Tag Archives: PTSD

The Comfort Zone: Are You In or Out?


by Lillian Csernica on September 5, 2017

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I’ve been reading a lot lately about how writers need to get out of their comfort zones. Apparently better writing is achieved once we leave our comfort zones and venture out into the wild terrain of ideas that scare the daylights out of us.

I’m not talking about horror per se. There are subjects that we all find distressing. The kind of material that people these days label with trigger warnings. Facts and stories and ideas which will hit us where we live, push on old bruises, maybe bring fresh pain to old scars. Such subjects are intensely painful and could be trauma triggers.

A trauma trigger is an experience that causes someone to recall a previous traumatic memory, although the trigger itself need not be frightening or traumatic and can be indirectly or superficially reminiscent of an earlier traumatic incident.

(Relevant tangent: If you’re interested in the debate about trigger warnings, I recommend reading The Trigger Warning Myth.)

While I can appreciate the need to test one’s boundaries and stretch one’s literary muscles, I do have two problems with all of these articles urging writers to get out of their comfort zones.

  1. The people giving this advice have no idea what’s outside my comfort zone. I might have some very good reasons for staying in it.
  2. There’s a crucial piece of information missing. Maybe it’s just the debate team in me, but I don’t see anybody defining the term “comfort zone.” (That’s why I keep linking to the definition every single time I use that phrase.) To me the proper starting point is figuring out precisely where our comfort zones begin and end. Once that’s mapped out, we know where to find terra incognita. We can point to the spot that says “Here there be dragons!”

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Time for painful honesty. For years now people have told me I should write about my experiences with my older son Michael. Bed rest in the hospital. The terror of the day he had to be delivered via emergency C-section. Every day and night of the three and a half months he remained in the hospital, coming close to dying time and time again.

Why don’t I write about that? Simple. I’ve been too busy living it. For most of Michael’s twenty-one years on this planet, my husband and I have considered it a good week if no medical emergency forced us to call 911.

Same with John. Sure, I could write about the day he got out the front door while I was changing Michael’s diaper. I had to dash out after him before he made it to the busy street. I tore my right calf muscle doing so. Then I still had to get up and run after him. I wound up in the ER that night, and came home on crutches. That added a whole new layer of difficulty to being primary caregiver for two special needs children.

What’s outside my comfort zone?

Miscarriage. Babies dying. Whether or not to turn off the life support.

Wondering if I’ll ever know the joys of being a grandmother.

Who will look after my boys once I’m dead.

And a few other matters that I’m not ready to talk about to anybody, even myself.

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Yes, I agree that “growing our comfort zones” is a worthwhile goal. I also think people who dish out such advice should be mindful of the dangers of doing so. These are hard times. Telling people to go rummaging around in the darker corners of their psyches for really juicy writing material is not a smart or a responsible thing to do.

For me, getting my own car again was a big step outside my comfort zone. I didn’t drive for years because of a Gordian knot of anxieties surrounding the subject of driving. Now I have a car. Now I drive all the time. Oh look, here I am writing about it!

For once I don’t mean to sound sarcastic. You decide when and if you want to step outside of your comfort zone. You decide just how far, and how often. It’s good to tell the stories that only you can tell. It’s more important to respect your own pain and your own right to privacy. You’ll know when the time is right.

For some excellent thoughts on why there’s nothing wrong with staying in your comfort zone, go see what Darius Foroux has to say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under autism, Depression, doctors, dreams, Family, family tradition, Fiction, frustration, Goals, Horror, hospital, Lillian Csernica, mother, neurodiversity, parenting, PICU, Self-image, Special needs, surgery, therapy, Writing

As Jumpy As A Wired Kangaroo


by Lillian Csernica on July 24, 2016

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I really don’t like it when people sneak up on me. I have enough anxiety issues as it is. My son John once crept up behind me, poked me in the ribs, and said, “Boo!” He suddenly found himself staring at the floor with his arm up behind his back. I didn’t do it with much force, but I did it, leaving both of us surprised. I turned him loose and apologized, but I made it clear to John not only is it not polite to sneak up on people, it can be very dangerous.

This also explains why I almost never braid my hair. Every time I’ve ever done so, somebody will come up behind me and yank on my braid like it’s some sort of bell pull. My instincts say I’ve snagged my hair on something, which tends to kick off my fight or flight response due to that time way back when I was four years old and my long hair got caught in a floor fan.  Nothing got cut off, but it took a long time to untangle and it hurt a LOT. What is the deal with this braid-pulling? It’s up there with people being compelled to pat a pregnant woman’s stomach. I don’t care if you “just really had to do it.” Hands off!

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On a recent trip to the local Dollar Tree, I was standing there trying to remember one of the items I’d come to buy. Suddenly, right behind me, a man cleared his throat quite loudly. I shot up into the air as if I’d been stabbed with a hat pin. I jerked around and almost tripped over him. What on earth was he doing that close to me? He made some attempt at courtesy that still didn’t explain why he was standing well within my personal space. I got away from him, and nothing else came of it, so I didn’t feel a need to tell the manager. I remember his face. If I see him again, he will not have another opportunity to sneak up on me.

Tonight I was out buying groceries for the week. Put everything on the moving belt, pushed my cart forward a half step at a time as the line progressed. Out of nowhere there’s a guy leaning over my left shoulder.  Turns out he was a cashier trying to decide which check stand to close next. So what? He could have taken three steps around me and get a better look at the situation! At the very least, a polite “Excuse me” was called for. What is wrong with some people that they just treat others like objects to be ignored or pushed aside?

I’m jumpy to begin with. I will freely admit that.

However, I’ve been given reason to develop a high-strung temperament due to sudden shocks of a physical and auditory nature. That tends to make one prone to being jumpy.

This is a bit of a psychological Moebius strip. Where does one part end and the other begin?

These are tough times. Caution and courtesy should be our watch words. There are a lot of people suffering from PTSD because there’s a hell of a lot of trauma happening, both visible and invisible.

How do your experiences compare? Do you see this kind of disregard for personal space? Let me hear what’s happening to you.

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Filed under Family, Food, frustration, Lillian Csernica, perspective, Self-image, therapy, Writing

Fun: Getting Your RDA


by Lillian Csernica on July 16, 2016

People talk a lot about the importance of nutrition, exercise, supplements, fiber, getting enough sunshine and drinking enough water. All of that is certainly crucial to physical health.

I believe there is another “nutrient” that is essential to the health and well-being of both mind and body.

fun

Given all the terrible events that keep appearing in the news, we’ve got to do something to counteract the weight of grief, anger, depression and loss. Does it seem frivolous to talk about the importance of having fun when the world is awash in tragedy?

Damn right it’s frivolous.  That’s the whole point. For those of us who live with depression, there are times when it is critical for us to engage in some activity that will help lighten our loads. Even if you don’t have clinical depression and/or an anxiety disorder, you too can protect your well-being by making sure you build “having fun” into your healthy lifestyle.

The Benefits of Play for Adults

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is not just some excuse to blow off our responsibilities. Have a look at this infographic:

11 Shocking Employee Happiness Statistics That Will Blow Your Mind

Still don’t believe me? Think we just need to buckle down and make serious contributions to our own lives and the lives of others? Fine, but don’t take that too far. The results can be horrifying:

The Importance of Play: Having Fun Must Be Taken Seriously

I don’t know about you, but I find those facts and figures really disturbing. Bad enough 16  million children in the United States aren’t getting enough healthy, nutritious food every day. How can we possibly get our world into the shape we hope and pray for when such fundamentals as food and good old-fashioned playtime aren’t available?

Let’s be the change we want to see in the world. We’ll work on the serious issues, of course we will.  In the process, let’s make the time to have some FUN.

Today I blew off two important social engagements that would have taken a toll on me physically and emotionally. Instead, I grabbed my son John by the hand and we ran away from home to go see “Ghostbusters” in 3D.

Charity really does begin at home. Give yourself permission to have fun.

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Filed under creativity, Depression, Family, family tradition, fantasy, Food, frustration, Goals, Lillian Csernica, neurodiversity, parenting, perspective, research, Writing