Friday, July 30, 2010

Learning to Live Beyond the Pain of the Past

For the longest time I struggled with doing whatever I had to do to avoid facing the pain of the past. I had learned to "don't think, don't talk, don't feel" avoid anything that had anything to do with being "me" or expressing any of my own thoughts, feelings or even making my own choices.

From the recent archives, here is a post about making that mind shift from living in avoidance of the past to learning to embrace it - and finding freedom from it...

And this is the conundrum we seem to face in this discussion. (((Conundrum: a difficult question, a riddle)))

Each of us who is on this journey of healing has their own story, their own pain, their own suffering.

Each of us has found in our journey different ways of coping, surviving, healing.

The one commonality seems to be that most of us agree on what Ellen so eloquently yet simply stated: The first part of healing it - is feeling it.

And here is a post from the archives about making that mind-shift from coping, managing and surviving to living in freedom from the pain of the past...making that mind-shift from being a victim or surviving day to day by "managing" symptoms to learning to live in freedom....and creating my best life each day...finding my way "though" the pain of the past in order to find my way "out of" the pain of the past...

This is where the knowledge of the emotional healing process came into play. As I gradually moved from talking "story" and on to "processing" emotion - the darkness began to lift. The pain began to subside inside me.

Things that had been horrible triggers for me began to be things I could experience with intention. I began to see how events and situations that in the past would send me off the deep end were identifying opportunities for healing, grieving - that here I could go through to get out of the connected avoidance and pain.

I no longer had to hide from the world because I could now become a part of the world.

Q: How has avoidance affected your ability to move beyond the past? How have you overcome this to find your way through the pain to get beyond it?


Monday, July 26, 2010

"Shame on You"

Something to think about today...

"Remorse" is feeling guilty for something I've done or said.

"Shame" on the other hand is feeling guilty for who I am, that I even exist.

Remorse is that thing that indicates that we understand how the things we have said or done have adversely affected someone else's life; remorse leads to a healthy society where we are considerate of others yet are able to separate ourselves from others (being "individual" in an "interdependent" society)

For example - I would feel "remorse" if my behavior of texting while driving resulted in injury to someone else in some way. (Is your car a "No Phone Zone"?)

I would feel bad and then have the motivation to change this behavior.

But "shame" is a whole different thing.

"Shame" would have me prostate on the floor begging for forgiveness or lashing out at others, defending myself and trying laying blame on someone or something else, searching out that I am still "ok" from someone else....

"He.....should have.....did this.....said that.....not my fault....I didn't mean to...."


I would be experiencing the overwhelming emotional and cognitive distress that comes with living in


Where my value is defined by people places and things outside of myself.

Where I am apologizing for my very existence and feeling completely hopeless and helpless to feel any different and can easily find myself engaging in self harm behaviors or escaping in avoidance behaviors like addiction or dissociation as I cannot tolerate this innate sense of



comes from a core belief that I am somehow defective, bad, wrong...that I in myself hold no value, can do nothing "right enough" or "good enough" and

unable to see myself as separate from others requiring validation that I am "ok" because I do not have that sense of intrinsic value that I am inherently "good" enough

just because



And IMHO...

reinforces this for many who seem to be "stuck" in their pain and unable to move forward, to get beyond it as the lens to the world is colored with words like

"disorder" and "disease"

which imply


"not good enough"


and fuels hopelessness and dependence in finding value in being defined by others and that someone, somewhere will be able to "fix" me and "make me" feel


if I can just do what others tell me I need to "do"

right enough.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"Big Fat Borderline" ((may be triggering))

Those words - spat out by a nurse that I worked with - floored me.

She would often utter derogatory statements about the "consumers" that she "provided" mental health services to.

But these were the words that stuck with me and it's been about 5 years since I left that job. I'd been hired the year before to be sort of a "gal friday" in the office of the local work site for the mentally ill and mentally handicapped.

And the young woman that was the target of this psychiatric "Nurse" was carrying numerous "labels" in her chart and this was the label that got her the most disdain and abuse by staff and the local police and hospital.

And her behavior was typical of someone who is given the label "BPD"; she exhibited needy, childlike dependency that required much external validation, she engaged in self harm behaviors, was a frequent visitor to the emergency room, her emotions were intense and thinking was very black and white

and her social history was that of horrendous neglect and abuse as a small child.

I never did learn her entire story but another staff member, a "PHD", in the same facility broke confidentiality and shared parts of this young woman's history telling me in the end that she would "never" be "normal".

Well fricking no shit jack.

Excuse the language - but for real?

And this is part of what fuels me is how another person who has the degree's and letters behind their names is apparently deemed qualified to determine another's value and lay out their life for them as


and requiring to be "managed"

instead of cared for and valued, their experiences validated

instead of treated as less than deserving of human compassion.

Today - this young woman is free of this facility that was eventually shut down by the state for many reasons.

I saw her recently and still see the scars from the lies that she has been told - that she is "broken" and "Borderline"


and will never be anything other.

She proudly told me that she is doing what she is supposed to be doing to avoid hospitalization.

And my heart grieves for her and the loss of the life potential that might have been found had someone simply said

"it will be ok"

showed some compassion

and shined the light on the path of wellness for her

instead of the anchor of

"illness" and "compliance".


With all respect for the choices and journeys of those who read this blog, I share this post to bring light to a subject that is as taboo as the abuse that is often the cause of these issues of emotional and cognitive distress that we have come to call "mental illness".

This story is part of what fuels my passion for this message of wellness today. For each post I write, each story I tell, there is the memory of this young woman and hundreds and thousands more like her that live only the life they have been told they could have,many of them institutionalized and medicated since childhood; questions and hope for anything more, crushed as compliance and obedience become the objectives.

In my own personal journey through the current mental health system and then the realization that I had never been "ill" but rather "injured" evidenced by my amazing "recovery" - and the atrocities that I have witnessed in the facilities that I have been employed in that had no knowledge of my own personal history - I am grieved.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Empowering Solutions: Special Edition "Trauma from Childhood to Adult"

Listen to internet radio with Heal My PTSD on Blog Talk Radio

This special edition of Empowering Solutions will be a conversation with Angela, a student participating in a trauma certificate program in the Midwest. Angela is going to share with us her interest in the field of trauma recovery and what she’s been learning about how trauma looks in children - and its effects long term when left untreated. This program is for anyone who is interested in understanding the connection between past and present.

Change is a good thing!

Blogger has been trying out some fancy new widgets and I stumbled across this new template called "Picture Window"

and when I did a preview of it - it seemed a good fit to the theme of this journey from that "dark place" to finding the light that comes with living in health, healing, joy and happiness.

So - I'd like to invite you to leave your comments about this change....

is it a "good thing" for you as the readers of this blog

or did you prefer the original layout?

I value your feedback as both my friends and readers...


is this theme a keeper?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Part of My Story..."The Day I Found Hope"

Over at Beyond Meds, Gianna Kali has made it part of her mission to give voice to those who have found their way from "illness" to create their own life of "wellness".

And today I am honored to have part of my own story added to her rolls.

An excerpt from "The Day I Found Hope"...

In hindsight, the doctor who forced this washout of the psychotropic drugs I had been on for the fifteen years previous, had forgotten to tell me the physical, emotional and mental hell that I would go through for a long time in this withdrawal process as my body returned to a natural drug free state. A very long time.

Over the next two and a half years I would often wonder if withdrawing from psych drugs was similar to withdrawing from heroin or meth – but then decided this had to be much worse. If it was street drugs that had altered my body and brain for the past fifteen years I would have been able to go to a residential facility for up to a year perhaps. Instead, I was discharged after seven-day inpatient stay and told I was now diagnosed with yet another personality disorder and no longer needed the drugs. Seven days.

Seven days in which I had slept a total of about four hours as my body began the long process of learning to live without the drugs that I had been dependent on for sleep – but never had really worked as insomnia had become my norm almost immediately after entering the mental health system and starting the daily regimen of pills.

But – surprisingly at the time I wasn’t angry with him. In fact I was grateful.

You can read the entire article here

Warning: To abruptly stop taking psychotropic drugs is extremely dangerous and can at times be life threatening. To proceed with this process demands one be fully informed of both the process and the consequences. For more information about the withdrawal process go here.

Please read my disclaimer here.

To read more recovery stories go here and here.

Psychiatrist blows the lid off the profession

I'm going to let this article speak for itself...

"Dr. Carlat mentions that he used to speak for the drug company Wyeth Pharmaceuticals until he realized he was “being paid to deceive other doctors.” Dr. Carlat wrote an article titled “Dr. Drug Rep” in the New York Times in November 2007, which recounted his experience as a hired hand for Wyeth...."

Thanks again to Gianna at Beyond Meds for the insightful resources she provides...

A recent post from "A Journey": The Pied Piper

Monday, July 19, 2010

12 Things to support you in your journey - Part 3 ((conclusion))

Today we'll tie up this series...for those of you who are just joining us, you can read up on Part 1 here and Part 2 here of "12 Things....".

Today - the conclusion of my first "list series " 12 Things to Support you in your Journey"...and again -please forgive the formatting:)...

  1. 9. Separating myself from “diagnosis”. I’ve written quite a bit on this but wanted to mention it because this was vital for me to begin to see myself as a “person” who had some “issues” and that I could “learn” how to affect change in my life. “Diagnosis” is static, unmoving. “Issues” can be dealt with. Here's a link to my posts that contain "diagnosis" or you can search for yourself at the top left corner to see what else you can find.
  2. 10. Recognize this is a process, not a destination. This is a process of "self discovery", not another avenue that affords a promised "fix" or "recovery" that requires constant monitoring and focus on avoiding triggers and managing compulsions. Be committed and trust the process and you will be amazed at the payoff. Think “learning opportunity” vs. failure.
  3. 11. Commit to being a lifelong learner. I had to let go of the idea of being "fixed" as in "broken" and begin to see myself as a living, breathing organism that is constantly growing, repairing, changing to adapt to my environment - and with the gift of intelligence that could take me anywhere I could imagine... if I would just "imagine". There is no more viewing myself as broken, defective or "ill". I no longer think “oh, after I read this book I’ll be “fixed” and “done”. Nope. I had to commit to being just as committed about learning to live in “wellness” as I was about learning to live as whatever the “diagnosis du jour” was.
  4. 12. Giving up is no longer an option. My mantra became “Giving up is no longer an option; there is ALWAYS a solution". "Acting out" and "acting in" had to at some point become inaccessible as a solution and once I understood the purpose those behaviors served I was better equipped to begin to entertain the idea that I could - here's that "magic" word again - LEARN new ways of dealing with life's issues other than falling apart or sinking into depression (or dissociation) that consumed me. Over time, one by one, I learned to recognize my “avoidant” behaviors and identify new ways of managing my thoughts, emotions, behaviors - and identifying the faulty beliefs I held in order to cultivate a new belief system...A belief system based on the idea that I truly held the power to create this new life for myself and this is where the hope began to take shape when I took the action to live the life I chose for myself based on "wellness".

Thanks for joining me here this past week as I offered my very first "list" post of some of the "how to's" behind my own personal journey from
"there" "here" where I learned to create the life I wanted - in spite of the past I'd had.

If you found value in this post or series - please forward the links to others who may be interested to follow along as we travel this path together discovering the wonderful world of living that self empowered life and creating our best life each day...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Pied Piper

Part of "finding my voice" in my personal journey of "self discovery" had been making it "ok" to have my own opinion or strong feelings about things and not being afraid to give voice to them.

Today then - in all respect to those who may view things differently, I've opted to publish my thoughts and feelings about my journey from "there" to "here" where I live my "best life" and opt to no longer blindly follow what I call the "Pied Piper".'s one of my gripes about what has become the current model of the mental health system....

It says "follow me" - blindly.

I mean - I "get" that the mental health and social welfare system is full of folks who want to help others and have really great intentions...

What I don't "get" is how those who have suffered the intense emotional and cognitive distress have been led to believe

that these issues are unchangeable.

Are these issues "real"??

Well, duh....YES.

AND many who have taken upon themselves to find life outside this inflexible view

have found that these issues can be overcome with

new information that

leads to seeing this from a different perspective

and creates an

"understanding" that leads to

the golden moment of


comes from
new information
leads us to
the awareness
that will
empower us
create our own change.”
~a zebism

I was told that I was "broken", "defective" and "disordered"

would need "meds" for the rest of my life.

I was discouraged from doing my own reading, research or from trying to create my own solutions, to find my own way out of that "dark place".

Told I was "intellectualizing", "difficult", "resistant"....

my hands were slapped and I was sent to the corner because I dared to


those in "authority".

And -

I did it anyway.

I went to school and became educated in "psychology" and took many classes on "philosophy", I read books and was

"non compliant" as I felt my way out of the darkness alone and blindly forging my way to the light - forward to the life

I chose for myself

instead of what I was told I could have.

I learned about my "issues"

what they were, what they looked like and through learning new information that led me to "insight" and "awareness" of my own thoughts, emotions and physical self

I kept plowing forward

refusing to return to "compliant".

And I just want to say that

these issues

of emotional and cognitive distress that can lead one down the road to hell on earth...

it is possible to learn how to create the change we want...

it is possible to learn how to manage the thoughts, emotions and behaviors that create what is termed "mental illness".

Was it as easy as taking a pill to calm the racing thoughts?


Was it is as simple as grabbing the Ativan to ease the feelings of panic?


Was it worth the effort, the time, the investment to learn how to create this change?

Hell yes.

I am not out to change anyones mind about the "bio genetic medical model" of what is termed "MI" or that "meds" don't have a place in this kind of journey...

But -

I believe that each of us has the right to be educated and completely, honestly and with complete transparency

informed that there is

another option

that we can learn how to create the change we want

that it is not as mystical, mysterious and magical to find this awareness and insight as I had been led to believe it was.

That it is possible to begin to live the life we want

not the diagnosis we were given.

We are a brilliant species. Our brain and body so much more capable than what we have often come to believe...

and it breaks my heart to see the potential that is lost to the belief that the only solution is to follow the Pied Piper.

You can read more behind my personal journey in the following posts....

And if you are looking for resources to support your own journey, I'd like to invite you to check the Resources page here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Looking Up

"Looking up"
Photo by Susan
2010 July 15

Besides being inquisitive, curious and not easily satisfied by "pat answers" that are meant to pacify, I also enjoy taking photos and sometimes as I load them into my computer to put them away I "see" something....

And this photo that I snapped yesterday was one of those times.

It was a moment in time - a moment that I have come to know as my "now" or my "life"...the life I had been searching for for years; griping that I wanted (I need to "get a life") and jealous that others had what I didn't (yea, well, easy for her/him...) and bitter over what I did have (which was never "good enough" or "right enough") and resentful over what I had had (if only...then...)

And in this moment of time that was my entire life (because that moment was all I "had" at that time - nothing else existed outside of it...) I sat in the yard, watching the dogs romp (did I really just use the word "romp"?!)...ok, well they were playing - in the moment:)...neither the past nor the future affecting this "moment" of joy they had created.

And as I leaned back in the adirondack chair that had been so welcoming to me and looked up...I snapped this photo and realized as I titled it in my photo album

"Looking up"

just how metaphorical this snapshot in time was.

It was a "moment" in time that "stood still".

It was also a really good portrayal of the "light" that is sometimes slightly hidden by the dense jungle we must forge through to get to the light.

At first look when I imported this "snapshot of time"...I saw the thick leaves and branches of the tree.

And as I continued to look - I began to notice the light that shined through the dense foliage.

And how in this journey there is plenty of "dense foliage", underbrush, tangled weeds and unchartered territory that we forge through to reach the light...

And I realized that in my own journey I finally was able to focus on the light instead of the jungle and it was the light that guided me to freedom.

Q: Is there a "light" that keeps you motivated to continue to put one foot in front of the other when life "sucks"?

Heads up - Word Geek on the loose again:)

Although being described as a geek tends to be an insult, the term has recently become more complimentary, or even a badge of honor, within particular fields. Wikipedia

Ok, I'll admit it...and if you've been around for awhile you may have noticed that I'm a bit of a "word geek".

And the word du jour lately has been "recovery" - for awhile now - which has never sat well with me since I came from a background that I wouldn't choose to go back to as I don't have anything I want to "recover" to...

"Recovery" may work for you....but it doesn't give me any warm fuzzy feelings.

Wanna know what I changed this to?

Self discovery.

For you - "recovery" may be appropriate. But for me - since I never had the chance to develop a sense of self and well, became quite discombobulated and all that growing up in that nasty

I went on a trip of sorts.

To figure out who "I" was in the midst of this journey.

This journey of healing



Self discovery.

And oh yeah...


Q: How do you describe your own personal journey?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

12 Things to support you in your journey - Part 2


Welcome to Part 2 of "12 things"...and of course - Blogger and I have not figured out what the issue is with the formatting....:) *sigh* :)

  1. 5. Know and use your resources. This was where I started branching out and developing relationships and resources outside of those I'd become dependent on, where I could learn to "walk" before I tried to "run" independently of the "therapeutic" relationships I had come to rely on in my journey through (and out of:)) the current model of the mental health system.
  2. 6. Compartmentalize your life. One skill that I was lacking in the beginning was the ability to compartmentalize my life and relationships. Everyone knew everything about me – because I wanted everyone’s opinion about what I should do next; I lacked "confidence" and had a desperate need for external direction and validation. This one goes along with #4 – I first learned how to and then started dealing with my own issues and not looking to others to “make me feel better” and instead learned to develop intimate relationships where I would practice being vulnerable and trusting others who would validate my experiences rather than trying to “fix” me or my life and recognizing the difference layers of relationships from “acquaintance” to “intimate”.
  3. 7. Boundaries. Huge issue. Huge. This one will take some time to delve into – but a good place to start is paying attention to “whats mine” and “whats yours”. A quick look at what boundaries are and are not. Personal boundaries have nothing to do with influencing what others do...and everything about what I will allow into my world or share of myself with the world. One of my biggest frustrations in trying to learn how to establish and enforce personal boundaries was when they were discussed in the context of "what you will allow others to do". I found it more helpful to define boundaries as "what I will choose to reveal about myself" and "what I will allow in to my world, my personal space". This empowered me to let go of thinking I had to try to control what others did and said - and allowed me to learn to say "this is ok or not ok" and choose if I would continue this relationship or if the behaviors of another had become "intolerable". If this is a problem for you you might want to look at my post "I didn't know that I didn't know (I had been abused). Awareness is the place to start with this one and takes us to…
  4. 8. Awareness. Learning to pay attention to my own thoughts, emotions and physical body - and dig down to the beliefs that fueled the entire symphony of "me". Another biggie that is way more deserving of a massive amount of space. Also – something to begin to be “aware” of:) You can listen to the Blog Talk Radio program from Heal My PTSd about "awareness" as an empowering solution here.

Thanks for reading along this week...this series will finish up this coming Monday as we look at the final 4 points in my list of suggestions to support and empower you in your own personal journey...

And if you haven't already...I'd like to invite you to register for email or RSS feed to be notified when there is new content published.

Q: Which of the tips today did you find most helpful?

Monday, July 12, 2010

My first "list" post! "12 things to support you in your journey" - Part 1 of 3

Ok then...I don’t often get into offering sage advice here on “A Journey”. Typically my writing is more story telling I suppose.
Yet lately I’ve been hearing from many who are unsure of how this new paradigm of “wellness” applies to them if their path looks different than mine. So today – my first “list” post broken down into a series of 3 posts to accommodate those of us (me:) ) who get lost in “really long posts”…and as things would have it...Blogger and I don't seem to be communicating well and thus the formatting is a bit off...but on to the "list"!
Here we go:
  1. 1. Believe. “If you think you can – or can’t – you’re right” ~Henry Ford. Change begins with believing that change is possible. When I was stuck on defending the old…there was no room for me to even consider any “new” in my world.
  2. 2. Learn. When I was dependent on others to tell me what to do and provide me with my solutions I was “fed for a day”. Eventually, I figured out that I had to stop asking to be “fed”….and go teach myself to “fish” so I could “feed myself for a lifetime" through gaining my own knowledge about my life issues and discovering my own solutions.
  3. 3. Know what you want. I wanted to “get a life”. I wanted to learn how to be ok in the world and not expect others to adjust or accommodate me in order to be “ok”. I wanted to live a life free of the labels, shame and discrimination that comes with accepting being defined by someone else. I simply wanted to a person and learn how to live beyond coping and surviving. I wanted to live the best life possible – to create the life I believed I deserved.
  4. 4. Be responsible. There was a day not all that long ago when I felt completely alone and terrified. That was the day I said “I am responsible for the outcome of my life”. That was the day I stood at the top of that mountain, leaned into the wind….closed my eyes…and let go. You can see my version of the Patrick Overton poem here.

Thanks for reading today! I hope you'll join me here Wednesday for Part 2 of my (very first!!) list post of "12 things to support you in your journey"!

If you found this post to be helpful - please share with a friend and leave your comments below!
(If you haven't already - you are invited to register at the top of this page to receive notification of when new content is published)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Paying Homage To The Past

This is a "Note" from my Facebook account that I'm posting this today as a follow up to yesterdays post on "Accepting Peace"....

In the past....the "past" was my nemesis. It often became so torturous that every thought, every sense was on high alert as I consciously and unconsciously avoided the triggers that were guaranteed to send me into a tailspin….yet another “meltdown”.

For a long time I engaged in a variety of coping skills that either put myself in danger or had me lashing out at and hating everyone and everything around me. I was “acting out” and “acting in”. Eventually I just shut down when I could no longer live in that pain and those behaviors no longer brought relief; I lived in a chronic state of dissociation and isolation for many years thereafter.

Then one day I had a very clear realization. I had a moment of insight – one of those “aha” moments where I suddenly became aware that by "avoiding" the past this way - either that of my recent past or that of the far gone past - that I was slowly losing my now AND my future because I was so obsessed with avoiding the pain of facing that which I felt so helpless to affect or change.

Part of that realization was understanding that the rumination of the life I’d had, the resentments, the anger at what I had survived and what I had lost in my lifetime because of other peoples actions or lack of action was holding me in this state of chronic pain.

Another part of this moment of enlightenment was that in order to get beyond this pain, to reclaim my life and begin to create the future I so wanted for myself that it was time to let go and begin to feel the pain instead of avoiding it.

It was time to begin to “go through” the anger not by attacking or lashing out at those around me or those who had hurt me – but by allowing myself to own that I first had the right to feel this rage that consumed me…as well as the responsibility to learn to express it safely and respectfully.

And this act led me to the grief that would wash me free of the pain of the past and free me from the prison I had lived in for so many years.

I was finally able to integrate the pain of surviving what I call “childhood horrors” and embrace who I am today.

And thus my journey to wellness shifted from being “mad at the world” to creating my best life where I became a part of the world around me, learning to live my life to it’s fullest instead of living in the isolation and shame that had held me prisoner for so long.

If you’ve found this note helpful – I’d like to suggest that you take a look at a couple of other notes in my archives…Fighting Forgiveness 
and Onions Make Me Cry.

“I see the light in you”



Thanks for reading today...

If you found something useful in this post I hope you'll consider letting me know in the comments below...

I'd like to invite you to register for the free email notifications of new posts...and pass this link along to others who may find it interesting.