Thursday, January 01, 2015

Sticky: Guide to the blog

Latest Post: Betrayal Bonds and Sex Addiction (6/11/2013),

New! Now you can subscribe to PTSD and Me to keep up with new posts and comments.

This is sort of the "best of" section where I'll link to the blog entries people seem to read the most. Perhaps I ought to have a page on "What is PTSD" but lots of others have already done that, so I'll just link to them here, here, here and my favorite, here (pdf) [links checked 9/19/12].

Please note, if you make comments that contain negative statements about people at various facilities by name, I will not publish them.  Stay general, and even say there are problematic people to avoid, but no names.  Probably best to leave out names of people you consider praiseworthy too, since only naming them gives a biased view.  I do read every comment, but I am not very active on this blog these days, so it may take some time for your comment to turn up.  I am sorry about that.  If you need help immediately, please turn to the resources in the blog and elsewhere, not me, as I'm not a professional and sometimes go a few weeks without checking in.  Self-promoting comments or links to link farms or anything that is the least bit suspicious will be deleted.  I err on the side of caution.  That said, there is a wonderful compendium of knowledge and wisdom in the comments, so thank you to all who have shared there over the years, and please feel free to continue commenting as you see fit.  They are one of the great rewards of writing this blog!

People in crisis often want to know where they can get help. Grounding exercises for PTSD can help get us through the short term. Here is a comprehensive list of US treatment centers that specialize in PTSD. That is of course assuming you are privileged enough to have access to these resources. Not everyone is. And in case I forget next winter, here are some tips on PTSD and the holidays.  One of the most disturbing symptoms of PTSD is flashbacks, especially when they result in "non-epilectic seizures" or what a doctor might have called "pseudo-seizures," though there is nothing "pseudo" about them.

Picking a therapist can be difficult for someone with PTSD, because often times the PTSD itself messes with our pickers. Through necessity and trial and error and generous borrowing of other people's wisdom, I've come up with a brief subjective guide on how to choose a therapist for ptsd. It contains links to some other, less subjective guides too.

Along with getting medical and psychological help, medication helped get me stabilized even though I was really resistant to it because of being a recovering addict. I wasn't resistant to trying Effexor, and kind of wish I had been (see Battle of the Effexor and Joy of Meds: Effexor withdrawal) I have quite a bit to say about PTSD and 12-step programs. While 12-step programs saved my life, I found that their one-size-fits-all model did more harm than good after the initial haze of the drugs and alcohol wore off. There is more than one type of addict (and some more on the subject here). And although it claims not to hew any one denominational line, it is based on Christianity in some ways that were harmful to my recovery. I finally decided to leave 12 step approaches, a difficult decision. In hindsight, however, some of the most exploitative folks I ever met were from the halls of twelve step rooms and the addictions recovery industry.

Betrayal bonds form a major part of PTSD as I have experienced it, so I've spent a lot of time writing about them. You might have heard of this as Stockholm syndrome. They take a number of different forms. Fully understanding the nature and effects of betrayal was key to beginning my recovery from PTSD. While the guy who wrote the book on betrayal bonds associates them with sexual addiction, I have found this ain't necessarily so.

 If you are interested, I can tell you more about my PTSD. Some days are still rough (skin-crawling, time-wasting, losing time, etc) but I have found a certain amount of recovery, and my life is once again bearable, even enjoyable on good days. And I'm still here, yes still here, and even now, still here.  Partly it depends on which dogs I feed. It also helps to have a loving and supportive network of friends. Oh, and to stay far away from toxic relationships.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

betrayal bonds and sex addiction

In the comments, someone was wondering if trauma bonding is necessarily tied to sex addiction.  I started to write a comment, but as occasionally happens it turned into a post.

Patrick Carnes wrote an excellent book called Betrayal Bonds which I have written about extensively on the blog and which many people have found helpful.  He has a test for betrayal bonds which is situated within a web site on sex addiction.  You can find the links elsewhere on this site.

I have worked on the assumption that Carnes book applies to both sex addicts and those who do not identify as such and that has worked very well for me.  I got concerned about this issue when I was exploring ptsd (through flashbacks, pseudo-seizures, and all that fun stuff along with trying to find some help) and went to some 12 step sex addiction recovery programs.  What I heard in them certainly did not fit what my experiences were.

Just like probably all abusers have trauma issues but only a small percentage of people with trauma issues become abusers, I think that most sex addicts have issues with trauma bonds but not everyone that has trauma bonds is a sex addict.  Carnes filed it under sex addiction on that site because that is primarily what Carnes works on.  The emphasis on sex addiction in the book is pretty heavy too, again because that is what he works on.  Carnes's approach to sex addiction is broad and includes love addiction and pornography addiction and relationship addiction and more.  His approach is also among the gentlest of 12 step related approaches.

The 12step sex addiction stuff as practiced in actual meetings in the real world rather than an institutional setting was really counterproductive for me though.  It was actually kind of awful in fact.  A room full of perpetrators, which I wasn't, some of whom were hitting on me it seemed, all in the name of fellowship. yech.  It gave me the willies and I left. The actual world of 12 step addiction rooms and programs is not filled with the broad spectrum of people Carnes is concerned with, nor do they operate on his somewhat more enlightened principles.  In my short experience of the rooms -- I tried going for a few months in two different cities and many different meetings -- I found the rooms to be mostly full of actual sexual perpetrators, many of them court ordered, none of whom I could particularly relate to.  They wanted to convince me that all my other recovery meant nothing and that it was as if I was never even in recovery, which was just bullshit.  My life had improved in many respects from being in recovery from the drugs and alcohol for a long time, but the trauma issues were preventing me from enjoying those improvements in any way and in fact threatening them.  I used to say I had a nice life if only I could be in it.

In fact, a lot of my trauma issues had come just at the hands of people like I met in the rooms, and they were not all on the road to recovery by any means.  I wish them well and all, and I see how I could have gone down that road if things had been different, but that is not the way it worked out, and I believe pretty strongly from my own experience and from reading all of you readers sharing in the comments that survivors of other people's abuse and perpetrators need to be separated and that any coming together of such parties should be on the terms of the survivor, including, especially, any attempts at amends.

Where it gets tricky is of course that perpetrators are pretty much universally themselves survivors of abuse too.  But they have no grounds to expect empathy or forgiveness or even cohabitation in the same space from survivors.  Survivors, and here I'll speak for myself rather than all, so let me rephrase -- I was raised from an early age to think that abuse was what I deserved because I was a bad person and whatever it was that happened to me was because I deserved it if not worse.  Abusers count on this destruction of a person's self esteem to get away with what they do.  The person literally takes the blame for the abuse that others commit on them, allowing the abusers to carry on with their lives.  The shaming and silence keeps the survivors -- and those who don't survive, for there are many -- isolated, confused, and wretched.  Do the abusers care?  Some, the narcissists and phsychopaths really don't. These are hard people to understand at all, they have little or no human empathy and live in a world of calculated manipulations and appearances. Others may be wracked by guilt, but for the survivor that changes nothing and does not matter.

I knew a guy named Bob who had cut some guy's arm off in his addiction. In recovery, he went to make amends to the guy.  The guy called the police immediately and got a restraining order and told Bob to stay the f@&k away from him.  That is a healthy response in my view.  It is easier to see when it is a missing arm, but when one of the people who perpetrated some vicious and cruel abuse in my life wanted to make amends, I let the person in and got another emotional equivalent of an arm cut off.  She was just probably doing this because that was the step she was on and her sponsor figured out what she had done and told her to make amends.  She actually used it as an opportunity for more hurting and bullshit. The arm thing is easier to figure out.  I should have told her to stay the f*#k away too, but because of betrayal bonds and my traumatic past making me susceptible to such people, I didn't.  And I paid in PTSD.

This is where all the crypto-Christian crap of forgive and forget was positively harmful.  I did not need to forgive and forget, this for that, it all works out, we're all connected, I grew from the experience, pray for the other person, yadda yadda yadda.  I needed to tell that person to get away and stay away which I eventually did, even though the feelings and longings were still there that this was someone I care(d) about.  That is where learning about betrayal bonds helped so much.  I had a reason why for my inability to see and treat this person as harmful, and I had a method of dealing with it.  It did not make everything alright again or any such thing, but it did allow me to get my sanity back slowly and start learning to trust people who actually earned that trust in my life.  It is like a magic trick or something.  Press this button and voila, I am right back in the crazy world of betrayal bonds that is always right there in my psyche.  The key to recovery for me has been to learn, most of the time, to not press the button and that it is not magic but harm and damage that makes the trick seem to work.

That has little or nothing to do with what the sex addict perpetrators in the 12 step rooms had to say, and I think Carnes does a disservice and some actual harm by sending survivors off to sex addict 12 step meetings in the real world.  I think it is somewhat unfortunate that he associates the two so closely, as I found the work on betrayal bonds to be life changing.  I just didn't do the sex addict part of what Carnes recommended and things worked out well for me.  And I have learned to find love and support in healthier places than 12 step programs.  Working on trauma bonding issues can no doubt be life changing for people who have been perpetrators too, and perhaps 12 step programs can restore them to some sanity and humanity,  but we don't need to do that healing together, and none of that healing should be contingent on me giving anything like forgiveness.  That is just nonsense, and as soon as I learned that, I started to get better.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

semi-annual still here message

Hi, just a quick note like most of the others in the past few years...I am doing well.  I don't have time to keep up with the blog every day but I do eventually check it.  This means that your comments might not go up for a while.  Sometimes it takes two months for me to get off my lazy ass and fix them (actually I don't even have to get up).   Thanks to Hylie Random, my favorite blogger, for nudging me out of my torpor/busy-ness enough to catch up.

I read each comment and post any that are relevant. That is the only way to keep things spam free, and even though I am slow, I do like to read each comment. Consider it an exercise in defered gratification.  But that means if you need help, don't make this the only place you reach out to!  Ask for help until you get it, you are worth it.   Just a caution, if you say negative things about people by name there is a good chance I won't post for legal reasons.  I encourage specifics, just not names. I'll even post things I personally disagree with most of the time, even though I'll usually follow up with a post reiterating what I think (the advantage of it being my blog).  Stick with your experience and avoid names of people and I'll post it.  The comments help me keep perspective sometimes.  There is a lot of wisdom in the them, so thank you all and I wish you wellness and wholeness even as I continue to seek it myself.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

still here

Hi, to those who left comments since early July, sorry for being so slow getting them posted.  If you leave a comment, it waits for me to moderate.  I had surgery (all fine now, thank you) and basically did little on the computer for the past two months.  Anyway, all the comments are now posted except a few that were mostly empty except for a link.  I don't post links unless they check out, look legit, and are relevant to the post they are attached to because half of the rest are links to malware sites.  So sorry if your brief message with a link to a dubious site did not get published.  :)

I have a few more topics I might post on, but have not gotten around to posting.  Other than that, unless there is some big change in how PTSD is in my life, I have pretty much written most of what I can think of and have nothing new to say, so that is why I post so seldom.  My PTSD has gotten much better once I knew what it was and was able to get appropriate help, so I hold out that hope for people reading too.  Until I knew what it was and took those appropriate steps, all the time in the world and all the mis-treatments in the world helped not a bit.

I still have it, and it still bugs me some days, but I manage it much better.  Its more like a limp or a scar than an open wound now, but that process of healing once it began was s-l-o-w, so if you get help and don't see immediate results, hang in there.  It took nearly five years for me to get through the worst, just like they predicted at the treatment center I went to.  That was five years after I knew what was going on, not beginning to end, which was much longer.  No shortcuts, and whatever you do, stay away from quick fixits like NLP or cultish religions.  They will make matters much worse, and a major part of my ptsd came from hoping for such quick fixes and getting screwed while in a completely vulnerable place.
Ok, so I guess I do have something to say still, though not much new.  If you come to the site on this page, chack out the rest.  I have been very lazy and not made any links, but most of the topics I raise are treated more fully elsewhere on the site.  OK, one link: Guide to the blog has the links a descriptions of most everything.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

neglect (hopefully not traumatically so this time)

eeep!  I have neglected the comments here and a whole bunch of really important onces came in.  I was backlogged since October.  Had a major death in the family and let things go.  They are all posted now.  I apologize to anyone who missed their post, and thank you all for writing.  The comments are often the most powerful part of the post!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

An open letter to someone looking to help a loved one with ptsd


Since you did not post anonymously and wanted to get a hold of me I won't publish your comment but will respond to your email.  If you want to repost anonymously, you might get some help that way too, so if it comes through again anonymously I'll publish the comment.  I never had Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT), and have heard nightmarish stories about it, even in the new and improved version.  If it is not having a helpful effect, please reconsider it!

First off, sorry to hear you and your wife are having such a tough time.  When I went through the worst of the flashbacks and other stuff I was very difficult to deal with and a real burden.  I am fortunate my wife recognized what was going on as similar to what happens to battered women (she had done some work in the domestic violence field) and people who have been abused, but we had no idea when it went down what PTSD or flashbacks were.  It was incredibly frightening...I thought I had just gone crazy.  That is why I publish the blog, so that if people are hunting around they will know that what is happening is not unique and that there are ways through it.  The only way out, unfortunately, is through.

It put me out of work for 1 and 1/2 yrs, and I had to go to inpatient.  We basically maxed out credit cards and borrowed from friends and my wife's family.  Insurance would not cover anything.  I looked into but did not get social security for a disability, we were too busy with the symptoms to be able to go through with that when it actually could have helped.  My family of origin was in such denial they did not help and went on a sort of in-the-family PR campaign to discredit me and my wife.  I don't talk to them at all any more.  That whole things was weird, because the immediate causes of my ptsd were not directly anything to do with family other than raising me so I couldn't recognize psychopaths when I encountered them.  We had ok credit but not much income at the time and basically maxed out the 0% introductory offers and juggled them around for a couple of years before paying them off.  No fun, but it worked.

If you can go that route, do careful research on the place.  I went to Life Healing Center in New Mexico.  Some people, like me, have gotten a lot out of it, others, not so much.  It did not cure me, but it did give me enough tools to manage the worst of the symptoms and set up a structure of recovery, which slowly happened (with lots of work from me) over the next five years.  I have not had a flashback in bout five years, but I know that seems like forever from the other side.  With help though, it can and does get better.  Without help it will not ever get better, and would have resulted in incapacitation, institutionalization, and death for me if left untreated any longer.  It kills lots of people through suicides and addictions, and the stigma prevents the experience from helping others.

About the careful research, look at the comprehensive list of treatment centers.   You might contact Life Healing Center and ask where to go or what you can do.  They were supportive when we called.  The Sidran Institute that is listed at the top of that page serves as a clearinghouse of info and advice on getting help with PTSD.  They have a great help desk.  I would also check "how to choose a therapist" on the blog.  While setting up longer term plans, try to get short term support in place.  If Kaiser will pay for therapy, try to get a referral for PTSD.  There are lots of positively harmful mental health professionals, I would say the majority of them, so if you get a bad vibe with one try another.  It is not you!  Other people I know on Kaiser have managed by trial and error to keep trying the therapist they assign and if that one does not work ask for another.  Make the first session an interview.  You may want to attend with your wife, because if she is now like I was a few years ago, I would pick abusive therapists!  Ultimately though it has to be someone she feels she can work with, so you can only support, not do it for her. But she has a right to get appropriate treatment specific to her case, and might need help to do that.

Kaiser may want to do an economy one-size fits all solution, but you have the right to get the help you guys need.  Especially be careful with psychiatrists prescribing meds.  If you get a sense they are just prescribing this week's pharmaceutical company offering and not listening to you either before during or after you start on meds, clear out fast!  I'd say psychiatrists approach closer to 90% incompetent.  I really had to hunt to get a good one that would actually listen.  My wife helped me find a good one, and the "how to pick a shrink" page is what we learned about how to find one and interview her or him.  Meds are an important part of my recovery today though.  But if one gets overmedicated, it is just zombifying, and if your wife gets on the wrong meds and the psychiatrist does not listen, it is horrible.

Also, check the laws in your state.  In my state, major depression, which I had from the PTSD, qualified for more intensive treatment and the insurance company had to pay for unlimited sessions, not just the usual 24/yr or whatever.  The insurance company of course will not tell you this, so check the laws and the fine print of your policy on it.  I went twice a week sometimes when things were just starting to get better.

If there is addictive behavior involved, tread very carefully around 12 step programs.  They have little to no understanding of trauma issues and even if it works for the addiction, like it did for me (I went to 12-step groups for 16 years), the cure can be worse than the ailment, and charlatans and @$$holes abound.  That is not to say don't use it as a resource if it works for halting the addictions, because the addiction, particularly to drugs or alcohol, will prevent any progress in recovering from the ptsd.  Just don't drink the kool-aid that says it is a cure-all and if you are not happy joyous and free in 6 months you are doing it wrong.  That is positively harmful and very prevalent.  Get help with the PTSD elsewhere.

With that said, a number of treatment centers are incorporating trauma work into their inpatient programs.  The meadows in Arizona and the Caron Foundation rehabs in PA are two examples.  Places that work with trauma primarily often won't take a person with substance abuse issues until they have come through a rehab for that.  When I went to Life Healing Center I was already 16 years sober and had to do a bit of convincing to get in without having to go through another drug and alcohol rehab!  Without the sobriety, the other work is impossible.

I am forever grateful that my wife and my friends I had made outside of 12 step groups came through and stuck with me.  I did get better over time and returned to being a more-or-less fully functioning adult again.  It was (and still is) a long slow process, but things do get better.  My wife was for me when I was not, when I was hopeless, she supplied the hope, and we came out the other side of it fine after some couples counseling.  Don't underestimate the strain on yourself and inequitability of what is happening.  It is not fair that you should be stuck cleaning up trauma that you had nothing to do with, and Christian strategies of turning the other cheek and repressing anger will backfire, coming out sideways and destructive.  It is a tremendous strain to live with someone going through PTSD, to the point they have a name for it, secondary PTSD.  So please, if you are going to support your wife, remember that you need to take care of yourself ultimately too.  That can get lost in the cycle of crisis, but it is crucial if you are to be supportive and if the relationship is going to come through in the long run.  It can and does happen, even if it seems hopeless now.  Having come out the other side, it was an awful expereince, but once we sorted things out, with a lot of emotional work from both of us and short term guidance from a good couples therapist when we got stuck, we are stronger in the relationship than ever, and I owe my recovery in large part to my wife's unstinting support.    I'm not advocating martyrdom though, please be clear.  I had to work hard at my recovery and do a lot of work in restoring the relationship.  If I had not done that work, even when I saw no point in it, nothing would have gotten better between us.

I hope this is of some help.  I know PTSD is terrifying and awful, so please hang in there.  All the struggles and hardships paid off for us in the long run and I hope they do for you too.  I'll probably post this as an open letter on the blog without hooking it up to your comment.  Thank you for writing.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

New Look

When I moderate comments, I often go back and review posts and comments for strength and sustenance (especially the comments!).  Today I realized that the bright white text on a black background was hard to read for any length of time, so I updated the look and feel.  I know a lot of people who come here go on extended readings of the info and your comments, so I made the text a little less bright, and switched from a sans serif font to a serif, Georgia, for the main text.  Serifs, the little horizontal guidelines at the tops and bottoms of letters, make it easier to read because the help the eye follow along horizontally instead of emphasizing the vertical.  I enlarged the font a notch too.  The background is from a stock theme.  I like it because it is bokeh, out of focus, so it gives the illusion of depth.  I also like that it stays in place while the text scrolls: it gives the illusion that there is a scene behind the writing.  And the rainy day seems to fit PTSD bouts with depression, even if the vista is inspirational.  The headings are in a felt marker-type font.  I wanted a sort of zen brush-stroke effect there.

The last real post is still the one about losing time, which I have been doing a lot of, and my updating the layout just goes to show you how desperately I am avoiding the real work I need to do!

Let me know whether you like the new look if  you got distracted enough to come over to this page and have read this far.  If you want to get back to reading the blog, here is the guide.