What does recovery mean? | One in Four Magazine

We all think we know what recovery is and what it would look like, but do we? Seaneen Molloy explores

We are told that recovery from mental health difficulty is possible – probable, even. The people we are exhorted to admire, from Stephen Fry to Ruby Wax, are people who have recovered from mental illness. ‘Look!’ they seem to say and by they I mean everybody; from the medical profession to mental health charities. ‘Their lives are great now! Yours can be too! You can recover!’

Recovery. It’s the buzzword. I believe recovery is possible, too. But what does recovery actually mean? That is a question I have been exploring in my own life.

via What does recovery mean? | One in Four Magazine.


positive thinking was not what i needed — this video explains why

It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of our thoughts, but I have also definitely experienced the immoral potential of positive thinking the video at the link below is talking about. Emotionally repressive, ignorant, insensitive, isolating, and invalidating. Probably not the intention in most cases, but almost every day, I still hear snippets of this, and have to remind myself what it is for me.

Unfortunately, this was my experience of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). I didn’t need to change how I was feeling; I just needed to understand what my feelings were responding to, and be validated for feeling that way. That my feelings were normal and healthy, and that there is actually nothing distorted in my view of reality, and there never has been. I realize this might not be true for everyone, but for me, my feelings were a normal response to an abnormal situation; the only way through the feelings has been to feel them, and appreciate how normal they are. CBT did not honour that for me; instead, my experience was that CBT was saying my feelings were the problem. Depression, anxiety — they were something to be gotten rid of, not honoured and listened to! Talk about the OPPOSITE of what I needed …!

Change my thoughts, change my feelings, change my behaviours.

Would you tell that to someone in grief? Probably not. I didn’t need to change anything; I just needed to feel, grieve, understand. That was the way through it for me.

And so here is a link to the video that spurred this whole out-pouring. Enjoy! Tell me what you think! This could be an interesting discussion …

Why the religion of positive thinking needs to be burned at the stake


trigger, truth and integration

In the months since I last blogged, I have left another home, lived with my Mom again for a couple of months, moved into a new place, left a training program circle under circumstances of conflict, begun working–very part time–again, experienced several suicidal crisis’, and a break-through hypnotherapy session. I haven’t felt suicidal since that session a couple weeks ago. So there is new ground I am standing on since I last wrote. It has been too intense and too much to write about until now, to summarize it into a nice little paragraph of words.

My most recent trigger sent me into my shock place last Tuesday. In my shock place, my body goes cold, and the emotional pain is so intense that I can’t feel it; instead, my body takes on a sensation of being “dead.”

I’m happy to say that this time I was able to stay present with myself in this trigger. I layed on my bed and listened to what my body wanted to do, to express what I was feeling. I curled up into a ball and felt dead for a while, breathing into the feeling, and the immense sorrow behind it.

I then had to cook a large amount of food that day, and so found it in myself to head downstairs to the kitchen. I told my roommate that I was in a bit of an altered state, didn’t say much to anyone, and just began chopping veggies there.

That afternoon, I found myself alone in the house, cooking away. I put on a mix of Mumford and Sons, and soon found myself weeping loudly and deeply to the words. I don’t fully understand yet what I was grieving, what exactly made me so sad, but letting it out and giving it a chance to express itself helped to keep it moving in me.

For the next 3 days, I was out of town with a group of women in a small FN village, doing a healing practice with the people there. I noticed how insecure I felt. Everything I did seemed somehow flawed, and I noticed I was taking things personally from others. I also knew that this state of insecurity and oversensitivity was a direct result of the trigger I’d experienced on Tuesday. If it had happened earlier, I probably wouldn’t have gone on the trip. I would have told them I wasn’t well. But having it happen the day before, I didn’t have clarity in time to cancel the trip for myself, and so, there I was, in this vulnerable state. The only way through was to be transparent about it, take breaks when I needed to, and give myself the space I needed.

I got back from the trip on Friday night and looked up the psychiatric reference of the word Factitious, which my psych had used on a form he filled out for me, which was the trigger. The trigger is to imply that I am making up what has happened to me, or that I am making up / somehow dramatizing my feelings in order to get attention.

Several kindred spirits close to me, in many different eras of my life, and in many different ways, have told me the same thing — that I’m seeing myself as ill or hurting, when in actual fact, I am a truly gifted soul. That I’m seeing the negative, keeping myself small, not stepping into my power. People who tell me this often seem to hope that by telling me I’m somehow going to see what they see in me, and stop “making myself” small. They don’t understand maybe that I can see what they’re seeing too, and that if it was that easy, to just stop doing that, that I surely would.

A great deal of my existential angst these last few years has been around my confusion at this. How can I seem truly gifted in moments, and come across so well and strong and wise to so many people; and yet also feel so week and helpless as to experience such things as panic, dissociation, and chronic suicidality?

The insight I returned from my travels with is that both are deeply true in me. It’s not like one is true and the other false; both are truly, deeply true, and integral to who I am. Both need to be made real, acknowledged and cared for in my life. Now, after 2 and a half years of therapy, I see how the pain is real, and I’m beginning to see how the gift is also real in me, through my experience of Circle (Way of Council, Family Constellations, and 12-step work). I’m proud to say that I no longer doubt that my feelings are real. If I perceive that my hand is burning on the stove, I don’t doubt the pain; I remove my hand from the stove. The length and immensity of that journey is beyond words to me.

Part of my response to the word Factitious is to shout out loud, “I am not making it up. It is real. My feelings are real.” (you fucker! fuck off!)

What’s harder to acknowledge, even blogging here, is that part of me also feels seen on a ground-breaking new level of depth. The trauma in me is that my fears and insecurities, feelings of weakness, sadness, and need for connection were so intensely and chronically dismissed and denied as a child and young adult that in my adult life, I cannot stop trying to prove that they are real. I want the helplessness to be seen, but this want has become chronic and insatiable. A rigid thought pattern that my humanness will never be seen unless I prove it to people continuously, and to do this, I must never be successful or self-sufficient.

I can understand how this could be seen as making it up, but even my psych acknowledged quite intentionally that it’s not like i am consciously making it up or faking anything that I’m feeling. However, there is a subconscious part of me that is feeling chronically unseen, and trying to be seen by recreating helplessness in my life.

From my experience in my recent travels, I can see the truth of how I hold myself back, diminish myself. I see those close to me realize this and be baffled by it. What my deepest voice says in return to them is that they have no idea how “baffled” I am by it as well. It’s not conscious; it’s not in my control. The unseen part will not let go. What will it take for her to be seen enough to relax her hold on me?

I say, ‘See it not as stupidity that I insist on seeing the weakness and helpless part of me; see it as a result of very deeply damaging emotional neglect I experienced as a child.’ And as I say that, I soften, I feel compassion, I feel the truth in my bones.

It’s as if I see the mountain. I see the hurdle and appreciate deeply how difficult it is to overcome, and it is a relief to have it defined and made visible. I see its truth and appreciate the painful and futile effect it has had on me.

At the root of it is this experience in childhood, which I wrote about after an ACA meeting last week, in metaphor:

the wounded leg in me that no one would admit they see:

My leg is missing and I’m about to run a marathon.

I say that my leg is missing.

My parents tell me, “What are you talking about? You’re fine. There’s nothing wrong with you at all. You’re a champion runner. We love you!”

ie. “You’re making it up. You’re not seeing yourself or your needs accurately. Your perception of yourself isn’t accurate. You’re not seeing reality.”

“In reality, you don’t need anything. You don’t require self-care. You’re not hurting right now; you just think you are.”

I carry on and interact as if my leg is not missing, going to run the marathon.

I wonder why no one votes or cheers for me, and people seem uncomfortable around me.

Unfortunately, no one wants to burst my apparent bubble and tell me that I have a missing leg, and that running the marathon without addressing that is an impossible feat.

I’m unable to complete the marathon. I look around and realize that all the people who told me my leg wasn’t missing, including my parents, are now nowhere to be seen.

I soon trick myself to stop seeing the wounds either, and this becomes my greatest peril.

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Farther On

This song, by the Alaska String Band has been replaying over and over in my mind for the last week since my roommate first played it for me.

All religious language of God and Jesus aside here (I am not a religious person in any sense of the word), it’s as if my inner one wanted me to hear this when I tried to take my life two and a half years ago. She wants me to hear this now, to comfort me, and reassure me, and help me heal from that time. I’m not sure where she ends and my higher power begins. She and my highest self are the same. This was her voice, steady and unwavering, and which I couldn’t hear. It’s as if she is singing it to me now, telling me how much she loves me. She takes my hand, and tells me she is there, has always been there, and will never leave me. She will never stop singing this song to me. This is her voice now and always.

“Farther on, still go farther … Jesus will foresake you never. It is better farther on.”

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on the homefront


I’m trying to figure out where I am today, how I’m doing (yup, my favourite question. SARCASTICALLY speaking).

I looked at places to rent this morning. Moving in here after having moved just 2 months earlier, and with such an extensive history of transiency and instability on the HOME front; my nesting instinct flooded me, and my bank account. It was like it had been repressed for so long that it all came flooding out of me. I toured second hand shops, bought little statues and decorative items for the deck and the garden and the walls here. I spent an entire week repairing the walls in my room, and painting it, including the french doors, all the trim, the walls and the ceiling.

It was 2 months of bliss with the one roommate I began with here — I’ll call her L. We were a recovery household. Our friends mixed brilliantly, and began to drop by regularly. Our lifestyles flowed so effortlessly and naturally together, we barely even had to think about it. We began creating a culture of authenticity in every moment. We prayed together, and shared with and witnessed each other deeply on a daily basis.

Our third roommate — I’ll call her E — came to us serendipitously through a friend of mine. She spoke the language of circle and spirit, and all of us felt a great ‘yes’ at the thought of her being here. We met a couple of times before making the final decision, and then she moved in.

How I didn’t see it coming is a mystery to me indeed. I feel dismayed. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so unsafe, and so much hatred and resentment towards a person. Not a pretty side of me is coming out in this situation. Part of me is angry and hurt, part of me is terrified, and part of me is deeply ashamed of how I am feeling. I want her gone. Just the thought of her and my body tenses, my cortisol surges, my heart beats a little faster.

If I am really honest, I feel that all her spirituality and wisdom are a crock of shit. She presents herself as a great healer, and an elder, connected to ceremony and the ways of the First Nations People here. And yet … my experience so far (the story in my mind) is that there is zero vulnerability with this woman. Zero openness to others’ truth and wisdom. She thinks psychotherapy is useless and a waste of time, doesn’t believe in labels or using mental illness as an excuse for a ‘lack of respect’ with regards to relating and house work. She looks down on 12-step recovery work, saying it’s “A good base,” and has expressed that she does not want to be doing “emotional processing” with her housemates.

L sees these things, but is somehow not triggered by them. L has been enjoying E’s company and wisdom, and making long-term plans with her. The connection between L and I has become almost none-existent. We do not have authentic sharing and witnessing around the house any more, unless I ask for it specifically.
Three days ago, I got to the point of ‘her or me,’ (which I have since backed down from), and shared everything with L. It was a hard conversation, but our recovery and NVC skills got us through with shining colours — except that L remained with her ‘hands tied’, saying to me, “Well, I would be so, so sorry to see you go.”

I have been moving in and out of the place of action: This is an unsafe and unhealthy situation and I guess I need to move / I need to communicate … what the fuck to I say in this situation. Ah! … and … getting lulled into a false sense of ‘everything’s fine.’ No one is yelling, and we can all make this work, and there is no way in hell I am going to rock the boat, or rain on anyone’s parade with my little feelings over here. I can just go along in my own little world, and still enjoy this beautiful house on the river, with the beautiful yard and swimming hole, gardens, fire pit, private deck and gazebo. Just avoid the conflct; pretend it isn’t there, trust that the Universe is working it out, stay open — maybe I’m just not seeing this person’s true heart; maybe it’s all a big misunderstanding; — invite her out berry picking, give her a ride, ask her about First Nations traditions, join in the ‘big happy family vibe’ that is between her and L. Don’t be such a downer! Just go with the flow. Think positively.


I wish I could just disappear. I feel there is the potential for me to be back at the place of needing to move AGAIN, feeling humiliated and hopeless, lost and alone in the world. This is what having to move again would do to me. I don’t know if I can survive another move. The chaos, the disruption, the fear of having it not work out AGAIN.


So, although I am not crying or raging or acting out; like a true internal bpd, I am deeply upset inside, and not showing any of it on the outside. It is bottling up inside me. I feel paralized, drugged almost, avoiding the panic that ensues when I acknowledge how I am feeling. Stuffing it so no one, including me, has to feel uncomfortable. The silent, invisible cage.

Tomorrow, I am supposed to be taking E berry picking. I don’t want to; I want to pull out, and I want to tell her why — not in a confrontational way, but in the way that gets the octipus out from under the table. I would feel so much safer if it were acknowledged and out in the open that there are hard feelings between E and me, and that spending time alone together is not very comfortable right now.

I don’t know how to make this happen. I don’t know if I should cancel. If I should make up a different excuse, and be polite and tactful about it.

I don’t know how to honour how I am feeling right now, and not feel like I am hiding it, living with a secret, again.

And so, that’s where I’m at today. I don’t want to admit how much this situation is bothering me, but it is.

Thanks for reading. Love.

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I had a constellation done this weekend around the school. The experience was disappointing at first, and felt somehow incomplete, as if I had wrecked it by shutting down my feelings. I wanted to have it done, but I could not show up with all my feelings to be healed.

What it ended up being was an illustration of how all the individuals and entities involved could offer nothing to me in terms of the reconciliation I seek and have sought so deeply for so many years. There were representatives for the school, the teacher, my inner child, the police, and my parents, and all hands were tied. “Sorry, we can’t do anything; go deal with it by yourself, and have a nice life. Only you can love yourself.”

And so this was the constellation that happened for me as I withheld — no, I shut down — my feelings. I went into shut down (in retrospect) because I’m ashamed of my feelings, ashamed of even my desire for reconciliation. I still doubt whether or not my feelings are justified enough to exist because everyone in the story’s “hands are tied”, so no action was taken. No action was taken, telling me that neither my perceptions nor my feelings can be trusted. I — my feelings and my perceptions — am all wrong, and not worthy of love or support or action on anyone’s part.

So it is circumstance that abandoned me, more than any one heart. So who is there to atone for this loss and injustice, this exclusion, secret, banishment, dismissal.

Such a feeling of abandonment and the need for protection. Aloneness. World-unfriendly-ness. No support. No validation. Chronically needy, wanting to be seen, causes me to act like a child, doing childish things for attention.

The other internal pattern that came out of this for me is one of doubting myself, dismissing myself, wondering eternally if my feelings are real or justified.

This confusion, this neediness, keep me in my cage. The cycle of shame that goes on and on and on, around and around and around.

So I withheld both the story and my feelings for fear that they are not real, made up, coming from an impure place; and in so doing, I wasted the moment of healing.

When I block my feelings, I block their healing.

I do this uncontrollably, over and over again. I betray and abandon myself — and others — uncontrollably, by shutting down and failing to be present to the moment.

I also feel ashamed of my feelings because I’ve done so much therapeutic work and sharing on this issue that I’m embarrassed I haven’t healed it yet. That I need to share it again, spend more time and energy on it, take more from others on it.

So then I shut down again, so then I waste the moment, and everyone’s time again. So then I feel ashamed again.

The guilt, shame, despair and hoplessness get worse every time this happens.

The agony of being trapped inside myself.

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Shame and Attachment — from Attachment Disorder Maryland

Shame and Attachment

The page linked above is talking about ‘wishing to disappear’, states of experiencing the world in slow motion, and the endless cycle of sabotage. I’ve possibly never been so relieved to identify so deeply …

Description: The feeling of shame can be described as a sense of smallness, worthlessness, and powerlessness in a given situation.  …  It is triggered by a “perceived” break in one’s connectedness to others or to oneself. This is compounded by feeling exposed and extremely concerned about another’s evaluation of oneself.  Shame can be defined as the emotional experience of another’s devaluation or disgust, real or imagined. It is a self-absorbed, self-centered, and isolating experience.  While acutely feeling shame, an individual is not considering the implications of his behavior for others, but is focused solely on the possible impact on self.  Shame essentially splits a person into both an “observer” and “the one being observed”.  The observer part witnesses and criticizes the part being observed.  Sometimes, the presence of another is not even required to generate shame.

Shame & behavior:  Shame is self-perpetuating.  Internalized shame tends to induce behavior in the future that will lead to an outcome of further shame.  This is not recognized at the time.  The original motive for the behavior appears to have nothing to do with shame.  Yet, shame invariably results, and this final outcome indicates the true, underlying motive for the behavior as being the generation of shame, rather than the prior illusory motive.  Behavioral attempts to escape shame always work this way.  This can easily lead to an upwards spiral as increasing amounts of shame accumulate within which then fuels further shame-creating behavior.  …

Systemic impact:  Shame is more than a feeling.  It is an entire organismic state that affects multiple systems in the body.  Shame operates at primitive levels below the reach of rational thinking.  Shame brings with it a subjective sense of time slowing down which serves to magnify anything that occurs during a state of shame.  It also is accompanied by intensified feedback from all perceptual modalities, particularly autonomic reactions such as blushing, sweating, and increased heart rate.  These autonomic reactions induce a state of heightened bodily awareness which combines with the slowed sense of time to produce the extreme self-consciousness that is a part of feeling shame.

Shame and trauma:  Shame both mirrors trauma and is bound up with it.  Much of the power of what we term traumatic events lies in the shame bound up with these events.  Through traumatic events, perpetrators can download their own shame onto the victim who ends up being pervaded by it.  For the victim, this becomes an experience of powerlessness or helplessness.  Perceptions of being powerless create shame, for the self is seen as being weak / ineffective.  This often leads children to vow to “do it right” the next time in an attempt to overcome the trauma and prevent further trauma.  This can easily evolve into a perfectionistic stance which, in the end, only fuels the shame, as perfectionism generally guarantees failure.

Shame signals:  In addition to aversion to all eye contact, shame can manifest as fragmented thought and speech including: pauses, repetitions, false starts, inaudible voice level, and unclear diction.  All of these are common with AD children.  Subjectively this often gets reported as “going blank”, somewhat like dissociation.

Coping Defenses: The primary defenses for handling shame are denial, dissociation from all feeling states, splitting, withdrawal, perfectionism, entitlement, externalization, rage-driven behavior, pre-emptive shaming of oneself, and inability to give or receive praise.  With repeated use, these defenses, like all defenses, can function so quickly that the child never even consciously experiences any shame….

… Attempting to counter all this with positive reassurance is potentially damaging, for it can accentuate the shame by being so at odds with the self-image, and it can make the person offering such feedback seem completely out of touch to the AD child.

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Determining factors in Recovery from Rape and Sexual assault

“The way the woman is treated as a victim may also influence her ability to cope. This includes treatment by:

  1. The police. Of necessity the police are required to question the victim thoroughly. If this is not explained to her she may perceive that she is not believed and this can reinforce feelings of guilt and self blame. If she is unable to accurately describe her assailant or recall details of the attack, this may reinforce feelings of low self worth and inadequacy.
  2. Hospital service. If the victim is treated in an impersonal manner then the feelings of depersonalization are reinforced. If hospital staff offer judgement comments on her behaviour then feelings of guilt can be produced.
  3. The courts. The above comments apply here as well. The cross examination can seem like a repeat of the rape experience.
  4. The circumstances of the assault can affect the victim’s coping capacity.”

“The way the woman is treated as a victim may also influence her ability to cope. This includes treatment by: The police. Of necessity the police are required to question the victim thoroughly. If this is not explained to her … Continue reading

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The Mental Torment of Sexually Abused Children

“the biggest gift a therapist can give an abuse victim is to believe their story and help them relive it in such a way that they can reconstruct their world and gain new insight. […] It is also vital that the therapist feels the need to show emotion towards the act of abuse and the abuser. Many victims have been met with stonewall faces and attitudes all their lives and it can be refreshing to come across someone who feels outrage when talking about it.”
I just experienced this with a therapist of mine, and it shifted some mountains inside me. I don’t know what it was about her, or the moment, or me, but she reacted in a way that helped me to take a step towards believing that It actually did happen and was wrong.

“the biggest gift a therapist can give an abuse victim is to believe their story and help them relive it in such a way that they can reconstruct their world and gain new insight. […] It is also vital that … Continue reading

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