you just thought, “well, it is!” And you’re right. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to get there. Severe childhood trauma is the wrong way.)

As it turns out, I seem to have withdrawn deep enough to find God in my inner most being. And he led me back out again. Then when I was ready, he lead me back into the abyss so I could take back all those bits and pieces of my heart that got left behind along the way. But I’ve shared about as much as I have time and energy for today.

So yes, I know that I am alarming people. I know that I’ve alarmed some of you readers as I occasionally hear from a few of you expressing concern. And I’m so glad for that. It lets me know that I am seen. That I’m no longer buried so deep that I feel invisible. And it reminds me that there are plenty of people who can respond to someone in pain with compassion. Which can be easy to lose sight of in this world. But I’m still here. And so are you.

And now let’s listen to a pretty song about how it’s all going to be alright. Because it is. And now I know it. Praise God.

If you’re falling together, these are for you, btw:

For When You Can’t Function

Getting By On Manna

How the Dark Night of the Soul Is Like a Juice Cleanse

Can God Do What He Says He Will Do?

You’re So Sensitive!

The Gift of Delayed Grief

When Muscles Get Damaged

So, yesterday, I started writing about pain. In particular I wrote about the pain fallacy – that is the idea that the more pain you have in your life, the more pain you are capable of dealing with. As I said, in this view, our tolerance for pain is like a muscle which gets strengthened with use. However, we know for a fact that often just the opposite is true. People who have already dealt with a lot of pain are often less able to cope with additional challenges than others. Today I want to go back to that muscle analogy and explain why this is.

Now, the idea that pain tolerance operates like a muscle is actually a pretty good one. Infants are born with basically no pain tolerance. But after 15 years of dealing with bumps, bruises, the odd illness, hunger pang and injury, you often end up with a kid with ridiculously high pain tolerance. He can practically rip half his flesh off in a dirt bike accident and continue goofing around for hours without stopping to tend to his wounds. A kid who was once devastated to be denied another scoop of ice cream works through the loss of a dear pet or even a relative like a champ. Clearly, pain tolerance, like a muscle, does get stronger with time and use. The problem is that not all use is created equal and not all challenges have the same results.

When you life weights, the goal is to create tiny tears in the muscle by forcing it to bear a weight greater than its current capabilities. Your body then creates additional muscle tissue to fill that gap and heal the muscle, thus increasing the strength of the muscle. But anyone who knows anything about building muscle will warn against attempting to lift too much or tax your muscles too heavily, lest you cause damage which is destructive rather than helpful. Continue reading