Tag Archive: safety plan


Gratitude Attitude

I’ve had a piss poor attitude lately. And it’s still lingering and may strike again… but at the same time, through all the murky, painful things I feel–I can feel and recognize the many blessings I have in my life. If I listed all the blessings and things I’m grateful for, perhaps I’d climb out of the smog…. but I’d also be here developing carpal tunnel syndrome (which I must say I know entirely too much about, thank you professor…) and I’d never accomplish any of the adult responsibilities I have to take care of and never get to school, nevermind think of opening a book. (Hmm… but living in peace and gratitude sound mighty appealing at the moment)

First of all:

I am grateful that I can open a book. Yes, I’m grateful I have all my fingers and they work properly, but I mean I can open and I can read. Not only am I literate–but I am slowly but surely better able to concentrate on my textbooks and course material a little more with every passing day. Reading a post-it was hard not all that long ago, and I am grateful to be attached enough to what I’m doing that I can read and slowly take things in.

I am also grateful for the slow lift of my depression. I’m still depressed. I studied and sulked today. But I don’t hurt so badly that I’m on the brink of harming myself. In fact, I haven’t even thought of it today. Nor has it come up frequently in weeks. I’ve had a lot of crap go on, but I’ve been given strength, willpower, and courage to get through it. Even when I feel like a mouse, I am actually making a lion’s roar by standing up for myself, not quitting (holding him accountable, school, or life), and not falling back into the pit.

I am also grateful for the friends I’ve had for years, and the new ones I’ve made since school started. A few of them, I truly believe are true. Or… they likely wouldn’t tolerate me. 😉 You know who your friends are when it’s 4am and they’re dealing with you being a hot mess after you went to socialize with your classmates at a post-exam party and *he* was there and you drank your feelings away. (<—admittedly, one of my less bright decisions, however, they were there–and they stayed)

I am grateful for learning how to sip thanks to a friend from school. I’m still working on this process, but evidently I chug everything from water, to milk, to juice, to beer. I can now sip a martini. I’ve never been one of those people who gets wasted at clubs, etc. but I have definitely been engaging in binge drinking at several social events where my classmates were partying.

I know that drinking til I only feel sparkly silly happiness is not a healthy way to cope with school, the assault, seeing him everyday. And for that wisdom, I am grateful.

I am grateful that I have enough money to pay the rent in the coming week. I know so many people are struggling with their housing–and if I could, I would be running a free hotel at the castle (what my friends call my apt. lol) for anyone I knew who was safe and in need of a warm place to stay. It hurts me that my aunt and my mom are struggling to make their mortgages, but I am also grateful that even if it’s tough and a scramble, they can make it. I learned everything I know about getting by with whatever you’ve got, and being a tough cookie from them.

Baby… it’s cold outside. And I am grateful that I have great roommates, a lovely place, and more importantly than it being pretty… I have a place to rest my head every night. That hasn’t always been the case during my recovery. But, my pillow is in a bed, in my room… and I am ever so grateful for that.

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Today is Self Injury Awareness Day. Therefore, I’m using today as an impetus to share with you my own experience with self-injury (aka self-harm=s/h). Please do not read this if it will trigger you. Also, I want to make it explicitly clear that I do not condone self-harm as a coping skill, however do not judge myself or others for resorting to it when we feel as though nothing else will assuage our pain (or whatever other things trigger an urge to self-harm).

My first incident of s/h was when I was 7. I had no idea why I was doing what I was doing. All I recall is that I explained (and lied) to my step-mother and told her I was trying to shave just like she did. Needless to say, when it did come time to shave in my early adolescence I was not permitted to do so. I have no idea why. Especially since I was apparently very convincing when I told her it wasn’t on purpose.

I then began sneaking hard liquor (and refilling what I had consumed in the most brilliant way an elementary-aged child could) from the liquor cabinet until my parents gave up drinking quite as much. Then, since their liquor required less space, they relocated it to a cabinet that was well out of my reach (then and almost now).

As I look back on these experiences I can recognize that they were ways for me to drown out something, what? At the time I had NO idea.

I achieved my first degree black belt when I was 16. I used these skills to s/h in a way that I was pretty sure no one would know about and no one would question. I continued this from middle school through college. I was in an incredible amount of emotional pain; that I couldn’t get rid of. All I knew is that my parents didn’t love me and it made me feel like my heart was slowly dying. Nothing I did won their approval. No amount of good deeds at home, the meticulous attention to my chores (which included EVERYTHING while my brother, of course, had none), my excellent grades, my involvement in the community in various ways… nothing. So my Catholic school girl self abused herself in the only way I knew how without getting caught. I had such enormous pain, and severely repressed anger, hostility, shame; I could go all day with what I had stuffed in my “little box”. I was a breakdown waiting to happen. I believed I had to be perfect in every aspect of my life, stuff all the pain away, and put on my (apparently slightly scary) fake-smile.

The year before I started medical school I had an extremely abusive relationship with my first girlfriend. I had previously been treated like gold by my boyfriend of 5 years. We had some major PTSD-related issues in our relationship now that I can look at it in hindsight, but he was the least abusive partner I’ve dated.

I slowly descended into madness during and after this relationship. I ended it, I simply couldn’t take the tumultuousness of our relationship anymore–I knew I was about to snap. And I did. But, I apparently was still able to put on a fascade that I was “just fine”. I did well in medical school while the symptoms of complex-PTSD continued to ravage my life. I was finally diagnosed with C-PTSD in medical school after a litany of misdiagnoses. I continued in the s/h behaviors I had long used, and introduced more. These new ones I was terrified by, these new ones had to be so minor that no one could see them or “everyone would know”. Que dira de la gente… what will people say? That was my only concern and the only reason why I kept my s/h superficial.

I took three weeks after the summer of my first year to seek out trauma-specific treatment. Every summer since I was a sophomore in college I had spent doing research to bolster my resume. I took a little bit of time from this for my treatment. I figured three weeks was plenty of time to figure out what the hell was really wrong and how to quickly fix it. I was adept at most everything else I did, therefore I approached intensive trauma tx with the same tenacity.

Apparently, my PTSD didn’t give a crap about my timeframe. Beginning trauma tx was like ripping off a bandaid on my fullbodied wound. My flashbacks got worse, my s/h urges became totally unmanageable. I tried using some of the skills I had learned and they were ineffective. I resorted to the only thing I knew would help alleviate some of my pain.

I used to (and still do) restrict access to certain rooms in my apartment in order to avoid s/h and to see if I could tolerate the pain until it ended. Sometimes, some days I was successful. Others I was not. Going to the ER with a self-inflicted wound got me nowhere. I did a good enough job tending to my wound that it was not necessary for the ER to intervene medically. And since I was no longer suicidal, my psychiatrist who happened to be on call that night, told me to “step up the individual tx and step up the DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy)”; and I was sent home. That was the first time I had actually scared myself by what I had done to my body.

After almost two years of therapy programs, I have come to realize that I no longer need to physically abuse myself. However, that did not stop my s/h. I would do it in the same place so that no one would question it should they see. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t rock my skills which I knew and practiced like it was my job. As I explained to my mother yesterday, the pain of my flashbacks or other PTSD-related pain is about a million times worse than any physical pain I’ve ever had. The other day she saw me, and I was barely able to walk because of undiagnosed rheumatological problems (I have been to the doctor several times to try to pin down why one day I can run a mile and others I have to army crawl to the bathroom).

I have used s/h when I saw no other options to reduce my pain/suicidality, or when after going through the most effective coping skills (for me), several times, I was still in intolerable pain. I am in no way glorifying my s/h behaviors, but as I said before, nor do I judge them. It was all I had at times when I was emotionally grasping at straws and knew that I didn’t want to permanently terminate my existence (even if it hurt so bad that I obsessed about it). Everyone who s/h’s does it for their own personal reason. This was mine.

I have not purposely taken any action against my body in 50 days as of today. It has not been easy or pretty as I have said several times elsewhere today. Am I proud? Yes. Has it been hell not resorting to self-abusive behaviors? Absolutely. I will gladly share some of my favorite coping skills in the next few days. But for today, I wanted to share a part of my journey to recovering from child abuse. And I also want a keychain, coin, or gold star to recognize my efforts to end my addiction to s/h. 😉 I cannot for certain say I will be able to continue to abstain from s/h as I continue in my recovery. But, I never thought I’d be able to abstain for a significant amount of time any time in the near future, and the 50 day mark is a pretty damned promising start.

Wishing you peace and safety this evening,

Joy

Hello my loves

I just got out of inpatient gen. psych a few days ago. I couldn’t stand the lack of safety post flashbacks anymore. I waited 8 weeks. I don’t know how I maintained safety those weeks, sometimes. I made it through Christmas and then decided my health and safety was worth way more than New Year’s Eve. I’ve also had a rough couple of days following my ip stay. I did really well the first day, and then descended. I start the acute partial hospitalization program tomorrow. I have a lot to share with you (updated safety triangles, new plans for tx and life, in general) right now, but I wanted you to know I’m thinking of you, and will have to share later. Yesterday was also a trauma anniversary for me. And I made it through safely and feel very empowered. I will touch on that when I get a chance (I can’t really go there right now). Distraction and spending time with friends are my safety tools this evening. Gotta jet! But as always, wishing you safety and peace, Joy

Hope from Hope

I am going through an incredibly difficult time right now. I am suffering from a lot of flashbacks, intrusive thoughts of self-harm, suicidal ideations, and a lovely letter from Social Services that says that they will no longer be helping me with my rent as of 12/17/09 (for an unspecified reason). I thought I was hospital-bound before I got that letter, but I kinda lost it (though remained safe) after I opened it. I’ve been proactive and called my housing worker and since she’s not in today, her supervisor. No one has gotten back to me as of yet. If it gets to the point that I become impulsive, or feel that I really cannot maintain my own safety, I will go to the hospital. However, at this current moment, I am safe. I try to practice good self-care daily, and when in major distress, recognize when I am no longer able to keep myself safe. In spite of all these challenges, I am blessed to have some wonderful friends who are very supportive. My best friend, Hope, (see Hopefortrauma in my blogroll) sent this video to me. It is very sweet, and uplifting. So I wanted to share it with you.

Keep on keeping on, I think that’s all I and others can do in difficult times. Wishing you peace and safety, Joy

**You’re invited to be part of a photo shoot this Friday in NYC.**

As per the TWLOHA twitter account: Due to weather, NYC photo shoot has been moved to Friday (11/13). The plan is 1:30pm at Washington Square Park. Meet at the Arch!! You must contact TWLOHA in order to get the release form (nyc@twloha.com).

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Photo courtesy of TWLOHA Day 2009 via Facebook

To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.

To Write Love On Her Arms Day (a week from today, Friday, November 13, 2009)  is a day where anyone can write the words love on their arms, to support those who are fighting against depression and those who are trying to recovering. I participated in this movement last year and it had some phenomenal results. Please join in the fight, whether it’s for your own life, or a loved one’s. As for me, I do it for both.
Jamie Talks Woodie Awards from To Write Love on Her Arms. on Vimeo.

 

 

 

 

 

ForeverLove

I’m back

Ok, so I’m out of the hospital. I have been for a few days over a month. And.. I have a lot to say and catch up on. But, that being said–I think I should focus on some of the most important things in my life right now: positive coping skills. I’m trying to become a coping skills queen. For now I’ll just list some of my favorites. I use these in times of emotional crisis, when I have a lot of physical pain from the flood of feelings (sneaks up on me–tricky bastard), when I want to self-harm (s/h) or feel like dying would be a much better option bc I’m not feeling a lot of strength in dealing with the pain. I am going to list the coping skills in a safety triangle (it is an upside down triangle). In the top tier of the safety triangle are things I can do by myself for myself, then I can reach out to friends (tier 2), professionals/hotlines (tier 3), and in a state of absolute crisis, emergency contacts (tier 4).

Tier 1:
-Square breathing
-Hot spring imagery
-Warm, gentle river imagery
-Cry
-Put trash in its proper place
-Use ice to ground myself
-Imagine negative thoughts go down shower drain
-Write in my “regular journal”, parts journal, gratitude journal, or add to my quote journal (the last two are mini-journals)
-Collage my feelings
-Catch negative thoughts with a butterfly net
-Imagine negative thoughts go from my mouth to the imaginary spitoon/down the sewer
-Scream into a pillow, or in the car
-Watch favorite comedian on youtube
-Sing in room, shower, or car (happy songs: like from the Mama Mia soundtrack)
-Enjoy the cleansing feeling of a shower
-Contain bad thoughts/feelings in pretty box, tie with pretty bow
-Contain ” in a vault with security devices including combination lock, fingerprint and eye scan
-Watch my favorite show/movie on tv
-Collage how I’d like to feel
-Write to my inner children parts
-Smell favorite lotion
-Smell favorite lip gloss
-Smell favorite perfume
-Take care of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) that all adults need to do
-Do yoga: favorite poses: child’s pose, and pigeon pose
-Go for a walk
-Take Chloe, my dog, for a walk
-Lay on something cold
-Pacifier
-Sippy cup
-Use candles with my favorite fragrance
-Sleep
-Blog
-Scrapbook
-Paint on canvas
-Structure my time
-Positive Affirmations

Tier 2:
Friends I can share real stuff with:
-Bff, K
-R
-J
-KM
-SJ
-JG
-SO
-SK
-ST
-SC
-AV
-DC
-LB
-LJ
-MM
-DA
-CO

Family that is supportive:
-Mommy
-Daddy (my step-dad)
-Titi
-Aunt J

Tier 3: (Tx=therapist)
-Tx GB
-Tx CS
-Tx JH
-Dr. D
-PH Hotline

Tier 4:
-911

Tada! My Safety Triangle has been revised (11/28/08) since I left the hospital (10/24/08).

I am currently in a Partial Hospitalization Program for Trauma during the days now. I step down to Intensive Outpatient earlier than I was told, this Wednesday, the 3rd. I have to find a job to help me pay my bills and also seek out help. I’ll blog about self-care at a later date. I just wanted to get the damned safety triangle up there, for myself–and hopefully it may help someone else formulate a safety plan.

Wishing you a peaceful night.