Tag Archives: #healing

Calmer Than Your Are. Losing my Cool, Walter Sobchak, and PTSD.

Me, always.

“No, Walter. You’re not wrong. You’re just an asshole,” The Dude (Jeff Bridges) admits to his bowling buddy Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) in The Cohen Brothers 1998 Noir film meets the end of The California Dream, The Big Lebowski.

I would accept that description of myself. If I also were not wrong and an asshole so often. I get it often enough, but my reactions need help. I am not to the point of pulling a piece in a bowling alley, yet. But my anger response to a perceived wrong, lack of set rules, or disruption is not too far from Walter’s.

Walter is a damaged Vietnam Vet with PTSD. He is divorced, yet still cares for his ex-wife’s dog, and strictly observes Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. He is a man trying to cling to structures with meaning. They ground and reassure him. And when his routines, rituals, and structure gets disrupted, he lashes out as only John Goodman can. Big and loud.

In an early scene we see him casually talking with The Dude, the old hippie, and Donny, their ex-surfer friend, when he screams “OVER THE LINE!” to an offending bowler.

Calm but deadly serious.
To pulling a piece.
To threatening a bowler at gun point.

Walter clings to structures for comfort. His reaction is to overwhelm others by enforcing the rules, at gun point if need be. He even needs to control when his friend Donny speaks and corrects The Dude’s use of an Asian slur. By the end of the film though, we realize that under all that camo and tactical gear is a scared 18 year old kid who lived through “a world of hurt.” In fact, it turns out he is not even Jewish. He converted for his ex-wife.

But it is Walter who quickly realizes the solution to the mystery of the rug that really tied the room together. He even mentions how “Un-Dude” his friend is being for getting hung up on the “ins and outs.” And he goes whole hog in his attempts to help The Dude on his quest. These are all traits of PTSD. The clinging, whether to habits or routines, rules or people. The shit-losing when anything pops its head into his life with an unwelcome thought. And yet he stares down arch-rival bowler, The Jesus, while Dude stammers. And he will mess up a couple of Nihilists who killed your car with a quickness.

His tears at the end signal the restoration of order and peace for him. The Dude needs Walter. But Walter also needs The Dude. Because The Dude is the one man chill enough to give Walter the grace to forgive himself. When Walter apologizes, The Dude says, “Fuck it, man.”

What the movie doesn’t explicitly show, however, is the embarrassment of being Walter. We with PTSD are simply not cool like The Dude. We tend to be rigid, hold ourselves rigidly, follow routines, and construct a framework to hang the point of life on. And that protects us from the scary truth that our suffering was and is pointless. As all suffering is.

The end result is sometimes you just lose your cool and freak out in a diner over the accessibility of a severed toe. Then Pride holds him in that diner seat long after he has embarrassed himself and The Dude.

Embarrassment, shame, self-loathing, or disgust generally fill the calm after the fit has passed. And it is something I have had to face down fiercely as I do my last days to week in this hotel room. All of my life is uncertain right now. All structure is gone. I have formed habits already to keep me sane in this room. But after living in fear and uncertainty for seven months now, I have had my share of outbursts.

But I have come to realize that I do not have to sit in the diner where I embarrassed myself. Walter eventually breaks down in tears, admits how wrong he had been, and apologizes to The Dude, and to Donny posthumously. “Fuck it.” Says The Dude, as they head off into the sunset to the lanes.

Feeling the shame, getting unbent, and apologizing are the keys. And if you are lucky enough, you will have friends who tell you to “Fuck it” and go bowling. I mean, in the end, all that is wrong — and there is plenty to go around in this world — sometimes flips our asshole switch. And it feels awful. Nobody wants to lose their cool. Good thing all those cool Dudes need us as much as The Dude needs Walter. Because we will do anything to get back your goddamn rug that really tied the room together! Eh, fuck it. Let’s roll.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’™πŸ’›πŸ––πŸΌπŸŒ»

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One Year of Trauma Therapy 2. Learning to Look Forward

Here’s to shedding the weight of the past.

This is my new minimalist art. Last week it was “The White Album” and White whales, this week it is all about black because it is slimming, “I have that which passeth shew,” ” ’cause black is how I feel on the inside,” and all the reasons cited by Johnny Cash. Pick one.

Last week I took a trip through my first year of trauma informed therapy. This week is more challenging. Looking forward! I say challenging because of all I have gone through — particularly the reason I am still writing from a hotel room — getting run out of town by psychotic neckbeards. But also because I was stuck. Weighted down. Angry, listless, and depressed by turns. I had lost any sense of who I was or was becoming.

A perspicacious woman once told me I was very “intentional.” I am a fan of plans and planning. It is very much like only wearing black. What should I wear? Black. What should I do? Check the plan.

We plan and the gods laugh. I know. I am Greek.  And inevitably your black clothes will stop matching as they fade. Last January I had no reason to think I would be living in a hotel room.  But I did begin the work of thinking about where I was in life, and where I wanted to be. And, as an unexpected side effect, I added color to my closet.

I wanted to look and feel like myself again. The Pandemic weight upset my self-image. I was depressed. And that made me feel and look old. Even my posture had become hunched. And no amount of black tunic tops was hiding anything as they got scrubby looking and dull.

So I started a mens sana in corpore sano  (healthy mind in a healthy body) journey that helped push me to think more about where I was going, and aided me through the unending trauma that was nearly every day since July back at the former [ducking] house. And I got some clothes…with color!

I went back to yoga. I first got into yoga and meditation as a teen when I was reading a lot about The Beatles. I was a good gymnast as a kid. Yoga seemed to come naturally. And I took two semesters of yoga in college with a great teacher. And it worked hand in glove with my anatomy classes (yay art school).

But I really committed last year, and I have done about 669 yoga classes since then. Maybe half were Sun Salutations, but still!

Yoga means “practice.” So you could think of all life as yoga, as practice. And like life, it is not static. Neither is it all “aaaaah.” I curse plenty at the lovely Australian woman on my favorite yoga app. Yoga requires focus. You work with your mind, breath, and body. Even in stillness, your breath moves you, as you hold your mind and body in gentle intention.

That gentle intention is called your “sankalpa,” and it took time me to find. Simply, a sankalpa is a short sentence in the first person, present tense that signifies your reason for any practice, it can be “I keep my floors clean,” “I do not drink alcohol,” or “I bring peace to the world.”

It is both a heartfelt desire and a promise, and it is gentle. I spent a lot of time in meditation and yoga nidra searching for my sankalpa. And it turned out to be very simple. It was as strong and flexible as my body and mind were becoming. And it was always there. But life, past experiences, traumas, hang ups, difficulties of all sorts crusted it over, and I became hardened to even myself.

Through my work in therapy, and the work we did to find the softening of the the body that allows us to truly listen to ourselves, I came to see what I had forgotten. And my journey now consists in continuously bringing my mind back to my sankalpa, what I give myself as a purpose, my heart’s desire, my promise to myself.

Of course, a promise is nothing. Air, pixels, ink in a certain form and order. Unless you honor yourself and the one you make the promise to. In this case, both parties are you. But having a practice, a promise, and are committed, gently, to honoring yourself helps.

You respect and honor yourself. And you honor your promises. Practice that for a while. Sit with it. Move with it. Breathe into and through it. And suddenly old Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes — that if one is true and honest with oneself, you will be honest and true to others — will change your way of seeing and being.

Your sankalpa is your own. It is not shared. Please do not ask your yoga class crush, “So, what is your sankalpa?” Protect what is precious, gently.

And you thought the whale post was esoteric! I did go through a change, a shedding of mental, emotional, physical weight. Of crusty old thoughts and feels. And of pilled up black tunic tops with bleach stains.

I have bright pink, purple, and blue yoga tops! Pink walking shoes?! And you cannot go around in yoga pants (now with pockets!) without tennis socks in fun colors. And you know what else? I can still just order five packs of everything from Amazon, and switch out dirty yoga top to clean yoga top of different color! Fancy.

So, after a lot of softening, strengthening, shedding, and clarity seeking: I decided on my sankalpa. And here I am, still in my hotel room, living it now. Practice can only lead to exploring where this will lead me, but I have a general idea, gods willing and the crick don’t rise.

So, that is where I am, and where I am looking to go. The woman who helped lead me here, my therapist of the last year, with whom I have to part ways. In her shining smile and laugh dwelt hundreds of happy fairies. Her gentleness, boundless joy and compassion, and halo of light around her blond hair, made me think of Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings. And she did possess a light, like the bottled starlight the Elven Lady of Lorien gave to Frodo to light his way when all other lights went out. It is as awake as a plunge into ice water; a diamond reflecting warmth, strength, kindness, and love, gently.

Thank you for everything Haley. Including the homework! I love professional students. I am looking forward to this new stage of my life. I went through an enforced crisis. I know what I can do. And I have every confidence that something is bound to turn up!

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸ’πŸŽΈβ„οΈ

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Your Top 5 Questions on Why Your Narcissistic Abuser Does What They Do and What to Do About it Answered

“…and Heaven knows I’m miserable now.” Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, The Smiths (Marr/Steven Morrissey), 1984

As I recover from my abuse and trauma, I’ve spent a lot of time on forums for folks who have experienced abuse or have a Narcissist in their life. Reading the questions and experiences of these folks has been eye-opening and educational.

Did you know there are Covert Narcissists? Covert Malignant Narcissists? That Narcissistic Abusers and Borderline Personality Disorders are different? I didn’t. But now that I have explored the subject, I’d like to answer the five most common questions regarding why Narcissists, BPDs, and abusers abuse, and what to do about it.

*Note: these are similar to questions I have seen, and not actual questions and/or concerns from real individuals.

1) Why did my Narc boyfriend call it quits, date another person, then start calling me six months later like nothing happened?

Because he’s a jerk who is playing mind games with you. Block his number, and block him on social media. Seek therapy, learn to value yourself, and waste no more time on him. Get out and live!

2) Why does my Covert Malignant Narcissist girlfriend keep saying she needs space, then begs me to take her back?

Because she’s a selfish jerk who is leading you on by playing childish mind games. Block her number and block her on social media. Then learn to love yourself. Try seeing a therapist trained in helping folks like yourself move on, and get on with your life! Best of luck to you!

3) Why did my Narc abuser divorce me after 4 years of marriage? What did I do wrong?

You did zero things wrong! Now that your abuser has left your life, thank your lucky stars. Block their phone number and block them on social media. Please look to your own self-care now. Be thankful that you only spent 4 years with them and not 40, or didn’t end up in a hospital or worse There are several hotlines for victims of abuse (try your local YWC/JA) that can point you in the direction of a trained trauma therapist who can help you heal, move on, and live the rest of your life as the best you possible. You may also want to speak with your own doctor. They may want to check you for physical damage. They can also give you a referral, or point you to other resources. Some states offer financial and other assistance for victims of crimes in your state. In mine it’s called the Victim Compensation and Assistance Program (VCAP). This program does not require a police report or court proceeding. Your local YWC/JA also may offer services such as therapy, housing assistance, etc. I wish you healing and the very best in your new abuse-free life.

4) How do I deal with a Narcissistic parent now that I’m a parent? My spouse can’t stand them, and doesn’t want them anywhere near our child. What should I do?

First, congratulations on the new addition to your family! Being a new parent is an enormous undertaking that will take all your patience, effort, and time. So why add to your anxieties and exhaustion by allowing a cruel and abusive grandparent to torture you and your spouse? Is that even the type of person you want around the new, fresh little person you’ve both created? Listen to your gut and your spouse’s concerns. And don’t let this person continue the cycle of abuse. BrenΓ© Brown has wonderful advice on setting boundaries in her books and Podcast. If setting boundaries doesn’t help, block their number and block them on social media. Find a doula or a local young person to help with babysitting and childcare. It’s a lot cheaper than the therapy your child will have to go through being near this toxic person. But please consider therapy for yourself. Many insurances now pay for tele-psych/therapy, which could better fit your new schedule. Learn to love yourself, and good luck to you and your spouse on your new family.

5) Why is my Narcissistic parent trying to turn my family against me, and what do I do? I feel like everyone hates me now! I love them, what should I do?

I am so, so sorry you are dealing with this. Unfortunately, most folks can have children, and that includes selfish, rigid, or abusive folks. It will never be easy to accept that your parent can’t or won’t be able to offer you the love you crave, need, and deserve.Β  Take heart in the fact that your parent’s behavior is probably well-known in your family. I suggest blocking them on social media and their phone number as a first step. Get a good therapist trained in family trauma and abuse to help you learn that you are not to blame, and to love and cherish yourself. It may also be worthwhile to reach out to your family individually and reestablish one on one contact with them. But be warned, folks like your parent are skilled at pitting people against one another, and they may have recruited others. There’s not much you can do in that case, but do seek out support from friends and family that truly love you. And build yourself a support system with them, or a therapist, doctor, school counselor, coach, or pastor, anyone you trust. You’ll soon discover that your life will be a lot more peaceful, with room to let yourself bloom and grow. Focus on your own interests, hobbies, and life, and surround yourself with those who truly love and support you. Life is difficult, chaotic, and messy, don’t let those who make it worse into your life. And always remember, you are deserving of love, even though you may not feel that way now. Through practice and time, you will learn to stop blaming yourself, feeling unworthy, or ashamed. And grow into the beautiful, loving, and best you possible. Take care of yourself, and all the best to you in your journey.

I hope many of you find this helpful and learn to step out of the dark shadow where abuse thrives. Stop attempting to understand your abuser. And learn instead to turn the soft light of your own compassionate and loving heart on your fears, wounds, shame, your worst moments, and your most raw and painful nerve. I invite you to try this meditation from Sara Blondin’s book “Heart Minded.” It’s the 6th track, but all are both useful and healing. And from the depths of my heart, I wish you healing, love, and a joyful life.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ’πŸŒˆπŸ––πŸΌ

While you’re here: check out the wonderful work done by NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Illness. Use their resources to find free help or donate.

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