Living on own terms (or is it just "avoidance"?)

kkd

Learning
OK, the ridiculously long post i did in "you know you have ptsd when..." thread brings me here. Specifically this part:
... you don't realize how much the lack of triggers and stressors in your life is due to avoidance-via-lifestyle & doesn't hold when you are pressured or required to spend much time outside of that zone.

I'm 25-ish years post actively living in the circumstances that brought me here. I can go months without any incidents now. Have built a nice life with my partner, financially stable, no kids (by choice!), and am lucky to be established in a career I enjoy. Yes, I do/have cut contact with toxic people when possible & i approach life and relationships knowing everything is temporary and conditional on both sides. That sounds like a downer, but it's liberating for me.

THE QUESTION IS THIS: Am I bullshitting myself about being in a good place with all this? If you were in my shoes would you get to this point and just accept the occasional yikes, or would you try and do therapy or whatever in hopes of really banishing the yikes entirely?

It's looking increasingly likely that my "accomplishment" (the life i've built) is really (or also) just massive avoidance of reminders. I haven't wrestled with/processed or desensitized to, say, seeing a certain place...i just arranged my life so I don't ever go there.

That works for all except people, especially family members. No-contact isn't an option for some complicated reasons. Right now it's all these damn Mothers Day adverts that are pulling things back up front. I have people in my life who are close with theirs and i don't want to piss on that, but unless i go AWOL/incommunicado for the mothers day ad "season" hearing about it and having nice-sounding answers for "how's your mom/what are you doing for her for mothers day?' is an annual mess for me.
 

coraxxx

Sponsor
I don’t think it’s "just" avoidance. Avoidance is something that is ingrained in all mammals—explore what is likeable, avoid what’s unpleasant. It’s one of the tools given to you to operate in life. It’s not something to necessarily… avoid.

Avoidance becomes pathological when you’re avoiding things, places, people or sensations that prevent you to operate in life, not when it helps you to operate in life. I do have a problem with the feeling of joy because it foreshadowed horrible catastrophes. Needless to say I’m very pissed that joy itself is triggering. It’s pretty problematic.

But being avoidant of volatile, violent dudes? I should have been more. And I think my levels now are pretty much reasonable.

Avoidant of certain phone rings? Not super normal, but it doesn’t hurt anyone and it’s easily removed.

So if so far you have achieved a lifestyle that suits you and you feel good into, unless you feel it’s a fiction devoted to cover something else, there isn’t anything wrong in that. You don’t owe to people to stay in contact or not to stay in contact. It’s okay to feel pissed at mother’s day. I f*cking loathe this shit. For myself. Not for others. But I try to avoid having to talk about it because people who don’t understand will tend to insist in how nice it is without seeing that for you it just has such a different meaning, and having to explicit it is sad and somewhat guilt-tripping.

Therapy can help if you feel something isn’t right. I guess it’s the case otherwise you wouldn’t be here. You do decide how much you can tolerate that is problematic to you and only you. I tend to think we have to be capable to tolerate mild to moderate distress, from time to time, but not place ourselves in situations where distress is too high or then milder, but constant. Sometimes it’s possible to end up distressing ourselves by avoiding things that are minor; trapping ourselves in something that is closed off from any uncertainty. There you get your pathological avoidance.

I don’t know if this answers your question, I hope it helps. You can ignore it if not useful.
 

Sideways

Moderator
banishing the yikes entirely?
Is this realistic?

Say I didn't have ptsd. There'd still be things in my life that are uncomfortable, there'd still be situations pop up that are distressing.

Annual Hallmark Card events like Mothers Day...I mean, they can be lovely. But they can also be really distressing to a lot of people for a million different reasons. That's okay.

For me, recovery isn't about achieving eternal happiness or a life free of emotional discomfort. It's about being able to feel content, and not having everyday issues create dysfunction, or intolerable distress.

Mothers Day is obviously a trigger for you. But putting that to one side, given you seem to be very aware of it, and have a coping strategy in place - what sorts of things are you worried you're avoiding?

Feeling 'content' or a sense of achievement can be uncomfortable if you've spent years feeling distressed and uncomfortable. It can even be a source of mistrust or suspicion (when will the other shoe drop...!?). If you're content with your life now, it's okay to enjoy that.
 

whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
I'm 25-ish years post actively living in the circumstances that brought me here. I can go months without any incidents now. Have built a nice life with my partner, financially stable, no kids (by choice!), and am lucky to be established in a career I enjoy. Yes, I do/have cut contact with toxic people when possible & i approach life and relationships knowing everything is temporary and conditional on both sides. That sounds like a downer, but it's liberating for me.

THE QUESTION IS THIS: Am I bullshitting myself about being in a good place with all this?
Honestly, are you happy? Do you feel like you are in a good place?

I don't think anything else matters.
 

kkd

Learning
@Sideways - you're right, that's probably not realistic. Maybe "reduce the overall effect" though.

I also realize, reading y'all's thoughtful answers to my question, that i should've asked something else entirely. That was me not wanting to cave in and actually make a post about having issues about Mothers Day.

@coraxxx - This was a great walk-through and I appreciate it. I guess I don't think i have boxed myself in pathologically, so yay for that part.

What i probably should've asked instead was
1 - "What works for others to reduce impact of something like Mothers Day so you don't feel like it's in your face but you're not being a downer for the huge number of people that think it's great?" and
2 - "what works for others when they are obligated to participate in Mothers Day or caregiving (down the road, but it's expected and i'm local so...) or whatever and those interactions tend to cause a few days of fallout, minimum?"
3 - Is desensitizing one's self to a person even a thing? That seems like the only real fix for this.

@whiteraven - I think the main thing is, I am generally in a pretty damn good place and i get complacent about it. used to it. so when these things pop up it bites me in the ass.

And the weirdness it causes in OTHER relationships is...something. I am not happy with that aspect. It emphasizes the huge chasm of understanding and makes all of those relationships harder and starts the "as soon as they see what a horrible person you are they'll be gone" ideas. It feels lime going from having a social circle network of mutual support and whatnot (at least for other things) 80% of the time to having zero support network in an instant for the other 20%.

Like with my partner, he is close with his mom and i actually don't have trouble doing the dinner with them. But he truly doesn't understand the depth of how dissimilar my thing with my mom is, and his parents like mine so ask when we're going over there, etc. My sibling and my dad (my parents are married) would probably have kittens if I somehow asked to stay close with them but only without mom. That's not a reasonable request. Plus, my mom thinks we're "past this" and I have no interest in salting the earth OR having a reconciliation since we didn't have much of a relationship to mend. If i could somehow just not deal with her & my loved ones didn't expect that I treasure my saintly mum and be vocal about it, I'd be basically issue-free.

I don't want her to acknowledge her part, don't want an apology, don't wish we were close or ever had been. I just don't want her, specifically, in my life and I wish it wasn't seen as some weird or sad thing. I don't want to remain in her life. I don't want my partner, sibling, husband, friends etc. to think I'm the problem when I do not want to hug this woman, receive or give birthday and holiday calls, texts, cards, gifts, visits, etc. I really don't like the well-intended "but she's [age]/won't be around forever, you should spend time with her while you still can." Can we not just agree that their experience of her isn't mine and can we just go back to how awesome THEIR mom and mothers day was/is/will be?

Since that's not likely, I want to just do my time, punch my Dutiful Kid card at the appropriate intervals without a ton of fanfare, and then get outta there and not discuss. I don't even see why people ask why, because no polite surface answer is "enough" and that's all I am willing to give in those instances.

Also - if a mod sees this - I'm pretty sure this wasn't the right section to post in. I'll be honest, I am not sure where it should go, but please put it where ever it actually does make sense.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
I'm pretty sure this wasn't the right section to post in. I'll be honest, I am not sure where it should go, but please put it where ever it actually does make sense.
I think you are talking about avoidance, and so it'll stay here.

What I know about what I'll call selective avoidance - that's what I think of when I read this:
I want to just do my time, punch my Dutiful Kid card at the appropriate intervals without a ton of fanfare, and then get outta there and not discuss. I don't even see why people ask why, because no polite surface answer is "enough" and that's all I am willing to give in those instances.
Like others have said - avoidance isn't always a clinical issue. People avoid all sorts of things. Avoidance rises to the level of being a problem when it causes disruption or distress in your everyday functioning. It sounds like every time you try and do the dutiful kid thing, you are putting yourself under stress, and then exerting energy to stuff those feelings back down.

I suspect this is true of lots of people who aren't dealing with PTSD. Family is hard, generally.

But if family is integrated into the traumatic event? It's tied into the PTSD, and so - you are going to be adding to your stress cup when you break your selective avoidance of the relationship with your mother. Avoiding 90% of the time, but putting yourself through tolerating it 10% of the time, is putting you at odds with yourself. You're not letting yourself fully move in one direction or the other.
I don't want her to acknowledge her part, don't want an apology, don't wish we were close or ever had been. I just don't want her, specifically, in my life and I wish it wasn't seen as some weird or sad thing. I don't want to remain in her life. I don't want my partner, sibling, husband, friends etc. to think I'm the problem when I do not want to hug this woman, receive or give birthday and holiday calls, texts, cards, gifts, visits, etc. I really don't like the well-intended "but she's [age]/won't be around forever, you should spend time with her while you still can." Can we not just agree that their experience of her isn't mine and can we just go back to how awesome THEIR mom and mothers day was/is/will be?
What you're describing here is something I can truly identify with. I'm sorry you feel like you can't go no-contact...I was going through much of the same stuff for a really long time, until I eventually just couldn't anymore, and cut off all communication. And even after that, it still sometimes comes up in me, the frustration of it all.
And the weirdness it causes in OTHER relationships is...something. I am not happy with that aspect. It emphasizes the huge chasm of understanding and makes all of those relationships harder and starts the "as soon as they see what a horrible person you are they'll be gone" ideas. It feels lime going from having a social circle network of mutual support and whatnot (at least for other things) 80% of the time to having zero support network in an instant for the other 20%.

Like with my partner, he is close with his mom and I actually' don't have trouble doing the dinner with them. But he truly doesn't understand the depth of how dissimilar my thing with my mom is, and his parents like mine so ask when we're going over there, etc. My sibling and my dad (my parents are married) would probably have kittens if I somehow asked to stay close with them but only without mom. That's not a reasonable request. Plus, my mom thinks we're "past this" and I have no interest in salting the earth OR having a reconciliation since we didn't have much of a relationship to mend. If i could somehow just not deal with her & my loved ones didn't expect that I treasure my saintly mum and be vocal about it, I'd be basically issue-free.
I'm curious...if you wanted to move this problem with your mother from avoidance to a more proactive, self-serving stance - would it be that you would never have to engage with her again? If you imagine even getting a break from engaging with her for a few years, and being able to answer those questions of "what about your mom/why don't you talk about her", etc, with "I've cut off the relationship with my mother, we're estranged"...would it feel better? To be able to close the door?

I don't think it's a problem that you don't want to reconcile; maybe because I feel the same way. I think forcing yourself to pretend it's all OK a few times out of the year and avoiding it the rest of the time is very likely making the whole situation more painful for you, not less.

Sorry, I don't even think I'm making much sense....

For context: I was abducted when I was an adolescent. It's kind of ridiculous that I even survived it, but I was returned home, and in very, very bad shape. My father was mentally ill, and taking care of him occupied much of my mother's focus. Also, I had always been very very independent from a very young age, to an extent that was pretty extreme. Anyway, while my father was yelling at me for having gotten myself into trouble, my mother was dealing with getting him his meds and calming him down...and then she asked me if I "wanted to see a doctor or anything like that". I said no. And she left me alone. She quietly kept the medicine cabinet stocked with iodine and bandages and painkillers and surgical tape and and and...I had broken ribs, my hands and neck were badly damaged, a cauliflower ear, cuts, bruises, puncture wounds, burns. My memory of looking in the mirror is that I looked like a sack of meat with bloody eyes.

I can't understand why she didn't insist on getting me help. But I spent a long long time finding ways to forget any of it ever happened. But eventually, the depression I'd suffered with for seemingly forever got the better of me, which got me onto meds, which got me well enough to realize I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't engage with her. Just couldn't. So I told her and my father that I was not going to talk to them for awhile - that it was too much to deal with, and no, I didn't know when I'd ever be able to tell them what was going on. And after that, I was able to start working on the trauma with a therapist.

I still don't talk to them. They've eventually figured out how to accept that re-connecting isn't happening. I think all this is easier for me in many ways, because I don't have a partner, I don't have many friends, I don't have an extended family, and I'll never have children. I have siblings, but can't connect with them much because they don't really know this whole story, and it's hard for them being put in the middle.

The point is -
Is desensitizing one's self to a person even a thing? That seems like the only real fix for this.
I do think it's possible to accept that someone isn't able to change, and that you're not willing to live in that space. For me, it's required getting that person as far out of my life as I can, and still - I'll get hit by guilt about it, sometimes. Over the years I think the guilt has lessened. For the most part, I can answer the question "what about your folks, where are they?" with "I'm not in contact with them", and it doesn't feel weird to say, and I don't get the kind of squint-look that I used to get, when I couldn't say it without having to feel like I was dodging the question. Now, it's simply a fact, and I can say it and not be bothered. Doesn't mean it's always OK, but most of the time, I'm not thinking about it. And yeah, this:
1 - "What works for others to reduce impact of something like Mothers Day so you don't feel like it's in your face but you're not being a downer for the huge number of people that think it's great?"
I ignore it. But that's easy for me to do. I don't know how I'd do it in your situation, with a partner who has a good relationship with his own parents.
What i probably should've asked instead was
1 - "What works for others to reduce impact of something like Mothers Day so you don't feel like it's in your face but you're not being a downer for the huge number of people that think it's great?" and
2 - "what works for others when they are obligated to participate in Mothers Day or caregiving (down the road, but it's expected and i'm local so...) or whatever and those interactions tend to cause a few days of fallout, minimum?"
3 - Is desensitizing one's self to a person even a thing? That seems like the only real fix for this.
If you want to start a new thread with these questions specifically, I'd encourage you to do so. They may get more responses that way. General would be a good forum for it.
 

coraxxx

Sponsor
Ah right I understand. It makes sense.

1 - "What works for others to reduce impact of something like Mothers Day so you don't feel like it's in your face but you're not being a downer for the huge number of people that think it's great?"
I personally tend to abort the entire mission and not being there at all. Like, planning my holidays or important work to magically happening at that time. I know it's not a very popular alternative that over time might make people pissed, but for moments I know the thing is meant to set me of fire my own psychological safety goes first. And for the close ones who might need an explanation I explain this.

2 - "what works for others when they are obligated to participate in Mothers Day or caregiving (down the road, but it's expected and i'm local so...) or whatever and those interactions tend to cause a few days of fallout, minimum?"
And if I cannot escape, I try to be of good will while actively avoiding the object of the avoidance (ie, a family party with the old man; I'll try to talk to anyone else and be prosocial but deflect anything that is linked to him). That kind of semi-avoidance is rather costful and triggering because you need to constantly assess what's acceptable and what is not, and very awkward. But it's a strict boundary of mine since I now know with certain science that trying to engage with him is simply worse.

3 - Is desensitizing one's self to a person even a thing? That seems like the only real fix for this.
I don't think this is possible or desirable. It's very much like dissociating all bad feelings linked to that person because there isn't any other choice. Been there, and it sucks. It demands high energy to maintain the dissociation and operate apparently normally, but it's really paving the way for more confusion and having everything coming back to bite you in the ass.

With these things I'm reminded of a George Smiley's quote in a John Le Carré's book: Reason as logic, or reason as motive...or reason as a way of life? ...They don't have to give me reasons. I can write my own damn reasons. And that is not the same...as the half-baked tolerance that comes from no longer caring.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
3 - Is desensitizing one's self to a person even a thing? That seems like the only real fix for this.
Is there a other way of seeing this? What my T has been working with me about this is: not giving someone the power over you. And to understand who that person is. So that you interact from a place of awareness, mindfulness, and a place of stepping out of the games that the person plays.
It's hard, but it's working for me.
I would get drawn in to the dysfunctional dynamics my Mum creates and it would all escalate. But now, I let things wash over me more.
So in a way becoming 'desensitised', but not from a place of numbing or blocking out emotions, but a healthier place of knowing my worth and knowing that my mother's treatment of me is not a sign of my worth.
If that makes any sense?
 

intothelight

Sponsor
Life is too short to allow people or situations to steal your joy and your peace. When a person hits a place in their life when they know who they are, what they want, the treatment in relationships they deserve from others, there is no reason to accept any less, even from family, or especially from family. When a relationship is damaging to your own mental health, then don't engage and honestly that is your business and your choice.
 
P

Paula

OK, the ridiculously long post i did in "you know you have ptsd when..." thread brings me here. Specifically this part:


I'm 25-ish years post actively living in the circumstances that brought me here. I can go months without any incidents now. Have built a nice life with my partner, financially stable, no kids (by choice!), and am lucky to be established in a career I enjoy. Yes, I do/have cut contact with toxic people when possible & i approach life and relationships knowing everything is temporary and conditional on both sides. That sounds like a downer, but it's liberating for me.

THE QUESTION IS THIS: Am I bullshitting myself about being in a good place with all this? If you were in my shoes would you get to this point and just accept the occasional yikes, or would you try and do therapy or whatever in hopes of really banishing the yikes entirely?

It's looking increasingly likely that my "accomplishment" (the life i've built) is really (or also) just massive avoidance of reminders. I haven't wrestled with/processed or desensitized to, say, seeing a certain place...i just arranged my life so I don't ever go there.

That works for all except people, especially family members. No-contact isn't an option for some complicated reasons. Right now it's all these damn Mothers Day adverts that are pulling things back up front. I have people in my life who are close with theirs and i don't want to piss on that, but unless i go AWOL/incommunicado for the mothers day ad "season" hearing about it and having nice-sounding answers for "how's your mom/what are you doing for her for mothers day?' is an annual mess for me.
I don't do mothers or fathers day. Just because they have gone. I give hugs out virtually to friends that are moms or dads. I spend most of everyday totally and completely alone,so I don't get triggured.
 
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