Struggling with Conditioned Responses: Seeking Support

lilycholie

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Hello, this is my first post here. I was diagnosed with PTSD from childhood abuse and what some would classify as torture.

I suffer from conditioned trauma responses that are hard to manage. My core belief was that I exist as a trophy for my parents and that I belong in academia, I understand at a logical level that these are not true, however, my actions still reflect these core beliefs. I have been conditioned into associating laziness, unproductivity, or failure with suicide. I was told by my mother that the appropriate response to flunking out was to kill myself, as my life has no meaning beyond my grades. I used to believe that these teachings were completely true, not anymore, but my body's response is still the same.

I'm in college and I'm having a hard time right now, I can only partake in relaxation and self-care for a short amount of time because prolonged breaks (usually over 1 hour) will cause me to have suicidal thoughts. I'm really tired of dedicating every waking moment to my assignments. I feel like I have no future outside of academics. I'm terrified of the idea of taking a leave of absence because many of my past attempts happened during summer breaks when I was unable to bring myself to study as much as I do in school. There are times when I am too tired to study and I physically can't make myself study, which fuels suicidal thoughts that make it so I cannot mentally recover. I am so tired.

I'm in therapy, but things are going very slowly, mostly because of my dissociative disorder which created parts that hold onto harmful beliefs and closed off any communication we once had, as well as dissociative barriers that make it extremely difficult to process some memories.

I can rarely relate to other trauma survivors because my triggers were targeted and somewhat planned, others deal with their triggers and stressors by avoiding them, but avoiding a stressor for me is its own trigger. I know I have to be patient in therapy, but I find it hard sometimes. I wish I could find somebody who could relate.
 
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I can rarely relate to other trauma survivors because my triggers were targeted and somewhat planned, others deal with their triggers and stressors by avoiding them, but avoiding a stressor for me is its own trigger. I know I have to be patient in therapy, but I find it hard sometimes. I wish I could find somebody who could relate.
Avoiding triggers never works long term, doing so just increases the strength and number of triggers, shrinking one’s world smaller & smaller, often to the point where people don’t even leave the house, or a room in the house, or are living on the street -or hospital- unable to function whatsoever. It’s bad business, overall.

Here’s a great place to start with that >>> How to use triggers as a means to recovery?
 
Avoiding triggers never works long term, doing so just increases the strength and number of triggers, shrinking one’s world smaller & smaller, often to the point where people don’t even leave the house, or a room in the house, or are living on the street -or hospital- unable to function whatsoever. It’s bad business, overall.

Here’s a great place to start with that >>> How to use triggers as a means to recovery?
Thanks for the link! I'll be reading up on it.
 
I'm in college and I'm having a hard time right now, I can only partake in relaxation and self-care for a short amount of time because prolonged breaks (usually over 1 hour) will cause me to have suicidal thoughts
It’s a catch-22. Without the self-care, the mental illness causing that suicidal response will persist. Essentials for me personally? Exercise (at least 30 minutes a day) and guided relaxation (at least 30 minutes a day, which I do when I go to bed, so no actual time lost).

Exercise in particular is the cheapest and, so far, still the single most effective way to combat depression.

But yeah, it’s not easy. I use ACT-skills, particularly thought diffusion, to coexist alongside suicidal thoughts, so they don’t make decisions for me anymore. And I coupled that with value-driven choices (also ACT), to help me combat some very dysfunctional core beliefs that were conditioned into me through my traumatic experiences.

And if you’re not already? Having a T who can help you learn and apply those skills? Could be amazingly helpful.
 
We used academic achievement to avoid our terrors, too (double major, then Ph.D., then mid-career M.S.). Good luck on your journey, and hope you find the right balance in your life so that you can move forward. For what it's worth, we have a government research job, and not an academic job.

Speaking about our own life, we find that keeping busy is very important to keep the demons at bay, but the keeping busy list is no longer tied to work. On weekends, we often make a list of activities that will keep us grounded and content. We agree with @Sideways that exercise is key, but other things on the list don't have to conform with others' definition of self-care. We find sweeping the house and folding laundry to be good things to do, for example. Those things allow our brain to rest but not to wander. You get to decide what "self-care" means!
 
@lilycholie this isn't very helpful, but just to say you are wise if you can already isolate some of the beliefs. I think if they can be replaced (especially with a good connotation instead) there can be more room for peace, joy and some healing. Shocking how they bleed through life invisibly.

Welcome to you. 😊
 
For similar reasons I have similar responses. I had to learn to sit and do nothing. Initially did not last a minute as I was either scanning environment for something to do or jumping up to do. It took a lot of practice to get to five minutes. I had to create my own strategies really as most being offered were used as triggers. Most often I needed to recognize what was a deliberate trigger built in to keep me held to these standards even though the people who put them in are no longer around and in many cases deceased. Doing the opposite was a helpful but difficult strategy and needed to be paired with the question did anything bad happen when you countered and did your own thing.
 
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