Tag Archives: guilt

Dear De

Dear De,

I dreamt about you last night. You were happy in your new job, and your life. I can’t remember much else about the dream, but we connected again in it. I caught you up on everything since we ended, and you let me in on some basics about how you were doing. 

It was nice to reconnect, even if it was just a dream… 

Peace, 

Sam

It’s weird. I don’t often dream about my therapists, but De seems to pop up in them more than most. I think it’s because I feel like I helped break her. I know it was a combination of the job, a lack of appropriate supervision/professional supports, and a lack of effective self-care while she worked in such a stressful position, but I was part of the job… so, yeah. I helped break her. 

I still feel guilty around it. 

What if I hadn’t been so open about my struggles? What if I tried harder at the techniques she presented? What if I’d made more of an effort to keep myself together? What if I’d have not given her access to my journals? What if I’d have been a better, less demanding client? What if…?

Ultimately, I know it was her responsibility to keep herself balanced and supported. I know that quitting work at the sexual assault counseling center was part of her self-care. I know it was her choice, rather than something she was forced into… yet I feel guilty. 

I think my guilt partially stems from my own experiences of burn-out in the field. I let my own experiences build up so much that they broke my defenses. I definitely feel guilty about the way I left my clients at the domestic violence counseling center. They had no notice, no termination, no chance to either say goodbye or run from the experience. I took their choice away. I took my choice away. I let myself fall apart too much before I finally was forced to pull away… I left because I landed in the hospital again (and again, and again). I could no longer function in the basics of my life, forget about in an intense and emotion-filled work environment…

De never got to that point before she realized she needed out. I’m grateful for that. 

I guess I dream about her more often because I worry about her more than other therapist’s I’ve had. I need to convince myself that she’s happy and thriving, even if I don’t know that for sure…



thoughts on today’s session: authenticity

I told TM today that I wasn’t sure if what I remembered happening actually happened. I wish I could remember what she had said in response. I know it was something along the lines of “you wouldn’t have the reactions you do if it wasn’t real…” Something about having the physical reactions I do meaning it’s not just my over-active imagination… but I can’t quite remember what she said.

Only I really don’t want to believe them. I’d much rather they not be true. It would be easier if I was just a really messed-up person with really messed-up fantasies. 😦

I should have remembered it before now, but then again, I don’t remember much of anything…

I managed to tell her how depressed I’ve been. We talked a bit about authenticity and congruencey in life. We came up with a social media analogy: the stuff everyone gets to see is the “Facebook” version of me – the smiles, the functioning, the “I’m fine.” The stuff that is closer to reality is the everything not in the pictures. This is true for everyone, including TM…

 

She was originally just going to check in over the phone, but I told her it was useless: I suck on the phone. So then she offered an additional session… I didn’t like that idea much better either. I know she is busy re-locating her office at the end of this week. She had also suggested that the next session be a “happy” one… I wanted to ask her if she comprehended how invalidating that was after our conversation on being authentic at least in therapy, but I didn’t say anything. I think I’m just going to cancel the additional session and ask if she’s still ok with a check-in call. It’ll just be me saying everything’s fine, but I won’t feel so guilty taking up as much of her time.

I dunno…

I think I just want to hide. If I could spend the next week totally unconscious, that would be fine. I think she was trying to give me permission to hide away for a while, but I didn’t know how to tell her I’ve already been hiding away unless I have to be out of the house for something. It’s not helping me recharge my strength, it just feels safer that way.

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I called her later and left a message canceling the in-person appointment… I really don’t want to be that bothersome.


how to plan for an empty weekend

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I’m trying to keep myself occupied and busy this weekend, only there’s nothing to do.

I saw TM yesterday. It helped a lot, and she helped me feel a bit more at ease around contacting her. We  covered the time-line that had triggered so much this past week. It was easier with her there. It didn’t feel so terrifyingly alone and overwhelming. I was pretty detached from it all actually. I didn’t really give details, but we did talk about everything that was on it. I think she was a bit surprised about how much was actually there (and even that wasn’t all of it, just what I got down before it became too overwhelming). It felt safe there though. And we sat on the floor, which I think I actually really like and may do again. It was easier to curl up and feel safe surrounded by the furniture. She was physically closer to me too while on the floor, but in my head it looked miles away. :shrugz:

I followed through on my plan to visit the beach after session. It was nice and empty. The water was cool, but not too cold. I bobbed among the waves for about 1.5 hours before I started to get cold just floating there. Then I sat on the sand and watched the birds run around the waves to find their little food prizes. It was a nice change of pace. Part of me wants to head back there today, but it’s going to be hot and crowded. There’s also a lot to do around the house. I keep looking at the tumbleweeds of dog hair and vow to vacuum… once I stand up. Gotta get to the “standing” stage though, lol. My excuse in the moment: the dogs are quiet and relaxed. I don’t want to disturb them.

Physical flashbacks are still happening, but they are more “background noise” at the moment. I’m feeling the sensations and reminding myself “they are just physical sensations from the past. I don’t have to pay attention to them or act on them right now”. It’s helping. TM is out of the office for 3 days (they have an off-site function today). She wants me to call their crisis line if things get overwhelming, but I really don’t like speaking on the phone, so I just have to keep things from getting overwhelming. She said I “concerned” her. I really dislike worrying people, so I have to prove to her that her concerns are unfounded.

On that note, my head is starting to slip into an unwanted train of thought, so I’m gonna wrap this up and move on. The dogs are starting to shift again anyway, so now may be a great time to tackle vacuuming the house. Wish me luck 😉


Art therapy: change your art to change your understanding

Been having a really rough couple of days. Trying to distract through art and getting out of the house and all sorts of other things. Been having trouble with my “containment” as everything has yet to be transferred from the messy closet to the pensieve. Then last night I remembered a concept from art therapy that suggests changing elements in an expressive piece can help change your understanding of them. Makes sense…

So last night I took the journal page with the closet busting at the seams, and added a pensieve. It’s a magical object, so it doesn’t need to totally work the way Rowling suggested in Harry Potter… instead of having to individually retrieve memories and place them into the bowl, this pensieve is set to “automatic upload”… it won’t dump anything without my initiation, but it will transfer all the memories from the closet to itself, kinda like my Dropbox is set to automatically upload photo files from my phone. There’s too much to move one by one, so the creators of this pensieve set up a batch file upload 😉

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Other distractions worked on recently: (complete with gratuitous kitty-sleeping-on-mom’s-art-supplies shot)

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This last one is still a work in progress. I added some glass bead gel to it, but I really am not liking how it’s looking, so I’m just going to post a pic before I ruined it with the gel.

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I’m supposed to meet with TM for an additional appointment today. I’m feeling guilty for taking up her limited time today. She just called to change the appointment time because of a last minute change in her schedule. After hanging up with her, I wanted to call back and tell her to just cancel. I know her time is super-limited this week. She shouldn’t have to juggle things to fit me in. I should stick to the original schedule and not bug her for more support. I should be able to figure this out on my own by now. I should have a better handle on things… ok, I admit I’m handling this better than a year ago, and certainly better than I would have 4 years ago, but the progress is too slow. I should be so much further along by now. I shouldn’t need to waste my therapist’s time with stupid shit like not being able to handle the flooding and flashbacks… :/

I’m mad at myself for needing so much support over this. But mostly I’m disappointed that I just can’t seem to “get it right”. I can’t seem to learn how to shake off the past (even when it comes busting into my living room)…

My plan for today: try meditation for a while. Go to therapy (and try not to feel too bad about wasting her time). Go to the beach and try to float mindfully in the water. It’s supposed to storm today, but that just means the beach will hopefully be less crowded.


Responsibility and guilt

There’s a memory of happenings that I feel totally responsible for and guilty over (well, ok, there’s a bunch, but one in particular I can’t seem to get out of my head right now). It’s an easy one to see and know that I should not be feeling guilty over it. It’s relatively easy to see I had zero say and zero participation in. It’s something I witnessed. It’s something I had no clue at the time was traumatic for the other person. It’s something I know I only realized how awful it was in hindsight, as an adult. Yet I can’t shake the guilt over it. I feel incredibly sad over it. I feel like I should have had the (adult) presence of mind to stop, to protest, to voice concern over, but I was little. I think back on it and think I must have known it was wrong on some level. I want to think that I knew I should have stopped it and told the adults why they were wrong. But in reality, I couldn’t have had much say, even if I had the knowledge (which I highly doubt I did because it’s not developmentally appropriate for that age). While I was lead to believe I had power I truly didn’t have for so much of my life, I couldn’t have known better at the time. The culture was that fear and aversion are the best teachers; they bring the best results. The voice in my head says I should have known better because I knew personally that those are horrid ways of learning (even if I couldn’t think of it in those terms at the time,  I knew that pain was unpleasant, and pain there was worse). I should have known… but how could I have? I was not one of the 3+ adults in the situation. I wasn’t even 6 yet. How could a kid, even armed with the knowledge that pain is a traumatizing teaching tool, have more say over a situation than the adults?
So I stood by and watched. I didn’t understand the implications at the time. I understand it in hindsight, and only with my adult learning, so why can’t I shake the guilt? Why do I still feel responsible? No matter how many times I tell myself it wasn’t my fault, I can’t help but feel horrible for standing by and simply watching. I had no control over the situation. I had no influence. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault, but I can’t shake feeling like I should have done something.
I know it has to do with earlier teaching that I should have more power. I know it’s because my mere presence was expected to stop other abuse, but ultimately didn’t. I know that wasn’t a fair expectation. I can hear De and Dr. C telling me it wasn’t my fault, that it was an expectation no one should place on a child. I can even picture TL saying the same thing if I told her all this. I can hear my professional self understanding this and saying it to the clients I worked with, but for some reason I can’t swallow it for myself. I can’t shake the guilt…
the guilt doesn’t feel as bad around the things that happened to me because others are always worth more. I was expected to protect this other person in other situations though (even as a kid), so the expectation is there around this all that much more (I was expected to have power I didn’t have, and I was expected to be protector). And I failed. It was an unfair expectation, but I failed. Over and over again in life, I failed. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s the combination of compounded failures and the unreal expectations that makes this harder to leave behind. That, and that failure to protect myself was ok because others were always worth more than myself. Sacrificing myself, my wellbeing and safety, was ok and expected for the safety of others… and I failed miserably at it…

How do I get the emotions to match the intellectual knowledge that the guilt isn’t mine to bear? How do I get the feeling of failure to abate? How can I let go of the responsibility?


Sorry I’m not very active right now.

I find myself feeling guilty because I cannot seem to concentrate enough to read and respond to other people lately. I get a few spurts of energy that allows me to be “productive” in that respect, but most of the time I feel unable to formulate a coherent response. Even with L, I find myself lacking in ability to pay attention and come up with anything resembling understanding of what she has just said. It’s frustrating. I don’t like to feel so disconnected.

The few times I can attend enough to know what’s being said, I can’t come up with a response. The best I can muster lately is to send hugs, love, or a “like” to acknowledge that I have read the blog or post. It leaves me feeling like I am only taking, but not giving anything. I want to apologize for that. Sorry for not being more attentive and involved.

The week is dragging by. My head feels like molasses. Saturday’s session is not coming fast enough, though I am sure it will slip away through my fingers faster than I can blink once it’s here… I have to remember to print out the journal entries I want to give to TL to read.


Merry Christmas

Today/tonight was actually better than I had expected.  I hate the holidays, but we were able to keep occupied.  On Friday, I had taken De up on her offer to go in today. On the way there, I felt horribly guilty for “making” her work today. I was able to tell her that when I got there, and she set my fears at ease.  It was a light session, but a needed distraction from the holiday.  We colored, and I told her some stuff that I felt I needed to say, including how I had tuned her out on Friday because what I heard her saying was very invalidating.  She confirmed that what she said and what I heard were different. We talked about that a bit, and I caught myself tuning her out again.  I didn’t admit to it in the moment, but tried to return my attention to her words and not my perceived message. She asked what my plans were for the next few weeks that she will be gone.  I told her some of the stuff I intended on doing (work more on the shadow puppet play, do some more art, try to keep social and keep my thoughts from running away without me). She suggested that I also put effort into expressing what it is I need to tell her about the past. She also wants me to think about any advice or support I may want to give to someone else in a similar situation as mine had been. I jokingly told her that will happen towards the time she’s back because stuff like that opens up cob-webbed boxes and creates an urgency to talk about it all.  De was ok with that.  She reminded me to keep busy and enjoy the time with L and my mom.  We also talked about a few other things, but I kept it surface to avoid getting into anything I can’t put away again for the almost 3 weeks break.  We did talk more about the eating issues and how I’m not sure I’m ready to admit to the extent of them. I told her I liked the bonus of the weight loss, and I am not sure I want to do it in a healthier way at the moment.  She reminded me that eating and sleeping had a huge impact on my mood.  I agree.  I’m just not ready to totally pack those thoughts away at the moment.  So I will try to keep her voice in my head reminding me to be healthy about eating and sleep.  We talked a lot about awareness of actions and the choices I make.  Awareness is a large part of getting through/over things…

Anyway, after session I cleaned the mess on my craft table (technically the dining table) as my mom had asked (totally shocked her since it was such a huge pile of stuff). We had a pleasant dinner and then did presents (my family does Christmas Eve over Christmas day). I love what I got, but i really enjoy giving.  Both mom and L liked their cards. L even surprised me with a card she made (I think it’s the best card ever!). It was nice to just hang out and enjoy our time without electronics or tension. I think I could get used to Christmas with my family if it’s all like today.  Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of water works and missing friends and family from up north, but this was pleasant  as far as my side of the family goes. We incorporated some of L’s family traditions (Christmas music, shrimp cocktail for L & mom, a whole bunch of Christmas movies), and we made some of our own (L and I came up with our own Christmas Eve movie tradition: Jeff Dunham holiday special, and the holiday shorts from Pixar). For the first time living with my family, I’m more happy than sad on Christmas. It’s still just another day, but this year it’s also a good day.

I hope everyone had a peaceful and pleasant holiday. ♥

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