Archive for June, 2013

I hope to return to regular posting tonight or tomorrow, but I have been trying to simply breathe my way through processing the things that I wrote about in my last two posts. For those who wrote asking for the password and didn’t receive a response from me, I apologize. I simply reached a point where I felt like I had exposed myself as much as was tolerable and any more felt like too much. It had nothing personal to do with you and everything to do with my trying to listen to and respect what felt safe to me. So much of what I am doing these days revolves around learning how to care for all of me, and this was another part of that process. I am so grateful that I am in a place in my life where I can afford to push my comfort zone, but then to listen to when I get the message that I need to step back and wrap myself in supportive comfort for awhile. Thank you for your support as I learn how to do this.

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I am about to publish my first password protected post. This was very difficult for me to write and I simply do not feel safe publishing it for the world to see. If you are a regular reader, have interacted with me, and wish to have the password, please e-mail me for it at livingwhilehealing at gmail dot com. I don’t know if I will be doing this again in the future or not, but if I do, then I will continue to use the same password.

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I’ve been kind of numb for the last couple of days and I’m not entirely sure that it’s a bad thing. I generally think numb= bad, but this isn’t entirely numb and I’m still able to be fairly present for my family. I am starting to suspect that this is a self protective “I desperately need a break” numb as opposed to an avoidant “I don’t want to have anything to do with those feelings” numb.

Like all too many survivors who are in therapy, I have a tendency to push and push and push. I can’t even begin to count the number of times Mama Bear has said, “You don’t need to work so hard all of the time. You will do better if you take a break.” Intellectually, I understand that I’m not in a life or death situation right now and I don’t need to fix everything at this moment, but parts of me inside are still in the process of learning that it is safe for me to take a break now and then.

As a result, I have been pushing non-stop since I started doing therapy again, 20 months ago, and I am just exhausted. But how do I take a break? I’m not sure how other people do it, but I am starting to suspect that this slightly numb state is a way that my mind is trying to impose a break on me. That doesn’t mean that nothing comes up; multiple times during the day I have felt something intrusive start, however I have been able to back off from whatever is intruding, ground myself, and get my insides to agree that I am better off not trying to figure out what is nibbling at the edges of my mind right now.

I have also had strong emotions start to come up over the last couple of days, but then fizzle out. I think that is largely because of a lack of emotional energy to sustain the feelings. If the battery is drained, there is no zap.

It’s probably a good time for Mama Bear to be out of town, really. I know that she would be perfectly happy to take a session or two to talk about some things in my life that are worth talking about, but don’t require nearly the amount of energy as the trauma work, but I have trouble getting myself to take a break from the trauma work. However, she isn’t here, so there was no session today- simple as that. Nothing was stirred up and I won’t be spending the next 2 or 3 days working on something in the back (or the front) or my mind. I didn’t have any choice in the matter and I’m kind of grateful that I was forced to not have a session today.

But this is ridiculous. I really need to learn how to pace myself better and not burn myself out. So I’m wondering what other people have figured out in terms of pacing and getting themselves to take breaks as they need them?

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I’ve discovered that having it feel more safe to feel real and to know that all of me is alive has its downside. It can also make the pain and the grief that much more intense. This really is my pain and my grief. Over the last several days, it has been intense enough that it makes it difficult for me to think, much less communicate with anyone.

That intensity was utterly overwhelming to me, so I shut down my connection to the painful emotions, without even realizing what I was doing. Shutting myself off from the pain came at a terrible cost, though. I found myself in a period of intense self loathing. I heard myself inside saying things like, “I should die” and “Please kill me,” and I had images of intense self harm. I knew that this state of mind would be damaging for me to stay in- repeatedly imaging harming yourself just isn’t a good way to reinforce feelings of safety in the here and now- but it seemed that I just couldn’t get myself fully out of that state. I couldn’t figure out why I was doing this to myself- the only thing that I could think of was the fact that Mama Bear had gone off on vacation, and I seem to always have a crisis of some sort while she is gone for more than a long weekend. That idea didn’t quite seem right, but was the best hypothesis that I could come up with.

Interacting with my husband and daughter helped me to orient better to my life with them, so I could temporarily push aside the self loathing, but it was tiring to do so, and eventually the feelings would come back full force. I knew that I needed to find some self compassion, but I seemed to be incapable of locating it. All I that I could connect with was a desire to destroy myself, even though the rational corner of my mind could see that this urge was not normal for me and I just needed to hold on and eventually I would be able to untangle myself from it.

Late last night, after everyone else went to bed, I curled up on the couch just trying to breathe. I kept on feeling drawn into round after round of especially intense self hatred and eventually I realized that the urge to split myself open was connected to a need to let something emerge from me. There was something more going on here than just a desire to punish myself.

I went outside into the last of the drizzle and started to pace, so at least I didn’t literally feel trapped in place. I wondered whether I should send a message the next day to contact Mama Bear for support, but I am determined that I am going to make it through this vacation without bothering her, so I didn’t want to do that. Besides, it didn’t really feel like my difficulties were about her. And then I remembered something she said to me the last time I talked to her: she had suggested to me that the reason that I felt so much better after I allowed myself to recognize and fully feel some intense anger at my mother was because I had accepted and been able to sit with myself in the feelings, rather than trying to keep them at a distance. Over the previous 2 or 3 days, I had done anything but accept my feelings.

So, I sat down on a step outside, and tried to accept the feelings of hatred for myself. I quickly realized that I was wobbling back and forth between the desire to destroy myself and intense pain that felt like it would destroy me. And then I remembered the pain that I had started to feel a few days earlier and I realized that the self hatred was a cover to keep me away from the feelings of pain; I would remain trapped in the self loathing until I allowed myself to feel how much I hurt. I thought about my conversations with Mama Bear that even though the emotions can be so intense that they feel like they will obliterate me, they are just emotions and I am strong enough to survive them, if I just have confidence in my strength.

So I imagined wrapping myself in a blanket and I allowed myself to feel a pain that felt like it was ripped from the center of my being. I sobbed while I rocked myself and each time I felt myself starting to flee, I stopped and reminded myself that even though I hurt a lot, I am in a place and time where I am safe. When I began to distract myself by trying to figure out what the “source” of the pain was, I realized that what actually mattered right then and there was that I honor and allow myself to experience the pain. Eventually, I felt cried out and for the first time in days there was no self hatred, only compassion.

I know that it’s a good sign that I am able to feel more fully, but I can’t help but wish that my increased feelings of safety had simply left me feeling better for awhile longer, rather than already pushing me on to the next painful step in healing. I don’t mean to be ungrateful, but I’m tired. However, I am where I am. And thankfully right now I am able to feel compassion for myself, rather than hatred.

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Yesterday, I had my follow up phone chat with Mama Bear. Each week, she talks to me for 15-20 minutes via phone a day or two after the session- we always make the appointment during the in person session, because the day and time changes based on her schedule. I had been having a very difficult time making it through the week with only one scheduled contact; all too often, I would hit Friday night or the weekend and end up in crisis mode. Even though Mama Bear has always been available by phone if I need to speak to her, I tend to put it off until I am a severe crisis, which isn’t good for either of us. We thought of a couple of different options for dealing with the situation, but eventually we hit upon this as a solution and it has worked beautifully. For anyone who is having similar issues, I highly recommend creative problem solving with your therapist until you find something that works for you.

This week, I was so sick and unable to function at the scheduled time that Mama Bear told me to just contact her when I was up to talking and we would figure something out. As a result, I ended up sitting outside in my yard, talking to her, as she got home from work. She has semi adopted a neighbor’s cat who greeted her and because I was amused by the whole thing, she fed the cat the yogurt snack that she was demanding and we discussed the cat in between talking about how I was feeling physically. Looking back, I think that this helped to trigger thoughts of connection, joy, and participating in life that were important later on in our talk.

After a couple of minutes of this, she said, “OK, enough of the cat. Now I’m focusing on you. Are we just talking about your being sick? Or is there something else that you need to talk to me about?”

As I paused, she said, “Now don’t go digging for something!”

“I’m not digging. It’s been there. I guess that I just feel really sad.”

“Ah, yes, we have been talking about a lot of sad things.”

And I just sat there, and allowed myself to feel her support in my sadness; I realized that I didn’t need or want to talk about the causes of the sadness, but I needed to not be alone with it. After a minute or two, I looked up and I noticed how beautiful the green leaves were against the blue sky, and I took a deep breath in and soaked in the beauty of the day.

“This evening is so beautiful. I am glad to be here.”

“It is delicious, isn’t it?”

“Both you and Linda (my other favorite therapist) talked to me about life as being, ‘delicious’ and something to be ‘savored.’ I had never thought of it that way before you two and it was an important concept for me. Just the hope that some day parts of life could be delicious made a difference.”

“And you have things in your life now that are delicious, don’t you?”

“Yes, my relationship with my daughter and husband. The woods….”

I thought for a bit, looking at the beauty around me, and then I felt something blossoming inside of me and then washing over me…

“It really is safe for me to be fully alive, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.”

“It really is safe for me to feel safe, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.”

“It really is safe for me to feel whole, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.”

“It really is safe for all of me to be here and now, isn’t it? None of me needs to hide?”

“Yes, it is safe. You don’t need to hide.”

I sat there, feeling cradled in this knowledge, soaking it in through my pores for a couple of minutes while Mama Bear sat with me in silence.

Then I realized that I needed to just stay in that state for as long as my system wanted for me to and I no longer needed to talk to Mama Bear. I didn’t even need to explain that to her, I just said, “Thank you,” to which she gently responded, “You are very welcome. Talk to you soon. Goodbye.” “Goodbye.”

I’m not sure how long I sat there for, but at least a half hour. And the experience has left me feeling calm, strong, and grounded. Even though I can tell that there is something nasty nibbling at the edge of my mind and I keep on getting flashes of it, I still keep on returning to that pervasive feeling of safety. Yes, there are miserable memories that I need to deal with and more processing about my relationships with my parents, but the foundation of my life in the now is good and strong. It is safe for me to be in life and of life and to savor life. And for right now, I can sustain myself by pulling up memories of sitting out in my yard, reveling in the realization that it is safe to be alive.

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