Here’s the thing about PTSD

ptsd symptomsWe’ve lost yet another one to PTSD-related suicide, and it breaks my heart.  There’s nothing worse than living in a moment of trauma for every day of your entire life, but it makes it worse when the people around you don’t understand that, can’t understand that.  I want to try to break it down for you so that you who don’t have PTSD can understand and empathize a little.

Imagine that every moment of your life is a semi-transparent frame.

Your brain files all of these frames away in your memory by priority – the more important and intense feelings go to the front, the less intense and important frames go to the back.

But then something happens that is so intense and so important that your brain locks it in front of every other memory.

In fact, it’s filed in such a high priority that every single thing that happens after that is seen through that one high-priority frame.

That is what it’s like to have PTSD.

There is not a set limit of “how traumatic a thing can be” in order to trigger a trauma like this because everyone is different. Every brain is different.  Some people can go through life seeing and experiencing just the worst crap ever, and they never get bunged up about it.  Other people go through things that are more or less horrific, and they’re scarred for life.

Here’s the even harder part of it.  Because someone with PTSD is looking at the world through that one frame, even innocuous, innocent, and completely unrelated events can become even more traumatic, heightening the sense of anxiety, stress, and tension.

What does it look like, though?  When someone’s responses don’t quite fit what’s actually going on, it’s time to look closer.  For instance, a person who has been violated gets into a relationship much later.  The violation was a severe point of trauma – PTSD – so whenever anything in the relationship seems vaguely trauma-shaped (going into a dark bedroom, the mere act of having sex, a door slams), the anxiety and tension and panic of that trauma moment returns.  The person accuses the partner of violations, the partner is understandably utterly confused, and there’s a lot of yelling and screaming and WTFing going on.

That’s THAT part of it.

I am absolutely not kidding, goofing, or in any way overstating the fact that PTSD can and is treatable, if not completely curable.  If you are willing to let go of it, there is a method called EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique – that is extremely effective.  (It’s also called the Tapping Method.)  I have used it (and had it used) on myself for dealing with the death of my son, for dealing with traumas and violations in my own past, and I can unequivocally state that it is highly efficient.  I have additionally helped many other people as well, because why collect a super-powerful healing method if you can’t use it on the people you care about?

This is not a “feel better by sheer force of will” thing.  This is an actual therapy developed in VA hospitals specifically for the purpose of healing PTSD.  And I have to put the caveat in there that you “have to be willing to let go of it” because some people identify themselves so strongly with the trauma that they have a much harder time releasing that moment than you might think.

EFT pulls the priority sticker off of the frame and lets it go back to its proper place in your timeline.  After that, quite often, the hard part begins because you have to learn how to human again.  Let me tell you, though, learning how to human when you’re not looking at the world through a window of fear, anger, rage, panic, and anxiety is much easier than when you do.

For my part, yes, I provide this service.  I do ask for a donation for my time (kid needs medication, and they, like, want to eat every day), but I’m usually willing to work out something with you, either in trade or service if you can’t afford to donate.  All you need to do is send me a message about it, and we’ll set up a time to talk.

Oh, and the other crazy part:  you don’t even have to meet me face to face.  We can do it from anywhere, to anywhere.  Hell, the greatest sorrow of my life was lifted in under 20 seconds by a lady in South Africa, while I sat in Wyoming.  True story!

PTSD sucks.  If it doesn’t kill you, it can make you want to die anyway.  Life is too short to spend every day fighting.  Let me know when I can help you.

April 4: 10 Interesting Facts About Me

fourThis is silly, everyone knows there are no interesting facts about me.  (And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you…)  The problem is deciding which facts to share and if they’re actually interesting.

  1. I’m almost completely ambidextrous.  In addition to having a natural “which way is left” problem, I also actively train both hands to do as many tasks as possible.  The unfortunate side effect is this is that I sometimes forget which hand I’m supposed to write with, and my left-hand handwriting is not quite as neat as my right-hand (which is also pretty terrible).
  2. I used to be severely diabetic.  While I was pregnant with Daniel, I developed this bizarre form of gestational diabetes that did not go away like it was supposed to after he was born.  It was so bad that I was completely insulin dependent, but even that wasn’t sufficient to control it.  I tried diets and medications, and it just got worse.  I ultimately ended up going to see Dr Dan, and he figured out that it was a parasite screwing with my pancreas.  Within a couple of weeks of starting naturopathic treatments, my blood sugars were perfect and have been ever since.  (NOTE: Not all diabetes is parasite-related, but if yours is really weird, you might want to see an ND about that.)
  3. I’m not entirely sure how to use recipes.  Part of this is that I’m really, really literal minded and not all recipes are well-written, and another part is that I deviate almost compulsively from whatever’s written.  So, I’m sure this baked mac-and-cheese recipe is just fine the way it’s written, but I’ll never know because I just have to go and add two or three more different types of cheese, and maybe some Red Dot hot sauce, and probably twice as much mustard, and definitely some bacon.
  4. On that note, all my recipes start with either “render down a pound of bacon” or “melt a stick of butter”.  I’m completely not kidding.  If I made it up, one of these things has to happen first for the thing to be created.  Just because I can’t have any kind of wheat product doesn’t meant I’m going to sacrifice any chance at flavor.
  5. I’m not allergic to wheat, per se – it’s more like a neurotoxin.  An allergy is an immunological response to something that is otherwise non-harmful to your body.  Some reactions are obviously much worse than others, but one the whole, the thing that is being reacted to isn’t actually going to hurt you – your body does that for you.  I do not have an immunological reaction.  Instead, it does something weird to my brain and I get intense fits of uncontrollable paranoia and anxiety, sometimes out of nowhere and sometimes for no reason.  It takes weeks to work itself out of my system, during which time I’m an emotional and mental wreck.  I also feel achy and stiff and my stomach is constantly fluttering in a gross way, and I can’t keep any weight on.  It sucks.
  6. I am an ordained minister and sometime lay therapist.  One of the greatest joys in my life is being able to perform union ceremonies for friends and loved ones – and sometimes strangers or people I don’t know very well.  If I’ve examined your relationship and truly given you the green light, you’re probably going to do very well together.  I’m ordained in the Universal Life Church, and even though it’s non-denominational, I take it kind of seriously.  It also allows me to be a “lay therapist” and help people out with things like Reiki and EFT, and everyone is protected by confidentiality laws.  In fact, if you want to talk to me about that, I work by donation (trade or whatever you want to donate), drop me a line.
  7. I often feel like the poster child for high-functioning adult female autistics.  It’s not just that I’m on the spectrum, it’s that so little is known about how the spectrum works that we’re only now finally exploring the big questions about it.  For instance, nearly all of my social awkwardness – wanting to be social, and then freaking out about being social – comes from my weird brain.  It really is a totally different thing for girls than it is for boys, which is why we’re so infrequently diagnosed as effectively.  I’ve often described the “common element” of autism as experiencing the world through a big distorted glass wall, and for each of us, there are different occlusions in it, and sometimes it’s thick and sometimes it’s thin, and sometimes we can hear things from the other side but we can’t get our words back out, and sometimes it’s the other way around… and the genders respond to it in different ways.  SHOCK.  The more research is done, the more I realize how much the spectrum has impacted my life, and the more I can forgive myself for so very many social gaffes throughout the years.  Now that I know why it happens, I know what to do to not do it again.
  8. I have a really hard time recognizing people from photographs.  Like, I know what the photo looks like, but humans are so changeable that I often second- and third-guess myself if I’m meeting someone for the first time and I’ve only ever seen a photo or picture of them.  Once I’ve seen their face and “coded” that “this is what they look like”, I can pick them out from almost any other image, movie, or experience, regardless of what age or setting they’re in.
  9. I use numbers and math to calm down.  The thought process goes something like this:  Humans are weird and messy and change all the time, and that stressed me out.  (This is mostly the autie brain talking.)  It’s very uncomfortable to live in such a changeable world without relief, but numbers always stay the same – or at least the value of them – so doing things like multiplication tables, which are consistent as long as you’re not trying to change the base, is very calming and relaxing.  In a related note, I strongly prefer that things like volume and times and things that are adjustable lean heavily towards resting on multiples of five, ten, or twenty-five.
  10. I am often reluctant to start big projects because I’m afraid of losing myself in them.  This is probably a holdover from growing up with my mother, who was known to disappear quite literally for months at a stretch over any given obsession.  Art, IRC role-playing, costuming, whatever.  What it means for me in practical application is that I have these brilliant and awesome ideas, and only a fraction of them every get done not because I don’t have time (necessarily) but because I’m afraid of using more time than I have once I get into them.  As my kids get older and become a little more self-sufficient, I worry about this less, but still, it’s a pretty pronounced hesitation.

Wow… that was harder than I thought.  I was trying to come up with things that you guys didn’t already know.  It’ll probably be a mixed bag for most of you.

Tomorrow:  A place I might like to live.

Loveliness

I had a wonderful evening driving around in traffic for a total of two and a half hours because in the middle of it was a half an hour of fireworks at Kaboom Town in Addison and an hour sitting down at a restaurant with my Lili and Miles.  It’s really all Kira’s fault because I’m not that into fireworks – once you’ve seen the Big Show over the Hudson River in New York, all other fireworks displays kinda pale by comparison – but Lili especially wanted to go, so go we did.  Yes, I opted to leave at around 8 instead of 5, but I couldn’t really see us either sitting out in the 110+ degree heat or camping at a restaurant for four or more hours… it worked out well, though. Miles has great “car questions”.

He says stuff like, “You have the green light to make any movie you want.  What movie do you make?”  Lili and I both named scripts the we’re each working on.  Another question was, “If you could have any superhero or fictitious person as a mentor, who would it be?”  Lili said Batman, I said the Guardians of OA, and Miles said, “Severus Snape!”  We all agreed that his answer was definitely the best.

Recent emotional activities have caused my “head count” problem again.  I’ve always tried so hard not to make the kids live with “empty rooms” – the poignant awareness of missing people – and the best way to avoid it is to talk about those people as the situation arises.  Today while we were driving around, I kept wanting to turn around to talk to … someone who isn’t there.  And I kept reminding myself to tell her something important… but we haven’t spoken yet.  And then there are the dreams…

Yeah… the dreams… it’s been years since I’ve woken up disappointed that the thing I was dreaming about wasn’t reality.  Maybe I just shouldn’t take naps anymore.  Or sleep at night.  :-/

Regardless, life goes on.  Machinations and permutations and nefarious undergoings are… going… on…

I’ve started recording video on the distance sessions that I do with people.  They’re up on my YouTube page, and I imagine they’ll only be interesting to people who are really curious about EFT and Reiki.  It’s a lot of hand-waving and talking – I edited out a lot of dead air, which is why it looks so choppy – but the effects are profound.  I think I go through times when I forget how powerful a modality it is (especially using both at the same time), and then something happens that reminds me all over again.

I think I have discovered a limitation to EFT, however.  Well… maybe not a limitation, but certainly something to consider.

When we think of autism, it’s difficult in many ways to define because there are so many expressions of it.  In one fellow’s case, it’s like the world is constantly separated by a wall, and the experience on the “inside” is very frustrating, isolated, desperate sometimes, feeling the effects of an intense energetic empathy but none of the capacity for developing the coping skills necessary.  On the other side of it, there are autists who very well understand empathy both energetically and observationally, but their responses are based on a non-typical logic that goes against social norms.  For more on that, check out Rachel’s post on it on Journeys With Autism and also take a gander at Autism and Empathy.

Anyway, back to the point, I realized that if an autist is stuck on the other side of “the wall” and cannot energetically or emotionally directly connect with other people, EFT with a practitioner doesn’t really work.  In the cases that I’ve worked with (and there have been a handful), the energetic response is almost like the practitioner isn’t “real”, that their experience, being unlike the autist’s experience, is not true.  This makes it very hard to get in and get work done.  Every now and again, a sliver of opportunity will show that allows a little bit of progress to be made, but on the whole, it’s really a constant effort of beating one’s head against that wall, and for precious little result.

There are, of course, ways around it, but to other people exploring EFT, be aware of this circumstance, and when it happens, stop.  Back away, examine the situation a little differently, see what foundational remedies or therapies might be used first to allay the effects of “the wall” (it is not a “normal” state for autists, merely a common one for some), and only after those other efforts have shown some progress can you get in and get the Good Work done.

I’m not completely sure if “unguided” or “solo” EFT would work for autists in that position since it’s still introducing an element outside of previous experience (one of the weakness points of “the wall”, not letting in new ideas without a great deal of convincing), but it’s worth a shot.  The manual is freely available for all, and it’s not like they could make something bad happen.  The worst that could happen is that nothing would happen.  I’d like to hear about it if someone in that position tried something like this.

So, to tie all this back in with the first part of my post here, I had thought about tapping on that anxiety, and I decided… no, I don’t really need to.  It’s a natural side-effect of my very real and hard-earned emotions, and I choose to accept the good with the uncomfortable.  Besides, it’s only a temporary thing.  I’ll never come up with the right “head-count”, but I know that one day, I’ll get closer.

And in other, other news, this goes out to someone very special:

off my chest

Maybe I’m starting to get the urge to write at this hour of the morning because my brain is tired of stockpiling things to play with when I’m trying to sleep.  It occurred to me last night as I was recovering from at that little fit (and everything was fine, by the way) that thoughts come up and want to be dealt with, but I pummel them into submission.  I’ve trained myself to fall asleep almost immediately with multiplication tables or, now, switch-words (QUIET-SHUT works really well with EFT), but that means that those thoughts are not getting their proper attention, so they’re trying to work their way into my consciousness in other ways.

Well, we just can’t have that, now can we?

Normally at this hour during the week, I’m dealing with emails from the home office in China, writing out my schedule for the upcoming days, etc., but somewhere in the last couple of days, I decided that I needed to get to bed earlier.  I’ve been getting up at 10 and not getting to bed until 3, not sleeping until later sometimes, setting my alarm for 9… but the boys get up before that, so I should probably get in that habit, non?

Especially since that whole “staying up until 3” thing frequently involves doing work-related stuff, which means that if I were getting paid by billable hours instead of salary, I’d be making about 2.5 times as much, minimum.

I tried to carve out my week so that I’d stop working at 6.  That worked two out of five days.  One of the remaining three days, I worked until 6:30, but the other days, I worked much later, and then went back to work when I was done with dinner.  (Or rather, had dinner while I was working again.)

That’s too much.  This is not a reasonable return on my energy investment.  It should at least cover my expenses without stressing out over things like feeding my children or buying my youngest his medicine.  (Yeah, it’s that tight sometimes, especially when I have a business expense or two to cover.)  It doesn’t go that far.  Cost of living increases, and I’ve now lost my ability to do a second job (unless it’s the same job, which is another story).

Oh, and on that front, we have the EEG scheduled for the 5th of July at 8 in the morning (wish us luck, I guess?), and in the meantime we’ve worked out another part of the possible solution with the addition of complex digestive enzymes to his ketogenic diet.  Have I mentioned that dealing with epilepsy sucks?  I can see this amazingly intelligent being in there, but he just can’t get past the mechanical errors…

So, today, I started trying to teach him sign language.  (Thank the gods for Blue’s Clues!)  He already has “together” thanks to Steve Burns, but he also learned “mommy” and “daddy”, and he started to get “boy” and “girl” and “same”.  We’ll see if he remembers them tomorrow.  I’ll have to brush up on it myself.  The poor little guy just can’t communicate what he wants adequately, and he gets so frustrated, but maybe it’s a speech center problem and doing ASL will help him get past it.

I can relate to that feeling of frustration, although my failure to express is more a matter of not wanting to scare people, not wanting to rush things, not wanting to say something bad that makes them doubt me or fear me or just plain dislike me forever… and if it were “normal folk” who would come and go in my life anyway, it wouldn’t matter at all, but when it’s people you’re already invested in…

It’s kinda like when I had to agonize over the posts that I first wrote for Spicy Horse (more accurately, AM.Com, really.)  There’s a moment of autistic anxiety (I have now learned to identify this) wherein on one hand, I was told, “Love your style, do what you want, this is your baby,” and on the other hand, I was told, “ZOMGWTF, try to be more not like that?!!”  Conflict between stated desire (which I delivered) and actual result (not what was promised).

I get beat up for saying the wrong thing a lot, you know?

I never mean anything bad by it… it just happens that way.  Maybe it’s a crossed wire somewhere.  Maybe I should just communicate via ASL.  I’ll do a whole series of vblogs of nothing but signing (with bad grammar) how I feel, and maybe it’ll be general enough that it won’t get picked apart.

Believe it or not, this is not a self-pity trip.  I’m really trying to come up with solutions here.  And maybe part of that is getting all these crappy, random thoughts out of my head before I go to sleep so that they don’t bug me and my subconscious can work on important things.

(I don’t actually have enough readers to run a give-away or anything, do I?  I bet if I decided on a non-personal topic or at least a consistent topic and then offered to do a random drawing for a give-away off of comments once I reached 100 steady readers a day… it would be a long time until I had to do a give-away.  That also is not self-pity but merely another thought that flickered through my mind to get put down here and left for another day.  So there, nyah.)

All about priorities

Originally published at the normality factor. You can comment here or there.

When we get into the healing arts, one of the first things we have to establish is who we’re trying to help, who we’re trying to save. This helps us determine our motivation, which is where we must each begin.

Tonight, I got the chance to work on my daughter. Normally, we should be cautious about working on people too close to us. It’s very easy to lose your perspective and act from a place of preconceived notions. As a professional, I try very hard to maintain my objectivity, and working with my kids is a great way to put that to the test.

Yes, we can sometimes perceive their issues through our own expectations, but if you can beat that problem, who better to help them than the person they instinctively trust the most?

It requires such a higher level of honesty, but it can also provide an exercise in nonjudgment and clarity.

Tomorrow, I’m going to do the same thing with one of my sons with EFT and Reiki. It’s an effective method, and it will bring us closer together, I hope. I know it’s already worked wonders for me and my girl.