Talking to A Monday brought stuff up, but I’m not totally sure what. There’s a lot of the past floating around, and I’m finding myself really easily startled and frightened…
My head was literally spinning today, it triggered vertigo somehow.
There’s body stuff I’m feeling, and… I don’t even know what else. My heart races over nothing. I feel shaky, like I haven’t eaten in days, but in reality, I’ve been stuffing my face. I wanted to cut; to destroy my body; to pulverized it and stab it and shred it and break it and burn it… and by my body, I mean my pelvic area, where the feelings are creeping in again.
I wish we hadn’t talked about body. The kid really wanted to reach out, but my mouth was glued shut. I wasn’t sure how to speak about it without just screaming… so I kept quiet.
Only now the things I didn’t say are finding other ways to be noticed.
I really wish you were here coz I could talk to you about it, but you are still away through Monday… I don’t feel comfortable bugging A about it. There would be too much to explain… she kept saying she didn’t know my history; she hadn’t read what you gave her. Part of me wished she had. That way I wouldn’t have to figure out how to cram an explanation into the session and still have time to address what was happening in the moment… or just skip it all together because I couldn’t condense it that far.
I can feel the anxiety rising again. There are memories and fantasies and fears all happening in my body at the same time. It feels like I’m throwing imaginary scenarios in to drown out whatever is trying to surface. Imaginary stuff that I create in my head is much easier to control (and tolerate) than the stuff that actually happened (maybe? They’re memories, right? They’re valid? Or maybe even those are all stories?…).
I want to do that body drawing stuff she mentioned because it feels like something the kid could use to communicate. He still needs a translator, but maybe that would help? He seems connected to the idea…
I want to try some more kid techniques sometimes. Maybe the stuff that’s stuck would become unstuck? The kid that talked to De while I colored really likes that idea too. She wants to do more of that. She liked talking… I think she told the boy, because he keeps peeking around the corner wanting to try it…
There’s really not these others inside, but it just feels like there are others there, and I just don’t have a better way to describe the feeling.
SJ’s gone. I miss her. She was the most brave about talking. She was the face of the other kids. I dunno where she went. The boy misses her too, and the other girl and little blue monster all miss her. She was both 7 and 70. She was protective, but little, but also… I dunno. A container for the other kids? Now that she isn’t here, the others have to speak for themselves? Maybe she split into them when she ran off? She was older when she left though. She felt… I dunno. She wasn’t really older, but now the memory of her feels older? Does that even make sense? She left as a kid, maybe 5 or 7, but now the memory of her leaving feels like a young adult having moved away from home to get on with her own life. She pops by to say hi every once in a while, mostly to the kids, but she’s moved on with her life… like the babysitter going off to college or something.
I know these are all constructs of my head to order and make sense of things (and to keep safe), but it feels so separate. It kinda feels like other people who maybe speak a foreign language, or are extended family, or something… I dunno.
And they shift and change over time. I guess it’s me shifting and changing things as my understanding does the same. Sometimes they make sense as they were, other times the narrative needs to change to compensate for discrepancies. I guess it makes total sense if you look at it all as constructs of my head to help navigate life… they change with my understanding and head-space.
I’m really glad you will be back next week. I hope the trip was fun. I’m really glad you are back (and I was really relieved when I saw you post stuff on ig)…
Tag Archives: safety
I’ve been seeing another therapist in Dr C’s practice while she’s been away. It’s been weird, but helpful in maintaining balance, especially with all this physical stuff going on. I didn’t really talk to her about much outside of “safe” things (things going on in the moment, dealing with the physical stuff that doesn’t have a medical explanation yet (or ever?), surface stuff). There were times I wanted to cover other stuff that wove its way into the session, but I couldn’t open my mouth. It felt like my lips were glued together, and even if I did manage to open them, all that would come out were sobs and screams…
That’s not a new phenomenon for me. I’m not sure I’ve ever managed to open my mouth and tried to speak at a time like that. It taps into something I still don’t have an understanding of, and it never feels safe or comfortable enough to just let that part of me do whatever it needs to do for release… maybe I can bring it up with Dr C once she’s back again next week. I wish I could remember what it was that triggered that feeling.
I know before walking into the building, I had wanted to address the body memories that always get triggered (or more intense) when I get my period. We had kinda started taking about bodies, and how comfortable I was in mine (or not comfortable). We had talked a bit about liking or hating any particular part of my body. I said there wasn’t any part I liked. I should have said, there wasn’t any part I liked anymore because at one point, I had liked my eyes and my hands… but both have failed me since. My eyes either hide too much or tell too much; and my hands don’t create to my standards anymore (stupid trembling and fatigue). So no, right now there’s no part of me I like.
She also asked if there was any part I really hated. Of course there are parts I hate more than others, but there wasn’t enough time in the hour to tell her about it and still come out of the session balanced enough to go on with my day… I’m not totally sure I even want to write about it now, though there would be less explanation involved here than with her… I hate my pelvic area, and my stomach, and the insides of my legs. It’s where I feel the most uncomfortable memories, and what triggers the easiest. It’s the fastest way to send me to space…
A had asked if I’d ever done any body work (on paper) with Dr C. I told her I hadn’t, because even though Dr C had offered it, I panicked at the thought of tracing my body. A clarified that she meant doing it smaller scale. No, we never did do that… I’m not sure why the subject changed with A in that session. I think I started panicking and backpedaling into my head, because at some point, she asked how present I was & busted out a ball as a means of grounding (side note: it worked too! Who knew playing catch could actually bring me back? Normally, I can still do that stuff while dissociated. This time, the act of catching and tossing was balancing. Maybe it was the inconsistent way she did it? She would pause, look at the ball, change the speed of her toss… whatever it was, it worked).
Anyway… yeah. There were so many times I could have said more to her, but I didn’t want to get into it knowing that the hour would end too son, and I’d be left dealing with whatever came up for the rest of the week. At least with Dr C, I can reach out during the week if I need to. A did say to call if I needed anything, but I wouldn’t bother her. It takes me a long time to trust that it’s really ok to bug someone outside of the time they are getting paid to interact with me. Even with Dr C, I still hesitate much of the time, and I’ve worked with her on and off for almost 10 years now…
Oh, I remembered what I was originally going to say about the body drawing; it’s another thing where I feel frozen for fear of what I might do or say. There’s still that urge to destroy my body, even if it’s just a drawing. I still want to take a knife and stab the drawing on the parts I hate the most… or, since I no longer carry a knife with me, stab it with the pencil… that would probably freak her out, so… maybe some day I can mention that to Dr C, and we could find a way for me to be ok doing it in some form. The kid really wants to talk about it still. He has no words, just screams and sobs and anger… or silence. He’s usually just silent because the other stuff is not acceptable…
I really wish Dr C was back now. I wish this could be addressed while it’s still here & “relevant.” It’ll be gone again by next week. This is when that concept of easily accessible, more intensive treatment would be helpful; when stuff comes up and would benefit from being addressed in the moment, so it would be nice to be able to walk back into the room and get to work… let’s tackle this shit coz it’s here. Gimme that little body drawing, tack it to a tree, and let me stab the shit out of it. Let me rip it up and scream and cry and cover it in red paint so it bleeds like my body would if I did that to myself. Let me burn the page so it all goes up in smoke. He needs the release. I need the release…
Let me rip the legs off a toy, and bash it and destroy it… but then I’d need to apologize, because the toy did nothing, it’s just a receptacle for the anger. So let me run out into the woods and scream until my voice is hoarse, and my legs are so tired they want to fall off, and my breath burns in my chest (maybe my lungs would actually burn up. That would be an interesting medical & scientific impossibility)…
Sometimes the anger and the hurt is too much. Sometimes I want to disappear to a safe place where I can do something about it without weird looks and panic over my safety, because ultimately, I’ll be safe, this just all needs a release…
Why aren’t there trauma treatment centers in the middle of the woods, with animals and drop-in massage and art and yoga and holistic therapy like they have for substance abuse? And why is nothing local? Why is the only treatment center even remotely like that all the way across the country, and religious?! I want something with no BS about higher powers or gods or spiritual anything. Why does that not exist?! And why aren’t there more art or play therapists around? The kids want time too, but everything’s in an adult world, so they use translators instead…
Have you ever noticed how everything experienced through insomnia is amplified?
It’s not only the after effects in the following days, but also everything experienced in the middle of the night while I’m lying awake.
Tonight, the cat food smell is bothering me. It’s turning my stomach, and it’s the only thing I can smell… but do you think I’d make a move to throw it out into the kitchen trash? Nope. Because making such large movements would not only “wake me up more”, but it would also wake the animals up, who would then get restless… at least, that’s my excuse. I really just don’t feel like crawling out of bed when I have a mere 30 minutes left here anyway. It would have been 2 hours if I simply did it when it started bothering me, but it was easier to smash my face into the pillow than it was to move the trash. Now I’m regretting it…
It’s not only smell that gets amplified when I can’t sleep. It’s any sound or extra light. It’s textures and temperatures and thoughts…
I could text any number of friends who also deal with insomnia, but that would require a conversation, and I’m not sure I’m up for that just now.
It is also in the middle of the night when, before I think too much about the ramifications, I feel like I might want to talk more about the things my body remembers… before my brain kicks in and I worry about reactions and fall-out, before the shame and secrecy set it, I sometimes think it might be healing to talk about the sexual abuse stuff with someone other than just Dr C… it might be validating to have some honest and uncensored conversations about it.
Then my brain kicks in. I think about what might happen, who might react & how they might react… I think of all the invalidation and scrutiny I would get for it, and the lost relationships… and it no longer seems worth it.
I prefer anonymity. I prefer the safety-net of confidentiality… and my heart sinks a little. I feel defective. Even just thinking of talking more openly about it makes me feel like a bad person. The guilt and shame hit hard.
On the one hand, I know it wasn’t my fault; I know the guilt and shame shouldn’t be mine (but they are). I know they should belong to the person (people) who did those things… I know this, but I also can’t fully accept it.
What if I’m remembering wrong? What if I’m exaggerating? What if I’m really just doing this for attention? What if I’m just that horrible, spiteful child the voice in my head says I am? What if I’m just plain wrong?
The ramifications for the named people wouldn’t be huge, but they’d be there. The ramifications for me would likely be worse. If I mentioned someone, and they didn’t actually do anything, I’d lose friends and family (it’s not like I have proof. It’s just my word against their’s, and I have a history of mental health issues, so… gotta love stigma). I’d be branded a liar & attention-seeking by those closest to me. I’ve already gotten that label from some people, but they are not really people that matter to me; providers I’ve seen only once or twice, family or friends I choose to no longer have contact with…
It’s just easier to talk around it in anonymous circles, or to keep conversations in the safety of the therapy office. That might change some day, but right now, it’s all I can manage. The fear doesn’t exactly stop me from longing to connect more authentically with others, but it stops the actuality of it happening…
I miss the csa group Dr C ran. It was more structured, but we still had chances to connect around the experiences of having gone through what we did, and many of us having dissociation around it… it was a safe place to be vulnerable, and we seemed to share understandings around it all… I don’t really know how the group would work in the long run though. Part of the safety came from the structure and the limited time commitment… but some days I really wish I could sit again in a room of people who understood the struggle without having to search so hard to explain it; and to know it’s safe to give voice to some of the memories.
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.
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…
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.
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:
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.
This pretty much encompasses today:
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…
Therapy today was emotionally intense. I dissociated almost immediately when talking about the past…
I’m finding I need to assert that it’s all fake before I can stomach talking about it.
Dr C mentioned the dissociation a few times, but it was safer that way. She suggested I hang out after session and work on grounding. I agreed to sit in the car and listen to music for a while. I know I wasn’t totally back at the point I left, but I was getting antsy sitting there.
Once I got home, I could barely keep my eyes open. I pictured curling up with L in bed and feeling safe. I turned on Netflix and promptly fell asleep.
When I awoke, everything inside was calm and relaxed. I was grounded and present. It’s incredible how exhausting therapy and dissociation can be…
I don’t recall all the specifics of what we talked about in session, but I know we touched on the domestic violence, my previous eating disorders, and a bit about the abuse…
I so want to be through all this. I’m tired of struggling with the memories and after-effects.
I’ve been in this weird head-space all day. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like living elsewhere while my body is going through the motions in this world. It’s two realities at once, but not completely either of them.
I don’t recall any dreams while I napped today, but it’s that “stuck in a dream” feeling. It’s continuing just out of my cognitive awareness, but I know the emotional experiences don’t belong to this moment. It doesn’t feel like a flashback because I can’t tie the emotions to anything real. They feel detached and belonging to some other reality. It feels as unreal as a dream, like walking in a fog.
Struggling with self-harm desires too… “desires” isn’t the right word, but neither is “urges”… self-harm thoughts? They’re more than mere thoughts though. I dunno. It’s not just cutting thoughts/desires/urges. It’s wanting to go out clubbing complete with mass amounts of alcohol and drugs (something that was never “my thing”, nor have I ever done more than smoke some weed)… It’s imagining a release, an escape from the prospect of what I’ve been addressing in therapy. The scared little kid has given way to a reckless teenager. The scenarios (or emotional scenes) going through my head are all very out of character for anything I would actually do. Just a really good imagination I guess. Dreams can feel real in the moment after all.
The body sensations are still really uncomfortable. They have not gotten unbearable though, so that’s good. Maybe Dr C is right. Maybe this can be done safely… I have not fallen apart yet, and so far the “safety net” we talked about seems to be lessening the impact of stirring things up. :shrugs: Hope it keeps working.
Sorry. I’m rambling. I dunno if any of that makes sense…
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?
They say insight helps move you forward. But what if you have all this insight, and don’t know what to do with it? It doesn’t magically change things. It still takes a lot of work, and struggle, and… I’m tired of having insight and not knowing what to do with it.
I called TM and left a message because I realized that my pattern was to crash if I didn’t reach out. So I told her I needed to reach out, and I was hoping just leaving the message would help. It did in the moment, but now I want to crumble again… knowing the reason for the “crisis” isn’t helping to avoid it right now. And having alternate coping skills is not making much of a difference. I guess it’s the small victories: I made it out of the house for a bit. I put off crashing… I guess that’s a positive. And I called TM in hopes of heading off a bigger, harder crash (so far it’s working). Only what happens next week when she suggests an iop again? And what happens when she refers me out even though we have maybe a month left? 😦
I hate that trust comes so hard. I hate that I need to find a paid someone to trust and reach out to. I hate that it always ends so soon. I’ve seen more therapists than I have been in years of therapy. There have only been 3 I was able to see for more than 10 months (and 3 out of the last 4 I only saw for about 4 months each)… JF was an intern when I started seeing her, but she got hired on to keep working at the clinic, so I saw her for 2.5 years (until I graduated). LKB was the first private-practice therapist I saw. She ditched me after 2 years because I was too acute… then Dr C I saw for 2.5 years until I moved. Everyone else was an intern, except De & TM, who were/are limited by agency policy.
There was JJ, DJ (saw her one year during two of the school breaks, so maybe 10 times total), B, CS, JF, TB, JG, LKB, SC (dbt), Dr C, BGR (iop), L (dbt), Dr GD (the center), D, JP, De, TL, and TM… I’m missing a few because last count TM was #18 or 19… who am I missing? I hadn’t included therapists I saw fewer than 5 times, or any psychiatrists, or clinicians associated with hospital programs who I would have only seen a very few times.
Anyway, yeah. Trust is hard, but I seem to have to get around to starting again every few months. It gets tiring. It makes it really difficult to get anywhere. I finally get through the “data dump” stage and it’s time to switch again. That’s why I’m so stubborn around trying to tackle more stuff with TM before our time is up. I need to get further in all this… and I am not sure I will find a therapist I trust would know how to handle the blowout from the sexual assault stuff. I know Dr C tried to get me to deal with it, but I couldn’t get over the shame. Maybe if I can get back in with her, it wouldn’t be so hard this time, but I don’t think she will be around… and I’m still not sure I trust her not to think horrible things of me. There’s some safety in TM working for the sexual assault clinic. She’s likely heard it all, or her colleagues have heard it all, and the judgement would be less… I still have trouble telling TM some things because of the shame involved, but I think the chances of her having heard the same thing before are higher than with Dr C… I dunno. I really miss Dr C though… and JF… and Dr GD… and De. They felt safe. TM feels safe when I’m not caught up in walls and transference… I miss TL, but more in a colleague sense than a therapist sense. She kept me in a more professional head-space during sessions. She was the first to be able to keep the more adult side of me present more times than not. I think it came from her expecting me to be more “professional” and aware. There was something about the transference with her that allowed me to be competent as an adult and a professional. I don’t really know how to explain it…
…I hate that the emotionally safest relationships are all paid ones. But I guess that contributes to the safety. If it wasn’t so one-sided and professional, I would be seeing the judgement and emotional reactions to my crazy, and I would be walking on eggshells with them to the same extent I do my friends and family. I still walk on eggshells with therapists, but it’s not as careful and distanced as it is with people who could really hurt me with their reactions…
Anyway, I digress again. Trying to avoid being the drama queen De saw me as. Trying to pull out of the crisis cycle that is threatening to come barreling in full force. Trying to put all this insight to use. Let’s hope it all works.
I’m trying to keep myself occupied and busy this weekend, only there’s nothing to do.
I saw TM yesterday. It helped a lot, and she helped me feel a bit more at ease around contacting her. We covered the time-line that had triggered so much this past week. It was easier with her there. It didn’t feel so terrifyingly alone and overwhelming. I was pretty detached from it all actually. I didn’t really give details, but we did talk about everything that was on it. I think she was a bit surprised about how much was actually there (and even that wasn’t all of it, just what I got down before it became too overwhelming). It felt safe there though. And we sat on the floor, which I think I actually really like and may do again. It was easier to curl up and feel safe surrounded by the furniture. She was physically closer to me too while on the floor, but in my head it looked miles away. :shrugz:
I followed through on my plan to visit the beach after session. It was nice and empty. The water was cool, but not too cold. I bobbed among the waves for about 1.5 hours before I started to get cold just floating there. Then I sat on the sand and watched the birds run around the waves to find their little food prizes. It was a nice change of pace. Part of me wants to head back there today, but it’s going to be hot and crowded. There’s also a lot to do around the house. I keep looking at the tumbleweeds of dog hair and vow to vacuum… once I stand up. Gotta get to the “standing” stage though, lol. My excuse in the moment: the dogs are quiet and relaxed. I don’t want to disturb them.
Physical flashbacks are still happening, but they are more “background noise” at the moment. I’m feeling the sensations and reminding myself “they are just physical sensations from the past. I don’t have to pay attention to them or act on them right now”. It’s helping. TM is out of the office for 3 days (they have an off-site function today). She wants me to call their crisis line if things get overwhelming, but I really don’t like speaking on the phone, so I just have to keep things from getting overwhelming. She said I “concerned” her. I really dislike worrying people, so I have to prove to her that her concerns are unfounded.
On that note, my head is starting to slip into an unwanted train of thought, so I’m gonna wrap this up and move on. The dogs are starting to shift again anyway, so now may be a great time to tackle vacuuming the house. Wish me luck 😉
I desperately want to talk to TM right now, in the moment. I know it’s only so strong because I have distance, and because I can’t actually talk to her in the moment. It’s safe to want to be vulnerable because it’s not a real possibility right now…
If I were to be seeing her later today, the walls would fly back into place. I would deem all this “stupid” and not be able to speak about it. But I’m not in danger of seeing her for another 6 days, so it’s ok to feel this need to spill to her. It’s ok to want to talk about details and impact and insights. It’s safe right now.
Only this pattern makes for difficult therapy. I throw other things at her. I create distractions and talk around things. I disappoint myself in my inability to move forward in therapy… I only want to be vulnerable because I can’t really be vulnerable right now. Even if I were to call her, I wouldn’t be able to voice any of this.
I want to commit to handing her what I wrote today, but I am predicting I will label it “stupid” at the appointment and not give it to her. Or maybe I’ll write too much other stuff this week and this will lose place to something that is more of a summary. I’m not sure. But I know so far every time I wrote something intense with the intent of giving it to her, I always find a reason not to. There’s always something more pressing, or I judge the important stuff too harshly, or I lose my nerve…
And the stuff I wrote today would count as trauma processing. I’m not sure she wants to go there right now. I think she still wants to gauge how well I cope, how far I will fall if I put too much on my plate…
Problem is, it’s on my plate regardless. The flashbacks are there whether or not I talk about them in therapy. The memories are there; the nightmares, the hopelessness, the confusion… It’s all there even if I don’t take it to her. I cope poorly or I cope well regardless of her knowledge of it. At least if I’m talking to her about it, I might find some support. (maybe if I print it out now and stick it in my art journal, I might be more inclined to show her?)
At the end of session today, TM asked if I had done anything around developing containment strategies for stuff that comes up in session. I described what I do after session to help balance again. She described that as more “discharge” rather than containment. I couldn’t think of anything that would qualify in the moment, but after I left I thought of the closet analogy. It’s not the best, or even very refined, but it’s my metaphorical containment strategy. Stuff is tossed in there haphazardly though, and it’s no longer as effective as it used to be. I need to work on cleaning up my mental closet as much as I need to work on cleaning up my actual closet. Both used to have neatly arranged containers that held things in check. Now both are bursting at the seams. Oops…
She tried some guided imagery grounding with me before we wrapped up. Unfortunately, the one she picked happened to be really triggering. I managed to ask her to switch it. A specific word made me involuntarily startle and shudder. The second one she put on was a bit better. I couldn’t tell her why it bothered me (would have taken too long), but will next session. I’m ok with guided imagery generally, but this one combined three triggers from what we had talked about/around in session. I wrote out some ideas for what works better so I can give it to her next week (nature sounds are good, beach and other nature imagery is good, but concentrating on my breathing or body are not so good).
Ultimately, I managed some containment before leaving her office by leaving my homework from last session with her. I also asked her to read one part of the homework that we had not covered in session. I originally hoped that she would read it after I was gone, but she did it while I was still there. It turned out ok though. She said we would go over it next session. I’m kinda glad I know she knows for sure now (not just wondering when/if she will read it). It helped me leave that there with her. My container right now is TM and her office. Pretty effective at the moment, and relatively safe.
I think I need to ask her to remind me to color during session. It helps me stay more grounded, and to speak easier…
So, after first writing this up almost a month ago, I have yet to put more effort into it. I had contacted a few people claiming to be connected to the BDSM community in an effort to get “honest” perspectives. Publically, they strongly supported the notion that the community is respectful and vigilant of “safety”. Privately however, some denounced the community as seedy and very unsafe. I was warned to “stay far away” from anything even remotely having to do with BDSM, including looking further into the different aspects of it. The few people I know personally and trust, and who also have some experience with the community express otherwise: that their experiences have been safe and respectful… This has me confused. I am more apt to believe the people I know in real life, so I guess I will go with that… Continue reading
Saw TM today. We talked a lot about the disconnection from last week, and what was the same or different about it vs. other times. We also talked about the self-harm and went into a bit of an over-view of the narrative I had done. I had been present most of the session until we talked more about the narrative, maybe? I’m really not sure. I know she asked me to track something, but for the life of me right now I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was dissociation? or triggers? or moods? I would call her to ask, but I’ve already spoken to her about a schedule change, and then called and left her a message asking her not to read the narrative I had left with her… I think that calling her another time would be pushing my boundaries a lot.
Boundaries. Oh yeah, we had kinda talked about reaching out and having that be ok. She had mentioned that sometimes it’s still necessary to reach out when we are struggling because we are all human. She says humans sometimes need other humans when we are in a tough spot… I’m not sure I can justify calling in general, but maybe…
Still not sure what she had wanted me to track… maybe it will come to me later. I know she wants me to work on coming up with other coping skills since the ones I have are getting quite worn. I dunno. It was so hard to find ones that worked even a bit, I’m not quite sure what else to put on my list. She’s focusing on finding a “pattern interrupt”, but I’m not sure how to create one. Things are already different from even a year ago. I find myself at a loss for new suggestions.
TM called just now in response to my message. I think I put her on alert more than I mean to. I know she doesn’t know me all too well, but I have a feeling she thinks I’m more of a risk to myself than I actually am. I’m not sure how to put her mind at ease. She wanted to make sure that the narrative didn’t contain anything that may hint at me being unsafe. I’m not sure how I gave her the impression that it might, but it certainly doesn’t. It’s only a description of what happened 3 years ago. I think I will need to have a conversation around safety. The only issues we have talked about have been in the past. I did admit to the ever-present suicidal ideation, but nothing about any immanent threat. Maybe I should take in that likert scale outline I came up with and flesh it out with her to help find a quantifiable and qualifiable way of talking about safety. It might also help with communicating about the self-harm urges and the flashbacks… I dislike being seen as such a liability when I’m not actually there. I get that it was appropriate at one time, but I’m not in that place anymore. It’s kinda bringing up that feeling of her having pegged me into a certain diagnosis. I don’t like it. There’s too little room for growth if I’m always battling the stereotypes. :sigh: I dunno. Guess I will need to wrap that into the safety conversation. I get conflicting readings from TM. In one moment, I feel like she gets where I’m coming from and is willing to work with what might be helpful. In another moment, I get the impression that she is waiting for me to fall into a specific pattern… Maybe that’s why she keeps using the term “pattern interrupt” when I would say “stepping out of my comfort zone”… I’m not sure what her field of study was to get her LPC credentials, but her vocabulary is very different from what I am used to for a bunch of stuff…
De felt I was too dramatic. I never intended to be, but I guess I came off that way. Maybe being so worried about coming off as dramatic to TM makes things look worse to her than they actually are. Maybe me insisting that I don’t want to be too focused on the “distractions” of the self-harm thoughts and the suicidal thinking makes it look like I’m trying to hide the level of severity. The truth is, I know that stuff is just distraction when dealing with the trauma gets too overwhelming. I know how to keep it in check, and how to reach out when it gets too dangerous… I know she has no reason to belive that. I have to figure out how to build that trust with her.
I’m not sure how to explain this without sounding like a scary psychopath, so please bear with me.
Earlier this morning, my dad (whom I no longer have contact with and who lives in another country) was Skyping with my mom. The topic of his oldest sister came up. He described some of the things she has been saying and doing lately that have caused even him to sever ties with her (she would probably qualify for a dx of psychopath. she was always horribly abusive to everyone in the family, but my dad was wrapped around her little finger for a lot of years)… Anyway, he was concerned about her behavior and current level of delusions. I chimed in that he should probably call social services on her and ask them to check up on her because what she was saying leads the family to believe she will seriously harm someone… He actually agreed (something he has never done before, but I guess even he is scared of her now).
The part that has me feeling shitty is my reaction to the thought of someone coming in, forcibly taking her away and forcibly medicating her: I’m elated. This is more than just happy, I’m ready to jump for joy and throw a party… I would love to be a fly on the wall if they actually do take her away, and I would be smiling from ear to ear as she screams that they are just trying to kill her (I think she’s got some dementia going on at this point, because she’s quite delusional). This reaction is so far from who I see myself as, that it really bothers me. But, she is the only person on the planet that elicits this kind of reaction. Literally anyone else I will argue that their background has brought them to where they are today, and I will feel bad for them. Pick any horrific serial killer or psychopath on the planet, and I will feel compassion for them (not saying they shouldn’t pay for their crimes or abuses, but that I can see how what they went through in life brought them to the point they are at and I feel bad for them). I can understand the same with bitch, but I don’t feel bad for her and I still really want her to suffer. I don’t care about her circumstances growing up, I don’t care about her trauma history, I don’t care about her mental illnesses. She fucked with too many people I do care about for me to even remotely feel any compassion for her at all. She was horribly abusive to everyone… I want to see her suffer for it.
While I would never act on some of the fantasies I hold about what I would like to see done to her, the level of pleasure I get from thinking about them scares me. I don’t like this aspect of myself (it makes me too much like her)… The more I think about what may happen to her if social services steps in and gets her out of society, the more relief I feel. I really want this to happen. I really want her not to be able to hurt anyone else any more. I would love to find out that they took her and have her on high levels of antipsychotics and sedatives. Finally, the world would feel kinda safe…
Does being so utterly happy about the thought of her locked up and heavily medicated make me as bad as her?
Someone on a support forum helped me re-frame his pretty well. She pointed out that it sounded like I was looking for validation around the abuse. She hit the nail on the head. My whole life, the only 2 people who ever agreed that bitch was a horrid person were my mom and my aunt (the middle sister on my dad’s side). Everyone else bought into her charm and her “woe is me. they hate little, innocent me for no reason!”. She was really good at charming the pants off everyone while she beat you down behind their backs. Seeing her finally have to face some sort of consequences for her behavior would finally be external validation that we are not the crazy, abusive ones…
Met with TM again today and showed her the finished Unicorn Pegasus picture. She really liked it. We talked about how difficult it was to do, and how it didn’t really meet my standards, but that it was growing on me. I had intended to explain that trying to do the happier piece in my art journal was very triggering, but I forgot to bring it up. I wanted to explain that the art journal needed to be where I could be genuine with the expression, but we ended up talking about how taking the art journal classes was helping me be less critical of my work.
I also mentioned that the Unicorn Pegasus piece may or may not find a way to go up in flames after session, so she asked if she could keep it. :shrugs: All good. I had to think I was making it for her to keep anyway in order to be able to finish it, so I was ok with her actually keeping it. At first she had said she wouldn’t hang it up because she knew how uncomfortable having my other piece up had made me. I came to the conclusion that the piece in the hallway was too vulnerable, which made me feel exposed. We kinda talked about that a bit. While I know a lot of my art expresses stuff, the more vulnerable and “dark” a piece is, the harder it is to have it seen by random people. It’s kinda like having my journal hanging up in the hallway for anyone to read; just too personal. The Unicorn Pegasus was a piece done “on commission” so it doesn’t make me feel as exposed.
I showed her my art journal that I had started in May. I told her how it was an easier way to express things than in writing, and it was safer in many respects. I have had my written journals read by too many uninvited people to have that feel like a safe way to get things out of me. At least with the art journal, a lot is left up to interpretation. Unless I tell you exactly what I was trying to express, you either interpret it correctly or you don’t. And if you happen to guess it but I don’t want you to know that, I can explain it as something else…
She used the title of “counselor” today and I was able to correct her in real-time about it. I told her how and why it made me uncomfortable. I joked with her that I “get stupid” as soon as I walk through the door to the building anyway, so even if I had gotten my degree, I doubt I could come up with anything intelligent. She kinda laughed at that, then agreed to change her wording to “former intern”. On the heels of that discussion going well, I took a breath and asked for a reality check around whether or not she had believed me the last session when I told her I cut my finger by accident. She admitted that she didn’t know me well yet, but was going on the assumption that I was being honest. I told her that I do my best to be as honest as possible in therapy. If there’s something I don’t want to answer, I will stay quiet rather than lie about it. I was relieved that she didn’t think I was lying, and told her so. We talked a bit more about working in therapy and trying to get out of the rut I seem to be in. I think she may have been generalizing a bit about noticing that I am trying (because really, she’s seen me 3 times. Yes I put forth effort, but I don’t think it’s as obvious as she made it sound… though maybe it is and I just don’t notice it). I may have to bring that up with her, because I don’t believe people when they say nice things about me, especially if I don’t think they would have the knowledge to make a particular statement. It feels fake and forced and like something G would do (either right before or right after harshly criticizing someone else), so it makes me wonder. I know she is not G. I am pretty sure she would not act like he did, however positive stuff towards me always makes me cringe (I know I felt this same way towards TL, and it brough up a lot of transference. I hope TM will be able to tackle it a bit more if it comes up with her also)…
This week’s homework is a bit different: I’m supposed to “practice” doing a trauma narrative. I’m supposed to pick a stressful memory and write about it more formally (beginning, middle, end). I could also do art around it if it’s easier. I may end up doing both… We talked about my desire to be pushed on the trauma work. She mentioned that she normally would not move this quickly, but I seem to have coping skills at my disposal. She is trusting that I will manage myself safely. We reviewed how I have been trying to cope when triggered. She wanted to add to it calling the office hotline. I told her how uncomfortable I was speaking on the phone, and how I often trip over my words or minimize things if I actually get to the point of speaking to a human being (normally I hang up before that can happen). I told her I will sometimes contact the crisis chats and she seemed ok with that compromise. I guess if it ever gets to her really wanting me to speak with someone at the office, then I can ask her to warn them that I have a difficult time on the phone and it may take more effort on their end to get me to talk… Anyway, this homework is only practice because we are trying to keep triggering to a minimum. She doesn’t even want me to pick a trauma memory, just something more stressful. I’m supposed to describe the event in detail and add as much of both the emotions and thoughts surrounding it as I can recall. I’m also supposed to stop if I get too triggered or stressed. I tried to explain that I am triggered regardless, but she still wants me to take it slower. I’m still trying to figure out what to go with. One thought is the whole incident around Dr. Ass-Wipe wanting to force me into ECT. It’s something I have yet to really process, and I actually remember most of it. It’s also something that reinforces my desire to stay away from psych hospitalizations. Even if I am triggered and freaking out, it will be a very loud reminder to stay safe at all costs.
Can someone remind me to talk to her next week about the difficulty of doing a trauma narrative around something that comes splotchy and fragmented? I don’t really know how to do a “beginning, middle, end” when all I can remember is flashes of various “middles”…
Someone on a forum brought up the concept of thinking something is really important outside of therapy, then getting to the session and deeming it unimportant. It got me thinking about how I decide what to say, and what I will verbalize as being unimportant. I found that I rarely consciously think something is no longer important unless I’m terrified to talk about it. I will have a really strong desire to talk about it outside of session. I feel a lot of emotions relating to it, but when it comes down to talking about it, I panic. I worry about how it will sound, and I worry about judgement. So when I start to say it, I end up pausing and brushing it off as “stupid” or “not important” because I’m really just terrified to talk about it…
It’s times like these I know I really need to talk about it, but I also need some more evidence of trust or acceptance from the therapist. TL had figured out that me labeling something unimportant meant it was actually probably very important but I was afraid to talk about it. We would have conversations around what could make it safer to bring up. She would also remind me a million times that she did not think anything I said was stupid, she held no judgement around it, and she would be there to talk about it whenever I felt ready… I hope she put notes on that down for the next therapist. It might make opening up a bit easier.
I’m holding my breathe for this new therapist to call. There’s something very specific that I need to talk about because it has come up very prominently again. Part of me wonders if I should call the hotline at De’s old office and see if I can talk a bit to someone there. I’m not sure what good it would do though. The hotline is really only there for crisis intervention and emergencies. This is neither. This is just something I really need to talk about with someone in hopes that it fades again for a while… my other thought was calling them to see how long their waiting list was, and if it would be appropriate for me to get on it (not sure how they feel about me having received services there recently and wanting to return). It’s tough to find someone that knows what to do with the sexual assault stuff though…
I wish I had the money to see Dr D (she was D’s supervisor and specialized in trauma). Maybe she could help with this? (Though I would need to have a conversation with her around what is more helpful in response to a crisis. I think I frustrated them when I was there last. It felt like there came a point where they were desperately trying to move me on, but couldn’t find resources to connect me with. I wouldn’t want to put them in that position again. I think when I hit a crisis point, I need someone to remind me that I’m going to figure it out and get through it… it worked with TL, though I didn’t see her for very long. Maybe it wouldn’t work after a few months. I think I would just need to ask that she not panic in response to my panic… I dunno. It’s pointless to think about all this because I can’t afford her anyway…)
I dunno. Thinking about what I label as unimportant in session has me realizing it’s always the most important and scary stuff. Sometimes I just need someone there to hold my hand through it and be with me while I talk. SJ really needs to feel safe. I think that’s why I’m thinking of De’s agency again, because SJ was safe there… there’s something to be said for making the kid feel safe while she cries out her story… I really need it to be OK for her to talk and be heard and be healed. It’s not fair that she has to carry all this alone. I wish I could help her carry it, but I sucked at protecting her when she went through it so what would allow her to think I’d be helpful now?
Sometimes broken is just too broken… you can’t fix too broken.
As much as I clung to the hope De had when she told me she’d help get me through the darkness, I don’t have any hope left. I’m way too broken… and there’s no fixing that. Too many failures. Too many broken pieces that just don’t fit back together again. :(…
I was thinking of a friend, and remembered that one of the most comforting things anyone had said to me when I was really low was this: “We’ll get you through this, whatever it takes. We’ll keep you safe.”
Sometimes all a person needs is to know they are not alone in their struggle; that someone else recognizes their hurt and will stand with them through it. It doesn’t matter if it’s hormones, situational, or a chemical imbalance. To that person, it’s very real and very painful in the moment…
Sending love to all those struggling out there. You are not alone♥