Concentratiooooooohh look, shiny

Inability to concentrate is listed as one of the outcomes of being a survivor of abuse. What they don’t tell you, is what the impact that can have. Six years ago I was a high achiever. I worked full-time, was married and studying part-time at the post-graduate level. Today, it has taken me 5 hours (on and off) to write these four sentences.

Today, that is all I am capable of.  At times I hate that fact.  At times I accept it for what it is… a stage in my healing.

When words fail me, I often turn to images to try to explain what’s happening.  The image below reminds me of how so many survivors function in this world… if you look quickly, the tree looks “normal”.  It has branches which reach to the sky, a trunk for support and roots that appear to go deep into the ground.  But, if you look more closely, you see that the branches don’t flow smoothly.  Some pieces seem to be swapped around or turned upside down.  Some pieces are missing.  You’re not even sure whether this is one tree, or lots of different trees stitched together.

The tree at Abbotsford Convent

Yet, look quickly… and the tree looks intact and strong, doesn’t it?

Image: The tree at Abbotsford Convent by thescatteredimage (Rob Birze)


26 thoughts on “Concentratiooooooohh look, shiny

  1. Wow. Very inspiring. Yes, we are never what we appear to be. I think that applies to almost everyone in this world. As to the change in ability to achieve. I understand this well. I hate it. Yes, it’s hard to accept. Very hard.

    • You’re right Paul, this surface level appearance of “normalcy” does apply to almost everyone. It’s just the jumble underneath that varies in it’s severity, as well as the individuals ability to cope with that jumble.

      This entry is what I took into Allison today. It’s interesting what this short entry means to different parts of the system. Everything from the significance of the building in the background; to whether we can trust the photographer to have used just one tree in the collage, was discussed.

      I hate remembering how I could function, and not seeing any way back to that point.

      Take care,

        • That sounds like the adult, sensible thing to do. Unfortunately, right now, I’m feeling the left over anger from teens and young ones who were hurt. So all I want to do is scream and curse.

            • Thank you for being an amazingly steady friend when I know you’re going through a difficult time Paul. Thank you.

              I know I sound combative, but I’m not meaning to. So much got stirred up this past week that I’m having difficulty keeping any sort of sense of being an adult.

              I know it is healing to feel the emotions. I just wish I knew how to cope with them safely.

              Take care,

  2. First off, I wasn’t aware that you’re a photographer. My goodness your gallery is beautiful. I’m truly impressed.

    Second of all, I know for a fact that I give the appearance that I’m fine when I’m not. When I was a kid I HAD to be fine. I had to look like I was fine there wasn’t the option of looking or allowing myself to feel fragmented, lost or scattered. I still put on the “everything’s fine” face and I still hide the “I can’t take this anymore” face.

    When I look at trees I look at the bark very closely. I look at and even admire its scars because they are a testament to their strength, they are what make the tree beautiful. A tree as large as the one in your art has to have endured a heck of a lot, it has to have scars, broken branches and everything else. Too, it has to have strong roots or it couldn’t manage all that is thrown its way. I believe my friends and therapist help keep this tree called me rooted despite broken branches.

    We wish you peace of mind,

    • Hi Austin,

      As clarification, the image in this post is not my own. It is credited at the end of the post, and belongs to Rob Birze. I don’t know him, I just like his work. I can only wish to take photos as good as him 🙂

      I firmly believe that the motivation for developing dissociation as my coping mechanism, was to remain hidden and alive. A huge part of that was to keep up the appearance of being a happy child when needed. Anything to stay invisible and not let anyone look too closely. It’s only now that I see the cost of that.

      I agree about the strength of the tree and their character.

      Thank you and take care,

  3. I have a slightly different take on the concentration thing. A therapist once said to me that survivors, as children, tend to either be super-focussed or completely scatter-brained.

    Perhaps like you, I fell into the former category. Concentrating on study, and later work, kept me safe, kept me hidden, kept me invisible.

    And then I started this whole healing routine and, like you, my concentration went to sh**. So, I “blame” not being a survivor, but having buried so much stuff, and then entering healing, which, I’m sure you will agree, can take more energy and concentration than we ever thought we had.

    Sorry to hear things are rough right now. And you ARE a very talented photographer. 🙂

    • Hi Kerro,

      To be honest, I’m pretty annoyed I’m having a tough time. I thought that last weeks breakthrough was going to lead to some clarity, but it’s raised issues I’d never even contemplated.

      I see what you mean about the buried stuff and entering healing. The amount of times I’ve walked out of therapy feeling like I’ve run a marathon…

      Take care,

  4. oh goodness can i ever relate to this one!

    i love your art and how it so beautifully illustrates what you’ve said here. i never thought of my being scatterbrained related to my dysfunctional childhood. how interesting.

    thank you for sharing this~~

    take care and safe hugs 🙂

  5. hi castor 🙂 i just read the above comments and realized you pointed out that you didn’t create the tree. but still it beautifully illustrates your point. thank you for sharing it.

    as for what you said above, comparing your current functioning level to your previous one. perhaps you were able to do so much at an earlier time in your life, only because your defense mechanisms were working in a different way than they are now. so your current state isn’t an indication of failure or being less than in any way. perhaps instead it indicates that you finally got to a place where your psyche was ready to deal with what happened. maybe you needed to become strong enough and safe enough before you could face all the things that were hidden and buried.

    i’ve thought of abuse and healing from abuse like being in battle. while the battle is going on, you’re focused on getting through it. it’s only once the battle is over and you’re no longer racing through the combat zone, than you can see all the places you got hurt while you were struggling to survive. and it may be only then that you really feel the pain in all intensity, because you’re no longer distracted by the battle going on around you. now you’re free to focus on healing.

    • Hi katie,

      I’m far too literal in my thinking to have created the image in the post 🙂 It is stunning though.

      Yes, I see what you mean about the changing defense and coping mechanisms. I do believe this is what has happened. I’ve gone from stuffing everything down, and being very “thinking” orientated; to allowing myself to feel emotions. That is scary and messy, yet where the healing lies. It’s definitely about being in the right place to allow that to happen.

      In some respects, being in that right place is allowing the adrenaline crash to happen. Almost like standing there, dazed, wondering what in the world just happened.

      I just wish I could do some semblance of functioning at the same time… But I need to accept what I can do, and manage that the best I can. The more I worry about it, the more energy I am using up on the things I can’t change (immediately).

      Take care,

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  7. Hi castorgirl,

    I’ve just found your blog via’s list of “40 Excellent Blogs for PTSD Support.” One of my blogs (A Post-Cynical Seer — is on that list … and I’ve been nosing through the list for blogs that I hadn’t been familiar with … one being yours.

    This post about concentration really grabbed me … Like you, I was once a professional … a therapist, even! … and like you, I’m in that maddening place where to compose even a single sentence is a major piece of work.

    One of the ways I get myself through such times is to remind myself that when we’re falling apart, we’re also falling together in a new form …

    Best to you … and when I’m not feeling so scattered, I will read more …


    • Hi Jaliya,

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting 🙂

      Yes, it’s tough realising we can’t do what we used to. I like your idea about falling together in a new form… it puts it into a positive context.

      Take care,

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