Sunday, 27 July 2014

Who is it that has made you feel as though you have to apologise for everything, as if you have to apologise for your very existence?

Yesterday I worked for 10 hours. That is a fact and it isn't something I'm complaining about, it's a statement. I think that sometimes stress can inject itself into statements which can come across as complaints, when actually it's more about the stress of someone being late to take you off at the end of your shift or because you've worked 7.75 hours straight without a break and you're tired. I think that people sometimes want to make you believe that you shouldn't ever feel any emotion at all, when really you are allowed to feel whatever you feel about anything.

The thing that struck me yesterday, when I was working, was the amount of apologies I spewed, and the amount of times I thought "don't screw up" or that I mustn't do anything wrong, and it wasn't until I apologised to a colleague for the fifth time, about something that wasn't even due an apology, that he said "who is it that has made you feel as though you have to apologise for everything, as if you have to apologise for your very existence?" - of course, the question put me on the spot a bit, so I reached for the only phrase I know; I'm fine, and uttered a phrase including this, to try and change the subject. However, I think that phrase is morphing into something that indicates the polar opposite of the meaning cited.

For all intents and purposes, and to the naked eye, I am fine. I'm a nearly-third-year student studying psychology, I work at a petrol station 'to get the pennies in', I go to the gym, I participate in dance classes and yes, I'll grab a drink with someone to engage in a catch up. I live with my parents, I drive my car... those things tick all the right boxes for whatever the societal normal appears to be. But I am not the societal normal, I am not even slightly normal, and part of me thinks that maybe, that is okay and that I am me and I am allowed to take time out to just be.

But there is also a voice in my ear that says, that is definitely not what you are allowed to do.

What my colleague asked me was actually more prominent than perhaps he or I realised in the moment. Why do I feel the need to continually apologise for everything I do? If this is the case, and this is how I feel, am I essentially apologising for breathing the air I breathe and taking up the space that I do in this world? I think that when you think about it like that, something - for me anyway - kind of shifts and you begin to think; why? Why do I need to do that? When did I learn to do that? Who from? Why did I have to learn it? Did someone tell me to say sorry all the time? Did someone tell me that I am a horrible person? Did someone teach me? Who? Questions start falling through the cracks, like when you pull the stick out of kerplunk and all the marbles cascade down all at once. That's what has happened in my head. It's either everything, or nothing at all.

Maybe knowing the answer to these questions is the first step, or an important step I need to take, anyway. It won't fix everything, or fix anything, but it might help me recognise when I apologise, and why, and so I can work on that, and not the apology itself (because that can lead to beating yourself up about a whole host of other things). Perhaps I need to ask myself that question every time I apologise, and I can start piecing myself together a bit more.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Coping With Flashbacks.

(this not my post, I was given it by a therapist and it helped me, so it might help others too)

Flashbacks are recollections from the past. They may be pictures, sounds, smells, feelings, or the lack of them (numbness). Sometimes there is no actual visual or auditory memory. You may feel panicky, or trapped, you may feel powerless without knowing why. These experiences can also happen in dreams.

As a child you had to protect yourself from the emotional and physical horrors of abuse. In order to survive, that child remained locked inside, unable to express the feelings and thoughts of that time. It is as though we put that part of us into a time warp until it comes out in the present.

When that part comes out, the child in you is experiencing the past as if it were happening today. As the flashback happens, it is as if you forget that you have an ‘adult’ self available for comfort, protection and grounding. The extreme feelings and body sensations occurring are so frightening because they are not related to the reality of the present and often seem to come from out of the blue.

We begin to think we are crazy and are afraid of telling anyone about what is happening. We feel out of control and at the mercy of our experiences.

We begin to avoid certain areas and situations, that we think triggered it. Sometimes flashbacks occur during any form of sexual contact, or it may be a person who looks or behaves and reminds you of the person who abused you, or it may be a situation today that stirs up similar trapped feelings (confrontation, angry people).

If you are feeling little... you may be experiencing a flashback. If you are having stronger feelings than you expect to have in the present situation ... you are probably having a flashback

Flashbacks Are Normal 

Flashbacks are sometimes called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
The diagnostic category book for psychiatry defines Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as the normal experience of all people experiencing an event that is outside the range of normal human experience.

Flashbacks sometimes make you feel insane because the child in you doesn't know that there is an adult survivor available to help.
What Does Help? 

Tell yourself that you are having a flashback.

Remind yourself that the worst is over. The feelings and sensations you are experiencing are memories of the past.

Get Grounded. This means stamping your feet on the ground so that the child knows you have feet and can get away now if you need to. (As a child, you couldn't get away........ now you can).

Breathe. When we get frightened we stop normal breathing. As a result our body begins to panic because we haven’t got enough oxygen. Lack of oxygen causes a great deal of panic feelings; pounding in the head, tightness, sweating, feeling faint, shakiness, dizziness. When we breathe deeply enough, a lot of the panic feeling can decrease.

Re-establish to the present. Begin to use your five senses in the present. Look around and see the colours in the room, the shapes of things, the people near, etc. Listen to the sounds in the room; your breathing, traffic, birds, people, cars etc. Feel your body and what is touching it; your clothes, your own arms and hands, the chair or floor supporting you.

Talk to the child in you and tell her she is OK. It is very important that the child knows that the adult is around to take care of her. The child needs to know that it is safe to experience the feelings and let go of the past.

Find your boundaries. Sometimes when we are having a flashback things get out of proportion we lose the sense of where we end and the world begins; as if we do not have skin. Wrap yourself in a blanket, hold a pillow or soft toy, go to bed or sit in a cupboard... anything that you can do to make yourself feel safe.

Get help. You may need to be alone or you may want someone near you. In either case it is important that your friends and relations know about flashbacks so they can help with the process, whether that means letting you be by yourself or being there, whatever is right for you is right.

Take time to regain control. Sometimes flashbacks are very powerful. Don't expect yourself to be able to do adult things immediately. Be kind and look after you, do something that you enjoy. Don’t punish yourself; you and your child don’t deserve it.

Be patient. It takes time to heal the past. It takes time to learn ways of taking care of you, of being an adult who has feelings and developing effective ways of coping in the here and now.