A journal of healing

Posts tagged ‘behavioral science’

Induced Depression

falls rainbow

Last night we watched a couple of movies, like we do every Saturday night through the “can’t sit outside” time of the year. I rent all kinds of movies. Some are surprisingly good and some are so bad, you feel like you have been slapped when they are over. I rarely buy into what the Academy has touted as the best of the best. My favorites are usually love stories that end well, or animated. Anything from Pixar is a winner in my books.

But the choices seem to have narrowed. I try not to rent very violent movies. The violence stays with me for days. Any movie that has animals dying is not good and especially if it is a dog.

This post is not really movie critique but a commentary on what we are doing to ourselves. Depression is contagious. Being sad is not a good place to be. But we have surrounded ourselves with a world of death and mayhem and turmoil. We call it entertainment. What are we exposing our children to?

I no longer watch TV. Not at all. I was too disturbed by it. Funny, because that was what I did for a living and that is what I taught. But it to me is no longer entertainment. It is abusive. It sets up a world of comparison that no one can live up to. And the last thing I want to watch is people struggling and call it entertainment. I believe it desensitizes people so they are no longer shocked or empathetic. It is just someone else’s problem. Much like how images of war are no longer considered disturbing.

But I do love the escape of a good movie. I can see the art in the scenes and the pathos of a good story. I still watch for technical merit as well as looking for the quality of the finished movie.  I also love a good laugh. Best movie I have seen for a really good laugh is BFG (BIG Friendly Giant). Any movie that has a fart in it is big with me.

Last night’s choice was Manchester by the Sea followed by Beauty and the Beast. OMG, I had horrible dreams all night and feel like I was run over. Manchester has to be one of the saddest and most tragic movies out there, but I do not mean that in a good way. The hopelessness and chronic depression the main character goes through was not entertaining. It was just tragic. The story was about life and was very real in its depiction, I will give it that. But if I had known what I was going to be getting myself into viewing this, I would have not.

But the real offense was the second movie we rented; Beauty and the Beast. This was not an animated movie although there was tons of CG and special effects; it was live actors. I will say this, it was beautiful. The scenery, back grounds, dresses and sets were amazing. But it was extremely violent and filled with animals being killed. It missed the boat as far as we were concerned. But the violence was over the top and I would never let a child see that movie. The voice over did not match the mouths and it was choppy and erratically edited. It was a disappointment and again, just violent.

Even something like Pet Stories was violent. Why?

People might say that all fairy tales are violent. True as that is, they are only as violent as the reader and/or listener can conjure up in their head. When we put the stories to film, we are subjected to the movie maker’s concepts of violence.

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, we had a different selection of entertainment than we have now. TV was not violent or sexual at all. It was entertainment. Some of the first movies I did see as a child were musicals. They were happy and bright. The first real exposure I had to a violent movie was Clockwork Orange and to this day I still hate it.

What are we doing to ourselves as a society? We know that negative bias is a real thing. Biologically, we are designed to accept negative input more so than positive. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200306/our-brains-negative-bias.

Is it just me who feels a sense of loss from such constant negative bombardment? Am I just being overly sensitive? (see past blog) This is my opinion: I think truly that the media output is by design meant to create a society that can be controlled and manipulated into accepting darkness as way of being. The results are demonstrated in the amount of bullying and just nastiness we see in our lives from our adult relationships  and the behavior of our children. I don’t find it acceptable.

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Trauma Informed Organziations

crystal light

I am currently working on a certification from the University of Buffalo on Trauma Informed Organizations.  I have been studying trauma related materials for a while. It has been fascinating and helpful  healing for me.

What is a Trauma Informed organization? It is an organization that has taught trauma informed care from the person who answers the phone to the CEO. It is the basis for policy and procedures. Trauma informed agencies and organizations are totally aware that every contact with a patient makes a difference in their reaction to the care being offered and also in their ability to get well.

For example, a person with mild PTSD is coming to see a doctor for stomach upset. The admission person snarls at them because they are lacking some information on their admission form. She tosses the clip board at the patient and says snottily, “you need to fill out all of the information!” She is line with several people behind her. (Having people behind you is a big trigger for trauma patients.) The client/patient did not fill out all the information on purpose because she is not ready to share her details yet. She will once she sees the clinician but not with everyone else. It is her right. Her stomach issues are actually a response to the stress from domestic violence, but she is not going to share that easily. A trauma informed organization treats everyone like they have a trauma. The clinician who she eventually works with should request a trauma screen once the patient is comfortable with the plan of care. By doing a root cause analysis, then, and only then, will the real healing begin.

Trust is huge along with safety for someone who is traumatized. Just walking into a new environment is bad enough, let alone in a waiting room with strangers, standing in line  and having to answering questions to someone who does not give a rats-ass about why your there.

Another perfect example of a non-informed practice is the process of getting vitals. This is me: I am sitting way too long in the waiting room. Other patients are called before me. I start to worry why I am not getting called back. Did they forget me? (Blood pressure begins to rise) Finally someone swings the door open, and even though I have been coming to this practice for years, and they all know me, they bark my name from across the room. I get my stuff and in a cadence for jogging, we go back to where all the rooms are. They stop and bark “get on the scale.” I am immediately humiliated. Blood pressure is really rising. Then we trundle off to the little room where she asks questions about meds. She pulls a cuff from the drawer and puts it on over my sweater. The pressure is high.  She sharply asks me why I am there. Of course by this point I am upset.

This is how I dealt with this. I sit near the door so they do not have to yell across the room. I refuse the scale….which used to be a fight. But it is your right and the trauma issues getting weighed causes me…well, they know now not to ask. I tell the doctor because I weigh myself every day. In winter, the clothes you have on can add many pounds.  I make them use the right sized cuff and on my skin. It bothers me that they don’t wipe it down afterwards. Surprisingly since I started doing this my blood pressure readings have been wonderful. When they ask why I am there to see the doctor, I simply and nicely say, “I will tell the doctor” or I say “follow-up.” They have no reason to know. If I need a shot, the doctor has to order it and he will tell them.

Being a trauma informed organization can only improve healthcare across the board. Non-adherence and non-compliance are huge issues. Patients need to want to take their medicine and follow their plan of care to improve their health. Our medical system in the USA is totally reactive. We spend millions on after-the-crisis care. Being trauma informed and using methods such as trauma screenings and motivational interviewing can only improve patient care.

Being trauma informed is for all health organizations. The scenario I described about myself is my GP at a family practice. Even though I work in homecare, being trauma informed can be practiced there as well. It can be used in every environment where there is a community. When we see people who seem out of it, or stand-offish or short tempered, it would be mindful to remember: You do not know the whole story.

 

 

 

To schmooze or not

strom 1

Today was a really weird day. I felt like I was at odds with people. Ever have a day like that? I of course, was doing nothing wrong…. But it seems that every turn was an argument or discussion. It was beautiful and the temperature hit 84. I thought maybe people were angry because they were inside. I had a couple of meetings that it seemed if I said black, someone had to argue white.

Finally I got home and worked in the yard and had dinner later. As the day ended and a storm was blowing in, I sat under my tree in my garden and just thought about things. The air was beginning to swirl and I have many wind chimes that were ringing their tunes.

As the warm tempest began to build with the sky turning pink and dark I had a time to think about the day.

And like a slap to the forehead, I realized it was me. All me.

I wanted people to just instantly agree with whatever wonderful idea and concept I was pitching in the meetings. I usually have great luck with swaying people to my thoughts. Yes, I can schmooze with the best of them. I come from a family that was very good at this talent. My father made his living as a salesman of many things. My brother sells high end corporate properties. I make my living to some degree developing people, which is a form of selling people on themselves.

My issue is I want to control things. It is not so much about winning, but that is it to some degree. It is about people buying into my world, my rules and my way of thinking.

How freaking arrogant is that?

The truth is it is not about control and it is not about arrogance. It is about safety. And if people fall in line with what I need, I am safe. Arguing is not being safe. Different people’s methods of doing things creates exposure and is unsafe.

Funny how I can see this in other people, but it took a long time for me to see it in me. But recovery starts with identifying the issues and facing them.

Time to work on some releasing.

 

 

 

Releasing

osprey

Most mornings, when I lay in bed for a moment, I sense fear. It is not a pleasant sensation. I have tried to explain this to many people, therapists and such. They  responded with a “get over it” attitude. It is a very real phenomenon for me. I do not enjoy it. I do not manufacture it by will and it often colors the rest of my day. Most of the time, the preoccupation with tasks and duties of the day helps to dissipate it in short course. But it often lingers in a physical reaction in my body, even if my mind has moved on.

The sensation is not about any one thing. It is so general; I do not think I can describe it well. But it comes over me like a heavy blanket as I lay there. It happened again this morning.

Last week, I spent some time listening to Hal Dwoskin talk about the Sedona Method. He has the greatest laugh by the way. His technique is to feel whatever feeling you are feeling. Really embrace it. Then you ask yourself a series of questions, which paraphrased is basically giving yourself permission to first acknowledge the feeling in all its intensity and then just for the present moment, letting it go. He demonstrates this by holding on very tightly to a pen, and then dropping the pen. You can pick the pen back up if you want or let it roll away.

At first I thought as I listen that this was the biggest pile of doo doo I had ever heard. But I listened to a series of six programs and then a movie. All this was a promo to buy the DVDs for his program. So for six nights while I was painting I listened and enjoyed his stories.

But I though what the heck, how hard can this be. I researched the Sedona Method, because that is what I do. It has been around for a very long time originating with Lester Levenson. There is a ton of material out there on the process and I also became aware of how many of the other programs are just modification of his method.

I have been trying it. I do it on the way to work when I have time to focus on what transpired since waking up. I have to admit this works. By really feeling whatever is going on, really being in the present moment and then just letting it go, there is a small shift every time. If I keep repeating it until the feeling is not apparent, and then I simply move on. The key is really acknowledging the feeling. People like me are riddled with guilt and so when we have a negative feeling, guilt comes along for the ride. We often suppress our anger or sadness as part of the conditioning we received. This process gives permission to me to really be mad or sad…. But then, let it go. I trick my brain by saying for only this moment. If I want to, I can come back to this. I never seem to.

I may have to repeat the process a couple of times to really drop it, but I do. The interesting part is that the body chemically shifts. I find my breathing returns to a deeper, calmer pattern. My muscles release and relax. I can get myself into a tight little ball in a NY minute. My gut eventually calms down. It is not like euphoria comes over me. It is all very subtle.

The brain can be a nasty beast. I found myself the other day coming up with something horrendous in my mind. I was so upset by what was transpiring out of my own creation that I was crying on my drive in. I did the method and by the time I was almost to work, it was gone. I cannot tell you what it was I created now. Gone. This has happened now a couple of times.

This is all very new. I am trying it when I get frustrated with people, which is often. I am trying it in situations where I would have in the past held on so tightly that I would get muscle cramps. I am far from 100% successful. But every time I let something go, I feel better and so it is becoming the preferred state.  More neural pathways of pleasant things are being created pushing the old nasty ones out of service.

Maybe this is why this method has been around for so long. It is so simple anyone can do it. Here are some links with more information.

http://lesterlevenson.org/   http://www.sedona.com/programs.asp

 

 

The Scarlet Letter

3-30-14 snowfall

This morning I went to work to feeling like I needed to explain myself to everyone. It has been a bad couple of days lately…well not bad…wrong word. But not great is not adequate either. I am in one of my cycles that I will eventually spin out of…and there… I apologized. I need to stop doing that. It should be enough for me to be me and that includes the not so great stuff. Somewhere, that wiring of self-compassion short circuited.

Yesterday was a perfect example of what it is like to live with PTSD. It started when the first weather alert was broadcasted on Sunday for a wintery mix. ICE…my most unfavorite weather. In 1991, our area was decimated by a catastrophe of an ice storm. We went without heat and power for 14 days. It started to lose the “gee, we’re camping in our home” around day five.  Because my husband at that time was a cop, he was gone and working 24 X 7. (Later, I found out he was not working all those hours.)  I was left to tend the home fires, so to speak.  When they call for ice, I go into hyper-worry now.

On Monday night, they moved the prediction up to Tuesday afternoon.  I had a huge workshop to facilitate and would be stuck until the last which meant after five pm. I started to become hyper.

Tuesday morning, I was a mess. I did not sleep the night before. I was up and out early. And exactly as they said, it started to snow right after lunch. It was heavy, wet snow and coming down in buckets.  My physical reaction started in earnest. I was breathing short breaths. My gut was a mess. I lost my appetite, which was ok. But by two pm, I was starving and nauseous and had to eat. It went straight through me with vengeance. My voice was higher than normal and I spoke in short abrupt sentences, when I could say a whole sentence. I could not focus. I was not nice to be around because I was looking through people.  I kept getting up and leaving the workshop to either pace or go to the bathroom.

Finally I was released from my self- inflicted prison and headed for my car. I took a lot of gruff and ridicule for being so upset. My team laughed at me at first and then became condescending. They have no idea what is really going on with me. It is not really their business.  But I normally take a lot of kidding on many things. But this was too close.

I got home. The drive was awful. It is only ten miles, but it is up and down a lot of hills. I went from abundant snow to a down pour of ice that was so loud on the metal of the car, to just rain by the time I hit my town and my driveway.  I had to peel my hands off the steering wheel. I unfolded myself out of the car and realized how unbelievably tense ever muscle in my body was.

The evening was spent watching stupid crap on Facebook. I needed to numb. I had eaten a huge meal of pasta and broccoli and cheese. In truth, that is my comfort food. I could have eaten the whole three cups of pasta, but I stopped myself and put half away for a lunch this week. This demonstrated that I can be mindful even in the worse response.  I went to bed at my normal time and fell asleep.

At 12:46, I was done. I woke up and could not get back to sleep. I laid there and felt the chemicals still surging through my body. My hands, arms and legs were vibrating. I started deep breathing which did calm me. I had a few body discharges which is not to say I passed gas. (giggle) It means I do this shudder thing with my shoulder as a method to discharge tension. It is the same principal as an animal that plays dead and then has to get up and shake after the threat is gone. I kept cycling back between full alert to a milder calm by doing guided body mediation. But I did not fall back asleep for a couple of hours. Last look at the clock was the hour before the alarm was to go off. This morning, I was exhausted and muddle-headed.

I wrote about this in detail for a couple of reasons. Many people have some form of PTSD. It comes in varying degrees. Something in the person’s life programed them for this response. NO one asks for this. The programming is intense and can come from  a long duration of exposure. It can also be a singular event. Our bodies learn from events so that we do not repeat them. Some learn and move on. Others imprint and hold the reaction which becomes more sensitive in time to fewer stimuli. Continual negative exposure hardwires the mind AND body to react uncontrollably. The threat is only perceived by the individual and the reaction is as personal as their fingerprint.

I write this because compassion is required by everyone in order to understand the effects of PTSD. I am not a war veteran. I come from a wealthy upbringing with little material needs. It is the same misunderstanding that many people have that domestic violence only happens in the inner city and trailer parks. Trust me, that is so incredible false.

But I do not want to have to explain myself. No one should. I do not want to wear a Scarlet A for abuse around my neck. There are programs now being designed to support children so they have a chance to reprogram. But for the adults of my generation who were told to shut up or else, or for women  (and men) caught in an abusive trap, there is a lot of misunderstanding.

I even heard it yesterday.  “Get over it. It’s only snow.”  Well, not for me it isn’t.

 

Storms and trauma

Heron Hill 2012  Heron Hill

Wow, this has been a week. The frozen air and deep snow has put a pall on everyone around here. Many people are having issues with their roofs leaking. We had a bit of an issue here at Heron Hill with a dripping window, but I had my contractor come and they shoveled the roof. It stopped. But one neighbor had it so bad her kid was telling us they were doing a bucket brigade the other night. One neighbor who is a young single woman had it pretty deep on her roof. She had someone shovel it off only to bury her house up to the first floor windows. She hired some schmuck who just took his truck and plowed her yard into the street and up into our yard. We have a hill which he was trying to shove it up. I was getting pissed, but I decided not to call the cops on them. It is illegal to plow snow across the street and into another’s yard. But… it’s not worth the fight and the hard feelings forever.

The girls at work are fighting like cats. We had one person swear at our front receptionist because they were following policy and would not admit this person without her badge. We slide the badge through a reader to release the doors. This caused quite a dramatic scene with some real hard feelings and stems from someone who should represent the best of the best. Our VP is extremely vigilant that her staff follows rules and regs to the letter… as it should be. The small bickering and internal fighting is everywhere.

A lot of what is happening here in the frozen tundra is threatening everyone’s safety. This is a topic is near and dear to me. I have been writing variations of posts in my head about this topic. I will be sharing them in a series of blogs for a while. They take a lot out of me to write.  It all stems from this blog post: http://healwritenow.com/weathering-extremes-mindful-ptsd-3/

I am going to take pieces of what she said and share what I felt while reading it. The first part is in relationship to our weather and her reaction to her weather.  Cissy White, the author, nailed it. She talks in this post the feeling or lack of feeling safe. She says,

I’m rattled by all the severe weather. The flood and snow drifts taller than me surrounding my home. Today, we got a blizzard warning for the coast where I am and who knows what’s coming next.

“My once sanctuary no longer feels safe or warm. 

When my home feels cold and unsafe I feel cold and unsafe. The warmth is escaping.

It’s not that I can’t see how beautiful the snow is or how powerful Mother Nature is. Those things I know. What I feel is threat and fear.”

 

I love a good storm especially thunderstorms. I like a ripsnorter of a blizzard if I am home and do not need to go anywhere. But storms are usually short in duration and cause little harm (so far for me.) However, the change in the air, the light and wind are huge triggers for me and puts me into hyper vigilance. I used to think it was like a high, but the copious years of being in that state have now taken their toll on me.

This trigger stems from one of my earliest memories. When I was around three or four, I was the last child of five at home. My mother at that point had lost her live-in domestic and was on her own for the first time in her marriage of thirteen years. She used to stick me in a playpen out on a small enclosed porch for hours. The pen was in a place where I could see out the low window of the door to the back yard. There were windows all around and they were open but what they call jalousie windows and rain did not come in.  A storm had blown in and it was a beaut. I remember being terrified at first and crouching in the corner of the pen. But as the storm raged, I got braver and actually looked out the door. There was a huge old oak tree out there and I am not sure if it got hit or what. But I only remember an electrical sound like a transformer about to blow up (and that in actuality may have been what happened.) But to this day, that sound turns me inside out. I watched in fascination and panic. It is like the high one gets from a roller coaster. Cortisol and adrenaline flows throughout me when I get like this which is poison. Now I do not have to be in an actual event for this reaction. I only have to perceive a threat and whamo.

But as long as my little house here, Heron Hill as I call it, remains warm and dry and no trees are falling on top of her I am fine. I will sit out on the back porch, either the covered one or the enclosed one I have and watch. I will often wake up with the distant flash of lightening and get up and watch the storm blow in. I spend hours storm watching.

But her comment about the warmth escaping and her sanctuary is no longer safe is something I totally understand. Any child who has lived through trauma understands.  We build our homes as a refuge, a place we can let our guard down and release the portable walls we walk around with to protect ourselves. It is exhausting to put up a brave front all the time. Some nights I climb into my soft bed and just cry from that release and overwhelming fatigue. I am safe here, surrounded in the environment I built. I own my home. Only me. It is filled with my stuff except my husband’s den downstairs. He came after I had bought Heron Hill.  It is my garden. Mine! I pay for her, protect her and keep her running. ME! It is a symbiotic relationship completely.

But the snow is piling up and it feels like we are drowning. My house is very high up on a hill. The main floor is actually the second floor if you enter through the front of the house. But this floor then exists right to the back yard on one level. My front windows are on the second floor. But the back windows overlook the deck and the snow piles are right to the window sills. We had our roof cleared and ever since we have been having this periodical very loud bangs emanating  from the cathedral ceiling, which is the roof. It is scary as hell. The ceiling in not sagging and there are huge beams that span the house. The house is 60 years old, just like me and is in great shape (not like me). I am sure it has to do with the subzero temps we have steadily suffering with. But it makes me feel unsafe in the one place, the only place on this earth, where I do not feel threatened.

Today I took the long way home to drive past a specific tree. I have no idea what it is. But in February, it sets these buds way up. This is a huge tree, at least thirty feet tall. The buds will actually unfurl to be leaves, but for now they look like unopened tulips. When the low light of morning hits this tree, the buds are pale pink. When I first saw it eight years ago I burst into tears. I used to drive that way every morning but more recently found a faster way to work. Now it is a rite of spring for me to drive by and look for this tree. Today, the buds were very tight but they were there. So….. it can’t be too long.

I hope you will take a look at Cissy’s post. I am going to make several comments about it. She was posted on ACES too HIGH, which is another blog and more about childhood trauma. All very interesting reading and I think will help people understand and have more compassion for each other.

http://healwritenow.com/weathering-extremes-mindful-ptsd-3/

 

 

 

Judgment

Goddess of the garden

Yesterday, The Good Doc, Victo Delore posted a great post on the vulnerability we all have to react to stimulus without the complete picture. Here’s her post: The Bigger Picture With shame attached, I would have reacted the same to the original situation and thought, “who dares to park in a handicap spot without the credentialing”?  I have a placard to hang from the mirror which is totally out of date. I lack the desire to be labeled handicapped but there are times when it sure makes my life easier to have less of a walk into the store. I honestly have also parked when I am in my car without the mirror handicap sign but only on really bad days and in a rush. One day I was feeling particularly cheeky and parked in the “for expectant mothers” spot. One of the few perks for being fat is you can look pregnant and people won’t ask, “hey, you preggers or just fat?”

Being judgmental is normal. We are taught it at an early age because we are judged. We are criticize and directed for correction as soon as we can voice a decision. When a baby first says, “NO”, the parent thinks, who the heck do they think they are? This is not a bad thing  because we need to learn parameters and boundaries. We also need to test the waters.  Learning what is acceptable is part of being assimilated into a culture.

I was raised by two incredibly judgmental parents who were raised by even more harshly judgmental parents. There was a code instilled in my family of needing to be perfect and that has completely messed with me and all of my siblings. This voice has been a deterrent for me at times because I do not want to face criticism and judgment. But the question begs, who is doing the judging?  When I take the time to really feel what I am thinking, I realize it is often not me; it is the old voice of my parents. It is the illogically comments from a time gone by. It was a mindset that I needed to be aware of so I could protect myself. But I also needed to play along in order to survive in the clan. I rebelled early on when I disagreed with their bigotry and hatred. I still hear their reaction to things and people that are not my real feelings.

I have a huge quantity of personal triggers that set me off. People who have PTSD react to stimulus that others cannot fathom. I have worked very hard to become aware of my triggers and try to deal with them. I am so sensitive to things that no one else can comprehend what they do to me because it is “nonsense” to them. For example, a certain color of light or a shadow on a wall used to completely upset me and bring on a sense of fear and despair. I now can explain that it is the color of light that happens at sunset and the low shadow is a marker of that same time frame. Why does this set me off? Because they are indicators of the time when my parents would begin their drinking.

People with PTSD have a bag of “stuff” to deal with that is so individualized that no one can comprehend what they are dealing with. It is that personal. Yet we hear people all the time say, get over it. We hear and feel the judgment. No one can really comprehend the pain and total suffering of others, ever. We do not have the ability to understand their triggers either. We need to have compassion. And it starts with not judging.

One challenge I am working on for myself is the “pause.” I try to take a moment and step away from the visceral reaction to something and breathe. In the second of calming I often can see a different story than the original view. Much like the good Doc says in her post about seeing the old couple and realizing the real story takes a moment of reflection. This process is hard and I often fail. But for the times when I do, it makes for a sweeter time of it. Unless it is a real jerk….and they do exist.  Ok, that was just to make you smile.