Tag Archives: body memories

ramblings about interim therapists and trauma work and body stuff

I’ve been seeing another therapist in Dr C’s practice while she’s been away. It’s been weird, but helpful in maintaining balance, especially with all this physical stuff going on. I didn’t really talk to her about much outside of “safe” things (things going on in the moment, dealing with the physical stuff that doesn’t have a medical explanation yet (or ever?), surface stuff). There were times I wanted to cover other stuff that wove its way into the session, but I couldn’t open my mouth. It felt like my lips were glued together, and even if I did manage to open them, all that would come out were sobs and screams…

That’s not a new phenomenon for me. I’m not sure I’ve ever managed to open my mouth and tried to speak at a time like that. It taps into something I still don’t have an understanding of, and it never feels safe or comfortable enough to just let that part of me do whatever it needs to do for release… maybe I can bring it up with Dr C once she’s back again next week. I wish I could remember what it was that triggered that feeling.

I know before walking into the building, I had wanted to address the body memories that always get triggered (or more intense) when I get my period. We had kinda started taking about bodies, and how comfortable I was in mine (or not comfortable). We had talked a bit about liking or hating any particular part of my body. I said there wasn’t any part I liked. I should have said, there wasn’t any part I liked anymore because at one point, I had liked my eyes and my hands… but both have failed me since. My eyes either hide too much or tell too much; and my hands don’t create to my standards anymore (stupid trembling and fatigue). So no, right now there’s no part of me I like.

She also asked if there was any part I really hated. Of course there are parts I hate more than others, but there wasn’t enough time in the hour to tell her about it and still come out of the session balanced enough to go on with my day… I’m not totally sure I even want to write about it now, though there would be less explanation involved here than with her… I hate my pelvic area, and my stomach, and the insides of my legs. It’s where I feel the most uncomfortable memories, and what triggers the easiest. It’s the fastest way to send me to space…

A had asked if I’d ever done any body work (on paper) with Dr C. I told her I hadn’t, because even though Dr C had offered it, I panicked at the thought of tracing my body. A clarified that she meant doing it smaller scale. No, we never did do that… I’m not sure why the subject changed with A in that session. I think I started panicking and backpedaling into my head, because at some point, she asked how present I was & busted out a ball as a means of grounding (side note: it worked too! Who knew playing catch could actually bring me back? Normally, I can still do that stuff while dissociated. This time, the act of catching and tossing was balancing. Maybe it was the inconsistent way she did it? She would pause, look at the ball, change the speed of her toss… whatever it was, it worked).

Anyway… yeah. There were so many times I could have said more to her, but I didn’t want to get into it knowing that the hour would end too son, and I’d be left dealing with whatever came up for the rest of the week. At least with Dr C, I can reach out during the week if I need to. A did say to call if I needed anything, but I wouldn’t bother her. It takes me a long time to trust that it’s really ok to bug someone outside of the time they are getting paid to interact with me. Even with Dr C, I still hesitate much of the time, and I’ve worked with her on and off for almost 10 years now…

Oh, I remembered what I was originally going to say about the body drawing; it’s another thing where I feel frozen for fear of what I might do or say. There’s still that urge to destroy my body, even if it’s just a drawing. I still want to take a knife and stab the drawing on the parts I hate the most… or, since I no longer carry a knife with me, stab it with the pencil… that would probably freak her out, so… maybe some day I can mention that to Dr C, and we could find a way for me to be ok doing it in some form. The kid really wants to talk about it still. He has no words, just screams and sobs and anger… or silence. He’s usually just silent because the other stuff is not acceptable…

I really wish Dr C was back now. I wish this could be addressed while it’s still here & “relevant.” It’ll be gone again by next week. This is when that concept of easily accessible, more intensive treatment would be helpful; when stuff comes up and would benefit from being addressed in the moment, so it would be nice to be able to walk back into the room and get to work… let’s tackle this shit coz it’s here. Gimme that little body drawing, tack it to a tree, and let me stab the shit out of it. Let me rip it up and scream and cry and cover it in red paint so it bleeds like my body would if I did that to myself. Let me burn the page so it all goes up in smoke. He needs the release. I need the release…

Let me rip the legs off a toy, and bash it and destroy it… but then I’d need to apologize, because the toy did nothing, it’s just a receptacle for the anger. So let me run out into the woods and scream until my voice is hoarse, and my legs are so tired they want to fall off, and my breath burns in my chest (maybe my lungs would actually burn up. That would be an interesting medical & scientific impossibility)…

Sometimes the anger and the hurt is too much. Sometimes I want to disappear to a safe place where I can do something about it without weird looks and panic over my safety, because ultimately, I’ll be safe, this just all needs a release…

Why aren’t there trauma treatment centers in the middle of the woods, with animals and drop-in massage and art and yoga and holistic therapy like they have for substance abuse? And why is nothing local? Why is the only treatment center even remotely like that all the way across the country, and religious?! I want something with no BS about higher powers or gods or spiritual anything. Why does that not exist?! And why aren’t there more art or play therapists around? The kids want time too, but everything’s in an adult world, so they use translators instead…


Triggered

I want to rip my insides out. The body memories are back… 

Between the new group, added work days, recent attempts at contact from my dad’s sister, and other stressor, I’m feeling really triggered lately. 

I told Dr C. I also voiced that I was afraid she might tell me group was not a good idea, since it was contributing to the triggering. She didn’t say I’d have to leave though, so that’s good. I hope she doesn’t change her mind. Yeah, group is triggering, but it’s also nice to know some other people who can relate. I’ve never sat in a room with other people who understood (and voiced their understanding) my symptoms. They understand what it’s like to dissociate, to jump at triggers, to feel things in their bodies that were over decades ago… there’s a sad relief in knowing I’m not alone. 


If I stop for too long, my head starts chattering away at me; my body picks up with a vengeance… 

I can’t slow my heart rate down with any reliability lately. It’s been in the 100’s for the past week straight. That hasn’t happened since the move (or, I haven’t noticed/kept track). It’s nowhere near the 140’s it used to be, but it’s also an increase from the 90’s it had been of late… I can feel it working. I wouldn’t call it pounding so much as quite noticeable. At least the “flopping fish” feeling isn’t back, and the tightness from last month is gone. 

I should just go take my sleep aid, but that’ll require a bit more conversation with myself. When I told Dr C that I knew it was only L and the cats in the bedroom, and that the dogs were lose in the apartment overnight, yet I still couldn’t bring myself to walk in there easily, she changed the perspective. She pointed out that L and all the animals are in the house with me. No one can come in or do anything without being noticed. Maybe getting to look at it that way will help. 

I still have to take the dogs out one last time before bed. As cute as he is, I’m hoping the little skunk isn’t back tonight. It makes taking them out a longer process (they are easier to handle one on one when there’s prey around, and the skunk is only prey if the little guy gets riled-up. The girls don’t much care about wildlife when they are on their own). 

The “hands” won’t leave me alone… they get quieter if I can be distracted enough, but then they return. 

I was trying to see if my insurance would cover a weighted blanket (something I’ve found to be helpful in feeling safe enough to sleep), but they were dodgy about it. I have to get the appropriate treatment code to bill under or its not even considered. They won’t tell me the treatment code though. I wonder if I asked Dr C about it, would she know? She has a fair amount of experience working with autistic clients and definitely trauma clients. Maybe she’s come across the code before? I wonder if her recommendation would be enough, or if it’d need it to come from an OT or a medical doctor. 

We’re still working on the “hall pass” idea, though I’m no closer at having something to try than I was last night. Maybe she’ll think of something to suggest? 

I feel weird going back every day this week. Originally it was to try to get some emdr in, but since that’s not been something I think I am ready for at this moment, we’ve just been talking… Maybe tomorrow we’ll get to the art… I’m not in crisis, but the pressure to keep talking about the memories is strong. I’ve opened them up recently, and now they are spilling out. I’m relieved I can spill them to Dr C rather than try to contain them till next week. I hope she doesn’t get too sick of me.


Dear Dr C (an unsent text) 

​I’m totally wasted right now, and I feel bad for enjoying the peace it brings… for the first time in weeks, I’m ok with feeling stuff in my body because I’ve disconnected it from the memories… I finally don’t want to destroy myself for a few minutes. Yet, I worry you will be mad because I’m “dissociating” it through etoh… :/ do I even really want to tell you this? (If I actually end up sending this, please don’t respond… you can lecture me tomorrow about the pitfalls of using whiskey to cope. It’s not a regular thing, just tonight)…


It seems to be going better

So, it seems the emdr had helped quite a bit. I’m actually sleeping?! It’s kinda awesome. There’s some “numbing” but Dr C seems to think it’s more of a lessening of the icky stuff as opposed to numb. I guess it just feels like numb because of how strong and prevalent the other stuff was. Whatever it is, I’ll take it. It’s so nice to get uninterrupted sleep, and to not constantly feel the body memories…


About therapy last night (**trigger warning, talk of: abuse, self harm, past suicide attempts)

There was a moment of soul-crushing pain. It felt like my chest may cave inward. I could barely breathe through it… no. Just no. I spent the last hour (?) telling her things… they are impossible fictions. I’m not sure why I need to lie about this stuff, but I just do.
They’re not consistent stories. They’re not complete. Some I’m aware of as scripts (I didn’t actually remember them at the time, I’ve just read what I’ve written in the past enough times to be able to recite them. There’s no emotion. I just know what I should be saying)…

I can’t sleep again tonight.
I think we got home around 10:30. We didn’t come to bed till about 11:30. It’s 2 and I’ve already been awake for 20 minutes. I wish I could sleep. But I’m confused about the session last night. And the body memories are loud right now… right now, I can feel the scripts I was reading earlier. There’s a physical aspect to them. The emotional is just tired and spent (and maybe a bit scared).

I just want to sleep.

Please just let me sleep…

There was another point in session where she suggested an activity that involved tracing my body outline onto a large piece of paper. I nearly sunk into the chair and ran out of the room at the same time. In that moment, the thought of laying down on my back to be traced was utterly terrifying. Body memories flared up throughout every part of me. I could feel being held down. I could feel being touched. I could feel the panic… I wanted to curl into the tightest little ball ever. I wanted to hide. I wanted her to just stop describing the activity because no matter what words were flowing from her lips, I was sure it meant even she would hurt me.

I want to rip the skin off my entire body. I want to stab my legs. I want to open my arms up and let all the blood flow out. Part of what I felt and remembered last night must have been one of the hospitalizations. I felt tubes hooked to my arms, and a fuzzy, sleepy feeling. I didn’t want to wake up again. I really, really, really just wanted to fall asleep and not ever wake up… must have been from that time I OD’d for the first time… it would make sense for the emotions that came up on the way home once I was finally grounding… the emotions and the situation fit nicely into the OD attempt from 2007 (last night, L was out, I was supposed to meet her there after therapy. Therapy had been really unsettling and triggering. I thought about not going to meet L. The urge to self destruct in more ways than one screamed in my head. I thought it would actually work before she would be able to get home… I really just wanted to fall asleep and not wake up again). So instead I called her once I was home (I thought about calling her on the way home, but I was using really loud music to help ground. I needed to keep it loud till I got home). I got directions and managed to ask her to give me clear instructions on what I needed to do and where I needed to go. I got lost trying to get to her anyway – a place not 7 minutes from our house, but I messed up twice and ended up towards the other end of the road (near the hospital). I was still checked out at the time I arrived. I was supposed to help out, but it was getting late, and I was in no space to do anything that might require competence. I sat outside on the porch instead. I stayed there until I could finally feel the chill. I would have stayed there until it was time to go if L hadn’t come to chat and tell me to come inside even if I wasn’t going to volunteer…

I’m so exhausted, but I just can’t sleep. I feel like I need to keep talking about the things we opened up in session. Except when I go to talk or write about it, I freeze. I’m scared. It’s hugely triggering. It’s also something I shouldn’t indulge if it’s a story I’ve made up… yet there’s this really strong internal push to keep talking. I dunno…

I’m scared. I’m scared of continuing to address this, but also scared not to address it. I’m scared either will land me inpatient again. Both feel potentially hugely triggering, but one will trigger self-destruct out of fear of what’s being communicated, and the other will trigger self-destruct out of anger at ignoring things again…

Suddenly, I’m remembering Catherine. She was a case manager(?) At one of the hospitals I was at back in 2009. I only remember working with her one time, but apparently I was assigned to her more than one stay. I want to say maybe she was told more than I remember. I know she felt safe that second time (even though I thought I was meeting her for the first time)… she argued with the psychiatrist about the ect he was trying to force me into that time, and fought to get me into a trauma program out of state.

I wish the body sensations would stop. They don’t let me sleep (well, them and the chaos in my head). They are closing in on intolerable level… it’s nearly 3 am now. I can’t believe I’ve been babbling on for so long… it’s helping though. It’s helping stop the circles of thought. At least getting them down gives me a safe place to store them so maybe I can sleep at some point… Maybe I need to try to see the aprn at Dr C’s office and get something for the sleep… it’s been too many nights of poor sleep, and too many days of not being able to eat much of anything. Maybe I should try herbal tonight? Might be an improvement over the lack of sleep… I dunno. I really just want to be able to sleep.


Body memories suck.

Woke up with body memories again. I’m getting tired of them. I keep reminding myself that they are from the past, but it’s uncomfortable and difficult to sit through the sensations of being touched all the time… at least L is home today. That’s helping me ground simply because I have to be mindful of her presence.

I’m trying to get through the day without bugging Dr C. It’s mothers day, and the weekend, so I’m going to do my best to keep muddling through.

We need to talk more about the sh tomorrow, and the body memories… :/


Back to emdr

During Monday’s session, I talked about feeling like I was running from something; something terrifying. I had no real concept of what it was, just that I’ve been running from it for the past several weeks. She asked if I wanted to do emdr around it.

Sure. It’s helped before, why not?

Only this time, it was an amorphous, looming feeling I was working on, not any tangible or comprehensive memory.

It took me a while to get started on it. I wasn’t totally sure I wanted to “go there”. I didn’t really know where “there” was, only that it terrified me and made me want to run away crying.

She was good about it though. She gave me permission to back off and do a lighter session instead. I fought with myself for what felt like an eternity. We ended up going through with it.

It was different this time. Not having a cognitive memory to go with made it both more difficult and a bit easier at the same time. I found myself putting more effort into the few sentences I was able to mutter to her during the process. I was more open to admitting that I wanted to destroy my body because of what I was feeling. It alternated with intensified body memories… and all of that went back to feeling like I shouldn’t be lying…

This session didn’t make as huge of a difference immediately, especially compared to say, the spider phobia session, but the terrified feeling isn’t as strong. It’s certainly brought up more stuff to process (well, more emotions that I have not felt since the move), but it has also maybe had a dampening effect on the intensity of it all…

Group was right after the emdr session, and I’m glad there was more time to just sit in a safe place for a while longer…

I’m not sure how I feel tonight. Body memories are back and constant for the first time since the move, but they also don’t bother me as much. We specifically worked on my desire to destroy my body in an effort to stop feeling them, so the desire to cut and smash my body to pieces isn’t as compelling tonight despite the intensity of the body memories…

Long story short: emdr can totally be worth it (easily more helpful for all of this than dbt. While it’s triggering in its own right, I find I can handle the triggering after emdr way better than after dbt)…

Tonight I’m just left with a weight in my chest and a nagging desire (but inability) to cry. At least I don’t feel like i’m a constant fuck-up like dbt had me feeling.


Building

I’m not sure what this anxiety is about today, but I’m doing my best to “sit through it” until its resolution. It feels like something is trying to break through to the surface. I feel frantic and rushed. I want to find that release for it.

I can feel sensations building to body memories but they are still vague and patchy.

I started doing art in hopes of expressing it, but it’s slow going trying to get the image right. I found something on instagram that reflects the emotion building (or will, with some modification), but it’s also building anxiety around getting the expression “just right”…

I was hoping some of my friends would be around to come play art with me, but everyone is working or sick. I was then hoping to find technique tutorials online, but I can’t pay attention to them. I want to get right to the painting. I really want my bg to dry now (and to give me the look I’m going for, which isn’t exactly happening atm… wishing I hadn’t ruined a bg with the huge flowers I had added to it. Made me have to cover over the bg, and now it’s not the look I wanted)…

Anyway, trying to keep the anxiety in check. Trying also not to bug Dr C again for the millionth time this week. The last 3 sessions triggered stirrings. I need them to hurry up and make themselves known so I can settle again without resorting to those coping skills that shall not be named.

Someone come play art with me…


Things seem to move in circles

Part of an entry from 2 years ago works perfectly again for this week:

had some trouble with some flashbacks earlier today.  got through them ok, but they triggered a stirring in my head also.  still don’t have a clear picture about what was disturbed, but some of the monsters have been roused from their slumber.  they are starting to shift and awaken. not sure I want them awake. don’t know how to get them tucked in all nice again.  trying to get through some of it with art. not really getting anywhere with that.  don’t have coherent words or phrases to explain them.  can’t put pictures to any of it.  just sensations right now, moving, shifting, causing sparks. waking more monsters, but they’re slow to rise this time… really wish I had more talent to put them to pictures.  wish there were words with which to speak of them.

Only maybe this time the pictures are just grey haze, no form or specifics. Most of what was awoken is still trapped in physical sensations. No words or pictures. And my tongue feels heavy like stone if I try to think of how to describe any of it…


Therapy via animals

One good thing about working at a kennel, there’s lots of “therapy dogs” to choose from…

Whatever was stirred-up in Wednesday’s session has not stopped playing out in my body since. The only thing that has helped has been one of the heavier dogs pressing into me. I didn’t have my kids at work, but was able to snag one of the camp dogs to take their place. There’s nothing quite like a 120lb rotti pressing his full weight into you for pets…

While I may not need a service dog all the time, a dog trained to help with body memories would be awesome at times like this. Mush-face will not always be there (he won’t be there tomorrow and neither will my dogs), and I’m not always at a place I can access either my dogs or a suitable replacement. I just don’t have the energy to train my own dogs for it right now. I’m also not certain I could justify in good conscience the necessity for a service dog at all times…

Hoping therapy progresses faster, and I’m past this point of relentless intrusive memories soon. It’s really tiring.


Don’t want to sleep

I don’t want to go to sleep. I’m scared of my dreams. I don’t remember them though, so maybe it’s not them. There’s just this fear of closing my eyes and sleeping, like something bad will happen. It’s not as intense as last year when I was terrified to go to bed after dark, but it’s anxiety provoking. We sleep on the couch because we still have not fixed the bed. I can’t be terrified of heading to the bedroom because it’s simply a matter of laying down on the couch. But I’m scared to close my eyes. My body is anticipating things. I don’t want to sleep. It’s ok to sleep during the day, but after dark it’s scary…

I can’t take benadryl to help because I have to work again tomorrow. The anxiety just keeps rising… it’s too late to text Dr C, and L is sleeping.

I wish the memories didn’t revisit me. I wish I could figure out how to put them away and leave them there. But Wednesday stirred stuff up that never settled back down. Everything that couldn’t find its way to my lips has found its way into my body… is it Monday yet?


Labeling yourself as “needy” is shaming (or: bear with me as I write out a reality-check)

The concept of being “needy” has been a topic of conversation for me these last few days with various people.

A friend passed along wisdom from her professor: labeling yourself as “needy” is shaming, and Dr C said pretty much the same thing in different words.

Why is attempting to get needs met in the ways we know a shameful thing? Why do not only we shame ourselves for it, but others do as well?

Why is it ok to recognize labeling ourselves (as clients) as being shameful, yet (in class and behind closed doors) it’s acceptable to label a client as such? Are we (as professionals) above the concept of shaming? Or is it not shaming unless the client finds out? Is it merely a professional label until the client feels bad about it? Is this not a double standard? Why is it okay to teach stereotypes in class, yet expect those same therapists-in-training to magically shed them and gain a more empathic understanding once they work with their clients? Is it a function of the quality of the program? Or the professor? What happened to teaching non-judgemental understanding?

Is this why it’s so difficult to find good therapists (not to say they are not out there, because I’ve certainly worked with several)? Is this why clients continue to shame themselves with labels and harsh judgements when they are simply doing the best they can in any given moment? Or am I looking at all this through the lens of a scared kid and shamed client? I know I often fall back into old scripts. Is this one of those times? In reality, my last therapists have been awesomely empathic and caring. It’s been my judgements ascribed to them that have tripped me up. TM, TL, De, D, and Dr. C have all actively challenged my judgements. Why can’t I believe them? Dr C actually pretty much paraphrased one of my early posts about clients doing things “for attention” yesterday. Why do I see them as outliers? Why am I taking the judgements of mental health staff as judgements held by clinicians? I know there’s a difference most of the time…

Sorry. I’m digressing… I think I’m trying to give myself a reality check. The little kid in me (and maybe the unstable adult too) sees only the negative. The professional side of me knows better. The professional side knows competent therapists understand that their clients are doing the best they can in any given moment (even when they are backsliding or seemingly stuck). They understand re-learning (or simply learning for the first time) takes time and effort and mistakes… but that voice inside (g’s voice and the hospital staffs’ voices, and the burnt-out professionals’ voices) screams that having needs, or being vulnerable, or being hurt, or “acting out” (another shaming label) is all simply done to make their lives harder. There is no such thing as legitimate distress… and suddenly I’m hearing m’s voice screaming at the cat for throwing up (because she can’t just be sick, it’s only done to piss her off…). How strong a hold early learning and experiences have on us…

I’m triggered this morning by more nightmares and body memories. I know I could probably text Dr C, but I’m not sure what I would want from her if I did that. It’s not like she can help with any of it in the moment. I think this post is an attempt to convince myself it would be ok to reach out, but I didn’t cover how to do that without knowing what’s needed when reaching out… I just want to stop feeling everything. I can distance relatively effectively from the emotional piece, but the physical sensations are much more difficult to control. I’m not sure how to explain them. They are the precursor to the full-on flashbacks that include the cognitive memories, but they have not hit that point yet. Right now it’s just feeling things in my body again despite knowing it’s not currently happening (and being really frustrated with myself as my body responds to things as it had at the time)… :/ where the hell in all the skills they throw at you do they tell you how to rid yourself of the body memories? Concentrating on breathing only makes them worse (controlling my breathing was what I did to make him think I was asleep so he’d get it over with). Physical activity also greatly intensifies the sensations… I can tolerate them to a point, but they are approaching the intolerable point. No one ever has an effective method for getting rid of them. Well, that’s not true. I have one but it’s frowned upon. Really just wishing they were gone now, or wishing I had someone safe to sit with through them so if they do hit that intolerable point, I’m not so alone and desperate. I have to work this afternoon, but that’s not a safe place to sit through them. At least there will be dogs to cuddle if I need some immediate comfort. I’ve noticed lately I will jump and shudder if the sensations startle me with a sudden increase in intensity. I hope that doesn’t happen at work again today. I don’t want to have to explain that away… I could call it a “chill” again, but I know it doesn’t look like one as I jump up and try to rub the sensations away (boss-lady looked skeptically at me last time it happened)… Hoping if it [i]does[/i] happen today, no one is around to witness it.


Weird dreams

I woke again this morning from a weird dream. It wasn’t bad, just weird. It’s leaving me feeling “off”…

In the dream, I was at the doctors getting checked out for something. There was my doctor, another student, and their supervisor. They were taking candidly about what their thoughts were. Both the students said they didn’t see anything wrong, but the supervisor commented for them to check again, because “if [he] gave [them their] reviews right there, [I] would be crying…

totally not sure what the dream means, though it’s likely nothing. I know I’m waiting on my doctor to say something about a consult she sought for my recent back/side pain, but everyone seems on the same page about it so far: it’s merely muscle pain which will eventually go away (assuming I’m able to either consciously relax the muscle, or have enough days where I can take a muscle relaxer).

Anyway, the dream has me feeling weird. It did give me an idea for grounding though: engage my academic side if I start to check out… easy enough to ask my doctor next time.

The apartment is still a wreck. I started working again, and is draining all my energy. I want to just come home and be able to relax. Instead, I come home feeling guilty for not engaging more with the dogs, and for not cleaning or organizing the place. There was supposed to be time to do it today, but we agreed earlier in the week to go to the lake with family. That means the whole day is again useless… I might just send L and stay home myself to organize and do laundry. I want to see the family, but I’m also very burnt out on the apartment remaining a mess. We have been here 2 weeks and is still mostly boxes everywhere. I want it settled. I want space to be able to come home and feel relaxed (well, at least about my environment)…

Speaking of wanting to relax, I’m quite anxious about setting Dr C again. She is back from vacation. I get to ask her if my feeling about our interaction 2 weeks ago are correct, and I can ask her more about what she meant when she called my inner kid a personality… and maybe I’ll be brave enough to give her some of the stuff I wrote out for TM. I know I don’t have to tackle that right now, but the internal push is still really huge.

Anyway, hoping today shapes up as more productive than I anticipate. Either that, or maybe we can take the dogs with and I don’t have to feel so guilty leaving them alone again all day. I’ll ask L once she wakes up.


Rough day

Yesterday was stressful. Today’s filled with anxiety and restlessness and neediness. It doesn’t help that I got my period, which always manages to mess with my emotions. It’s also heavily triggering flashbacks and body memories…

I filled out job paperwork yesterday and ended up dissociative. I also went to visit my sister in law. The visit was at once grounding and triggering. She’s pregnant. I’m both super excited about having another niece (first on my side of the family) and also freaking out about it… hanging out with her was grounding, but the concept of another baby in the family (and certain people having access to her) is scary. At least both my brother and sister in law are super paranoid first time parents; they won’t let the kid too far out of their sight.

I hate the sensations in my body. They are uncomfortable. They are taking forever getting to the cognitive memory stage of the flashback (probably because the sensations have a physical reason behind them, and are not purely body memories). It’s all really triggering. Dr C is on vacation till Monday… come on Monday…

In the mean time, I start back at work tomorrow. She wants to get me re-trained by the time she’s on vacation in 2 weeks. Gulp! I hope once I get started and into the groove there again, it will no longer be as triggering. I really like the people I work with, I just dislike the entitled customers (which isn’t all of them, so that’s good) and the secret shops. The extra cash will be really good. We desperately need the money. I just need to be able to hold it together. I don’t want to screw up the job and mess up my reputation with them. I need an unbiased outside source acknowledging I have competency in at least something. I feel so fake and lost these last few years…

Think Monday I will take some stuff I had given to TM in with me when I see Dr C. I’m hoping it will help get communication going again. I’m again feeling that internal pressure to talk about the memories, to dump it all out on someone who can help with it.


Another Friday night, another fun journal class

I may or may not kick myself tomorrow because I may or may not have purchased another art journal tonight. There was a sale though. And a coupon. So… yeah. I had to get it. It was way cheap! (I’m really just trying to justify the expense when I had no business spending. We need to save every penny for this move…).

Anyway, went to the class tonight. We played with spray inks. While I miss having the longer class to be able to do something more than a background, I think I like what came out of today.

The first page was done with dylusion & Heidi Swapp spray inks using commercially available stencils. The second page was done using the home-made fabric dye inks and my fall-back black printer ink with a home-made mask and some commercially available stencils. I really actually like both pages a lot. The second page got more attention tonight, so it was a bit more finished. Not at all sure what I will be putting on the blue/purple/yellow page. I’m sure I will figure it out though.

wpid-20150612_204702.jpg wpid-20150612_213110.jpg

 

 

The nipples were totally an accident, but they had us cracking up 😉 I had picked up the mask and just wasn’t able to move it from the page fast enough for it to not drip… :shrugz: it works.

I’m really going to miss my friend and her classes. I was struggling with body memories today. The usual distractions at home did not help. Going to the class and engaging not only with the art, but also the others in the class helped lessen them however. They returned when I returned home but they were not as intense. I’m going to have to make sure I find something like this up north. It won’t be the same, but hoping it will help just the same.


Benadryl hangover

Took some benadryl last night to help me sleep, and the usual hangover took the entire day. I didn’t really feel more awake till almost 3 pm. Even then, I fell back asleep for a while. Still very sedate feeling, but needed to get out of bed for a bit.
Having lots and lots of weird dreams and body memories. I don’t know what’s worse, the depression and hopelessness or the unrelenting memories…


More art journal progress

I was all about avoiding stuff yesterday. To that end, I played a bunch with my art journal. It doesn’t look like much progress, but lots of time was spent organizing my supplies because, well, avoidance.

wpid-img_20150425_223137.jpgI finally got around to making use of the little buckle findings from the Tim Holtz line (had gotten an “as is” pack several months ago and meant to make a closure for my first art journal, but that didn’t materialize). Anyway while catching up on Arrow and a Sleepy Hollow, I did the buckles:

 

wpid-wp-1430025053079.jpgI also worked on the tiger wing page more. The writing is excerpts from lyrics to Faith Hill’s “if you’re gonna fly away“. I changed two lines where she spoke of prayer to more accurately reflect me. “Has the sun gone down on you?/Have you given up on truth, oh?/I wish I could say all the right things/To make your pain go away/I wish you knew how beautiful/You are in every way/…So you’ll take a thousand pills/Hoping to be numb/Lie awake in bed/Counting all that’s wrong//No one understands/No one ever will/Trust me when I tell you/I know just how you feel…”

 

wpid-wp-1430024972849.jpgAnd finally, I added lyrics to the rose page from the other night. There’s a Tori Amos song called Blood Roses that fit the page pretty well… “Back on the street now/Can’t forget the things you never said/On days like these starts me thinking/…Now you’ve cut out the flute/From the throat of the loon/At least when you cry now/He can’t even hear you…”

 

Like I said, it doesn’t look like much progress, but it took me all day (probably because I couldn’t concentrate to stay on task for the life of me).

The depression is definitely still here. I was going to try to go to the beach today, but it took all my energy just to shower (which was a first in 5 days). I could have left the house, but I’m finding it harder and harder to do. The overwhelm of what it would take to get out of the house, coupled with the huge lack of reward, is making it seem nearly impossible. What’s the point trying?

I also find myself once again doubting these recent memories. If they really are accurate, how come I didn’t remember them before? Sure, they explain my intense anxiety around going to bed, and some other behavioral or cognitive things, but… memory can be unreliable. It could all just be something I’m fabricating in order to make sense of those symptoms that make no sense. The visceral reactions to certain triggers may just be a learned response. If they are false, no restructuring needs to happen around my understanding of life. If they are false, then it was all just for attention… If they are true, the world changes. I’m not sure which I prefer: am I narcissistic and unable to survive without a sob story, or did yet more really crappy stuff happen in my life that will change my understanding of childhood? Can I pick neither?


Self-compassion & recognizing limits

An article on self-compassion and understanding your limits was definitely something I needed to read today.

The last few days have me slamming hard into my own limits around processing my trauma. I am working towards acknowledging them to myself, and admitting them to TM (as much as I don’t want to in the moment because it means we will need to tweak our approach). I certainly want to push past my limits, but I need to do so carefully. I really wish I could keep seeing her for longer, and maybe a bit more often to help move past this, but therapy has its own limits and boundaries.

On another note, a friend pointed out something to me last night that was hard to hear, but definitely something that needs addressing. She was suggesting some coping strategies that I have used in the past, but have become huge triggers in the last year (mindfulness around breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation… well, they were always triggers, but not this intense in the past. I could utilize at least breathing techniques in the presence of someone I trusted. I can no longer do that without triggering or intensifying flashbacks). My problem comes from the memories that have surfaced recently. In them, I would pretend to sleep in order to “get it over with” faster. Pretending to sleep involved slowing my breath and relaxing my muscles so the person would believe I was asleep… I didn’t understand why these two techniques were so difficult for me until last year, when the cognitive memories started accompanying the physical and emotional ones. Since then, my reactions to the two techniques are incredibly intense and visceral. In the past, I would panic when I tried them, but I was able to try them without my whole body shaking; not so much any more. I know I need to work on this, but I’m not totally sure how. Time with TM is limited in so many ways, and there is so much to cover. 😦

Anyway, back to the article on self-compassion. It can be found here on GoodTherapy.org. While their articles are often geared towards professionals in the field, they have a wealth of articles for clients, friends, and family. I don’t always agree with what they post, but some are spot on, like the one mentioned.


distance = safety

I desperately want to talk to TM right now, in the moment. I know it’s only so strong because I have distance, and because I can’t actually talk to her in the moment. It’s safe to want to be vulnerable because it’s not a real possibility right now…

If I were to be seeing her later today, the walls would fly back into place. I would deem all this “stupid” and not be able to speak about it. But I’m not in danger of seeing her for another 6 days, so it’s ok to feel this need to spill to her. It’s ok to want to talk about details and impact and insights. It’s safe right now.

Only this pattern makes for difficult therapy. I throw other things at her. I create distractions and talk around things. I disappoint myself in my inability to move forward in therapy… I only want to be vulnerable because I can’t really be vulnerable right now. Even if I were to call her, I wouldn’t be able to voice any of this.

I want to commit to handing her what I wrote today, but I am predicting I will label it “stupid” at the appointment and not give it to her. Or maybe I’ll write too much other stuff this week and this will lose place to something that is more of a summary. I’m not sure. But I know so far every time I wrote something intense with the intent of giving it to her, I always find a reason not to. There’s always something more pressing, or I judge the important stuff too harshly, or I lose my nerve…

And the stuff I wrote today would count as trauma processing. I’m not sure she wants to go there right now. I think she still wants to gauge how well I cope, how far I will fall if I put too much on my plate…

Problem is, it’s on my plate regardless. The flashbacks are there whether or not I talk about them in therapy. The memories are there; the nightmares, the hopelessness, the confusion… It’s all there even if I don’t take it to her. I cope poorly or I cope well regardless of her knowledge of it. At least if I’m talking to her about it, I might find some support. (maybe if I print it out now and stick it in my art journal, I might be more inclined to show her?)


Who knew

Who knew looking at a Rand McNally could be triggering… was gonna use parts of it for an art journal, and suddenly body memories hit hard and fast. Other memories hit too… :/

Gotta remember to just accept them. Gotta remember to keep breathing (caught myself holding my breath)…

I’ve looked at one a million times for road trips, but maybe the trigger is around the places I was looking at on the map, and the person I associate the maps with…

Ok. Someone wanna remind me how to just accept this and “go with the flow”? Coz I suddenly can’t remember how to do that.


monsters under the bed

I find myself afraid of going to bed. Been battling triggers all day. The only thing that has kept them away has been complete sensory bombardment with TV, music, and computer going all at once (plus bugging the kitties, randomly popping up to pace the house, and trying to do some art). As soon as my brain slows a bit, they start again. Ugh… I’m so cooked.


Relentless

Today’s flashbacks are not stopping. I’ve been able to keep them bearable, but that’s slowly turning to unbearable. My body is sore, as if everything has happened again today, not just memories of it. This doesn’t happen often. Normally I’m only hurting during the worst of the flashback intensity. Tonight, it’s the whole time…
I’m running out of energy to deal with this in “healthy” ways. The benadryl isn’t helping me fall asleep, nor is it numbing my brain and body to the experience of the flashbacks.
I have that Taylor Swift song, safe & sound, on continuous repeat and it’s helping the panic and neediness a bit, but it’s not touching the flashbacks…
I tried connecting to the crisis chats for over 2 hours tonight. They must have super-high volume because the line was always 16-35 people, and I was always timed-out before I got to the front of it. I guess I could call the hotline at TM’s agency, but it’s so difficult to speak on the phone, let alone to someone I don’t know…
But my body is vibrating and sore from all this today. I need it to stop already somehow… 😦


Needs and neediness

Feeling quite needy today. Last night was another rough night with flashbacks. Another “new” one popped up.

I had been fighting them all day. We were at a local orchid show when they started, so it was both a bit easier to distract and easier to get lost. There was a whole ton of sensory information. It was crowded, but it was also novel things to engage in/with. On the one hand I was dizzy and disoriented from everything there, but on the other hand there was plenty to bounce between when one distraction stopped working. I concentrated on taking pictures and trying to see all the different plants. I had given myself permission to purchase something inexpensive, so a lot of time was spent cruising around trying to decide on what to get. While there were 100’s of thousands of plants to pick from, most of it was the same basic stuff. After the third go-around, I finally settled on a few small plants. I didn’t want to spend much because I have a really bad habit of not paying attention to the conditions in which the plant thrives. That usually ends badly for said plant…
Anyway, I plugged my music in my ears when things started to get too intense. I even kinda opened up to mom about it. I managed to keep the flashbacks to a 5 (on a scale of 1-10). I knew they were there, but they didn’t completely take over. They kept creeping up a bit the rest of the day, but not by much. Then I tried to do some more “happy” art for TM.

I didn’t feel like working on the original piece, so I started in my journal. The darkness kept wanting to poke through. I noticed the more I tried to keep it out, the worse I felt. Suddenly, I wanted to shred my arms and cry hysterically. It was an intense and violent urge that hit and stayed there. I haven’t cut my arms in about 10 or more years (I had moved from my arms in college, but would occasionally try there again once or twice. Anyway, it’s been a really long time). Then my anger intensified. I resented being asked to be fake in both my art and in therapy (yes, I’m aware she didn’t actually ask me to be fake in therapy, and this is my generalization). I was hurt that I’d have to hide again. My inner kid was crying and sobbing and begging not to be forced to hide it all again. This all happened in about a minute. Then it switched to the flashback…

I was really small in this one, no more than 3… and it was incredibly intense (closer to an 8 or 9 on that 1-10 scale). And it was the full sensory experience (another rarity. I generally only get sensations and emotions followed by cognitive memories. Sometimes I’ll get auditory stuff, but that generally only happens with the ones of my parents fighting)… this one was physical sensation, emotion, auditory, visual, olfactory, taste… it was the total virtual reality experience. And it exhausted me, though I couldn’t fall asleep without help.

Echos of it were there again this morning. The sensation piece lasts the longest,  closely followed by the emotional fallout. The monsters are breaking out of their closet. It’s not fun… they get me desperate to put them away in any way possible. The instinct to self harm is huge when they get bad, but I promised TM I would try everything else first… so today’s plan is to try to be productive. I need to do laundry (and shower, though that can be triggering, so it’s up in the air at the moment), take care of the zoo, kinda clean the house… I can head back out to the orchid show I think (unsure if my tickets are good for the whole weekend, or just one day and we used them already). I can also head out to the craft store to wander (there’s actually nothing I want to buy. This is a first). I may just end up outdoors though. The weather is windy and overcast with storms threatening. I love it. I love being outside in storms. I love the rain and the wind. I love watching the clouds. The rain feels refreshing and cleansing and comfortable… yeah, maybe that’s what I’ll end up doing (and will mother nature to get on with the raining piece)…

Hopefully the icky stuff stays at bay today. I’m not sure how much energy I have to devote to fighting it. I did remember though that TM works today, so if all else fails, I can leave her a message or talk to someone at their crisis line. Still feeling very needy and small, but trying to suppress that.

Oh, here are a few of the pictures from the show.


Um…?!

I’m minding my own business, working away in this piece for TM, and out of nowhere really intense body memories hit with a flood of emotion. Wtf?!

I suddenly want to scream and cry and rip up the piece. I want to break every brush and pencil and art supply in sight… I want to smash everything to pieces, including my body.

What the hell? Where did this come from? Why was there no warning? There’s usually a build-up and hints that this is coming…


The memory debate

Ever since these new memories have surfaced, I have questioned them. I’m still incredulous about having not remembered anything about these events prior to last year, but on the other hand, they make sense in context of some other unanswered questions.

My original search started in an effort to find the description on rainn.org of body memories. I remembered reading it once and finding it was not the same context in which I was using the term when trying to describe what I experience. I couldn’t navigate back to where I found it (and my memory of the content is very vague), so decided to try a general Google search for a definition of the term “body memories”. It was through this I stumbled upon everything from websites describing the role of body memories in trauma, to websites refuting the claim that body memories even exist. In all of these websites, I think I found a small handful that used the term in the way I use it. I guess I will have to be specific when talking to anyone new about what I mean when I say I experience body memories: the physical sensations associated with an act or occurrence. For me, body memories are generally experienced as the feeling of hands or other body parts on or in my body. It’s not limited to that though. I also experience body memories of instances of self-harm (cutting or burning). While the body memories of being assaulted/abused trigger cognitive memories of the assault as well as the emotional effects, the body memories of the self harm often bring about the same relief that actually engaging in the self harm would. I get the rush of relaxation, the slowing of thoughts, the release of bodily tension, and respite from the flashbacks or suicidal thinking. The “flashback” of the self harm is experienced the same way as a flashback of any of the other negative stuff that went on in my life. It holds true to the experiencing of the self harm and its emotional aftermath. Honestly, I wish I could induce the self harm memories whenever the flashbacks of the assaults became too overwhelming. It does the same thing as the cutting, but I don’t get in trouble for it… and maybe if I mastered control of the self harm flashbacks, I could master control of the assault flashbacks.

Anyway, I had mentioned coming across sites that try to refute the concept of repressed memory and body memories. I read through two of them, as well as a few websites that sided “with” the concept of body memories. I must admit, the ones “for” it were somewhat better written than the ones “against” it… one “against” site sounded like it was written by someone with a personal, vested interest in proving the concept false. There was no explanation of their terminology, no references (on the page I read), and lots of teenage-like bashing. I must point out I did not explore the rest of the site beyond reading most of the linked page. I found the “interview” transcripts a frustrating read since most therapists I have had the pleasure of meeting are more well-spoken than what was presented there, but again, that’s my own bias. The other site simply pointed out the dangers of unfounded allegations and offered a few references. That said, one of the pages I read “for” repressed memories and body memories offered real scholarly evidence and critical thinking around the topics. It also pointed to several other articles both supporting and denying the claims that repressed memories of trauma are valid. I would like to point out here that none of the pages talking about the validity of repressed memories actually gave a definition of body memories, used the term “body memories” very often, or described them in any detail beyond calling them a physical re-experiencing. Most of the pages spoke about flashbacks without separating out the physical re-experiencing of the events. I am unsure why this is, since as recently as last year, I was able to find this info quite readily. Perhaps it is related to the controversy around body memories and “false memories”, as well as the lack of research on the topic.

Some other sites I found that would be good to read through:

I could not find the second page refuting body memories this time around (didn’t think to save any of the links the first time I went through my search yesterday afternoon). I’m sure it exists out there, and that there are more, but I cannot find it at this moment.

Anyway, it’s got me again questioning the validity of the memories attached to these flashbacks. The above mentioned well-gathered page for repressed memories cautioned that anyone wanting to tackle previously forgotten trauma ask themselves a few questions, including:

  • “Why do I want to recover (more) memories?”

  • “What do I hope that recovering memories will do for me?”

  • “Why do I wish I could know for sure whether I was abused?”

  • “What problems and suffering in my life now do I believe will be changed by remembering abuse?”

I know for myself, I simply want the flashbacks to subside. I want to be able to stop experiencing the sensations of being assaulted over and over again. I want my life back. I want to function again. I hesitate to tell anyone close to me the details because I am aware that newly discovered memories can be misleading. I want to talk about it with a neutral third party (therapist) so I can explore it, get it out of me, and hopefully move on from it. I don’t necessarily want to discover more memories because honestly, this is plenty, but I do want them to stop popping up. So if there are more locked away in my brain, bring it on and let me deal with it so I can stop being so strongly and adversely effected by it. I also want to figure out how to be ok without ever knowing for sure if these memories are accurate. My only goal in dealing with them is to make them leave me alone already.

All that said, I think I have a slightly different take on what body memories are, at least for me. I’m not sure I believe that we remember specific incidents at a cellular level unrelated to the brain. I think the memories are stored in the brain, but just separated out from the conscious, cognitive remembering. Muscle memory is the concept that our muscles “remember” frequently used motions and can return to it at any point in the future, even without much practice or conscious thought (the rough definition paraphrased from here). In school, we learned about muscle memory in relation to fitness, learning to play musical instruments, repetitive physical activities, etc. I would hazard that what I am experiencing as body memories are actually just muscle memories (which I would say are more subconscious memories, rather than ones actually stored in muscles, but I  have no evidence for that). Anyway, my personal theory is that traumatic events or ones causing great stress can also cause “muscle memory”. If we go with the theory that traumatic events are more salient because they allow us (as a species) to survive and avoid such traumas again, then it makes perfect sense that we would store those memories in a number of ways for quick access. Think of it this way, you’re walking along in the wilderness and stub your toe on a rock. It slows you down, you’re not able to get where you are going, and you may be sick & hungry for a while. Once you heal, you notice your toe still kinda hurts sometimes, but not all the time. You pay more attention to it when it hurts. You then start to notice that the hurt really only comes when you are in a place with more rocks around. You begin to pay attention to the rocks in order to avoid stubbing your toe again. I think body memories are quite valid. I also think they evolved as a way to enable us to pay better attention to the things around us to which we need to pay attention either to make life easier, or to spare our lives. With PTSD and flashbacks, this all somehow got kicked into over-drive. Our brains are desperately trying to protect us, so it throws this stuff our way. It is also trying to make sense of stuff that doesn’t compute well with our conscious thoughts… Take PTSD theory, toss it in a blender with muscle memory, and you get body memories that accompany the flashbacks (after all, most flashbacks also include a physical re-experiencing of an event)… I think the intensity and salience of “negative” body memories can be explained with the same theory that explains the intensity and salience of negative cognitive memories. Afterall, most people do not claim to experience “flashbacks” of really happy times. I have not yet heard of people being randomly triggered into remembering their happiest moments in the same full-on, 3D, THX, IMax experience of traumatic memories. There are no anecdotal stories of people re-living the good times to the intensity of the really bad ones. There’s no body of research on the spontaneous re-experiencing of strongly positive experiences, so why is the argument against body memories centered around the lack of body memories for positive experiences? Just some things to think about.

(on a side note, and only marginally related to all this, I’m kinda frustrated/pissed/angry/sad that Dr. Glenn Doyle seems to have disappeared from the blogosphere and the internet in general. I was trying to link to the post where he described flashbacks as 3D, THX, IMax experiences, but his blog is gone. His fb page is inactive, and his practice seems to have moved according to psychologytoday.com. I worked with him very briefly while inpatient in DC back in 2011 and really liked his style. He has a similar sense of humor, but writes much more eloquently than I do. I hope he is well, and I hope he reappears again soon… I miss reading his thoughts on things).


Anxiety

It’s building. I feel like I’ve done something wrong, and I’m about to get in trouble for it. I see the new therapist tomorrow, and I’m terrified she will yell at me. I know there’s no basis for this fear, yet I can’t escape it. Maybe it’s the subject matter that will be brought up. Maybe there’s a fear of being judged for it. Maybe it has something to do with going back to a place where I was supposed to have “completed the program” so there’s failure in going back? I really don’t know, but I’m freaking out. Distraction is not working. Rationalizing through the fear and concluding that is it baseless is not helping. Actively working on my breathing is not working.
I cleaned the cat room a bit, but even that physical work didn’t discharge the anxiety.
I showered after and just couldn’t feel clean. I scrubbed my whole body three times before I could contemplate turning off the water… I still feel gross, but I know it’s in my head at this point.
I need tomorrow’s appointment to come already so the outside authority that would know if I’m in trouble can voice whether or not I am…
I’m reacting to the concept of seeing T tomorrow like I had to TL when she triggered old stuff. Maybe it wasn’t just TL. Maybe it’s more about the contents of these body memories and flashbacks…


can’t drag myself out of this…

The break from the heaviness is so fleeting. Today there was about an hour after I woke up where I wasn’t trying to battle tears or thoughts of suicide. It’s relentless. I try the positivity stuff, I try getting out of the house, I try reminding myself that all things change in life so this will have to change also (though with my depressed brain, it’s translated to the knowledge that the relief will always be replaced by the heaviness)… nothing is working and stresses are pilling up. The full mortgage payment comes due next month which is a $900/month bill I cannot meaningfully contribute towards. The house taxes will again come due in March, and we again are so far behind that there is no way to pay. If the bank doesn’t take the house, the county will. I still don’t have money to move back up north with my wife…

The body memories are coming more frequently than they have in a few months. The desire to self harm because of them is through the roof. L and I have frequent arguments about any time I drink (which admittedly is often, but better than cutting or OD’ing). I’m in that limbo between therapists still. It kinda sucks, though I wouldn’t know what a therapist could do at this point. The depression is too oppressive. I’m not sure what can change it. Medications are kinda tempting to try again, if for no other reason then to give me a way out at some point… I can’t really afford any more intensive therapy or any meaningful hospitalization, so it’s pointless.

I’m tired. I’m so tired of this struggle. I just want it done. I want the sadness to stop and I want to be able to move on with my life… not even art or music is bringing any relief at this point.