The Three F’s and Their Impact


The Three F’s and Their Impact

Amygdala – The amygdala is the almond shaped part of the brain which is responsible for basic emotions such as fear.

Autonomic Nervous System – This is the part of the nervous system which affects unconscious bodily functions such as temperature, digestion, breathing, and heart rate.

Dissociation – The state of being disconnected.

Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis or HPA Axis – The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are located in your brain and your adrenals are located on the kidneys.  Together, these structures regulate your response to stress.

Intuition – The ability to understand something immediately, without need for conscious reasoning.

The Three F’s — Everyone has heard of the concept of fight or flight, but there is a third option: freeze.

When a person is in a situation in which they feel imminent danger, and they know they cannot escape (flight) or overpower (fight) in order to defend themselves, they instead, freeze.

This means the person does not know what to do, so they are just paralyzed with fear: like a deer in headlights.  This is a natural response and is nothing to feel ashamed about.

In nature, most mammals that experience the freeze reaction are able to reset themselves through their autonomic nervous system (ANS).  However, in cases of chronic distress or repeated traumas, the ANS is unable to reset and the freeze behavior becomes ingrained.

This chronic fear based response manifests itself psychologically, physically, and behaviorally.


All of these symptoms and feelings are enough to make a person want or need to dissociate.

Dissociation can create a barrier to experiencing the pain and the feelings within the mind and body.  It is a coping mechanism.

What are some things that can be done to help reconnect to the mind and body?


Body: Whenever you think of it, just notice your posture.  How are you standing or sitting?  Are you leaning or slumped?  How does the alignment of your back feel?  Are your muscles tight or sore?  How does your stomach feel?  How do your joints and feet feel?  Is your jaw sore or tight?  Are you hungry or thirsty?  Are you tired?  Are you restless?  Do you need to stretch or move around?  Listen to your body.

Mind: What are you thinking about right now?  What emotions do your thoughts and observations bring up in you?  Are you feeling frustrated with yourself, your situation, or other people?  Are you feeling stuck or hopeless?  Are you dwelling on past events or worrying about the future?  Remember, the only time is the present time.  Deal with what is going on with you in this moment.  You can’t change the past, the future hasn’t happened, but you are in control of what you are doing in this moment.  Notice the recurring thoughts, feelings, and themes in your life.  What does your pattern tell you?

Your Mind and Body have intuition, and although many of us have learned to ignore that intuition, it can be relearned through practice.  Listening to your intuition about what your mind and body needs will facilitate healing.

Grounding Techniques – Sometimes, due to how we feel, it can be difficult to stay present! Here are some methods of grounding:

  • Carry a stone, crystal, guitar pick, or other small trinket that you can fit in your pocket or purse, to look at and feel whenever you need to
  • Wear a ring, bracelet, or necklace which you can twist, tug on, or feel as needed
  • Identify 4 colors around you, 3 sounds, 2 smells, and 1 thing you are grateful for in the moment
  • Focus on your breath
  • Focus on specific muscle groups, tightening them for a few seconds and slowly releasing them

Gratitude – Every time you feel upset, angry, frustrated, or hopeless, (acknowledge those feelings and know your feelings are valid) and balance it by finding something you are grateful for.


Diagnosis by Prescription

Diagnosis by Prescription

This is an all too common story in the US.

When I was very young, some things happened to me that were beyond my control.  It robbed me of my joy and sense of self.  My mom was self-consumed.  She would rather be in a daze than be present with family.  She would rather be passive and irresponsible than be an adult.  When I continued to suffer from her bad life choices, I could not bare to be at home.  That is when I began running away.  I don’t think thirteen year olds run away from home for no reason.  It is really a shame no one bothered to get to the bottom of it, as I was just an ignorant child responding to a bad situation.

I was institutionalized after I ran away from home the first time and placed on three medications which led to me falling down a flight of stairs in high school, because I could barely stay awake.  I was taken off the medication and I continued to suffer at home.  I ran away a second time and was institutionalized again.  I was diagnosed with depression and put on an SSRI called Zoloft.

From there, I walked a path through Hell.  The side effects of Zoloft led to what is termed “diagnosis by prescription” where they began treating me for the side effects caused by the drugs they prescribed me.  Let that sink in for a moment.  I was given drugs by a professional, which I reacted poorly to, and then prescribed more drugs.

The diagnosis was changed to Bipolar Disorder and I was put on mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics.  At one point, I was on 11 different psychiatric medications PER DAY.  I was drugged so much that they were considering changing my diagnosis to schizoaffective disorder.  At 15 years of age, I had been convinced that my brain was broken, and that these drugs with horrible side effects were going to make me feel better.

I was spending weeks, even months at a time in these “mental health” facilities.  I had gained 80 lbs in five months, my hair was falling out, I couldn’t wake up to pee sometimes, I could barely focus to hold a conversation or be present in the moment.  I was numbed into absolute submission and it nearly broke me.

To make matters worse, there was one extended period of time at a mental health hospital where an attendant delighted in calling code greens on me every morning that he worked.  I couldn’t wake up fully at 6:45 AM because of how overmedicated I was, so his response was to call a code green in which the employees gathered to drag me out of bed, pin me to the floor, give me two injections, drag me into the seclusion room and strap me to the bed where I would be left for hours.  Because I was sedated, and couldn’t wake up fully, they sedated me more and restrained me.  Does that make any sense at all?

After years of abuse in these institutions, I have a difficult time being around people.  I have nightmares of being chased, tackled, tied down, and so on. When I am stressed and sleepless, it triggers depression and anxiety, which worsens IBS and migraines.   If you don’t understand how much experience has an impact on existence, then I don’t know what else to say.

I have radically altered my lifestyle to facilitate healing.  I am eating whole foods and staying away from processed junk.  I am moving my body more in order to own it.  I am reading more and watching less TV.  It is important for us all to be able to own ourselves, and to hold ourselves accountable from this day forward.

The details of the past are irrelevant other than to give some context.  What matters is the present moment and going forward in the name of progress.  I do what I am able to do and I challenge myself to do more.

There is only one path and you walk it every day.  Make it count.


Trauma and Body Disconnection

One of my biggest challenges is feeling at home in my body.

In my early years, I was scared nearly to death many times. There were times when I lost consciousness due to being unable to breathe. 

Being assaulted, it is my very Being being thrown, pulled, pushed, cracked, smashed, held down, and flung about.

My body, my soul, my mind. Violated. Violently.

I’ve never felt safe or comfortable since then.

I felt separate from my body, because if I couldn’t identify with my body, that made the crime less personal. It made it okay to exist again, just in a limited capacity. 

I get body sensation flashbacks at night. 

For the longest time, these scared me into staying disconnected.

I’ve been disconnected for so long that I experience a lot of pain when I do ground myself more in my body.

It’s time for me to feel well, to be well, so I am taking actions in that direction.

When moving my body, I pay attention to my musculature. When I have body sensations, I take note and try to make sense of what I feel.

I imagine it’s a bit like being a newborn, being new to the physical experience, figuring out what sensations mean.

Approach to Difficult Past

As I’ve been reaching out more, I realize that some good people in my life are gone.

I have fond memories of car rides with my grandmother to visit my great-grandmother. I would sit quietly and observe how they interacted, sometimes I’d even ask questions for clarification.

They would share their experiences and sometimes emotions. Mom-Mom would listen to her mother and always respond compassionately, no matter how negative she’d be.

If her mom showed frustration, she’d show understanding. If her mom was angry, she’d be tender. If her mom was sad, she’d be there to help lighten the burden.

I practiced this in my own life, with my own mom. 

There was a turning point after a few years of being institutionalized, where I realized that my mom had never responded to my needs with love. 

I began listening more to what she was saying. She often spoke ill of me to others. By this time, she was working on her second divorce, and I was a huge part of her sob story at local bars.

There was anger, confusion, and hurt, from realizing she had never been on my side. Even in childhood, I was made to feel as though her circumstances were my fault. No decent man would date a single mother, she’d say. She couldn’t go to college, because she had to look after me and she had to work dead end jobs so she could support me. I believed all of this for a long time.

When I was institutionalized, it was because my mom didn’t know what to do with me. Or so I thought.

The truth is, she is incapable of thinking of anyone other than herself. She’s never been motherly. She doesn’t know how to have a healthy relationship with another person, in any capacity. She just didn’t want to deal with my reaction to her toxic relationships, addiction, and cruelty. 

She had it ingrained in me since I was very young, that I was the problem. My feelings, thoughts, and experiences have always been invalidated by her.

So when I opened up to the therapist, she would just deny everything, and point at my emotions as being the problem. She had the staff at the institutions convinced that I was just spoiled and that I was lying for attention.

Rather than getting the help I needed, I was misdiagnosed, mismedicated, and spent much of my adolescence inpatient or in partial hospitalization programs.

I was dehumanized regularly. Strip searches after intake assessment, four point restraints used daily for months on end, being drugged to the point of pissing myself at night and being unable to follow even simple conversations and instructions. 

My hair was falling out, I had gained 100 lbs, all I could do was eat and sleep. I was totally dead inside for years like this. 

Rather than developing skills to live in the real world, I was just trying to survive each day. I can’t even describe the amount of sadness and loneliness I endured during this period of my life. It was like my soul was being murdered in slow motion and there was nothing I could do about it. I could only comply or be made to comply.

On my 18th Birthday, I had a nice party with family. All of the people I cared about were there: my half sister, half brother, cousin, and grandmother. 

Before the party, I had decided that this was going to be my last gathering. I was done suffering and done being a burden, and clearly no medication was helping. I had been on roughly 35 different psych meds at this point.

I made sure to spend time with each person and have a genuinely good time. I wanted a happy memory for them to remember me by.

That night, I wrote a suicide note and I overdosed on my psych meds and cut my wrists.

I was resuscitated, was in a brief coma, and awoke in the ICU.

Every cell in my body was writhing with pain. I had been in complete peace when I was unconscious, only to discover I was still among the living.

My mom visited me in the hospital to tell me that I had ruined her life and I needed to find another place to live. 

Before she even gave me a chance to say anything, she walked out that door.

I stood to call after her, and wound up getting my face smashed into the floor by a rent-a-cop. 

I spent the next few months at the state psychiatric hospital. They actually didn’t restrain me there, so I am happy I can say that much.

There were people I met throughout my hospitalizations who tried to tell me I wasn’t crazy. There was the nurse who pointed out I had many signs of early childhood abuse. There was the occupational therapist who said I wasn’t crazy, just fucked up from circumstances. The mental health worker who knew I just needed to blow off steam and would let me without calling a code.

It wasn’t until I moved out, that I was able to start sorting my mom’s problems from my problems.

As it turns out, I was just reacting in a normal way to bad circumstances all along. None of the doctors saw that, because they were treating symptoms and not me as a human being.

I’ve been very lucky in that a few people went out of their way to let me know I’m not crazy. I didn’t take it in then, but through a lot of hard work, and the help of a couple of great therapists, I’ve been able to rediscover myself.

So rather than focusing just on the bad things, I am taking in that there are good people who care. I’m taking it in that I am not broken beyond repair. And I’m also taking in the sadness and the anger, because there is so much that I’ve held in my whole life.

I feel like this is a wholesome approach to look at Life, to accept who I am, and where I am right now. To be well. And just to be.

Origin of Panic Attacks

I’ve been suffering panic attacks as long as I can remember. It always happens when I’m trying to sleep.

My throat tenses up, my neck starts jerking, I feel like I’m being violently attacked. My body stiffens and my lower back and pelvis shakes uncontrollably. I feel a warm runny sensation from my ear and nose, and I’m convinced my brain has had an aneurysm and I’m dying.

That is a typical panic attack for me. I usually stop thinking of it as horrible, and just make up a story to take my mind off what I’m feeling. It seems to help a lot.

But tonight I didn’t make up a story. I acknowledged the violence and fear I experienced and was finally able to shed my first tears in a long time.

Long Hx of Situational Depression PTSD

Am I clawing my way out of some dark recess, or am I being given birth to?  It’s hard to tell when in a depressive state.  Sometimes I come out renewed, sometimes I just feel broken down and ready to die.  Depression is my companion, sometimes my keeper, and often times it just lulls me into complacency with unacceptable circumstances.  It has kept me alive in some respects — being complacent in a bad situation as a child, meant surviving in the home and surviving in school.  School loses meaning to a child once they have faced horror.  Who cares if I did my homework, I just need to get through one more day at home.

I’ve had suicidal thoughts since I was roughly 5 or 5 1/2 years old.  I used to think about jumping out of the car when we were going fast.  I always talked myself out of doing it, because I thought that by the time I unbuckled my seat belt, pulled the lock up, and grabbed the handle, that my mom would see me and pull over, then I’d be in trouble.

In the first grade, I doodled a grave stone with my name on it at school.  I was just looking at it and picturing myself gone.  When I realized that someone could see that, I immediately erased it.  The teacher wound up seeing it.  She grabbed my shoulders, while looking me in the eye and asked me why I drew that.  I told her that I would be happy if I were dead.  She shook me and told me to never talk like that again.  Were she to report this incident to the principal, I wonder what would have happened.

I held in my feelings and kept my thoughts to myself.  I have large chunks in time missing until about 11 years of age.  I was going through a rough time, transitioning from private to public school, and moving in with my mom’s abusive boyfriend.  At least before, I had my grandmom around all the time.  She was loving and nurturing to me.

By the time I was 13, I was just falling apart.  I was miserable from puberty (I always felt like my body was wrong and puberty made that much worse).  I lived in an abusive home, I was a complete misfit at school, and I had nowhere to go.  I spent a lot of time outside in the woods from 11-12, but a recent move to a large neighborhood surrounded by commercial zones took that away from me.

A friend of mine told me she got to spend a couple of weeks away from home because she told the school counselor that she was suicidal.  I followed suit and went to a behavioral center for a week.  That was the biggest mistake of my life.

I was diagnosed with depression.  My symptoms were: nightmares, anxiety, inability to concentrate, the desire to run away, suicidal ideation, insomnia (also dissociation and flashbacks which I didn’t understand at the time).  Unfortunately, I couldn’t articulate my feelings and experiences so well.  I didn’t even know to mention that most of my childhood is missing.  I didn’t know that an inner dialogue instead of a monologue wasn’t common.  I thought I was going through “phases” not that different versions of myself existed within me.  So, the trauma and the real issues were buried under this label of depression and I was treated with zoloft.

Zoloft made my insomnia worse which meant I was running on less energy.  Between that and the hormonal onslaught which is puberty, I was irritable.  This led to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, at the age of 13 (nevermind the fact that professionals aren’t supposed to give that Dx until after the age of 16), and more drugs that I didn’t need.  I was on 47 different psych meds over the course of the next ten years of my life.  My neurologist said it’s a miracle I didn’t suffer permanent brain damage from what the psychiatrists at those institutes did to me.

I was in-patient for months at a time.  I could barely function because I was on about 8 or 9 different psych meds DAILY.  At one point, I was so drugged that the doctor said I had lost touch with reality and they were considering sending me to a facility which specialized in schizophrenia treatment.  I couldn’t hold a conversation.  All I could do was sleep, eat, and stare.  I gained 80 lbs during this time.  My hair was falling out in clumps.  When it was time to wake in the morning and I couldn’t get out of bed, the staff would call a code green on me, even though I was just lying there and not fighting or even talking.  I’d get dragged out of bed, pinned to the floor by several people, shot with ativan and thorazine, then dragged into the quiet room and strapped to the bed.  This particular stretch went on for around three months.  Even so, I preferred being there than being home. I didn’t think I would survive to 18.

My 18th birthday came along and I threw a nice party, treated friends and family to one of those arcade restaurants.  It was really nice and I ended on a good note with everyone.  I was done.  I didn’t want to suffer any more nor cause suffering (I was convinced that I was irreparably insane and damaged, and that I was destroying my family’s lives).  I decided that if I died on my birthday, then the people who knew me would only be sad once a year instead on the birthday and deathday.   That night, I overdosed on my psych medication and cut my wrists.

I kept blacking out.  I saw flashes of being on the ambulance and going down the hall on a stretcher.  They were about to put a tube down my nasal passage when I blacked out for good.  I had the most peaceful experience: I felt like I was just suspended in the air, like I was totally weightless.  There was nothing around me, literally, nothing.  No sound, no light, no people, no walls, not anything at all.  I felt completely loved and at peace.

I don’t know how long I was experiencing that. I heard a faint crying, like it was close, but muffled.  It became louder and clearer over a few seconds and then I woke up in the hospital bed, to the sound of myself crying.  My body had started crying before I was even conscious.  One of the drugs I overdosed on was lithium, which made me feel the worst I ever felt.  It was as though every cell in my body was being smothered.  I was writhing in agony for several hours.

It was explained to me that my heart had stopped and I wasn’t breathing for almost a minute.  I was resuscitated and slipped into a brief (roughly 20 hour) coma.  I was transported to the usual behavioral center, but since I was now 18 and because my suicide attempt was nearly successful, they moved me to the state psychiatric center, where I stayed for five months.

The stories I could tell.  I’ll keep the fun stories for another post.

First, the setting: most days, there was blood and feces some place public, such as the floor and wall in a hallway.  This place was old and creepy.  They had a ward for the criminally insane and ward for the lifers (patients of the state hospital who were permanently damaged from ECT treatments FROM the state hospital).  There was a geriatric unit, a syphilis unit, one or two long-term units, and the intake unit (<6 months stay).  There were people from all walks of life there, in different states of mental illness.  Most of the staff were pretty laid back and they didn’t call codes for no reason.

The head doctor took me off ambien, cold turkey, so I barely slept for a few weeks.  He was trying to say I had mixed bipolar, which is why I didn’t feel euphoric but still couldn’t sleep.  He was way off base.

Since I couldn’t sleep, sometimes I’d convince the staff to let me into the day room to watch TV.  One night, I was in the day room and one of the male staff came in the room.  He started telling me I was fine and that we’re going to hook up when I get out of this place.  He leaned for a kiss and slid his hand into my genitals.  I was freaking out on the inside, but froze on the outside.  We heard someone walking up the hall, so he quickly moved away and I sprung to my feet.  I sped walked to the nurses station and told them what happened and said I don’t know what to do.  I told two or three staff members and a phone call was made.

The next day, the head doctor had me come into his office.  He told me that the man I accused of touching me had a baby on the way and that if he found out I was lying (which he made clear that he thought I was lying) that he’d press charges against me.  He then stripped away all of the privileges I had earned over the previous months.  I asked if we were done and he said he had nothing more to say to me.  I walked out and let the door slam behind me, not because I was angry, but because I was very nearly hysterical after what happened and then being accused of lying.  The doctor then barges out of his office, demanding that the staff escort me to the quiet room.  I told him I could walk myself, so I went straight to the quiet room, where he followed me in.  I sat on the bed and he stood there berating me and telling me that he thought I was lying about the side effects of the medicine, etc.  When he finally stopped yelling at me, I told him “you’re a fucking quack!” and his eyes narrowed, his face turned red, then he stormed out of the quiet room and slammed the door closed.  He told the staff to keep me there all night.  I cried until I threw up, at which point, one of the female staff let me leave the quiet room.

From the nut hut, I was moved to a group home.  That only lasted about 3 weeks because there was a resident there who sexually harassed me and another resident frequently.  This is the system we put people with mental illness into.  It’s unsafe and mentally unhealthy.

I rented a room from my mom’s coke head friend for a year before I wound up in subsidized housing for people with mental illness who needed help, but were well enough to live outside a group home.  I lived there for roughly 10 years, where I went to school and worked part time.

I hit another low when I felt like I just wasn’t getting anywhere.  I saw no way out.  I was cleaning out my room and giving things away.  I was afraid to attempt suicide because of what had happened the last time.  I was considering selling all of my belongings and heading to South America for a life of wandering as a beach bum, more or less.

Instead, I met someone whom I soon married, against my own judgement.  Needless to say, it didn’t work out, but I did finish my BA in Psychology and I learned a lot about what I can and cannot accept in a relationship.  Now I am right back to the source of all this, living at home with my mom.  It’s basically a never-ending nightmare that I can’t seem to wake up from.  I just don’t seem to get the chance to break out of the cycle because I can barely function as a human being when I’m in this environment, and I need to function to get myself out of it.

So, I’d have to say, depression is a constant in my life, but it isn’t something that drugs fix.  What would fix this, is removing myself from this toxic environment.  I am doing the best I can with what I have, and it simply is not enough.

Whilst I Am

I sit here calmly, absorbing Schubert and stepping back from my thoughts in order to examine them.

The world has always been a dangerous place.  So many people have this sense of security which they take for granted.  Then there are those whom have faced unspeakable pain and terror, so the danger becomes interwoven into their being.  The world has not become scary, no, it is the person who has become aware of danger and knows fear from personal experience.

Experiences which make a person question their place in the world, experiences which would make the most stoic among us shed a tear, these things happen to real people and it can really change a person’s perspective.

So how does one navigate this sea of life?  It’s like having a broken compass on a cloudy night.

I keep studying.  I read, write, and draw.  I unfold new ways of being and seeing all the time.  Yet, I always come right back here.

Existential meanderings, loss of meaning, loss of self, melancholy.  To what end?  What is so important about this way of being, that I must revisit it times without number?  If I were to shift my consciousness into any point in time, it would almost always land me in this state of being.

Psychologically, there must be a reason for the pattern.  I break myself down into nothing, put the pieces back together in a different way, only to repeat the process.  I don’t even feel like a human being–just a machine with a seemingly unlimited number of configurations to try out.