PTSD Doesn’t Discriminate: Anyone Can Develop It

I’ve gotten some smart ass clap backs from people assuming that a middle class person of means cannot and should not develop or have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) so I felt the need to set the record straight. Fifty percent of people in the USA will experience first hand trauma, with women more likely to develop PTSD than men. Combat veterans are notorious sufferers of this condition and many mistakenly assume that this is the only sector of the population that can claim to have it. Anyone can develop PTSD, and 8% of the USA population will experience it. (PTSD stats taken from Google searches.)

From the National Institutes of Health:

Not every traumatized person develops ongoing (chronic) or even short-term (acute) PTSD. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD. Symptoms usually begin early, within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but sometimes they begin years afterward. Symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTSD. The course of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some people, the condition becomes chronic.

Although I have not been diagnosed with PTSD, there have been many traumatic events in my life that have created trigger points for my anxiety and stress. Certain news, good and bad, result in bouts of depression or panic attacks. I cannot get a call in the middle of the night without wondering if someone has been arrested, is dead or dying. When people yell at me I burst into tears; I assume an admonishment dug deep into my emotional core and decided to take residence there. The one that has taken me a time to get over is waiting for a late menstrual cycle. Due to the miscarriage and subsequent failed attempts at conceiving, staring into a pregnancy test is terrifying especially now that I don’t want children. Having sex is tough cause I do not want to have to go through that harrowing experience ever again.

Because I wouldn’t wish any of my traumas on my worst enemies, certain words, phrases or expectations send me down a path of anxiety, despair and quick emotional distress. I started avoiding weddings, baby showers and any celebration of love because I couldn’t handle the inquest about children. For all I know I can’t have them and I will never be a part of the parenting community. When my friends with kids don’t invite me to things I automatically assume it is because of our status. RSVPing no to our events, usually comes with an excuse about how their kids hinder their participation. The NO fatigue got to us so hard that we stopped planning parties all together. We are a family, just the two of us, and not meeting others’ expectations of marriage has given us enough trauma to last a few lifetimes. 

The next time someone says they have PTSD, even if it sounds ridiculous to you, be kind and don’t refute the person. Unless you have a clinical understanding of the disorder and a record of the person’s experiences and state of mind, abstain from passing judgement. People that appear happy and successful didn’t necessarily go through charmed childhoods or perfect experiences. Their problems are real, regardless of your opinion, and the pressures of life can create situations that were not safe and extremely traumatic for them. Fears are difficult to conquer and reacting subconsciously to triggers is a reality for many people, which cannot just be controlled or ignored.

Hugs!

You Can Disagree With an Opinion and Be Wrong

I’ve spent the entirety of my life on this planet educating myself, and being educated by my peers and family, about every single subject that crossed our paths. Great care was taken by my elders to discuss any issue -past, present and future – that was deemed important and necessary to have a vetted view of the world and its realities. I took great pride in doing my best to become a productive member of society, and that included validating every opinion, angle and though about controversial and mundane subject matter.

Because of this my opinion is based on higher scrutiny standards and scrubbed of bias, to a degree. It is hard to keep my thoughts to myself when random people disagree with me because they feel like it. Being a woman, young, latin, a scientist, agnostic or whatever label you want to employ when categorizing me doesn’t invalidate my logic or reasoning. You will gain absolutely nothing by stating you disagree and you will have not convinced me you are correct either.

What does my rant imply? Glad you asked! When you post opinion pieces that are missing data, most likely you will hear from someone, like me. After all, we have no other way of knowing you did your due diligence because we did and we came to different conclusions. Most things in life can be boiled down to binary components: Yes or no. Gray areas are considered so because opinions range in comprehension but the facts are absolute and uncontested. Telling me you disagree doesn’t make your logic correct nor validates your opinion as sound. The onus is on you to open your mind and consider the opposing view to adjust your perspective. The data will set you free.

Don’t take these discussions personally, and take them as an opportunity to grow as a person and debater. Keep an open mind when people reach out to discuss controversial or deep subjects because it is supposes to be a difficult conversation. You can only give credence to what you can confirm, and sometimes your biases or convictions will get in the way of the bigger picture.

If thinking hurts your brain when you are discussing ideas then you are on the right track. Channel the passion you have about the subject in a rational way. Emotions can and will derail your train of thought if you haven’t considered all the angles. Don’t close yourself off to avoid a change of heart because sometimes you will have to adjust your beliefs.

The truth is out there…

Of Nerdaphores and Slacktivism

Most of my friends are nerds and as such, we come up with  nerd wisdom all the time. To properly convey the message of our philosophical sessions, made up terminology is employed. [Side note: Our employer is infamous for making up jargon and acronyms that no human can decipher so it rubbed off on us peons too.] Many of the discussed subjects are so intriguing and unique we end up baptizing them with a word mass-up worthy of a Scrabble war.

Nerdaphore – short hand for nerdy metaphor – was coined by one of my colleagues after I mentioned to him that some people need to chop off sides of their family tree. In the discussion, phrases like “let me take over the com”, “open a hail channel” or “make it so No. 1” came up frequently. My coworkers draw blank stares when I use this terminology  and with reason: only a nerd would understand what I was referring to and find it amusing. Hehe It is so hard to turn out examples for this definition because I barely notice when I am getting nerdaphoric. My husband, sister and close friends understand me though. The family that geeks out together stays together.

The second term in the title took a longer time to develop because the concept wasn’t as clear to us when we started examining the situation in question. The team was discussing the dynamic of showing solidarity to a cause in an unethical or inconsistent manner. For example, people who buy a hybrid but power it using electricity generated by coal and have no clue or care about the hypocrisy of their actions. Creating awareness becomes a hollow gesture if your actions don’t follow through fully. Boycotting to seem cool or aware solves nothing and doesn nothing to further your cause. It seems a bit convenient that people appease themselves and others by giving themselves a pat in the back for caring as if that alone effected change. You won’t fool the likes of us though. 

Caring about many causes while financially or physically supporting none is what we decided to call into question. Activism requires you to leave the comforts of your home to fight injustice, oppression and/or poverty. We opted to thus name the act of supporting a cause from the comfort of your high horse, half hearted activism or slacktivism. The terminology manages to give credit to those furthering and giving light to a cause, albeit passively, with enough disdain and disgust. This let them know they should step up their game if they want to be considered true agents of change. Be the change you want to see in the world, affect and effect change regardless of the obstacles. No one can do it but ourselves.

There are so many more terms we have invented through the years but aside from adorkable and nerdom, not many have gone mainstream. If you have a term that needs clarification submit it via the comments section. Nerds are observant creatures that seek to gain insight from every experience and exchange they witness and we are more than happy to let you know when logic and reasoning have failed you. Talk to a geek or nerd today. They will gladly open your eyes to the inconsistencies in your life’s narrative. At the very least they will brighten it up with explanations in their made up language, or in Klingon. 🤓 hehe

Stay thirsty for knowledge, my friends.

“Why do you speak English so good?” – Well, because I studied the language.

There is a difference between speaking  a second language and learning it. Knowing a few words can help you get around in a foreign country or can help bridge a gap with fellow tourists or coworkers but understanding the language and its roots, its nuances and lexicon, requires careful study. To fully claim mastery, one must become aware of the importance of syntax and proper grammar; on how the characters and symbols help convey the message or idea as intended. It takes many years to reach a high level of proficiency, to ger to the point at which people can’t resist complementing eloquence, delivery and improvisation skills. That is if they understand their own language well enough to notice, or are well verse in the one you are using to address them.

The downside of having spent so much time minding my ps and qs, along with my diction and everyday jargon, is that native speakers will find a way of giving you backhanded compliments. From, you must have learned this stateside to that word is not used by your kind in English therefore you must have plagiarized the content, the microaggressions are endless. With such a deficient educational system in play, one can find themselves in situations where erudite and/or sophisticated vocabulary will work against you even in professional settings. I had a manager once ask a coworker to stop using fancy words to get their points across in a technical environment. Ugh! Ignorance plays a role in this misconception because the speaker may not realize that other cultures promote teaching children a second or third language due to socio-political and business reasons. In effect, the foreigner or non native speaker has the upper hand, a thing the locals dislike because they feel inferior. The USA needs to bring back etiquette and intellectualism. It’s easier to do this than to “fix stupid”.

The schooling in Puerto Rico, and in many international metropolitan cities, requires that we speak and study English since Pre-kindergarten. This offers an edge culturally because their young citizens will be able to read and write in multiple languages. This is why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a person raised outside the USA can master a foreign language. (Or that one raised in the USA can’t master more than American English either.) Studying “book” or proper English taught me that words can have different meaning and interpretation in both our mother tongue and our adoptive one. Thus it becomes apparent quickly that there is more than one way to interpret a statement, a source of constant confusion for many ESL (English as a Second Language) peers that come from languages that are more specific in their definitions and vernacular. I’ve watched many meetings spiral out of control over a misplaced article, incorrectly conjugated verb, missing preposition or poor adverb or adjective usage and placement. Don’t get me started on prefixes, suffixes and root origins! Lots of ground to cover, with lots of places to loose a conversation. Knowing the language inside and out helps me bring order to someone’s chaotic speech patterns. An invaluable skill to have if you ask any employer.

In today’s world, it is imperative and extemely satisfactory to know more than one method of communication. Be it sign language, which has its nuances too, computer programming, or the writen and spoken word, there is a need for diversity of thought and deeper understanding of language. You can only fully appreciate where someone is coming from when you can derrive meaning from the thoughts left between the lines, or by critically analyzing what a person with an accent or speech impediment is attempting to state. By reading and listening to the idea in its original format and style. Only when you can grasp the pitfalls of your own tongue, physiology and global significance of posture and tone can you be certain that the message has been received and can be correctly interpreted and replicated. Just as we must listen to give thoughtful answers, we must speak well to be understood and rally together. This is why I treasure reading and traveling since they both give me a sense of belonging as a citizen of the world not tied to just one perception and interpretation of the truth.

Learning about the popular culture and history of the United States and Great Britain, or any country and culture you wish to explore, also helps cement the meaning behind the spoken words. Certain parts of the country and certain subcultures rely on hidden or oversimplified definitions and uses of content, slang for short, that are difficult to learn out of context. If you are constantly wondering what was really said or meant try reading popular books, watching soaps and recurring topic TV shows to get a better idea of what the phrases and words mean to the story and the viewers. The motivation behind the content and the reason it is relevant, funny or out of place (like insults and curse words) will stand out after a few episodes. It takes a lot of patience and dedication to delve this deep into the lexicon but it will be worth while. Being understood is just as important as being heard.

Necessity is the mother of invention and innovation. Travel the world and absorb the beauty of the differences in people, language and lifestyles. What you may learn about your own abilities will suprise you…

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?”

If you ever want to give an introvert a panic attack, ask them this question. Go ahead, try it! It is by far the most horrible question you can ask the likes of me, even worse than the dreaded “Do you have kids?” question. Why, you ask? Because there is no way for us to narrow down or comprehend what you mean by this. Was I not suppose to be here? I have an invitation that I triple checked before getting ready to adult. Oh, wait. Did you think I didn’t like this place/activity/event? Seriously! Are you implying that based on previously recorded observations of my personality and past conversations I should somehow not be into whatever this is? Do you even know who I am? Am I not welcomed? See what I mean!!!

Asking someone why they are there is a bit rude, totally suspicious and condescending. I know many think of this exchange as innocent and spontaneous but it doesn’t come across as innocuous at all. Is the person asking truly surprised we are there because they like us or because we seem out of place? Why must they pass judgement or require justification of my current state of being? Belonging is one of those triggers that makes even the most social of introverts over think the situation. There is no polite way to respond to this accusation, or to answer what has become a passive aggressive rethorical question. We are different, we know this, and we will take your comment as a veiled rejection especially if you really knew me and remembered what we talked about in previous exchanges. I’m here because I do in fact belong here. Furthermore, if I thought you were out of place I wouldn’t make a big deal about it on the off chance I would hurt your feelings. I’d nod my head or wave at you from a distance and read your social media posts to figure out why you are there if I am still curious.

By the way, we are not here because we facebook/yelp/twitter stalked your check ins or latesg status. We have better things to do than “hang” with you.

My husband and I have been asked this question when we attend work functions and it always leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Usually a friend of a coworker, who turns out to be our friend, was also invited to the affair and didn’t realize it was for one of the organizations or causes we support. I get that you may not be aware of all the moves we make professionally and personally but come on! Asking me that question in front of my boss and team will give them the wrong impression of my commitment. Couldn’t you have said “Fancy meeting you here” instead or “Hi! It has been a while since I saw you last. How are you”?

There is a difference between what is socially acceptable to ask a human, what we should ask them about and how we go about asking. Many of these preprogrammed questions are falling out of grace because of diversity and, lets face it, by the sheer volume of outliers and exceptions to the rule we meet daily. There are no one size fits all conversation topics and chit chat which is why many people have developed social anxiety. You can’t win with anyone these days unless you put some thought into what you are going to say. The horror! True, PC can get out of hand but it is not what I am advocating. The value of respecting others and their dignity is in the execution of the political correctness, not on the words you are saying.

Life is about including people for real and not giving them a platitude to appease them or making them think you care when you don’t. What’s the value in that? This is why What are you doing here? needs to be addressed and defined as what it is: a direct attack or micro aggression that lets the other person know you are uncomfortable rather than content to see them. If this was not your intention you are being warned now of how the question may be misconstrued.

Choose your words carefully and your friends wisely.

5 Outdated Well Meaning Pieces of Advice

For a couple of years now the advancements in technology have rendered obsolete a few safety and etiquette rules that most of us were given as children. It amazes me how much things have changed in such a short time and how much more change will be thrown our way before we reach old age. Here are a few of the advice pieces that have been rendered moot:

1. Don’t leave your house keys inside your car.

This piece of advice works when dealing with unsophisticated crooks but is rendered useless when you have a garage door opener or Homelink system in your vehicle. When your car is parked outside they can access the garage and get inside your home through the door by using a credit card or lock pick.

Instead of following this advice use a bump proof lock on your garage to house door and make sure you have some sort of camera or device that can record a high quality picture in case of a break in. Anything with a two way microphone can help scare a person away. If you have a portable garage door beeper, take it with you when you park the car.

2. Don’t program your GPS with home directions. 

Although skipping this step can give the police or neighbors time to report and aprehend a perp as they search for documentation, a quick glance at your license or insurance card will give them the information they need faster than firing up the car’s electronics. This is why the intent is for your to carry these documents with you at all times instead of leaving them in the vehicle.

Instead, use your phone to store electronic copies of anything with your address if you need to hide where you live. Program the home address as something else on the GPS for good measure.

3. Always have a phone landline for emergencies.

This one became obsolete real fast when providers went to internet based phone service. When the power went out in our area the phone survived for eight hours on its battery pack and dies shortly here after. The length of time became unreliable as the router aged thus leaving us incommunicado for a few hours unless we used our cellphones (which we charged using the car battery). Anyone trying to break in to your home would just need to cut the cable connection to the house or power to render your security alarm inoperable. Yikes!

Instead, get an alarm system that has a battery pack and have a small electricity generator at hand for major power outages. Have a battery pack or alternative means to charge your cell phone to keep connected. In case of a major tower failure, get walkie talkies, a satcom phone (if you can afford it) or a two way radio to communicate. Make sure your alarm system has a cell phone/wireless tower adapter that can send a signal out through the provider networks instead of via modem. This signal is much harder to suppress unless the perps come prepared.

4. Don’t talk about salaries and career advancement with your coworkers or peers.

Millennials like to tak about everything, so they approach these subjects politely and with caution since there are still professions where backstabbing is alive and well. Never have a had a bad experience from sharing where I want to go and where I have been career wise. Salaries are still a touchy matter to many because they were told asking was rude which is why unions and market reference salary charts were created. These specify how much you should be earning when compared to the area or industry workers. However, the only certain way to know your pay is still competitive is to ask around. I’m not saying you have to disclose your rate or annual earnings but you can definitely validate someone’s concern or even find out you are behind the curve by playing along.

Instead of direct quotes use ranges or comment to validate in a group setting. Only share the information with people you trust or who can do something about a pay discrepancy. Talk to HR if you rather have an impartial and non vested view on the subject. Trust, but verify salary charts. Some companies underpay everyone but make it up with benefits. Don’t forget to compare and count those too.

5. Chores and housework are gender based.

Considering the best chefs, decorators and self acclaimed anything are usually men, there is no such thing as a male or female oriented chore. If you suck at cleaning find an expert or ask your partner if they can manage it. Don’t try to do things around the house just because they align with social preconceived notions based on your gender. It is okay for women to take out the trash and for men to iron! Never stop yourseld from accomplishing a goal because of your gender or sexual orientation. Instead, do what you like to do and cooperate with the housekeeping. Teamwork goes a long way.

🙂

The Royal “We”

When I was learning to speak and write in English my mom taught me about a concept that is called the royal We. The idea is very ingenious and was coined by monarchs and persons of high influence to speak on behalf of the organization, estate, state or government they represent when in fact they are only referring to their involvement or themselves. In a way, the use of the plural pronoun is used to make the figure head seem humble while reminding folks that they hold the power even if others do the job especially since everything they say or commit to do is in actuality accomplished by other people.

My mom used the royal we to include all of those she was are representing; us as a family, her workgroup. As the leader we knew she was talking about a group effort she spearheaded but didn’t actually execute alone. When at home, if she told us we needed to clean up she meant us not her. It’s somewhat of a bastardization of the concept but it is the coloquial use that most people give to this phrase. As a head of this household/office/group I dictate or command you all to do x,y,z on my behalf. Worked wonderfully too.

I tend to use the royal we a lot in this context. Every opportunity I get to volunteer my time or lead an effort I take the pronoun out for a spin. People recognize that as the head honcho you won’t have the time to do everything yourself so the use of we gives equity in the enterprise. If you possess and weild true power and influence stuff gets done faster when you use we because it energizes the team and moves them to action in honor of their “regent”. No one wants the endeavor to fail when they have a stake. Most hardworking folks find it extremely rude when the person in charge uses I all the time, especially if it was a group effort. The royal we serves to give credit where credit is due. However, don’t assume that because you put the accountability on everyone involved you aren’t responsible for failures. Some tasks will still need your undivided attention, clear assingment, and motivation to get things accomplished.

The next time you hear someone in power or charge use the pronoun we, think of what it implies and of who will be effectively doing the hard work: the people behind the figurehead. Maybe Queen Victoria was aware that by stating “We are not amused” she was also speaking for her country and all those she represented. Her opinion reigning supreme over all of her subjects. As a regent, everyone will look up to you for support, advice and action. As peasants, it is our job to validate that the leader truly represents us and if not, find someone who does. Act wisely.

 

Illusion v. Expectations

Every so often a post pops up on social media about people’s expectations. In many cases, the point of the message is as follows: If your expectations are too high, and no one meets them, lower them but if they constantly exceed they may be too low. How can you decide which one is the truth? After all, everything’s relative. Aren’t you tired of having to guess what to expect, what to demand and what to ignore? It is a struggle to find a balance, a one size fits all solution to this predicament. As humans with bias, we will need to have a baseline from which to gauge failure versus success, love versus loss, and grief versus happiness. Is there an objective way to find common metrics?

In the past, etiquette rules and the unwritten social codes were that bar that measured expectations and level set the playing field. People knew when to hold doors, when to get out of the way, and even how to approach strangers with casual greetings and respectful titles. Regardless of where you were in the world, this rules held universally. At some point the new generation began to develop their own approaches to these situations and started to deviate from the protocol. This caused confusion between the different social and cultural groups because each genration had their own common rules and language. This is why past a certain age, usually 30, people start noticing that their rules may no longer apply in the mainstream. The angst and anxiety of not understanding the groups above and below you in age becomes a burden because every conversation can go awry. There is no common ground anymore.

To be fair, it is reasonable to blame the beholder of the expectations for their frustration with the non compliant world or peeps but, what other mechanisms do we have? Experience builds and solidify archetypes and stereotypes that, in essence, force you to expect something. You can’t go through life expecting, experiencing, thinking or feeling nothing. There is always information to process and establish a pattern. It is not your fault that your life has created a defined reaction to every day events.

This generation of predictable responses complicated by another element, one that is aided by nostalgia, that pushes expectations into a new realm: illusion. There is a need by our humam brains to embellish reality and make it a bit more fantastical and/or bearable.  No longer is the expectation grounded in reality but mostly on hopes, wishes, imagination and dreams. Your brain wants to believe that you deserve more than what you are getting or that there must be more to what you are going through. It is this illusion that clouds your judgement and sets you up to fail. No experience or sentiment will ever match what you were expecting or desiring. At this moment you are left bereft and sad, disappointed even. That is why you have to be cautious when setting any bar, low or high, because there is a chance that what prompted your expectations are not based in reality.

The next time you find yourself mystified by what is happening and/or confronted by a meme that tells you to lower your expectations, check first if what wasn’t met was your illusion and not your expectation. I find it hard to believe that lowering your standards is a solution when you can rather adjust your attitude towards the experience or objectively take stock of what prompted your disenchantment. It makes more sense to think that you may be hanging with the wrong crowd or in the wrong circles when you can assert that what you expect is not only true to yourself but achievable by others. In some cases it is them, and not you, who is not meeting the bar and should be held accountable for your disappointment.

This is why I follow etiquette rules and continue to hold my priorities and expectations in high regard. I’m not going to lower my quality of life or the instruments through which I value people and friendship to conform. Those who truly love and support you will meet or should meet the minimum requirements to be in your life, even if they are higher standards than everyone else. Stay true to yourself. The right ones will find you. And, if you have to readjust, keep illusion out of it. Don’t set yourself up for unnecessary heartache.

“Do You Want Me To Interpret or Translate?”

The first time I noticed the difference between a translator and an interpreter was during the 1996 Miss Universe pageant. Alicia Machado, Miss Venezuela, was answering the questions in Spanish but what the assigned translator said in English was a better, more polished interpretation of what she had mentioned. The realization that the person communicating on her behalf was making her look smarter and more charming felt like a betrayal to the intent of the contest. To this day I think the interpreter won the crown for her.

Since Spanish is my mother tongue, I find myself in this situation all the time. Should I interpret or translate instead? There is a difference: verbatim vs the gist of it. I can translate word for word what was exactly said or I could just give you an idea of what the discussion was like thus simplifying it for you. In business transactions, interpreting can give both parties a negotiating edge if the person communicating for them has tact and grace. Translating a conversation full of negative remarks, rudeness or temperamental threats can hinder the overall discussion and will have the opposite effect. I’ve been in this situation many times and I let the mood suggest the appropriate response.

The translate vs. interpret conundrum surfaced again when I watched the movie Race. To lighten a very bad exchange between the USA Olympic Commission envoy Avery Brundage and Dr Goebbels of Nazi Germany during the 1936 Olympic Games, Leni Reinfenstahl played by Carice Van Houten (Melissandre, Game of Thrones) asked the American if he wanted her to translate or interpret. It was evident from his tone and posture that German had nothing of value to say, just insults and threats, that were inflammatory. To the movie viewer the subtitles provided a clue as to what the translation would have revealed but Mr Brundage got the gist of it from the remark. For all I know he was never told what was exactly hurled his way. In this case ignorance was bliss, if only temporarily.

This got me to realize that if in matters of political importance translation and interpretation are still a problem, imagine what these can do to personal and professional relationships. Even if someone translates for you or on your behalf, you couldn’t really check if what was said was what was intended. Did the person convey the proper emotion and emphasis that the body language put into the words? Even the power of Google Translate falls short when it tries to translate and interpret the meaning of a sentence, text or phrase. Unless the author can shed light on their own words in many languages we will never effectively know what was communicated. If only we could all speak the same language…

At some point we will get better technology and more accurate speech pattern recognition software that will enable true interpretation and translation of the conversations occuring in real time. Until then, make sure that you have clear direction as to whether your group or peep wants you to translate or interpret. With translation, the listeners are the ones interpreting which can be problematic if you want to be specific and precise. With interpretation you can narrow the discussion towards a desired result. Be careful and ensure that you were as close to the intention as possible, especially if there is written or recorded records of the conversation. The difference could help you win or lose big time! When in doubt remain honest and direct. Your diligence can earn someone else a crown. 😉

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