Look up images for anxiety and three basic images appear: grabbing ones head, biting nails, or running away. And although those behaviors can be associated with anxiety, gasping for air is far more prevalent in the patients I’ve seen with severe anxiety and is the symptom I grapple with the most with C/PTSD. Like, I have to stop right now, bend over wherever I am — and suck in as much air as I can get, as I struggle to calm my heart palpitations.
I switched to a new doctor recently who doesn’t understand anxiety, let alone C/PTSD no matter my trying to explain it to him. He didn’t care to look at my dosage and frequency. All he was concerned with was my being on anti-anxiety meds over a six month period and telling me that I was addicted now and would need to go to a clinic to get off of them. I was like, “No, I’m not, and I don’t think so!”
I cried on the way home. I told my husband how furious I was that a lifetime of abuse/trauma creates illnesses from anxiety to gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune disorders to cancer in survivors, and yet perpetrators could not care less and are out living their best lives. That we get traumatized once again as we look for help and a doctor that gets it. And I was absolutely furious that I was referred to as “addicted.”
I vented in my art journal and wept some more. I wrote a letter to the pharmaceutical company for creating something with side- effects so bad that you can’t take it long term, to my original prescribing doctor who didn’t take me off it sooner, to the pharmacist who kept filling it and said nothing, and to my current doctor for being so dismissive of me. I peeled the label from its bottle and plastered it on the page and wrote, “Addicted” “Addict” across the page. I also wrote the words: accountable, balance, authentic, stable, consistent, secure, integrity, responsible, connected, solid. All the things I am and have been to myself and those I care about regardless of my anxiety-C/PTSD diagnosis.
Then, I set about weaning myself off my very, teeny, tiny dose of anti-anxiety med and I even included my anti-depressants for good measure. I’m on Day 55 of no medication and because my dose was so small, I really don’t see a difference without them; especially since I only took them at bedtime.
I didn’t like the way the doctor was dismissive of me considering his lack of knowledge about my condition and his inability to try to understand or even learn. But, I was happy to find my old self who is just bitchy, bold, and ballsy enough to want to prove this douchebag wrong and come off my meds. Without the debilitating side-effects he said I’d have and without a clinic. And even more meds to get off those meds! – What a vicious cycle they want to keep you in! No thanks!
I am writing this because I am short of breath today. I’m not doing much of anything that would cause me to be short-of-breath but I know it’s anxiety sneaking up and clobbering me with its fists, like it has my entire life. And, I will just have to stop, and draw in a breath as deeply as I can and then keep going, like I did for over four decades prior to getting anti-anxiety meds.
And, this whole thing got me thinking of the word, “addicted.” The only thing I’ve ever been addicted to was creating a loving family of my own and being the best I could be for them. Having everybody be happy and healthy. To laugh and have fun. To get along. That’s it. Not too much to ask? 🤷🏻♀️
My sense of humor reminds me that shortness-of-breath is abbreviated S.O.B. in nursing documentation. I giggle and remind myself that I can’t let the SOB’s get me down as I once again stop. And try to breathe.
Think back to all the times you’ve been called, “difficult,” “overly-sensitive,” “dramatic,” or “bitch.”🖕🏻
O.k. Who were those people? Write them down. What was happening between you two? Defending yourself? Someone else? Going toe to toe with a bully? Rising above the bullshit? Write that down. 🤩🥳😎
Do that a couple of hundred times in life and you have a lot of enemies. — Good for you. That means you’re not a doormat for others to wipe their feet on.🦶🦶Love yourself enough to be odd woman/man out. 💗💗💗🥰🥰
Now, who’s dismissed and invalidated your feelings, shushed you, implied you were “crazy,” and “too much.” What were you trying to express to them? Write that down. 😤 Use your anger for fuel.
Dismissed and invalidated a couple of hundred times in life and you have anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and physical pain — also known as C/PTSD from the psychological mind-fuck that is narcissistic abuse. 🤯 Undo the damage they’ve caused and write your truth. ✍️
Who’s ignored the core of who you are, mocked you, threatened your attempts at telling them what hurt and punished you for your “no?” Write that down. 😡🤬
Write all these stories out and you have a memoir. These stories are your gold. Your power. And they are more for your learning about yourself than they are for outing others. 💪🏻💥🎖
What are the patterns that keep playing out in your life? What’s your childhood conditioning? What role do you play in perpetuating these patterns? What could you have done differently then? What needs to change now? Have you changed over time? If not, why not? 🧐
Those names you wrote down? Abusers. Both overt and covert.
And there is both a time to stand and fight 💥🥊 and a time to walk away. 🏃🏻♀️
In 1995 I had just graduated nursing school and was hired at a nursing home as a charge nurse. The resident doctor who did my pre-hire physical that August warned me that although I would be protecting myself with Universal Precautions and PPE, I would probably get sick on and off for months, or get one really big flu that lingered that fall/winter. (Flu shots weren’t discussed, because they weren’t pushed yet, nor would I have taken one.)
In November that year, the nursing home was hit with the Asian flu— (that’s where it originated, so that’s what it was called) — and twelve of my elderly residents died as a result.
By December I ended up getting it, and got sicker than I’ve ever been in my life, missed two weeks of work as a single mom, and got three months behind on bills as a result. Not one person cared. No one called me a hero for doing my job. No one shut the country down. And no one helped me pay my bills.
I love that the world is trying to become more compassionate, considerate and caring, but the blame game and the extremes that go on in society in order to feel superior about absolutely everything is so old and exasperating, I can barely stand it anymore. If you view everything we’re seeing on the line that is narcissism like I do, you see just how quickly both the left and right side of that line can become toxic.
If your mask makes you feel safe, by all means wear it. I’m not going to ever try to talk someone out of their fear and I can’t know what underlying issues they may have that puts them at risk. I’m not going to demand they do anything different than what they’re already doing. And, if someone else chooses not to wear a mask, I’m doing more harm to my immune system by getting angry, irate and superior about it than if I just minded my own business and stayed away from them.
We can never, ever, ever, control what someone else does or doesn’t do. If we embrace that concept and understand that what others do or don’t do has nothing to do with us personally, our immune systems won’t be as run down, our adrenals won’t be jacked up with cortisol, and we’ll be healthier as a result.
I went out to lunch with a friend today and I saw two couples sitting with their 2019 wall calendars and spiral bound planners mapping out their New Year together. I love a new planner too and the hope I feel when I can see 365 days all strung out in front of me to do with what I want. 365 opportunities. 365 gifts. What are we going to do with them all?
Planning has been one of the ways I’ve kept my anxiety at bay in the past, and the type of planning and tracking I do in my planner, has changed as I’ve changed. This year, I achieved what felt like an impossible feat; finishing my first novel. It took five years to write and each year for five years straight I put it in the slot of my #1 goal, and continued to move it to the next year, and the next… and the next before it was done.
But, 2019 will be the first year that I’m adding reminders to my planner that will continue to help me protect myself as well as keep me on the road to healing the destruction left in the wake of enduring and learning of narcissistic abuse.
My 2019 resolutions related to ending abuse, disrespectful familial patterns and recovering from trauma are:
I’m going to stay angry about it. That doesn’t make me a bad person. It’s actually necessary when you are too empathetic and at risk for of being abused.
I am hanging up my Wonder Woman outfit. People will have to fight their own battles like I have. I will no longer feel it my duty to rescue others. I’m busy rescuing myself.
I will continue to take my anti-depressant and anti-anxiety meds and not allow people to shame me about it.
I will no longer word paint for the blind. I understand now that narcissists purposely frustrate our efforts to communicate and our desire to feel validated and are not concerned with the truth.
I will no longer be dismissed, demeaned, and devalued in my own family.
I will remain No Contact with abusers, their triangulated flying monkeys and not feel bad about protecting myself from any of them. This is not a discard. These are boundaries for my health.
People that can’t or won’t defend me against abuse are what my therapist call perpetrators of abuse. If someone is fine with me getting pummeled as long as they don’t have to get involved. Those are not my people.
I will require an apology and changed behavior from here on out. (Hint: If you’re the type of person that hates apologizing, stop doing hurtful shit to other people you have to apologize for. Simple.)
I’ll no longer be the heavy lifter in relationships and won’t accept lop-sided, sloppy seconds from people I call friends and family.
If things in my life are trying to fall apart, I will let them. I have no more strength to fight.
I will trust patterns and not words.
I will listen to my intuition when it sends me warning signals and I will proceed no further — no matter what anyone says.
I will no longer allow negative, mean bullies to take their anger out on me with unfounded accusations, criticisms, and insults. If they don’t show up with facts and examples in a respectful manner, they can keep their generalizations and projections of themselves — to themselves.
Others opinions of me are none of my business. I’ve studied myself for 51 years… I know who I am, and how I am, and I love myself.
I’m worthy of the same love, consideration and respect that I’ve given to others. Asking for those things isn’t expecting too much.
I will rest when I need to without feeling guilty for what I’m not doing.
I will no longer apologize when I’m sick or when I need something. I’m human. And my needs matter.
I will focus more on the love I’m getting than the love I’m not.
I will have self-compassion and not beat myself up for having feelings, not accuse myself of being overly-sensitive for crying or having a difficult day. Those are mental loops that play out in my head from abuse and I’m undoing them, defiantly.
I will say no without further explanation.
I won’t harm myself with hope. Hoping for reconciliation of any past relationship or wishing it was different will only leave me open for more harm.
I now know that no response — is a response. I don’t need to attend to every argument I’m invited to. I have to conserve my energy for more pressing matters like healing and living my life.
I will nourish myself with copious amounts of self-love; massages, facials, plan mini-getaways, take girl’s weekends, I will eat dinner in bed and lounge extravagantly. And I will know that I deserve everything good.
I’m only going where I feel happy, loved and accepted for who I am. I’ll surround myself with with people who are happy to celebrate me and my own successes, who are encouraging to me, love me for who and how I am, and not those who merely tolerate me. (Tolerate traffic. Love people.)
There will be more talking about the elephant in the room and less sweeping things under the rug in my family. They will grow, or go. Their choice.
This is my blog, and my outlet for healing, and I will discuss on it what I wish. I will be transparent about my life. The good, the bad, the ugly. I will be brave with my life and not be bullied or threatened regarding what I write about. I’m a memoirist. That’s what we do.
If you’re being mentally and emotionally abused, I hope my boundaries serve as reminders to you that we don’t have to take this shit anymore and we are worthy of all things lovely.
If you are in physical danger, please make a plan to leave quietly, or call 911.
If you’re here reading and we have parted on good, bad, or indifferent terms, I still wish you the very best in 2019 and always. I hope you find what you are looking for.
Welp, I’ve been on Lexapro now for fifteen days. And I cannot believe the difference in how I feel. My doctor put me on the lowest possible 5 mg dose just to see how I would do because he knows I tend to have side effects. And within four days I noticed I was no longer jumping out of my skin. It became evident it was working that quickly as I was shopping at Tuesday Morning and a woman threw a stack of thick paper pads of watercolor and art papers from the craft isle in her buggy making a metallic slamming noise right next to me. And I didn’t hit the roof. I just looked, and then went back to shopping.
Then, I noticed I was a better passenger in the car. I’m not all anxious when someone gets close and I’m no longer holding onto the handle of the door with a sweaty palm telling my husband to slow down or speed up, or look out! I’m just sitting there on my side minding my business watching out the window enjoying the view.
And, I realized I was singing Christmas carols the other day in my craft room and was making Christmas artist trading cards! That’s so not me because I’ve disliked the holiday ever since my boys left home. When I told my therapist this, she said that she thinks the little girl in me is feeling safe enough to sing again and feels free from anxiety enough to come out and play. — Cool huh?
And… then, on Thanksgiving Eve, after that rather hopeful and bright therapy session where my therapist said the little girl in me was feeling safe enough to venture out and play, I got a call from my step-son on the way home. We talked as my husband drove, and eventually, he told me my other son (before he transfers out West for the military) is going to stay with his father. You know, the father that was only around when it was convenient for him, refused visitation if he thought I had plans, and quit jobs left and right for years to get out of paying child support. — That father.
And instead of crying and feeling hurt and just sucking in my pain like I usually do, I finally got pissed. Like beyond livid. But livid in a calm way… seriously.
When I found out, I calmly texted my son.
“Can I ask why you choose to go see your father on your way out West and not come to see us?”
“Several reasons, but mostly because it’s on my route, there are a few places I want to visit in Ohio, and I have a friend riding with me.”
Unless you deal with the constant disrespect from an adult child, you won’t get it anyway, but I simply went over to FB and deleted and blocked my own sons. The oldest for his constant verbal abuse, devaluation, and disrespect, and my youngest for not saying anything to him about how he treats me. Oh, and I deleted all their friends too. All the kids that considered me their mom. Those I welcomed into my home, fed, let stay overnight, listened to all their problems, paid for them to go places, all who called me mom, yet enable bad behavior. —Bah-bye! And I don’t feel sad or bad or even mad about it. I feel it’s about fucking time. And I’m loving it.
I swear my body thanked me the second I hit the block button.
And the next morning I woke up to this text from my son.
“So may I ask what I did this time to be a narcissistic abuser? Ask you for some photos?” (They do shit like that. Treat you like shit, then magically forget and ask for a favor… this time pictures.) He’s into Ancestry dot com and needed photos of his dead ancestors. Yet treats his mom like garbage and has yet to read my book that tells of his ancestors. How’s that for irony? Glorify the dead, ignore the living. We live in a world that only tells us how great they think we are and how much we are loved when we’re dead. Fuck if I’ll help them do that.
Anyway, this is what I wrote back, and I’m not sorry.
“No. Not at all. I didn’t mind looking for them for you. I’m just not going to be dissed by you anymore. You’ve made it clear that you’re not interested in having me for your mom or Jeff for your step-dad and that we don’t rate with you. You’ve told me I’m drama, negative and a disappointment to you. You have the family you want; your dad and your fiancés family. You know where we are when you need us. But, I’m not going to sit around in pain and agony watching you on FB visit everyone and their brother and shit all over us.”
I can’t heal around toxic behaviors that no one will say anything about. My sons and I have always been close. But as I have to heal C/PTSD from a childhood I suppressed in order to be their mother and I can’t sit by and watch him visit his father or spend every holiday with his girlfriend’s families as if we don’t exist, and have the other son not want to discuss anything about it.
I have one overt in-your-face-bully son and one passive-aggressive that cuts you off at the knees when he doesn’t want to discuss something. The fake yawns on the phone when I ask, saying “People are going to do what they want to do.” Or my favorite: “Yeah, he never mentions anything about you.” It’s not helping me at all try to heal. It’s painful and causes me extreme grief. And I’m done.
Sadly, my therapist says that over half her clientele are parents being treated like this by a child or children they were once close to. She shook her head with tears in her eyes as she said how disgusted she is that so many people in society think it’s just completely acceptable to say whatever the hell they want without consequences. She said someone in her own family is going through this very thing and it has all but killed her. She no longer resembles the person she once was and it has taken a huge toll on her health as a result.
She assures me that narcissism runs rampant in the military and many of her other patients are veterans now trying to adjust to civilian life without their families there to help. The higher military men and women climb up that ladder of success, the more of a stranger some can become to their families. The power and prestige; the trophies and award after award, go right to their heads. Suddenly the mother that taught them to wipe their ass, or hold spoon is a stupid fucking idiot not worth their time to bother with anymore. And the step-dad that was more of a father to them than their own bio father, is now conveniently forgotten as he puts up a picture of him and his sperm donor clinking beers together on Father’s Day. It’s like adding insult to injury and I couldn’t be more sick of it and I don’t have to subject myself to seeing it anymore. — Enjoy. I’m out.
I’d love to have a talk with his military superiors. I’d tell them just what I thought of them. How dare they forget to tell these impressionable kids that go in right out of high school that it’s their family they will need most when they become civilians again. Pretty sad that we can’t learn to be leaders and be civil.
As for my sons, one is choosing to get out in two years, and the other is eligible to retire from the military in six years, which doesn’t mean he’ll leave. That’s a long time to wait to have my kids back again. There will be lots of damage to repair but hopefully, it starts with them looking inside themselves and to their past like I did in my memoir. I hope they find out who they are without all the conditioning and heal their own wounds from childhood like I had to. I can’t do it for them. And I wish them both well.
As for me — there is light at the end of my dark night of the soul. I’m feeling good and have hope again. I’m doing yoga, sleeping well, making art, eating healthily, exercising, lounging extravagantly, eating dinner in bed, sleeping 14 hours, and laughing again. I plan on living the rest of my life doing just whatever the hell I choose to do without guilt, without second-guessing myself and without needing validation from anyone that I was a good mom. I just don’t care anymore.
If you need me, I’m off planning my 2019 in my new planner. I have shit I want to do.