Lessons Learned From My Successful Family Trip

Hello All,

Thank you all for your public and private expressions of support for my trip last week. It’s (terminally) difficult for me to reach out for help, but you overwhelmed me with support – yo Cami wow Emily, you are real and people care for you.

Really. (jaw drop)

I went through a really tough time preparing, and have reflected on the outcome to learn. And you know what? **Nods** It worked. I did it!  **Smile**

In this post, I want to thank you all. And I also want to talk about the trip, what happened, what surprises worked, and some takeaways for me and perhaps for you on challenging situations.

OMG What did I do?

I conceived and planned this trip in a very idealistic state – wanting all the best, reconnecting, life is good, etc. Wanting so much to be who I want to be. And who I can be. Who I really am inside … if I could just heal … I could be … who I know I am somewhere inside.

and therein lies the disconnect.

As you all know, your state of mind changes day to day; minute to minute sometimes. And then, well you know, that whole reality thing. Sigh.

I told my therapist that I was in a struggle, feeling trapped about my upcoming trip, and she asked if I could postpone it until I was more prepared and stabilized to both handle it and enjoy it. Based on events, I couldn’t. I hadn’t discussed a trip with her before I booked the flight (bad bad girl – this “mistake” was realized several days later). So we worked hard to prepare.

You remember how I pleaded to you at the last minute. My (stupidly late) final hour realization that YOU are my unique support network because you understand first-hand how this works…

You should know that my therapist was very pleased that I was able to reach out to you. She knows about this blog but I haven’t shared the link yet.  But she recognizes what this does for me.  So THANK YOU doubly!

To the meat of things

You folks offered many great suggestions, and I did use several successfully. Some of you had great ideas but I couldn’t use them under these specific circumstances. Regardless, I want to THANK YOU ALL for responding so quickly and for being there for me. And for offering your email addresses 24 hours. Wow!

Since you all helped me, let me tell you what happened. Full circle. Let me tell you a surprise that made it all so much easier. And a “silly idea” that paid off big time.

My therapist has figured me out in many ways. She knows I’m smart and very quick on my feet, and she baits me, appealing to my intellect to make me connect the dots. She’s good.

So as we prepared, her overreaching advice to me was this:

You are smart and evaluate situations quickly. I’ve seen you do this. So when you are there, do what you do best. Take each situation and evaluate it. You do it quickly. And trust your ability to find solutions to unknown situations.

In the past, I would have written this off as a BS psychology cop-out. But since I’ve grown to respect her and to acknowledge that she has her finger on my button (so to speak), I trusted that.

And it worked. Unexpectedly.

The basics of my “success”

I arrived exhausted and jet-lagged. 3 AM alarm wakeup for the flight – 8 hours with layover.  I arrived kinda freaked. (Let’s be honest, I was FREAKED enough based on all of that – PLUS I was having that total out-of-body disconnect numbness that often proceeds a switch or some missing time. I didn’t recognize the airport or her car.  I prayed she would spot me first and wave.) And scared I would have to “perform” in this state.

But as soon as my sister-in-law picked me up, she commented that I was probably tired and hungry. (YES!) So we grabbed some food and headed to her house.

Luckily, taking a nap was therefore not an issue, so I tried. I SHOULD have been able to nap. But instead, I just went ahead and had a panic attack. God. Laying there saying to myself, “Asshole! You’ve got the time and space to regroup and you CAN’T!?!”  FREAK FREAK FREAK!

<Well sweetheart, ain’t no nap happening here!>

So yes, I know, everybody just pause and yell at me in unison,

“Well DUH!”

**laughing, rolls eyes**

Anyway, so I got up to take part of a Xanax and try napping again, but my SIL commented that wow, I’d had a quick nap! I barfed out that I hadn’t even gone DOWN yet – I was tired and upset and distraught and I perhaps I could have hidden my distress from her, but I didn’t.  I revealed to her my face, and I almost cried. So tired, so revealed.  (Again, so trusting.  “Are you being too trusting again, Emily?)

She came to me and said something, I don’t remember what. Something nonthreatening.  Something supportive, and that she understood the panic. That she understood the thumping heart that wouldn’t stop.  What did she say?  I don’t remember, but from her posture, her face, her obvious recognition … I got the tacit OK that it was safe to drop the wall a little bit more.

I remember considering, and then allowing the sequestered tears to fall.  Gently, I cried.  She hugged.  We were the same.  She understood. No drama, a powerful (for me) milestone achieved in less than a minute.

Then she offered me a Xanax.

<Yo, she had Xanax?>

(That evil horribly-addicting substance I should admonish my meds doc for prescribing???)

Well, that was the turning point.

?!?

Long story short, she’s seeing a therapist for something very common (and unrelated), and she completely understood my stress and joblessness (the excellent TRUE cover story) and panic. And she hugged me. Genuinely. So I downed the drug <heh heh, my little pink pill and not her little pink pill> and calmed down. She just accepted my stress and crying as “Yo, been there done that.”

That single moment was the turning point. Suddenly, I felt like everything was going to be okay. That even if I needed space, if I needed the walk, and even if I just randomly broke down and cried, that it would Be Okay. That she was BESIDE me.

For someone who has MASSIVE problems reaching out to a support system, this was a shock to me. Maybe normal to the rest of the world. 😉

It made the rest of the trip so much easier.

I had fun in pockets, did fine in pockets, and had some personal “issues” in private. Overall, I got through it and enjoyed a lot of it! And I believe that they all did as well!

Stuff I learned

(So today, here I am being the analytical “problem solver” and Monday Morning Quarterback rather than the distraught and emotional girl who pleaded to you last week … although I think the conclusions of all this are probably shared.)

Here’s what I learned from all this. You all suggested good stuff – but let me summarize the fundamental aspects from my experience on *this* trip. Stuff I think (hope) is transferable.

1. Try to realize that as much as each of us are different, we share unexpected commonalities with others. Even with those who seem “happy and have it all together.” Don’t assume you are “less-than.”

2. Have an plausible plan for handling emergency (“must get out of house”) situations. And try to internalize that “emergency” is a relative term – if you NEED SPACE NOW, this is an emergency on a different plane than HOUSE IS FILLING WITH SMOKE. Please note – for us, both FEEL the same, but to OTHERS, they’re not. So, to them, you’re taking a fcking walk. On the phone with someone. No Big Deal.  Real Life Happens.  So don’t worry about what they think.

(Sounds simplistic?  Well, know what?  I learned it takes a LOT to set off most people’s red flags.  Cami – don’t be so SENSITIVE!)

<So chill, unless you find yourself wagging your goodness on the street corner…>

Emergencies plans – having a plan ahead of time serves two purposes – it’s a concrete plan, and it should reduce your stress about “what do I do if something happens…”

3. Recognize unexpected things may/WILL happen. Think about your natural strengths in life, and dream how you might apply these strengths to the situation as it happens in real time. (Or as Secret Shadows suggested, just go to the bathroom for a while!)

4. Here’s a GREAT one I randomly thought of, but turned out to be an excellent strategy. Think about the upcoming “event” beforehand, and think of a way that you can positively control some aspect of the event. Make it specific to the people, the situation, the location, etc.

In retrospect, what I did was brilliant. <preens>

My niece loves water – loves getting messy – loves adventure. (So do I, in SO many ways!)

So, I said I wanted to come over and do something messy. Something crazy that would require lots of clean up!!!! Now, this child is genetically related to me, so that messy tomboy gene is shared <heh heh>in more ways that one. 😉

… and you know what? My suggestion broke down many walls. She had fun and so many parts of me had fun (and were encouraged to have fun)! I had identified an activity that 1) gave me comfort and fun and security and 2) was fun and silly for all.

Simplistic?

**shugs **

Please Girlfriend remember this

With all the memory problems that I have, I really hope that I remember this and am aware enough to apply it in the future. It served me well in this situation and made the trip worthwhile in several regards.

– I got to visit relatives I like and care about, and have not seen in over a year.

– I got to see my niece who is a wonderful fun and smart girl, and we had fun getting really messy with some fun activities.

– I found out my SIL and I share more than I thought. I told her things I never imagined I would. And that if I really really needed to, I could probably reach out to her and she would be there for me.

It ain’t all sugar and roses

Now, I don’t want to make light of this because overall it was a successful trip. No sugar coating.

The trip was a risk. It was conceived and scheduled without real planning on my part. There were some elements I haven’t shared that could have added some complexity.

I know this COULD HAVE BEEN A DISASTER, and I accept completely that if it had, it would’ve been all due to my current state. As *wonderful* a person I am, my current state is <laughing> Not Stable 😉 I wasn’t visiting Relatives From Hell, but Good People. Who I didn’t want to hurt.

But for UNEXPECTED REASONS, it worked out better than I expected. In a way, I got lucky.

Was it really luck?

So I suppose, the question remains.

Did I get lucky?

Or did I just live life like most people do, and just assume that people have issues and nothing is perfect and we’ll deal with life as it happens?

Wellll, neither. I think something in between.

I can’t just live life yet “without thinking.” And I can’t just assume that I’ll always be lucky.

I have to take away what my therapist said. That I can evaluate situations quickly and that I can use my specific strengths. That one mistake doesn’t destroy a relationship. That people who are REAL people in your support system will give you some flexibility. And feedback. Good and bad. And hugs.

Everyone has their own story. Good shit and bad shit. Myriad different stories, but dammit, most of us share an awful lot in common as a result.

I am learning that dealing with all our relative shits brings a unique kind of camaraderie which I guess can be a positive thing if we allow ourselves the bravery to share it. And to gain strength and acceptance from it.

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9 Comments»

  Jackie wrote @

Hey woman! Sounds to me like you did pretty well.

You wrote: For someone who has MASSIVE problems reaching out to a support system, this was a shock to me. Maybe normal to the rest of the world.

That reached me. I had the same reaction while reading. You did well. Very brave.

Very interesting tools you used. I’m glad they were successful. Taking note of them all for future use.

Good to read you posting again.

J

  Emily’s Camigwen wrote @

Thank you Jackie

Perspective is such a hard thing. Funny thing – I can now acknowledge and really believe what I did was brave. I would not have seen that as bravery at ALL a year ago. Because something like this, “well you know, people do all the time and you can’t so what’s wrong with you that a simple family interaction causes a potential meltdown?” Trying so hard to do what others take for granted.

Cami/Emily

  mmaaggnnaa wrote @

I love your “lesson learned” #1 (“Try to realize that as much as each of us are different, we share unexpected commonalities with others . . .)!

That is what I’m learning with my experiences . . once I have exposed myself to some degree to others (with great trepidation), I am finding that there are a million other people in my world who have similar stories, similar struggles . . . and they are all believe they are “the only one”. Hmmmm.

Thanks for reminding us!

– Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)
http://mmaaggnnaa.wordpress.com/

  Emily’s Camigwen wrote @

Hi Marie

Thanks for the feedback. It is a tough lesson to balance finding those with whom you can share, while not causing emotional harm to yourself by trusting those who may in turn use your sharings against you. It is unfortunate, but revealing weaknesses takes trust, something that we give as a gift. Others, I have learned very hurtfully, turn that gift to opportunity.

My best
Cami

  David wrote @

This is really great — and a wonderful example of the fact that loving people respect and support other people’s needs, even if they don’t understand them 100%. Great job taking care of yourself, and taking a very positive risk!

  Echo wrote @

I meant to comment when this first came into my feedreader but time got away from me ;_;
I’m glad that your trip went well and was overall a good experience.
I hope that things are going well.

  Emily’s Camigwen wrote @

Echo – thanks for the feedback. Good to see you.

  Tigerweave/Anna wrote @

Sounds good! I like your list of things you learned. One of the things I read over and over again about DID is how the dissociation is and has been for so long their main coping mechanism for the rough and tumble of general life. How to successfully heal we need to learn other coping mechanisms – that dissociation is only one tool for handling stress and crisis, and it is not at all often the best tool all up. You have outlined a whole heap more tools, none of them relying on dissociation, none of them tapping into and reinforcing the lifetime patterns of DID. Awesome!
Your therapist sounds great. She is so right about you too. Always a bonus 😀
((hugs)) I am so glad you had plenty of good times. Your SIL and niece sound like wonderful people.

  Emily’s Camigwen wrote @

Hi Anna

Yes, I learned many tools intellectually and in cases can put them to use emotionally. But yes, dissociation is still involved. I get better at “living in the moment” as my therapist says, but in those stressful situations, I am in the background, watching, everpresent and editorializing. Sometimes I can’t wait to get out of a situation, but I am able to push that back more.

I guess what I am trying to say is that the tools are good for other people, and me dealing with other people. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are wholly good for *me* for myself.

TIme.

Camigwen/Emily


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