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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.


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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.”

Dr. Nicholas Jenner PsyD, MA

(Rape Trigger warning)

I was rather disturbed to read a recent newspaper article stating that certain sections of the police force in the UK had been encouraging rape victims to drop cases in order to keep statistics on the good side. READ.  This is horrifying and makes a mockery of the “serve and protect” stance taken by law enforcement.

Rape should never be encouraged and certainly not in these times where one cannot pick up a newspaper without reading about some vile act committed in one country or another. Anyone who has been raped,whether male or female will attest to the trauma experienced, the overpowering of will, the helplessness, the violation and the long, hard road to recovery. Some never recover (as I know from my clients) and spend their lives dealing with the ongoing effects of being attacked . So to have the very institution that is responsible for catching…

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Recognizing Complex Trauma | Psychology Today

Recognizing Complex Trauma | Psychology Today.

It is essential for them to understand that their symptoms come from somewhere, so they can have compassion for themselves …

Developmental Trauma Disorder, Frozen Trauma, Complex Trauma, Attachment Disorder — whatever it’s called, it’s been a long time coming for the weight and the cost of repeated childhood trauma to be given its proper weight.


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rainbows in the sky

English: Felt Polski: Filc Magyar: Nemez

English: Felt Polski: Filc Magyar: Nemez (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My higher power orchestrated quite the “do-over” at a folk festival here this last weekend.

It was one of the most successful big crowd / high stimuli weekends in my life; and, it was also momentous and ground-breaking in the people from my past who showed up, and my interactions with them.

First of all, I have to acknowledge that I haven’t done so much socializing in 3 days in a very very long time. I don’t know what came over me. By the end of the 2nd of 3 days, my voice was hoarse from talking with so many friends. I felt so wonderfully at ease with whomever was standing in front of me, and that is something that has never happened to me. Throughout the weekend, I never felt estranged, isolated or humiliated, like I have so many times in the past; and I enjoyed having several different friends and groups to land with. Whenever I came to sit and take in a concert, there was always someone I knew to go and sit with. Walking the grounds, there were lots of smiles and hellos and chance meetings along the way.

This might sound normal to many people, but for me, it has not been. I can often end up feeling like the odd one out, and that everyone I know is witnessing me standing there like a square peg in a round hole, perhaps pitying me, perhaps avoiding me especially, perhaps both. It’s like in the movies, when the sound fades out, and all the surroundings go blurry, and suddenly, the whole world is definitely and extremely separate from me. The feeling that I have to hide what I am feeling — the pressure, the shame, the silent panic — is suffocating and horrible. The only thing I can do is disappear, leave immediately. I’ve had horrible times trying to stick it out, filled with awkwardly forced conversations. And so, this weekend was not another one of these experiences, though I was very worried it could be.

The headliner was an artist I had listened to at the time I was abused as a young girl. I had cried myself to sleep each night listening to this woman’s sad, beautiful iconic voice, and here she was, in my back yard. Also in my back yard, having returned to live here, is the teacher who abused me. (Full story here, and follow-up here) I had heard that he was returning, meanwhile continuing to process deeply and remember more of the feelings of what happened. New information has also been coming in, from various folks I run into — people I didn’t know when I was here, but who were involved with the school when my letter was written. I now know that there were two letters written: Mine, in 2005, and another one in 2008. It was the latter that had gotten (I’ll refer to him here as) ‘P’ to resign in the face of defacing dismissal / termination; not my letter.

There are supporters and non-supporters of ‘P’ here. As I have said before, I do not consider him to be a dangerous or evil man. Emotionally needy and unprofessional to a tragic and life-altering fault, and should not be teaching children (which he is currently not); but not in the same category of perverts, pedafiles, and molesters.

And so, on Friday afternoon at the festival, I was walking the main passage way to find my chair in the back row of the main stage area when I spotted him. I stood a few feet away from him, which also happened to be at my chair, having no intention of interacting with him; then spotted a friend and moved my chair to her immediately, not looking up, not looking around, keeping my head down, feeling relatively calm and grounded, but relieved to find a recovery friend I could tell.

But this was not high drama. Remarkably, I actually felt relatively calm and grounded. I think this is where my higher power was there to shelter me, and give me this strength of genuine connection with others. Having so many people I knew there, and feeling so comfortable around them kept me in a place of strength and empowerment, rather than the feeling of smallness and shame that goes with the dissociation and the disappearing act described above. It was fine that he was there; just because he was there did not mean that I would have to interact with him. I felt totally safe and supported to interact or not interact as much as felt right to me, and for the most part, it felt right not to interact at all.

At the same time, there was the question in me of how I would handle coming face to face with P — what I would say or not say, how to respect my own inner boundaries with grace and in a way that wasn’t going to gnaw at my psyche for days afterwards. I was a little bit nervous, and I didn’t know what I was going to do; but in the mean time, I didn’t let it distract me or stop me from enjoying the festival and friends.

The next morning, I came back earlier than I would have normally, for a workshop on vocal harmonies with one of my favourite bands. The room was packed. I scanned it for people I knew, and found a colleague I sing in the same choir with. We sat on a counter at the very back of the room. The energy in the room and between us was light and playful and joyous; the room was large and bright, the sun was shining, gearing itself up for another hot summer day on this beautiful farm, and a delicious breeze wafted through two sets of french doors on either side of the space.

The workshop started, but the people in the back couldn’t hear anything, so we were invited to move up and sit on the floor at the front. I decided to move. As I came around the counter at the back and headed down the isle between seats, someone grabbed my hand and held on to stop me from continuing forward. I turned around, and there he was, smiling, expecting a friendly and jovial greeting; expecting me to be happy to see him, as I would have been even a few years ago. I’m not sure what has changed in me, but I knew that I could not continue that warmth with him while honouring myself here.

In grade school with P, we sang for a hour at the start of each day, sitting on the floor in a circle; we sang around the camp fire on class camping trips, and always, I would sing the harmonies. It was my thing, and he told me how much he appreciated my talent. And now, after all these years, I have been singing again, doing my harmonies around fires and in my choir. And so here I was at this harmony workshop, and here we met.

A smile lingered on my face. I was glowing with the spirit of the weekend and the place, dressed to the hilt in summer folk fest fashion — halter top, bold shell necklace, flowy, hip-hugging pants. More radiant and sensual than I have dressed in years. Aglow. And here, in this moment, was our meeting.

I felt that the smile and a brief moment of acknowledgement were all I could give him, and so, I let the moment linger for as long as I could; and then, without a word, I let go of his hand, turned and walked away to go and sit on the floor in the front and sing.

This was the moment that should have happened so many years ago. If, instead of engaging in a secret together, we had connected in a healthy student-teacher way, and I had run off to play with my classmates …

Did anyone see us, holding hands and smiling strangely at each other, in the middle of the jam-packed room of people all shuffling to move to the front. Was the weight of this fleeting moment, and its richness, visible at all, or hidden from all others, just like it had been all along. Yes, I couldn’t linger here any longer. Time to connect “above board” with a quick hello, a nod to the past, and then move on.

I then found myself once again, not alone, sitting there on the floor, for the rest of the workshop, with a friend at my back and by my side. The friend at my side looked at me with tears in her eyes, and said, in the middle of her own process with her marriage, “I’m caught up in the emotions; I’m overwhelmed.” A tear rolled down her cheek, and I replied, “And here you are, showing up in this moment, in whatever state you are in. And you are safe.” I put my hand on her knee, and we stayed that way for a few minutes, and she let her tears fall. And there I was, feeling like a rock, aglow, in the midst of the fire, dancing.

I didn’t tell anyone what had happened that morning for the rest of the festival; I didn’t feel the need. It happened and I flowed out of it with little notice.

That night was the artist I mentioned above, from the time of the abuse. I noticed P sitting a few rows over, slightly in front of me. And there we were again, listening to this artist, singing the songs from my childhood, even some children’s fairytale songs. I came and went with ease, allowing myself to be seen. He knew I was there, and I knew he was there, and it didn’t matter. Our secret had ended, and this was the first time it showed. We did not engage in it. We let it go.

I could feel my higher self there, watching with wonder and awe; not oblivious in any way to the beacons of our past and the synergy that was present in what was happening.

Residual feelings are there, yes. The memory of how much it hurt when I missed the opportunity to connect with him, be around him, be in our secret place together. It was like oxygen to that young girl, and when it was gone, it felt like dying. I remember. Also is the codependent concern that I have hurt his feelings by avoiding him, changing my stance towards him so drastically and without warning. I want to protect him from that hurt. And that is the old pattern, working its way out of my system. I remember. I feel it. I feel the sadness and the burden of it.

Glory be.

In Love and Healing.


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Surrender Manifesto

Denial

Denial (Photo credit: Gingertail)

Hi, my name is (_), and I’m in recovery from the denial, abandonment, fear, self-hatred and shame that I internalized from the emotional abuse and neglect I survived in my family of origin.

These aspects of family dysfunction are equally present and destructive, whether substance abuse or physical abuse was present or not.

They have taken from me the ability to initiate and cope with change in order to grow and thrive.

They have caused a complete paralysis in my life – an on-going internal crisis of identity, humiliation, dependency and the will to live.

I am in recovery from the False Self I created to survive my childhood — the Self that acts with such deeply rooted compulsiveness that my very survival has come to depend on it.

In this state, I have lost all hope, and continued the cycle of denial and emotional dishonesty that have led me here to this room.

I am in recovery to name the dysfunction that was normalized, and end the cycle; to find the will to live, to learn to initiate and embrace change and to learn this thing called self-loving behaviour.

I am bare, and vulnerable; separating from my False Self is like tearing the flesh from the bone. Without my false self, I feel annihilated; but this is no more painful than the isolation and failures I have endured.

The road of recovery and the road of continued dysfunction are equally menacing. I am humbled. I surrender to the annihilation, and the space it makes for the Inner Self to become un-frozen and resume its path of growing and serving.

I cannot say that my childhood was perfect, loving or uneventful and then act out with compulsive self-sabotage and paralysis in life. Sober, well-meaning parents of all races and classes can pass on the root of dysfunction, which is multi-generational. This kind of suffering cannot be un-founded or fabricated. The belief that I am making a big deal out of nothing has kept me in this dysfunction.

I come out of denial and put my feet on the ground as a survivor. When the wound is made real, I can know where to heal.


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Developmental Trauma Disorder

I have been pointed towards the effects of trauma before, by my old counselor a year or so ago, who pointed out that the symptoms of trauma are very similar to Borderline Personality Disorder. My recent experience of attachment with my therapist caused me to research Attachment Disorder today, and found me at the website of Attachment Disorder Maryland.

My jaw dropped and I nearly gasped several times reading their page on Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD). It’s been a while since I’ve had the experience of immense relief to read about parts of myself that hadn’t yet been reflected to me externally. I am feeling immense relief and hope that this has been written about.

Most-striking excerpts from the website of Attachment Disorder Maryland — their page on Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD):

Definition Developmental Trauma Disorder is a diagnostic proposal for DSM-5, authored by Bessel van der Kolk and colleagues.  The concept of DTD is based on a wide array of research data that comprises tens of thousands of children across multiple research studies.  DTD results from growing up in an interpersonal context of ongoing danger, maltreatment, unpredictability, and/or neglect.  80% of all child maltreatment is at the hands of children’s own parents.  Maltreatment embeds “hidden traumas” in infant – caregiver interactions that are neglectful, intrusive, unpredictable, threatening, aggressive, rejecting, or exploitive.   These interactions convey that the world is a dangerous, unreliable, and/or indifferent place that offers little or no safety. Given the highly limited capacities of infants / young children to assess risk, this lack of physical and/or emotional safety quickly rises to the level of a subjective survival threat (annihilation anxiety) even though the objective nature of the event may not actually be at that level.  For this reason, such events do not warrant a diagnosis of PTSD because the events are not “imminently life threatening”, a criteria for PTSD.  However, it is subjective perception, and not objective lethality, that determines trauma.  Using PTSD criteria, the element of trauma gets missed, and the erroneous diagnostic process has begun.


Major diagnostic criteria for DTD
There are seven major diagnostic criteria for DTD.

  1. Witnessing or experiencing multiple adverse interpersonal events involving caretaker(s) for at least one year.
  2. Affective and physiological dysregulation.
  3. Attentional and behavioral dysregulation.
  4. Self and relational dysregulation.
  5. Chronically altered perception and expectations.
  6. At least two post-traumatic symptoms.
  7. Functional impairment- at least two of the following areas: academic, family, peers, legal, health.
  8. Duration of disorder is at least 6 months.

(#7 of Developmental impacts:)

Fragmentation / disorganization:  We know from object relations theory that whatever is communicated as being off limits to an infant’s caretaker is also off limits to the Self.  Infants quickly pick up implicitly, what their caretakers do not want to see, will reject, are afraid of, will retaliate against…  These elements become “off limits” which lays the groundwork for fragmenting the child’s Self construct.  This fragmentation of the Self produces a pervasive state of internal disorganization that causes further fragmentation as time moves forward, and so the disorganization is both effect and then cause.  This internal disorganization impairs integrative processing such that the integration of sensory, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral experience into a congruent picture does not occur and so children with DTD can appear very different across time and situations.  This, in turn causes significant confusion for the adults interacting with these children on an ongoing basis.  Given their confusion, the adults are prone to respond inconsistently to the child, thereby validating the child’s view of the world as unpredictable. Now the original traumatic context is being replicated in the present in a dizzying escalating spiral that carries profound implications for attachment….

DTD vs. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):  PTSD stems from discrete, traumatic incidents rather than an ongoing pattern of embedded trauma.  It manifests as specific responses to stimuli that are reminders of the traumatic incident.  In the absence of traumatic triggers, PTSD symptoms may be minimal to wholly absent.  PTSD lacks the pervasive developmental sequelae of DTD.  Since PTSD can’t account for all the symptoms of DTD, other diagnoses are often added to PTSD to cover the additional symptoms.  This produces fragmented diagnostic thinking and the partial diagnosis phenomenon.  Once again, it’s the Blind Men and the Elephant story.  The part is mistaken for the whole, leading to a lack of understanding about the whole (systemic dysregulation resulting from developmental trauma) and a partially effective, clinical response at best.On the other hand, the “hidden traumas” of  DTD do not meet the DSM-4 definition of a “traumatic event” as they are not imminently life threatening.  Evidence based treatments for PTSD do not adequately address the pervasive developmental impairments and attachment difficulties that come with DTD.