Tag Archives: questions

believing myself

I find myself struggling with the believability of my memories once again.

In the moment of re-experiencing them, I know they are true. They feel very real on every level when I’m actually remembering them. It’s the times between the flashbacks and body memories that have me doubting. They don’t make sense when looked at in terms of other memories. They actually feel contradictory at times.

We covered the doubts a bit in session. Dr. C isn’t so worried about the validity of them. She keeps reminding me there’s no one she would tell, so even if they are all a story in my head, then we can address that too without hurting anyone’s reputation. She asks about the concept of “doing it all for attention”, and as soon as that concept hits my awareness, there’s a panic: No! DON’T pay attention to me. Let me hide and melt away. PLEASE don’t see me or hear me or even know I exist… It’s a little-kid fear. It’s in a little kid’s voice in my head.

I’m not sure why I’m so worried about the validity of the memories all over again. I had gotten to a place with TM where we were just addressing the concept of the memories & how they impact me. I was “talking” about them & getting them out. All of a sudden, I feel like I’ve taken several steps backwards with Dr. C. I feel the need to figure out if they are real. I need to justify voicing them once again. I’m not totally sure why. Part of it may be that I have to re-tell her the stuff I had already told TM (even if it’s just the existence of the memories, not necessarily the details of them). It may also be that Dr. C is an older woman. There was that parental transference with TM and there’s definitely some going on with Dr. C also, but maybe I’m feeling that as well as what I might have with a grandparent this time… The disapproving voices in my head that are louder are from the older women in my family this time around.

Working on containment since the session. I keep visualizing the pensieve holding everything, and hiding in a pillow fort in Dr. C’s office for most of the day. Keeping the desire to bug the heck out of Dr. C and/or TM in check. I know I’m looking for a sense of safety and comfort, so I’m trying to find that around here. Music is playing, doggies are cuddling. I even had one of the snakes out for a while (really wish I could train him to do deep pressure on command).

Anyway, how’s everyone else doing?


the safety of a doorknob disclosure

With the end looming for my therapy, I find myself wanting to spill all sorts of info to TM. I’m not sure why. I suddenly have questions and thoughts and I want to ask her a whole bunch of stuff about my abuse and ptsd and self-harm… why can I only muster this resolve when I’m moving on to someone else? It’s like it only feels safe enough to bring all this up when the threat of having to see the person again is over. I am suddenly realizing I trusted her enough to express this stuff, but I kept freezing and getting scared before. I always worried she would hate me or use what I told her against me in some way. I didn’t think she would actually do those things, but I feared she might… Now I want to get as much support from her as possible, only it’s too late because there isn’t enough time.

These are the ultimate doorknob disclosures. They are all the big things I was scared to address, but now I desperately want to find support around… :sigh: Will I ever learn to do this while there’s still time to talk?

 


More art journal progress

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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


Dear one of my first therapists…

Dear JF,
do you remember me?  If I called with questions, would you 1) be willing to talk to me about them? 2) even remember anything about me from that long ago?
Things have come up, and I wonder if they are true. Would you at least be able to tell me if I mentioned it to you?
You would probably not be surprised to find out I’m still a mess. I have not made anything out of my life. I’m still pathetic and a looser…
would you want to know I still remember you? Would you care that stuff you said still impacts me in a positive way? Would it be weird if I told you that first time you hugged me and didn’t let me go right away both scared me and made me feel like someone cared for the first time in a long time? I hope I didn’t contaminate you… I hope your daughters are doing well. I’m not sure why I think you have 2, because I’m not sure how I would know you had a second one… I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything but cry when you told me you were pregnant. I really did think you’d make a great mom…
if I tried to contact you with my questions, would you respond at all even if you didn’t know the answers?
Should I take the risk? I think I could leave you a voice mail if I could dig up your contact info… but I’d be afraid to tell you that I’m still stuck, that I didn’t do anything meaningful with myself.  I’m still a failure, and any accomplishments listed under my name feel fake. I have no connection to them, I was faking it all along. Apparently I could fool everyone enough to let me graduate and find jobs and move ahead. I guess I’m really good at faking it. Still haven’t made it though. Don’t want to have to admit that, because you tried so hard to get me to believe in myself. 😦
would you believe I finally admitted to myself that the DuckBoy stuff wasn’t my choice, and wasn’t ok? It took 18 years, but I’m starting to deal with it. I remember talking to you about it, and you trying to tell me it wasn’t ok and it wasn’t my fault… I finally believe you (most of the time)…
I lost the little glass stone you gave me “for protection, even from [myself]”… I didn’t mean to. It slipped out of my pocket and into the space next to the emergency break in my car. I tore the car apart looking for it (literally. some pieces don’t fit right anymore. Oops). I still have this sliver of hope that I will find it some day. I might pay someone to dismantle the car so I can double-check everywhere…
thank you for believing in me, and for putting up with me even when I’m sure you wished you could pound sense into me…
I miss you a lot sometimes. Now is one of those times…
hope you are well. You may get a message from me, though I’m not sure I would ask for a call back because I’m afraid I wouldn’t get one. I’m not memorable for anything good, so you are probably really happy I’m long gone…
anyway. Yeah. I miss you.
Thanks for all you did. It really did make a difference, even if it didn’t look like it at the time…
-sam

 

___________________________________________________________

(I left a message at her office. here’s hoping she will return the call and maybe be able to help out with my questions…)


The memory debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


bit of anxiety

I have to admit, as relieved as I was to get the call yesterday from this new therapist, I’m starting to get a bit anxious over tonight’s appointment.  Will I be able to talk? Will I say what I need to (or communicate it in some way)? Will she really be nice, or as judgemental and scary as that one lady I interviewed with when I first moved back here – the one who wanted me committed based on my history alone?  Will I be misunderstood because I have such trouble articulating what I mean? Will she have patience for me as I struggle to say things “right” on the first try?

I keep reminding myself to breathe.  I’ve done this before, and even when things didn’t go great, I made it through each time.  I think part of my fear is rooted in my desperation for support at this time.  I feel hopelessly alone despite having my mom around, and my wife over the phone.  I worry about judgement from everyone, and I worry about worrying them.

I wrote out a huge list of stuff I wanted to make sure to tell this new clinician at some point. It was originally going to be a list of stuff to cover today, but it’s too big, too much.  I’m pretty sure I know how this first meeting will go in terms of what we cover.  The intake was pretty sparse, so I am sure she will want to fill in some gaps.  There will be the usual paperwork and confidentiality covered again.  Hopefully she will cover boundaries if I can’t ask about them (I worry a lot about crossing them, and I worry about being bothersome to people)… we won’t have time to cover everything, especially if I get off-track with something (I’m really good at changing topics when something makes me nervous or ashamed). I think I should probably warn her about that, and the huge amounts of shame around everything…

Ok, breathe. It will be ok.  And if I don’t click with her, it’s not the end of the world (even if it feels like it)…