Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Sticky: Guide to the blog

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].

Two notes before we begin.  First, I am not a professional.  I have kept this blog to share my experience with PTSD, but I cannot help you directly if you are suffering from PTSD.  I only check in here intermittently and it breaks my heart to see someone plea for help and get no response.  Please, if you are in crisis, call 911.  If you are looking for treatment or direct help, please contact the Sidran Institute. They are an excellent resource and can help you find appropriate treatment.  If you are finding out about PTSD in yourself or another and want to know what my experience has been, read on.

Second, 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.  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.

If you are looking to help a loved one diagnosed with PTSD, you might want to read my open letter to someone looking to help a loved one with PTSD. My partner, who is a key part of my loving and supportive network of friends, has been absolutely critical to my ongoing recovery, and I share some of the ways she has both helped me when I could not help myself and some of the unfortunate costs she has paid as a result of my PTSD.  It is a hard road, but we have come through stronger than ever, so there is hope.

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. Spiritual and psychological abuse are real and create huge barriers to recovery.

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, April 02, 2019

alternatives to 12 step, and why addiction recovery is crucial to PTSD recovery

I received one comment to my December post asking if anyone was still out there.  That is enough.  I'll try to make a few new posts, with this as the first.  Techie, the commentator, is having a difficult time with the spiritual aspects of AA and other twelve-step approaches.

A major problem with PTSD sufferers is addiction.  Without recovery from addiction, my belief is that no recovery from PTSD is really possible, since the addiction continually  exposes us to retraumitization which just compounds things.  That is why, despite my misgivings with 12-step approaches, I remain grateful that they provided a way for me to get clean and sober many years ago.  I have expressed my reservations with 12-step approaches in these blog posts:

Since I wrote these a few years ago, a whole secular approach to AA has arisen and even gotten some grudging recognition from AA's General Service Office.  Here are some of the Secular 12-step approaches I know a little about:
I am currently going to refuge recovery meetings in part because they exist in my town, where there are no secular AA meetings, and also because they adopt a Buddhist approach.  I'm not a Buddhist, but their approach does not involve seeking any external deity, so I am more or less down with it, and I have found the meetings are more open to my experience as valid than 12 step approaches have been.  I (re-) started going to an AlAnon meeting, since changing my responses to addictive type behaviors of others is central to my ongoing recovery and they are upfront at this particular meeting about keeping out any religious beliefs as anything but personal beliefs, and welcoming all, including those with none.  That is close enough for me, and I have never been shamed like I was regularly in AA.  So far, anyway!

All of the approaches mentioned above have active online communities and meetings as well, which you can find through the various sites.  

AA still, however, treats as unchangeable Gospel the dated, sexist, and patronizing approach spelled out in the big book chapters on "to the agnostic," "to wives," and "to the employer."  This despite its closing statements that it is "merely suggestive" and that "more will be revealed along the way." 

After giving AA another spin this year, I have found out that ultimately, the big book endorses the idea that a person who does not define spirituality at all, much less the way AA does (a personal deity that intercedes in your life) is a second-class citizen who is not getting the program.  Many AA-ers feel free to say that people like me "aren't really sober" and are fully in line with the Big Book.  AA does suggest tolerance, since some of its earliest and long-lasting members were dyed-in-the-wool atheists.  In fact, in the early days of searchable texts, people used to say at meetings to search the word "tolerance" which appears however many times in the Big Book.  What they don't mention, is that AA is repeatedly stating that what needs to be tolerated is me and my choice not to believe or disbelieve.

Part of my PTSD has been to go through life being treated as, and accepting a role as, a second-class citizen, tolerated at best.  I could throw in my lot with the fighters and rebels, but I have other support networks and remain pretty secure in my sobriety.  I don't need to fight them as much as get away from them.  I have no use for any organization that treats my experience as second class, even a little bit, even if it is not everybody.  Fortunately for me, I was sixteen years clean and sober when I left twelve-step approaches but it is pretty difficult for people just starting out to find a recovery community that respects our decisions to leave spiritual matters open rather than fixing them a certain way, or are atheist or agnostic.  Thus I am particularly glad to see approaches other than first-164-pages-of-the-big-book fundamentalism arise.  The important thing for recovery from addictions in my life was that I was utterly incapable of doing it alone.  I needed the help of others who had faced that situation and succeeded, and when I got sober, they were pretty much all in AA unless they were born again.  I am grateful to see other fellowships that are not stuck in religion take hold.

I will spell out what my "beliefs" are and are not if anyone is interested.  I do not believe that there is anything called God that I can understand.  I have witnessed everything from individuals to whole societies use their understanding of such a deity to do tremendous harm in the world including in my life.  Believers say that is the followers, not the deity, but that is nonsense.  If followers can commit everything from genocide to individual spiritual abuse in the name of "their" higher power, I want nothing to do with such beliefs.  If there is some form of higher power, it is pretty much by definition beyond my comprehension, so I try not to get in the way by trying to figure out what it is .  This includes spiritual, life-changing experiences, of which I have had a few.  I don't know what they were: some chemicals? (of which I had a lot in my body at various times) or the supreme wisdom of Ahura Mazda interceding directly to save me? Or something I don't understand?  

The only one I can say truthfully is the last.  I have no way of knowing, despite my subjective experience, since the matter is, again, pretty much by definition, beyond my comprehension.  And I do not believe that believers in whatever have any way of knowing either, and their beliefs are merely ways to trick themselves into an understanding where there is none, and often, to convince others of the correctness of their own beliefs, almost always with terrible consequences for those around them. Am I challenging your beliefs? No, I just don't believe them. You, obviously, are free to.  

If I am going to be back on this train, I would love to hear from you in the comments to know that there are people reading.  

Friday, December 14, 2018

Anyone still read this?

Hello. I am wondering if anyone still reads this blog. when I checked stats, it seemed like a half million people have read parts of this blog over the course of its long active and dormant lifetime. I was shocked! A lot of bots and Estonian trolls must have PTSD! If you are a human, and are in recovery or seeking recovery or just suffering from post-traumatic stress reactions, please let me know in the comments if I should make an effort to say a few more things about my journey with PTSD and recovery. I could use the company right now!

When I started this blog many years ago to see if there was anyone else like me, I was blessed (and that is a pretty big deal for an agnostic:^) to find out that not only were you out there, but that what I thought, through shaming and isolation, was my own peculiar problem was actually something that many people could relate to, even if the details of our experiences vary from person to person. So if you find this and it touches you, let me know. If there is no response, I will know to let this rest and look for new avenues of support.

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!