Triggersplaining

TW: Talking potentially triggeringly about someone else talking definitively triggeringly about the Kavanaugh hearings.

I talk very loudly at times. It’s an occupational hazard of ADHD. In hindsight, I’m sure that I have said things about things that have happened in my life loudly enough into cell phones in various public places and on various forms of public transportation – possibly even this summer – such that my coastal co-commuters have formed firm impressions that the 9th Circle of Hell is not the sort of place they should put on their tourism bucket list. On a few occasions, they may even have had to awkwardly share a train home with their crying stranger.

I’m thoroughly oblivious to the volume of my voice, especially when I’m upset. To the best of my knowledge, though, those unwitting unease-droppers only learn that the 9th Circle of Hell is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad place. They don’t know the details of why it is so horrible, both for my safety and for theirs. I don’t share any specific details of lived traumatic events over cell phones. 1) Who would I be talking to on a cell phone that I trust that much? The only person I share those things with – besides the entire Internet, of course – is my Partner. If I’m on a train, he’s probably no more than an hour away from hearing more detail than he ever wished to have seared into his brain about the most recent horrible thing inflicted by that place for the next three hours, so a tearful warning to brace himself is probably sufficient for the phone call. 2) It’s hard to be anonymous when I yell a lot. ADHD. It’s not just for interrupting. It’s for interrupting obnoxiously enough that the whole room takes notice. 3) Most importantly, I may be fairly oblivious, but I have learned what triggers are and why overly detailed accounts of trauma shared in unexpected spaces might inflict on others the kinds of PTSD episodes my boss so charmingly calls the marker of a “difficult working style.” I’m still uncertain if PTSD or some other spoon-sucking diagnosis will eventually cost me my job, but taking someone else down at the same time seems like forfeiting to the 9th Circle of Hell without so much as a fight.

Given that I am generally as oblivious and audible as they come, I find it – surprising – that I still have more subconscious self-decorum then the presumably neurotypical know-it-all I shared an evening train ride home with tonight. The guy – dressed in what I presume still qualifies as generic early 20s hipster while proudly manspreading across three seats – was boasting loudly to his cell phone partner about how sensitive he was for recognizing that sexual assault survivors might be re-traumatized by what they had heard during the hearings today, how he had taken up the mantle of explaining to his less-enlightened male friends exactly how prevalent sexual assault was, how there are many reasons why women might not come forward, and how he considers himself an ally. Good on him and all –

–  except for that bit where he explained all of these things by shouting them into his cell in a train car populated enough to be carrying at least a couple of survivors, based on his own quoted statistics?! He then illustrated his point about how certain words and phrases that don’t register to men can trigger women by offering a play-by-play of the Kavanaugh hearings today in the same booming voice.

Continue reading “Triggersplaining”

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Messages in a Bottle #8: The Right to Say “I’m Sorry”

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Image: Lyrics from The Animals “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Full song playable on Youtube here.

On three separate occasions recently, I have found myself writing about apologies. I wrote about how my Partner always apologizes for hurting me in an argument – even when we have both said hurtful things – because he knows that wasn’t something I ever heard growing up. Then I wrote in another post how abusers never truly apologize. (Saying “I’m sorry you took it that way” doesn’t count!) Never receiving a true apology – even when I begged for anyone to understand just how badly I was hurting – is part of my personal abuse history. Heck, it’s part of my abuse present. I haven’t yet met an official from the 9th Circle of Hell who gives a damn about the hurt that has been done to my sibling and to those of us who have to deal with the guilt of not having been able to stop it. I’ve only met abusers, bullies, and officials who wanted to sweep the issue under the rug as quickly as possible.

But, there’s another side to talking about apologies that I haven’t written about until now. I haven’t written about how I was never allowed to truly apologize. I made mistakes as a kid – of course, I was a lonely, neurodiverse, traumatized kid – and I learned early on to respond to others using all my weak spots against me by trying to do the same to them before they could hurt me first. If someone had shown they’d go for my jugular, I tried to go for theirs first. (Spoiler alert: it’s actually virtually impossible to truly hurt those who are willing to do that to you, so it never did much good.) I’ve also said stupid, impulsive things just because I have ADHD, I’m hyperactive, and rejection sensitivity hurts like Hell. I’ve responded to my Partner like he was part of my past because arguing itself made me forget my present.

My current therapist would say that I didn’t really need to blame myself for the hurtful things I said to people who had a history of saying hurtful things to me, especially when there were rather large age differences and power dynamic differences. But, when I truly decided I did not want to recapitulate my own family dynamics in another generation, it felt like I had to at least try to reach out my hands. It felt like maybe the first one to show vulnerability could make the change. We were a family broken by The System, and, thus, maybe – since we hurt each other because outsiders had hurt us first – we could find our way to healing once we understood trauma dynamics.

Another spoiler alert: showing vulnerability just made going for my jugular easier. It just opened me up to another long list of all the ways I’d screwed up over the years – dating back to age 6 at least – and how all of my failings justified anything that “might” ever have happened to me. Maybe vulnerability might have worked with one family member who is no longer with us (or maybe not) – I’ll never know – but it didn’t work with one with whom I tried it.

I’ve never received a genuine apology while growing up, but I also was never given the chance to offer one, either. I wrote in a previous post about how I was upset and triggered by some things another blogger wrote about ADHD. It hit me in a lot of the “it’s okay to hurt you because you should be normal but aren’t and it’s your choice” abuse buttons. That blogger apologized. She broke the cycle. She saw that I was upset, and she cared enough to write. That really was enough for me.

I also know the legacy of my past is that – even if I try to no longer allow others to hold past mistakes for which I’ve attempted to make amends over me – I’ll hold mistakes over myself forever anyway.

I’ve written a lot about fighting internal stigma within the chronic physical, mental, or developmental illness communities, but I initially forgot to include the most important caveat when we do so:

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. 

That’s ironic, given that the very earliest journal entry I ever wrote was about the right to be forgiven. It’s likely naive and dangerous to forgive those who hurt us intentionally – they’ll take it as permission to keep doing it – but it’s cruel not to forgive those who hurt us unintentionally. It risks making us into the voice of the bully-in-someone-else’s brain. I wrote in my earliest journal entry how I didn’t want to ever be that again. My subconscious thus thinks that I should post that earliest entry to make sure that I’m always truly keeping myself honest to advocating for calling out stigma in a way that opens arms, not closes fists, since I know too well how easy it is to wield a litany of past mistakes against yourself for years.

The Messages in a Bottle blog post below is the very first homework I ever completed in my leather-bound journal in my very first twelve-week CBT course at student mental health services. It is the earliest Messages in a Bottle I will ever post unless, by some miracle, I find something buried on Dropbox that has survived transfer across literally every external hard drive in every state in which I have ever lived.

The song is by The Animals. There are a couple of their songs that hold personal meaning for me. Maybe I’ll write about the others eventually, but, per my notes, this is the one I was listening to when I wrote this first entry that I have never actually shown anyone until now.

Continue reading “Messages in a Bottle #8: The Right to Say “I’m Sorry””

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.)

Continue reading “Déjà Voodoo”

Frozen in Time

CW: Don’t read this if you are in any sort of a bad place. I’m physically safe. I’m mentally shattered. You don’t need to do anything. There’s nothing anyone can do anyway unless they had serious political connections. I am not a danger to myself or others. No, the danger, as always, is from others, and this post is more about trying to survive their latest devastation. This post is about how it feels like it’s getting harder and harder to try to survive. It just never ends. It’s a dark post – even though I promise I’m safe – so please read with caution. I’m the scant protection someone else has from the 9th Circle of Hell. I won’t ever abandon that responsibility to ease my own pain. I’ve been on the other end of that type of abandonment and still feel the hurt and weight of the responsibility it left me with. I will survive this and keep fighting as best I can. I just wish deeply right now that I didn’t have to.

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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”

Houston, We Have a Problem

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That problem is, apparently, that I sound like an astronaut communicating through a crinkly 1960s com unit from the Moon – while my space suit springs a slow leak and I rapidly lose oxygen.

Did I ever mention that social anxiety makes absolutely no sense? I may be a bit underconfident when I perform on stage, but I at least can speak in multiple sentences without choking, in either the figurative or the literal sense.

This is not the case with job interviews.

Despite the protracted visit to Hell this month, I did manage to get off a small batch of applications to potential data science positions. This is a reasonable accomplishment, as these applications, even outside of academia, are not short. There’s no simple “slightly modify your resume, change a paragraph of a cover letter” and go. Each one requires references up front, transcripts, lists of published papers, and other odds and ends to create a complete portfolio. Each one has its own specific hoops** to jump through. Some I have seen even want samples of publicly available code on GitHub! We don’t even really use resumes. It’s all C.V.s. Oh, and I’m pretty much mentally broken right now and my typical protective mental walls have been dangerously breached by all the workplace bullying and 9th Circle of Hell full-scale substantiated systemic abuse.

All of those lodestones aside, I was able to complete one stage 1 phone interview. One of the rare legitimate benefits of ADHD is that if you truly enjoy what you do – and I do, just not always the workplace culture that surrounds it – hyperfocus can be harnessed to your favor. You can, for instance, pull off reading everything a lab has published in the past five years, plus review what consulting gigs and patents have been pursued in tandem, the work of their external research partners, and even their potential security of grant and/or venture capital sources. (I’m pretty sure a big part of the systemic breakdown of the current workplace culture is ultimately funding-related self-protective offensive attacks. I’d like some indication I’d be with a more established, stable entity instead of out of the frying pan and into the fire.)

There was nothing about that organization I didn’t know, and I had really carefully thought-out answers for the standard interview questions and what my background could contribute. Those answers were even good!

I managed to answer with great content, but the rushed breathiness of someone who basically was fighting a potential panic attack the entire time. Have you ever noticed how sometimes you can’t take deep breaths to calm anxiety, even if you try? You get physically stuck in a kind of hyperventilation. If I had forced deeper breaths (I briefly experimented while on mute), I risked going into a sort of coughing/retching fit. Being somewhat rushed and breathy – but not dry heaving – seemed better.

So, that sucks. I’m pretty sure in the past I’ve sounded like I speak a mile a minute and likely talked over people (because ADHD), but I at least haven’t sounded like I exhaust myself with my talking. Now, I seem to have the “don’t overwhelm with too much content too quickly” more under control, yet I get no benefit because some form of anxiety + idiotic autonomic nervous system functioning literally starved my brain of oxygen while I spoke! Did I mention I wasn’t actually – at least so I thought – even that anxious? My anxiety over this interview was nothing compared to the traumatic meetings I’ve had recently with the 9th Circle of Hell. My answers were good. I felt confident in them. If I had managed to speak like someone breathing the air around her instead of from deep inside a malfunctioning space suit, I’d even have said I felt pretty confident I’d get a second interview. But, apparently, when giving interviews after a lifetime of Hell, the devil is still in the delivery.

Has anyone else had that experience? You actually feel confident in what you want to say, but your lungs seize up and you can barely draw the breath to say it anyway? Any tips? This is kind of a scary new expression of my anxiety. Everything about my stress responses lately have been new and scary.

** For anyone who is going to suggest that perhaps I could actually make good on my claims about using statistics for social justice by applying to an advocacy organization, I have bad news. 1) There really aren’t a lot of grass-roots mental health or chronic illness groups that employ data geeks. 2) I am, still, a data scientist not a computer engineer by training, so sys admin positions don’t quite fit. 3) The ones that do have openings seem to want you to have already worked in advocacy. I saw one that actually seemed cool, but they explicitly stated their technical staff need to be “camera ready” to give solo press conferences about findings. Because even the data staff need to be PR-savvy, I guess the socially anxious aren’t the target mental illness demographic for mental illness advocacy by default? I still like the idea, but it seems like breaking into the world of making the world a better place is surprisingly complicated?

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?”

Where’s Whoopsie #13: I am the 1 in 5

Happy Fourth of July from one of the 1 in 5. Which 1 in 5? Well, probably not the one you are immediately thinking. Yes, I am one of the 1 in 5 Americans who experience mental illness in a given year. I’m also one of the almost 1 in 3 Americans living with multiple chronic conditions (and one of the 30 million of us living with five or more diagnoses!). However, I’m talking today about being one of the 1 in 5 Americans who have gone to a protest since 2016.

Our country was founded on ideas of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Those are being denied to too many of our countrymen, including members of my own family. I believe it is patriotic to hold our leaders accountable for being the country we claim to be. My advocacy has taken place in intimate courtrooms and on huge street corners. Because I am, however, also one of those other 1 in 5s and one 1 in 3s, protesting isn’t always the most straightforward thing. Thus, this Fourth of July, I thought I’d post about how I have pulled off attending protests with ADHD, C-PTSD, social anxiety, depression, migraines, dysautonomia, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, IBS and just the general B.S. that – while they aren’t evil incarnate like the Republican leaders willingly setting Americans up for injury or death by dismantling our social safety net – even the well-intentioned Progressives who arrange protests are still often so very clueless about how to make protests inclusive for differently abled Americans.

Thus, I present Lavender’s Fourth of July Guide to Protesting as a Spoonie

Continue reading “Where’s Whoopsie #13: I am the 1 in 5”

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.

Continue reading “Absent without (Family Medical) Leave”

My PTSD Awareness: Currently Subject to Mental Health Austerity Policies

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PTSD sucks. I have previously written 48 posts to this effect. (But who’s counting?)

Today is National PTSD Awareness Day. I’m still generally too overwhelmed in my ability to cope from ongoing 9th Circle of Hell trauma and PTSD symptoms – oh the irony! – to muster up my usual witty commentary on my awareness of awareness months at the 11th hour.

Instead, have some humor (with a grain of real truth in it) courtesy of my Partner instead.  This conversation took place tonight in regards to whether I should still go to open mic night knowing I have to deal with the 9th Circle of Hell again on Friday. I felt guilty for not obsessively staying home and continuously preparing, even though that was liable to just end with me a dissociated puddle on the floor.

Partner: “Remember how austerity was a resounding success for the world’s economies during recent economic troubles?”

Lavender: *Crickets*

Partner: “No? Well, mental health is the same way.”

Take care of yourself. Austerity in economics and/or mental health care is rarely a sustainable solution for long-term shocks.