The more it happens, the more I learn, the more I can teach…..
THE MORE IT HAPPENS, THE MORE I LEARN, THE MORE I CAN TEACH… IT’S EXHAUSTING!
In December, 2013, I launched my book. The last five months have been quite the journey. I thought I was prepared, with my “I am determined to change how the world looks at Psychological and Verbal Abuse” resolve. Ha! While my commitment to do this work holds strong, the learning curve emotionally has been profound. Almost all of the feedback has been loving, warm and encouraging. There are those who hate what I have done and I am prepared for that. But it does sting.
My best friend came across a quote that fits my journey out of abuse: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” ~Anne Lamott , Bird by Bird~ And even though I call no one person out on the carpet, I will hold on to these words because the more I write, the safer I feel. I believe in my ability to help people heal from abuse. I am positive of it’s value and I will not stop no matter how hard it gets.
It happened again and, as always, I wonder why. Someone came into my life again last weekend. The venom from that person is palpable. As I sat with friends enjoying a glass of wine along with much laughter, there was a pounding on the door which started another cycle of Psychological and Verbal Abuse for me. This time it happened in front of friends that were able to witness the insanity. That’s only the second time in my adult life that others were able to bear witness. My friend answered the door and was privy to the slew of obscenities, accusations and out of control behavior coming from this person. I watched as the women in the room reacted to what they were hearing. I sat there thinking, “Not again!” After a short time, one of the women said, “Shut the door,” and my friend did. The stunned amazement coming from my friends was quick, as I sat there still thinking, “Not again!” When asked why I was so calm, I replied that I had been dealing with this my whole life and this encounter was a mild attack. They couldn’t believe it. In my thinking, I was glad my outside world was seeing what I have lived through and still experiencing along with my insides doing the survival dance. My PTSD reaction up in arms, ready for my fight or flight response to spring in to action. My lifelong quagmire of confusion along with my vomitotus-too-muchas causing me to be rigidly on guard, ready to react.
Pound, pound, pound. The person is back. “Don’t answer it,” came a unanimous response from the women. I sat there again thinking, “Not again!” The door was not answered, but that did not stop the verbal barrage coming from the other end of the door. When it ended, I decided it was time for me to leave. I was angry that these women were frightened by the wrath on the other side of the door. One of the woman started to cry and shake, deeply affected by what was happening. I suspect this triggered her own PTSD reaction from her life.
I asked someone to walk me to my car as I grabbed my dog and put on my knapsack. Turning around, the toughest in the group said, “Come on, I’ll take you to your car.” She was holding a large knife and bear mace. My insides wanted to scream out. The scene unfolding before me was so not okay. The potential for the situation spiraling out of control had reached insanity. I said, “Call the police.” They did. As I sat waiting for the police, the women expressed disbelief over what was happening. Again I explained that this was my story, my life.
After some time of waiting for the police, I decided to leave. I just wanted to go home to my safety. I walked out to my car, my dog in my arms thinking, “There’s no place like home.” When I got to my car I saw the person creating chaos had parked me in so I could not leave. The car was right on my bumper and I was trapped, forced to stay. I went back inside and waited for the police. The woman who was triggered was still crying and shaking. It broke my heart to watch her. It also made me angry.
A police officer finally showed up. He was kind and I was grateful. After explaining the situation to him, he informed me that the person who created the chaos had called the police on me stating that a restraining order had been served to me and I was violating it. That was a lie. The police officer left to talk to this person. He did not return. I decided again to leave. I ran out to see the person car had been removed. Inside, gathering my belongings and my dog, the officer returned. He informed the women that if they were harassed again to call the police and the intruder would be arrested. Then the officer and his partner followed me home to my safe haven. The women had to endure repeated poundings on the door and explosive verbal barrages. They chose not to call the police. I stayed away from my friend’s home for the remainder of the weekend. I received numerous texts and voice-mails telling me what a worthless human being I was. And I say, “Not again!” I, too, chose not to call the police.
In abuse and in my book I talk about how the body reacts to abuse. The physical reaction that has nothing to do with the brain and thinking. Even though my mental feelings stayed in control and I was able to separate out the abuse from myself, something I am not responsible for, my body reacted. I was thrilled that my emotional journey away from abuse was working, but my physical reaction was not participating. My oxymoron.
That night, my kidney’s started screaming and my stomach felt like it had a bowling ball in it. I was in pain. The pain proceeded to increase throughout the weekend. By Monday, I was scared. A wonderful doctor, Dave Criste, DC, CVCP, who has taken my body journey with me, met with me that day. I was confused about why my body reacted once again when my mind held firm to my recovery out of abuse. You see, I have had what I call body blows for years after an abusive episode and had come so far in my recovery. Dave explained that I would not be able to stop my bodies reaction to abuse. When an incident occurs, my adrenal response to stress goes off the chart and my body blows. But there are things I can do about it.
I came across an article titled, “Stress and Adrenal Function,” that I found online from the Thornton Natural Healthcare Center, LLC – Alternative Medicine and Diagnostic Clinic in Stockton, MO. It helped me understand what my body goes through after an abusive episode. I share this article with you as it is helping me make sense of my quagmire of confusion. Note: The parts of the article in italics are things I added and personally understand about my own reaction.
Stress and Adrenal Function
Stress can undermine your health. The connection between stress and high blood pressure, heart disease, and many digestive problems is well established in the medical literature. Stress creates hormonal and blood sugar changes, causes the body to excrete nutrients and adversely affects the immune system.
The adrenal glands are directly affected by stress. They are responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response. Hans Selye, MD, who in 1975 created the International Institute of Stress, conducted some experiments creating stress in rats. The rats were made to tread water with their legs tied until they became exhausted and died.
Dr. Selye took the rats at various stages of their ordeal and dissected out their adrenal glands. He found that the adrenal glands responded to stress in three distinct stages. In the initial stage, the adrenal glands enlarge and the blood supply to them increases. As the stress continues, the glands begin to shrink. Eventually, if the stress continues, the glands reach the third stage, which is adrenal exhaustion. (This is where I was physically after the abusive episode, Exhaustion!)
The adrenal glands produce their hormones in response to stress. They are responsible for the fight or flight response, (PTSD). In a stressful situation, they raise your blood pressure, transfer blood from your intestines to your extremities, increase your heart rate, suppress your immune system and increase your blood’s clotting ability. (I will add here that your vision becomes more focused and your ears shut off in survival mode and the blood leaves your digestive system and goes to your muscles so you can fight or flight. I better understand that I can’t always remember what happened in an abusive episode, but I can always tell you how I physically felt).
This response is meant to be short-lived. When primitive man walked through the forest, he’d see a wild animal. His heart rate would increase, his pupils would dilate, his blood would go out of his digestive system and into his arms and legs, his blood clotting ability would improve, he would become more aware and his blood pressure would rise. At that point he’d either pick up a stick and try to fight the animal or run. The physiological changes brought on by the adrenal glands would make the body more efficient at doing either of those things. It is called the fight or flight response.
If he survived the ordeal, chances are it would be a while before such a strain was put on the adrenal glands and the rest of his body. He would have an opportunity to relax, eat nuts and berries (and a little meat from the wild animal, if he was lucky). His adrenal glands would have a chance to recover.
Many people in modern society do not have the luxury of a recovery period for their overworked adrenal glands. The changes caused by the overproduction of adrenal hormones stay with them. The stimulation of the adrenal glands causes a decrease in the immune system function, so an individual under constant stress will tend to catch colds and have other immune system problems, including allergies. Blood flow to the digestive tract is decreased. Stress causes many digestive problems such as indigestion, colitis and irritable bowel. Adrenal hormones cause an increase in the blood clotting ability, so prolonged stress can lead to formation of arterial plaque and heart disease.
Worrying makes your adrenal glands work. Relaxing and thinking peaceful thoughts enables them to rest and heal. That is why Yoga and meditation are so good for you. You go a long way in preserving your health and energy if you do not fret about things over which you have no control. (You cannot control abuse, you can only leave it). It’s the amount of worry and not necessarily the size of the problem that stresses your adrenal glands. If you worry a lot about little problems, you do as much damage to your adrenal glands as someone who really has a lot of stress. If you can control your worrying when under stress, you minimize the damage stress does to your health. A wise man once said that worry is interest paid in advance on money you haven’t even borrowed yet.
Selye described the progression of stress on the adrenal glands as the general adaptation syndrome. The first stage is called the alarm reaction. This is when someone (with healthy adrenal glands) can perform amazingly well when the need arises. The primitive man, seeing the saber-tooth tiger, was able to run faster than he ever dreamed possible during the alarm reaction. If the stress continues, the body moves into the resistance stage, during which the adrenal glands become enlarged. The individual is responding to the stress and handling it. He or she may feel keyed up. The person may have cold, clammy hands, a rapid pulse or reduced appetite, but hasn’t begun to feel any of the more serious symptoms of the next stage. During the exhaustion stage the adrenal glands begin to fail to meet the demands placed upon them. During this stage, the individual begins to have a variety of symptoms including fatigue, digestive problems, obesity, depression, dizziness, fainting, allergies and many other problems. (For me, my lower back went out, my kidney area on both sides where in pain and the feeling of the bowling ball in my stomach increased as my stomach popped out. I felt like I had an inner-tube around that region that was inflamed and painful. I stay in a hyper fight or flight reaction and become very focused on everything around me).
People with weak adrenal glands frequently crave coffee and sugar, as well as salt. Sugar and caffeine stimulate the adrenal glands. It’s as if your adrenal glands are two horses towing a wagon load of bricks up a mountain. Sugar or caffeine is the whip you use to get the horses to keep trying. What they need to get to the top of the mountain is nourishment and a rest period. (As I read this, I sit here with my cup of coffee thinking about what kind of chocolate I want to eat tonight).
To effectively treat the adrenal glands, you must eliminate as much stress from your life as possible. Emotional stress is the kind of stress most people think of when stress is mentioned, but there are many different kinds of stress. Thermal stress results from being exposed to extremes of temperature; physical stress from heavy physical work, poor posture, structural misalignment’s, lack of sleep and being overweight; and chemical stress from ingestion of food additives, exposure to pollutants and consumption of sugar and alcohol. Changes in blood sugar are also a form of chemical stress. Eating frequent, small meals is often very helpful, since people suffering from hypoadrenia are often hypoglycemic (having low blood sugar).
Situations are not always controllable, (Abuse is not controllable), but stress is. Stress is cumulative. Emotional, structural, and chemical stress all affect the body the same way. Your adrenal glands do not know the difference between an IRS audit, treading water, or excessive sugar consumption; excess sugar consumption will add to the stress of the IRS audit.
If you reduce the stress that you can control, stressful situations will not have as much of a physical effect on you. For instance, eating frequent meals and avoiding sugar will reduce stress on the adrenal glands. So even if you can’t do anything about Aunt Millie and Uncle Edgar coming to spend the summer, you can reduce your stress by controlling your diet. Also, how you think of the stress will make a difference in the health of your adrenal glands. Aunt Millie’s handy tips on how you should raise your kids or clean your house, or Uncle Edgar’s penchant for eating everything that isn’t nailed down (without offering to pay for groceries) won’t stress your adrenal glands if you don’t focus on it.
If you can’t change your work situation, then improve your diet and get plenty of rest. Change how you think about your job situation. Focus on the positive: You do have a job, you do eat regular meals. (Much of the world doesn’t). Just do the best you can and think of the things you can’t control in positive terms. To quote the great teacher and spiritual advisor, Yogi Babaganoush, “Chill out man.” Think to yourself, “What could be good about this situation?” Then take a minute to really look for positive answers.
Hanging on to anxiety over past situations is stressful. Thought has power. Worry gives you all of the physiologic responses of Selye’s rats or the caveman facing the wild animal. It’s a waste of energy and it undermines your health.
Your adrenal glands simply don’t know the difference between imagined danger and real danger. (As I say in my book, my real or imagined fear. To me it was all the same). Think about it; if you hear a noise at night and think it’s the wind, you can go back to sleep. If you think it’s an intruder you can’t get back to sleep even after you get up to investigate. The thought of facing an intruder made the adrenal glands start producing their hormones.
Meditation and biofeedback have been of such value in controlling stress. They don’t help with the situation, just how you perceive it and your body’s response to the stress. Doctors are beginning to find that laughter helps the prognosis of cancer patients.
Minimizing chemical stress is also important. We have plenty of chemical stress today. Environmental pollution, food additives, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine contribute stress to your adrenal glands. You must remove chemical stresses from your diet—effortlessly and without putting yourself under pressure. Gradually improve your diet by removing chemical additives. Move toward a more organic way of eating. Enjoy the change without fretting over how your diet isn’t perfect yet.
Ironically, stress often makes you crave the foods that are bad for you. While under stress, it is hard to be diligent in keeping additives and refined sugar out of the diet. Clients often complain that they have no time and can’t eat properly. Lack of time really isn’t the problem because raw nuts, fruits, and vegetables take no time to prepare. Lack of time is usually used as an excuse to give in to craving the wrong foods. Once you understand that, you can eat healthily with little effort.
Eating sugar and skipping meals are two things that are especially stressful to the adrenal glands, which work to maintain your blood sugar level. Eating sugar causes a temporary increase in blood sugar, which soon drops. Skipping meals also causes the blood sugar to drop. The adrenal glands then have to work to increase the blood sugar. Hypoadrenia and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) usually exist together. Disclaimer: © 2014 Thornton Natural Healthcare Centre, LLC. All rights reserved.© 2014 Thornton Natural Healthcare Centre. All Rights Reserved. 205 South St., Stockton, MO 65785 | Phone: 417.276.6306.