Looking for a Scapegoat (comments are now closed)

I am not doing well. In fact, emotionally speaking, this is the worst I have been in a long time.

It’s embarrassing…. humiliating…. and humbling to admit this.  I thought I was so much healthier than this!  I had healed so much. I had learned, and grown, and blossomed, spreading my wings and flying so far…. all those happy, la la land metaphors.

My blog is about HEALING from PTSD, for heaven’s sake!  I have a page posted at the top of my blog titled “How to Heal  PTSD,” which lists all the different therapeutic methods and self-help books that have helped me immeasurably. And I really, truly have come incredibly far from where I was when I was in my worst, most crazy-broken-shattered-insane condition.

My tablet wants to know if crazy-broken-shattered-insane needs to be added to the dictionary. Uhm….no.

You know what’s weird? You can’t tell by looking at me right now that I feel like H-E-Double-L warmed over. At least, I don’t think other people can tell. The face I see in the mirror looks exactly the same as it did when I was feeling perfectly fine. Even my eyes look the same — nothing like the scared rabbit look I expected to see there. And no one among my acquaintances has looked at me recently and asked in alarm “Is something WRONG?” —  the way people used to do, when I wasn’t doing so great.

What’s that about? On the inside,  I feel like the world is ending, but it’s like somebody forgot to notify my face.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. The last thing I want is to walk around looking like the “before” half of an ad for a psychotropic medication……

OK, maybe that’s not the LAST thing I want. Another holocaust or a nuclear war would be last. Which is still a ridiculous thing to say, because I don’t want any of these things, not first, not last: NEVER. What I really mean to say is that I felt relieved, when I looked into the mirror awhile ago, and I did not see anything in my eyes or on my face that gave the slightest hint of the turmoil I feel raging inside.

But seeing my expression looking so serene made me feel oddly disconnected, too. It’s as if my inner being has somehow detached or dissociated from my face. This isn’t something I am doing on purpose. I am not trying to wear a false front or a mask. It’s just somehow there.

Now I have to wonder: how many ordinary, normal looking people are walking around among us every day, feeling like they are teetering on the brink of shattering into a million pieces? It’s a horrible thought!  I wouldn’t wish this turmoil I have inside me right now, on anyone else. Not even on my worst  enemy. (I did have to think about that for a minute, though.)

Anyway, “normal” looking face aside, WHY do I feel like 50 shades of rotten right now? What is wrong with me?

Huh… the first thing that popped into my head, when  I wrote the last sentence, was how many times I heard this from my mother as I was growing up: What is WRONG with you, Linda?

But my mother is in her 80s now and I am in my 60s. What she said to me so long ago should no longer apply. I don’t care what the definition of PTSD is right now, I just want to Get Over It, Already.

Which is exactly what my mother has been telling me to do for most of my life, about… everything. “Get Over it already, get out of the past, live in today.” No “I’m really sorry for all the trauma and abuse and the lies I told about you, how can I make it right?” Just “I had problems when you were a kid, but that was then and this is now, so Get Over It.”

I have been no contact with my mother for a few years now — ever since shortly after May 2011, when she showed me how well she lives in today rather than in the past, by sending me a 62 page hate letter, telling me everything that was ever “wrong” with me in my entire life, going back to my earliest childhood. And she gave copies of that horrible letter to my siblings and my aunt, so that they could fully appreciate all the (twisted lying) reasons why I have been her scapegoat since the 1960s.

But, even though I have been no contact with my mother since shortly after she sent me that letter, and even though I really have, by the grace of God, forgiven my mother, to the best of my human ability, leaving her in His hands, praying that God will fix whatever is broken in her — still, that cutting, unloving, critical voice lives on in my head.

Until recently, I thought I had managed to leave most of the past in the past. I thought I had found a way to get over most of my traumas. I was functioning and feeling the best that I ever have — and then, suddenly, WhAm! Out of nowhere, I took several giant leaps backwards in my healing journey.

I feel kind of like what happened to a college professor I knew years ago. Her specialty was higher mathematics: algebra, trigonometry. Then she had a heart attack and lost most of her math skills in the brief time that her oxygen supply was cut off from her brain. She had to start all over again, relearning the times tables.

Right now,  I think  I would feel relieved to find out that I have a serious heart condition or cancer or something like that, because then I could point to my physical ailment and say “There! This is my problem, right here! I have every right to feel 50 shades of horrible, because of this thing that I cannot possibly help!”

I know,  I know… people who actually have a serious heart condition or cancer, or who have a loved one with one or both of these serious conditions, are going to read this and think: “Linda Lee is CRAZY. Not only that, she’s STUPID.  I (or my loved one) has cancer (and/or a really bad heart), and  I (or he/she/they) would give anything to just have a rotten mood, instead!”

Which is another reason why I temporarily disabled comments on this blog. I can heckle myself just fine, thank you, I don’t need anyone’s help with that.

But really, although I may in fact be both crazy and stupid, I do know what I am talking about. My husband has had two heart attacks (his daughter says he’s actually had three, one many years before I knew him, which he has apparently forgotten. My husband says this may be true, for he has forgotten many things because of his heart attacks.) In addition to my husband’s history of heart problems, when I was in my late thirties I had a potentially deadly heart arrhythmia which has since been brought under control. Also, my dad died at the age 53 of a heart attack, which almost destroyed me at the time. So trust me, I am not making light of serious heart conditions.

Neither am I making ligh t of cancer. I have watched many friends and loved ones die of that terrible disease. For the last two weeks of her life, I spent every night sitting at the bedside of my dear friend and neighbor, as lung cancer destroyed her body and mind. Plus, when I was 26 years old, I had cancer. The pathologist’s report said that the cancer appeared to have already invaded my endocrine system, which I knew meant an automatic death sentence, barring a miracle.

SCARED? Oh man, I was stark raving TERRIFIED!! At that age, I still thought I was virtually immortal. I had two young children and most of my life was still ahead of me when suddenly, without warning, I had cancer spreading throughout my entire body!

But either the pathologist was wrong, or maybe I did experience a miracle, because more than 35 years have passed and I am still here and apparently cancer free! And most of the time I am deeply thankful for this. But right now, with the inexplicable way that I have been feeling inside, I need…  I need…. I need a SCAPEGOAT to blame this on!

Which brings me to the title of this post. Just before I started writing this, I was swirling around in my head, trying to figure out WHAT — or WHO — is to blame for my 50 shades of feeling so unbearably horrible.

I thought of this person, who said this wrong thing to me recently, and I thought of that person, who failed to say something right that they “should have said.” Then I thought of someone else, who did this thing, or failed to do that thing…. and suddenly…. SUDDENLY…..  I realized:

“I  am looking for a SCAPEGOAT.  I, the scapegoat in my family of origin, the one who was unfairly blamed for things I had no control over, the one my abusers projected their sins onto, with character-assassinating lies and by blaming the victim…. I am looking for a Scapegoat of my own to Blame!”

Geez, I thought… so THAT’S how it happens.

scapegoating

Maybe there really isn’t anyone for me to blame right now. And maybe I’m not dying of some exotic, undiscovered disease. Maybe this is just me, with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD, the gift that keeps on giving. Especially during the holidays, for so many reasons, but primarily because Christmas time is when my worst trauma happened.

I guess I’m not the poster person for Healing From PTSD, after all…

~ ~ ~

Comments are open below because, who am I kidding, my memoir writing has once again come to a standstill. However, being a lot more dysfunctional lately than I have been in a long time, please don’t take it personally if  I don’t approve or answer your comment right away.

Thank you for reading, and God bless. Bah Humbug…  I mean, Merry  Christmas!   🙂

 

How to Heal PTSD

The following contains my experiences as the wife of a war veteran with PTSD, along with my ongoing healing from Developmental, or Complex, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder caused by extreme trauma and abuse in my childhood and young adulthood. I am not a mental health professional and nothing on this blog should be taken as an expert opinion. Do not rely on information on this site as a substitute for the advice of a qualified professional.

Remember: YOU are unique. What works for me or for someone else may not work for you.

Please see A WORD OF WARNING near the bottom of this page about the dangers I have found when looking for psychological help online. Also, please understand that while my husband and I have had a lot of healing due to the various treatment methods described below, we are not (yet?) completely cured of PTSD.

Me, during the deep freeze of February 2011, wearing a rubber rain suit while cleaning out a lake of raw sewage from the crawl space under our house. It was the hardest job I’ve ever done. It is astonishing what we can accomplish when we really have to!
Me, during the deep freeze of February 2011, wearing a rubber rain suit while cleaning out a lake of raw sewage from the crawl space under our house. It was the hardest job I’ve ever done. It is astonishing what we can accomplish when we really have to!

WE WERE CREATED TO HEAL. When you cut yourself, your body immediately goes into action to heal the wound. Eventually, unless the wound is very severe or your immune system has been compromised, your injury will be gone, leaving little or no evidence that the cut ever happened. Isn’t that amazing?

I believe our minds were also made to heal. Although I am not completely healed of PTSD, I am a thousand times better than when I was at my worst. (See Feeling Overwhelmed: It’s a PTSD Thing for an example of the ways in which I still struggle.)

What has helped me the most in my healing journey? Talking with caring therapists has been helpful, although uncaring, abusive therapists have caused me a great deal of harm in the past.

Prescribed medications such as antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs, on the other hand, did me more harm than good. For the past several years I have not taken any prescription drugs, with the exception of a daily thyroid replacement and an antibiotic when I had an infection almost a year ago.

IMPORTANT CAUTION: Going off my prescribed psychotropic medications was a horrible, mind-warping, life-threatening experience when I did it too fast. I finally succeeded in getting off the Rx drugs by doing an ultra-slow taper, taking almost a year to gradually cut my doses by a tiny “flea bite” amount, then holding at that level for at least a couple of weeks before tapering down any further. I do not recommend anyone going off their medication without close supervision and the knowledgeable care of a good, medically licensed physician. To do otherwise can have deadly consequences!

Some people may do better taking a prescribed psychotropic. My husband, who has PTSD from combat in Vietnam, seems to do better on an antidepressant — although he struggles with the unfortunate side effects of obesity, diabetes, lethargy, and a deadening of his emotions. Still, he believes the trade-off is worth it.

I do take some non-prescription vitamins and minerals (vitamins D3, K2, and calcium), the powerful antioxidant grape seed extract (which may be why people say I look much younger than my age), and lecithin and mercury-free fish oil, which seems to work great for stabilizing my moods. My favorite supplement supplier is Swanson Vitamins.

In addition to my health supplements, I drink plenty of filtered water, I don’t smoke and I don’t drink alcohol, I try to eat a balanced, mostly vegetarian diet, and I exercise by taking a half-hour walk, riding a recumbent bike, or jumping on a mini trampoline several times a week.

When I go more than a couple of days without exercise, I can definitely feel my mood start to go down!

>>>I have recently eliminated caffeine from my diet, and I am amazed at the difference! I love coffee, tea, colas, and rich, yummy chocolate. But since I’ve gone off all caffeine, I’ve had almost no anxiety. I love having no anxiety even better than I loved drinking coffee and eating chocolate!<<<

Too much of my life was crippled with gut-twisting anxiety and nightmarish panic attacks. Nothing I tried — deep breathing, positive thinking, counting my blessings, listening to music, mindfulness meditation, prayer, or “going to my happy place” — seemed to make much difference. But after I got through the caffeine withdrawal headaches, I felt like a brand new woman!

DRUGS DID NOT CURE ME and talking with therapists, when I finally found a good one, was only helpful up to a point. In my estimation, probably 80% of my healing has happened as a result of reading self-help and psychology books.

I used to think that reading therapeutic books was a poor substitute for professional psychotherapy, but I no longer believe this. The following excerpt from FEELING GOOD: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD, explains why:

“One important discovery is that self-help seems to be a key to recovery whether or not you receive treatment. In a series of five remarkable studies published in the prestigious Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and in The Gerontologist, Dr. Forrest Scogin and his colleagues at the University of Alabama studied the effects of simply reading a good self-help book like FEELING GOOD – without any other therapy. The name of this new type of treatment is “bibliotherapy” (reading therapy). They discovered that… bibliotherapy may be as effective as a full course of psychotherapy or treatment with the best antidepressant drugs.” (Emphasis added.)

The following books have helped me the most in my healing journey: (NOTE: Inclusion of a book on this list does not mean I agree with every word in the book. I have read many other excellent books, so this list is by no means exclusive.)

1). COMPLEX PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, a guide and map for recovering from childhood trauma by Pete Walker, MA. ~This is my favorite self-help book. The author is a licensed therapist with over 30 years of experience, plus he also has C-PTSD.

According to Pete Walker, Complex PTSD – which stems from early and repeated childhood trauma and/or neglect – can, in its severest form, cause schizophrenia.

Based on my experience of having been diagnosed with schizophrenia for two years as a teenager, I believe Mr. Walker is exactly right. In the ongoing “nurture vs. nature” debate, there is supporting evidence for both sides. Scientific studies have reportedly found, for example, that 48% of identical twins eventually become schizophrenic if their twin does, whereas the incidence of non-identical siblings both becoming schizophrenic is far lower.

While this indicates that genes play a role, genetics cannot be the whole story, otherwise the rate of identical twins both having schizophrenia would be 100%. I believe the answer will ultimately be found in epigenetics, which has more to do with our environment than our blueprint.

2). WHY DO CHRISTIANS SHOOT THEIR WOUNDED? Helping (Not Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties by Dwight L. Carlson, MD. ~This is a wonderful, enlightening, HEALING book. I love it so much, I just bought a copy for one of my friends.

3). HOPE AND HELP FOR YOUR NERVES by Dr. Claire Weekes. ~Although this wonderful classic is written in an old-fashioned style, its pages contain a timeless treasure of help, healing, and enlightenment. I needed to read this forty years ago!

4). TRAUMA AND RECOVERY: The Aftermath of Violence – from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Lewis Herman, MD. ~This landmark book, written by a Harvard psychiatrist, was recommended to me by one of my doctors. While not an easy read, it makes sense of the “insanity” in my life. Dr. Herman, who coined the term “Complex PTSD,” states in this book that persons with C-PTSD are often misdiagnosed with other mental illness labels, including personality disorders and schizophrenia.

5). IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT: How Healing Relationships Change Your Brain and Can Help You Overcome a Painful Past by Patricia Romano McGraw. ~Modern brain imaging technologies have revealed that early childhood neglect and abandonment, as well as severe trauma occurring at any age, can damage the brain – by actually changing the brain’s structure and function.

This is why we can’t “just get over” certain types of trauma. Like a person paralyzed in a car crash, the traumatic event may be in the distant past, but the injury it caused is still present.

HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS: As Ms. McGraw explains in this excellent book, brain imaging technologies have also proven that the injured brain CAN HEAL – literally rewire itself – in the context of loving and affirming relationships!

Shaming, shunning, or browbeating someone who is psychologically injured will only make matters worse. Would you whip a quadriplegic to get him to walk again? Of course not! The only humane and truly effective way to treat mental health issues is with compassion, respect, and loving care.

6). HEALING DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship by Laurence Heller, PhD, and Aline Lapierre, PsyD. ~This book explains why a crazy childhood will put you on the path to a crazy adulthood – and what to do about it.

7). THE NARCISSISTIC FAMILY: Diagnosis and Treatment by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M. Pressman. ~According to this brilliant book, a family can be narcissistic even if none of its members are personality disordered.

For example, a mother dying of cancer cannot adequately nurture her young child. While a parent may not be guilty of deliberately neglecting, abandoning, or injuring a child, the effect on the child’s developing psyche is no less damaging.

Being run over by a truck will injure your body, regardless of whether it is done accidentally or maliciously. Psychological injuries work the same way. This is why it is not very helpful for a parent to tell an injured child: “I did the best I could!” The Pressmans’ book contains practical advice that does help.

8). TOXIC PARENTS: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward, PhD. ~The focus of Dr. Forward’s book is not on blaming parents for being less than perfect, but simply to address the reality that many parents, for various reasons, do not have the ability to raise their children in a healthy environment.

9). WILL I EVER BE GOOD ENOUGH? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride, PhD. ~Dr. McBride writes from the perspective of having a narcissistic mother, as well as from her years of experience as a therapist treating the adult children of narcissistic parents.

10). FEELING GOOD: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD. ~In my opinion, FEELING GOOD isn’t nearly as effective for people with PTSD as it is for those who suffer from depression alone. However, I did get a lot out of this book, as long as I resisted the unhealthy impulse to beat myself up for not being 100% cured by his Cognitive Behavioral Therapy methods.

~When you grow up in a toxic family, you tend to have toxic relationships as an adult. This is what happened in my case. My unhealthy way of handling relationships was turned upside-down by the following books:

11). WOMEN WHO LOVE TOO MUCH: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change by Robin Norwood. ~I saw myself and my failed relationships on almost every page!

12). WHY DOES HE DO THAT? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. ~This book is both disturbing and a potential lifesaver. Highly recommended, especially if you are currently in a verbally or physically abusive relationship, or in a situation where your rights, desires, and needs are routinely discounted or ignored.

13). LOVE IS A CHOICE: The Definitive Book on Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships by Dr. Robert Hemfelt, Dr. Frank Minirth, and Paul Meier, MD. ~Dr. Paul Meier is a psychiatrist and founder of the national chain of Meier New Life Clinics, as well as a best-selling author or co-author of more than one hundred books. He holds five degrees in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, and theology. Dr. Meier personally evaluated me and diagnosed my PTSD in 2003. I owe my life to Dr. Paul Meier and his wonderful staff at the clinic in Richardson, Texas.

~Trauma and loss can cause you to question the meaning and purpose of life. I found healing answers here:

14). MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Viktor E. Frankl, MD, PhD. ~What Dr. Frankl, a neurologist and a psychiatrist, discovered during his 3-year imprisonment in a World War II Nazi concentration camp – despite losing his beloved wife and all but one family member in that evil holocaust – is inspirational and life-affirming.

15). 90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN: A True Story of Death and Life by Capt. Don Piper, PhD. ~I love this book because I, too, briefly “died” years ago and stood on the threshold of heaven, where an indescribable LOVE, peace, and joy flooded my soul.

I was agnostic for many years, primarily because of the cruel abuses and self-seeking hypocrisy I’ve encountered in some “Christians.” However, I am far from perfect myself. I continue to struggle with my faith at times, because some of the tenets of Christianity do not make sense to my Mensa-tested IQ of 156. But despite my intellectual doubts, the fact remains that when I encountered a God of Love and Light all those years ago, His wonderful presence was as real to me as anything I have ever experienced. This, along with the evidence of Intelligent Design, are just two of the many reasons why I am now a Christian believer.

16). MY GLIMPSE OF ETERNITY by Betty Malz. ~This beautiful book had me crying tears of joy by the end.

>>>I respect everyone’s right to believe, or not, as each person sees fit. Some of my favorite people are agnostic or practitioners of non-Christian religions. However, based on the preponderance of the evidence in my life, I have decided to follow Christ Jesus as my Savior and Lord.<<<

17). Although I am leaving the best for last, The Holy Bible is first on my list, especially: Psalm 23:1-6; Psalm 30:1-12; Psalm 103:1-22; Isaiah 49:15-16; John 3:1-21; Romans 8:1-39; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Revelation 3:19-20; and many other verses, most notably the spoken words of Christ.

~Important Caution: It seems to me that much of the Bible has suffered from gross misinterpretations and bad translations over the years. In my opinion — which I realize may be wrong — I believe that God is the only One Who is infallible. I worship God, not a collection of ancient books. Calling the Bible “infallible” is, I believe, tantamount to making it into an idol. However, like I said, I may be wrong! In any case, I still believe that the Christian Bible is the most important book, when read carefully and prayerfully, under the guidance and discernment of the Holy Spirit.

A WORD OF WARNING ABOUT ONLINE GROUPS:
Between 2009 and early 2013 I tried a number of online support groups, such as PTSD forums, blogs for ACONS (the adult children of narcissistic parents), and sites proclaiming healing of wounded emotions and guidance on how to “emerge” from being “broken.”

Most of these sites seemed wonderful – at first. But sooner or later, I was dismayed to see a few “outcast” people being verbally attacked by other members of the forums, in some cases coming under attack by administrators of the site. There were also times when commenters who came across as very mentally ill or “needy” were coldly ignored until they gave up and stopped posting.

This is why I will never allow “snarky” or abusive comments here. Respectful disagreement is always welcome; abuse is not. My goal is for my blog to be a healing place, never a hurting place. Life can be hard enough without people who have never walked in your shoes sitting in judgment of you.

We are all at different places in our journey.

>>>I firmly believe that most people, most of the time, are doing the best they can with what they have. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. People who are in a lot of pain are sometimes prone to hurt others, often without being consciously aware of it.<<<

Whenever possible, I try to live in grace and give people the benefit of the doubt.

However, I will not allow anyone to disrespect or abuse me ever again, nor will I stand silently by and witness anyone else being abused, either overtly or covertly.

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Treat PTSD with CARE:
Compassion, Acceptance, Respect, and Encouragement.

STOP the STIGMA!

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Just call me the Bull Fighter, LOL.
Just call me the Bull Fighter, LOL.

 

In Truth, Peace, and Love ~Linda Lee

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