Sunday, October 29, 2023

Ripley, The Emperor's New Clothes, and the Power of PTSD: What Have I Learned?


(*Editing in progress) 

You may have noticed that I have deleted my last few posts.  That's because I seem to have a knack for innocently walking into situations and witnessing something I shouldn't have, then stupidly asking too many questions out of self-doubt -  and at that point, I may be trouble lol.

I'm not sure how or why I've witnessed so many crazy-unbelievable situations, accidentally stumbling across stuff at the wrong time, but I have - and I certainly didn't seek them out. 

But I do understand why people might not believe it, perhaps because of the sheer number of these events, it must look like to some that I crave drama or something lol. And I even gaslight myself, most days, plagued with self-doubt.

Then again, as it turns out, I was later proven right, over time, in several of these toxic situations that I just walked away from, letting karma do its thing (mentioned below).

Mark says that it's partially because I'm too open and I give people too many chances, too much benefit of the doubt for too long, instead of trusting my own instincts - and that I've been conditioned by my family to gaslight myself and ignore red flags.

Hmm, well, although that may be part of it, I would say that the biggest reason  I've come across so many situations isn't because I love drama or am some kinda genius or am "too nice for too long"   - I think it has to do with the hypervigilance symptom of my diagnosis of PTSD, making me notice odd things in my environment that other people don't notice. 

Hypervigilance can be both a blessing and a curse; it can keep you safer than other people, but it can alienate you from other people and from going out and having fun, cause you to rarely sleep, and generally drive you slowly insane, if you let it lol.

Because people with diagnosed PTSD have hypervigilance for life; heightened instincts and awareness of surroundings, as well as your central-nervous-system alarm bells go off easily - and sometimes falsely.

We of the PTSD become more observant of our surroundings and we can't shut it off, because we needed it to survive; additionally, our brains created new neural pathways as a result, despite the fact that usually, this alarm system isn't necessary in everyday life.

As a result, we don't discount red flags that other people overlook;, we investigate them, so we can be sure it's safe enough to turn the alarm system off!

(*I'm speaking of people with PTSD alone, now, and its associated anxiety and depression - not people with dual diagnoses like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, OCD, or personality disorders, etc.)

In other words, whereas people without PTSD might witness something odd and just go "Hmm, that's super odd. Oh well" and walk away, people with PTSD will instead go "Okay, my instincts are screaming at me and my central nervous system alarm system is going off.  Let me check it out to see if this is an actual threat or false alarm, so I can shut it off." 

MOST of the time, I can turn the alarm off later after ruling out the threat as false alarm, or at least I assess the threat level as not being serious - but I do need to check it out, first, so that I can safely turn it off without residual questions. 

But as examples of those crazy situations that I stumbled upon that happened to be true?

For starters, here are the best examples of situations that I stumbled into and was gaslighted about, that were later found to be true (which I provide more detail on below):

A shoplifting former coworker - - a former sexually-harassing boss -  - an internet stalker of someone else on the internet, who then targeted me when I stumbled onto them - - what my dad was actually doing for a living versus what he said - -  that something deeper was going on with my mother's mental health than PTSD alone.

I hoped they were one-offs or that I WAS crazy and paranoid and making them up, and even believed the gaslighting that I was crazy, for a while, or "triggering" from past experience. 

It sure would've made my life a lot easier if I was that crazy -  I could've just taken antipsychotics and/or mood stabilizers and it would've all gone away lol.

But in fact, my knack for accidentally stumbling across crazy situations, and getting myself in trouble for asking too many questions, so that I can turn my PTSD alarm system off, is one of the reasons Mark calls me Ripley, as in from "Aliens" lol

Although he agrees that my being conditioned to not trust my instincts/gaslight myself is partially to blame, he also sees some similarities to what happened to Ripley in Aliens.

Because if you've seen the film Aliens, you may recall that the corporation that Ripley was piloting for had written Ripley off as a kook who was making everything up about what happened to her crew, ignoring what little evidence they did have, because the planet her crew had visited contained new resources, and they had just  recently colonized the planet while Ripley was in hypersleep. 

To say that her briefing in front of the board of shareholders for the corporation didn't go well is an understatement; thus, the case is closed, she's written off as mentally ill, and she's demoted to a forklift driver rather than a pilot, because that's all the company will allow her to do for a living.

(Just an background information on the films, it takes place in the 22nd century, where a single corporation and government are now combined on earth, in the future, and not just for the US, but for the world - they control commerce, trade, law, and even the military.). 

As a result of her experiences and not being believed, she stops talking about it, tries to forget about it, and tries to move on with her life -  but she is also having increasingly worse nightmares every night, waking up in cold sweats, and nothing is making them go away.

A year later, Burke, the lawyer who represented her with the company, comes calling  - along with a company navy lieutenant  - telling her they've lost contact with the colony and asking to board the ship with special ops as a special consultant.

Although there's no apology or any acknowledgement that she may have been right, they make her an offer that if she does this, they will reinstate her pilot license.

At first, she tells the company that they can eff  right off  - she experienced this trauma, they made it worse by not believing her, writing her off as a kook and demoting her - but they're now asking for her help?

But then she tells them that actually, her biggest reason why she can't help them is that she can't bring herself to go back, because she wouldn't be any help to them if she did, she's too damaged.

But then the nightmares won't stop - and she thinks about the number of children that were at the colony and worries for their safety - so she signs up, both to confront the thing she fears most, as well as save the colonists, if she can.

But in fact, the moral of this story - and Ripley's biggest threat - wasn't the aliens - Ripley's biggest problem was Burke.

Burke knew all along she was telling the truth, but his plan was to not only save the colonized planet due to its lucrative resources for the company, but also as a private moneymaker - to capture an alien and take it back to the company and sell it to them, so they could study and genetically engineer it to create better soldiers.

He had hoped that he could he could eventually convince Ripley to go along with this plan as restitution for what she endured and what the company did to her afterwards.

However, when she uncovers his plan during the mission, Burke tells her "We could be set for life, Ripley - set for life. I thought you were smarter than this" to which Ripley replies; "I'm happy to disappoint you :)"

Unfortunately for Burke, Ripley wasn't motivated by money and wasn't vengeful or vindictive - she was motivated by caring for the safety and welfare of other human beings, especially children :)

Ripley then realizes that Burke, and other humans like him, are actually worse than the aliens, because the aliens were just trying to survive and reproduce; Burke, on the other hand, was trying to use the situation to his advantage so he could make a few extra bucks.

He was even willing to let Ripley -  and a colonist child, Newt -  become impregnated by the aliens, (which occurs by forced ingestion and then the "baby" bursting out of the chest cavity once gestated) so he could carry them back undetected through customs.

He said he was hoping physicians back on earth could find a way to detach the aliens before "burst-out," despite the fact that Ripley's testimony had included that their ship's physician/surgeon documented surgical removal was not possible without killing the human host.

Or in other words, as Ripley put it:

"I don't know which species is worse, at least you don't see them screwing each other over for a God-damned percentage."

And of course, when she catches on to his plan later, he tries to gaslight her AGAIN, telling the rest of the team that she's delusional.

However, the team knew the company gaslighted her the first time, then enlisted her help for this entire mission.

Also, when she and Newt were sleeping in the lab's safe room, someone clearly knocked over the live alien specimen tube, made by the previous colonists, took her rifle, locked her in the safe room with the live specimen, and turned off all the comms to the room -  and they knew there was only one person who could've done those things, the last person seen leaving the lab - Burke.

Hicks and the special ops team want to deliver justice to Burke right then and there, but Ripley begins to stop him, preferring to bring him back to due process of law and justice back on earth, to set a precedent, and if nothing else to prove that the worst of our species can be humanely handled by the best of our species (but they are interrupted by the aliens arrival to their stronghold in through the ceiling vents.)

Back to me, so like Ripley in the beginning, I often see myself as crazy or too emotionally damaged from my trauma to be of any use to anyone.

But then just like with Ripley, the truth in my situations often came out later to everybody, several months to even years later.  

Well, not every time, at least not yet - but of the above-mentioned situations:

1)  The popular former coworker thief was arrested a year later,  and not just by local police, but by the FBI after a sting, for being part of a regional crime ring that had stolen tens of thousands of dollars' worth of products and sold them across state lines.
I had previously told some of my coworkers that I thought I saw her stick something in her purse she hadn't paid for, and they said I was crazy, she'd be the last person to ever do that, "She's a devout Christian." 
Then they really thought I was crazy when I was on a call at the counter one day, and after the customer hung up, I heard "Recording ended."  
I told my coworkers I heard that, I'm sure I did - but they told me that my pregnancy hormones must be going haywire, because that's crazy. So I asked security, who said it wasn't them, so ask the store manager.  He said they weren't sophisticated enough to do that, even security doesn't even have that ability (in 1994).
But as turns out, I was also right about hearing that phone message, because we were being recorded - by the FBI as part of the sting operation.  They were recording calls coming to and from the department store as part of the sting operation (back before cell phones). 
Needless to say, you can't imagine how many calls I got on my maternity leave, when they arrested her and it ended up in local and regional newspapers and TV news, which people saying "OH.MY.GOD, we really started to think you were mentally ill, but you were right!  I feel so bad, I'm SO sorry!  She had us all fooled, but you.  Even before you saw her steal, you said you didn't trust her. and you refused to go to lunch with her.  That really bothered her, that you refused to go, she was kind of obsessed with it and why.  We thought she was the nicest person in the world."

I was like "Me too! LO! I was convinced I had completely lost my mind until I read that in the paper today, so no worries!:) 


2) The former sexual harasser was fired 6 months after I quit, after doing it again, to another new girl.   I had quit the company, leaving a letter, after being group bullied, everyone believing I was sleeping with the boss (which he instigated, after I rejected his advances).  He was fired after he did it again and a former  employee and victim finally came forward.  


3)  The internet stalker of someone else, who at first claimed to be the victim, then turned their attention to me after catching on, was put on a leash through civil action rather than criminal, 5 years later, because they refused to ever stop.  
It was a civil action rather than criminal, because this person - and their little online helpers -  lived in other countries and could never be extradited, even for terroristic threatening. 
It's a lot harder than people think to prosecute stalkers, if they haven't ended up physically hurting you yet, and the FBI can't help unless it's actual murder across state lines or more than a certain amount was stolen or defrauded, and especially hard if the crimes mostly occurred over the internet and they do not live in your country, or even your state.  Even rape can't get you extradited here from other countries (i.e. Roman Polanski).
I'm told they've been criminally prosecuted since in their country and state, for doing it again to someone else, but I'm not sure that's true, because I still see them around the net sometimes, but it's difficult to say because the sentencing for even proven cyberstalking/hacking/terroristic threatening is nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
4)   My mother was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features (possibly schizoaffective disorder?) after a psychotic break in 2011 - 40 years after I, alone, witnessed a couple of psychotic breaks as a teenager, when my older sister was at college and my little sister was only 4, and no one else was around. 
She went to some pretty desperate, well, abusive lengths to try to hide/deny it and silence me - sometimes employing the same tactics as her abuser, my Dad -  not only because she was as a psychiatric nurse and a trusted charismatic evangelical who believed she could hear from God (and her church believed she could) - but because, I believe, she feared she wouldn't be believed about Dad's abuse if she admitted that, even to herself.
That makes her sound more awful than she is, or at least who she is now - but there is a happy ending to this one - she is currently on medications, has been since 2011, takes them regularly, and is doing well.  She's like a different person, in fact, and quite frankly, genuinely doesn't remember much of it.  
But I never stopped loving her, forgave her a long time ago (though I sometimes trigger from residuals), it's just she wasn't safe for me to be around until properly treated - so it's been very healing for us both, reconnecting :)
She still doesn't own it much, and nobody in the family or her church (except our mutual friend who recently died) wants to admit that I was right or what I went through with her, preferring to blame all of her troubles on the trauma from my Dad. 
But yes, first a family member admitted she was diagnosed as bipolar (with psychotic features), but she just admitted that herself, to me, that this was her official diagnosis to me just a few weeks ago.  
I responded "Thank you for sharing that with me, that's a brave thing to do, and there's no judgment here, you can't help it." 
And you know, that doesn't mean that you hallucinated Dad's abuse - but I could understand your fear of people thinking that, especially back then, they probably would have said that in court. But his abuse of you was VERY real, your daughters saw it, and there is objective evidence of it; the police took photos of your broken ribs  and arms, busted lips, and a school friend's mom took the pictures as the police photographer." 
(My mom chose to drop the charges every time, either out of fear or forgiveness.) 
I also told her "Mental illness it's not your fault, in fact, it's not anyone's fault, although Dad's abuse didn't help it, but you didn't do anything wrong to have it - in fact,  it's some combination of genetics,  environment, and brain chemistry that we don't understand, just like cancer. That doesn't mean responsibility shouldn't ever be taken like the rest of us, but you cannot help it, or control it, without medication." 


5) We're not sure if my dad ever went to prison or not for what his criminal business activities or not before he died, none of us were in communication with him for the last 25 years, and nobody feels like digging too much and finding out, we're just glad he's out of our lives.  We don't even know how where he died or how, just that he did, in May of 2018, when my mom was filing for social security benefits.  
But what we do know is that most people finally knew what my Dad he had really been doing for a living by the time he died.

So though plagued with doubt and lingering questions, in writing that out, actually ... that's not a bad record, is it? 

I have pretty good instincts, just tons of self-doubt; thus, why I stupidly ask questions until I'm in trouble lol.

Mark also says he calls me Ripley, not just because of the above, but because he believes that in emergencies, my bad-ass side comes out, like when it's an actual physical threat or there's an actual emergency or natural disaster. 

I don't know if I'd say that lol - but I'd say PTSD does have its positive side.

Because that is not a testament to me, really, it's a testament to the positive symptoms of PTSD, the power of PTSD.  

Because although we, with PTSD, tend to be all weak and wobbly in everyday, normal life - if there's an emergency or catastrophe, a natural disaster, war, or apocalypse going on (lol) - you really want someone with PTSD on your side, believe me.

That is because our brains know what pathways to go down, now,  they've already been created, because we've been there before when others haven't.

We stop feeling and start thinking. Our problem-solving skills, reflexes, and even our physical strength go into hyperdrive due to adrenaline output - not just to survive, but to keep everyone safe from harm - the latter being especially true if it's a woman with PTSD (but this also depends on the woman or the man, too).

It can almost feel superhuman, but it's not - every human has this capacity, it doesn't make us "special"  - or there wouldn't be so many people with PTSD that unfortunately had to have something, or some things, that were truly horrible to happen to them to get this disorder.

Speaking of which, PTSD symptoms are exactly the same in men and women, but we often study and focus male PTSD because their PTSD is the result of military experiences or first responding, and I get that - not because it's worse, but because there were third-party witnesses, the trauma can be proven and objectively evaluated for study.

However, we really shouldn't discount the severity of the trauma of women, because when trauma happens to men, most of the time - if not the result of childhood trauma or natural disaster - male trauma is the result of military or first-responder situations - trauma induced by complete strangers during war time or crime.

With women, on the other hand, most of time, female trauma was not inflicted at the hands of a total stranger or enemy - it was the result of a person they  loved and trusted; a family member, friend, or trusted person in the community - the Burkes of the world ;)

Making it worse is that women tend to be dismissed and gaslighted, in our society, often with us women helping that out ourselves.

IMO, that is partly due to residual misogyny, and female tendency to be more open with emotions but also because we humans in general like to think we're safer than we actually are in our own community, automatically trust people with money or power as being stable or safe when that's not the correct criteria to evaluate safety.

But mostly, IMO, it's not JUST about misogyny and gender, but also because people don't like to think about or deal with threats in their own community to give themselves a false sense of security so they can get through everyday life.

This is also why some of our politicians don't like to focus on domestic terrorism, and instead focus on foreign terrorists, as if they are worse than what's right here at home, within our own country, race, political party, and even our own religion.

Now, having said that, it doesn't mean I was never wrong, I certainly have been.

And sometimes I jumped the gun without enough evidence, which only tipped the person off, if they were guilty, to now look innocent, just to make ME look nuts lol.

And there are other times, I don't know, I still question myself on, because the truth never came out.

And lastly, there are a few other situations that I'm 100% sure of that happened, the truth just hasn't come out yet - but I have faith that the truth will come out, even if it's long after I'm gone, because the truth always does, even if centuries later :)

But with some of the biggest situations I've mentioned above, I actually have a pretty good track record, in the end, which I didn't even realize until I wrote it out.

So - what have I learned?

Never speak of it again, let everyone think you're crazy and made it up,  because at least you, or the people you care about, will be safe  from any retaliation or harm - then get the fuck out as soon as you can lol.

Also, not to let the injustice of other people getting away with something become your life sentence  - find your joy :)

But a watched pot never boils - you can't wait around for karma or for justice, it can consume you.

And sometimes you're never going to get justice or resolution, and you have to find a way to heal anyway, to avoid a lifetime stuck in pain, bitterness, or even obsession with revenge. 

You just have to compartmentalize it, share the residuals that bubble up sometimes with trusted others, and then let it go again, so that you can just get on with your life and find some joy :)

Also, trying to convince people that don't want to see it, especially if you have PTSD and your CNS alarm system is going off,  will do no good, even if you're holding the proof in your hand - they don't want to see it and so they won't. 

In that case, it will only turn out like Ripley in the board roam - you look crazy and possibly aggressive, helping the gaslighters out yourself - and in certain, more rare situations, doing so can even be dangerous.  

And ya know, they never actually finish that story ,about The Emperor's New Clothes.  They don't say what happened to that kid who pointed out that the emperor actually wasn't wearing any and had been grifted ... 

... but I guarantee you, nobody rewarded him,  They were too embarrassed to admit he'd been right and they'd all gone along with it, with many still clinging onto what they needed to believe until they day they died. 

But I can tell you what probably happened - they either gaslighted him until he ended up in a mental institution or they took him out back and beat the shit out of him or worse lol.

Regardless, Roger that, Hicks ... easing down off the throttle, now. 

 I think you're right, we're out of the woods and we'll be okay.  That is, if I can just follow my own advice above.. 

Love you :)


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