A journal of healing

Posts tagged ‘trauma’

Fighting auto-immune disease

I am in a battle of my life, really and truly. I have auto-immune diseases. It is a fight many people participate in. But for me, I have the stigma of being fat. It is the first thing that medical providers hone in on, sometimes exclusively. But now I am in another tail spin. Let me explain.

I have psoriatic arthritis, PsA, and Psoriasis, P. I was diagnosed with them after I went through a horrific time in my life. I was divorcing after twenty-seven years with an abusive husband. I had to sell the home we lived in for fifteen years as part of the settlement. I lost my job that I loved, although there were some real stinky issues there too. I basically lost everything. But I got through it and then, I moved into a great house and went back to school. My life turned out great. But my body suffered from all the trauma and stress.

I ended up in the hospital with blot clots. The clots resolved themselves and I was truly blessed because there was one very close to my heart. I was put on Coumadin for life. People were quick to say, “Fat girl has fat blood and hence her issues.” Nope. I have an inherited disease call Factor V Leiden. It comes from my father’s side. It has absolutely nothing to do with being fat. But after being in the hospital, they put me on a strong regiment of blood thinners to the point I bled out. They needed to stop my periods. That was another battle but finally I had a hydro thermal ablation.  But the anemia and other issues took a toll on my body.

I was on a path of a wonderful new life. I was happy. I met a great guy. I loved my house. Life seemed great. But this weird rash appeared when I was going through the divorce. It got constantly worse, spreading all over my body. I itched. I went to the dermatologist who had no idea what it was. I also noticed that I was having pain, achy pain in my joints. Not enough to slow me down at first. I used to play tennis three times a week, mow my lawn and walk all over the place. I had always been a large active person.

I was teaching at the time and some days I could not stand for very long and walking became painful. I bought ugly shoes and went to the doctor. Her diagnosis was I was fat. “Lose weight” was the prescription and take Advil. So I took mega doses of Advil. Finally, when my hands started to turn into claws, they paid attention. I would sit and cry for hours from the dull burning that radiated in my body. It is hard to explain the pain to anyone who does not have this disease. My skin looked like I had the measles and I would scratch to the point where I would wake up with blood stained sheets from scratching in the night. I did not sleep for more than two hour blocks.

I was tested for rheumatoid disease and came back with a confirmed diagnosis of PsA and P. My life changed completely. I went on prednisone, methotrexate, and continued with Advil when needed. I felt better, but the results from those drugs impacted me in a bad way. My kidney crashed. I lost all function on the right kidney. I had been peeing blood for months, but they said it was the Coumadin. It wasn’t.

My glucose has always been low, much to the chagrin of doctors in the past who expected high glucose because I am fat. We do not have diabetes in the family. My A1c went from 5 to 13. Hello!!!  I also gained 30 pounds in a very short time. They took me off the prednisone and then the methotrexate. I would get very sick after I would take my shot. My body was telling me to stop. Next, they tried me on Humira, which did nothing, and then Enbrel. The Enbrel worked for 8 years. I started getting horrible cramps everywhere in my body and the pain came back. I also slowly put on weight that would not come off. This also is a known side effect of Enbrel. All the drugs I have taken, except Otezla which made me feel sick all the time, are known for weight gain as a side effect.

For the next three years, I went through a series of taking every drug on the market for PsA. I had horrible reactions such as feeling hung over to not being able to walk from the pain. I had horrible IBS brought on by these drugs. I could not go anywhere including going to work in the morning without the fear of crapping myself. And I had a few episodes where I did. It was humiliating and horrendous.

My kidney that had gotten better was starting to decline. I passed over 50 kidney stones. I have about twenty in a box. Some were huge and the doctor took them. They were all uric acid based stones which is a product of PsA. There were stones in the right kidney that were too big to pass. I spent days in agony when I was passing a stone, but I still went to work. I passed one at work. Talk about a high pain threshold.

In 2016, we decided to try Humira one more time since it was all that was left. It almost killed me. My glucose steadily inclined, my kidney function declined and all the while I was steadily gaining weight. I was miserable. It is hard to understand the frustration and discomfort of not having control of your health. And mine was getting worse in the name of drugs.

Finally, last year, I was put on the most expensive PsA drug out there: Stelara. One shot costs $20,000. I had to exhaust all other options before the insurance would cover it. It is a miracle. I have little to no psoriasis. My PsA pain was vastly better. But by now, I have lost a lot of my stamina. There is damage in my joints that will never repair. I need to have my one ankle fused but I refuse. I have damage in my spine and hips. But I had the best mobility with Stelara. I have been on it for a year.

Because of the elevated glucose, the Doctor put me on Januvia. Januvia passes sugar out the kidney. Not a smart choice for someone with kidney disease. He finally changed it and I am on a new drug which is not really working and my A1c has risen again. I got a note from the nurse from my doctor’s office saying, “the Doctor wants you to watch your diet. Eat less carbs and sugar.” I was so pissed and will say something when I see him.

I just went and had my blood tests done. I am in big trouble. My kidney function is now stage four CKD. There was a slight improvement since I retired, but not enough to put me back to stage 3. My blood pressure has been up and now I have awful cholesterol reading. It has jumped up 114 points in one year. My cholesterol has been normal most of my life.  Both the BP and cholesterol is due from the Stelara.  It is a known side effect.

So now what? I do not know. I see the doctor on Friday. I swear if he says it’s because I am fat I am going to walk out of the office. He usually is pretty good about things. I would have to be eating pure fat for that amount of increase. And, I don’t eat a lot of fat. I do not even eat meat. But I should not have to justify myself but I will be ashamed because that it the reaction I have. I will be made to be guilty of gluttony. Meanwhile, I have a situation that needs to be dealt with. When you have Factor V, the last thing you want is more reasons to have clots. And when you have high cholesterol, it also raises you blood glucose, which has been an issue with all the drugs I am on.

I feel out of control and I admit, very depressed. This was supposed to be a happy time for me since I retired. I will say that I am much more active than when I was working. I spend most days working on physical projects in the house. My mobility and stamina is much better.  I have noticed the difference. But I am scared that my recourse is to come off the Stelara, or take more drugs.  It is like being a prisoner in your own body.



Hyperarousal and Hyperviligance

I have lived with insomnia for many years. I remember as a young teen sitting in my parent’s living room watching the slow dying glow of a log burning in the fire place. It was the middle of the night. I was told as a very young child that I used to sleep walk and I actually fell down the stairs. I can remember when I was 30 the sleep walking started up again and I also had other sleep issues. The biggest issue I have now is related to PTSD. This is when you wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep for hours. But there is more to this than a bit of anxiety. It is hyperarousal.

Hyperarousal can be defined as the state of being aroused, on guard, being overly alert and perceptive. The person who is suffering from hyperarousal is actually in the middle of the ‘fight-or-flight’ reflex that occurs when the brain sends out signals of impending danger or feels threatened. It puts the body on guard – ready to run away or stand and fight. Either way the heart beats faster, the eyes dilate, breathing is shallower and you become very alert. https://www.sixstepstosleep.com/hyperarousal-insomnia-sleep-anxiety/

I suffer from hyperarousal during the day as well. But in the middle of the night, this beast rears its ugly head and I am struggling for hours. If I do fall back asleep, I usually end up with a nightmare of some sort. All this is chemically regulated in the body. I do not know what exactly the trigger is all the time for me, but it happens when I am in a state of stress. I can perseverate on the smallest detail and by the end of an episode; I will have worried myself into a real frenzy.

Two weeks ago I actually got up and took my blood pressure and the reading was extremely high. But it was high all week from the stress of leaving my job. The physical condition I was in from the pressure of work and the all BS going on played havoc with me. But even with being away from the situation, I am able to find other things to fret about.

Hyperarousal also causes me to erupt. I can over react to the smallest things such as simply dropping something. I get frustrated very easily and have an over the top reaction. For me, it is compounded with the high level of pain I am in from my psoriatic arthritis. Unfortunately, it is a nasty loop. I get mad from being in pain and limited in my mobility and then I get a flare from being upset. They feed each other and around I go.

Compounding the situation is the sister reaction to hyperarousal which is hypervigilance. That is when you are always on alert. This is when you constantly are scanning for threats. When I was first diagnosed with PTSD, the therapist said I was like a trapped animal. I never turned my back to him. I constantly watched every move he made, especially with his hands. I think I am better but when I get threatened or perceive I am being threatened, I go back to being hypervigilant. I realize now that the past couple of years being in the toxic work environment I was in really set me back. A result of being hypervigilant is being exhausted. So I fall asleep very quickly but wake up in the middle of the night. On average, I sleep in two to three hour blocks. A good night is when I can sleep with a four hour block.

I write this not as a venue to complain but to share for someone who is going through similar things. There is comfort in knowing that you are not alone. I am planning on talking with my doctor about this if my sleep does not get any better. They recommended last year I seek retirement. It has been a long haul getting away from work and the nasty people I worked with. I have had some things going on in my home which has been concerning so I have not been able to totally calm down. But I am physically more active at home and that helps. I also need to get back to a strong practice of meditation again. That really helps. I already feel better and I know I am healing. But it is a slow path.



I did it!

I did it. I left my job. I “retired.” It has been a tumultuous month getting prepared for the last day. It came and went with a whimper. My body reacted far more than my mind. In my head, I kept feeling like I was going on vacation. Not even on the last day when I packed the light that has been on my desk for 6.5 years  did I feel like it was a permanent situation. Handing in my badge was emotional however. That has been my identity for so long. “Employee” “Director.” Now what am I?

I am relieved. It is hard to explain how much physically different my body feels. I have been living in terror for so long and the last month was even more so, if that is possible. When you have PTSD, your body takes over and reacts without your thoughts. I was a knot of tension which got worse until the last day. My stomach ached, my blood pressure was way up and my chest was tight all the time. My normal aches and pains were heightened. I did not sleep. I was a mess.

But my Spirit guides showed me that the path to leave was the right choice by showing me a glimpse of the future. I left turmoil and a toxic environment that was only going to get worse.

One by one, my employees came to me to tell me their plans for the future. One has a sick mother and will probably be taking FLMA and the new extended paid FLMA is the spring. She already asked for two weeks in February to make plans. Another one wants to go back to her family in Africa where she has a sick sister. She too is planning on using FLMA to scope things out in the early summer and then leave later this year.

They never hired the new clinical education manager. Now, they are so desperate, they may promote the girl I hired to be the Educator. I hope they do that as at least she has an idea of what is going on. When I resigned, the VP redid her job, and took away most of the responsibilities that made the job challenging and interesting. If they keep her at the position, she will walk. She wants to grow in her career, not go backwards. The Lead Preceptor is still on limited restrictions and only working five hours a day when she can. She detests the VP and will go back to field if he messes with her.

But the final conflict was with the part time paraprofessional trainer I hired last year. She was a pain in the ass from day one. She wanted more hours. She did as she wanted. She did not follow regulations when it came to training. It was a tough job to fill and so many times I looked the other way on certain things. But I knew she was a liar because she got caught in lies so many times. What made her lies so hard to comprehend was that her other job is a Pastor of a Church, unless that is a lie too. The last straw was her timesheet the week after Christmas. She marked herself in an hour and half sooner than when I know she was there. I had four people looking for her on this day who all said she showed up at 1:30. She marked she was in at noon. I went back and pulled her timesheets for six months and matched them up to her badge swipes and there were huge discrepancies. We have to swipe to get into the buildings. I never trusted her time, but I did not think she was padding her timesheet as much as she was. And it is hard to prove because I was not in the same building as she was so I never knew for sure when she came in. But this was fraud and I had witnesses. I had to fire her.  The stress of this was terrible. But somehow she got wind of it or knew her performance was terrible and resigned on this past Wednesday. I was so relieved because she is very unstable and firing her might have been very dramatic and possibly violent.

There was so much else going on during all this. I left a mess that was only going to get worse in time. The new regulations coming out governing the way home care agencies do business are ridiculous. The amount of documentation that the clinicians are going to have to do is extraordinary. It will be too much for some and they will go back to the hospitals, where there is much less documentation. The insurance companies are building in requirements that are so restrictive in order to deny payments when they are not met. Much of the work that was done in the last two year at the agency has come unraveled. The big Lean projects designed to correct money issues are collapsing due to lack of oversight. Since June, the agency has lost even more money that they did the previous two years and will be at an all-time new low as far as meeting the budget. They will lose over 5 million this year. It will mean even more layoffs with a support staff that is extremely limited. They already canned one Administrator. The “Mothership” will be replacing higher positions with their personnel and absorbing more of the support roles. That has already started. They will never shut them down, but they will run the agency.

But through all this, I came to realize that I was not cut out for the tension and back stabbing anymore. I also do not like the “new” workforce. I had to train this young chicky who is the golden child of the VP I worked for. She is the typical young spoiled child in her late twenties. One day when I was training her on a training system we use, she was slumped across my desk with her head in her hand yawing in my face. This lack of respect display was only heightened by her continually picking up her phone to check something and text. How much do you think I really showed her? Good luck! On the last day, she was panicking because the VP asked her to pull a report and she had no clue as what to do. The three of us had to meet and I did explain it again to her in front of the VP.  I will not miss that crap at all.

I will not miss the hurry up and do something only to have it not used or forgotten. I think of all the stupid busy work that I was requested to do by the rotten VP only to have him move on to something else. I think of all the finger pointing and the excuses and blame. I will not miss that. Did I just get old and was this crap always there?

The firing of the part time instructor caused a huge issue. She was also the train the trainer, and instructor for the agency’s CPR program. By regulation, we have to have some of our staff CPR trained. The same chicky who was so bored during her training with me was to be trained as a new instructor and to take over the oversight of the program when I left. She missed her training (three times) and so was not certified. I was leaving them without an instructor in CPR. This caused me great worry. She could give a crap.

I finally figured it out. Her generation was raised, and especially her because she was an only child of elderly parents, that she never had to resolve anything in her life. Someone else always has fixed it or she just didn’t care. I have seen this behavior in so many 20 and 30 year olds. I was raised to take responsibility seriously. I took it to an extreme where it was physically harming me.

This lack of concern is apparent in the quality of documentation performed by the clinicians. I see it in young managers who cannot deal with conflict and go running immediately to their superior. I see the degradation of leadership where the “what-ever” attitude is beginning to permeate. This is not an arena I am comfortable in. I want to work with people who give a shit and take it to heart when they are in charge. I cannot abide the cocksure attitude of children who think they know everything until they are put to the test and then point fingers at others in their failure. I see it our training rooms where people are looking at cell phones instead of absorbing the lessons that will make them successful. What is even scarier is the increase in errors in medical practice. Very scary. My favorite horror story is where some packed a sacral wound only to discover it was the person’s anus they packed.

I know too much. I know what has been buried. I sat too long on boards that over saw the discrepancies and issues that were harming patients as well as the agency. I am no longer able to tolerate the lack of concern and I know I was not the only one. I was the last of the senior staff that was with me from the day I got hired.  We called ourselves the Brain Trust and we were powerful and passionate about our jobs.  They all have left or retired.

Smugly, it pleases me that it will take two new directors and two new managers to do my “job”.

The only thing I am in charge of now is me.  I think I am in a good place finally.





What is PsA and P?

Psoriatic Arthritis: PsA is an insidious disease. It is very misunderstood even by the medical community. It is hard to find a specialist who can really guide you. There is no cure and it is progressive. PsA has a partner, Psoriasis or P. They are not mutually exclusive. Each has their own issues and pathology. It is rare to have PsA without P but you can have P without PsA. Both are considered auto-immune diseases and often have other co-morbidities. All this is evidence based information.

And much like other diseases, they are triggered by stress and trauma. If you understand the ACE Study, it all makes sense why diseases like this are becoming more prevalent. It seems lately more and more people are being diagnosed with some form of chronic auto-immune disease. Is it because so many of the baby-boomers are of an age where disease is a common part of life? Or is it because there are more studies done and better research as to causes of crippling diseases in senior citizens.  I think it is both.

I have been involved in two research projects. One was for P and the other for PsA. The one for P was fascinating. They were looking for the correlation of outbreaks on the skin and stress. We were divided into two groups. One was given only exercise and nutritional information and asked to make lifestyle changes. Fortunately, I was chosen to go into the other group. We were going to be trained on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction techniques. MBSR is now a more common approach for people dealing with issues such as pain. Back then, it was pretty new and out there. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the program for people with cancer and pain.

The program was several months long. We met once a week. We talked about our week, our disease, anything we wanted. Then we meditated. Sometimes we did yoga. This was a several years ago. The instructor was the Chief MD in charge of the Oncology Department at the Medical Center. He was very progressive for the times. Now, there is a requirement that all med students take MBSR. Everywhere you look they are courses on Mindfulness and stress reduction of some kind. This is progress. But I live and work for a very large medical center that is also a teaching hospital, a university and a research institute.

But with all that, they still do not know much about PsA and P. We do not have a lot of doctors who are rheumatologist in the area. I am fortunate to have a good one. But even he will admit it is trial and error. And we have had some egregious errors. The course of action is to put the patient on a drug regiment which often includes steroids and progressively stronger biologics. Even the manufactures say there is high risk associated with their drugs. It is also known that they only work for so long and the body becomes immune to the drug. Then you have to start over.

In North America and Europe, between 18 and 42 percent of people with psoriasis, an inflammatory skin disease, also have psoriatic arthritis. In the United States, psoriasis affects about 2.2 percent of the population (7.5 million people), making it the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the US. (http://blog.arthritis.org/psoriatic-arthritis/psoriatic-arthritis-psoriasis/)

Nothing is more terrifying than knowing there is nothing you can really do to stop the progression of a disease that is ravaging your body. And there is nothing more frustrating as seeing the deterioration of your body and your ability to be independent. The medications all have side effects and some of them include cancer.

I have always had this disease. It got much worse when I went through my divorce. I believe the stress triggered the eruption on my skin. Doctors, including a dermatologist, could not diagnose why I had this rash everywhere because it did not look like “normal” psoriasis. It was though. I had always had issues with my joints, but was told it was because I was fat. But when my hands curled into claws and I could not hold on to anything, I finally was sent for testing.

PsA is possibly genetic. I had psoriasis as a baby but they called it eczema back then. You cannot catch PsA and P is not spreadable. There is no cure but you can put it into remission. I have been blessed to do that several times including right now. I have only a few skin lesions.

But from all the drug switching and the use of such powerful drugs, I have diabetes. My pancreas is whooped. My insulin levels are normal in the afternoon, but in the middle of the night they drastically peak. I am on medication now for it that adds a lot of weight….. Makes no sense because as you gain weight, you insulin resistance goes higher. The shot I am for the PsA also puts on weight and also increases your glucose levels significantly. It also causes high blood pressure, which is also not good.

But the main comorbid with PsA is actually coronary issues and kidney issues. The inflammation that causes the P and PsA also attacks the heart, arteries and other organs, especially the kidneys.  So far, I do not have coronary issues. However, my kidneys are in imminent danger of failing. Diabetes also impacts kidneys and so does high blood pressure. It is a circle of what is worse. Much like most auto-immune diseases, you do not die of the disease, but of the comorbidities.

I wrote this blog this morning because of a couple of reasons. One, people need to fight for better testing and more awareness of the PsA and P. The symptoms can vary as much as the way the rash presents itself. Two, we need better treatment that does not cause more issues than the disease. Three, we need more research as to see if there may ever be a cure for PsA and P and further studies related to trauma like the ACE study.


Living the Ace Study

This past week was terrible. I did not get through it unscathed. I am wounded and in a bad way. Let me explain something about triggers and how simple things can dig so deep that it can immobilize someone. I again point to the ACE Study http://www.acestudy.org/index.html  about Childhood Trauma and the lasting effects of living in and witnessing trauma.

The effects of trauma are pervasive and unique. What triggers me may not trigger you. And how I react and for how long will also be different. The first thing that I learned when I became a Certified Trauma Professional is to allow the feelings. Never tell anyone what they feel is wrong, or over-reactive. What a person feels is their right. Trying to modify behavior by saying they are wrong to feel that way or try to change them can make things a whole lot worse. It is the same principal as working with grief. Time and reaction is unique.

Reaction to trauma is also a chemical and physically wired behavior. Neuropathways are developed as trauma is experienced or witnessed. When triggered, the body reacts out of protection secreting chemicals to produce energy for flight or arousal. Long time exposure will create a programed system reaction which often includes the shutdown of the body, anger and explosive behavior, and often a desire to stop participating in life. These are the three basic reactions of trauma: fight flight or freeze. A triggered person will resort to one or all of those reactions without a sense of doing it.

This prolonged constant flooding of chemicals like cortisol and other potent hormones designed for safety will affect the body and cause illness. It is proven. See Ace Study. And this reaction does not fade, but for many, it exponentially gets worse. And so in time, less creates more of reaction. For some it becomes over whelming and they cannot function. There is no actual cure for PTSD. The only hope is to learn to live with it and tame the Tiger so to speak. By exposure to more positive situations and learning to self-sooth and calm, many people learn to cope.

I learned that revisiting the trauma is not a good thing. The old method of recreating events and mollifying them does not work and is not healthy. You actually recreate a new trauma by doing that. I found that out too late for me as I spent a lot of time recreating my events in an attempt to grow past them. It did not work. It is enough to say that I spent over forty-five years in an abusive state caused by my alcoholic parents and an abusive husband. Forty-five years is a long time to be treated like shit; emotionally, physically and sexually mistreated. One does not get over that.

So back to this week: things at work are to the point that I am reacting by shutting down. It has progressively getting harder for me to be there. On Monday,  I was “in trouble” because I was being negative in a meeting. Supposedly I was grimacing and my body language was offensive. I swear this is what was reported. In the past I was written up for rolling my eyes. My boss is a terrible boss and the person who reported this is her mini-me. I understand the dynamics and I could spend a whole other post on how horrible it is at work. But let it suffice that my boss’s words to me were cruel and hurtful. She told me no one wants to work with me. In a previous accusation of misdoing, she told me no one likes me. She then said stop reacting like you’re the victim. If she only knew.

My Clinical Educator resigned after 27 years there.. I threw a reception for Margaret on Tuesday right on site. We had a fabulous relationship. She had my back, and I had hers. I would never have survived without her when I first started. Her leaving trigger all sorts of abandonment issues for me. She saw the mistreatment and the poor leadership. She left because she had enough.

One of Margaret’s favorite things is cake…. Well actually frosting. I had a special cake created for her. It was beautiful and fresh. I was sitting enjoying a small piece, minding my own business. The VP of Clinical was standing in front of me eating a large piece of cake as well. Then, totally unsolicited, he turns and says over his shoulder just as I was putting a piece of cake in my mouth, “should YOU be having that?” I was flabbergasted.

What happens to me when something triggers me is I shut down. I go into this place of protection. Unfortunately, I am unable to speak. I remained in the room until the end of the reception. I never touched the piece of cake again. When I left the building, I burst into tears and cried all the way home. (I actually cried again when I wrote this) I had my fill of painful criticism and hurtful remarks. This is continuing to affect me as I have not been able to sleep through the night. I wake up and perseverate on all the nasty comments.  This is physically causing some nasty flares and a lot of pain.

I am hyper aroused and anything sets me off like a loud noise or small issues. On Wednesday, Joe’s car had a huge malfunction with alarms and flashing lights going off when we were going somewhere and I completely flipped out. I was so upset I was hyperventilating and curled up. We got the car home as we were not too far way but I cannot explain how terrifying it was for those four minutes. I was so bad; I took the next day off. I had to lie because they would never have understood.

I know what I have to do and I am working on getting out. But it is not so easy. I am lucky there will be escape. But how many other people are out there who deal with this daily? No one knows the effect rude and nasty comments can make. We all agree a positive remark can make someone’s day. Why is so hard to see what a offensive, uncalled-for comment can do?  We need to learn to be more sensitive to people. Kids are killing themselves or becoming addicted to escape the effects of bullying which is extremely traumatic. Bullying continues in adulthood and some people are true experts at being bullies. I have met many. How many people suffer in silence only to get sicker and sicker because the effect of childhood experiences haunt them as adults?




This idea for this post came from my Doc friend’s blog. She was talking about harassment and where does the line get drawn. She had a patient who was making passes at her staff in jest, but it was still annoying. Of course it was annoying. It was harassment. And as I wrote back to her, harassment is determined by the person who is receiving it, not the person who is inflicting it. It has nothing to do with the intent. It is all about how something is received.

I also went on to say that for someone who has a traumatic childhood, or was a victim of sexual abuse or other violent acts, the response to someone’s intent to be funny has just the opposite effect. It can cause a major trigger that can put someone into a tailspin for days and weeks. They may not even know what they are reacting to. It could be a word or even the tone of the harasser.

Harassment can come in many forms. Often people think they are doing a good thing. But someone who constantly harasses someone from the concept of improving the person is totally misguided. What makes that person think they have that right? What makes them so superior to be able to comment?

As I thought about this all week, it hit me that parents come from a point of improving their child but when does it become harassment? Isn’t improving a child the role of a parent? Is there a point when the parent should stop trying to improve their child?

What about a spouse or your partner? Is it ok to harass them into doing something, especially when it affects your family or home? It probably is not ok, but it is hard not to do. I speak from experience.

My husband’s 28 year old daughter will not learn to drive. This makes me crazy. She is terrified, she says. She finally got her permit and then took one lesson. This took three years to accomplish. She said the lesson went ok. But she has made no attempt to continue.  Instead, she relies on her father to tote her around like Miss Daisy. I think he enjoys her dependency on him. Did I say this drives me nuts?

I am skilled in motivation interviewing. I teach it matter of fact. I know in my heart that I am not going to move either one of them on this topic, so I resort to harassment- truth be told. My intent to get his daughter to drive is based on the best interests for her. I want her to be independent and not have to rely on US for the rest of her life. We won’t be there. She has no other family and she has no friends. Her mother passed away at the age of 52. She instilled this irrational fear to drive in her daughter as the mother never drove.

The real reason the daughter won’t drive is because then she will be expected to do something with her life. That ain’t happening either. I know this probably irks me more than anything. What a waste.

Does harassing them help? Absolutely not. It only escalates my anger and frustration more. Can I walk away from it? NO. It slaps me in the face every time she calls her father for a favor. There was over twelve years when his daughter was out in California with her mother that she never called or spoke to her father. It hurt him to the core. But when the mother died, it was; “Oh, Daddy.” He can’t see it or chooses not to.

The bottom line is it still harassment, even with the good intent. I know in my heart I want her to have a life and not rot away like her mother did. I am sad that she is wasting her life. She has all the capabilities to do whatever she wants, but she chooses the easy way out. I have no right to her life. But boy, it is hard to keep my mouth shut. I am so helpless on this because she is not even my kid.

The bottom line is harassment is a person attempt to control. It is coming at someone from the viewpoint of superiority, or desiring some effect of change. I lived with harassment my whole life. Although it was sometimes masked in humor, it was my family’s way to control and inflict. Years of harassment left me sensitive to being criticized in any manner.

We cannot change people. We can influence them, we can teach, we can support. But it is impossible to change someone who does not want to. But damn, its hard not to do.



Don’t take this personally

“You’re too sensitive.” “I meant this is a good way.” And my favorite: Don’t take this personally.” Everyone time someone says those things; I know it is going to be a dagger in my soul. I am too sensitive. I will take it badly. And I most definitely will take it personally. Because that is the honest intent. Prefacing statements with “honestly” or to “tell the truth” does not excuse the fact that you are about to be mean. “It’s for your own good” never really is. It’s about you feeling superior to me.

Being an empath is not a pleasure. I see right through most people’s crap in a heartbeat. It does not mean that I can shield myself from the hurt. I never learned that part of survival. Because of that, I am very vulnerable to insults, even if they are shrouded in good intentions. They never really are good intentions.

When you are a large woman, you are a walking target for these kinds of insults. People feel so justified to say, “You would be so pretty if…..” “or you have a beautiful face….” People tell you how much better your life would be if only you could be more like them with statements like: “you should run with me some morning.” Oh Honey, if you really knew me, you would know I can hardly walk some mornings due to psoriatic arthritis. But you don’t really see me, so thanks but no thanks.

These comments do more than just hurt me. They trigger me. My family never lacked in cruel comments. It was a sport to see how clever someone could insult another. I was an enigma in the sense I was the only woman in my family who was large. I mean I am the tallest by 5 to 7 inches, I wore a much larger size (my Mom was a zero to 3) and I had boobs. I spent my childhood listening to “how much better I would be if I only…” This is emotional abuse by the way. I was deprived of treats, often subjected to ridiculous diets like green beans and Jello and constantly harangued about my shape.

[And this is how just writing about my childhood trigger me to justify it. I realized this when I went back to reread what I wrote:] My mom was in charge of the food in the house and meals were excessively high in carbs and fat. There was always soda and cookies available because the other siblings could gorge on them. They were thin. I was an extremely active child and teen often spending the day swimming or riding a bike for miles. I was not allowed to sit around and watch TV or even read. As a younger woman, I was very active. I only slowed down because of the PsA and if I did not have it, I would still be playing tennis and other activities as much as I could.

My family’s constant barrage of self-improvement comments were actually telling me how I failed. There was little said to counter the demeaning of the words. It successfully made me feel like a failure and that was the intent. I know this now, but it scarred me. So now when people make their veiled comments, I hear the disappointment in my mother and father and it brings me back to that time. When you have PTSD, it does not take much to trigger you.

When you grow up with a sense of failure, you have two choices: over achieve or lie down and whither. I overachieved. My success had not dampened the hurt I feel when someone is critical. I am so sensitive, that a look can set me off. I feel people’s disdain of me even if they think they are hiding it. I read people very clearly. It does not matter who or what the relationship. It does not matter if I love or hate the person. Their intent comes beaming through.

Next time you go to make a comment, try to remember that a large person already knows they are large. Chances are they have spent a lifetime trying to meet other’s expectations and have failed. They may not be strong, and your words will haunt them for days. You have no right to demean someone ever. If you think you are helping them, you are not. Get off your white horse and stop being so pompous. Learn that “right reflexing” (the attempt to take charge of someone else’s change process) does not motivate anyone to change. Understand your motive before you speak. Send love, not hurt.