Talked to Dr C about dissociation today, though I was pretty dissociated when we talked, so I don’t remember much about it.
I mentioned disliking this state of half-knowing. I’d rather forget completely, without any of the side effects of merely dissociating things, but that’s not totally accurate. I’d probably lose part of myself if I totally wiped the memories… but remembering is overwhelming. It’s painful and distressing. I don’t know how to make it feel safe.
I guess Wednesday we will talk about something related to all this, but I can’t remember what she mentioned.
I’m so tired of this struggle.
I woke this morning to a very specific body memory. I couldn’t place it right away. It was physically uncomfortable, and initially emotionally uncomfortable. Once I started thinking about how it felt and what it felt like though, the emotional discomfort faded. It took me about 20 minutes, but I was able to place it as a “safe” memory.
This happens more often than I’d like. It’s probably related to dreams I don’t remember (though there are plenty I do remember). Some mornings it’s an ok body memory, like it was this morning. Other times it’s the kind I never want to remember. Both throw me off for hours though. The body sensations linger long after I can pin them to specific memories, but they definitely stay longer if I can’t…
So yeah, waking up can be hard. Here’s hoping that’s the worst of it for the day (Though I did set up my coffee and sit here waiting for it to brew for about 15 minutes before I realized I forgot to turn it on. That may just be the worst thing that happens today regardless of what else goes on because coffee is the most important beverage in the morning ;)).
There’s a memory of happenings that I feel totally responsible for and guilty over (well, ok, there’s a bunch, but one in particular I can’t seem to get out of my head right now). It’s an easy one to see and know that I should not be feeling guilty over it. It’s relatively easy to see I had zero say and zero participation in. It’s something I witnessed. It’s something I had no clue at the time was traumatic for the other person. It’s something I know I only realized how awful it was in hindsight, as an adult. Yet I can’t shake the guilt over it. I feel incredibly sad over it. I feel like I should have had the (adult) presence of mind to stop, to protest, to voice concern over, but I was little. I think back on it and think I must have known it was wrong on some level. I want to think that I knew I should have stopped it and told the adults why they were wrong. But in reality, I couldn’t have had much say, even if I had the knowledge (which I highly doubt I did because it’s not developmentally appropriate for that age). While I was lead to believe I had power I truly didn’t have for so much of my life, I couldn’t have known better at the time. The culture was that fear and aversion are the best teachers; they bring the best results. The voice in my head says I should have known better because I knew personally that those are horrid ways of learning (even if I couldn’t think of it in those terms at the time, I knew that pain was unpleasant, and pain there was worse). I should have known… but how could I have? I was not one of the 3+ adults in the situation. I wasn’t even 6 yet. How could a kid, even armed with the knowledge that pain is a traumatizing teaching tool, have more say over a situation than the adults?
So I stood by and watched. I didn’t understand the implications at the time. I understand it in hindsight, and only with my adult learning, so why can’t I shake the guilt? Why do I still feel responsible? No matter how many times I tell myself it wasn’t my fault, I can’t help but feel horrible for standing by and simply watching. I had no control over the situation. I had no influence. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault, but I can’t shake feeling like I should have done something.
I know it has to do with earlier teaching that I should have more power. I know it’s because my mere presence was expected to stop other abuse, but ultimately didn’t. I know that wasn’t a fair expectation. I can hear De and Dr. C telling me it wasn’t my fault, that it was an expectation no one should place on a child. I can even picture TL saying the same thing if I told her all this. I can hear my professional self understanding this and saying it to the clients I worked with, but for some reason I can’t swallow it for myself. I can’t shake the guilt…
the guilt doesn’t feel as bad around the things that happened to me because others are always worth more. I was expected to protect this other person in other situations though (even as a kid), so the expectation is there around this all that much more (I was expected to have power I didn’t have, and I was expected to be protector). And I failed. It was an unfair expectation, but I failed. Over and over again in life, I failed. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s the combination of compounded failures and the unreal expectations that makes this harder to leave behind. That, and that failure to protect myself was ok because others were always worth more than myself. Sacrificing myself, my wellbeing and safety, was ok and expected for the safety of others… and I failed miserably at it…
How do I get the emotions to match the intellectual knowledge that the guilt isn’t mine to bear? How do I get the feeling of failure to abate? How can I let go of the responsibility?