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    Community Voices

    Life Lessons I learned from David Sedaris

    As I settle into middle age, I’ve learned how to focus on what truly matters in life. My favorite author is David Sedaris, who it seems has truly come close to mastering how to overcome #Trauma and enjoy the everyday.

    I’m reading David’s latest book, Happy-Go-Lucky (we are on a first name basis in my head), after recently finishing his diaries.  At this point I feel I know him better than my closest friends and family.  I went to meet David in person at the Keswick theater outside of Philly, and our meeting solidified my developing view of what I love about him.

    It’s very clear that one life lesson David has nailed down is embracing what makes him unique.  We spend our adolescence trying to blend with our peers in order to avoid bullying, and the beauty of middle age is that we don’t need to blend anymore, if we choose to surround ourselves with people that appreciate our differences.  In adolescence, it’s just about impossible to escape others that don’t get your sparkle.  David embraces his preference for picking up litter while wearing culottes and then feeding hot dogs to snapping turtles. It’s just who he is.  David is doing the best he can to enjoy his life as his true self, and I think this is the key to true joy.

    Another life habit that David has nailed down is finding a healthy way to process your trauma.  Writing about your life and seeking positive attention through doing what you love could not be better therapy.  Trauma can be processed in many ways, but if it is not processed, our brains and bodies short circuit. The trauma gets expressed in one way or another typically in an unhealthy way.  I read in David’s diaries that he struggled with drug abuse earlier in his life.  My impression is that writing helped him stop avoiding the feelings associated with his trauma and therefore helped him grow through that time in his life.

    In Happy-Go-Lucky, David talks about his relationship with Hugh.  This chapter highlighted the life lesson of focusing on what you love, and letting go of everything else.  As with most long term relationships (I’m married for 18 years), Hugh gets frustrated with David at times.  David explains that unless someone else is there to see it, the behavior does not really bother him.  David knows that Hugh does a ton of wonderful things for him, and its expected for couples to annoy each other from time to time.  When you love someone, you accept the imperfections and embrace them because you love the whole package.

    Taking responsibility for one’s mistakes and not feeling shame about them is the lesson I gathered from David’s experiences with his sister Tiffany.  We all need to remember that we are doing the best we can at the time that we do it.  Tiffany had serious mental health issues and died by suicide.  Adult mental health is very challenging to navigate. It is truly difficult to know how to intervene or when it is best to step away.  We need to accept what we can control, and not punish ourselves for doing what we thought was best at the time.  This is likely the toughest life lesson, but also the most important.  I have regrets about an experience along these lines.  I wonder what would have happened if I reached out and made a connection.  I embrace this lesson and utilize this experience as a professional that conducts risk assessments for these very situations.  I feel fulfilled knowing that I can take this lesson and use it for the greater good.

    Thanks to David Sedaris for sharing his story and his talents with us.

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    Community Voices

    I feel like I’m losing a fight. I’ve become reliant on medication PrN and reassurance from other people to feel okay. My self esteem is tanking the more I fail. I had a very complex history of abuse and trauma with my now fiancé, including some cheating on his part but have been working it out with the help of church and counseling. I was also in a fatal car accident around this same time. Lies were told about money etc and things just spiraled.
    However while things are in a much better place objectively, I don’t trust anything. I am constantly looking for the next thing to hurt me (yes I know classic ptsd) but I’m exhausted from riding the waves.
    I’m on vacation with friends all this week and alcohol just makes it worse so not doing that anymore. Just tired of this stealing my joy over and over again and getting back up each day. I need help or suggestions…. Seeing trauma therapist on my own as well as couples counseling… so sad and feel defeated :(

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    Chronic Suicidality

    Why Crisis Hotlines are a farce

    Calling a Crisis Hotline will never stop my chronic suicidality. Thirty-plus years in the mental health system trying to ‘fix’ myself has failed to cure my chronic suicidality. Nothing will ‘fix’ the problem except fixing the root cause; which, is not and never has been my mental health.

    My very first suicide attempt, at the age of 14, was met with ridicule by my mother and siblings when the appropriate action would have been to get me immediately to the hospital and assessed. This never happened; because, my mother could not afford for the truth to come out—that she had tormented me my entire life. She needed to protect the narcissistic facade, at all costs—including sacrificing the life of her first born child.

    This behavior of hers continued into my adulthood until she chose no contact three years ago when I asked for an apology. The abuse continues through her silent treatment as well as the denial by my siblings, adult children, adult grandchildren, and extended family of my very real experience of being tormented at the hands of my mother. Mother…the one who nurtures and protects her children.

    Understanding why my mother was/is this way will never fix me. Loving and re-parenting myself will never fix me. Having all of my needs met according to Maslow will never fix me. What will fix me is for my mother to fix herself. Knowing this will never happen definitely will never fix me.

    I have undergone all manner of mental health treatment attempting to fix this. No amount of therapy, medication, nor shock treatment has fixed this. I can become as self-actualized as I want to be and this will never fix the fact that the foundation upon which this rests is defective.

    Calling me mentally ill and turning a blind eye to the fundamental cause definitely will not fix me. Gossiping, blaming, and being cruel in any other manner definitely will not fix me. Telling me to leave my past in my past definitely will not fix me. My past will always remain present as long as family denies in the present the reality of my past. The past will never be the past as long as the abuse of silence is in the present.

    For family to call me mentally ill and delusional will definitely not fix me. The only thing this fixes is their discomfort with the truth. This is the life and purpose of the scapegoat. And, the scapegoat’s life has throughout history and always will end in either banishment and isolation or sacrificial death.

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    Community Voices

    Difficult Seasons do End

    God does not promise us a life without troubles.  In fact, He is very up front and transparent about how we will struggle in life. Going through a difficult season is not pleasant, but just as it began it will come to an end. In 2018 I endured a very distressing time with the loss of my first child, but two years later I have been blessed with better days and now have a healthy baby boy. Going through the season of losing a child was very difficult and it seemed like things would never get better, but if I had given up I would not have been able to experience the joy of having a healthy son. There are three things that can help you survive a difficult season in life: (1) going to God’s word for strength, (2) relying on your support network, and (3) being still to allow God to work it out. Going to God’s word for strength will allow you to persevere during the most trying times in your life. It is His strength that can give us the fuel to keep going when we feel that we are completely empty. Many people find it helpful to have a few Bible verses memorized so they can easily meditate on God’s word when the enemy is trying to attack their mind. For me, not only do I read His word, but I also listen to a lot of God-inspired music when I am going through a difficult time. There are songs I listen to that in minutes can take me from a dark place to a place of peace. Let God’s word renew your mind and give you the ability to face your hardest days.We are not meant to go through life alone.  Having a good support network is crucial for maintaining good #MentalHealth and carrying you through the hard times of life. Do not take the attitude that you do not need people in your life. We all need people. If you do not currently have a good support network, there are places you can go to get one. A church small group is a great way to develop deep connections with people. If you struggle with substance #Abuse , #Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can give you support as you get sober. Connecting with interest groups such as a hiking group, knitting group, or volunteer group is another great way to find people to connect with and have in your life to help you through the valleys. As they say, joy shared is joy multiplied, pain shared is pain divided.Lastly, sometimes we need to just be still.  Many people are “fixers” and want to control and manipulate situations to get the outcomes they desire. However, many times when we do this we are reminded that we are not the ones in control . . . God is. Being still is very difficult, especially during a time in life that causes great emotional pain. Though it can be hard, being still can allow God to work in your heart, and sometimes we are the ones who need fixing, not the situation. God can take difficult situations and bring out good from them if we sit still and allow Him to work in our life.  Difficult times are never enjoyable to go through but they will come to an end. Go to God’s word, lean on your support network, and as He says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Do not cut the blessings out of your future by ending your life during a difficult season.  You will get through this hard time and if you allow God to transform you, you will become a better person because of it. Good days are ahead!

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    Community Voices

    Bipolar Basics (And the Challenges in Diagnosis)

    A complex mood disorder, bipolar poses several challenges to those who experience it. These pains include maintaining relationships, holding down sustainable employment, and often financial struggles. Less than 20% of those having bipolar disorder receive an accurate diagnosis within the first year of treatment. In fact, five or even ten years is not unheard of. So what is so difficult about diagnosing bipolar disorder?

    What is Bipolar?

    Bipolar disorder is a mental illness causing fluctuating moods and energy levels. It often affects emotions, sleep, appetite, focus, and many other aspects of the person’s life. Diagnostic criteria include experiencing depressive and manic episodes.

    What Might a Depressive Episode Look Like?

    During a depressive episode, some or all of the following signs and symptoms are present:

    ● Feeling sad and/or a sense of emptiness

    ● Loss of interest in activities

    ● Reduced energy and/or decreased activity levels

    ● Difficulty concentrating and/or forgetfulness

    ● Changes in appetite

    ● Sleep disruptions

    Suicidal thoughts

    What Might Mania Look Like?

    A manic or hypomanic episode may present some or all of the following signs and symptoms:

    ● Increased activity levels and/or taking on many tasks

    ● A sense of euphoria

    ● Racing thoughts

    ● Irritability

    ● Feeling jittery or similar agitation

    ● Engaging in risky behavior

    ● An abundance of energy and/or insomnia

    Types of Bipolar

    We can divide bipolar disorder into four categories: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Cyclothymia, and Bipolar-Related Disorders. Each type of bipolar causes mood cycling. None of these has a singular cause although risk factors include trauma, brain function anomalies, and genetics. Symptoms typically begin during the teenage years.

    Bipolar I

    This is what most people think of when considering bipolar. It is characterized by a depressive episode and a manic episode. Episodes may last a significant amount of time or rapid cycle. Mania symptoms last seven days or more, or are severe enough to require intervention.

    Bipolar II

    Frequently misdiagnosed as major depressive disorder, bipolar II is characterized by a depressive episode and a hypomanic episode. As hypomania is less extreme than mania, they may pass it off as the person simply feeling better for a while.

    Cyclothymic Disorder

    Less extreme than the above, a person with cyclothymia vacillates between milder depression and hypomania. Continuous cycling for two years is considered cyclothymia.

    Bipolar-Related Disorders

    While not specifically a sub-type, this category encompasses mood disorders that resemble bipolar disorder but do not meet the criteria for a diagnosis.

    The Wrong Diagnosis

    People are more likely to seek treatment during a depressive episode and may not recall experiencing a manic or hypomanic episode, particularly in cases of bipolar II. This often leads to a diagnosis of major depressive disorder.

    Substance abuse may also lead to a misdiagnosis as the use of alcohol or drugs can often affect episode cycles. This can lead the healthcare professional to believe that substance use is directly responsible for mood swings.

    Someone with bipolar may also receive the incorrect diagnosis of schizophrenia as symptoms are similar for both diagnoses.

    Medication and Misdiagnosis

    Misdiagnosing bipolar disorder can lead to the healthcare professional prescribing medication that can worsen symptoms. For example, a provider may prescribe SSRIs for depression, which can trigger a manic episode.

    Medications prescribed for different conditions may trigger mood and energy cycles. For example, a prescription for corticosteroids may induce mania.

    Receiving the Right Diagnosis

    Healthcare providers are not intentionally misdiagnosing people who seek care. As we understand more about the wide sphere of mental illness, the need for deeper psychological evaluation and a detailed patient history becomes more apparent.

    If you are seeking treatment for your mental health, it’s important to share a lot of information, even if you find it embarrassing or shameful. The better your provider can understand your experience, the better they can treat you, and the sooner you can feel better.

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    Community Voices

    Health Thought

    Starting In Early Childhood I Was Conditioned To Put Others Before Myself & To See Myself As Secondary-At Times-& -At Other Times- To Not Think Of Myself At All.
    Only The Adults Around Me Had True Significance & Importance.

    I've Got A Free-Floating Memory Of Becoming Sick While With My Father & He NOT Only Denied I Was Sick He, Also, Told Me To Suck It Up(Because I Wasn't Really Sick), Denied Me Medicine, & Laughed At Me.
    This Contributed To Solidfying What I Had Begun To Be Taught Along With Contributing To The Trauma-& It's Long Lasting Effects-That I Suffer From As The Adult I Am Now.

    From Childhood Onward I Struggled-GREATLY-With Being Ill Which, In Turn, Made Me MORE Ill!.
    It Was A Vicious Cycle!.
    Now, I've Done Enough Work That I'm Able To Be Ill In Peace.
    I Rejoice In This Progress That I've Made!.

    What I Went Through:
    I'd Feel Guilt & Shame For Being Ill.
    Clearly I Was I'll YET I'd Go Into Denial.
    I'd Either Deny I Was I'll Or Deny How I'll I Truly Was.
    I'd, Even, Beat Myself Up & Put Pressure On Myself.
    **Usually The Pressure On Myself Would Come After Someone Else Started It;; Other Times The Pressure Would Be There & Others Made It Worse.**
    It Didn't Help That I Was Continually(& Chronically) Expected To Put EVERYONE Else 1st-Above & Beyond-&, More Times Than Not, Recieved Abuse When I'd Have To Put Myself 1st Because Illness Forced Me To(From Childhood Onward).

    Now, I Put Myself 1st.
    I've, Now, Got A 'To Hell & Be Damned' Attitude Towards All Others.
    &
    Unfortunately, It's Taken Yr.s & Taken My Health; At Times My Sanity As Well-To Get To This Point.

    I'm Worthy Of Love, Being Wanted & Cherished, & Of Consideration & Respect.
    I'm Worth MORE THAN I've Been Lead(& Conditioned) To Believe.
    I'm NOT Going To Sacrifice-ANYMORE-My Health, Sanity, &(Ultimately, What They Want) My Life.

    Namaste

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    Thoughts

    Ok.
    I'm Going To, For Now, Continue To Post Memes-Like I Did Yesterday-Of My Beliefs,Lesons Learned, & Sometimes It'll Be Truths I Find Inspirational/Motivational.;;;
    1) A Survivors' Anthem:
    I Found My Voice.
    The Truth Is Out.
    You CANNOT:
    Bully Me, Mock Me, Shame Me, Abuse Me, Reject Me, Lie About Me, Control, Hurt, & Silence Me...
    EVER AGAIN.

    I Am Free To Be Me
    & Feel What I Feel,
    WITHOUT Guilt
    & Shame!.

    I Am A Survivor.;;;

    2)I Didn't Cause It.
    I Can't Control It.
    I Can't Cure It.
    BUT
    I WON'T Condone It!.

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    Steps Forward

    I was able to write my trauma narrative without getting badly triggered. I was even able to go into detail. I feel different but in a good way. I feel like I can say to myself that I survived.

    I can move on and while I still have healing to do, I have come a long way from where I was a couple years ago. A couple years ago I was scared, angry and didn't trust people. Now I can be happy, feel safe and trust people a little.

    I can tell my survival story without it ruining my day (like it would in the past) and I think that is a huge sign of improvement. Anyone can do it. You don't have to share with anybody, just yourself.

    Writing is so liberating, it has been there for me and has helped me process a lot of difficult things. I really suggest journaling. I don't do it every day but enough.

    I am sharing this with you so that you can see that you too can take steps forward. Stay strong friends:)

    #PTSD #SexualAbuse #SexualAssault #Writing #freedom #hopeful #Abuse #Journal #MightyTogether #BipolarDisorder #BorderlinePersonalityDisorder

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