Archive for May, 2013

I don’t know why this is hitting me so hard tonight, but I feel so broken, so worthless, so contemptible, so despicable. I hate myself and I wish that I didn’t have a duty to my daughter that requires me to keep on struggling. I want to give up. I’m tired. I hurt.

It’s at times like these that I hear a little voice say, “Please let me die.” But I know that I can’t. And I even guess that tomorrow or the next day or the next I will be glad to be here. But right now that thought feels so impossible.

I am angry at myself for feeling this way and for some reason I wish that I could just beat myself up. I’m tired of trying so damn hard all of the time. I just want for things to go along smoothly for a few weeks.

I think that part of how I am feeling is about this stupid thing that I am over reacting to with Mama Bear. Just last Monday, on the way to my session, I felt like I could finally say that it felt like all of me was willing to finally forgive her for something that happened last fall, which left parts of me feeling rejected for being parts. And now we suddenly have this thing that just shouldn’t be a big deal, but somehow is one for me, and I know that my trust in her has been shaken. But she has done nothing wrong. If I can react this way with someone I have years of experience with, who has shown herself to be trustworthy over and over again, and who didn’t even do anything wrong, it leaves me feeling like my ability to feel safe and secure with people has been so badly broken that I am just hopeless.

And part of it is my mother, but I have already shed so many tears over my mother… How many tears do I need to cry? When does it become just a waste of salt water? When does it mean that I simply need to just get over it all and move on? Why can’t I hammer myself into a shape where I am OK with my mother? Why do I have to be so damn needy? I hate myself for needing right now.

Tonight, I wish that there was some way to just make myself into an automaton who took care of the needs of my husband and daughter. I don’t want to have any needs of my own. I don’t want to have memories. I don’t want connections that hurt. I want to stop existing and just leave a shell that can fill my place. But even if that was actually possible, my daughter and husband need more than just something that can go through the motions, so I feel trapped.

I feel like such a d#$n burden right now. I am tired of asking people to prop me up. I am tired of asking for support. I am tired of feeling weak and too easily hurt. I just want to throw the me that keeps on getting hurt out the window and finally be done with her. I’m supposed to be able to add to relationships, not just take and take and take. Where is the me that is worthwhile? Isn’t there a me that has some value?

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Here in the USA, we are quickly approaching one of those dreaded “holidays”- Mother’s Day. I am always left struggling to figure out what can I do that will not insult or hurt my mom (which is not my intention) but also won’t leave me feeling false to myself. Your average Mother’s Day card is just plain not going to work. A phone call is out of the question right now. I refuse to give my mom the message that it is OK to pretend that everything is all OK, but I also do want for her to know that I love her, despite everything. We have a complicated relationship and are having a difficult time negotiating it, but I am grateful for the good that she has done for me.

Interestingly, a bit of a crisis came up with Mama Bear this week. There are some scheduling changes and one of them has me concerned. I do have some legitimate here and now concerns about that change, but the reaction is so much more intense than those concerns warrant. After all, I should be able to trust that if the change causes problems, we will find a solution; up until now we always have and I have no indication that anything fundamental has changed in our relationship. But I experienced feelings of abandonment and a fear that I was being punished for recently asking for something that I thought would help me. These clearly were not here and now feelings, but were child feelings. I pushed myself to tell Mama Bear what was going on, so I know that we will discuss it in the next session, because I have a tendency to do everything that I can to bury and dismiss these sorts of feelings for as long as I can. But when I do that, the foundation of my trust in Mama Bear is compromised and things don’t go well for me in therapy until I finally come clean.

I am proud to say that realizing what I was doing and telling her within 24 hours was a huge step forward for me- this is a process that just last summer took weeks and required her coaxing and reassuring me that she wouldn’t get mad at me or abandon me for telling her that I had a problem with her about something. Like so many relational issues, this is something that I should have been able to learn how to do with my own parents. Instead, I learned that if I pushed too hard, I would distress my mom, and then she wouldn’t be there when I most needed her. She didn’t intend to abandon me, but she did.

This morning, I felt an overwhelming amount of grief and loss when I realized just how much I yearn to be the most important thing in a caretaker’s life. There is a part of me deep, deep inside, at my very core, who still desperately wants to be central and the one around whose needs everything is organized. It reminds me of the sort of care that I had to give my daughter as an infant and toddler when everything had to be organized around her sleep schedule in order for her to stay happy and healthy. That level of care needed happen when I was young and it just can’t happen now that I am an adult, no matter how much my insides cry for it. Adult relationships don’t happen that way. In some ways, the therapeutic relationship is the closest that I am going to get, because at least for that hour, my needs do come first. So being told that there were other needs that required a change that costs me something was a very difficult reminder of how while my relationship with Mama Bear is something that is special for me and I do believe that it is special for her, I am one of many people that she has responsibilities for. It is a fact of life that she has to juggle my needs among her own, her family’s, her other clients’, and so on.

And the adult me is grateful that she cares enough to juggle me in. And she really does care. Dare I say it? There even is love there. Because I am the person I am, that love is deeply valued and I think that it enables me to deepen the work that I do with Mama Bear. There have been times when parts of me have relaxed into it and chosen to believe what she is trying to help me learn because I can tell that the love is real. The scaffolding of the relationship is a bit of an artificial construct, but the feelings are real. Because they are real and because she does not back away, they enable me to experience myself as real.

So, this morning, I was crying out some of these raw feelings, and it dawned on me that to some extent I was crying for my mother. I was crying because I wanted to feel loved and special and cherished and worth doing anything to safe guard. It isn’t Mama Bear’s place to provide those things to me, but as a child, it was a part of my mother’s job to provide them. Unfortunately, she wasn’t shown how to do them by her mother, and so she was only partially successful with me. My mother does love me and she says that she thinks that I am special and I do know that she means those things, but I don’t trust her enough to allow me to connect with her sufficiently to be able to take in what she could give to me in the now. The love that she gave me and the value that she placed on me as a child and teen were essential to allowing me to form enough strengths so that I could get some things right in my life, but I have been so hurt the many times I have tried to turn to her for support and suddenly found her emotionally gone, so I am afraid to risk opening my heart to her again.

Sometimes I wonder whether I will ever fully be able to heal this deep, aching hole that should have been filled by my mother surrounding me with her loving protection? Or will this hole be one of those things that Mama Bear has warned me about? There may be wounds that can never fully heal and so places where I will always be vulnerable. She assures me that with work, time, and self compassion, those wounds won’t hurt quite so much and eventually they will be easier to soothe when they have been activated, but some injuries really do go that deep. The abuse and neglect happened and that ‘happening’ can never be undone.

What would I want to say on this Mother’s Day, if it felt safe enough for me to be frank with my mom? “I love you.” “I want so much more out of my relationship with you.” “I wish that you were strong enough for me to be honest with, so I could share my anger, pain, and grief with you and be certain that you would still be there when I was done.” “I am grateful that you love me and in particular am grateful that you really loved me as a child, because I would not be standing here in this place without that love.” “I am so angry at your own mother for being a lousy mother to you, so you started at such a handicap with me.” “Thank you for doing the best that you could with me when you were young. But I think that you are capable of more now, so please push yourself and find the courage to not hide so much. I deserve more, you deserve more, and your granddaughter deserves more, so please dig deep and find the strength somewhere.” But most of all, “I love you.”

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Tonight is another night when it is well past midnight and I am up yet again. Why do I do this to myself? Why am I so reluctant to go to bed at night? At the moment I am so tired that I can hardly think straight, but I still can’t get myself to turn off the computer and lights, get ready for bed, and get into bed. So you all get to be subjected to my late night ramblings, I fear.

Really, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I take a medication that makes it relatively easy for me to fall asleep most of the time, so it isn’t like I toss and turn for a long time once I go to bed.

I don’t think that I have nightmares, but then I rarely remember my dreams, so maybe I am having bad dreams and I just don’t remember them?

My bed is comfortable and there is nothing off putting about my room.

Or is there? Because I am now aware of being a bit anxious about going to bed. I think that there are two things here… 1) When I am in the process of waking up from or falling asleep into a nap, I am vulnerable to memories coming up. I think that my bed is now slightly associated with frightening memories. 2) My husband shares my bed with me. I didn’t realize that I was avoiding bed partially because of him. It isn’t like he does anything threatening. In fact, he understands that while I may want to cuddle up against him for some physical contact right after getting into bed, I can’t tolerate being touched at all while I am actually falling asleep. He has learned to not take it as a rejection when I turn my back on him and move over to my side of my bed; it’s just that I have to mentally create my own safe space in our bed, or else I will either never get to sleep or I will end up kicking and striking out defensively as I fall asleep.

I’m not going to kick him out of our bed. And most of me enjoys sleeping close to him; in fact much of the time I sleep better when he is at home in our bed as opposed to when he is out of the house for some reason when it is time to sleep. I will admit the obvious, these parts of me are nervous because sometimes I make love with my husband, and at times that still can be triggering for layers of me. So I need to find a way to reassure the nervous parts of me that it is completely safe to me to sleep in the same bed as hubby. I won’t ever wake up with him touching me at all, never mind touching me sexually. In fact he would help to keep me safe from a threat, so I am safer with him in my bed than I would be alone. Ah, those 2 things may be the keys… While I have been trying to separate past from present for these parts and convince them that my hubby is safe, however what I forgot was to not just tell myself, “he won’t hurt me,” but to think through and help those parts understand how my husband does act. He understands that being touched while I am sleeping could be highly triggering for me and he is a caring and considerate person who will act appropriately on such information. I can’t even remember the last time he touched me in my sleep- it likely was more than 20 years ago- and he isn’t likely to change how he acts after this long, when he has a better understanding of why it is so important. Also, those young parts tend to think of being alone as being safer, if I can’t be with my mother. Well, things are very different now- my mother no longer represents safety in the now, and I am safer in my bed when my husband is also in it. He is a help to me, not a threat!

There is no magic cure here, but this gives me a couple of things to work with myself on, that I hadn’t considered before.

Who else here has trouble with going to bed? What have you done to help yourself solve the problem?

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Waimea Falls- North Shore Oahu

Waimea Falls- North Shore Oahu

I want to do something completely different today… Sometimes it seems like the memories from my childhood are just full of nightmares- awful things that frighten and disgust me, but I know that there was more to my childhood than just that. I think that trying to pull up some of those happier memories might be good for all of me, because it may help to connect me to the good that was in my life and so the source of my strength as a child. There is no erasing the bad, but bringing some balance in to my perspective may help me be less intimidated by what these child parts hold, as I start to intentionally work with them.

I believe that this collection of memories is from around the age of 9 or 10 or so, however all but one of them are certain to be collections of memories, because we went to these places more than once, so they may range anywhere from between 7 1/2 until just as I turned 13.. That was a period of time when my family lived in Hawaii and I’ve realized that my unremittingly good memories are all out of doors.

I loved the ocean and the beach, but in particular I remember that we would go to a beach up on the North Shore that had puka shells. These are the round shells with a hole in the middle that are often strung into necklaces and are quintessentially Hawaiian. I loved to sit there in the sand, sorting for the shells, because the shells were relatively rare, so it felt like finding treasure each time I located another one. If I remember correctly, this was a large beach and it had an area that was relatively shallow for some distance, and I would swim out with friends, splashing them, diving under them, swimming between them, floating with them. I have no memory as to who those friends were, just that they were there and I felt secure and happy with them. At the far end of the beach, there were these small cliffs that people would jump off into the ocean. Some of them were taller, maybe 20 feet tall, and others were relatively small, less than 10 feet. I spent years building up my courage to jump off the smaller cliffs. I knew that other kids my age did it; I knew that I was a strong swimmer; I knew that people looked like they have a wonderful time doing it, but looking down over the edge and actually making that leap was hard for me. I vaguely seem to remember my mom being there, in the water, waiting for me, encouraging me, and cheering me on when I finally did it. Once I over came that fear, of course I wanted to do it over and over and over. ­čÖé

Another favorite outing was to hike Waimea Valley up to the falls and then swim in the falls. The valley was lush with all sorts of interesting things to look at. One of my favorite activities was to try to spot all of the peacocks, because there were many in the park. By the time we would make it up to the falls, we would be hot and sweaty and jumping into the pool at the bottom of the falls felt like heaven. I can remember swimming next to the falls and feeling the water from the falls beating down into the pool and just wanting to stay in the water forever.

Then there was the time that I went mudsliding with my Girl Scout troupe. Up in the mountains, there are these areas that have this super slick mud. You have to be taken by someone who knows where they are and who has a vehicle that can get back up in there, because it is all by dirt roads, and of course you go when everything is muddy. But it is a blast! We took along pieces of cardboard that we “rode”, and I seem to remember that some of the runs were pretty long. I remember being absolutely covered in mud by the end of it, from head to toe, and full of bruises from hitting rocks that stuck up, but also being blissfully happy. I seem to remember that as a day when I fully felt a part of the group, rather than set apart a bit, which was my normal state.

Hanaumu Bay- Oaho

Hanaumu Bay- Oaho

My last happy memory comes from going snorkeling in Hanaumu Bay. The snorkeling in this bay was just phenomenal and I know that I would go off with a friend or two, exploring the bay all day long, only coming back for snacks and lunch. The coral was beautiful; the fish were spectacular; I knew where to look for hiding eels; and the water just felt perfect. The colors in the picture above don’t actually do justice to the place- it is that gorgeous and it made my heart sing. I would have been a happy girl if we could have gone there every weekend!

I need to remember this… There were some very good, life giving things in my life at that time and probably most of my life was made up of average stuff that I have only have a handful of vague memories about. This is a period when some very bad things happened with my grandfather for a relatively short period of that time and then I have a lot of other questions and I know that there were some bad dynamics between my father and me. Unfortunately, the emotions that go with the bad things seem to overshadow everything else around then, but there was so much more to me than an abused and neglected child. I need to help myself hold on to the side of that child who also knew what it was like to swim in the ocean, pretending that she was a dolphin, who would tan a golden brown, and whose hair got all tangled from the wind and salt water. I need to remember that I was the child who would string flowers into leis and braid orchids into my hair. I was a child who did know how to laugh and how to embrace the things that I loved about my life. I was a child who was determined to live and I was stronger than the wrong that was done to me.

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I haven’t been around much in blog land lately because I have found it extremely difficult to write anything, both for my blog and responding to other people’s posts. Part of the problem is that I seem to have more contact with so many different voices inside of me that I find it hard to finish writing a sentence without changing my mind 2 or 3 times during the sentence about what I want to say. I fear that this will ramble a good bit, and I just hope that it is relatively coherent. And if I sound confused, well it’s because I am very much in the middle of trying to figure all of this out. I don’t understand what I am talking about, but when I write about it, it helps me to make things just a bit clearer for myself, and I hope that maybe it might help someone else who is trying to figure out how to work with their own parts.

I don’t know how much of it is that the parts that I live with are closer to the surface and how much is that I am no longer pushing them away, so I am more aware that they are there. It’s probably a combination of the two. But over the last month or so, I have spent so much time not just me, but also blended with a part. Sometimes it isn’t so bad, because the part isn’t upset, it’s just kind of unsettling to feel like I have an overlay of hands that are smaller and a different way of seeing and being in the world. Other times it has been very problematic, because the parts got stuck in a trauma loop and I couldn’t fully extricate myself on my own. That was a week from hell, pure and simple. So much of it is a blur now, but I do remember that it felt almost impossible to function at all. I had a previously scheduled appointment with the psychiatrist and she was concerned enough by what she saw that she called Mama Bear, so they could consult about me. The psychiatrist suggested that I do a short emergency course of a new medicine. And I was so desperate that I relatively quickly agreed. I hate adding medications. I fear side effects and drug interactions. I always take days to ponder whether to add a new medication, but Mama Bear had told me about the medication hours earlier, so when the doctor answered my questions, I was ready to try whatever might help. And the medication did work to break me out of the intrusive memory/trauma symptom cycle.

So for the first time, I am aware of all of these parts at a time when I’m not also reeling from trauma symptoms. They feel like they are just right there, right next to me, ready to slide in and join with me. I’ve realized that I have an opportunity here… Now is the time to try to figure out how to communicate with my parts and work with them, while I’m not also struggling with trauma symptoms. Yes, when I connect with a traumatized part, I often go all too quickly to a scary place, but at least right now I have a baseline that is stable. It’s been many months since I had a stable baseline for more than a day or two.

Mama Bear and I have been talking for several weeks about an exercise that will allow me to identify and “bring to the table” my different parts. Up until now, I have gone from crisis to crisis and there was always something more pressing, but starting this week we will try out 2 sessions a week and I’m not in a crisis, so it seems like a very good time to begin this process. I have to admit that I have no idea how many parts we are talking about here. I’m not sure whether I see different aspects of the same parts, or if I have way more parts than I care to admit. I suspect the latter. My intuition is that each thing that was too much for me to tolerate was split off by itself and those are extremely limited parts, but they hold an immense amount of pain and fear. And then there are others that are more elaborate and tend to represent an age range of a year or two.

These last few days have been intense in a different way for me than I am used to. I’ve actually done a better job of getting out there and living life than I have in far too long, so I am delighted to have a bit of balance back in my life for now. But I will be going through my day and notice that I am having an internal reaction that doesn’t fit the situation. For instance, this afternoon I sat out in the garden while I ate my lunch. It was a gorgeous afternoon, the birds were singing, it was sunny and in the 70’s, and all of the plants are just springing out of the ground. I looked at some plants in a bed that I am trying to figure out how to handle and I became aware of both the desire to reach out and touch one of the plants and not daring to. This was a very young part of me and I had a glimpse of how afraid she is to do anything, to move at all. I encouraged her to reach out and touch the plant and she considered it, but didn’t dare, yet, and I felt such an overwhelming need to protect her and nurture her. I felt an immense amount of compassion for this young part of me who needs to learn that it is safe to be alive.

This wasn’t an overwhelmingly painful and frightening interaction, like I had experienced previously- in fact it wasn’t at all traumatic for me to deal with. But it was one that was incredibly intense and left me feeling shaken. I realized that I have been seeing and experiencing bits and pieces of this part over the last month or two, but hadn’t put them all together. If I’m putting them together correctly, I have some idea of the needs of this part and a possible idea of a trauma. Maybe I will now have a better idea of how to hold her and help her?

So right now I am in this kind of weird feeling state; not bad weird, just completely unfamiliar and so weird feeling… I am trying to just be here calmly and gently, knowing that now and then other parts of me are going to poke in. In the past, there has been the tendency to panic whenever I would start to experience the difficult thoughts or feelings of a part, but right now I am trying to recognize it for what it is: “I am having a reaction that is not oriented to now, but I don’t have to get caught up in these feelings or thoughts. There is a good reason that this dissociated part holds this reaction, but that reason doesn’t apply to right now and right here. I can reassure this part, acknowledge what is going on, set it aside for the moment if I am doing other things, and come back to it later. I don’t have to take on the emotion and continue to carry it around.” Yes, I think that this is what Mama Bear has been trying to explain to me for ages; sometimes I’m a slow learner, OK? But at least I do seem to be learning and I’m a bit amazed.

We will see what next week brings, because one thing I have learned about this therapy that I am doing is that it is terribly, terribly complicated. Nothing proceeds in a straight line with it. In fact, it feels like everything is a tangled mess inside. Sometimes when you are untangling something that has many different pieces of yarn, you have to drop one and untangle another for awhile before you can get back to untangling the first. Well, that’s me, a massively, almost hopelessly tangled mat of many different strands of yarn. Maybe one day I will be able to untangle them enough to weave them into a tapestry…

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