Tag Archives: hiding

Weird nightmare, and how do you describe a flashback before you know what one is?

Woke up from a weird nightmare:
I think I had been at work or something, but it was a congregate care setting. We were trying to hide from nuclear bombs, but the places we were hiding weren’t good enough, so between bombs we would switch up hiding places. At one point I saw an old lady confused and not really hiding well, so I pulled her with me under the sink. That wasn’t a good enough place, so we moved again after the bomb. The last place we picked was under some blankets. The dog that had been under there (a rottie I know from work) that we went to hide with, moved and went out into the open. The stranger I was with and I both screamed for him to get under the blankets but he refused. Then the bomb flashed outside. As the flash was fading, aliens dressed in military uniforms used a tractor beam to pull anything living, and out in the open,  out of the apartment. The dog dissappeared in the tractor beam. I stopped screaming, but the woman beside me kept screaming for the dog, so the aliens started to notice her and started to come over. I held my breath and tried to get her to stop, but she kept screaming for the dog. The aliens hadn’t exactly seen her, but they were almost at us… and I woke up.

Couldn’t go back to sleep after that. I had to keep repeating over and over that it was a dream. Funny how your brain can forget that, despite how absurd the dream may be… there wasn’t even any cold medicine I could blame it on last night.

I certainly had no hesitation in calling this a nightmare because I woke up afraid, but other times much scarier and more gruesome dreams don’t make any emotional dent, so I simply call them weird or scary dreams… I guess that’s a good thing though, right? (The few “nightmares”). The less-absurd dreams, the ones that might actually happen in real life, and make sense that way, I simply consider them dreams. It’s the off-the-wall, can’t-happen-due-to-laws-of-the-universe type dreams that I have an easier time calling nightmares. Oh, there’s also the flashbacks and memories that happen in my sleep, but I don’t often remember them in detail. Those I’m just left with emotional echos in the morning, so they don’t count towards anything. If I happen to remember them and they leave an emotional echo, then I might call them a nightmare, but lately I label those for what they are: flashbacks.

Before I know what flashbacks were, I used to call them “daymares” because they were as scary as nightmares, but they came while I was awake… I knew they weren’t happening at the moment, but I couldn’t escape them either. Weird how we can make sense of things any way possible before we really understand what’s going on… I remember trying to describe daymares to some people along the way, but not really knowing how to explain it. I’m sure at some point I tried to explain it to a therapist. I didn’t think they were true at the time, so I described them as something imagined/made-up. They were real scenarios in that they were not outlandish like nightmares often are (like tonight’s was). They were “normal” in terms of “laws of science” kinda things. I wonder if anyone I described them to thought they were hallucinations, or if they guessed they might be real. If anyone told me at the time, I don’t remember. I do remember some people looked at me with pity when I described them…


Monsters in the closet (art journal)

image

This journal page started out with an idea around trying to “find your voice”, but took a bunch of turns. Was kinda trying to both prompt myself to talk openly to TM about the monsters, but also convey the fear and desperation around trying to cram the monsters back into the closet as soon as they appear. There’s the shutting-down when faced with talking about them, the frantic push to keep the monsters out in the first place, and the knowledge that they lose their power when finally talked about. The key to talking about them feels just out of reach, but they threaten to burst through the door anyway (the locks are failing and the door will soon give way)… trying to keep it far away and disconnected, but build on what is already spoken about. All shrouded in darkness except when the flashlight gets turned on in therapy.

Cheesy! But whatever. Maybe I can lead with this tomorrow, because it kinda covers everything from the fear of talking about it to the fear of not taking about it, and the need for safety around it… also much more condensed than the 30+ pages worth of journaling I’ve done this week… hmm.

Now the question becomes: do I warn her I have heavy stuff I need to dump somewhere and need help with dumping it safely? Or do I just go in and hope I get to it so I don’t torture myself all next week about it? (And maybe not waste time on the stress around G coming for a visit next week even though that might be easier to talk about)…


Honesty in treatment

I’m a believer (most of the time) that honesty in treatment is the key to making any progress.  I say “most of the time” because sometimes my fear gets the better of me and I want to hide the ugly or scary parts of myself.

In an attempt to “just breathe” and get through the weekend, I tried to take a step back from myself for a moment.  I opened up my journal and started to write a list of what I get from my behaviors and actions.  I wanted to be as brutally honest as I could be with myself, so I resolved not to show it to anyone.  I wrote all the contributing factors down no matter how shameful or embarrassing they may be.  I was originally going to make it a cbt/dbt-style exercise with pros & cons, and some challenges to the reasons, but I eventually decided to stick to simply listing the reasons.  I am not necessarily in a place to objectively challenge any of those thoughts or beliefs, so I didn’t want to torture myself further by trying (honesty can be scary, especially with all the judgements flying around in my head).  I came up with a pretty comprehensive list.  I think I covered everything I get from my behaviors. I even managed to cover some stuff I do not like to admit to myself that I get, but I wrote them down in an attempt to be brutally honest with myself.  I find myself very stuck in therapy partly because I cannot get past the shame and embarrassment of a lot of things.  I’ve made some progress with De on some of the shameful stuff, but there’s heaps more back there still.

My problem comes now in the sense of urgency I feel at needing to talk about this stuff.  I’m afraid that if I don’t talk about it right now, in the moment, and to someone who can follow-up with me on it, I will lose my drive.  I will find ways to talk myself out of the reasons.  The thick walls of shame will fly back up in a flash, and I’ll be stuck again.  My hope is to be able to talk to De about all this, but there are boundaries in place over extra contact (boundaries that I desperately need right now).  I have to wait until Tuesday to talk about it.  Intellectually (and from a professional perspective), I totally get this and know I should wait.  The little kid in me is having an emotional shit-fit however.  She’s stomping her feet and dying to beg for a chance to address this in the moment.  I’m trying to calm her down.  I know I cringe at admitting most of the list to De (a professional I have grown to trust), let alone anyone else I may not know or that may not have the professional perspective.  I know this needs to wait to be addressed in an emotionally safe environment, but damn I wish it was now.  I am trying to compromise with the emotional side of myself.  I wrote it out where De will be able to see it and know it exists, but I have asked her not to read it.  I am trying to commit to myself to leave it up where she can see it, and to trust that she will not read it before Tuesday (I have no reason to believe she would not do as I ask).  I know I need to address this stuff to be able to move past it, but I also know shame can cripple me in it.

On one hand, it’s really good that I have the freedom to show or hide from De whatever entry I need to.  It helps me censor myself and practice self-containment.  On the other hand, it allows me to hide things I may need to address but am too ashamed of  admitting.  My ability to communicate is ever-evolving.  I am still learning balance.  I’m hoping the blog helps with that.  I know if it were something I could not edit (like an email after it is sent), I would drive her and myself nuts more than I already do. I think honesty is incredibly important in treatment, but so is self-control on my behalf.  With the blog I am learning that I can be more honest when writing, but I am also learning that there are some things I need to learn to reign in.  I am able to spill a lot to her, but also go back and hide things or reveal things after the initial emotional spillage.  As L reminded me this morning, sometimes things need to “marinate” before being addressed. I’m grateful De puts up with me and my alternating emotional explosions and implosions (sometimes she gets way too much info, other times I am unable to give her anything at all).  I’m learning the balance with honesty also.  Right now, I am at the stage of needing to be able to tell her everything and be taught what needs immediate addressing vs. what can wait… I hope she doesn’t hate me for this learning process. She only has to put up with me for another 2.5 weeks anyway (I know, not an excuse to completely lose my shit right now)…

::deep breath:: the process of learning things as an adult that I never learned as a kid is incredibly trying and painful… and way more difficult because as a kid, it was expected that I didn’t know this stuff.  As an adult, I should know better by now and be past these little hissy-fits.


well that was a first…

for the first time in my entire history, I spaced on a therapy appointment today.  I never miss appointments without extenuating circumstances, and never simply because I forgot, except for today.  I was sitting there bopping to my music and making jewelry when my phone rings (rudely interrupting my very bad singing).  I recognize the number as the one De calls in from, so I answer, still thinking nothing of it.  We get through our greeting, and then she tells me I had an appointment with her today.  She said she was wondering what happened because I call even if I’m only going to be 5 minutes late.  In my defense, we have had our weekly meetings on Fridays since the holidays.  I apologized to her and promised nothing was wrong, but I just forgot that we had switched to Thursday this week.  Luckily, she has time tomorrow.  This would have been the last appointment before a 3 week break.  I’m still kicking myself.  Either I’ve got nothing urgent to talk about, or I’m in massive denial about the stress next week’s changes mean (or some combination of both).  Mostly, I think it’s denial.  Next week, L and I head up north.  I will be going for 6 days, but she will be staying up there to try to get us re-established.  We have not packed much beyond 2 boxes.  there’s still laundry to do, and plans to be made for how to get myself and the “kids” back there… and there’s no plan for how my days will be spent once I no longer have L around to pass the time.  We are refusing to look at all this stuff, because it’s hugely scary (but also exciting).  We don’t have the best track record for cross-country moves that actually accomplish what we set out to do.  So now what?  Panic has yet to set in.  Even a sense of urgency might be helpful (less than a week…). I also have yet to “realize” that today’s session with J was our final one.  It was the same as all the others.  I didn’t make much of an effort to say goodbye, though I know I should have.  The only thing different this time was that we hugged before leaving, and we did not make any further appointments or plans to meet up.  I’m sure it will all hit at some point either this week, or when I get back on the 20th to find that “normal” no longer is.

Too many goodbyes recently.  I don’t like it.  Too much loss coming up and resurfacing.  I’m trying not to realize that we effectively re-homed one of our cats (the one who is miserable here and much prefers living with the older couple down the street).  The loss of Twiggy hit again today when a box of her specialized food arrived from the vet today.  I guess they automatically send out “samples” of the specialized food when the test results warrant it.  Too bad it’s 2 weeks too late… I miss Twig.  I know she was hurting a lot before she was put to sleep, but I still miss her presence in the house.  It’s ok to miss the ones you love, even if their passing is for the better. And now I will miss Danny too, though he is still alive.

So I’ve spent my days obsessing with jewelry-making, art, and spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need because it’s easier than dealing with crap that is about to slam us.  I’m playing games on the computer and on my phone that I have not touched in weeks.  I make every effort to leave the house when I can get away with it.  I throw myself in to everything but the things that need addressing.  Heck, I’m even working on random therapy stuff to avoid dealing with other, more looming, more frightening things.  J has a quote she has told us many times in the last 2 months: “if you are just scared, you don’t want it enough. if you are just excited, you already have it, if you are both scared and excited, it’s worth it” (or that’s the gist of it).  I think I’ve draped a thick blanket over everything because I’m neither consciously scared or excited about this, I’m simply going with it because that is what we have decided to do, and there is no real other option.  If I look into myself hard enough, I see the fear and the excitement I’m trying so hard to ignore.  I catch glimpses of it in the tears of loss, and the avoidance.  I notice it in my drive to push every thought of it out of my head (because, really, who wants to realize that within the week they will be separated from their significant other for several months, or think of having to uproot everything they cultivated in the last 18 months).  I throw myself into anything and everything that enables me to push the thoughts away.  It will catch up real soon, but for now, I rival the skill-set of those most versed in denial and avoidance.


PTSD on tv. (Nashville spoiler alert for this past weeks episode)

We watch Nashville. Mostly L got hooked and has hooked me. This most recent episode (Crazy) dealt with a lot of drama amongst the characters. It also highlighted child abuse and the effects of it on adult survivors… and then it left you hanging with Scarlet having a major flashback on stage. I can’t speak to the validity of the scene because, quite frankly, I’m stuck with her hiding under the piano. In my head, I’m berating Juliet for not being understanding, but I also relate to Scarlet’s reaction to having her request dismissed. It’s something with which I’m familiar. You could argue that she should have insisted, should have taken a stand for herself and refused to perform, but in reality, she did what many kids who grew up like that would do; she did what I would do.  She swallowed her fear and her needs to comply with what she was told to do. She asked once, but being the “good girl” she is, she never pushed the issue. I can recall any number of times when I tried to take care of myself only to be told to smile and keep “performing.” There’s a training that kicks in. It takes over to keep you going until you can’t go any further. It has you following direction even when your heart screams in agony at the thought.  It keeps you upright until the moment you crumble, and it hides the signs so no one understands the gravity of the situation until the moment everything falls to pieces. We are gifted at understatement and minimizing. Because of this, our desperation often gets overlooked. I don’t blame people for missing it because I’m so good at the act. You have to be when any sign of needing anything for yourself is seen as weakness; when you are constantly told that you cannot rely on anyone because they will always fail you when you need them (and then you live through it). You have to be all smiles and perfect because “what happens at home is none of anyone else’s business”… you smile outside to keep the illusion going, but you find little escapes. There are pills or drinks or drugs or blades or food or any number of other quiet coping skills you utilize to be able to keep up appearances.
Before I wound up in the hospital for the first time after a suicide attempt, only my therapist, my roommate, and my then-wife had any clue things were not all butterflies and roses. I smiled through work and life until I just couldn’t do it any more. Then, a week later I was released to return to work the next day.  Only my boss and the house therapist knew what really happened.  I was back to smiles and faking it…
I’m sure Nashville will either turn this into a huge drama moment, or they will sweep out all under the rug as the scene accomplished the cliff-hanger they were searching for to keep viewers tuning in for the following week.  I hope they do the topic justice. I hope they can shed light on what it’s like to live as the person who went through crappy shit growing up.  I won’t hold my breath though, because its prime time tv. I’ll give it to them though, they did a pretty decent job evoking the emotion and triggering my head to spin around with my own experiences. We have to wait till next week to find out what they do with it.  If the way they handled another characters suicidal ideation/actions is any indication, the majority of the story line dealing with the ptsd is over. They likely won’t mention it until the very end of next week’s show, and even that will be in passing.  I’m hoping for more, but I’m not putting faith in it… when I get on my computer, I will post a link to the song Scarlet sings about her experiences with mom. It’s a really haunting ballad, but worth the listen if you can handle it.


when we are taught that “no” means “yes” but “yes” also means “yes”… (TRIGGER WARNING)

…and there is no real “no.”

A friend posted this blog link on facebook tonight.  I had wanted to see Divergent anyway, but now I want to read the book before seeing the movie (I tend to find they skimp on messages in movies).  It got me thinking; not only are movies and tv glorifying sexual violence, but we are trained that being “hard to get” is a turn on, and no never actually means no.  This is more pronounced with people who grow up in chaotic and abusive situations.  

When I was discussing the concept of rape with a co-worker many years ago (she was working towards licensure as a therapist and in the process of completing her PsyD), she defined rape and assault as needing a decisive “no” with physical resistance.  At the time, I had not mentioned my experiences with Duckboy to anyone except my own therapist, but even to her only in the most vague terms.  I was taken aback by this friend’s rigid and adamant definition.  I tried to gently give “other” scenarios (my own experiences without divulging that it was myself I was speaking about, but hypothetical subtleties in situations), but she refuted it all.  She said if the woman was truly not wanting any contact, she would fight back and scream “no” until her voice was hoarse if she had to… “what if she says no, but he doesn’t pay attention? …what if she was trained to refuse once, but if he pushed the idea, she had to go along with it? …what if he laughed her “no” off and continued what he was aiming for? … what if he said she was leading him on, so had to do it? what if she was scared because he was so much bigger and stronger? what if he could hold both of her hands in his one and pin them above her head? what if the “no” caught in her throat as she was trying to say it but all that escaped was tears and shaking her head? What if…” To all this, her reply was that it did not meet the definition of rape, and was barely teetering towards assault.  That conversation was had early in my acceptance of what had happened (there’s something about being in a situation that makes it feel normal, especially when you have always been taught to go along with whatever the stronger/louder/older person says without argument).  Prior to this conversation, I had started talking to JF about what had happened with Duckboy, but this conversation had me ashamed for feeling that any of it was something that should not have happened.  I started telling JF that it wasn’t anything wrong; that Duckboy had just been “a little forceful about the sexual stuff, but it was ok…”  I think she had tried to get to the truth of it all, but I was too ashamed.  It was not only not ok to fight back, but it was not ok to be disturbed by any of it if I hadn’t fought tooth and nail to get away.  If he had no scars or bruises, I was consenting… I think it’s at about this time that the cutting had moved to my legs.  I don’t really remember doing it, but I do remember having the gyn ask what the words on my legs were (and later JF asking about them because I had flat-out denied the existence of the cuts that were most certainly visible to the gyn).  The gyn thought she read “slut” and “whore”, but she wasn’t sure about it so JF wanted to talk about it.  I told her I wasn’t sure what they said, and that I didn’t remember writing them (I honestly did not remember it. I think that was one of the many times I had “checked-out” and cut myself only to wake in the morning to new cuts)… I remember telling JF that I didn’t really know why that would even cross my mind.  When she asked if it related to Duckboy, I reiterated that he never did anything wrong; he was just a little forceful… I stopped talking about it shortly after that.  Words appeared in blood on my legs, but I refused to talk about it.  I was lost in the shame of feeling wronged when I “obviously” wasn’t. I started OD’ing on pills to help drown out my head (though only once was I “caught” and sent to the ER. One other time I was sent to the ER because the nurse thought I meant I had taken that many pills only 2 hours ago, not 14 hours ago), and to help ease the dissonance between what I felt, and what “society” (or at least a handful of “friends”) said was right or wrong.  Mind you, my therapist, the nurse I trusted, and the gyn all colluded on the idea that what they understood had happened was indeed “wrong”, but for some reason I didn’t listen to their opinions… I didn’t address any of the assault or abuse stuff again for almost 15 years, but it crept back to my awareness regularly in the form of body memories and flashbacks.  I remember the times I would close my eyes and “just get it over with” when a friend asked for “benefits” even though that was all purely consensual.  He attributed it all to my coming out later that year.  I never told him about Duckboy.  For years, I was adamant that what went on with Duckboy was all in my head in terms of “appropriateness.”  Even when the flashbacks interfered with my relationships (apparently I went pale and stopped breathing for a few seconds the first time my ex pulled out a realistic dildo. She had offered to stop, but I recovered my bearings and did my best to ignore the flashbacks taking over enough to convince her there was nothing wrong), I refused to acknowledge the damage done by Duckboy.  It was only after the millionth recommendation from the millionth hospital social worker that I sought sexual assault counseling this past summer.  Even when the body memories caused me to cut severely in an effort to rid myself of them, I refused to acknowledge a history of assault.  When asked about it, I attributed it to the body memories, but refused to give details or call it anything other than him being forceful.  There were the body memories that came before Duckboy, but I had no actual memories to pair them with, so they “didn’t count.”  You can’t really work on something you don’t remember except on a physical and emotional level… at least, I have no idea how to do it, and I thought it was all in my head (ok, so it is, but in a different way).  I know the basics of the situation from second-hand stories of what went on, but at the same time, my involvement is constantly denied after the first admission of occurrence.  I was too young to really remember, so I only have the stories they told me about it.  I know the guy served time for it.  I know he assaulted more than one kid at the parties. I know I was told I stopped going to bed when the other kids went because I would throw a tantrum at the parties.  It was before my brother was born, so I can assume I was younger than one and a half.  The only reason I even know anything happened was that I was told to alert my parents if the guy ever tried to contact me (after he was released… I might have been 12 or 14).  But all I have of that time are distorted nightmares and vague body memories. The stuff with Duckboy isn’t too concrete, but I remember more than I do of the earlier stuff.  I have explicit memories of what he did, and fears connected to specific events.  I react strongly and violently when touched without expecting it, especially by someone I don’t know and trust.  I have scared family friends with my reactions when they were only trying to be genuinely, harmlessly playful (things that are harmless to someone who has never been violated turn into assaults for someone with a history).  Triggers are rampant in medical settings because of the nature of medical exams.  Even when I trust my doctor, dissociation is almost inevitable.  I have yet to figure out if it’s more helpful to be alone with her, or have my wife there.  It gets confusing and full of flashbacks either way.  Speaking of doctors, I’m surprised more gyn’s are not more sensitive to assault histories.  I think they are almost as uncomfortable addressing the possibility of abuse (past or present) as we are divulging it.  It took me years to find Dr. F.  Before her, no one asked about any specifics beyond the existence of an assault history.  Dr. F actually sat down and talked before having me strip for the first time.  She checks in regularly and is always asking what helps to make it all easier.  I have not yet made any effort to find a gyn here because it’s so difficult to find someone that’s willing to take time and space to make things feel safe… Even at the hospital, when the doctors knew there was a history and those triggers had led me to the hospital, simply labeled me as “resistant” and “defiant” when I insisted on a female doctor for any exams.  There was more than one occasion when I was not given a choice to refuse the exam or ask for a female doctor. There were several “unwarranted” exams that I was not able to refuse.  Then they wondered why I “left” during the exam. They deemed me a danger to myself for dissociating in a very uncomfortable, vulnerable, and triggering situation… They replayed the old scenarios in new ways.  You would think that with a greater push for awareness and understanding of assault situations (and trauma in general) that they would work harder to keep from triggering people and re-victimizing them.  There’s still a lot of growth that needs to happen in that field…

Anyway, what was my original point?  Oh, the thoughts on the rape scene in Divergent… well, I guess I addressed it.  I’m glad that our kids are now being taught more often that “no” means no, and not a veiled “yes”.  I’m glad that we are educating everyone on the concept of respecting boundaries.  I’m glad that society is changing, albeit slowly.  It gives me hope that one day my future kids will know that they don’t have to do anything that feels so wrong. I will never tell kids not to fight for their right to refuse to do anything.  I will make sure they know they can always look to my wife and I for support around anything… and I will forever be vigilant for signs of abuse with the people I care about. No one deserves to be hurt.


Overwhelmed

De did most of the talking today, only it didn’t bother me. I had no words. I still have no words, just really overwhelmed… she validated some of the little I did manage to speak,  and was really gentle about denying some of the things my head fills in behind what she says (that I’m a pain in the ass, drama queen, pathetic, hopeless, frustrating, useless, she never wants to see me again…).
We shredded the pictures of Duckboy I had taken in last week. It was anticlimactic…
I think I just want to crawl into bed and stay there.


More for the 2014 100 Theme Challenge

I was messing around with water colors today. I have a LOT of practice to do before I’m reasonable versed in the techniques, but I think these came out ok. The first is a “practice” piece that came out better than the one on the intended painting…
55) Comfort

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The next is the painting I wanted to have the dog in… It’s still in the works, as it’s bottom-heavy.  I need to figure out what to put on the top portion to make it feel more balanced.

60) Superpowers – there’s comfort in the dog’s protection and the wings and the bear.  There’s comfort in the blackness also.  It’s a place to hide and blend in to avoid attention.  Sometimes kids need superpowers to get through the darkness, even the inner kids.

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100-theme challenge 2014

I have participated in 100-theme challenges twice now, and I really liked some of what I produced because of them.  This year however, I wanted to put my own spin on things.  I wanted to come up with one myself.  A lot of my list can be interpreted in therapeutic ways (though admittedly, some were inspired by objects/events in the living room at the time of its creation), so I thought I would post it here in case anyone wants to participate.  The rules are simple: interpret the prompt however you see fit.  You can choose to post your work publicly somewhere, or keep it to yourself.  It can be in any form you wish as long as it can be considered creative in some way (drawing, painting, sculpting, writing, music, sounds, pictures, words, collages, performance, anything).  It’s really just supposed to give you topics you may not have thought of on your own to help spark creativity… I have liked the challenges in the past because I did things I never expected to do.  It forced me to take time out for creativity and story-telling.  Since I have been focusing more on my own art therapy of late, I figured this next one could be a way to help me express to De what I need to get out.  I will try to post anything I do of relevance.  I must warn you however, I go in spurts with these things.  Sometimes a whole bunch of work will show up at once, other times, there will be months without anything.  What I’m trying to say is: don’t hold your breathe for me to get the list finished in a timely manner.  I have had 2013’s list for the past year and only this past month have I started it…  I really liked that list though, so I will continue working on that one as well (rather than incorporate stuff from that list into this one).

Without further adieu, here’s my 2014 100-theme challenge:

1) candlelight
2) magnified
3) left standing
4) aftermath
5) breaking ground or ground breaking?
6) reaching out
7) trust
8) broken
9) in the daylight (everything is different)
10) rats in the walls
11) shattered
12) open to interpretation
13) flashbacks
14) heaviness
15) lighter than air
16) combustion
17) lights
18) hope/hopeless
19) under pressure
20) disclosure
21) history
22) presence
23) disappearing from…
24) gone away
25) at the dinner table
26) unbalanced
27) highlights
28) even snakes get the blues
29) enlightenment
30) despair
31) rave with me
32) the itch you can’t scratch
33) slippery slope
34) in my travels
35) it’s the end of the world
36) here there be dragons
37) firefight
38) spirals/spiraling
39) a blank canvas
40) just a thought
41) reflections
42) big trouble
43) happiness
44) wrath
45) associations
46) to the world
47) on the inside
48) truth in advertising
49) memory
50) deception
51) hollow
52) survival
53) turmoil
54) bad choices
55) comfort
56) falling (is like this)
57) open up
58) feety pajamas
59) what would you do?
60) superpowers
61) once upon a time
62) AWOL
63) hunger
64) the light’s gone out
65) running
66) awareness
67) transition
68) humility
69) conscience
70) memorable
71) convergence
72) destroy
73) buildings and bridges
74) the last time
75) vision
76) burning bridges
77) why
78) the first time
79) meditation
80) technology
81) walls
82) containment
83) distraction
84) anxiety
85) heart
86) it hurts like this
87) play it again
88) talk to me
89) open book
90) animals
91) brutality
92) nature
93) family
94) obsession
95) release
96) skeletons
97) peak performance
98) water
99) drowning
100) rescue
In case anyone is interested, the list I’m working on for 2013 is this (I think I have pieces to cover 7 of the topics… I’m seriously slacking!):
1. Break Away 2. Bites the Dust 3. Innocence 4. Drive 5. Sound of Settling 6. Mother Nature 7. No Time 8. Standing Still 9. Two Roads 10. Foreign 11. Breaking the Silence 12. Keeping a Secret 13. Blind Man’s Bluff 14. Waltzing 15. Traps 16. Mischief Managed 17. Lazy Days 18. Hot/Cold 19. Anyone Out There? 20. Seeing Red 21. Through the Fire 22. Between the Raindrops 23. Safety First 24. Puzzle 25. Gateway 26. Fantasia 27. Everyday Magic 28. Irregular Orbit 29. Change in the Weather 30. Nowhere and Nothing 31. Charge 32. Turn the Car Around 33. Colorless 34. Assassin 35. Daughters 36. Instant 37. Don’t Be a Hero 38. Born Without Time 39. Sound Effect 40. Little Bombs 41. Freak 42. American Boys 43. Clue 44. True Believers 45. Portable 46. Caption 47. So Close 48. Under the Red Hood 49. Dragon 50. Making History 51. Rivalry 52. Death 53. Excuses 54. Colors 55. Family 56. Music 57. Off Topic 58. Black and White 59. Memories 60. Song Title 61. Fighting Chance 62. Childhood 63. Shenanigans 64. Elements 65. First Time 66. Lost 67. Strangers 68. Insanity 69. Mirror 70. Silhouette 71. Zodiac 72. Dreams 73. Hope 74. Misunderstanding 75. Relationship 76. Stay Gold 77. Beauty 78. Alice in Wonderland 79. Runaway 80. Our Own World 81. Kiss 82. Little Things 83. Secret Admirer 84. Sweet Dreams 85. Past 86. Present 87. Future 88. Forgotten 89. Human 90. Silence 91. Breathe Again 92. Breaking the Rules 93. Fairy Tale 94. Death 95. Umbrella 96. Pattern 97. Season 98. Clothing 99. Animal 100. The Ones We Left Alive

mostly-finished Inside-out Box & WIP painting that I have also given up on for the time being

ok, so I lied about updating that post… It’s been about 3 weeks since I declared it finished and showed it to De.  Sitting there looking at it in session, I realized how much I hated the ribbon around the outside lid and ripped it off as I walked back out of the building.  I felt much better.  i replaced the ribbon with black sand, but i still want to make a wall of small river stones or gravel along the curtain-line. To do that, i will have to buy some stones though.

Sometimes I get frustrated with my lack of supplies, or expertise in technique, or ideas, and just let the project rest indefinitely until I either get what I need, inspiration strikes, or I scrap it and change it all together.  This box has been sitting “mostly finished” since the beginning of the month.  It will likely stay like that for another several weeks as I have mentally moved on from it.

So, to keep from leaving too much suspense over the mostly-finished product, here are some pics.  I don’t know where the pics of the outside of the box went, apologies.

And here’s the WIP painting I mentioned.  It was born of an in-session assignment.  I got frustrated with the way I was painting the chair as well as my lack of definition/direction with the person in the chair, so I moved on to other things (specifically, a shadow-puppet piece based off the same image – also stalled due to my lack of knowledge about where to take the performance of it, and technical know-how to accomplish what I am picturing in my head).  I will finish this painting some day, but I doubt it will be any time soon.  All my current energy is focused on making that shadow-puppet piece work out.  I really miss puppetry.  I’m having a blast trying to figure stuff out for it, and it’s getting me in contact with puppet-arts people to help get things correct.  It has also renewed my interest in puppetry in general.

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Defenses and how they can be a real pain in the butt sometimes

So, I had therapy today.  It started out Ok.  I took my box project in and we talked about it.  It was a perfect segway for her topic, so it worked out.  Only part way through, my mind went blank. I couldn’t remember what the elements of the box meant.  I could not give her any specifics or tell her even the ball-park of what they represented.  We then moved on to her topic: tell her what some of that stuff is that I never manage to talk about.  My brain panicked further and I suddenly couldn’t think about anything at all. We were in the art room, and she asked if I could draw it out. I sat staring at the paper.  She nailed my emotion when she called it “freaking out.” So we changed the assignment to what it felt like in the moment, and what would be needed to feel safe enough to talk about that stuff. That was also difficult, but we talked through it. I managed to start drawing stuff. Part-way through the drawing, I paused.  She took that time to wrap up.  I felt lost and totally vulnerable, as we had not talked about the rest of the stuff that came up.  I didn’t have the courage to bring up what came popping into my head, and time was up.  I left feeling really vulnerable and small.  I sat in the parking lot journaling for an hour… I toyed with going back in, or calling her for support (or at least have help putting some of the vulnerability away). I ended up going home without asking for more support, but agonized over all of it the whole  rest of the day.  I wrote some stuff to De, and more came out than I intended.  It actually made things a bit easier, as I think that was the stuff struggling to surface in session today. I left her a message tonight telling her of it, and asking if she had extra time to talk about it, or at least help me box it back up till next Friday. She won’t get it till tomorrow, but that’s ok.  I really didn’t want to speak with her because I knew I would lose what it was I intended to say (she had answered the last few times I had called when I only wanted to leave a message). I’m kinda hoping she at least has time to talk a bit over the phone tomorrow so I don’t completely lose my connection to what came up today. I dunno.  We will see.


almost finished – inside out box

I think I am just about finished my box.  It has become quite crowded on the inside, with many elements to it.  I am having trouble figuring how to adequately photograph it so I can post it here.  There are a lot of things: things that move, things that are hiding, things that blend in, and things that stay still.  Most of it is done in a dark color-palate, so lighting is difficult.  Too much lighting and I get too many shadows that make things hard to see.  Too little lighting and everything blends into everything else.  Because of the “curtain” dividing the box, I have an even more difficult time angling the camera correctly.

The bats came out pretty neat (in my opinion), but are the ones causing the most trouble.  They obscure some of the other elements when I try to take the picture, and they tend to blur-out because even the slightest breeze or bump has them wiggling all over the place.  I try to show one piece, and they get in the way.  They take over the whole picture  as they distract from what it is I’m trying to focus on.  The bats in the box mimic what they are supposed to represent real life.  I think I did a better job at this than I imagined I could, even without consciously trying to make certain elements work as they do.

I’m hoping someone can point me in the right direction for getting the pics correct so I can do the full visual effect.  When I do that, I will post them in this blog with an “UPDATED: Finished Box” leader to its title.

Ooohhh… I just got another idea for the box, but it would involve another purchase. Hmm… I may have to do that. We’ll see.


UPDATED art-therapy project – Inside Out Box – WIP

I follow this wonderful art therapy journal blog called Girl in Therapy.  She did a project called an Inside Out Box, and I was fascinated by the idea;  I wanted to give it a try myself.  I started with one idea, and it has evolved/is still evolving.

Michael’s had a sale on Black Friday that had their photo and memory boxes priced at 5 for $7.  I was not originally going to pick any up (I was only supposed to get a mug for L because she really liked the one she had picked up for me… note to self: don’t go shopping with more money than I should be spending), but I really liked one of them with little owls on it.  Then I thought L might want one to decorate.  Then I thought I want one to decorate.  Before I knew it, I had picked out 5…

IMG_20131129_220118_zps0f12d1b7Anyway, I had no real idea what to do at first.  The idea is to make the outside representative of what you present to the world, and the inside is what you really feel/are.  We recently picked up a bunch of older National Geographics as well as other nature magazines.  I was just going to cut stuff out and paste it all over the front of the box complete with some more inspirational sayings, positive thoughts, and the concept of helping others with a smile on my face… I sat staring at my box (I had picked a black one, thinking that the black showing through the spaces between the pics was representative of the darkness that sometimes seeps out through the cracks).  I stared at the pile of magazines, and the plethora of other art supplies we have strewn all over the dining room.  I headed for some already-cut-out collaging supplies.  I found a postcard with a really neat pic on it.  I wanted to use it, but I wanted my box to be a bit more “jazzy” (and I just didn’t feel like cutting and pasting at the moment).  I spotted the box of Crayola Model Magic on the other side of the table.  I started playing around with it, and ended up making my take of the image on the card (a heart with headphones on).  I had more red left over (the stuff dries out even when stored in ziplock baggies), so I decided to make another heart, this time with black veining on it (similar to the concept of a painting I did a few months ago, but this heart was stylized).  I think it came out ok, but needed to wait for it to dry.  I found some more stuff I wanted to put both inside and outside of the box.  Then I waited.

IMG_20131201_121645_zpsae9384dfWhile waiting for the foamy “clay” to dry (really a p.i.t.a in a climate where it’s humid all the time… going on 3 days and it’s not totally dry yet?!), I started thinking about the inside of the box some more.  I found paper waves that I had originally wanted to put on the outside representing my love of all things water.  It didn’t work out.  So inside they went (I was originally going to just store them there until I figured out how to make use of them). The way they landed, it looked like it could be representative of me feeling like I’m drowning in myself.  Ok, cool.  I will use them like that.  Then what?  I scanned the room, picked through scrapping supplies, thought of sculpting something, then remembered I had purchased a Halloween bag of decorative stones.  In it, there were a few skulls and bones.    I grabbed a few and arranged them on one side of the box.  They were glued into place.  Next?  Hmm… I had an idea, but it did not work out (really kinda sad about that, because it’s more of what I want to do with the box).  I found a little shower curtain in the scrapping supplies.  I snagged it (great idea for scrapping, but crappy to work with in 2-D).  That will be the divider between the “skeletons” and the other half of the inside space.  I was still hung up on the original doll idea I had, but no way to make it work.

IMG_20131201_121437_zps647a47efI sat staring at the table again this morning, and spotted some bat-patterned ribbon I had snagged (I am obsessed with Halloween – definitely my favorite holiday of all time).  I like the idea of bats flying out of the “closet” when the curtain is opened.  I thought of using the ribbon, but it was cumbersome.  I had some black in the Model Magic, so I went about making a bunch of little bat silhouettes.  They will be placed on little wires that will allow them to bounce and wiggle when the box is moved or the curtain slid away.  I wanted some of the bats to not be flat, so I laid them against a sculpture I had done last week or the week before.  When I took pics of the little bats for “in progress” shots, the pic made it look like they were flying out of the sculpture.  Ok, so now that will also go into the box (I just have to figure out how to make it fit.  It’s just about 1/2″ taller than the box, and I want the lid to fit appropriately).

IMG_20131201_121527_zps2ba03b97I also wanted to incorporate my love of reptiles into the box.  I thought of making some little “clay” ones to wrap around the doll, but since I am not really sure how to make the doll work, I am making a free-standing snake.  It will have dual-symbolism to it.  I made it a little black monocled cobra hooded-up.  I want it to somewhat feed into the stereotypes of snakes as scary and unwanted, but also as something that is misunderstood by a lot of people.  The threat display is to keep others at bay, but it also represents my own fears – scary but also really just scared itself.  I’m not 100% sure of his placement yet, but he’s going on the inside.

Anyway, so the box has skeletons, bats, barriers, water, a snake, and a (poorly done) woman tearing her own heart out on the inside of it; with a heart on the inside of the lid that is slowly being over-taken by blackness.  The outside is still pretty blank except for the very top, which will have that heart listening to music once the stupid stuff dries.  It has come a long way from what I originally envisioned, but I’m really liking it.  There’s that doll element that I wish I could execute correctly, but it’s not something I would necessarily show anyone other than De anyway. I guess it’s not so bad that I can’t figure it out for this box.  Maybe it will be an add-on piece I do later, or I will just describe it to De…

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well, 10 hours later and things have moved along quite nicely.  Instead of describing everything in detail, I will just put up some pics… (1. the inside of the lid, 2. the curtain view, 3. a side view, 4. the other view of the sides.  5. the “closet” view, and 6. the bits and pieces yet to finished/added)

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ghosts

ever notice how some people are just hard to banish?  they pop up in conversation, in correspondence, in life… they are never the people you want to show up again, but they are the masters at it.

bitch came to dinner tonight.  not in the physical sense, but because we started talking about her.  I’m not quite sure why we manage to resurrect her being whenever we sit together and talk for more than 5 minutes, but we always do.  maybe it’s because we never sit to talk except during holidays.  we reminisce, and it inevitably turns dark.  I think that is because we have very little positive to talk about.  we don’t connect anymore.  we live parallel lives in the same house, but we don’t intersect much.  days are generally spent avoiding any meaningful contact by being absorbed in our electronics.  we don’t talk.  the only time we ever do is if i sit to vent about things going on in my head… we have surface conversations about the dogs and the price of things, and the frustrations of being broke, but we don’t ever connect in a true, deep way.  the only exception to that is the shared memories of traumas past.  I wish it was different.  I wish we still had some common ground to talk about that did not elicit a shudder response.  well, maybe it only elicits a shudder response for L, while mom and I find some solace in knowing that the past sucked.

there’s rarely any happy memories of the past because, quite frankly, I doubt either of us have more than a handful.  we talk about G, we talk about holidays, and birthdays, and K&T with the best of intentions at keeping it light.   the laughs run out quick though.  we find ourselves (unintentionally) reminiscing about a fight or a particularly difficult night.  we try to make it light again, but then bitch pops into our awareness.  L said she is generally not scared of me, except when I talk about my hate for bitch.  that might be because I don’t hate anyone else to that degree.  I could watch her die a slow and painful death, all the while smiling. I can empathize with and rationalize even the most brutal abuser’s actions, but not her’s.  I know she had a difficult upbringing.  I know she likely suffered a lot of abuse as a child.  I know she is most likely paranoid schizophrenic… but I have no compassion for her.

she made our lives living hell.  I will never forgive her for that.  (I know forgiveness is for me, not her, but I’m just not at a place to accomplish that at this time).

maybe one day we will be able to again find happier thoughts to focus on.  maybe one day we will stop dragging ghosts back to the dinner table. maybe one day we will be able to talk about something different, but I think we both need to process the past before that can happen.  so instead we immerse ourselves in technology and television.  we connect on the animals (or butt heads about them).  we tiptoe around each other because the things that need to be said are too heavy to bear all at once.  we censor most interactions, though I think that censoring is trapping both of us (all of us).  maybe me being able to process some of the crap with De will make a difference.  maybe it will be a step towards healing our family dynamics, and we can live as people who actually care about each other not just people who happen to live together… and maybe some day she will find a way to get through the past herself.


there she is… (the daunting thought of recovery from depression means the depression is still very present)

there’s the analytical side again. the professional, composed, and “knows her shit” side. the side that could sit with clients for hours on end prodding and supporting and fostering growth and promoting the will to live… she’s working from underneath. it’s a very weird feeling. normally, she would take over and I would feel like this side was in the background. now she feels like she’s lifting a drape of my currently-dominant self and sneaking a pen from underneath to let herself be heard. she’s being more subtle this time. i guess she has no need to overtly take charge at this moment, but she’s making her presence felt. good thing?

yesterday, when talking to De, I couldn’t bring forth my training for the life of me. my head was stalled in itself and I felt horribly stupid. I could not come up with one single need a child may ask for. I couldn’t put myself in the place of anyone else to even guess what a client may need when they reach out. I was stuck at whatever age it was that I first learned that any needs outside of life-or-death would not be met by anyone (a very overt and spoken rule growing up, though I have no idea when I first heard it). it was extremely frustrating. I can only imagine what it feels like at the start of Alzheimer’s, because that is the closest thing I can relate it to: I know I should know the answers, and had in the past, but I just could not raise them from the depths for the life of me. I had wondered to myself where the hell my analytical side was at the time, why wasn’t she able to jump in? and I remember being worried that her jumping in might mean that I lose connection to whatever emotional space I had contacted during session… maybe that’s why she’s less obvious. she’s respecting that I need that connection to the emotion, but she also wants me to know she hasn’t gone away too far.

again I’m catching myself referring to my “sides” as individuals. it’s just more comfortable that way. it’s easier to express how mutually exclusive they all feel. they are not alters in that they have their own way of dress or speech and you see a noticeable difference immediately when one or the other comes about, but they all have their individual roles. they only come about one at a time, and I have trouble seeing the info/perspective/emotions of any of the others at any given time. I may intellectually know something happened (have a memory of the concept of being a competent professional, or the memory of the concept of feeling depressed) but they never occur at the same time, and I can never connect to anything other than my current state. I have learned to successfully and completely compartmentalize myself.  it worked really well in the past, but is causing a lot of hardship in the present.

I was reading through some forums last night, and responded to someone’s post. the response was given from the analytical side. it was weird reading it again and again knowing the emotional space I am currently in.  the poster had mentioned feeling like a fraud because s/he was afraid of getting better.  s/he was afraid of having responsibilities increased and expectations raised at the slightest sign of improvement.  i can relate.  I very much have those same fears (in fact, I’m dealing with the ramifications of my own raised expectations and responsibilities at the moment).  the response I typed out validated the poster’s feelings but also said that the fear comes from the depression: while the depression is still present, it is very difficult to think of not feeling too drained by all the demands of daily life.  once the depression lifts however, things become easier. the little things no longer make you feel like you are walking through waist-deep mud for miles on end… (I can’t take credit for that little gem if a theory, I had read it a few months earlier on that same forum but can totally relate).  when I am not as depressed, I can handle the daily chores and the socializing and the (gasp) work demands.  when I’m depressed however, all of that feels unthinkable. getting back to a point where I have to do all that feels unbearable.  that is just the depression talking though. when the exhaustion lifts and the fog lifts, it’s possible to do all that and not be overwhelmed.  
while I was able to say all this on the forums, I’m having trouble seeing the validity of it at the moment.  everything feels overwhelming and difficult.  the thought of having to feed the animals is daunting.  the thought of being social is almost unbearable.  i want to hide.  i want to back out of everything that I am committed to participating in…  yet I was able to pass on that insight last night.  I have re-read that post at least 5 times this morning, and I still read my response as if I had not seen it (and it was written by someone else).  I re-read it to remind myself that there is truth in it…  but I still can’t connect to what I wrote.  the analytical side came out from underneath the drape, wrote that post, and has slinked back off into the shadows to let me figure out how to deal with all of this myself.  she’s made her presence known, but is not taking over (at least not as obviously, or to the exclusion of either the emotional, dark, or child sides of myself).  if she is taking over, she’s doing it slowly and not totally kicking out everyone else.  it’s very weird. I’m used to her taking over quickly and completely.  the others will take over slowly (most of the time, sometimes it’s a split-second event without warning), but she has always been the one to snap into place in an instant…

anyway, I’m rambling… i still desire space and peace, but not in as much of a fog as I was yesterday.


feeling defeated

I know I should be talking about this with the appropriate people, but it is difficult, so I will write it here.

It’s not fair.  It’s not fair that you invite him here and then get mad when I choose to leave for the duration of his visit (I shut him out of my life for a reason, and I really have no desire to let him back in).  You can choose to have him come around, but don’t try to guilt me into sticking around for it.  I don’t want to spend time with him.  That kind of interaction is just not good for me.  I know this last time wasn’t so bad, but I refuse to push my luck.  I have enough trouble with all the crap in my head as it is, I don’t need help going over the edge.

I chose to stay away most of the time last visit because I wanted to limit the chances of me being really triggered.  I want to be completely gone this next time, because I don’t want to deal with all that he brings up in me (and quite frankly, I don’t want to deal with your anger either.  You refuse to tell me what’s bothering you.  You may hint at it, but you leave me pretty much guessing. I don’t want to have to keep guessing).  It’s better for all concerned if we just took off while he was slated to visit.

I get it, we are annoying and frustrating, and you want us gone asap.  We are working on that.  But in the mean time, I refuse to forego everything that helps keep me sane.  I will choose to spend my money how I see fit.  I am saving what I can, and we will be out of your hair asap because that seems like what you desperately want.  Hell, if I could afford to move us out today, I would because you are clearly bothered by our presence.  But that’s just not realistic unless we suddenly win the lottery.

We try to help out around the house, but nothing is ever good enough for you.  It’s always too messy, or too noisy, or too chaotic, or too quiet.  Sorry.  I don’t know how to win with that.  Like I said, we are working on getting out of here so that you can go back to your quiet and solitary existence.  My bad for assuming I could move back to my own house and be welcome.

I know the dogs are bothersome.  I try to work on it, but I can’t do that alone.  I had asked for help with it, but it seems to be too much to ask.  Coming here has thrown everyone off.  It will take extra work to get them settled again (it’s also really hard to do anything with them outside of the house down here.  The state and municipalities make it impossible to go anywhere with them).

I’m also sorry that trying to include you in what we do outside of the house makes you so uncomfortable.  I’m sorry us leaving the house bothers you (but then again, staying home seems to do the same thing).  I know I can’t handle being cooped up all the time, and I’m pretty sure it drives L nuts also.  If we could take the dogs, we would, but again, too hot and too restrictive around here,

I feel like everything we do is wrong.  I feel like everything we do is too little.  If we don’t to the dishes, that’s a problem.  If we do the dishes but don’t do them correctly, that’s a problem.  If we clean up, we never do it to your standards.  If we don’t, you just make passive-aggressive comments about the mess, but don’t attempt to help take care of it.  I feel like we can’t win… and I feel like we can’t ever talk about it because, at this point, you are too angry and we are too defensive.

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I don’t want to do this anymore.  I don’t want to keep running from things and trying to dodge bullets flying at me from the dark…  I want to fix my shit and move on with my life.  I miss my “friends” and my safe spaces.  I miss being away from all this chaos and triggers.  I miss having some idea of where to turn for support…  I hate feeling so lost and hopeless and broken.  I want to figure shit out, get off disability, and get back to working again… I want my freedom back…


what is this?

I’m in an uncharted place emotionally. I am somewhat aware of things going on in the background, but they are not as hectic and frantic as they normally are. I am not quite sure what to do with this. I feel like I’m trying to out-run something (some break-down), but I don’t feel like I’m running too hard, more like that quick pace you get right between noticing that someone is following you in the shadows and the point you head out in a full-on sprint. It’s the quickening steps in the middle of the cones of light cast down by the street lamps as you walk the sidewalk at night. But it’s not yet the run or even jog. I’m noticing the presence in the shadows, but I’m not quite worried about it yet. I still think it’s a cat or something equally harmless. It’s not stopping me from my hell-bent distraction though. I need to keep moving. I need to keep my head and my hands busy… And I’m again anxious about sleeping (monsters seem to fill the shadows in sleep). Something about going to bed at night causes near-panic. I can nap during the day and finally sleep well just before sunrise, but the thought of going to bed and actually sleeping before 1 or 2 a.m. raise my heartbeat and hastens my breathing (and not at all in a good way). There’s something that worries me about sleeping at night. I’m not quite sure what. I could take my anxiety meds, but that would require going to the bedroom. It’s not even like the room or the bed is scary. My wife is asleep and all the dogs are in there. I’m out here alone with the cats and the uneaten crickets in the lizard tanks (anyone that says they can sleep better with the sounds of chirping crickets never had to breed/house them… It’s only about 40 crickets total right now (better than the thousands I used to house to feed my chameleons daily) and the noise is deafening. I wish the lizards would get on with the eating process).
Anyway, I like the dark and the night-time, but something is triggering an anxious response lately. I think it’s the monsters that come out to play in my dreams. Somehow they are safer to dream about in the daylight or near-daylight, thought I don’t remember the dreams.
This morning I dreamt about an old therapist. I was to meet with her after she spoke to my mom (much like therapy with kids), and she had her own kids in her office waiting for her to be done with her work day. My mom stepped out of the office and I began talking to L. After a few sentences, I realized that her daughter and her daughter’s bf were still in the office. I asked her to make them leave because she knew I had enough trouble talking about “this stuff” without having others around to hear it. She refused to ask them to go out of the room, so I stood up and angrily walked out. I sat with my mom in the waiting room while L ended up calling 911 (or her supervisor, the call was weird). She was upset that I walked out and was going to have me committed even though I had just told her that I was not cutting recently. She begged her supervisor and “everyone” to call her back. I waited in the waiting room hoping she would come out and I could convince her I wasn’t a danger to myself. Then I woke up, I wish the dream had finished, but something jolted me out of it. I know it’s a totally ridiculous scenario and would never happen. I’m wondering however, why my brain brought her back to my awareness, and why I was a kid-adult in the dream… and why was she committing me for no real reason?
I want to know how it ended. At the same time, I am not eager to return to the anxiety of the dream situation. Even this one dream doesn’t explain all the anxiety I have been having going to sleep for the last few months… This was just last night. What happened all the other nights? I can’t really remember any other dreams. I’m just filled with dread about going to sleep. I can be incredibly exhausted and still have a difficult time convincing myself to get into bed. Then the anxiety keeps me up at night, and I don’t sleep until just about sunrise. It’s very frustrating.

I wish I could step out of my head. I want away from the anxiety. I want to avoid the dread that is seeping in. I don’t know where I want to go or what I want to happen, but I just want to blink out of existence for a while until this all goes away. I feel like I have lived lifetimes in the past week. We have not done much out of the ordinary though. It just all feels like last week was forever ago… weird. Again back to the feeling of quick-stepping away from whatever is stalking me. Does it all settle out finally? I’m so tired of this back and forth and spirals and scribbles. I could use a straight emotional line in a positive or positive/neutral direction.


behavioral observations

I have a knack for working with animals… and people.  I have found that my success comes from careful (and often unconscious) observation.  When I worked in animal control in college, I was the worker with the reputation for being able to handle and calm aggressive and anxious dogs and cats.  I would take the time to watch them and pay attention to their reactions to things.  Most of the aggression came from fear, so I would volunteer my time and sit with the animals for hours on end, alternately talking to them and just going about my business nearby.  I instinctively made my posture non-aggressive (see, leaning to tip-toe around abusive and explosive adults can help with something).  I brought animals out of their shells, and worked with them to mold the aggression into acceptable and wanted behaviors.

I have found that most aggression comes from fear.  The fear may be deeply rooted and hidden, but it’s almost always there.  I have found this true with my reptiles as well as my mammals.  I have a snake that will strike wildly whenever I go into her enclosure for any reason.  I am working on hook training her and getting her used to handling.  When she does not feel cornered or uncomfortable, she is a cuddle bug (yes, snakes do cuddle, they like the warmth after all).  By using less intimidating body language and actions, I can communicate to her that I will not try to eat her or harm her in any way.

I think the same is true for people.  I think we are either so wounded or so terrified of being wounded that we often lash out in anger.  I think the anger is a defense mechanism.  People don’t have time to get under your armor if you are busy throwing out spikes.  They can’t get close enough to hurt if you run around bearing your teeth and pushing everyone away.

I think this relates to self-harm in some ways.  Self-harm is a form of aggression, only against yourself.  It is the result of anger and fear turned on the body.  It can be preventative – no one can hurt me as much as I can hurt myself; I’m going to get hurt anyway, might as well get a jump on things.  It can also be reactive – I screwed that up, so I deserve to be punished for it.  Both inadvertently work to keep people at bay.  The concept of self-harm is a scary one.  Most people will cringe at the thought, and bolt at the sight of it. They will over- or under-react to the news, but rarely be helpful in their reactions at first.  Those of our family and friends that have dealt with it in the past react a little better (we have given them reading materials, access to our treaters, insights into our pain), but they still give distance, or at least that is what we hope – that is what I hope.  I don’t want questions about my scars.  I don’t want to launch into my story with everyone that notices.  Why write a blog you may ask?  Well, I still want to tell my story, but I like the measure of anonymity the internet provides.  I can give you glimpses of my inner crazy, and you won’t change your opinion of me if you see me on the street.  If you don’t look closely at my arms, you won’t guess that I struggle (ok, if I’m crying my eyes out, you may have a clue, but that’s rare, especially in public).  If you don’t see me on the psych unit, you wouldn’t know I can barely make it through a day without craving peace at least once.

Even those that know me rarely ask about the scars (we are trained to mind our own business, and I doubt they really want an honest answer).  They look past it.  It’s scary and dangerous to be let into a world that allows someone to do so much physical harm to themselves on purpose.  It keeps people from asking with any real honesty what my life is like.  They anticipate a drama, so they avoid the inquiry.

The long and short of it is that aggression is a defense mechanism, as is self-harm.  It keeps people away from the real you so they can’t reject you and confirm all that you fear about yourself (but in their distance, they confirm that you are not worth it, so it kind of just back-fires).

This train of thought was brought to you by the article I saw online this morning that named 3 small breed dogs as the most aggressive… It got me thinking about the roots of aggression, which lead me to the thoughts on self-harm… lots of branches, but really all the same tree

(I want to add also, that self-harm is not only engaged in for the reasons mentioned above, but they are some big ones.  It can also be relief, a grounding method.  It can be a visual and outward symbol of inward pain and turmoil.  For me, it is mainly a release and grounding method.  It also has the added benefit of being somewhat preventative in that I feel no one can ever hurt me more than I can physically hurt myself… it’s really figurative, because it doesn’t really hurt, and mostly it’s trying to prevent further emotional pain, but it has still been a reason in the past).


making things meaningful

So, in an attempt to find a way to make money fast, and relieve some of the financial pressures on us, I stumbled upon a blog that is all about doing what you love, and making what you do meaningful (the guy makes money off of this, which is how it connected to making money fast), but his original idea is founded in doing what you love…

That got me thinking… I have this blog that, while mainly started for myself, I would really like it to also help others. I began thinking about my struggles to find treatment that works. What are the barriers to finding other helpful and effectual treatments for trauma? What are the instinctual defenses and coping strategies we turn to when we don’t know what we are supposed to turn to?

It reminded me of the way EMDR came about. The woman who developed it noticed that she would go for a walk thinking about her problem, noticed that she unconsciously looked from side to side during her walk, and noticed that she felt better when she returned from her walk. So I began thinking about what my instincts are when I’m stressed. I thought about what others do. People around me are constantly talking and talking about the things that bother them. I do the same thing, I need to get it out and tell someone (or more than one person) what happened or what is bothering me. I think it is not only the telling, but also the audience. So I have 2 ideas that I need to flesh out.

The first is to actually tell the details of the trauma. This poses some dilemmas. One is that it triggers the hell out of me to think about or tell my trauma, so I will need to have support after the telling (that, or I am rendered speechless by the pure force of the emotion and the events in my head, which makes the telling piece difficult). The other is that it has the potential to overwhelm the other person… Clinicians and treaters are just people. They are people with their own troubles, fears, and vulnerabilities. To come up with a viable treatment model that utilizes this spilling of trauma, I’d have to develop (or utilize) a really good support system for the treaters as well as the clients. I would want someone to be able to talk to whenever I needed them, either in person or over the phone. I would want to provide this, or something similar, for the treaters also. I would want to ensure that talk about suicidal thoughts or self-injury would prompt support, and not automatic hospitalization. This somewhat builds on the DBT concepts of riding the wave of emotions, but this time with support and someone “holding your hand” through it all.  While I see the value in learning to handle your triggers and urges on your own, there is also something very powerful about having someone there with you to witness it.  I have always felt this want for someone to be there through the experience; to help keep me safe when I can’t do it anymore.  I turned that desire into action one day while I was working with a particularly difficult adolescent.  She was bent on destroying the house, and pushing the limits of all the staff present (and her house-mates),  At one point, she managed to turn on the stove and was about to put her hands on it to burn herself.  None of what we were saying was getting through to her, so I stepped in front of the stove and took her hands.  I held them as she tried to push past me (she was about a foot taller and a good 80lbs heavier than me, and I’m not small).  I told her again and again that I would keep her safe and I would keep the house safe.  In that moment that I held her wrists, she looked at me and something clicked.  She moved away from the stove after several minutes (and a few half-assed attempts to pull her hands free of mine) and stopped pushing my buttons for the rest of the day.  It only lasted like that for the rest of the shift, but it made a difference for that time.  I think it’s a very powerful thing to have someone there with you in a non-threatening way to help keep you safe when you cannot do it yourself…

The other idea is a spin-off of having witnesses to the journey.  It also builds on a theory I saw on a PBS special.  That theory advocated the telling and re-telling of the trauma until it lost its impact.  They did not flesh out all the points of the treatment plan, but from what they showed, I think it has some merits.  Anyway, and please tell me if this is a horrible idea, I think it might be helpful to do this in an intensive group setting.  Wait! you may say, this will cause a huge domino effect of triggering… Well, that’s kind of the point.  I noticed in groups, the most benefit I got from many of them was when someone’s experiences triggered something in me and I got a chance to deal with it.  This would be tricky as a group where the point is to tell triggering things, and not just walk on eggshells around topics.  But I think with the proper support available (MANY treaters on hand, at least 1.5+ per person in group, because some people need more than one person to bring them back), this could be a viable path to dealing with all the crap we don’t always think of accessing during treatment.  The groups could start with a topic and go from there.  Forget necessarily censoring the details of the event… While I understand that ambiguity of the event to another may help them access their own demons, I find it tends to limit me in the telling of the event.

There are definitely details to flesh out, and many, many conversations with other professionals to figure out the viability of these theories… But I’m determined to figure out a treatment option that works for me… and hopefully I can come up with something that may help others too…

Bring on the firestorm of criticism for this horrible idea! (It goes against all convention and current thinking and insurance company standards…)


On Suicide

I think this is an interesting and important conversation that needs to happen more often. I think suicide is an elephant in the room that so many are afraid to talk about because of the taboos around it, and the knee-jerk reactions even some providers have to it… I have been privileged enough to have many thought-provoking conversations with my former therapist…

Gukira

Writing on suicide is dangerous because suicide is deemed unthinkable. To think about it, then, and here syntax betrays what I’m going to claim, is understood as thinking about how to do it or when to do it. To think about it is to contemplate it. Thus, one says that one is not thinking about it, but even raising the prospect elicits concern and paranoia: why would one think about it if one were not thinking about it? I want to stay with this formulation, because I think its unthinkability is a problem, albeit a problem tied to the unthinkability of death, and the political and aesthetic imperative to think through life and to cultivate thriving life.

Because suicide always elicits confession, let me tell someone else’s story.

My cousin killed himself when I was a freshman. I was in Kenya during my first (and only) summer vacation, and, as…

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Fears

I ditched the job I accepted earlier in the week… it sounded sketchy. They wanted me to do “creative billing” and tack on extra charges… I just don’t feel comfortable with that. So now I feel lost. I gave up the only work prospect because my gut gave me an uneasy feeling about it. I have learned to go with my gut. The only reason I regret it is that now I have to start over again with the job search. I have no leads, and there are no hopes of any money coming in soon. It’s frustrating. I want to have some resources, but there are none… and its making me feel depressed and hopeless. Everything I used to do to make money is unavailable to me right now. That leads to wanting to hide from the world. Luckily, it hasn’t triggered my self-harm urges. Oh, and I need to cancel next week’s appointment with D because I don’t have the $8 to see him. It just all sucks…


My comfort with him blew my mind

I’ve always had difficulty trusting men in positions of power (real or perceived). I was very,  very cautious about the thought of seeing a male clinician,  but since the rest of my visits so far have been less-than-productive, I decided to try. 
I met with D for the first time today.  He is a doctoral student at a local university,  and supervised by the psychologist I had hoped to work with.  He was calm and affirming and in no way intimidating.  I found myself easily taking to him,  and spilling more than I intended.  I was also more honest than I have been since I got down here.  Yes,  he used the textbook responses,  and I could pinpoint what technique he was using and when… but as much as he seems very inexperienced,  he had a very calming presence.  Everyone has to start somewhere.  I just hope I’m not too much for him and he runs screaming from the building one day…
I see the new EAP lady again tomorrow. It will be my last session. While she was nice,  I just didn’t feel like we clicked.  Our focus lays in different spots… and today was too late to cancel. Maybe she can get me hooked up with other services to see if we can get out of this hole we are in.


Early morning pre-coffee thoughts

Why is it that certain words trigger such a strong reaction in me?  There are sentiments that,  when expressed to me, make my blood boil and take away filters for kindness and respect.  I’m specifically thinking about all the references to god and how people have a need to tell me that their god will make it all better if I just believed… The truth about that is that, yes,  your beliefs can improve or deteriorate a situation. But it doesn’t mean that if I don’t believe in your god,  things will stay the same or get worse for me.  Faith can be very helpful,  or very crippling depending on your beliefs,  but it won’t change an abusive situation,  or help your finances. 

As I was trying to figure out why religion is such a triggering issue for me, I remembered the first time I disclosed my abuse to someone that should have been able to help.  I was told to “pray about it and God will make it all better.”  That was the sentiment that was supposed to help keep me and the people I cared about safe. There was no follow up requesting details.  There was no mention of other possible help on the way.  “Just pray about it” and all the physical and emotional anguish will disappear.  Bullshit.  Things don’t work that way.  No amount of prayer healed my aunt. It didn’t stop my dad from being a huge jerk. It didn’t stop his sister from doing all the shit she did.  It didn’t stop my then-boyfriend from assaulting me.  And it didn’t bring me any solace in the least.  So bullshit. Prayer,  gods, and religion don’t make anything better.  Standing up for yourself does. Reaching out to the right people does.  Fighting like hell does.  But religion?  It brings guilt, resentment, and learned helplessness. 
That’s why those stupid posts about bringing god back to schools, and those about trusting god make my blood boil.  I had religion in my schools and it didn’t stop, or even lessen, the violence and abuse.  It didn’t make kids more tolerant of others (quite the opposite actually).  It didn’t prevent students from making bad choices, and it didn’t make the campus safer…  Don’t force your belief system on me or anyone.  You are free to believe whatever you want,  but please stop acting like it’s the only valid belief system in the universe.


i was used to it, and now it’s different

I was all comfortable in my blog page being the way it was when I first came onto wordpress, but now they have gone and changed it… I love blue and all, don’t get me wrong, but the black and grey felt so much more appropriate… and what’s with changing the titles of the functions… now they have me all confused.

On another note, I got a job offer. The pay sucks, but the potential for advancement is great. I also get no benefits (which sucks because I will be losing the ones through my wife as her company continues to drop the ball with her transfer), no paid time off… but I set my own schedule, and work as much or as little as I want (and clients need me) in a given week. It will be tough, as I like having the security of knowing I will at least be getting X number of dollars every paycheck, but again, this is better than nothing, and the learning opportunities are HUGE. I have to formally accept the position on Monday, then meet with my only other co-worker in the state for shadowing, training, and meet-and-greets with my new clients. I will start out with 5, so that guarantees me 5 hours a week… now to get up to the other 35… There will be meetings, calls, and paperwork, so hopefully I can turn that 5 clients into at least 20 hours every week. Here’s to hoping… and hopefully soon I will get a bigger case-load. This will also help me in getting my wife signed up for state services (and possibly myself), as this state does not recognize my marriage, so she’s technically below the poverty level even if I’m working.

Now, I will have to pull it together and function at my best to make this all work, but it sounds cool. Case Managers here have more responsibilities and authority than they did in my last state… That will be cool. While I won’t be doing therapy, I will have more therapeutic contact with my clients and gain the skills I have been dying to get and use since graduating with my BA… And maybe we will be able to save enough money to get our credits out of the endless pit they are in and be able to buy a house… We need our own space.


I can’t win against my defenses

When I have no support,  I’m falling apart. When I finally get someone to talk to,  I suddenly can’t remember why it was that I needed it so badly just a few days ago. 

That’s the story of my defenses.  I freak out when I don’t have the support,  but can manage to hold it together when I do. Great.  When the clinician asked me today what I hoped to get out of our remaining 2 sessions together, I couldn’t think of a single thing other then support… 4 days ago,  I couldn’t see past the huge black cloud surrounding me.  Today I can’t remember the look of it. 

Maybe part of it comes from knowing that I will likely not see her after these 3 sessions.  I don’t think I will have insurance again any time soon,  and I can’t afford a self-pay if it’s not a sliding scale.

I see the intern guy for the first time next week.  I’m hoping I am comfortable enough to work with him.  I can afford his fee ($8) once in a while until I get a job… and maybe I can work on my distrust of men with him.  I was able to connect with a male clinician at the trauma program.  Maybe I can do it again…


Hanging by a thread

The universe is conspiring to screw us… I swear,  someone up there hates me.  Things go ok for a moment, then everything crashes again.  Our phones are shut off again. We had paid enough to just get it back on, and now it was apparently only for 2 weeks.  It went offat noon today… all my applications for work have my number on it, but it is useless.  And I still can’t find a therapist to see… I had to cancel my Friday appointment because I will not have the copay… I’m so on my last thread… maybe that EAP lady was right… maybe I’m just a lost cause… hoplessly doomed to this shit for the rest of my life.


Simple Steps to Save A Borderline from Suicide

Simple Steps to Save A Borderline from Suicide.

I kinda like this in a dark comedy kind of way… I resent that I was ever diagnosed bpd, and I wholly resent the way I was treated by several clinicians & psychiatrists because of the diagnosis, but she puts it well… and I guess I can see myself in the diagnosis the way she describes it (some of it… the abuse history, the fear of abandonment, the preoccupation with death as a means of escape, the self injury, the lack of identity…)


hiding inside the wall

I’ve retreated into my shell. That experience with the EAP clinician triggered a fear deep inside me that has sent my mind scurrying into the wall. This is quite unusual, but happens from time to time. It happens when I’m terrified for my life, or my sanity. It’s that moment when even my analytical side hides, and I shut down. I neither ask for help, not do I have access to the part of me that is crumbling. I fly below the radar. My heart breaks, and I feel the weight in my chest, but I’m suddenly too terrified to even recognize that. The insanity in me takes a back burner…

It’s helpful in a way. I can function again, though every fiber in my being is shaking and pulsing with fear. It keeps the urges at bay (to an extent… i know they are still there and screaming, but they are isolated inside a sound-insulated room). It enables me to move about my day. My only worry is when it will burst free again. It always comes back louder and stronger after it hides for a while.