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Make A Therapy Style Weighted Pillow For Grounding

This is a great idea to use at home if you feel triggered, stressed or fearful. It reduces the out of body feeling (floating/ dissociation) and helps you remain present in the body and focused in the moment. My therapist had a large weighted toy dog that you could hold on your lap during a session. It really helped.

SG x

therapy pillow

Grounding is the practice of consciously and deliberately connecting to the earth and to one’s own body for self-regulation of states of activation. Extreme trauma and stress can throw the nervous system into states of, on one extreme, hyperaraousal and on the other, numbness and immobility. Grounding helps train the nervous system to calm down, re-balance and re-learn how to function normally. Grounding is a healing tool that is often used within the context of a therapeutic session (self-therapy or with a therapist). It helps you to focus and reduces the out of body feeling or floating.

Having some objects on hand that apply pressure and weight to the body can really help enhance the felt sense of grounding. A heavy pillow is nice because it conforms to the body, which can feel comforting. Also, it offers a lot of sensory stimulation – you can pick it up and feel the texture of the contents, and hear the sounds the contents make when moved around. Patting and handling the pillow make it change shapes. All of this can help bring the attention into the body and into the moment.

Since I made my therapy pillow, I have used it when really activated – in other words, when triggered and feeling panicked and terrified. It has worked well to calm me in those moments. I have also brought it with me to therapy. Holding it on my lap during a therapy session really adds a helpful calming effect which is especially nice to have when bringing up really difficult issues and memories.

Instructions:

1. Obtain a Small Pillow Case.

I went to a thrift store and found a couple of nice place mats (pictured above) measuring 14 x 20 inches. These place mats with a lining are nice because they are the right size to fit on my lap and not too labor intensive (you only have to sew one inch or so of the seam where you opened it to put the contents in). You can also use a standard pillow case (20×26 inches) but it can be pricey to buy enough stuff to fill a standard pillow case – although it’s not really a big deal if the contents are all on one end – it still works. If you have a travel pillow or decorative pillow, you can empty it and fill it with your contents. If you don’t have anything on hand you could buy a travel pillow case. Also, if you’re OK with some sewing, you may want to just get some cloth and create a pillow out of it – then you can customize the size, making it so it fits on your lap nicely and applies pressure to both of your thighs.

2. Ideas for fillings.

  • lentils
  • beans – pinto beans, mung beans, kidney beans, soy beans, black beans etc.
  • split peas
  • buckwheat hulls
  • rice
  • dried corn
  • couscous
  • grains like buckwheat, millet, barley
  • small smooth pebbles
  • sand – sand can seep out the pillow seams though so you may want a plastic bag directly around the sand

corn, beans, lentils

For my therapy pillow I bought 8 pounds of green lentils. In terms of price, probably the cheapest filling is sand, but any kind of fine sand might escape the pillow. There are cheap landscaping pebbles out there, like “pea gravel” and perusing the landscape rocks and decorative rocks option is a pretty inexpensive.

3. Prepare your Pillow Case

– sewing machine or needle and thread

– scissors or seam ripper

If using a pillowcase, sew together the open end until you have a one inch opening – or whatever size opening will fit your funnel. If using a place mat, use a small scissors or seam ripper to open up a hole for the funnel.

Cut a hole along the seam for the funnel

4. Fill Your Pillow.

– funnel

– something to pour lentils with – cup, bowl, large liquid measuring cup

pouring lentils into a therapy pillow

5. Test It.

Feel the weight and make sure you like how it feels on your lap.

I found that 8 pounds works on my lap but not on my feet. It works on one foot. I’m pretty sure 16 pounds would be enough to apply pressure to both of my feet.

For now, I’m content to just use it on my lap.

It would be great to have another, 16 pound, pillow for my feet at some point.

6. Sew it Up

If you are happy with the weight, sew up your pillow and then…

7. Remember to Use It!

Article by Heidi Hanson

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What Is C-PTSD?

I used to think I was overreacting. Now I realize it was just a normal reaction to an abnormal amount of bullshit. A yup, that sums it up.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) is a psychological injury that results from protracted exposure to prolonged social and/or interpersonal trauma in the context of either captivity or entrapment (a situation lacking a viable escape route for the victim), which results in the lack or loss of control, helplessness, and deformations of identity and sense of self.

Forms of trauma associated with C-PTSD involve a history of prolonged subjection to totalitarian control including sexual abuse (especially child sexual abuse), physical abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence or torture—all repeated traumas in which there is an actual or perceived inability for the victim to escape.

C-PTSD was not accepted by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder.

It was first described in 1992 by Judith Herman in her book Trauma & Recovery and an accompanying article.

Though mainstream journals have published papers on C-PTSD, the category is not formally recognized in diagnostic systems such as Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

However, the former includes “disorder of extreme stress, not otherwise specified” and the latter has this similar code “personality change due to classifications found elsewhere”, both of whose parameters accommodate C-PTSD.

The seven categories of after effects include the following:

1. Alterations in the regulation of affective impulses, including difficulty with modulation of anger and of tendencies towards self-destructivenesss. This category has come to include all methods used for emotional regulation and self-soothing, even those that are paradoxical such as addictions and self-harming behaviors;

2. Alterations in attention and consciousness leading to amnesias and dissociative episodes and depersonalization. This category includes emphasis on dissociative responses different than those found in the DSM criteria for PTSD. Its inclusion in the CPTSD conceptualization incorporates findings that dissociation tends to be related to prolonged and severe interpersonal abuse occurring during childhood and, secondarily, that children are more prone to dissociation than are adults;

3. Alterations in self perception, predominantly negative and involving a chronic sense of guilt and responsibility, and ongoing feelings of intense shame. Chronically abused individuals (especially children) incorporate abuse messages and posttraumatic responses into their developing sense of self and self-worth;

4. Alterations in perception of the perpetrator, including incorporation of his or her belief system. This criterion addresses the complex relational attachment systems that ensue following repetitive and premeditated abuse and lack of appropriate response at the hands of primary caretakers or others in positions of responsibility;

5. Alterations in relationship to others, In hypervigilance, there is a perpetual scanning of the environment to search for sights, sounds, people, behaviors, smells, or anything else that is reminiscent of threat or trauma. The individual is placed on high alert in order to be certain danger is not near. Hypervigilance can lead to a variety of obsessive behavior patterns, as well as producing difficulties with social interaction and relationships (social anxiety) such as not being able to trust the motives of others and not being able to feel intimate with them. Another “lesson of abuse” internalized by victim/ survivors is that other people are venal and self-serving, out to get what they can by whatever means including using/abusing others. Abuse survivors may be unaware that other people can be benign, care giving, and not dangerous;

6. Somatization and/or medical problems. These somatic reactions and medical conditions may relate directly to the type of abuse suffered and any physical damage that was caused or they may be more diffuse. They have been found to involve all major body systems and to include many pain syndromes, medical illnesses and somatic conditions;

7. Alterations in systems of meaning. Chronically abused and traumatized individuals often feel hopeless about finding anyone to understand them or their suffering (chronic depression). They despair of being able to recover from their psychic anguish.

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Complex PTSD

It took the death of my father to free me from a lifetime of emotional abuse as the daughter of a narcissistic mother. To open my eyes and swim away. To save myself from drowning.At first, I experienced one of those ‘pink cloud’ periods. Out of her sphere of influence, I was liberated. Powerful.  Invincible.  And I sailed on that cloud for a month or so. Until  my first EMDR session. The ensuing flood of memories. The vibrantly real visions of flailing, submerged, for safety, alone in the middle of a pond whose ice was too thin to bear the weight of even the frailest of the fragile.It was then that I realized the true pain had just begun. Pinpointing the root of my problems involved ripping wide open poorly healed wounds. Recracking bones. What emerged was the wreckage of my life.Everything became a trigger. There was no still point. Except in yoga. In meditation. In carrying around the book and studying each day The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  It is this immersion into the spiritual which is saving me. Repairing my wounds. Reconnecting me with my soul.


My light bulb moment first occurred last year, when my new pdoc, just ten minutes into our 15 minute session, said “I knew right away what your problem is. You have PTSD. I saw it the moment you walked in the door.”Imagine that, after over 20 years of treatment for Major Depressive Disorder!

True, I had immersed myself years before in studying narcissistic mothers. I had done all the reading back then. The Gifted Child. Trapped in the Mirror. Codependent No More. I had gone through periods of No Contact. Limited Contact. But years of treating the symptoms with medication, with sliding through life saddled with the stigma MDD had diverted my attention from the true issue. Had kept me ‘coming back for more.’

It was only after that visit with the pDoc that I began researching Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), defined as “a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape. “PTSD, in contrast, results from single events, or short term exposure to extreme stress or trauma.

For me C-PTSD involved emotional abuse, physical violations of personal boundaries, entrapment , long-term objectification, exposure to gaslighting & false accusations,  long-term exposure to inconsistent, push-pull, splitting or alternating raging & hoovering behaviors.

The consequences? Hypervigilence, hypersensitivity, inability to trust, feeling deformed, defective. Unworthy of being loved. Isolating. Adrenal fatigue. Chronic sleep problems. Battlling and overcoming addictions. Inability to hold onto a job. Incapable of true intimacy. The list goes on. And on. And on. I read the symptoms and there is nary a one I cannot relate to.

My NM succeeded time after time in reeling me back in, keeping me entrapped in an obsessive need to ‘get it right this time,’ to find a way to correct the misconceptions she had about me, to redeem myself for being such a failure.

But I was a failure the moment I was born. How can one correct that?


There were times like this most recent period,  during the last two years, when I thought I had succeeded. When I was able to swoop in and work magic as she and my father battled major illness.  I felt loved. I flew back and forth to the East Coast maybe seven times for extensive stays in hotels near their home. For hospitalizations. Doctors visits. Setting up home health care services. We all thought my mother would die first.

But it was my dad who lost his battle with cancer. Just four days before his death, while I was supervising hospice and home nurses and battling with doctors to issue the right cocktail of meds to relieve my dad of his suffering, she struck out with an attack of such deluded vengeance, I came this close to a psychotic break. When my dad needed me most.

That was the end for me. I told her the next morning I would be staying until he died. And I flew back home the day after his funeral.


My mother’s self absorption, her inability to express love, her preventing me from forming any close friendships, her adeptness at triangulation, her severe punishments which often took the form of weeks of being ignored, the continuous lack of consistency between what she said one day and the next, the radical shifts in reality between when one went to bed in the evening and awoke in the morning. The false accusations.  It was always me causing the problems, the drama, the family rifts.

As I see it, some of the most damaging episodes of dealing with my my mother in my life happened after I ended my first period of no contact. My daughter was perhaps two. I recall phone conversations when my mother said such horrible things I experienced emotional traumas so intense they manifested as inflicted physical wounds.• Feeling like someone had pulled the earth out from under your feet: A short time sober and emerging (unbeknownst to her) out the other end of a psychic break,  she told me she had been disappointed with me since my senior year in high school – I looked down to see if I still had legs.
• Feeling as if the top of my head had exploded: she said I had no right to have a child so soon after getting married when we weren’t financially set –  I reached my hands to see if my head was still there.
• Feeling as if l had been stabbed in the heart: I was the only girl of all 23 cousins who was a failure –  I looked down for the knife, the blood.


In the three months since my dad’s death, I had been in limited contact mode. I was calling her once a week. And then, a few weeks ago, she said something so hurtful and vindictive, I looked down to see if my wrists had been slit. I continued to look down at my wrists, on and off through the day, for a week afterwards.  As I write this I notice I look down again.

Today, I am in my 12th day of “No Contact.” And as much as others may view me as a horrible daughter, for my own survival ‘No Contact’ must define my status until she dies.  To be “No Contact” means to allow no contact from her, either. To avoid all contact with people she may use as messengers of actions she is taking to hurt, discredit and paint false pictures about me.