When You Are All That’s Left

©2013, Paulissa Kipp.  All rights reserved

©2013, Paulissa Kipp. All rights reserved

WHEN YOU ARE ALL THAT’S LEFT

I have written and rewritten this post a total of 21 times over the past several weeks, unsure what to say and fearful that pain would leak from every pore onto the page. My finger hovered over the delete and publish button more times than I care to admit.  Ultimately, however, I decided that it was important to tell my truth, to own up to my mistakes and to share in the hope that it might help someone else.

Sometimes, things are just sucky – there is no way around it. Sometimes, we just have to walk through the pain, learn what we can from it and move forward with love. All else rises from that place.

 
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my 1st ever camping trip (If you missed it you can catch up with the deets here: https://paulissaisms.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/8-lessons-learned-from-my-first-ever-camping-trip/) and how it unfolded not as a trip full of wonderful memories, but rather as the source of a lot of discomfort for all who went. High expectations, too much trying to orchestrate fun, boundaries that were not respected, sensory overload and so much more occurred on that trip.

 
In the weeks since the trip, I have spent a great deal of time evaluating what happened. First, let me say that I readily accept my responsibility for what happened. I allowed compassion and a desire to be a friend to a person in need to cloud my knowledge of conflict of interest. As a legal assisting student, conflict of interest has been drilled into my brain since day one. Yet I failed to listen to that strong voice in this instance and the consequences were swift and harsh. Had that not happened, the trip would not have happened and the ensuing fallout would not have occurred. I accept responsibility for my lack of proper judgment. We managed to trigger and annoy one another; things were said or left unsaid by both of us that were hurtful. The person who knows your pain is most capable of hurting you with it – either by acknowledging or not acknowledging it. The fallout from the trip and the fact that neither I nor the person in need feels safe in terms of a.) me being able to express my needs or exercise my self-comfort rituals and have them respected or b.) the person in question not feeling traumatized (due to their own background) by being asked to remain within boundaries means a lot of change is taking place.

 
In the weeks following the trip, I have been terminated from my volunteer position at the facility where I taught journaling for depression. I have been banned from the program, . I have lost a support system that understands mental illness without having to explain to people who do not themselves experience it. There is tremendous comfort in a shared experience. I was nearly banned from attending a memorial service for a fellow student until the person in question stated that they were OK with me paying my respects but again “don’t feel safe being asked to respect boundaries.”
The person in question then used the memorial service to strut up to me with a member of their family and ask “How much do you and your husband hate me?” First, a memorial service is not the time or place to grind one’s ax. Second, I don’t hate anyone but I will say that I am beyond disgusted at being told that if I am claustrophobic or triggered by things next to my face that I should check myself into a mental ward. No, maybe YOU should stop waving shit in my face, talking for 4 hours non-stop or crying for 4 hours nonstop and my ability to handle the talking and crying has nothing to do with me being bipolar. I don’t know any “normal” people who wouldn’t find that annoying as shit.

 
The follow-up question: “Do you think we can salvage our friendship?” The short answer: There is nothing salvage because when a person states that your need for your reasonable boundaries causes them trauma and reminds them of their abusive parent, there is nothing. I cannot say or do anything that will make that person feel safe without sacrificing my own well-being. My boundaries are: Don’t wave bright lights next to my face when you know that gives me migraines and please let me have a quiet moment when I ask for one – either by shutting up or not getting offended when I physically remove myself from your presence or energy. The person in question needs to take time to recognize that by asking others not to express their needs in relation to the behavior exhibited, their own recovery is stunted. Not being able to respect the needs of others doesn’t help us to navigate the world in which we live.

 
I have learned many things from this painful experience:

 
1. Don’t allow emotion to cloud your better judgment. Ask yourself “What could be lost if I choose this?”
2. Sometimes, the person who knows the most about your scars are most capable of re-opening the wounds.
3. Simply because a person has a similar background, that does not mean that he or she a. understands your point of view or b. is not without his or her own biases toward how you choose to navigate the challenges presented.
4. In difficult interpersonal situations, accept responsibility for what you contributed but accept nothing more than that. It takes 2 people to have a misunderstanding.
5. Always allow your values to choose how you will proceed in a situation. While I harbor no ill will toward the person in question and wish them well, I have no desire to be a friend or support person. Know your limits and honor them, damn the torpedoes. The torpedoes will fly whether you take care of yourself or not.

 
So where do I go now? I am spending time in self-care so that my helper’s heart can heal. Right now, I don’t feel as if I have anything useful to offer others in terms of comfort, support, nor do I have the desire. I need to heal the broken heart before embarking on a new venture. I am continuing to ready the launch of the Creative Link online course and am finishing up the Phoenix Uprising Manifesto. Stay tuned and remember, never sacrifice your AUTHENTIC SELF for another.
Much love,

 
Paulissa
©2013, Paulissa Kipp

8 Lessons Learned From My First Ever Camping Trip

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Ahhhhhh. . .camping.  The great outdoors, s’mores over the camp fire, sleeping in a tent under the stars.  So romantic – until it isn’t.  This past weekend the hubber aka David, a traveling partner and I embarked on a trip.  Ohhhhhh we had high hopes and optimism for the trip:  lots of fun and sun, laughs and memories in the making. We loaded up the van and off we went.

LESSON 1:  Claustrophobia is unpredictable and presents itself in situations that one might not expect.  Especially when one has PTSD and panic disorder.

Yes, I have known about my claustrophobia for some time.  I did not think it would manifest itself on the ride up.  Yet the combination of cramped quarters with no real leg or elbow room, not being able to see around me much and items shifting and hitting me in the head brought on the panic.  The heart began racing, I felt as  though I couldn’t breathe and I had to ask to switch to the front seat.  A solution easy enough to accommodate.  We made the adjustments and continued on our way.

LESSON 2:  Tents make me claustrophobic if the wind is blowing the walls around my face and there is no room to move. 

We arrived and set up camp and went to dinner.  As we were leaving, I stepped into a crack in the pavement and sprained the ankle.  We returned to camp just as the rain began to roll in.  Lightly at first, then intense and  wind-driven.  We took refuge inside the tent and tried to sleep.  Unfortunately, the proximity of the walls to my face brought on flashbacks.  The hubber and I ended up sleeping in the KOA pavilion for the remainder of the trip.  It rained and was cold (50 degree highs every day but the day we left) nearly the entire trip.  Our traveling partner was disappointed that a) I was injured the 1st day and b) that she just wanted everyone to have fun and it was starting off poorly.

LESSON 3:  One can try to orchestrate fun to the extent that no one has any.

When one invests a good deal of time, energy and money into planning an excursion and has firm ideas of what to accomplish, visit, etc in a day, the expectations can become a burden.  Disappointment on the part of the person who did the planning and stress for the person who is unable to keep up for whatever reason.

LESSON 4:  Semantics can divide.  Triggers and boundaries are not one and the same.

Triggers are situations in which one feels vulnerable. These situations are called “triggers,” because they trigger the onset of symptoms. While people with the same mental disorder may share similar triggers, triggers can also be highly individual.  My triggers include claustrophobia, things near my face or throat and feeling as though any expression of my feelings is wrong, not welcome, will be punished in some way (withholding of affection, ending of friendship, etc).

Read more: http://www.minddisorders.com/Py-Z/Relapse-and-relapse-prevention.html#ixzz2Vj6faFes

Boundaries stem from a sense of self-worth and personal values.  They embody both a way of being and an expectation of how others should treat us.  My boundaries include room to move, time and space to process my own thoughts without undue pressure to respond before I am ready and not being expected to only deal with the needs of others to the detriment of my own.

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/addiction-recovery/2012/10/importance-of-boundary-setting-in-recovery/

 LESSON 5:  Boundaries that are not respected can BECOME triggers. 

Especially for those who have survived abuse, the disrespect of boundaries can feel like another violation and become a trigger for flashbacks and/or panic.

LESSON 6:  Those who don’t respect clearly and politely stated boundaries are not people you can count on to respect YOU.

LESSON 7:  I need to be given a chance to process information and environmental feedback before being expected to respond.

Demanding an immediate response when stimuli is nonstop (constant chatter, noise, yelling, crying, snarkiness etc.) only plays into the overwhelm even more.  If a response is needed, please ask if I need a moment of quiet or space to think.

LESSON 8:  Mental health stigma is more hurtful when tossed out by a fellow sufferer. Every person has a bias of some sort.

ACTION STEPS FOR DEALING WITH BOUNDARIES & TRIGGERS

1.  Verbalize and enforce your boundaries.  Clearly state what you need.   If you are at the mercy of another, try to level the playing field by taking back your power a bit.  If you are unable to negotiate a mutually affirming environment, focus on deep breathing and progressive relaxation.

2.  Remove yourself physically from the situation.  If a person or place are making you uncomfortable, move or do some exercise to change the energy in the space.

3.  When all else fails, remove the person or situation from your life.  Sometimes the only solution is to remove the toxic factors.

Remember, the only obligation you have is to yourself and your well-being.  All else is secondary.  Above all, love yourself enough to enforce your own limits.

© 2013 Paulissa Kipp