Tag Archives: safety

Impossible things (a letter to no one) 

Sometimes I wish I could materialize you here in my living room, where I’m comfortable and engaged in art. It’s easier to talk sometimes when I’m distracted by the flow, but still connected to the inside. 

Sometimes it’s hard to fit all the talking into that hour. Sometimes it would be easier if we could just do art together and I could talk when things popped into my head; when they felt ready and comfortable to come up. 

It’s safe here alone with just the dogs and my art. Sometimes I wish I could start that way, but bring you in to talk to when I was able. Sometimes I wish you were here without me knowing, so I could get past that censor and shame, and maybe you could help me with the stuff that’s too raw to bring up out loud and in your presence. 

I could get lost in my art and music, and you could watch without me knowing. Then, you could blink in when I wanted to talk… it would be safe and non-threatening. I could communicate the things I’m too scared and ashamed to tell you about. 

And while we are on the topic of impossible powers, maybe it would be good if you could read my mind and tell me for sure if I’m making this all up. You could point out the lies and show me where I’m exaggerating. You could look at the stuff that’s all a jumble and help me understand it. You could take an outsider’s perspective without the emotion, and you could tell me I really am making it all up just because I need to feel worth your time and attention. I want attention… (and even as I think that, I can feel hands on my body and between my legs. It’s creepy. I don’t want attention. I don’t want to be special or pretty or paid attention to. I want to melt into the fibers of the carpet and hide away from everything. I want to disappear).  

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Little things

An evolving list of the little things I do to feel safe… do you have things you do? What are they? 

  • I always have “real” clothes on when I’m awake (bra, underwater, jeans, shirt). If I can’t feel it on my body, I get squeamish… though the bra thing is more for pain management than protection. 
  • I have to have a dog, preferable a bigger one. If they are resting, it’s safe to let my guard down. 
  • Pj’s always include pants, preferably heavier ones. I need to know I have clothes on. 
  • My back is towards the wall, not the door or window. Corners are even better. 
  • I have to be able to see and easily access the exit. 
  • I dislike taking anything that incapacitates me when I’m not around someone safe. I hate feeling drugged during the day. 

Still panic with certain doctors

I’ve seen Dr F for going on 5 years now, yet I still panic sitting in her waiting room. 

I trust her, I like her as a doctor, but the triggers around gyn exams are still huge and scary. I’m trying to remind myself I trust her and like her and that she’s safe. I’m still shaking…

This sucks. 


More connecting of the dots (or, the elegance of the avoidance dance)

When you’re “allergic” to dbt, you and your therapist have to get creative about integrating ideas from it into therapy.

Yesterday, I was having trouble identifying what was causing my rollercoaster emotions. Dr C and I came up with a chart to help figure it out… she used the dbt diary card and the behavior chain as a jumping off point. We had events, people around/involved, emotions, sensations, and thoughts as the first level. Then another two levels of emotions, sensations, and thoughts, and finally a level of just emotions and sensations. I could fill it out haphazardly and incompletely, then she helped fill in some of the blanks & connect some of the dots… at the root of everything behind the emotional ups and downs is terror (and the avoidance of it)… it’s weird, because the word doesn’t do justice to the overwhelming and crushing nature of the feeling, but it’s the closest word for it.

I’ve been trying to keep up with filling out the chart more often, but I’m finding that it becomes pretty triggering to look at the things I’m trying to avoid (duh!). At least in therapy, it was safe to open up that can of worms. Dr C kept talking with me about it, and that prevented me from getting too lost in the bottom layers. I’m kinda worried/scared that looking at it at home wouldn’t give me the same ability to pull out of what is stirred up. Yeah, it’s probably a cop-out to avoid addressing it, but I need to keep functioning this weekend. There’s work and social stuff happening. I can’t be a wreck… so I keep avoiding.

There’s a fear behind the avoidance: what if it overwhelms me? What if I can’t regain control over the impulsive thoughts? What if I fall back into a cycle of hospitalizations?

Sure, I could reach out to Dr C for support, but how much can she really help if the panicked child and the angry teenage are both triggered and overwhelmed at the same time, and I lose my connection to my adult, competent understanding of things? I know I’ve come a long way since the last cycle of hospitalizations, but the potential of it coming back scares the crap out of me.


Blergh… (ok, honestly, I dunno an adequate word for this feeling/sound… also **POTENTIALLY TRIGGERING – SH, SUI**

I had another session today. I have been feeling so crappy lately, I asked for some extra time after group yesterday…

It was productive (and long). We talked about what’s causing so much anxiety, and what I get stuck on. At one point, I mentioned some of the financial obligations causing stress. She asked if I wanted to take care of the most stressful one there, and she offered to take over the phone if it became too much for me to keep talking. My responsible side kept bugging me to say yes, but my scared little kid side couldn’t move. We talked a bit about that, then she talked me through the phone thing (literally starting with telling me to take my phone out and find the number). Before actually placing the call, I mentioned the correlation with making an arrangement with this company in particular, and a subsequent hospitalization (so far, it’s happened after every time, and I wasn’t sure if I only had the courage to call them in an effort to lessen anything L might have to take care of in my absence, or if calling them triggered a hard and fast spiral)… she said we’d make a plan after the call to get me through the weekend.

The call was uneventful as usual. The lady I spoke with on the phone was professional. An arrangement was made, and I hung up. Almost instantly, the berating voices started screaming in my head “I’m worthless. I’m a piece of shit. I should have my shit together. I’m a failure. Why can’t I amount to anything? What a waste of space!…” and many more unkind things. Tears started spilling from my eyes, and I managed to choke out that this is what always happens after calling them. About 30 different self-destruct plans flashed through my head. In an instant, I assessed each for viability. More tears flowing unchecked from my eyes. I don’t really remember what else was said, but I was able to communicate the self-hatred and hopelessness.

I guess I started demolishing my soda can because she asked if the pieces I was playing with were sharp enough to hurt myself with. I was a bit taken aback. I’d never consciously self-harm in front of anyone, let alone in her office (it’s a safe space… though I must admit she’s pointed it out to me in the past when I didn’t realize I was clawing my arms during session).  Anyway, we talked a bit more, and she started saying something about me not being bad, and being allowed to make mistakes and ask for leniency. I can’t remember exactly what the words were, but they triggered a flashback… I just cried on the couch and tried to become as small as possible. Part of me kept silently apologizing and begging her not to hate me or be mad at me. Another part of me tried to remind myself that she would not do what I was remembering at the moment, that she was not the person in my memory, and that she was safe. The two inner voices warred to drown each other out.

None of it was voiced till after she stopped taking and I had continued to silently cry for several seconds. I think I actually interrupted her to try to explain what had been going on in my head… I found safe-enough words with which to speak about it; saying how frustrating it was when seemingly innocuous/nice (and common) responses to emotional upheaval and intense self-hatred were such instant triggers… I’m not sure if she was angry or sad that things like that had become so twisted in my head (not angry or sad at me, but for having gone through situations that caused the perversion of those basic concepts), but at one point I think I saw her hands move to cover her face…

We wrapped up that conversation and moved on to a plan for the weekend. I rated my intent to “harm myself” upon leaving. I said a low number, and she was incredulous (that sounds more distrustful that she actually was… more like pleasantly shocked?). I clarified that I wasn’t going to off myself after leaving. She clarified by asking if I’d self-harm. That number was higher. We talked about that a bit, then she again said we’d make a plan for the weekend. I was expecting to have to come up with the standard “what are you doing when you go home today? How about tonight? Tomorrow? Sunday?”. Instead, she asked me to hold on while she checked on her weekend plans… :gulp!: I panicked for a half-second and asked if she truly was just calling her husband (she’s never hospitalized me without talking to me about it, but others have). She showed me her phone dialing out to her hubby. I tried telling her I’d be fine over the weekend; that I didn’t want to interrupt her time with him. She promised she wouldn’t schedule anything if it interrupted their time together. She also said that she had promised to be there for me if I was having a rough time, and this was her way of being there this weekend… a few phone calls later, and we are going to meet again tomorrow either at her office or at her home office (tbd)… I’m still trying to be ok with wasting so much of her time, but she insists it’s not wasting it…

The ride home was “interesting”… I had trouble paying attention to the drive. There were points of the drive where I struggled with myself to keep the car at a safe speed and away from stationary structures. The whole time I worried that if I did crash, even accidentally, she’d think I had lied to her when I rated my safety. I try to be as honest as possible with her about things like that; it’s what built and keeps the trust. I’m more likely to say nothing at all rather than lie about that… I’ve remained silent in response to the safety question before, and we arranged for me to go inpatient like that in the past. I need the trust to be there. I get so low sometimes, I need us both to know that I’ll be honest about my safety even at the lowest times so I’m not again in a revolving hospitalization cycle…

:/

Sorry, that was probably tmi…

I think I need a nap now… catch you on the flip side.


Art therapy as a processing tool

I’ve long been a proponent of art as therapy, but I had not yet experienced such a drastic shift in symptoms as I did Wednesday evening.

I had been struggling with flashbacks since last Thursday’s doctor’s appointment. It was made worse by the incident that came up Sunday evening. The image and feelings just kept repeating and intensifying unless I was bombarding myself with sensory input.

I told Dr. C as much when I went in for that extra session Wednesday evening. When she asked if I wanted to talk about it, all I could do was nod. She then suggested doing some art around it. I nodded harder to that. I figured it was easier than speaking at the moment.

We moved to the floor and got to work. She had me represent the “memory” as best I could (right side), and had me add the emotions to it also (left side). She then asked me what I wanted to change about the image to help make it feel safer. Did I want to add something between the image of the memory and the emotion? Was there something protective I could incorporate into it to help it feel better?

I admit I was quite stumped.

She started listing off suggestions, then dug through her bag of supplies for more ideas. She pulled out some felt, and offered that up. originally we were thinking of using it as a blanket or towel around the kid, but the color I happened to pick out (red, unusual for me b/c there was also blue there & I normally gravitate to blue) was already cut into a heart shape. As she realized it was a heart, she mentioned that it would be perfect. We re-adjusted the concept of a blanket/towel to using the heart instead. She cut it down to fit on the page, then we set about trying to figure out how to attach it – glue doesn’t work too well on felt. Dr. C happened to have a needle and thread, so she suggested sewing it on.

We ended up with this:

wpid-2015-10-30-11.27.08.jpg.jpg

Yesterday, when describing the piece in group, I said that the heart was covering up the unpleasant image. Dr. C commented that it was an interesting choice of words, since it was meant as a protective measure more than a way to hide it from view… We didn’t delve further into it, but I’m sure there will be a conversation around it during Monday’s session. Either way (hiding from awareness or protecting from it), doing that project helped lessen the flashbacks. They are relatively minor intrusions in my day now, and it’s not nearly as disturbing as it had been all week.

I’ve known expression through art can help change the impact of the trauma for a while. I have even used the technique of changing an expressive piece to help change the experience of whatever it was expressing, but it’s never been such an immediate and noticeable change. It’s always just crept up on me. I would realize the change a few hours or days later. This time, doing it in session with Dr C, it was a huge difference just in the hour and a half we spent on the piece. I went in to her office feeling raw, triggered, and spent, but left feeling lighter and able to smile. It felt a lot like the change in symptoms after an EMDR session. I think part of the relief came from sharing not only the incident, but also the experience of changing it. As I mentioned before, I have tried changing the art to change the thoughts around what it expresses, but it felt more “healing” to be doing it with the help of a safe person.

If you are having a rough time with things, this might be a good technique to try. It’s helpful to have a therapist around to make the overwhelming parts feel a bit less overwhelming, but it can be accomplished solo also. I will try to look up the link to the study I remember reading about this technique. I think I saved the link (or article) somewhere. I just have to find it again. I’ll add it here when I do.

UPDATE: found that article & how to link to it. It’s a free-access article through Taylor & Francis. “Check, Change What You Need To Change and/or Keep What You Want”: An Art Therapy Neurobiological-Based Trauma Protocol. They actually have a bunch of free-access articles that you can read without having to purchase anything. It’s a great resource.


Self portrait – 100 mile stare

This pretty much encompasses today:

image

I might redo the face tomorrow (have another idea for it), though I might not. I suppose I should keep the drawings as they are, and watch the progression/change as I get practice under my belt.

This one is definitely reflective of the mood of the day: distance, disconnect, attempts at grounding…