Tag Archives: anxiety

Jellyfish

File:Jelly cc11.jpg

Pacific Sea Nettle, Monterey Bay Aquarium, CA, Source  https://www.flickr.com/photos/dan90266/37269957/, Author Dan Parsons Dan90266 (CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)

Jellyfish are equipped with stinging tentacles used to paralyze, capture, and kill their prey.  The largest known specimen, the lion’s mane or giant jelly, has tentacles which can reach 120 feet in length.  That is longer than a blue whale.

The sting of a jellyfish can be agony.  In humans, that sting can cause burning and blistering of the skin, difficulty breathing, changes in heart rate, chest pain, abdominal cramps, vomiting, muscle spasms, numbness, weakness, and collapse.

The tentacles can sting, even after a jellyfish has died.

The Tentacles of Abuse

Like jellyfish, abuse has long tentacles.  Rather than extending into deep water, those tentacles extend across the years.  But their sting can still be agony.  Like the tentacles of jellyfish, the tentacles of abuse can paralyze, capture, and in some cases kill.

Real Wounds

Whether we suffer with physical ailments and visible scars or with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, the wounds stemming from our abuse are severe and real.  We are not weak.  We are not malingering.

It is, in some ways, easier when our wounds can be seen by the naked eye.  Burns are recognizable as such.  By contrast, the wounds of many abuse victims cannot be bandaged or sutured.  Invisible, those wounds can yet be deadly.

Long-Term Damage

Because it was inflicted early in our lives, while we were most vulnerable, the damage done by abuse is long-lasting and multi-faceted.  Victims must endure it for decades, across the full range of life activities.  This can be exhausting.

Eventually, we may feel overwhelmed by anxiety or depression, as if we were drowning; may feel trapped by our past, despite our best efforts; may feel wrongly that ending our lives is the only way out. Continue reading

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PTSD and Grief – Healing Through Nature

File:Early Fall in Sierra Nevada Range, CA 9-16 (29957191822).jpg

Early Autumn in the Sierra Nevada, Author Don Graham of Redlands, CA (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

– John Muir

The respected naturalist and environmental philosopher, John Muir, believed that nature offers the body and mind opportunities to heal themselves [1].

Muir tirelessly hiked the Sierra Nevada, writing extensively about his experiences and ultimately co-founding America’s premier conservation organization, the Sierra Club.  His activism helped to preserve both Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

Mission Outdoors https://missionoutdoors.org/ and Hometown Hero Outdoors https://hometownherooutdoors.org/ are two small non-profits which share Muir’s view.

They afford military service members and veterans a temporary escape from the stress of combat or the difficulties of transitioning to civilian life through hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities.  Hometown Hero Outdoors is open to law enforcement personnel, as well.

PTSD

Many of these individuals suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder – an illness to which victims of childhood abuse and domestic abuse are, also, prone. Continue reading

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Psychedelics for Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD, Part 2

File:FerndalePoliceStop102415.jpg

Drug paraphernalia including marijuana/cannabis and a methamphetamine pipe, following a police stop in Ferndale, CA, Author Ferndale Police Dept., Source https://kymkemp.com
(PD per California Public Records Act)

We continue our discussion of the risks and benefits of a drug-based psychiatric approach utilizing psychedelics to treat anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Despite growing enthusiasm for the use of psychedelics, the evidence is far from in.

LSD

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) – one of the most potent hallucinogens – was studied from the 1950s to 1970s in order to assess behavioral and personality changes, as well as relief from psychiatric symptoms [1][2A].

LSD was originally used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, addiction, and psychosomatic illness.  Readers may recall that the US Army and CIA, also, experimented with LSD as a truth serum.  But most early studies were not performed to today’s standards.

Across 11 randomized-controlled studies (involving a combined total of 567 patients) positive outcomes were observed, particularly with regard to alcoholism [2B].

In rare instances, however, psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD can evoke a lasting psychotic reaction (more frequently in patients with a family history of psychosis) [3A].  Adequate screening of a patient’s vulnerability and prior psychotic episodes before the use of LSD is, therefore, emphasized. Continue reading

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Psychedelics for Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD, Part 1

File:Ecstasy monogram.jpg

Ecstacy a/k/a Molly, Author DEA, Source https://www.dea.gov, (PD as work product of federal govt.)

“I am more convinced than ever that psychiatric medications, over the long term, cause net harm.  I wish that weren’t the case, but the evidence just keeps mounting that these drugs, on the whole, worsen long-term outcomes…The inventor of frontal lobotomy…was awarded a Nobel Prize for inventing that surgery, which today we understand as a mutilation.”

-Award-winning science author and journalist, Robert Whitaker [1][2]

Recently, a number of drug trials have been conducted re-assessing the effectiveness of psychedelics for anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While the results of these trials have been heralded as providing new treatment options for tenacious illnesses, there are serious dangers associated with psychedelics.

Serotonin

Psychedelics act on receptors in the brain for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that effects mood.

There is some thinking that psychedelics enhance the brain’s capacity to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially following injury [3A].  But this hypothesis needs further research.

In the therapeutic setting, psychedelics cause a receptive, dream-like state during which memories are readily accessible [3B].  The theory is that this state opens the door to fresh ideas the therapist can introduce.

Unsupervised use is not recommended. Continue reading

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“How Being Bullied Affects Your Adulthood” by Kate Baggeley

Bullying, Author Dalia098 (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

While the coronavirus has disrupted the normal school year, for some of our children this may actually have come as a relief.

“In American schools, bullying is like the dark cousin to prom, student elections, or football practice:  Maybe you weren’t involved, but you knew that someone, somewhere was.  Five years ago, President Obama spoke against this inevitability at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention.  ‘With big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune.  I didn’t emerge unscathed,’ he said.  ‘But because it’s something that happens a lot, and it’s something that’s always been around, sometimes we’ve turned a blind eye to the problem.”’

We know that we shouldn’t turn a blind eye:  Research shows that bullying is corrosive to children’s mental health and well-being, with consequences ranging from trouble sleeping and skipping school to psychiatric problems, such as depression or psychosis, self-harm, and suicide.

But the damage doesn’t stop there.  You can’t just close the door on these experiences, says Ellen Walser deLara, a family therapist and professor of social work at Syracuse University, who has interviewed more than 800 people age 18 to 65 about the lasting effects of bullying…”

[Continued at:  https://slate.com/technology/2016/06/the-lasting-effects-of-childhood-bullying-are-surprisingly-not-all-detrimental-in-adulthood.html ]

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Vigilance, Part 3 – Physical Abuse

Rib fractures in an infant, secondary to child abuse, Author/Source National Institute of Health (PD as work product of US Dept. of Health and Human Service, a federal agency)

Physical abuse is the form of child abuse most frequently reported by the media and most familiar to the public.  It is, also, the form most frequently fatal.

Children can and do sustain bumps and bruises, in the course of ordinary play.  Physical abuse, however, is deliberate harm by a parent or caregiver.

An abuser may characterize physical abuse as punishment for a perceived infraction.  But such punishment is out of all proportion to the infraction, and severe beyond a child’s capacity to understand or endure it. Continue reading

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Surviving the Fire

High Park fire, Larimer County, CO (2012), Author US Air Force, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/usairforce/7462740970/, (PD as work of federal govt.)

Read the blogs of child abuse victims and those concerned for them.  Somewhere along the line, you will find mention of what the abuse damaged or destroyed outright.

Our innocence.  Our childhood.  Our peace of mind.  Our self-confidence.  Our self-esteem.  Our ability to trust.  Our capacity to select loving partners, and sustain healthy relationships.  Our faith.  Our voice.

And from far too many, the abuse took their very lives.

For many of us, what the abuse left behind was isolation, grief, anxiety, depression, rage, and a permanent sense of violation.

Unfortunately, that we will never be the women (or men) we might have been is not helpful information.  We are who we are…marked by these scars.

In some sense, the scars are our badges – if not of honor exactly, then certainly not of shame.  We were the ones sinned against, not the ones sinning, no matter how we were made to feel about the torture inflicted upon us.

As with the veteran who has lost a limb to war or the woman who has lost a breast to cancer, this is simply our reality now. Continue reading

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In the Aftermath of Abuse, Part 2 – Guilt and Shame

Crying child, Author Asad Amjad ChangEzi (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

‘If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in Me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea’ ” (Matt. 18: 6).

It is easier for children to believe they “deserve” the evil done to them, than to take in the fact an adult who should care for them actually has little or no regard for their well-being.

The Statute of Limitations and other obstacles can make it difficult to hold child abusers and molesters accountable legally.  Even with a conviction, however, the feeling of “sinfulness” may rebound from an abuser to his victims.

This in no way implies that they were at fault.  Victims, however, relive the trauma of having been treated as worthless. They are often left with a vague sense of unworthiness that can permeate their lives, and undermine subsequent relationships.

Though this feeling of their own “sinfulness” can be overwhelming to abuse victims, the conclusions they draw from it are not accurate.  Victims did not warrant or invite the abuse.  They remain deserving of love.

The feeling of “sinfulness” is just one of the scars left in the wake of abuse.  Other symptoms can include anxiety, depression, alcohol or drug addiction, eating disorders, and sexual dysfunction.  These behaviors either stem from the pain or are attempts to numb it.  All of them “punish” the victim, who was never at fault in the first place!

The symptoms of abuse may, themselves, become a cause of shame to victims.  Self-destructive behaviors shift the focus away from the abuse, while silently declaring it to the world.  Imperfect as coping mechanisms, these behaviors can have dire consequences but are, in effect, a cry for help.

Originally posted 7/7/13

Of NoteA Vatican tribunal has found Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Guam guilty of abusing minors and removed him from office.  Apuron was suspended in June 2016 following accusations that he sexually abused altar boys as a parish priest during the 1970s.

Thus far, the Archdiocese of Guam has been named in 159 sex abuse lawsuits involving Apuron and others.

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Long Term

“Sad Boy”, Author Sascha Grosser (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

A new study by the University of Utah confirms that abuse before the age of 5 can continue to have negative consequences decades later [1].

This is no surprise to abuse victims.  We know we cannot simply “snap out” of depression, anxiety, and PTSD despite the well-meaning advice of friends, family, physicians, and strangers alike.  That fact only adds to our sense of isolation.

Researchers found that:

“…those who experienced abuse or neglect early in life consistently were less successful in their social relationships and academic performance during childhood, adolescence and even during adulthood.  The effects of maltreatment did not weaken as the participants got older [2].”

The sad little boy or girl becomes the sad, lonely and/or angry man or woman.  Unfortunately, that anger is often turned inward, becoming another destructive force against which we must battle.

This has nothing to do with will power or self-control, and everything to do with who we were taught to believe we are.  Damaged, deficient, unloved and unlovable — our needs unimportant, our dreams unattainable.  Directly and indirectly, those lessons were driven home until they became part of us.

But the human spirit is amazing.  We somehow survived the onslaught, the dark rain of blows and insults.   Many of us succeeded in the work place.  Some found the internal resources to become artists, writers, and advocates.  Still more became the parents our own parents could not be.

That we continue to wrestle with our demons is no shame.  It is simply part of our reality.

He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40: 29).

[1 and 2]  Science Daily, “Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect – Study led by university researcher shows negative effects may persist into adulthood”, 1/16/18, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180116222327.htm.

With thanks to Louise Callen

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Paralysis – Frozen by Fear, Part 1

Tiny mouse frozen in fear, Author Madhur D’silva (PD)

Abuse victims can experience anxiety so severe we are literally paralyzed with fear.  Berating ourselves for lack of nerve, for cowardice, for weakness and – worse yet – a lack of faith does little or no good.

That the situations which cause us such extreme anxiety do not always, on their surface, appear threatening only makes matters worse.  We can add to our list of faults childishness and irrationality.

None of this criticism is justified.

Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Most of us are familiar with the “fight or flight” response.

The body responds to perceived danger by preparing either to fight or flee.  The nervous system releases adrenaline and norepinephrine, increasing brain activity, blood sugar level, heart output, and blood flow to the muscles.  This response is automatic.  It is not under our volition.

Science has learned that freezing behavior is an aspect of the fight or flight response [1].  It is not uncommon for defenseless prey animals to freeze in place, when a predator is nearby.  Some may feign death, in a last-ditch effort to stop an attack.

Specific areas in the brain (the amygdala and hyppocampus) control freezing behavior.  Freezing is characterized by immobility, and measurable changes in blood pressure and heart rate.  It may, also, involve shortness of breath, perspiration, and/or a sensation of choking.

Trauma and the Freeze Response

I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear” (Ps. 143: 4 NLT).

Human beings rely on freezing when the threat facing them is overwhelming, but it is clear they cannot escape.  This assessment is, for all practical purposes, unconscious; arrived at in a matter of milliseconds.  Freezing behavior is the result.

A form of dissociation, freezing acts to numb us against the horrors about to be inflicted on us.

Children are, by nature, vulnerable.  They have few, if any, defenses.  Freezing behavior may well be their only recourse.

For the freeze response to “thaw”, the perceived danger must pass.  However, in situations of chronic abuse, the danger is real and unrelenting.  The child is not afforded an opportunity to decompress, to let his/her guard down.

And the victim who freezes as a child is more likely to freeze as an adult.

“…such ‘paralyzing’ psychological phenomena as phobias, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and various anxiety states can frequently be understood as symptoms of a freeze response that never had the chance to ‘let go’ or ‘thaw out’ once the original experience was over.  And many features of post-traumatic stress disorder directly relate to this kind of unrectified trauma.”

-Leon Seltzer, PhD

[1]  Psychology Today, “Trauma and the Freeze Response:  Good, Bad, or Both?” by Leon Seltzer, PhD, 7/8/15, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201507/trauma-and-the-freeze-response-good-bad-or-both.

Strategies for coping with anxiety and the freeze response will be addressed next week in Part 2

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