Tag Archives: control

How do you break the cycle?

A friend posed a really good question today: how do you actually break the cycle of [abuse/anger/self-harm/ insert whatever cycle applies]?

I didn’t have an answer for her.

I know my brother and I have both broken the cycle in our family, but I have no insight into how we did it. I know I have a deep-seated fear of becoming my father in any way, shape, or form. I think my brother also has that fear, tough I’m not sure.. since we never talk about that kind of stuff… but… how did that enable us to step back from the abuse?

I know I’ve had bouts with rage. They weren’t anything close to what my dad would display, but they were close enough to have me feeling like shit about myself.

So what helped after moments like that? I have no idea. Other than being scared of myself turning into G, I really don’t know what I did that allows me to control my rage…

I used to self harm, in a number of ways. I no longer use that outlet, but again, I have no real clue what changed. Yes, there is a huge fear of being hospitalized again, but there has to be more to it than that… right?

What is it that enables some of us to change patterns, while others are still mired in them? What’s the push that moves some of us out of the only patterns we’ve ever know, but keeps others stuck?

I don’t think it’s a personality thing, because that would mean only some people can ever change. I believe everyone can change, so that can’t be it.

Is it better insight? Not totally sure, because my friend is pretty insightful (I’d say more so than I am), so it’s not just that.

…but what actually is it?

I’ve been told that changing old patterns takes time. A therapist once told me in response to being frustrated at my slow rate of change; “you’ve spent 20-something years using that skill. What makes you think you can change that in a few short months?”

She had a point.

I had practiced my poor coping skills for more than half my life. It would take at least a few years to perfect not cutting…

But is time and fear the only thing that helped me change? We didn’t focus on alternates in therapy; we just addressed the trauma (repressed or otherwise). Was that the key?

So what happens if there isn’t trauma hiding behind the anger, or the trauma was addressed, but the anger remains? How do you resolve it?


Interesting session yesterday

After last week’s termination conversation, my anxiety was through the roof about yesterday’s session. I don’t do well with the loss of significant people, and TL has become a significant person in my life. She kinda brought it into perspective a bit yesterday though (and it made me feel a bit better about it). She asked why I wouldn’t expect to miss someone I’ve seen weekly for 4 months, and been relatively emotionally intimate with… I don’t think I explained the magnitude of the emotions I feel around this loss, but I guess I feel a bit better about the thought of missing her.
She still didn’t give me a definite time frame for the ending, but she explained the process a bit better. She said she wants me to have more control over the situation, and that she’s not on any specific restriction on ending at the agency, so I really do have more control over it than I would if she were simply ending her hours. I guess she’s slowly transitioning to another job that offers more hours from one agency (instead of her current multiple jobs), but it’s not forcing her to leave completely. It sounds like she will be offering a few of her clients more flexibility around ending.

We also talked about how I was taking things. I was able to admit that I threw up huge walls, and that I wasn’t sure what the point was in trying to tackle other stuff in therapy if I had to end soon anyway. I know part of my trouble with endings lately comes from the association I have with talking about some of the stuff from the past, and never getting beyond a certain point in dealing with it. I think the walls I put up helped me be able to admit so much to TL yesterday. Had I not had so many defenses up, I think I would have gotten lost in the overwhelming emotion around the topics we covered… it’s interesting how sometimes shutting off the emotions is actually more freeing than letting them out (at least it can be if you don’t know how to keep them in check)…

I did forget to point out to her that I don’t think she got my messages though. I had left her one specifically asking her to shred the journal entries I had given her to read last week. She clearly didn’t get it (or chose to ignore it) because she brought them out to go over later in the session. I don’t really mind because part of me had hoped she’d ignore my request. It really is all stuff I need to talk about, I’m just hesitant to talk about it with someone that’s not going to be able to follow up on it again later… Anyway, we kinda addressed it, but I was also really adept at getting her off onto a related tangent so I didn’t need to confirm exactly what we were talking about (I had left it vague in the journals, though I think she may have pieced things together)… we ended up talking shop for a good portion of the session (I swear, it really did connect to the journal stuff. We were trying to figure out what prompted the change in self-harm association and we were trying to narrow it down in time. It happened to change right around the time I went back for my masters, so we talked about that a bit)… Anyway, I didn’t end up having to tell her too much about the shameful parts of the journal… there was also a point when we were talking about something unrelated to much else, but I was hit with a very intense body memory. I couldn’t talk about it though beyond acknowledging that I was very uncomfortable.  I kinda feel bad because I think I startled her. We were talking and suddenly I jumped in my chair because it felt like someone was caressing my side. When she asked what happened, it felt really wrong to talk about it, so I didn’t say anything. I also really just wanted the feeling to stop…  we moved on to other things. I did call her and leave a message on my way home though. I hoped that saying out loud what happened and why I couldn’t talk about it in the moment would lessen the impact of it for the rest of the week. We’ll see if it actually helps (so far the feeling has only come back a few times in the last 18 hours)…

I’m again torn between really wanting to address this stuff in therapy, and wondering what the point of it all is if I’ll only get to talk about it once before moving on to a new therapist. I really wish I had the money to switch agencies (TL mentioned the name of the agency she is moving to, and I might be able to follow her if only I could afford the rates they charge – 10 times what I pay monthly now). I wish I could afford a therapist that I could stick with until I move :/ maybe I’ll ask TL if I could follow her to the new agency, and then figure out how to pay for it all. She totally deserves to get paid for her work, and I really don’t want to switch clinicians again…

When it rains…

It feels like suddenly everything is flying out of control. I feel like I’ve already lost TL, saving money seems impossible, and now one of the dogs will need minor surgery to fix a bleed in her ear (which could have been prevented if I could find something that reliably gets rid of these damn fleas, but nothing is working anymore. I’ve gone the chemical route, the naturopathic route, combined both and still no reliable results). I don’t have the money for the surgery. I don’t have the money for the professional-grade pesticides that may or may not work on the fleas. I don’t have a way to make more money at the moment)…
It feels like absolutely everything is destabilizing, and I have nothing to grab on to. The depression is kicking my ass and making it virtually impossible to accomplish anything. I’ve kicked distraction into high gear: I have music on 24/7, I have the TV running all day (while I have one headphone in my ear), I have art projects going and games going and text conversations going and I’m on the Internet reading… all this at the same time so I don’t have much brain power left for thinking myself into a giant pit (that’s a pleasure left for nighttime when I can’t sleep. I’m down to only 2 or 3 distractions at night, so my brain takes that and runs with it).
I don’t feel like I have anyone to reach out to. L is stressing herself. TL is no longer an option. M is stressing… and, well, that’s the extent of the people I would feel comfortable confiding in. So I’m left feeling very needy, but very alone.
The tears flow a bit easier at night (pretty much every night since TL brought up termination), but they burst out on the way to get a Cone of Shame for the dog tonight (so she wouldn’t make her ear worse). I’m not sure how to handle all this. I hadn’t dealt with the loss of De yet. I don’t know how to add on processing this next loss. I know she hasn’t set a date, and I don’t know for sure when she’s leaving, but my walls have gone up with her; she’s as good as already gone to me right now. I’m not sure how to trust her with more vulnerability. We hadn’t actually addressed much of anything yet, and now there’s this huge sense of loss again. I don’t know why I bother anymore. I don’t know why I keep setting myself up for these losses. I know they always disproportionately suck (at least in the last few years). I know the endings will come sooner rather than later because I see students. It feels like I’m just torturing myself. I don’t know why I keep doing it. I need to figure out how to deal with one loss, forget about a continuous string of them… (and come March we will likely lose the house because we can’t afford back taxes). It’s just too overwhelming and too heavy. I need to stop. The only losses I can control at the moment are the losses associated with each new therapist. As shitty as it is to be without support, it’s less painful than going through this every few months. I feel as if my heart is being ripped out. We don’t get to talking much about the transference, so the loss of a safe space is compounded by feeling also like the loss of a parent… it’s just too much. I don’t want to do it anymore.

scarification creeps me out…

I know it initially sounds kinda weird coming from someone who has a history of self-injury, but looking at the photo they used to advertise a piece on scarification gave me the creeps.  At first glance, I thought it was an all-red tattoo (huh, really cool-looking).  Then I read the topic of the link (my back started to itch and tingle and shivers ran through my body). Ugh.  I guess that just points back to some of the differences between self-injury and body modifications. For many, self-injury is a release or a punishment or a grounding tool, but the key part of that phrase is self.  Scarification and body mods often require it to be done by another (hopefully competent and professional) person.  It is also generally done for aesthetic purposes, and not for any emotional balancing.  There’s no controlling the pain.  There’s no private ritual to it.  It’s just not done for the same reasons.  And I doubt I could ever get anything more than a few piercings or my tattoos done.  The thought of someone else carving into my flesh, or burning me in a manner to create significant scarring brings me back to one of my recurring nightmares as a little kid… I doubt I could ever get it done without some serious trauma symptoms developing after the fact.  That, and I don’t think I could stand the pain… I feel no pain when I self-injure (if/when I do, I stop as soon as it starts).

One of the most hated questions I get from anyone is: were any of your piercings or tattoos done in lieu of self-injuring?  My answer is always No.  While I can see how it could possibly be a more socially acceptable method to getting a similar endorphin-rush, I have not experienced it ever having the same emotional benefits.  It’s just not even in the same league for me.  My body art is purely for aesthetic purposes (and because my tats all mean something to me).  I never try to hide any of that.  My scars on the other hand, I am embarrassed by.  I hate when anyone notices them. It makes me very uncomfortable to have to show them to anyone or have anyone see them.  At the time that I was actively cutting, I wouldn’t even change in front of my wife. To me, self-injury is a very private and personal thing.  It serves a very specific purpose for which nothing else has been able to take over. Body art will never serve that purpose.