Visiting V and Hanging Out in Nature

When I was in college, I started seeing a therapist named V.  I was 20, she was 28.  She was just finishing her doctorate in counseling and I was working on a Bachelor’s  degree.  I saw V for therapy until I was about 32 years old, and then she sent me off to see an EMDR therapist.  I called and made an appointment once or twice a year to see V; not cause I needed her as a therapist, but because I missed her.  V was a great therapist and helped me to give voice to lots of my secrets.  I first learned to draw my secrets and feelings with V.  She was the first person ever to hold me when I cried. V was  also very motherly to me even though she was only 8 years older than I.  After a couple of years of making appointments to see V just because I missed her, I called her and told her that I really wanted to see her, but I didn’t want to make an appointment.  V paused for a moment and then asked if I was saying I wanted to be friends.  I said, yup.  V asked me if I was sure I was not going to need her as a therapist anymore.   I said, nope, I’ve  got a different therapist now.  V said, yup, we can be friends and we set up a lunch date.  We’ve seen each other for lunch or at each other’s  homes a few times a year ever since.  At first, it was a little awkward as I didn’t know much about V and she knew lots about me.  Over the years, I’ve learned more and more c about V and her life.  Then last year, she informed me that she was moving across the country and in went home crying about that.  My  wife reassured me that I’d be able to visit V.  So, on Thursday,  I flew across the country to Palm Springs to visit V.  I’ve learned much more about V’s life and her family in the last few days.  I’ve also met her brother and his husband.  Today, her brother-in-law,  V, and I went hiking at the Sand to Snow National Memorial which is absolutely breath taking.  I am really having an amazing experience and am so thankful for that.

My Favorite Season

I love Fall.  For me, it’s the season between the long, active, sunny days of summer and the long, mostly indoor, more introspective days of winter.  Fall weather, being cool and brisk and full of bright colors makes me want to go outside and walk and explore.  It’s a great time for walking in places that are just too hot in the summer.  It’s invigorating to walk and walk and then come home and drink a hot cup of something and read a book in the sun on the porch.  I live the tastes of Fall…pumpkin spice everything.  Cinnamon.  Ginger.  Soups and stews.  Fall squash.  I love going to the Farmers Market and buying newly picked cauliflower and acorn squash and Brussels Sprouts still on the stalk.  Apples and cider and donuts.  I love going from summer clothes which tend to make me feel somewhat vulnerable to cozy sweaters and boots.  This is my season.

Trying Something New in Therapy

That freaking cat flashback has not left me alone for weeks.  I’ve been trying to talk to the part of me that experienced that horrible event and trying to find out what I need to do to calm that part down.  Honestly, I wonder if that part of me can ever be calm.  The shock and repressed rage and grief from that incident seem enough to fill up a whole life, yet here I am, grown, safe, capable…a warrior queen.

MT ( my therapist), recently learned a new expisure technique, so we decided to try it with this memory.  I guess the exposure and repetition is supposed to move the memory to a different part of my brain and help me to process it differently.  The repeated exposure is also supposed to help desensitized it for me.  This technique gives me at least 15 different exposures to the incident over a couple of sessions.

We started with me making a time line of the incident where the cat died.  I had to put both positives and negatives.  My positives were that I screamed (self-preservation) and that I did not die.  After I finished making the timeline, I showed it to MT and talked about it.  That part was pretty easy, but there was a part at the end that surprised MT.  She looked very disturbed.  It was disturbing, but I forget that sometimes.  I had never told her the ending.  I think I’d gotten stuck on the cat before and not been able to go beyond that in much detail.   I felt very removed.  Then I had to write for 5 minutes about the first half of the incident and then for another 5 minutes about the 2nd half.  Oh, yeah, I forgot…between each step, we did deep breathing and some relaxation visualizations.  The person who developed this technique theorizes that it is impossible to experience the trauma when one is relaxed.  I’m really not convinced, but I’m going to go with it for now.  Then MT said it was time for me to read what I go written out loud to her.  I immediately wanted to flee and my body provided me with an excuse.  Suddenly, I had to pee and there was no waiting.  I told MT i was going to the bathroom, and she actuallyasked me if I was coming back and if I had my car keys in my pocket.  That made me giggle.  My purse was still on the couch.  I went to the bathroom, came back, took a deep breath, and stared at MT.  I couldn’t speak.  She told me that this was important and I could do it.  After a minute or two of her encouraging me, I read it.  Then I had to go to the bathroom again.  Craziness.  Then MT read me what I had written, preaching it with, I’m going to read you a story and it’s disturbing.  It’s in the past, it’s over, but you might have feelings.  She read it, we did more deep breathing, and then she read it to me again. This time, though, she wanted me to concentrate on continuing the deep breathing and also to tap myself on alternating knees to give myself bilateral input, like emdr.  We did that. Then did 10 minutes of breathing and relaxation. I left feeling not overwhelmed.  We have a two hour session scheduled on Tuesday to complete this technique with this flashback.  We will see how that goes.  So far, the flashback persists, although it’s possible that my reaction is less intense.

Bullet List of What’s Up with Me

  • I’ve been enjoying the Fall weather.  Mostly sunny and some days warm and some days cool. I’ve been for lots of walks in the beautiful parks in the area I live in.  Yesterday, I ran out of time to walk because a meeting for one of my sons lasted 90 minutes longer than I expected.  So I stopped for a cup of coffee on my way home and spent 10 blissful minutes sipping my coffee at a table outside the coffee .
  • I had the stressful experience of shopping for a new swimsuit in the Northern part of the country in the Fall (that equals almost no swimsuits in stores and I have no idea what size I wear at the moment as I’ve lost 170 lbs).  I ended up finding one that actually fit and looked half way decent.  I’d bought a new swimsuit a couple of months ago, but it was just hanging off of me.
  • I’m going across the country to visit a friend next week.  By myself.  For 5 days.  This will be my first time on a plane since losing lots of weight.  I am really looking forward to not having people looking at me and hoping I’m not going to sit next to them.  I’m looking forward to not needing a seat belt extender.
  • The friend I’m visiting was my first therapist ever.  I started seeing V in college and continued into my 30’s.  Then I outgrew her, and went for several years calling her for one appointment a year just because I missed her.  Then when I was in my late 30’s I told her that I did not want to have to make appointments to see her.  She asked if I was saying I wanted to be friends with her.  I said yes, while I shook and my heart nearly beat out of my chest, and she agreed.  It’s awkward sometimes, but for the most part, being friends with  V has been awesome.  When she moved across the country earlier this year, I was devastated.  Then my wife gave me tickets to visit V for my 50th birthday.
  • I’m still having the freaking cat flashbacks.  I need them to stop.  MT (my therapist) went to a trauma training last week and learned a new method  that seems like a combination of exposure therapy and desensitization therapy, that only happens .  The in the presence of the therapist.  We are going to start working on the cat flashback with  that method tomorrow.  I’m kind of nervous but also excited at the prospect of maybe finding a way to deal with the toughest flashbacks.
  • I’m working on paying attention to my feelings and allowing myself to feel them without having to have a reason.  I feel like I search my mind sometimes for why I would feel like I’m feeling.  I talked to MT about that and she said sometimes she also thinks the same thing, that I have a feeling and I pull out my list of things that have happened to me to try to have a reason for what is happening.  I actually imagined this as a tattered leather book with papers between the pages that I keep in my back pocket.  So, this happened the other day.  I could barely get myself out of bed, my body felt heavy and achy (perhaps fibromyalgia, perhaps not) and I just did not want to face the day.  I eventually got out of bed, put on work out clothes, got the boys up and off to school, and then sat in the living room staring at the treadmill.  I thought I might be depressed, but did not search for a reason.  I cried, eventually, for several minutes.  Then I reviewed my life….loving wife, awesome children, house I love, enough food and clothing, vacations planned for the future….so the feeling did not relate to now as far as I could tell.  I said out loud, I don’t know who is feeling like this, but life is pretty good right now, and you can be sad for as long as you want, but I have got to get myself on the treadmill.  I did not spent any time trying to figure out what part this was or what it was about, I just felt it and moved on.  MT said I also did a fantastic job of modeling self-care for the different parts of myself.
  • At meditation the other night, we did a guided visualization of letting go of stuff and one of the things I left on the path was that tattered leather book.  I think that I may keep finding it and picking it up again, so I’m going to have to keep letting go again and again.  Jodi, the shaman who leads my meditation group, always says letting go is a process and a practice, and you have to keep doing it again and again.
  • I’m really excited about hot drinks this fall and winter.  Last November, I had gastric bypass, and after that I could not drink any hot drinks.  They made me feel nauseous and burp incessantly.  I was really sad about that, especially since my new stomach only tolerated icy cold liquids and I was frozen all the time.   Being cold was new too and related to the lack of calories.  I was miserable.  Well, I got chilled the other day, and made a cup of hot tea.  Heaven.  No nausea and no burping.  I’m especially liking gingerbread spice.  Yum.
  • In spite of the flashbacks, I’m feeling stronger than I’d been.  I can feel the presence of the Warrior Queen again.  I’m thinking that I spent several weeks at least slightly dissociated and neither MT nor I realized it.
  • I have to be a warrior queen right now, because on 11/4, I’m having surgery that scares me to death.  I’m having a labiaplasty, not for aesthetics, but for functionality.  Apparently, the outer labia can lose weight, and mine have basically withered away, but the inner labia do not lose weight.  That means that my inner labia stick out and rub on everything and that hurts like hell.  I’m really nervous about hurting in that area of my body because of the surgery.  I don’t want to end up in a bad place because it might feel like old stuff.  I’m talking to my younger parts, reminding them that I have chosen this surgery and why.  But, if you wanted to send any thoughts, prayers, white light, etc. my way, I’d really appreciate it.

Therapy, this week, yesterday

So, my week has been totally whacked.  I drove to another state last Wednesday to pick my mother-in-law up and bring her here for a week.  Wednesday night, still last week, I hung out with my brother, who was in town for a few days, and we talked about the failing health of our parents, the Fucking abusers, and making plans for their future.  Thursday, I grocery shopped, and entertained my mother-in-law.  Friday, I cooked, lots of food, as my oldest child turned 9 this weekend, and we had a large gathering planned, including some of his biological family, and a bounce house.  Saturday was the party.  It was successful and fun and the 9 year old was thrilled.  Sunday, I spent the day at an amusement park with my two older boys.  Monday, I went to the movies with my mother-in-law and cleaned up after our crazy weekend.  Then yesterday, I had therapy.  Needless to say, I did not process the hell out of my last therapy session.  MT ( my therapist) seemed to think my 16 year old self was being defiant.  I think it was a true lack of time and privacy.  We talked about my flashbacks, and I talked about how it felt goid to not be wanting to be dead.  MT  was surprised and asked what I was referring to.  I told her and she asked if that might not be something that I might have wanted to discuss with her.  I said that I was not sure.  She asked me to please tell her if I ever felt like that again.  I asked what she would do.  First, she said she wasn’t going to tell me so I said that I woukd not ever tell her if I was suicidal.  MT replied that she would not call the ambulance, but that we would have a discussion.  Then she stated that the abusers would win if I killed myself. She’s right and I need to remember that. I am a Fucking warrior and those people are not going to win.  Then we spent a little time chatting about the boys, and all of a sudden I was back in that 16 year olds body, seeing the cat dead and thinking I was next.  I really thought they were going to cut the baby out of me right then and there.  Then I was back in MT’s room.  MT asked me what had just happened.  I told her I’d had a flashback and tears just pure down my face.  She told me I should talk to that part of me and ask her to give me a break and that I should tell her it was over now and that I am grown up.    I told MT that saying that stuff felt like shutting that part down and it did not feel right.  I sat looking at the spot where I imagined 1y year old me and I couldn’t do it.  I looked at MT and told her that I couldn’t.  She said, be the warrior. I said. Well, maybe I’m not really a warrior.  MT asked me if I was just giving up.  I looked at that spot some more, and then spoke.  I told that girl that I know she had nobody to talk to for a long time, that even when other parts were talking, she had been shut down because everytime I tried to talk about her and what she went through, I got sick and couldn’t breath.  I told her that she gets to talk now.  I told her that MT’s office was a good place to talk.  I told her that I’m going to listen to her.  I swear, when I looked at MT, she had tears in her eyes.  I certainly did.  MT said, so you are making a commitment to that girl.  A very strong adult voice came out of me as I said yes, I am.  And then my session was over.  It’s been a day since then.  I. Still having flashbacks, but now I’m telling her I’m listening and I’m trying not to judge her or myself.