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How To Deal With People Who Can Trigger Symptoms?

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by JulietBlue, Jul 12, 2017.

  1. JulietBlue

    JulietBlue Peer Supporter

    Hi everyone,

    I'm just over a month into learning about TMS and doing the reading and SEP and had a question come up today that I hope someone can help me with.

    What do you do when you feel like you have to face someone that is going to trigger either negative emotions and trigger pain and the fear and worry that comes from that?

    Let me give a little background about why I ask. I recently got in touch with an old friend who I only spoke to on the phone every now and then over the last few years when I was completely debilitated with pain. Admittedly, I didn't always want to speak to this person because it never seemed like they wanted to understand at all what I was going through. However, when they recently asked if we could get together while they're in town for a few weeks, I agreed. I realize a big part of this has to do with me being the "goodist" and having a hard time saying no to people. I've been feeling lately that I'm really apprehensive about being around this person; especially not now when I'm slowly making some progress. On the other hand, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to dip my toe into being more social again and doing normal things and I would at least give them a chance to understand what I've been doing or trying to. I lost most of my other "friends" a long time ago when I was completely disabled and I have virtually no family to be supportive. So I often find myself just wanting someone, anyone to converse with lately. In fact, a couple of them also have the tendency to trigger negative emotions/symptoms and been wondering how to handle that as well.

    I'm now really regretting that decision and kind of beating myself up over initiating contact with them not long ago. We're supposed to get together very soon and in talking with this person on the phone today, I realize that they are essentially the same toxic person that they used to be and they seem to assume that I'm the same person that I was many years ago when I was healthy. ( we were still really young then) I'm not though and I'm fighting very hard lately to find out who I even am ( or going to be) without chronic pain and being on multiple medications ( which I recently quit) I realized that they are most likely are not going to understand everything I've been trying to do over the last month to dig myself out of the very depths of hell I was in. Not to mention the fact that they have no responsibilities or obligations, so once your around them, they want to take up hours and hours of your time. They tend to be selfish and just out for a good time, something I thought might have changed with them but apparently it hasn't. I feel like I'm already being judged by them over the phone , put down and insulted because I'm not sounding like the "fun" person they used to know or think they knew I guess and now I feel obligated to honor our plans and be in this persons company.

    I also don't like conflict and am pretty sure that if I tell this person our plans are off and why, they'll get highly offended and angry. Like I said, wanted to give this person the benefit of the doubt and maybe see if I could just enjoy being in their company but so far they are just making me feel worse in general. I don't even feel like we would have much in common anymore and this doesn't sound like it's even occurred to them. I feel like I'm really early in the recovery process to know how to handle this situation the right way and I'm fearful of backsliding. I'm already feeling pretty anxious about getting together ( especially after that phone call) and Its definitely triggering all of my symptoms the last couple of days ( Pain, anxiety, brain fog).

    Can anyone give me any advice as to how to handle this situation? Should I honor our plans even though I know a huge part of me doesn't really want to? Or cancel and risk hurting their feelings, causing a confrontation?

    I feel like either one of these options might effect me negatively somehow.
  2. Everly

    Everly Peer Supporter

    This is so interesting, I went through the exact same thing. I had to come back to my hometown due to severe symptoms. I was completely devastated. An old friend from high school who I used to be close with got in touch with me only to talk about her issues and just overall not being supportive at all. She made me right mad, I remember being so angry at her. At first I tried to not let it bother me, then I tried to allow myself be very mad at her, feel the rage etc. But the feeling went nowhere. Finally, I just told her how I feel, how it is ridiculous that she talks about how sad she is I cant ''go party'' with her when my whole life is crushing down and I had to leave my work and studies, what parties?? I told her all that, in a calm manner of course. I also did an anger centered meditation about her. And since then, she is approximately the same but somehow it doesn't bother me anymore. I don't pick up the phone when I don't feel like talking to her, I do pick up when I want to. It just doesn't bother me the way it used to before. So, that is what worked for me.
  3. Everly

    Everly Peer Supporter

    Either way, you don't owe anything to them.
  4. JulietBlue

    JulietBlue Peer Supporter

    Hi Elina,

    Thank you so much for your response. Our experiences sound very similar; I too had to move back in with family when my whole life went to hell from pain and a surgery. I still am far from recovering all that I lost. Some days it still seems impossible, even with the hope that comes with the knowledge that I have TMS and therefore can recover. I find myself feeling very trapped where I am and having to face people everyday that I tried to distance myself from a long time ago because of their negative effects on my mental and emotional health.

    I have had a lot of anger since yesterday towards this friend for making so many wrong assumptions and judgments about me when they really have no idea what I've been through the last few years and what I'm going through now. We had tentative plans to get together later today but I think I'm either going to try to ignore the call when it comes or answer and just be honest about how they are making me feel. My anxiety and pain levels have already been going back up since yesterday over all of this. So I really don't even feel like being social with anyone right now either. Only problem with ignoring her is that she's the type to just show up at my house unannounced and uninvited and I'll have to confront her anyway if that's the case. That would make me even more angry, I'm sure. Like you said though, if I do decide to talk to her I'll do it calmly, how she reacts to it is really not my problem. Like you said and it's so true, I don't owe her anything. I don't know why I always feel like I do with people in general. Great comment. I also like your idea of the anger centered meditation. I've been practicing meditation in general lately but I think I will do one today that's specifically anger centered.

    Thanks for your advice. Btw, the little dog on your avatar is so cute!
    butterfly_queen likes this.
  5. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle


    You are under no obligation to know people you don't want to know. Some folk simply are toxic, selfish, boarish or otherwise obnoxious and you ought feel totally free to cut them from your life. The very fact that you feel anxious, angry or awful even thinking about them is a sign.

    I went through a huge phase of boundary setting during my early healing stages and I cut ties with many people, others I put on the back-burner. If I have to be around them then I limit exposure by ensuring I leave within a certain time frame. Invariably once you start being less available and accepting of their bullshit they move on. Emotional vampires love fresh blood.

    Creating boundaries is an incredibly challenging thing to do but it pays massive dividends and it gets easier and easier. In the end you'll find it becomes almost second nature. You have to protect and respect your beautiful sensitivity and all you've endured to bring you to who you are, where you are now. Healing involves the transformation of relationships and with a bit of courage and a lot of compassion you can create friendships and connections that are authentic and meaningful.

    Plum x
  6. butterfly_queen

    butterfly_queen New Member

    Man oh man, can I relate!! Plum's response is perfect. I only have a little to add because as a recovering TMS/perfectionist/goodist, I have distanced myself from those toxic people who used to be in my life (including family) by being brief and honest with them along the lines of: when we grow and heal, sometimes we grow apart and I appreciate what they did for me and I wish them well.

    A couple of other things that help me make decisions each new day are simple and powerful.
    1. I'm NOT responsible for anyone else's happiness.
    2. This is from Martha Beck --Asking my body, "what do you need, darling?" (a nap, a snack, etc) and listening -- all part of the new me who loves herself as I would a child or small animal.
    I hope this helps. You can do this!!

  7. JulietBlue

    JulietBlue Peer Supporter

    Hi Plum,

    You're so right; every word. Feeling a reduction in my pain enough where I can even think about leaving the house is something that is still so new to me. It's not something that I could have even conceived of just a little over a month ago. I need to learn to cut myself a little slack. I'm definitely in the early stages and it feels like I am learning to handle all of these situations all over again and sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming.

    I ultimately decided to cut this person loose and didn't honor our plans. It really was a relief. I realized that this person doesn't really care about me at all, maybe never did. I just basically told them that I had a lot going on at the moment, which is true. I'm pretty sure they won't be bothering me again for a while; if ever. And if they do, I've already made the decision that I don't need someone like that in my life. Especially not now, not ever. I like the term Emotional Vampire, this person definitely fits the mold.

    As you so eloquently put it, I can create new friendships and connections with others that are authentic and meaningful; That will come in time once I'm healed. My entire life needs rebuilding from scratch and that's not going to happen overnight; Even if I were to wake up pain free tomorrow. I've been trying to understand that and be more patient with myself and this process in general as well.

    I also love that last bit about creating boundaries. I know this is something I need to work on and I can see how it can get easier and easier. I DO have to protect myself and make myself my ultimate priority. Especially right now.

    Thank you so much for kind words and wise advice. I really appreciate it.
  8. JulietBlue

    JulietBlue Peer Supporter

    Hi Butterfly,

    Thank you for commenting and for the much needed confidence boost. This helps very much, great advice. Number's 1 and 2 are both spot on and things I have to constantly remind myself of, especially number 1. I always tend to worry what people are thinking/feeling that I'm not contacting them to see how THEY are doing, mostly family. Been trying to get out of that mindset lately. I'm definitely the classic goodist.

    Loving and caring about myself and my needs is new to me too but very important. I love the idea of asking my body what it needs and listening. I'm going to use that! :) Thanks again.
    Lily Rose and butterfly_queen like this.
  9. butterfly_queen

    butterfly_queen New Member

    You're welcome! So glad it helped - thanks for letting me know. Keep us posted on your progress.
    JulietBlue likes this.
  10. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    I love your words on growing and healing for they reflect in my life. There are people with whom I have naturally distanced...we have outgrown each other yet there is no enmity. Some people are transitory figures in our lives, as we are for them, and it helps to see this because hopefully it makes letting them go a lot easier. I like that you wish them well. It reminds me of Rick Hanson (neuropsychologist and buddhist) saying May you be Happy. May you be Peaceful.

    Simple, kind blessings to bring closure.
    butterfly_queen and JulietBlue like this.
  11. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Well done on following your instinctive needs. Do you know the line from The Beatles song that goes "oh that magic feeling nowhere to go". It always plays in my mind every time I cancel something and it makes me smile. The relief is delicious.

    It is wise to relate to birthing metaphors as you create anew. You are birthing a new self. I have radically changed due to my long years of pain and the biggest, most beautiful realisation is that I am myself. Before I was tumble of people-pleasing and rebellion; aching to find myself, to be myself but endlessly seeking approval. Sometimes I miss the innocence of the girl I was (who doesn't feel a tad jaded over 40 :)), but I wouldn't trade back for the world.

    I totally understand the sense of overwhelm. I think 'overwhelment' was my middle name for a few years. This is why I endlessly implore people to go slow and gently. Learn to relax, to self-soothe and nurture pleasure. This is actually an exciting time in your life, for all the challenges it brings, because you will transform and you shall heal.

    With Love,

    Plum x
    Fabi, butterfly_queen and JulietBlue like this.
  12. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Juliet,

    I would caution you about putting connections on hold until you heal. Part of practicing outcome independence is to realize that our lives are happening now, even with TMS, and that we need to move forward and live. Connecting with others is an important part of living, and one which can be done despite our TMS. It's part of being a perfectionist to think we must be a certain way (symptom free) before we can have authentic and meaningful relationships. I know this is a difficult belief to change, but it is just as crucial to recovery as getting back to physical exercise despite our symptoms. Life goes on with or without TMS. Don't let it go on without you. You have much to offer others just as you are.
    Gigi, Fabi, butterfly_queen and 4 others like this.
  13. Lily Rose

    Lily Rose Beloved Grand Eagle

    This. 100% this. Especially "you have much to offer others just as you are".

    .... with Love <3
    butterfly_queen, JulietBlue and plum like this.
  14. jaumeb

    jaumeb Peer Supporter

    Postponing stuff until I heal is a mistake because that "recovery" will never arrive. For me, it is about learning to live with TMS.
    butterfly_queen and JulietBlue like this.
  15. JulietBlue

    JulietBlue Peer Supporter

    Will do! Thanks. :)
    butterfly_queen likes this.
  16. JulietBlue

    JulietBlue Peer Supporter

    Hi Ellen,

    That's a very good point and very true. I guess I've just been a little stuck on how to go about meeting new people at this point in my life. It doesn't seem as easy as when I was 20 ( What is?) I'm already learning not to reconnect with people from my past who aren't good for me. But that doesn't leave many others left at all. Most of them moved on. I lost a lot of the last few years just being extremely isolated and alone, losing myself in the process. The question comes up too that if I don't know really who I am, how will others get to know me?

    It's not really the remaining pain that is scaring me away getting back out there either. It's more the brain fog/ cognitive issues that still have been plaguing me. Still not sure why it's happening but as I mentioned in one of my other posts that you had commented on, I think it's a combo of withdrawal from long term use of pain medications, steroid medications (hormonal imbalances due to that), some remaining anxiety and TMS. I've been experiencing some really scary depersonalization issues the last few months due to one or all of those factors. My brain just feels fried. It's gotten a just little better just in the last few days with mediation, exercise (physical and mental ) and just being aware of trying to create new neural pathways in my brain. I was going to see a doctor about the hormonal stuff but decided that maybe I should wait a little longer to see if some of this goes away on it's own, but I heard that that can be a very long process. Just not sure what to do about it at this point and especially frustrating when my pain levels are improving. Just not the fog and it doesn't give me very much confidence either.

    Then there is the fear of being judged for where I am now. ( Not being completely independent, living somewhere I want to get out of, drained finances, etc) Still not working yet either and finding a job after 6+ years of disability is a whole other issue I'm trying to tackle. I know I don't want to go back to the type of work I was doing, it just made me miserable. And when you first meet people usually one of the first questions is, "What do you do?"

    I was also in the process of going back to school when I became disabled so never finished that and although I want to, financially I just can't yet. Plus, I worry about how I'm going to hold a job and my performance if I can't even think clearly most of the time. ( There's that worrier again) I keep telling myself the last few weeks that I'm going to get better everyday and I'll be able to get a job of some sort very soon. But the other half of me worries that my brain won't recover and I'm just going to continue to feel this fog that makes everyday functioning pretty difficult. ( I don't truly believe that though, but the fear is still there)

    I know it's important for me to move on with my life in these ways, I'm just not exactly sure how to at this point given all these factors.

    Thanks for taking the time and your advice. I really do value it.
    Lily Rose, butterfly_queen and plum like this.
  17. JulietBlue

    JulietBlue Peer Supporter

    Thanks Lily Rose. :)
  18. JulietBlue

    JulietBlue Peer Supporter

    Hi again Plum,

    The birthing metaphor resonated with me. I do feel like it's a rebirth process and I couldn't be happier and more grateful that I'm going through it, though it's not an easy one. I feel like I'm finding out just a little bit more about myself all the time.

    I do feel overwhelmed lately though and I know that's only natural. There's been so many things over the years that I haven't been able to do or tend to and I really was convinced that I never would again. Hard to believe that was just weeks ago. When I first found out about TMS, I had this instant sense of hope come over me which is the direct opposite of what I was feeling just before. Thanks for reminding me that this is an exciting time in my life. That's something I need to remember when I'm having a "bad" or off day.

    Xx JulietBlue
    Lily Rose and plum like this.
  19. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Don't fret about the brain fog, it is very common with meds. My mum has it from her diabetic medications and my partner has experienced it as a side effect of his Parkinson's meds. It's one of the main reasons he's been coming off them and he is better, sharper and more present for doing so.

    You may also benefit from brain training, in addition to the other practices you mention. I did it religiously for a while and my cognitive abilities all ramped. I felt sharp and clear. I recommend the apps Elevate, Lumosity and Clockwork Brain. All have free versions available. They or anything like them will ensure neurogenesis.
  20. butterfly_queen

    butterfly_queen New Member

    I felt a dejavu when I read your response. Four years ago, I was exactly where you are. Plum and others are so right when they say relax and enjoy the present moment of being in this place of healing and transformation. This is an opportunity to allow yourself to JUST BE. Cool, eh?
    Find a way to love yourself as you are now - brain fog and all. I realized four years ago as I was lying there unable to do much more than minimal function, that I had always attached my worth to WHAT I did, versus WHO I was.

    So I settled in and started recognizing the love and beauty I had all around me without even doing anything. A huge eye-opener! That was the beginning of learning to love myself, which I had obviously never done before.

    Then, because I loved myself with such great compassion, I learned to love others better than I ever had before and started attracting people who loved me for me and not my awesome skills.

    While you're lying there, reveling in how grateful you are, you can start to take inventory of all the things you loved before you were 10 (when we were truly our own unique selves)...and think about how fun it is to do those things again.

    When you feel up to it, do them in 10 minute increments here and there and see where it takes you. I am here to say, it works!! Have fun with it.


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