My reactions to things astound me. I had a pretty good session. I think I’ve started recognizing my warriorness again. Last week, I’d been talking to my therapust about some stuff that happened to me as a teenager. As I talked, it occurred to me that I now weigh less than when this stuff happened and I expressed to my therapist that this actually made me feel very vulnerable all of a sudden. This was towards the end of last week’s session, so my therapust gave me an assignment to compare 15 year old me to the now 50 year old me. I did this assignment and included some pictures. I came up with at least 30 ways that I am different from 15 year old me. I found out that I’m lots stronger and more capable now than I was when I was 15. And I recognized my warriorness again. So, on Tuesday, my therapust and I talked about this and then talked about the flashbacks I’ve been having lately. And then my therapist told me that she is going away for the whole week the week after next. My head swirled and my eyes filled with tears. I tried to tell myself that I could live for a week, but some part of me was screaming that she just came back from vacation a couple of weeks ago. And then I realized that the week my therapust will be back from being away is my kids’ winter break and I’ve not been successful with finding a babysitter for any part of that week. So, no therapy that week. I protested, stating that it will be two weeks because of that and my therapust stated that she just won’t be here. Which I get. My protests aren’t going to change anything. I don’t get a say in this. I am just starting to see some specks of light after a big depression and those specks are still disappearing at times. I just saw my warriorness again. I don’t want all of that to disappear. My therapist and my wife reminded me that I didn’t fall apart for the two weeks my therapist was away just a few weeks ago. I know I didn’t…I was actually grateful to have less times that I was expected to be awake and functioning. But, now, I feel in a fragile place with this trafficking word. And I’m afraid that I could get too deep in it and then be left alone with it for two weeks. I left the session in tears. I know I’ll be okay…as okay as I can be. But, I’m not ready for another therapy break and I have no control in this. I feel vulnerable. Nothing I do will change my therapist’s plans. I know that. But, I have to look at this reaction. I have to deal with where it comes from. I’m so afraid of people leaving me. I’m afraid they won’t come back. My therapust will be back unless something beyond her control happens. There’s my problem. People may have the best intentions, but not every circumstance is controllable. Some people have heinous intentions, and those circumstances were beyond my control when I was growing up. I don’t like this out of control feeling.
I need to set up some ways I’m going to cope with those two weeks of no therapy. I have three sessions to look at this stuff and come up with a plan for myself.
Last week, I felt a really strong connection between me and MT (my therapist). This week the connection seemed to be missing. I left my session on Tuesday really pissed off. I was not sure of how to take some comments that MT made regarding weight loss surgery, flashbacks, and my grief, anger, regret over my relationship with the abusers. My biggest issue was because MT said that flashbacks are memories and it seemed trivializing to me. I can deal with memories. I can turn off memories if I want to. I can actively decide to think about something else. But, I can’t turn off flashbacks. They catch me by surprise. They take my breath away. Here is a note I wrote to MT and gave her today about flashbacks:
Flashbacks are way different from memories. Flashbacks take me right back to the thing that was happening and I can smell the smells and taste the tastes and feel stuff on and in my body. I can feel their hands on me. I can feel my insides being ripped apart. It’s all totally involuntary. It makes me shake, it makes me feel like I cannot breathe. But a memory….it may be a picture or a sound…but it doesn’t take me away from me. I’m not immersed in it. I still know I’m me. I wish a flashback was just a memory, but flashbacks are memories gone rogue. They are memories not processed the right way. How do I get them processed the right way? Or am I just supposed to accept and be okay with those assholes taking my mind over day after day. I do not want to keep having these Fucking flashbacks, but I need to find a way to get them processed into my head like regular memories. When the flashbacks happen, I can’t always find myself to let me know that it’s a memory. Sometimes , I can make myself breathe through them, but mostly, they happen, and only when they are over, do I know it was a flashback. They are not just memories. They leave my heart and body and soul aching, like the thing just happened. I need them to stop. I need help figuring it out. I know that stuff is over. I know it’s not going to happen again, because I’m not going to let it. But some part of me does not know that. How do I reach that part? How do I even figure out what part that is? It made me so angry when you said a flashback is just a memory. Cause flashbacks are way more than memories. I can choose to stop a memory. Usually I don’t even know I’m having a flashback until it’s over. How do you stop something that you don’t know is happening?
So here is a disclaimer. MT never said just a memory. That is what I heard. So, I had to go in and talk about all of this stuff with MT today. MT already knew I was angry because of an email I had sent and also because I told her I was mad as our session was ending on Tuesday. The thing about flashbacks being memories was said 5 minutes before the end of our session on Tuesday and there was not time to process my reaction. If there had been, I think I would not have been so flaming mad. But as it was, I had two days to stew about and I did stew about it. But once we were done talking about what had made me angry on Tuesday, the session seemed to go well. Until I said something about doing EMDR for my flashbacks. Just last week, MT had said we were getting close to doing EMDR and had asked me where I thought we should start. I had done some thinking about it and wanted to talk about it. Just to say where I thought we should start. Well, MT said that she was not going to be willing to do EMDR with a person who was dissociating and said that she counts flashbacks as being dissociative. Then, she reminded me in our last session, I had a pretty big flashback. Yup. I did. But now, we only had like 5 minutes left to our session again and MT dropped this bombshell on me and then said time was up. I started crying and she said she did not understand where this reaction was coming from. I told her that hopelessness had just overwhelmed me. My flashbacks are never ending. They are not going away by themselves. I need to something to help get those rogue memories under control. I thought it was going to be EMDR. Now, I’m not sure what it is going to be. I don’t know if anything else can help. I did EMDR years ago around some flashbacks and those flashbacks have NEVER shown up again. So, now I have 5 days to wait until I can deal with what I can do now. I’m cranky and frustrated and overwhelmed.
So far, in my time without MT (my therapist), there have definitely been ups and downs. Meditation on Sunday night was a definite up. We meditated on melting stress away. I loved this meditation. I could actually see the stress dripping off my body and being cleared away. I left feeling so relaxed. I went home, climbed into bed, and slept for 9 hours. I almost never sleep for that many hours all together or even that many hours in a day at all. The other great thing about that 9 hours of sleep was the lack of nightmares. A night without nightmares for me is a true rarity (although, it seems to be happening a little more often right now). Something that J talked about during meditation was that a person can have big things happening in her life and not be stressed at all. Or a person can have big things happening in her life, start making judgments about them, and that’s where the stress comes from. The stress comes from the judgment that I make about how I will or will not handle an event in my life. So, with MT being away, I could take that in a very matter of fact manner and think, well, MT is away for many days and some days will be okay and some days will be hard. Okay. Or I can say, OMG! I have 20 days between sessions with MT. I am afraid that I won’t be able to deal with that. What will I do if I have lots of flashbacks or body memories? Who will I call? What will I do? Oh, my goodness, this is terrible. Well, the second way causes me stress. There is lots of judgment about myself there. I think I should be able to handle MT being away, but I won’t be able to. I don’t know what I will do if I am not okay. Well, if I can keep myself from judging the idea that I will have some hard days and some okay days, there is no stress or at least much less stress. I am not putting myself in the frame of mind that I cannot handle it. I am also not making myself believe that there are no positives there. Much less stress.
So, there have been some down’s about MT being away also. Last night, I was very tired when I went to bed. I could barely keep my eyes open. But as soon as my head hit the pillow, my eyes were wide open and I could not lay still. I was on the verge of a panic attack. I was really scared. Just the idea of a panic attack freaks me out. I started thinking about taking Xanax right away. I had to get up to go to the bathroom. I went back to bed. My wife’s snoring was making me anxious. I put on my headphones and listened to calming music. That annoyed me even more. I started judging myself. I asked myself why I could not just go to bed like a normal person. I was mad that I was tired and couldn’t go to sleep. I got stressed about how tired I would be today if I didn’t go to sleep soon. Then, I remembered. I gave myself permission to be anxious. I have always been anxious at night (with good reason). I tried to figure out where that anxiety was coming from. I comforted that child that I once was, reminding her that I would take care of her. And I realized, that today would be Tuesday. My first missed session with MT. No wonder I was anxious. I worked hard on not judging myself for being too attached to her. I reminded myself that I know how to take care of me. And no Xanax and a few minutes later, I was sleeping. Yes, I had nightmares. But not the kind that wake me up with me already out of bed. Yes, today I cried because I really do miss MT and I really do hate when my routine is changed and I really do crave consistency. So, I guess, that was a down and an up.
I had a therapy session again on Thursday. I had spent much time writing and thinking and crying about the last session. I kind of expected MT to tell me that she was done with me. That pretty much happened to me with a therapist before and I was pretty sure it would happen again. Instead, when I tried to talk about what had happened, MT kind of brushed it off, said that she may have over-reacted, and it was over, done, finished. I was kind of relieved, and kind of angry. If I had over-reacted to something like that, we probably would have spent the next two sessions talking about why. But, we went on to do some pretty intense and amazing work that I will write about in the next post.
So MT, my therapist, is away this week, and I am more than slightly upset by that. I miss her and I want her to be there. We actually ended our last session in a really bad place for me. I would not/could not listen to something she was saying and now I need to wait for a couple of weeks to get some clarification on what she said that caused me to just interrupt her and tell her she was wrong and refuse to listen. Sometimes, I get myself into the craziest places. I think I thought she might not leave if we had such a big kind of a misunderstanding. Of course she left, but one of my assignments for the week was to depict what it is like for me when she is not there.
Well, when she is not in either of those places,
My secret safe place
With a comfortable couch and a purple blanket and a purple pillow
And a pink pig with no ears
That place disappears.
Oh, the actual space must still be there in that building,
But it is not my secret safe place
Until MT is there.
My secret safe place does not exist if MT is not here.
Where do I go when that place disappears?
There is no live person waiting to hear
What is going on in my mind and watch me cry my tears.
There is nobody to smile at me
Even when I’m being the most unreasonable cranky
Me there can be.
There is no mirror being held up
So that I can see who I was and who I am now.
There is nothing.
No calm voice, no smiling eyes, nobody to notice the small steps I can now take.
Nobody reminding me to breath
So that her voice echoes later in my head
When I am scared or anxious or sad or mad.
When MT is not there,
I have no guide to shine a light
To help me find my way through the memories
and the dark nights.
There seems to be nobody there
To hear me and see me
Even when I feel totally lost at sea.
There is nobody to walk with me
on this crazy path
Nobody to see the three steps forward and five steps back,
The path that just goes in a circle,
Or the hill that goes up when I thought it was going down.
When MT is not there,
And she is not here.
There is nobody to see the child I once was
Sitting next to the me I now am.
There is nobody to help me see the filters I have
And the stories I have made up to help me
Explain the unexplainable.
There is nobody waiting to hear me speak the unspeakable.
There is nobody there with the steady gaze that won’t look away
Even when I cannot stay.
When MT is not there,
And MT is not here,
The adult me knows that she is coming back,
But the child me is never sure of that.
All I know is that my secret safe place is empty with nobody there
And MT is not in her chair.
So, in my last post, I mentioned my projects. Usually, they end up completed in collage form. I wanted to share some of them here.
This is a collage about tears and crying. I hate crying and feel stupid when I cry, but I’ve been crying constantly lately. MT said to do a project on tears. I found out that tears are healing, Prolactin, a stress hormone, is actually excreted in tears. I also found out that tears can be beautiful and healing.
MT calls me a warrior and she asked me to do a project on what it means to be to be a warrior. A warrior means showing your own unique self, loving yourself, and showing up for the battle.
Mary asked me to do a project on what I like about myself. It turned out I liked a lot about myself and my body, even though I often feel like it betrayed me and it was made ugly by the abuse.
I have many physical ailments. Some of them are embarrassing. Some of them I think are because I am fat and often my doctors think the same thing. However, when doing this project, I found that most of my physical ailments could be traced back to the abuse I endured.
MT, my therapist, has turned out to be a very wise woman, and I like her immensely. (I’m a little mad at her today, but I still like her lots). I believe that it is quite serendipitous that I found my way to her office and her couch. I really thought my last therapist would be my last therapist ever. She told me she had the skills to help me heal and I believed her. Well, something went wrong and either she dd not have very good skills or I was not a very good student. I ended up going to another therapist, who really had no experience with trauma, to try to figure out what was making me such a bad client. Eventually, I came to see that I was not a bad client, but that my regular therapist was not a good match for me. So, interim therapist, realizing the amount of trauma I have had in my life, sent me to her own therapist, who happens to have lots of experience with people with lots of trauma.
And so I met MT. Who approached things much differently than any other therapist I ever had. She actually scared me at first. One of the first things she did was to tell me that she NEVER hugs her clients. I had to really think about that. I’ve never before had a therapist who did not hug me. I’ve also never before MT had a therapist that I have not developed a maternal transference with (well, besides my interim therapist). I actually like that MT NEVER touches me. I have learned many self-soothing techniques with her and I can usually take care of my need to be soothed when I am not in her office. Just in case you are wondering, some of those self soothing techniques are breathing, wrapping myself in a blanket, and butterfly hugs. I really like my independence and my new-found competence in this area. My emotional crises with other therapists were always made worse by their inability to respond immediately at all times of the day and night. When they were not available to soothe me, I found myself being angry at them and feeling abandoned and unworthy. With MT, I know that I am very worthy of being soothed soon as I realize the need AND I can do it for myself. It’s not as shaming as I thought it would be to wrap my arms around myself. Because it’s not the present day me that really needs the soothing; it’s some child part of me. I’ve also found other situations with MT’s encouragement where I can get the physical nurturing, like acupuncture and massage.
Another reason I hold MT in such high regard is that she has never said that she can heal me. What MT tells me is that I have all of the knowledge necessary inside me to heal myself. Her job is to guide me on the path to that healing. She has a flashlight. She sometimes holds the map. She tells me when I’m about to fall in a hole. She warns me that the journey will be like walking through hell, but that she will help me to find my way to the healing that already exists in me. She takes my lead, though, as much as possible. If I say I’ve found a new path, we try it out. She’s shown me new ways, like punching the Wavemaster, like allowing myself to cry and cry and cry.
I also like that MT has respect for the other healers in my life. Sometimes she will ask if I have talked to my priest about something. If I do meditation with Jodi, and find a new spirit animal or come to a new realization, MT will incorporate that into my therapy. If I discover something new in my body, with Jodi or acupuncture or a massage therapist, MT will incorporate that into my therapy.
I really like that MT always respects where I am. If I come to her office and cry for an hour, it’s okay. If I need to be quiet for a while, that is okay. If I need to leave early, that is okay. If I leave the room for a few minutes, I do not have to provide an explanation unless I want to. I am okay with MT. I don’t think that I’ve had that experience before…that wherever I am, is just fine, and we will work from that spot. If I want to tell MT the graphic, gross, disgusting details of my abuse, she will listen. If I just want to say that something was awful, and leave it at that, that’s okay too.
The last thing that I want to talk about today regarding the reasons that I really like MT is that she has tailored my therapy for me. She has never done my therapy with somebody else before. She might have done parts of it, but she does not do cookie cutter therapy. She took me to a karate studio to work on anger issues. She had never done that with a client before. She found out I like to be creative, and now she assigns me projects that will help with my therapy and will help instill the healing further in my cells.
I do not enjoy my therapy with MT all of the time, but I really like her all of the time. She has my best interest at heart, and the other day when I told her that I am scared of this healing process all of the time, she told me that she is often scared too…and what she is scared of is that she is not good enough for me. Well, she is. I know I will heal with her as my guide.