I was re-reading my post from yesterday (the one on si just being “right”) and I realized that my take on why T’s have always been taken aback by the statement “it just feels .right.” may have missed an important piece. In my training, and in my work with kids in the state system, I vowed to myself to never let their stories become common-place to me. I vowed to hold abuse as horrific. I told myself I would never become desensitized to suffering… While I can maintain that with my clients, I have found I have become desensitized to my own struggles. Things that should cause revulsion, fear, or (in the least) alarm now barely serve as a blip on my internal radar. It has long-ago become common-place and “old news.” Things that should make me cry out against injustice have become reflex reactions I myself have adopted. Things that turn my stomach when a client reveals it barely register in my conscious mind half the time. I have taken over the role of my own abuser. In the same breath that I express torment from having experienced it from someone else, I do it to myself.
When does that switch happen? When does someone go from fear and revulsion to acceptance and self-infliction? How does that happen? Even when away from the abuse or trauma, how does it suddenly translate to being ok when done by your own hand (or voice)? Why is it that I can look at a client and feel sad for the things they must have had to endure to get to this same space, but hold none of that compassion for myself? There is no awe at the thought of slicing my own flesh to relieve emotional pain. There is no sorrow felt for the child in me who learned that physical pain can cease to register. There is no gut-reaction to my own story, it’s simply a story.
I feel more for characters in fiction than I do for myself. While I may be swept up by emotion elicited by the unbidden memories, I have learned to steel myself against the re-telling. I have learned to separate myself from that same emotion to make it through the days and nights. When I no longer separate myself is when it gets scary again. The only thing is, it’s not scary because of anything I may do to myself, it’s scary because I may be lost in that emotion forever (and even though I know better, it always feels like it will go on forever whenever it hits).
See, I know the emotion is there. I know the disgust and anger is there, but I can’t ever access it from this “outside” vantage point. The professional part of me never has direct connection to the emotional part. When I think hard about it, I know I feel something otherwise the depression and the self-injury and the self-medication would not come. If I didn’t feel anything about it, I would not be haunted by the PTSD. I would not need therapy. So I know I feel something, sometimes, but I can’t empathize with my own emotional self when I’m not in the midst of it all.
Ugh! Clinical detachment can come in very handy when working with clients, but it just messes things up when I’m trying to work with myself. Some days I wish the walls were not so big and thick and ever-present. I wish I could be aware of the good amidst the bad and vise versa. I write this blog to be able to remember what it all feels like, but if I’m not in that space, it’s like reading a poorly-written story. I can’t access the emotions of the characters. I’m let in to their surface thoughts, but the feelings behind it elude me. And if I’m reading the more “professional” side while emotional, it all feels foreign. It rings about as familiar as something a stranger may say to me. I know I wrote it. I know at the time I felt connected to it, but that connection is lost when I’m on the other side. It’s frustrating!
Right now, if someone were to tell me my story as their own, I would feel saddened and angered and motivated to help them out. When I realize it’s my own story however, it all melts away and the little voice in my head whispers “all is as it should be” …more defenses to help me make it through the days. It opens the door to the feelings. As soon as I’m to that side, the door slams shut behind me and I’m trapped until my brain makes the switch once again.
Some days I wonder if any of it really happened at all. Some days I fear I’m just really really pathetic and made it all up to give myself something to pass the time… After all, people have different accounts of some of it, everyone’s memory is different…
I wish I had made it all up. I wish I was just a really good liar… I wish this was all a nightmare that I mistakened for reality, and in actuality I am living a happy life. I will wake up any moment and this will all fade quickly. I’ll realize that my life with my wife is the truth, and the “memories” of the past are all just bad dreams… a girl can dream can’t she?