Improv #11: I’m Mrs. Bright Blogs

*Knock knock*

“Who’s there?”

“The Bright Side”

“The Bright Side Who?”

“The Bright Side Who Doesn’t Actually Exist”

“Oh. Then I guess this is just another dissociative conversation with the bully-in-my-brain, then?”

“You catch on not quickly at all, don’t you? Also, your joke sucks.”

I’m fairly sure the first rule of building a blog audience is “own your domain name so you can engage in SEO and promote yourself across social media.” I failed that rule the moment I set up my account because I was too afraid to pay for an anonymous blog with a non-anonymous credit card. I also do not have the spoons to maintain more than one social media site, period.

I maintain a free site even though my lack of spoons has gradually led me to dial back on the other paranoid hoops I used to jump through to maintain anonymity. Part of my expression of a PTSD sense of foreshortened future is a fear that, if I did dare to make that all-of-$36-dollar annual investment in a domain name, I’d immediately go broke. I would be inviting the wrong kind of irony magnet. Then, my audience accustomed to something simple like “lavenderandlevity.com” would all abandon me as soon as continuing to follow me required the modicum of effort to bookmark “lavenderandlevity.wordpress.com” again. If you follow me while I use the free version, I suppose you’ll probably follow me on a paid version. But, would those who would only follow a paid version ever bother to reverse course? Do I really even want followers for whom I have to write witty, engaging content all the time? C-PTSD says just stick with free: I’ll never have to fear inevitable future rejection from potential future financial disaster. C-PTSD is dark.

Which sucks because…

Continue reading “Improv #11: I’m Mrs. Bright Blogs”

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Where Would the NHS Rank Trauma on the Pain Scale?

Hi everyone,

First, I want to say thank you to everyone who talked me through the past two days. I made it out of that Sheraton break room eventually, and I did manage to give my presentation the next day. I know some people asked what I was presenting on, but in the world of research – startup, policy, or academia – your research is probably the most tell-tale marker of your identity. If I told you about my presentation, I’d be telling you who I was, who my bully-of-a-boss was, and – by extension – who my sibling and all the various systemic abusers in the 9th Circle of Hell were all in one easy Google search. I’m sorry, that doesn’t feel safe. Hopefully, the grad students and professional researchers among you understand.

The bedbug place lost its license, albeit not for the reasons I originally expected. I still don’t know the reason. They also appear to have chosen not to undergo the appeals process they – as providers – are entitled to in the 9th Circle of Hell. (The 9th Circle of Hell, of course, has no corresponding client appeals process or any independent way to determine the outcomes of license inspections. Yes, this is technically a violation of federal law, for those few of you in the know who are wondering, but it has been ignored by the feds for at least two years.) They packed up, fired their employees, and for hours it seemed like they were prepared to dump several facilities worth of patients on the street.

Continue reading “Where Would the NHS Rank Trauma on the Pain Scale?”

Tools of the Trade Show

CW: Panic attacks in progress and the reasons for them.

So, this is not the type of post I normally write. I’m not even sure it qualifies as a true post. If this were Facebook, I’d be vaguebooking to the point of parody. However, I will explain more later, when I feel able to and when I know more. So, I ask you all to stick with me for the moment.

I’m currently sitting in the staff break area at a hotel. I’m on my second week back to work and attending a conference.

And – because my life is a perfect shit storm – I just got a call about the 9th Circle of Hell. The situation at the bedbug place didn’t resolve after all, despite what it seemed. And – because I am apparently cursed – it fell apart even more while I was traveling, instead of safely working remotely where I could at least claim the dignity of falling apart in private.

I’m supposed to be presenting tomorrow, damn it! Yet, before that I have to somehow get from hiding with the cup of tea handed to me by a kind hotel staff member, trying to keep myself from completely shutting down by writing incoherent blog posts, to having a voice strong enough to give a presentation on data.

I need some serious help to get there. The chasm between those two states of Lavender existence seems insurmountable at the moment. And, the bully-in-my-brain, using the time-worn tool of the trade of the panic spiral, thinks I’ll crash and burn if I try to do anything about either the presentation or the 9th Circle of Hell.

Could you all just tell me that:

1) You believe me that I don’t want all the bad things that have happened this year to keep happening. You believe me that if I knew how to escape this systemic trap, I would. (I fear my colleagues probably won’t understand if this situation somehow impacts my ability to present tomorrow. I’m not sure I can handle them not.)

and

2) You believe that I can somehow pull myself together and make it through this. I can’t reach my Partner. I’ve called him multiple times. I’m in a city I don’t know. I’m here with coworkers who will likely follow my boss’s lead on how to treat personal situations to protect themselves from his wrath even though he himself isn’t onsite. I’m feeling like I just can’t anymore. It’s too much. I’m overwhelmed and frozen and probably way more dissociated than I should safely be in public. The idea of leaving this breakroom seems thoroughly impossible right now, though objectively I know that three hours ago I was feeling pretty competent and in control, and technically I’m still the same Lavender who felt that way not so long ago.

I need some serious “buffering the effects of trauma through witnessing and not shaming” right now, if it’s not too much to ask…

Déjà Voodoo

Update: I also posted this in the comments, but then I remembered that smarter folks than I often skip the comments. The author of the original blog post that inspired this one contacted me. She has taken it down and apologized. She also seemed like she was still beating herself up over it even after I accepted that apology, so I want to state openly that she doesn’t need to. In talking to her, I’m reminded again that being non-neurotypical so often means communicating is terrifying and awkward and hard. It definitely still is for me, especially in person. We all make mistakes. We all struggle with what we mean to say not ending up being what we actually say. Character is in how we respond to our mistakes, and she showed she had character by caring when her post so severely triggered me. If (when – I have ADHD after all!) I ever upset someone with my writing, I hope my readers will tell me so I can have the chance to apologize, too.

That is something that none of the other déjà voodoo writers I have ever contacted about internal stigma – including Dysautonomia International, who puts that kind of stuff on main public pages – have ever done. I think it was very brave of her. I’m leaving this post up because I’ve seen a lot more than just one déjà voodoo post out there, and, to date, only one person has said: “I’m sorry.” There are a lot of folks who still need to see this post.

But, the author of the post that originally inspired this one is no longer counted as one of those people in my book. I genuinely wish her the best in her blogging tenure, and I hope others will too. Being non-neurotypical is rough. We both know it. It’s important to call out internal stigma, but it’s equally important that we forgive mistakes within a community of people for whom just communicating at all is often fraught with fear and memories of years of failed attempts. Point out mistakes, then welcome their makers back into the community with open arms immediately as soon as they make a genuine attempt to correct them. If we continue ostracizing our own internally long after they have apologized, then we risk becoming abusers in yet another way. We risk becoming those emotional abusers who keep torturing people for their “mistakes” years later without ever giving them a way to move on. I’ve also been on the receiving end of that type of abuse, and I don’t wish it on anyone who cares enough reach out to me.

Do you ever experience blog post déjà voodoo? You know, where you’d think you’ve written about a topic so many times by now that you could cease having to keep writing about it? Where you’d think you could finally put a pin in it? Yet, somehow, the thing that upsets you so much just keeps creeping up, zombie-like, such that you can’t let it rest?

I owe my subconscious an apology. I mocked it a few days ago for being so far up on its soapbox that it wrote an entire novel in my dreams about the need for internal unity among those of us with chronic physical, mental or developmental disabilities. I laughed because I’d written multiple blog posts on the topic already, and shouldn’t that be enough?

I should have understood that my chronically traumatized brain is so obsessed with the topic because it knows firsthand from too many years of experience what my heart doesn’t quite know how to accept: people don’t change. People will always seek to protect themselves first by selling others out. Or, at least most will. So, I’ll probably be writing about why that doesn’t work and desperately trying to appeal to the better angels of the blogger community for the rest of my blogging days.

I read another déjà voodoo blog post just now. This time it wasn’t dysautonomia vs. anxiety or PTSD vs. “true” mental illness. In this one, the author felt that the only way to express how life-altering it is to have ASD was to compare it to how life-altering it isn’t to have ADHD. The only way to gain acceptance for one type of neurodiversity was at the expense of another. The author stated their opinion that ADHD – while technically a form of neurodiversity – barely qualified for the category because it was simply an “accessory” diagnosis that could be “practically nullified” by treatment. (Yes, those were their chosen words.)

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Messages in a Bottle #7.2: 525,600 Words

Written at some point prior in May 2018, intended for 5-26-18, my one-year blogiversary. The intro to this post (including why it is so delayed) is here.

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.

525,600 minutes – how do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.

In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

In 525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?

How about love? How about love? How about love? Measure in love. Seasons of

love.

525,600 minutes! 525,000 journeys to plan. 525,600 minutes – how can you measure

the life of a woman or man?

In truths that she learned, or in times that he cried. In bridges he burned, or

the way that she died. (don’t worry, not a tw, despite what the lyric might suggest!)

It’s time now to sing out, though the story never ends

Let’s celebrate remember a year in the life of friends

I had to perform that song as a pledge event for my sorority in college. Pledging unending sisterhood or some such. Does it surprise anyone that I joined a sorority? Honestly, it kind of surprises me, too. I’m also kind of surprised I didn’t fall over while attempting to vaguely “dance.” Undiagnosed Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome explains a lot in hindsight about why I got kicked out of ballet class (and soccer) and hidden away in the back where no one could see me for that college initiation “performance.” But, rush was a thing that was a fairly big event even at my geeky college. I did it as something to do to fit in in a new place, and I was sufficiently mystified when offered a bid that I accepted it partly on some vague grounds of “leadership activities look good for grad school” and partly some deeper, “you mean there might be a school where I’m actually vaguely acceptable for who I am?” I am a very forward planner and easily flattered by simply not being rejected.

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Blog Awards Series #3/Messages in a Bottle #7.1: 525,600 Moments of Blog Awards

Today’s Questions are courtesy of Ease the Ride. They are both the hardest questions and the easiest questions to answer of all the blog awards, because there are really only three of them, and I had previously written a blogiversary post that, in theory, should have answered all of them. It was the post I intended to post for my one-year blog anniversary. I never posted it, so now it has become a blog award. The questions are as follows:

1) Write a paragraph of something positive about yourself

2) Briefly tell the story of your blog

3) Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.

Continue reading “Blog Awards Series #3/Messages in a Bottle #7.1: 525,600 Moments of Blog Awards”

Fully Reversing My (Claim to) Mental Illness?

Do these two Pinterest pins seem equivalent to you?

I’m going to ignore for a moment the implication by a UK PTSD charity that PTSD is “fully reversible” with CBT and EMDR. I’ve tried both, and I’m still waiting for that reversal. (Of course, given how many unique traumas the 9th Circle of Hell as dumped on my brain, including these past two months, how would I know if one ’bout’ of PTSD had ever cleared up before another re-inserted itself?!)

I want to point out, instead, the claim on the left that “PTSD is NOT a Mental Illness.”

I’d like to claim I’ve been doing something really productive with my not-FMLA. However, all I did Thursday was be kept up all night by nightmares preceding my most recent meeting with 9th Circle of Hell officials, then crash out after it and sleep for 15 hours. Apparently, my body thinks that “self-care” means hours of watching non-triggering reality television (think shows like Naked and Afraid where survivalists pit themselves against the elements or Wicked Tuna, where fishermen pit themselves against fish) and staring robotically at Pinterest at 3am when that reality television has been replaced by infomercials. My body thinks that “self-care” means not sleeping, then sleeping long enough to try and recoup six months of spoons at once after physical distress overwhelms mental distress. Would that spoons worked that way, body…

Pinterest really wants me to pin both images above. They keep showing up in my feed. I don’t have a particular problem with the image on the right. (I did read once that Healthy Place promotes some pseudo-scientific claims alongside their generally sensitive memes, though, so I’m still careful about anything they produce.) I do have a problem with the image on the left. Isn’t PTSD just mental illness resulting from self-protective mechanisms persisting so long after psychological (and physical, emotional, sexual and bullying, too!) abuse until they ultimately become maladaptive?

The definition of mental illness is a set of health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior that cause distress and difficulties in functioning for an individual. While dissociation has occasionally been neuroprotective during the worst abuse, I haven’t found that being unable to speak while my boss yells at me as I watch the encounter from outside my body to be anything other than “distressing.” I also have yet to see how nightmares are a viable part of any coping strategy – even a maladaptive one – even during periods of active abuse. Abuse and the covering up of abuse have resulted in most-likely permanent changes to my brain that cause me significant distress and difficulties in functioning. That sounds like mental illness to me.

While I deeply hate that other people caused those changes by being abusive assholes (especially abusive assholes that have, too often, gotten away with it), I don’t see how the fact my brain changes were done to me somehow makes me superior to someone who is distressed and impaired in their functioning by endogenous Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder. I don’t see how the fact that PTSD is, by definition, exogenous spares it from being a mental illness. The fact that advocacy groups would try so hard to suggest it does spare it gives off an unpleasant whiff of mental illness stigma. What is the purpose of going to great artistic lengths to convince others that PTSD isn’t a mental illness other than to distance it from that a thing that is somehow lesser, namely mental illness?

Continue reading “Fully Reversing My (Claim to) Mental Illness?”

Absent without (Family Medical) Leave

I know the DSM-V no longer includes the term “nervous breakdown” anymore. I’m fairly confident even if it did include it, since the origins of my panic attacks, crying, dissociation, and depression are quite well known, I’d still just end up labeled with the “dissociative subtype” of PTSD (aka the compromise that is supposed to cover C-PTSD).

I have had to deal with the 9th Circle of Hell about this damn most recent abuse and medical-neglect-leading-to-multiple-medical-crises case three times within four weeks. I will have to go back to Hell again this month. I’m fielding calls on top of that. I’ve spent a quarter of my take-home pay for the past few months on that shithole, be it in travel fees, medical bills, lawyer’s fees, etc. I’m not even the only one financially contributing to fighting for “care”, but when the cost of failure is potentially life and limb, I’m not questioning it so long as I still have the money. The origins of my distress are not a mystery and fit neatly into the DSM-V trauma disorders bucket. I doubt I’d be said to be having a nervous breakdown even if the term was still diagnostic.

Add on top of the trauma situation itself a boss who lost it with me over email when I politely sent him a notice that I could no longer attend a scheduled internal presentation because I had to speak to state regulators in the 9th of Circle of Hell during that time and was given no choice of times, though, and – all technicalities aside – I think I’m having a nervous breakdown.

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RE: Your Brains

Zombie_Apocalypse_Playlist
Source: Pinterest

CW: Indirect descriptions of PTSD symptoms, the aftermath of trauma, and workplace bullying.

Have you ever wondered what a zombie with an office job would look like? If you’ve heard Jonathan Coulton’s excellent “RE: Your Brains,” you don’t have to ask. If you haven’t, I do suggest you listen to it eventually, but there’s no rush.

After all, you’re talking to one right now. That last trip to the 9th Circle of Hell – and the circumstances that sent me there – have liquified my last functioning synapse. Depression, anxiety and the more visible (and thus problematic in an open office) symptoms on the PTSD laundry list have finally cracked my normally fairly impenetrable walls of gallows humor, coffee, goth opera rock music, comfort food, fluffy urban fantasy escapism,  and even my devotion to appearing fine as a survival instinct. My last subconscious defense against collapsing into a puddle at work? Zombification, aka dissociation.

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Improv #8: Dramatic Irony

*Knock Knock*

“Who’s there?”

“An indecisive person”

“An indecisive person who…?”

“I have no idea. Who would you like me to be?”

I just finished my first level of Improv training advanced enough that we actually get formal feedback from our instructor, who is a member of the main performing troupe for the theater, and a written evaluation which goes to the next class if we’ve successfully made it into it. (I did, for those wondering. I can legitimately say I didn’t influence that decision, as you will learn if you read this post all the way through, though that’s not necessarily as good a thing as you might initially expect!)

You know how they say art imitates life? My art is dramatic irony at its finest.

According to my instructor, I’m actually a great performer when I’m leading. I offer up creative narratives with a lot of humor potential, I willingly offer side support, I seem to have a good sense of how to create relatable characters with genuine emotion –  though I should play more with being the high-status character instead of always the low-status character – and my next instructor should encourage the class to engage with what I offer because I’m a strong leader who drives scenes forward when others do follow.

The problem comes when others don’t follow. Even though “Yes, And” is the foundation of Improv, failure to “Yes, And” – or just “Yes, Anding” in a thoroughly unexpected fashion – is a thing that happens often enough that I need to learn how to play off of it as strongly as when I do generate consensus. At the beginning levels, there can be a failure to accept an opening offer because the actor just isn’t experienced enough to recognize it. At the more advanced levels, since many actors that make it that far come from a theatrical background, many will just see my offer and raise it anyway because they think they have a better idea. If I ever do make the main troupe, I will be playing against audience members who will often offer complete non-sequiturs simply because they legitimately don’t know what “Yes, And” even means.

If my initial gambit is accepted, I’m decisive. If it isn’t, I’m too often indecisive and reorient the character or emotion I was exploring to be in consensus with whatever the other person(s) offered up.

Some performers get told they need to be more open to emotions or to improve their object work. Some just get told, “hey, be willing to share the stage a bit more.” Most performers get feedback that they need to remember to “Yes, And” more frequently. Me, however?

I get the feedback that I need to remember that there can be too much of a good thing. When an actor gets on stage and goes a totally different direction from what I initially was exploring, I need to remember that it is possible to “Yes, And” and still be decisive in who my character is and how they feel. “Yes, And” means that I have to accept whatever new facts are offered without disagreement. It doesn’t mean my character has to agree with them or come to a consensus on how they feel about those facts. If my character just lost an eye in a war (actual scenario from one of our sessions) and the entire rest of the characters react indifferently, I need to not be afraid to commit even more to how my character would react to that level of additional betrayal after such a life-altering event instead of instinctively deferring to the other characters’ opinions. The best humor comes from the audience recognizing authentic reactions to universal life experiences played out within fantastical and weird situations. It’s inherently funny to see my character decisively show his hurt and frustration because we all know that feeling, even if we can’t quite express it in such an over-the-top way…

So, I need to have the confidence to act high status and lead even when others don’t follow, I need to act decisively and I need to be true to who my character is even when others try to paint them as something else? Sure, why not?

It seems appropriate that I’d discover that I do have the potential to go all the way. The only thing standing in my way is just that pesky “resolving the central conflicts of my life born of experiences that shaped me long before I had any say in the matter” bit. Never ironically call Improv trauma therapy: you’re daring the universe to “Yes, And” you on it…

P.S. – as in real therapy, there is homework. Mine is to find situations that are fundamentally safe – not work, obviously – and practice coming to snap judgments, expressing them loudly and just sticking to them despite opposition. Bonus points if it’s a different decisive decision than what those who know me well would expect and if I don’t tell folks what I’m doing so they can’t inadvertently make it easier on me by giving in too easily.

My first decisive expression of this is that I’m going to my About page and removing that bit where I invite constructive criticism. My instructor also told me he had a feeling that – of all the class members – everyone but me would offer at least some justification of why they felt they deserved to go on to the next level regardless of his judgment about their readiness. I’d just say “whatever you think, you’re the expert.” Part of being decisive, however, is defending my right to my creative voice. Improv is subjective, and future instructors might not always rate me as highly as he did. That doesn’t mean I should automatically accept their judgments as gospel. So, given that advice, at this point, I’ve decided that my blog is what it is. If you don’t like it, go read something else. Art is subjective, after all. 🙂 )