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.