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Archive for April, 2015

Update and more art

Things here continue to be super challenging. I seem to have put my pseudo adult in charge and pretty much cut contact between the young parts and my adult.  The reasons for this are complex and I’ve only begun to figure them out. It isn’t a good situation, though. It makes for difficult sessions and difficult day to day functioning. 

The art is a bright spot right now, though. So, I thought that I would share some more. 

  

Here is another owl, trying out some different techniques that don’t really show in the photo. I also tried a more realistic style for the owl, although it’s definitely a fantasy owl, still. 

  

This is a two page spread that I really love. The butterflies represent parts. The swallow is made out of fire, and a personal version of a pheonix.  The out doors and nature is nourishing to me and sunrise and sunset always seem like magical times. 

   

 

These last two were part of an assignment which was to do each painting in 15 minutes, as a freeing exercise. I ignored that, because it knew that it would just stress me out right now. I did however try to play more, not think things out so much, and try out stuff that I had no idea how I was going to make work. Different parts of each painting are more successful than others. I have a history of having a really hard time letting go and trying new things, especially things that I have no idea of how to do. But I know that I miss out on too much when I am so rigid about sticking with things that I have an idea of how they will work. Really, in my life in general, I need to learn to take more risks and be willing to have some not so good results in order to get some surprisingly wonderful results. 

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Finding joy in color

  

I have been taking an on line course on mixed media art techniques. This is a year long course with several different teachers and even though I didn’t start until 12 weeks in (because of my dog), I have learned so much in the few weeks that I have been participating. I am doing things unlike anything that I have done before and feeling so satisfied by the results that I am getting. Most of all, simply playing with color makes me happy. I have become hooked on these whimsical creatures with their beautiful backgrounds.  I’m refinding my ability to just play- to try out new, crazy ideas.  If I don’t like it, it can become yet another under layer and add richness to the finished product.  I’ve discovered that I love both physical and visual texture in my paintings , so I’ve been experimenting with the physical texture. In the owl above, her forehead is covered in 3D texture. 

I am so glad to have something that brings such pleasure to me right now. I think that it makes it easier to engage in the here and now when i have something that I really want to engage with. 

   

 

  

I think that it’s a pretty funny juxtaposition to have the word Peace on a piece of art that feature a fierce bird of prey. I wonder why I put them together?

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Art work showing a helper part.

It’s been awhile since I posted, largely because things have been pretty intense for me. I’m not entirely sure what I am going to say right now, but I am feeling the urge to start to reengage with the blog now that things seem to be starting to calm for me. 

Mainly, I have been continuing to deal with accepting that my father abused me.  All through it, there was a sense of pressure and bits and pieces of memories kept on intruding, until about a week and a half ago, when several things came together and I was hit with memories that seem to indicate being abused at a younger age than anything than I had remembered previously. I have known that I have parts at those ages, but hoped that they existed more because of attachment issues than anything else. Nope, they are trauma derived, too. 

The brain is so weird in how it handles all of this. The way that I experienced the memories was not as if I experienced them directly, but as though I experienced them through my three year old part.  It was like I was remembering my three year old knowledge of something that had happened as far back as I could remember when I was three. Which meant that to the young me it seemed as though the abuse had “always” happened. 

That has been a very hard sense for me to process and start to learn to live with. My father acted in a way that overwhelmed and frightened me from the time I learned to walk, if not earlier.  It’s wildly confusing to me inside and the confusion is so strong that it leaks out and makes it hard for me to look at the situation using what I know from my reading and discussions about abuse and abusers. The adult perspective has pretty much vanished and I just feel the child’s bewilderment over how my daddy can keep on doing something that hurts and scares me, when my mommy says that my daddy is good and he helps me.  I can feel traces of how completely and utterly crazy making it must have been for me at the time. I think that the dissociation was as much about protecting my mind from the stresses of the hidden reality that I lived vs the day to day living and family myths as it was about anything else. 

At one point it hit me that part of my bewilderment derives from the fact that it “feels” to me that the actions of having sex with your daughter or putting your penis on the body of a toddler would be the actions of a monster or a mad man. My father is deeply damaged and flawed, I do not trust him and I will not let him be in contact with my daughter, but I know that he neither crazy nor a monster.  He did too much in his life too rationally and he hid his actions too well for him to be crazy.  I have seen a human monster in my grandfather and my father was not a monster. There are many things that are very wrong about him, but they do not bring him up to monster level.  He does know what is right and wrong. He wants to be good, and I believe that he wants to see himself as good, not just be seen by others as good.  I believe that he wants to be different from his own father and he obviously made efforts to be better to his family than my grandfather was to his. My father was not physically abusive.  He wasn’t constantly trying to tear apart the souls of those around him. He tried to be helpful with my school work. A monster doesn’t make a real attempt to behave better than his role model. 

So how could he sexually abuse me for all of those years?  I understand that it must have something to do with the damage done by his father.  But the experienced sense of needing for my dad to stop hurting me gets in the way of my having the empathy that would allow me to develop any real understanding.  My distrust of him is so profound that even if he came to me and said, “I am so ashamed and sorry that I sexually abused you. What can I do to help you now?”, I don’t think that I could let down the protective barriers and let him in. 

It finally hit me, though, that it doesn’t need to make sense. I don’t understand how my dad could have continued to keep on hurting me for all of that time; from my point of view, it feels like something that would have been impossible. But just because I don’t understand it and just because those actions are so repulsive to me that it all feels impossible, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.  When I talked with Mama Bear about this, she agreed. She said, “From my experiences working with sex offenders and because I am far enough outside of what happened, I have some understanding of how he could have continued to abuse you for all of that time. But you are too close to it. I wouldn’t be surprised if even the adult you isn’t ever able to really understand it. Maybe you will at some point, but it won’t be a failure on your part if you can’t.”  What a relief. I can give up trying to make sense of how he could act in such a bewildering way and just accept that he did. 

And so my acceptance of the whole thing took a huge step forward and at first I felt better, but then I started to fall apart.  I’m getting through the day accomplishing more of the everyday things than I had been over the last few months, so that is good, but inside I am not doing well at all. 

I went into my last session and after we made it through the business stuff at the beginning of the session, Mama Bear asked me how I was doing and I just couldn’t answer her question.  Outside, I am doing art and being functional, inside I wish that I didn’t exist.  After struggling to speak for a bit, I suddenly slipped into a young part, clutched the blanket, and partially hid my face behind it. 

Mama Bear asked gently, “Who just showed up?”  I peeked out from behind the blanket at her.  Mama Bear continued, “Do you have something that you want to say?”

I stared at her for a moment and then whispered, “I don’t want to be here.”

“I can’t hear you over the white noise when you whisper, C.  Can your adult help you to say that a little louder.”

“I. Don’t. Want. To. Be. Here.” And I burst into gut wrenching sobs and dove back under the blanket. 

Mama Bear responsed gently but firmly, “We need to talk about this. We also need for you to find your adult to help us talk about this. I need for you to gather yourself together and come out from behind the blanket and sit up some.”  Mama Bear knew that I didn’t mean that I didn’t want to be in her office, but that I didn’t want to be on planet Earth. I didn’t want to be alive. 

I cried a bit more and then peeked out at her.  She smiled gently at me, “I’m here. I’m just waiting.”  She said it in a way that didn’t mean, “hurry up”, but rather, “I can wait for as long as you need.  It’s ok.”  I sat up some more and nodded at her. She double checked, “Do you have dual awareness now?”  

“I think so. Enough at least to try talking.”

She looked at me a little dubiously, but started.  “You are aware that these are parts driven feelings, right?”  I nodded my head. “Does your adult have an understanding as to why the young parts would want to be dead?” 

“Yes.”

“Can you tell me what that is?”

“They want to escape the pain and feeling completely overwhelmed.”

“Yes. You didn’t have many options when you were young and death must have sometimes seemed like the best option sometimes.”

I don’t think that I said it aloud, but it is so clear to me that I desperately wanted for everything to stop and the idea of quiet nothingness, where there is no distress seemed so appealing. 

Around that point, everything becomes a blur. I think that we talked a bit more while I seemed to be calm, but then I remember being bent over feeling such pain. I think that I hit my forehead with my fist in there somewhere, which is highly unusual. I think that I talked with Mama Bear between crying. I think that I may have yelled out some sort of protest. But given how little I remember, I obviously was in a highly disociated state. 

At some point, I heard Mama Bear get up out of her chair and walk over to the love seat that I was sitting on, but I was curled up in a ball and wasn’t able to look up. She knelt down next to me, put her hand up and said, “Here, push against my hand.”  Sometimes I can’t push when she has suggested it, but this time my body was looking for an outlet of some sort, so I started to push as hard as I could. I felt myself pushing her hand back, despite her resistant and she said, “See, you have strength now. You can push people away if you need to. You are no longer weak and helpless like you were when you were so young. You can take action now.”  I continued to push and I think that more protests erupted out of me. I felt my outrage at being so violated and having no choice in the matter. And then I found myself wanting to clasp her hand rather than push against it and something must have changed in what I was doing, because Mama Bear said, “Yes, now shift to comfort, consoling the child part”, and her fingers slipped between my fingers in a very satisfying hand clasp and my tears became quieter and gentler. 

Even though she had shifted from kneeling to sitting on the floor, it became obvious that her over 60 body was not comfortable and I asked if she would like to move and sit beside me on the love seat.  She accepted with gratitude, because while she didn’t want to leave me for her chair, she also needed to not be in pain. 

We started to talk again.  I told her how a part keeps on going, “No! No! Noooo!  It can’t be real! It just can’t be!” She responded that it would have been survival for me to not believe that it was real.  That she understood how I had to believe that it wasn’t true and that it still makes it difficult to believe that it is true.

She talked about how she used to not understand why I had so thoroughly pushed my father away years ago in a way that has a Ff$&@ you” flavor to it, when it’s so out of character for me. But “it has become all too clear why you needed to do that, even though you couldn’t let yourself know why you needed to do it. You have an inner guide that is wise and has a lot of courage, which I am very glad about. That’s why you got out of your parents’ house as soon as it was at all possible to and you have rarely gone back even for visits.”

She was only reminding me of things that we had talked about before, but I know that she believes that it is important that I fully appreciate how much I did to help myself when I was still a young adult, well before I started to deal with any off the abuse. I also think that she may feel a bit badly that I thought for so long that she didn’t believe me about my father, when she was trying to avoid letting her opinions influence me during a long phase when I went back and forth on whether my dad abused me on an almost hourly basis.  Now that I have clearly indicated that I do believe that he abused me, what she has said makes it quite clear that she believes that the basics of what I remember did happen, even if the details of individual memories might be confused. There is a basic, awful truth that my parts have been trying to tell for some time. 

I’m not quite sure how it came up, but at one point she talked about how even when I was a teen, I was a child in my parents’s house. I had no power.  Also, my father started to abuse me at such a young age so my response to him had been firmly established years before.  It would not have been possible for me to try to break out of the situation until I saw a clear path out. But as soon as I saw that path, I seized it. She then added that she thinks that because of the early abuse, parts of me that weren’t able to advance developmentally were elicited during later abuse. She stopped and looked at me carefully and asked me how I was reacting to what she said.

“It makes sense to me. I had already noticed that young parts keep on getting called up when we talk about later abuse.”  In fact, it’s kind of a relief to have a probably explanation for what is going on when I start out talking about some of the teen abuse, I slip into a young child state for awhile dealing with raw emotions, and then I eventually end up back in the teen state again, reacting to the more complex aspects of the older abuse. 

I thought for a bit and then I said to Mama Bear, “it’s good that my mom was able to give me what she did. But I really needed more of this”, and I gestured between her and me. 

“Calm acceptance of who you are and what you are experiencing?”

“Yes!”

“Yes, you did need much more of that. I imagine that your mom probably wasn’t all that calm most of the time.”

“I’ll never forget that time with Grace when my mother just suddenly turned off and left the room without a word.  It was so instructive to me, because that had to have been the behavior that she showed to me when I was a child.  What a strong message it gave.”

“It would have made for quick training for you to be a Good Girl.”

I thought for a bit more and then a young part came rushing up and I leaned into Mama Bear, just breathing in the security and acceptance that I was experiencing in the moment. I stayed there for a few minutes, silent, and Mama Bear sat with me, being a calm, caring presence. “It’s safe for me to want to be close to people, isn’t it?  It’s ok for me to care about you and know that you care about me.”

She nodded her head and said, “Yes, it is. It is human to want and need to be close to people.”

“I feel like who I am was used against me. I think that I would naturally be physically affectionate with the people I care about, if I hadn’t been taught to be wary of touch. I think that I would want to let my friends in more and have deeper connections if I hadn’t been taught to expect betrayal. I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t been abused, I would really like sex and want to connect that way with my husband.”

“Those are all things that are natural for all humans to want, but I agree with you that your natural temperament probably would have made you more inclined towards all of those things than average”

“It’s like all of those things just helped me to be hurt even more deeply because I feel so vividly in regards to those connections. But they are important parts of me and I want to be able to have them the way that I was supposed to be able to.”

“That is one of our goals. You deserve to have all of you available to you in your normal life. Or at least to be able to make choices as to what you need to set aside from the world in a safe place and what you want to have available for daily living.”

I left the session feeling so much better than I felt when I walked into her office. Really, better than I had in days. Inside, I no longer felt so desperate to escape by dying. The adult me no longer feels so overwhelmed by the feelings of the parts and I feel more hopeful.  At the same time, I’m still getting the message from some part inside, “this can’t have actually happened!  It just can’t!  I couldn’t survive it.”  It’s weird to be in that state of believing that I was abused and not believing it at the same time. For now I am dealing with it by not looking at what I have been told by my parts happened to me.  I am setting that aside for now and trying to just take care of myself in a supportive manner.  In my session on Friday, I will bring up the difficulty believing myself and see where it leads me. Hopefully parts of me will be able to talk about what the current roadblocks are and I will be able to step forward a bit farther. I’m finally learning a bit of patience and to take things one step at a time rather than pushing as hard as I can all of the time. I can tell that there are very difficult things inside that I need to deal with. I didn’t have a choice when the abuse happened and I had to deal as best I could, all on my own. My soul protests the idea of dealing with these deep wounds alone anymore. I want someone trustworthy to be there, holding my hand, helping me to find my way. Not because I am not strong or brave enough to do it on my own, but because it feels like there is something fundamentally wrong with handling injuries In isolation that threatened to rip me apart. Part of the injury was that no one really saw me, so I need someone who is willing to see all of my pain. Part of it was that no one helped me when I was utterly overwhelmed, so it is healing to experience someone who can help me navigate my way through such confusing and overwhelming work. Part of it is that no one heard me, so it helps me to feel more whole when she listens to what I tell her and then later I hear that what what I said is reflected in what she says to me. It is clear that she deeply listens, takes in and thinks about what I say, and then uses that to form a more complete picture of my experience. Simply remembering the traumas and telling my parts that the abuse is over now and I am safe isn’t sufficient for me to fully resolve the trauma. I need this next step with someone whom I deeply trust. At the moment that means Mama Bear. 

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