Oct
01

Familiar and Comfortable Coping Methods

By

comfort zones and coping methods

Have you ever had a comfy pair of bed sheets that were so soft and perfect that you didn’t want to throw them out and you kept patching and sewing them when they fell apart? What about a pair of perfect shoes or a pair of jeans that were the best fit ever and it was a very sad day when they were threadbare and had to go to the trash. Letting go is hard. Letting go of anything is hard.

My slippers are wearing out. They are my favorite; soft suede upper with sheepskin type soft comfy fluffy lining inside. Well that is how they used to be anyway. Now, they are wearing out and actually they are not as comfortable as they once were; in fact the support is going in them, and sometimes I slide to one side and go over a bit on my ankle, but still I can’t wait to put them on when I get out of bed or when come home. They are comforting and familiar; they are my slippers. They fit my feet; they are warm and cozy, like wearing pillows, soothing me after a long day. Well at least they used to do all that. They are not really doing ALL that anymore.  But I still want to wear them, I don’t want to replace them, I don’t want to let them go, I keep remembering how great they were one time. 

Looking back, before I decided to deal with my depression, low self esteem, dissociative identity problems, bi polar, post traumatic stress disorder ~ well you get the picture, I was like that with my life. I didn’t realize it but I was comfortable with my coping methods and I thought they worked. When I was a child I escaped into a fantasy world. When I was a teenager, I added to that fantasy world escaping into books, food, and then alcohol. I escaped into drugs to cope with the results of escaping into food. I had serious depressions which were a direct result of not having any help dealing with things. It got complicated. I liked not dealing with things; when I was a child I had no choice, I didn’t have any help to deal with anything; I had no support. Not dealing with things became the way that I lived. Coping methods became the way that I survived. Not facing the truth, not standing up for myself; all of that felt safer than trying to deal with things that I had never been given the tools to deal with. 

So my coping methods; depressions, binge eating or starving, over exercising, flirting, dangerous relationships dissociating and disconnecting were all familiar and comfortable but just like the slippers, my coping methods were not working anymore.  Oh I tried to make them work. I believed that they would work again, because I could not stop remembering that they worked in the past ~ when I was a child.

Just like when I was a child, I kept getting my reality mixed up with my fantasy ~ kept thinking that my coping methods were the answer, and that they would work again the way they used to work. I thought that if I could just be who my mother wanted me to be, she would finally love me. I thought that if I could just impress my father enough, he would finally notice me. I carried this struggle with me into other relationships and recreated not being good enough to be loved or noticed. And I used coping methods, many different ones over the years and I thought they worked and when they didn’t work anymore, and when they became the problem, I changed the coping method, but the belief system was still in place; the comfortable familiar belief system.  I ended up needing coping methods to deal with my coping methods, all of which kept me safe from looking at the root causes, because deep down I believed that I could not face that kind of pain.

Round and round I went, spinning in an ever increasing cycle of fantasy, depression and low self esteem, disconnecting from the truth, even when I got a glimpse of it, because I facing the truth would mean that I had to take some sort of action, maybe take a good look at my life and the people in it, maybe make some changes.. and it just seemed easier to grab those old slippers.

But as most of you know, I didn’t stay there.

A whole new way to thrive;

Darlene Ouimet          

Announcement:

Therapist John Wilson from ~ Online Events ~ presents ~ Emerging From Broken – Interview with Darlene Ouimet on Sunday Nov.03 at 12:00 Noon Pacific, 3:00 pm EST and 1:00 pm Mountain time. London: 8:00 pm, Sydney: 5:00 am. Please visit the following link in order to reserve your ticket. Click on the first box ~ there is no charge for the live event. Hope to “see” you there.  http://emergingfrombroken.eventbrite.com/

Categories : Survival

17 Comments

1

Darlene
I too felt warm and cozy in my muck hole because I also thought there was no way out and it was familiar to be stuck. It wasn’t until I started to get help and found that the air out side of the hole was much better to breath and the real world was much warmer and less dark and mucky. I had to change the way I thought of myself and others and had to learn a new way of loving and empowering. Thanks for the insight into our belief system!!

2

Yes, part of me is very afraid to face the root of the real pain. Certainly, I have uncovered the sexual abuse…which for 33 years of my life I denied until my brain was ready to begin to deal with the pain. Still, I am afraid. In the last month, wounds that were beginning to heal were torn open with renewed cruelty. I met the cruelty head-on and did not rescue one of my abusers. I even shared more about abuse with my children, letting them know that this kind of abuse will not be tolerated. That they, my sweet children, will never be forced to undergo the incestuous relationship that I lived with for my childhood.

This part was good. However, my body and spirit reacted like a 2 year old (when I began to actually remember more of the abuse). I shivered and cried. Although I have talked through much of this with my therapist, part of that little girl still shivers in terror each night. That little girl waits for her monster to creep in beside her.

Yes, I have dealt with some of the pain…There is still a lot to delve through. These last few weeks have frightened me. I don’t want to be so vulnerable or open to that kind of cruelty – even as an adult. Perhaps I am a huge coward. I just don’t want any more pain like that for awhile.

3

Yes, I too, can relate to this topic. My coping methods were mainly food– primarily borderline bulimia, eating excessive amounts of food but not doing the purging; I alternated with exercise and diet to offset the food I ate to keep from getting overweight. I still have moments of eating too much to where I get sick, sigh. I’ve also escape into fantasy world or traumatic/nightmarish thoughts/dreams, isolating myself and listening to music for hours, cleaning, etc. Now I’ve added computers and movies to the list. Ughh, it is still a struggle for me, all these issues. I feel God is compassionately and gently beckoning me to COME to Him, but still finding myself on the computer or doing other things instead, sigh. I love how Diane Langberg shares in her book, “On the Threshold of Hope” how Jesus walked in our shoes to relate to our pain and suffering, and thus, invites us to come to Him with our pain, and let Him start the healing process. Yet, crazily, I’m still running/avoiding! Ughh. I can’t bring myself to face it and deal with it. God help me. 🙁

4

Hi Jimmy,
A muck hole is a good description. LOL The old ways do feel warm and cozy and we don’t realize that we are really “stuck” in a muck hole.
Thanks for the analogy!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Cassie,
You are not a coward at all! It takes tremendous courage even to share what you just did here! Dealing with the abuse and reliving the memories is extremely frightening, but it is the way out of the darkness too. For me it was the beginning of the journey to the light. Please hang in there Cassie, what you are going through right now was the hardest part of my process.
I was just over 2 years old when I was first sexually abused. I know what you mean about the little girl who shivers in terror at night.. waiting for the horror to happen again. On Sunday I am publishing a post that I wrote this week about the child ~ the small child that was me, and how I saw myself after the abuse. (how I saw myself for a very long time after) and I hope you will come back and read it. Being abused so young set up some really heavy duty confusion and self image problems for me. It is hard to get through the layers that are piled on after that in order to get to the root, so please, go gentle with yourself.
Thank you so much for sharing,
Love Darlene

Hi Tonya,
My therapist always told me and so I always told myself that it is OKAY to be IN the process. I still avoid, but not anywhere near like I used to. I don’t purge anymore, I don’t binge and starve or do exercise bulimia anymore, don’t do drugs, well you get the picture, but I still can escape in a book or movie, I still zone out, and sometimes eat when I am not hungry and choose comfort foot instead of healthy food, but this is a process. We are striving for progress ~ awareness is a big deal and I found that it takes whatever it takes to make progress in the awareness department is OKAY with me! Acceptance of myself where I am at has been a HUGE plus in my self growth; and sometimes I just get quiet and remind myself of that. I am not done yet, but I am ON the journey and that is awesome!
Thanks for your honesty and courage to share this.
Hugs, Darlene

5

Over the years I got used to living with the pain. It became a part of who and what I was and it was impossible to separate myself off from the pain or even see myself as ever having a life free from it. I’d been brainwashed to believe I was a bad person and so deserved all the bad stuff that happened to me throughout my life. I was defined by the pain. I was defined by the abuse. I was defined by the rejection. I was defined by the lies my abusers had told me about myself.

I had no idea there was any other way to live or that I deserved to live any other way. I spent my life going round and round the shame, compartmentalising (my form of disconnecting), self blame, chronic depression, binge eating and self starvation because I believed that was what I deserved. I’ve always been overweight. Being overweight is all I’ve ever know from a very young age because my abusers starved and binged me throughout childhood.

I was completely relationally impaired and couldn’t trust. I’d been told by my abusers that no one would ever want to know me because I was so bad. So I believed I deserved to be alone. But it’s been so lonely.

For 24 years since being beaten up, left for dead and disowned I’d existed for the sake of existing. I’d stayed alive for the sake of staying alive. Living in survival mode because that was all I’d known from a tiny age. I’m good at surviving, good at keeping going and making it through whatever happens.

I always had a smile on my face, though it was a fake one which hid my pain, because I could not tell. The threats and lies my abusers used to ensure my silence kept me locked in an endless you must always have a smile on your face otherwise you’ll get found out. But over the years I got fed up of people saying to me you’ve always got a smile on your face you must live an amazing life. I felt like saying “actually no I don’t, my life is shit, but I have to wear that smile because I cannot ever tell anyone the truth about my life.” But instead smiled sweetly while instead I cried and bled away.

Over the years the odd person has seen underneath that fake smile and I’ve slowly developed a tiny circle of friends who know I was abused in childhood and disowned by my family. Even just sharing that much was scary but they’ve believed me and believed in me. That has enabled me to begin to wonder whether I really did have to carry on believing the old lies any more, maybe they were growing irrelevant but they were all I knew deep inside and it was easier to stay with those lies.

Other people over the years who I’ve told have responded by saying “but you’ve always got a smile so it can’t have been that bad could it”. Thus minimising my pain and closing the door on further discussion.

Part of me began to believe it couldn’t be as bad as I remembered or thought I remembered. I started to belief I had false memories and I felt guilty for ever saying it was bad. Maybe I was lying like my abusers said if I said anything. So I just kept wearing that well worn fake smile on my face and tried to survive life best I could.

But I could not get away from the hurt inside, it ate away at me like a toxic poison slowly killing me from the inside out. I binged and starved myself because I knew that mechanism so well, because my abusers binged and starved me. But every time I binged I felt more guilty and more ashamed of myself so I starved myself because I believed I deserved that because I’d been so bad to binge in the first place.

I smoked to excess for 20 years. Smoking was my slow suicide, but when I was diagnosed with early stage Emphysema aged 39 and faced a life on an oxygen machine if I did not quit, I realised that coping mechanism had to go. I was smoking 85 a day when I quit in 2005. But just binged more and more as a result.

I lived with constant depression, nightmares, chronic insomnia, chronic fatigue, always feeling I was functioning below my potential but believing that to be my lot in life. I had no self esteem and no self belief just kept on surviving.

This time last year that I reached the point where I realised I could not carry on like that any more. I had no quality of life and if nothing changed I was going to be yet another life lost to abuse. I could not carry on just surviving.

I was going round and round in circles saying I was abused but never did anything about it. It was easier to live with the pain I knew, I could deal with that hurt. It was a like walking around all the time in a comfy old pair of well worn tatty jeans that though tattered and full of holes were still the ones I wanted to wear. I didn’t believe I had the right to change those jeans and certainly didn’t think I deserved better than those tatty jeans full of holes.

But I began to realise that I was going to have to find a way of that treadmill which was so totally exhausting. I realised I was going to have to tell. I’d already been running my blogsite for over a year and told parts of my story on there and shared my poetry and my journey through life to that point.

But I reached a point of realising that that level of telling was not enough, I was going to have to go to the authorities and report my abusers.

Seven months later it was Jan this year and I read an article in the newspaper in the town where I grew up and was abused. It was about current cases of child abuse. It asked anyone who’d experienced abuse to get in touch whatever their age and whenever it was that the abuse took place. The article said they wanted to know because they had an experienced team who were dedicated to bringing offenders to justice wherever possible. It gave a phone number to ring. It was as if someone had walked up to me and put an envelope in my hands. Within that envelope was an invitation to a new life and it had to be RSVP’s to.

I knew it was my way in. I did not have the foggiest idea how to report such crimes and would not have known who to phone. I spent two months going round and round in circles wanting to do it but believing the lies that I would not be believed.

In the end I had to stop ruminating, shut off all the lies feel the terror, and do it afraid. I stopped merely existing for the sake of it when I eventually picked up that phone and disclosed. Life as I knew it ended with that phone call.

During the 6 months since that professional support has entered my life as a direct result of that phone call. I have slowly discovered that there is another way of living, I began to dream of healing, I began to dream of living. I have slowly begun to tell my story. I have been believed by 6 professional women who’ve crossed my path in that time.

Disclosing to the authorities enabled me to disclose to safe friends. People who’d known me for 20-25 years. I felt I’d been living a lie all those years and now I could finally begin to live in the truth.

I know my life will never be the same but many times over the last few months new coping strategies have entered my life – some helpful, some less than helpful. I began disassociating and disconnecting because telling and keeping on telling was so painful. I swopped my old pair of jeans with holes for another pair of jeans with rips in them.

But my support workers have slowly enabled me to develop more helpful and positive ways of dealing with powerful emotions. And I have begun to believe that there is another way, that my life can and will be different and better than it’s ever been so far.

I have begun to reject the lies I took on from my abusers and to embrace the truth that I have the right to heal and the right to a better life. I’m longer that silenced frightened little child all the time.

I know I have a long road ahead of me. I’ve begun to let go of the old familiar yet faulty belief systems and begun to believe that I’m worth better. I have dared to begin to dream of a better life. My entire life up to this point has been destroyed by the abuse.

But I’ve begun to dare to dream for and believe in a future that is not destroyed by it. I’ve begun to imagine myself healed and free. I’ve begun to dream that in the future I’ll be able to look back and say “only part of my life was destroyed by it, not all of it”.

6

I still live w/most of my copin methods b/c they’re familiar to me too and I’m afraid to face the reality of things b/c I know it’s goin to hurt in the end. I have so many walls up to protect me from all types of harm and if/when I “feel” somethin bad headin my way, we start buildin yet another wall to keep safe. Hurt is a serious word w/us b/c it means exactly it’s worth…it’s hurt and growin up w/so much of it in so many ways, it just doesn’t seem real to leave our support system and open to other ways. Rejection is a major harm in our world, right beside hurt and as much as I’d love to trust, our world just seems safer than the outer world.

7

Darlene, I love your slipper analogy! I can look at your slippers and say, “It’s time to go slipper shopping”, but that’s not the way we look at our own ‘slippers’. Just like you saw your slippers for what they used to be instead of what they are now, we tend to perpetually see our coping methods as the effective survival help that they once were. I guess that’s why it’s so obvious to see the ineffectiveness of other people’s methods of coping, yet fail to see the same for ourselves.

I’ve recently had a breakthrough with this. For a long time, I saw my coping methods as ineffective, but my emotional attachment kept me hooked. I still remembered the feeling they gave me years ago and I held out hope that they’d do that again. They were comfortable and familiar and I was a comfort junkie.

I confronted the lie that I needed to cope. Comfort was the best I could do when I was a child, but I’m not a child anymore and I can do better than lick my wounds. I’m empowered now. I have choices. I have support–from myself and others. My reasons for escape are obsolete. I don’t have to ‘cope’; I can thrive.

I didn’t cope with methods that seemed dangerous or would threaten my survival, but they did threaten my ‘thrival’. They kept me in a cycle of seeking comfort rather than health. Now that I’m pursuing my well-being over comfort, I have to go through the pain that the process requires, but on the other side of it is comfort. Now I have comfort AND health rather than just comfort.

Thank you so much for your powerful insights. I love sharing this healing journey with such a sure-footed traveler.
Hugs, my friend!

8

Hi Fi,
This is a powerful story of horror and hope and your last line at the end ~ “But I’ve begun to dare to dream for and believe in a future that is not destroyed by it. I’ve begun to imagine myself healed and free. I’ve begun to dream that in the future I’ll be able to look back and say “only part of my life was destroyed by it, not all of it” ~ is awesome! It reminds me of something from my own story; I had had a lot of breakthroughs, and I had gone through this incredible stage of anger for what had happened to my life. Then I went through a sadness stage, (which for me was more painful then the anger stage~ it was like grieving my childhood and the resulting difficult adult life because of my terrible low self esteem and trust issues, but I had that hope that you talk about… and one day I just knew that going through the process was worth it, and I realized that I had the rest of my life AHEAD of me. That was a turning point for me. That was when I “turned and faced the sunshine” and I knew that I was going to LIVE the rest of my life.
I love your analogy of switching the tattered jeans full of holes, for jeans with rips. That is exactly how the process was for me too.. I saw it in a series of doors ~ the door to the future had a whole whack of deadbolts and locks, and then it only had a few locks, and then it had a window, and then when I opened it and closed it I left it unlocked ~ etc until one day I walked through it, closed it, (and covered the window to the past) and never looked back!
Thanks for sharing this account of your life Fi ~ for sharing the brutal life you survived and how you have come to have hope for a full life ~ this is so inspirational!
Love Darlene
p.s. it is GREAT to have you back! I missed you here!!!
NOTE to readers ~ Fi has written an excellent account of how she came to report her abusers on her blog ~ very inspiring story ~ please be sure to read parts one through 4 and I am sure like me, you will be waiting for part 5
Here is the link; http://fionanicholson.blogspot.com/2010/09/last-few-months-part-1.html

Hi Jackie,
I know that it seems worse to face the past, and to face the pain, but it was the only path to freedom for me. Everything you say here is exactly how I felt too, but there came a time for me when I couldn’t live with the walls anymore either and where broken was more painful than the prospect of facing the pain of the past. It did seem safer in the world that I created but now that I have stepped out of that world and broken through those walls and built a new foundation, I know that it never was safe there because I was surviving with the mind of a child and looking at life through a grid of lies. I know it feels like a HUGE RISK to walk forward, but I also know it was worth taking that risk.
Thanks for sharing from your heart Jackie; I know that what you have written here is how so many other people feel too, and when they read that others feel this same way, and knowing we are not alone is such a comfort.
Hugs, Darlene

9

Hi Christina,
You bring up some worthy points to look at Christina ~ needing to cope. This is so true and most of us never strive beyond learning to cope. I never thought there was something beyond coping.. I just wanted to feel “normal” I just wanted to get to the point where I wanted to get out of bed in the morning. My therapist taught the concept of going from Coping to Conquering and I had not considered something more then “coping” before that. I had never had a therapist that talked about going beyond coping before that! I started to realize that “surviving” was mediocre, that thriving was where life began!

So as you say, “Comfort was the best I could do when I was a child, but I’m not a child anymore and I can do better than lick my wounds. I’m empowered now. I have choices. I have support–from myself and others.” YES YES!! And YES about interfering with my THRIVAL ~ love that word! LOL
I am so happy to be on the journey with you too!

Hugs, Darlene

10

Thanks Darlene,

It’s great to be back and to be able to participate again, wow that was a long month!!!

11

It really isn’t a choice until we are aware there are other ways of doing things. We can’t change what we don’t know is wrong. I mean there’s no motivation. And what our brain has come to recognize as “routine” is the established comfort level. So we do keep doing the same things over and over expecting a different outcome. This is why I love the internet. Sharing can provide lots of “aha” moments for others.

Changing those default settings is a lot of work but well worth it. And some, even if we only cope with what is there because it won’t change, it’s still different having the awareness. Wonderful post. Deep sharing.

12

Hi Maggie,
Very good points here, I read your comment several times! I also agree that sharing like this triggers all sorts of light bulb moments that lead to busting a hole in the fog that seems to surround so many of us. It is so powerful to read the stories of others, the struggles AND the victories!
It is a lot of work to change those default modes, but it is doable!
Thanks for your comments!
Hugs, Darlene

13

It’s unfortunate that we don’t know and are unable (or unwilling) to fathom that many of our parents were INCAPABLE of loving us or anyone else. It was a Sisyphian task to try to please them. A soul rending one.

14

Barbara,

this is SO true and often a major stick point for many of us. It was a big thing for me to stop blaming myself and believing that I was unlovable instead of the truth that it was about them, not me. I had a ton of unrecognized fear around realizing and admitting to myself that my paretns didn’t know how to love me.. Maybe I thought parents just KNEW how… I am not totally sure, but finally accpeting this point, was a big turning point for me.

hugs, Darlene

15

This is the stage I’m at now. I decided to dump the coping strategies as I suspected they were keeping the problem going, (a comfort cycle as Christina describes it) but I’m finding it very painful now. I seem to have a small child in me who wants comforting all the time and I’m at a loss as to what to do.

16

Hi Sam
Keep reading the articles and comments here. I had to find out how to comfort myself and that is the process. It takes time and it really helped me to find out where the damage originated in the first place in order to see why I didn’t know how to love myself. There is nothing wrong with wanting comforting. The problem for me was believing I deserved to BE comforted.
Hugs, Darlene

17

Hi Barbara, I like your expression “sisyphian task”, it’s totally right.

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