Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Everyday Intensity July Challenge

The website, Everyday Intensity, posts articles, topics and questions pertaining to overexcitabilities, giftedness, Dabrowski, and sensitivities. For the month of July, which is also my birthday month, there is a new challenge everyday regarding our intensities; living with them, getting to know them, respecting them, controlling them, etc.

From Yesterday's post on Everyday Intensity:

“The essential characteristic of nervousness is an increased excitability, symptomatized in the forms of sensual, psychomotor, affectional, imaginational, and mental hyperexcitability. It consists in an unproportional reaction to a stimulus, an extended, long-lasting, accelerated reaction, and a peculiar reaction to a neutral stimulus.” (Kazimierz Dabrowski, Personality-shaping Through Positive Disintegration)

To begin, think about some really good things you have done with your life, or some personal growth you experienced, especially if it came after a period of internal struggle. How did overexcitabilities play a role? What did they help you to notice in yourself or in your environment?

For me it was always difficult to leave relationships that were no good for me.

I remember when I broke off with my first no-goodnik boyfriend I was so stressed out contemplating my exit strategy that I couldn't even talk. I just went silent. For days.

Even today, I go silent when I am really upset. Though, I have much better coping skills now (as I am almost 20 years older) and my silence never lasts for days or even hours.

What I am talking about is not the Silent Treatment. I am not that passive aggressive. I like talking to people I am close to and I strongly believe it is important to confront issues and talk things out, even if it means staying up till two a.m.. (my poor husband.)

But when I'm really upset or really stressed, I find that words escape me. Or rather, I go live inside my head, which a whirlwind of words, none of which can be caught and uttered aloud.

I see this as one of my many extreme reactions or my "unproportional reaction to a stimulus".

I think I need my silence. My silence gives me time. My silence allows me to listen to a voice inside me that is whispering, barely audible, what I needed to do protect myself, when the voices telling me what I OUGHT to do are so much louder. My silence keeps me from saying things that I might regret. When I am silent I can sort out the unreasonable demands other make on me, or that I make on myself. When I don't speak it is because I need time to think. In silence I gather my strength.

After a few days of silence I knew what I needed to do and I broke up with that bullying boyfriend. It was a struggle. It took a long time sitting with silence, but eventually I heard the truth ringing out with clarity.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A few pictures from our trip out west and back

Hoover Dam

I like how you can see the white line of the water level.

A beautiful deep blue lake between Vegas and Reno.

Gorgeous red mountains in Utha or Colorado

A rest stop in Colorado.

Climbing around

I tried to include some pictures with cars to show scale.

Those pine trees are HUGE!

Huge mountains and fast rivers. My favorite part of Colorado.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Some movies and updates

Zoe's reenactment of Emily Dickinson's poem The Lost Thought

Zoe singing Pi Day at the math party

Community Research Project on Exploding and Collapsing Boxes (of numbers)

Other recent fun learning:

Science - Biology, Creative Thinking, Greenhouse Effect, Evolutions, Bacteria, Genetic Mutations, Basic Electronics, Cell Turnover, Optimization/Maximization, Opportunism, Ecosystems,

The start of the American Revolution - The Boston Massacre, The Battle at Lexington and Concord, Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Paul Revere, and The John Adams HBO mini series

Reading - Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Enders Game by Orson Scott Card, Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett, Emily Dickenson Poems, The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane and other fiction and non-ficiton.

Math - Programming JAVA, Quadratic Equations, and Fractional Bases

Music - Piano

Music History - Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Pushkin, Wagner and The Ring Cycle, Liszt, Opera - Puccini, Verdi, Giselle, Chopin, Mendelssohn

Language Arts - Greek and Latin word roots, aesthetics, analogies, Spanish Cognates, synthesis, divergence, analysis, evaluation, and intuition.

Dance - preparing for recital in June

Other - writing a couple books, a shot movie, songs for the movie, chatting, Skyping, playing, watching three versions of Hamlet and Looney Tunes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Zoe is going to be taking a break from Japanese for awhile.

She has been studying Japanese for 4 years and is getting close to taking the proficiency exam, the JLPT. But, it is a struggle for her to retain all the vocabulary she has learned over the last four years, since she rarely has opportunities to speak Japanese.

She has an hourly lesson with her teacher once a week, of which little or no time is spent on vocabulary she learned 2, 3, 4 years ago. She spends 30 minutes a day, four days a week doing homework, but that is all new stuff. I have a Japanese girl come over for an hour once a week to "play" in Japanese with Zoe. But, you would be surprised how little actually get accomplished during that time.

Zoe is taking a college level class and the college kids have 4 1/2 hours a week of class time plus homework. Zoe gets one hour class time and 3 hours of homework and I am not really willing to spend more time on this at home. Not unless Zoe wanted to and she doesn't.

Don't get me wrong. Japanese is a fine language to study. It is extremely difficult. The U.S. Gov rates it as the hardest language for native English speakers to master. And, depending on where you live and your personal situation, there can be limited opportunities for speaking in Japanese.

If Zoe wanted to continue Japanese I could have her supplementing with Rosetta Stone, watching Anime with Japanese subtitles and language options on, and writing to a Japanese pen pal. There is more we could do to help her retain everything she learned. It would require devoting more time to the subject each day.

But, Zoe is losing interesting in Japanese. She and her teacher are not totally clicking and I know that is affecting her. And I don't want to force her to pursue a language that she chose when she was 5 years old. Even if she forget everything, which I doubt, I believe it has developed some important pathways in her brain and she has enjoyed herself most of the time.

Recently she asked if she could take a break from studying Japanese and try Spanish and Latin. Sure! Why not? I know she has invested years in Japanese and is close to gaining at certificate, at a very young age, but I think it is important to allow her this choice. I can tell she is not as excited to study Japanese as she used to be and I think 4 years of Japanese is a good enough accomplishment.

Zoe has always had an interest in languages. I remember, when she was 2 or 3, asking how to say different words in Spanish, French, Japanese and even Russian. I remember her taking language dictionaries to her room for some "light" bed time reading. Zoe also takes Hebrew twice a week and we will continue with that. But now she is asking to learn Spanish and Latin. She is excited about it. So we are going to switch to that for the summer and see what she want to continue with in the fall. Maybe she will want to go back to Japanese, maybe she will want to get more proficient in Spanish or maybe she will want to try something else.

I am excited too because delving into a new language is fun!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Personal Stuff update

One year update Recovery: It Works

So I have been in therapy for 20 months now. About 2 months ago I started going every other week instead of every week. I just didn't have that much to talk about anymore.

Sometimes it is hard to sort out how much the therapy helped me and how much is due to books I read on my own and going no contact with my mother.

I admit I am still angry at my mother. But I don't think about it that much anymore. I realize it is her not me. And I am even sorry for her. I wish her well. But all the love a daughter has for her mother is not enough to fix or change a mother with a personality disorder. And I know that it is not healthy for me to be in a relationship with someone whom I love but who doesn't love me.

It is actually really sad. I wish my mom weren't an angry, damaged, abusive person. I want her to be happy. But not at my expense. She abused me and if she were a man everyone would tell me to get out of that relationship. People have a harder time accepting a separation between mother and child, even if the mother was abusive.

But I have basically been No Contact with her for a year and a half and most of my issues have receded. I live more often (most often) the kind of life I want to live, without the painful soul-crushing interruptions and detours.

I was always very capable and rational. But I had a few triggers that could send me to a state where my rational brain wasn't in control.

For example, when I was 5 my mother picked me up from my nanny and drove 4 states away, kidnapping me from my father. I didn't get to see or talk to him for three years after that. Then, when I was 11 she abandoned me.

So I have what they call "abandonment issues." The way I dealt with that, as I grew up, was to be very independent, i.e. if I don't rely on anyone they can't abandon me. That worked for me as a child. It made me feel somewhat safe in a world where my main caregiver was mentally disordered.

Most adults that had dysfunctional childhoods still have behaviors from childhood that worked for them at that time. They were necessary to get by when we were small and relatively powerless. But, those behaviors often get in our way as adults. Traditional therapy and bibliotherapy helped me suss out which behaviors I could let go of. And helped me recognize my triggers and talk to myself rationally when I was going back to my childhood defense mechanisms.

I used to have various triggers, now those same things don't really bleep on my radar. I am SO happy about that. But the behaviors that kept me "safe" as a child are harder to change. And I am still not sure which of those behaviors are truly me and which are just defense mechanisms and I may never know. It doesn't really matter. I can still change to be the kind of person I want to be. What helps is avoiding unhealthy relationships where I am reenacting my unhealthy parent/child dynamic. (We do that because part of us wants to "fix it" this time or because we want to validate the damage done to us or to excuse our parents... actually we do that for a lot of reasons.)Eschewing toxic relationships for healthy, supportive, safe relationships has helped me let go of my defenses and reinforce healthy behaviors.

I also used to believe that I was deserving of the treatment my mother gave me. But, of course, all babies and children deserve to me loved and no child deserves to be abused. I knew that, and yet I still spent most of my life wondering what I needed to do to get my mother to show that she loved me. I thought it was my responsibility to earn her love by putting up with whatever she was dishing out. That is exactly how she wanted me to feel. That was how she trained me to feel. But, after one and a half years of therapy, I am happy to say that I no longer think or feel that way.

Having my own child, nine years ago, set the ground work. I started to get really angry at my mother after I had Zoe. I loved Zoe with all my heart before she was even born. I could never behave like my mother did. Still, I had this disconnect between a love that was so natural and strong between Zoe and I and how hard it was to feel safe around my mother and how sad I was for the love I had missed out on.

It is still sad. Right now I think it will always be sad, like the death of a loved one, over time you think about it less but it always hurts. But, I am different now. I am a lot better. I have changed in ways that I never thought I could. I never thought I would be so self-accepting or that I could get over my abandonment issues. Truthfully, my issues are not totally gone, but they hardly affect my life anymore.

I will probably stop going to therapy soon. There is not much more that I need to work on with my therapist. Healing is a process but I am at the point where I can take my training wheels off and ride on my own. I know I will hit some bumps and even fall down again. But I can pick myself up because I know what to do.

Here are some of the resources I used to get me to this point:

I highly recommend the book A Gift to Myself by Charles Whitfield. I worked through it at the beginning of my therapy and now my therapist thinks I should go through it again. It was one of the books that helped me the most.

I read books about being gifted because some of my issues are just about accepting what that means and how it affects my life and relationships. The first two are must reads for any gifted woman who thinks she might need to deal with any issues she has regarding her giftedness and, you can take a test on the Highly Sensitive Person website and if you think you are a HSP then read this book. The Whitefield book, the Jacobson book and Aron's book helped me the most out of all the books I read.
The Gifted Adult by Jacobson
Smart Girls by Barbara Kerr
The Highly Sensitive Person by Aron

and I read these books about Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Disarming the Narcissist by Behary
Trapped in the Mirror by Golomb
Children of the Self-Absorbed by Brown
The Narcissistic Family by Donalson -Pressman and Pressman
And I read pretty much every website and article on Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder there is online.

When most adult children of a Narcissist first learn about NPD they get a little obsessive. It is so eye-opening and validating to read stories that really mirror your own crazy, secret, abusive childhood. It is so bizarre to find out that almost all of our mothers cut their daughter's hair really short. (Narcissists need to be the center of attention and they do all kinds of things to either keep their child from "stealing" any attention or use their child as an accessory for themselves to get more attention.)If you dealing with something like this I recommend educating yourself on it. It really helped me to understand what was going on with my mother.

So, that is it really. I thought I was pretty good before. I would never have gone into therapy if I hadn't moved to life one block from my mother. But I am glad that I did, on both counts. Because I was forced to face my issues and deal with them and I am really happy that I did.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

L.A. Trip April 2010 part one

We have come out to Los Angeles to visit Pere's family and see Grandmere, who is suffering from terminal brain cancer and near the end of her life.

It all came about quite quickly. Last year, at this time, she was first diagnosed. She had brain surgery and chemo and a gamma knife and a new drug on a clinical trial and she was doing well, until about 2 months ago. Since then her health has gone down very quickly. We were planning to come to L.A. in June but the doctor said that might be too late.

I wasn't sure how Zoe was going to handle it. She has always been close with her Grandmere. Zoe was scared, for her Grandmere, at first. But soon she was helping feed Grandmere and give her water, and she read to her and talked to her, even though Grandmere can't talk back.

Grandmere sleeps most of the time and has a hospice caregiver that comes during the day. After the first couple of days it was boring for Zoe to be at the house all day so I took her to visit friends, and I visited their moms, who are my friends too.

We had blueberry muffins and tea with A.B. and E. The girls put on a magic show and made a song on Garage Band. A.B. and Pere and I talked about movies and sexism in Hollywood and private schools.

Then we visited L.T. and C. The girls played detective almost the whole time. We ate at our regular sushi place. L.T. and I talked about everything,(for four hours!) It was great, made me almost want to move back to L.A.. Then I looked at the housing prices and remembered why we moved away in the first place.

When we are at Pere's family home we eat, and play Uno, and sit with Grandmere and color and read. It is pretty quiet.

We celebrated the birthdays of Grandpere and Tante Juliet with chocolate cake and sushi. And that was nice, but I kept noticing how different things are without Grandmere. She is there, but it is not the same because she is so far gone.

It is very sad. Everyone keeps asking me how Pere is. I can't really say. Obviously he is really sad, and he has always been quiet. He still is.

I am trying not to cry too much myself because... I'm not sure why. I have been crying off and on for months now. The enormity of it is still there. The tragedy of it all hasn't gotten any easier to accept. I don't want to think about it because it makes me so angry and sad.

I have been struggling to defend my faith in God for a few years now. These days the idea that I keep coming back to is that if God did exist he/she is irrelevant. If there is a God, he/she has stopped involving him/herself in the affairs of man long ago. There is no one that hears our prayers. There is no greater being with a plan that makes all the tragedies make sense. He/she has abandoned us. Then I remember that I don't believe God exists. But either way, irrelevant.