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Posts Tagged ‘coping’

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 am feeling so confused these days…  I feel like I am having so many different conflicting reactions, with so many powerful feelings.  I almost feel dizzy, like I am being spun so many different ways and I don’t have a chance to fully think or feel through anything.  It’s all leaving me feeling a bit lost and uncertain about what I am doing and where I am going.  And the way that I feel is so very different; it is like I am somehow partially slipping between different states, even though “I” am still the constant.  This is disturbing for me, because the age range is so wide and I don’t seem to be settling into anything consistent.  And I don’t have a clue as to why I am suddenly doing this.

There are the times when the anger comes up and it is just so powerful.  I don’t know what to do with it and sometimes it is like there is a part that just wants to use it to destroy the inner me and pulverize everything that is inside.  I feel so much self hatred at those times and at the same time so much helplessness.  I want to cry and I want to scream, but I just sit here quietly, holding it all inside.  Sometimes I find myself saying, “I hate him!”  But most of the time, it’s like my mind quickly skips into and skips out of the anger again.

I keep on finding myself in very young states that just want to be helped and comforted.  Frankly, these are these easiest to deal with, because I know how to help them and I can help them.  I find that I can help to ground them/me together into a sense of safety and security.

I slip into a state that is so connected to feelings of despair and start to think of bridges and icy water.  Don’t get me wrong; I will not do anything to harm myself.  I know my responsibilities to my daughter and husband and how much harming myself would hurt the people I love the most.  Besides, most of me just doesn’t feel that level of hopelessness at all.  I believe that it is a remembered hopelessness far more than it is a present one, but it still is a distressing state to slip into, even briefly.

I find myself on the edge of memories that I am currently trying to not engage with.  Most of these are memories that I have experienced many, many times.  Some are newer.  There is a distinction here between experiencing them and remembering them.  If I can just remember them, it isn’t so bad, because there is more of a knowing, narrative quality about it.  Experiencing is very hard, though, because in some way I am in the memory and there is no distance between it and at least a part of me.

I am so quick right now to completely discount all of these experiences as soon as I feel even remotely normal.  “Things really couldn’t have been very bad.  I must be completely crazy to be even consider possible some things that some of me seems to think happened.  I am a horrible person to even entertain some of these possibilities.”  It’s like as soon as there is even the possibility of denial, it goes into effect.

I am so torn right now and I feel like I am reaching out for myself, but I don’t even know where I am.

Yesterday, my path seemed so clear…  There is something that may or may not have happened and I just can’t deal with figuring out whether it did or didn’t happen.  Whenever I try to go close enough to what seems to be memories, my mind just feels like it is blasted, but when I step back and just concentrate on comforting and soothing the young parts who need to feel heard and connected, then I am able to ground and help all of myself feel so much better.  So it seemed obvious to me: stop trying to figure out what happened and just concentrate on comforting and strengthening.

But today I feel like I am being tossed in so many different directions at the same time and I have lost that path.  All I know is that I keep on wanting to say that I hate myself and I know that I am grieving and I feel lost and alone.   Mama Bear has reminded me to stay as oriented to the here and now and in my fuller self as much as possible.  Excellent advice.  If only I was doing a better job of following it.  I wish that I understood why I am having so much trouble doing it right now!!!  I thought that I was getting stronger and more stable, so what in the world is happening to me?  Have I just been fooling myself?

I don’t know…  All I know is that I have to keep on trying and hoping that I find a way to feel steady and solid again before long.

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Yesterday was a rare sunny and relatively warm day, so I took the dog out for a walk on my favorite trail.  I have done many hours of post therapy processing on this trail, and I knew that I needed some help working my way through what had come up the previous day in session.

Sometimes the obvious can hit me in a way that I had never considered before, however when I try to write about it, it comes out in a “well, of course” sort of way, even though there was a huge impact when it came to me.  Yesterday’s “stop me in my tracks” realization was just that way…

I had absolutely no choice about the abuse.  All that I could do was to adjust to the circumstances as best I could.  It is likely that when he “gave me a choice,” he knew full well which I would pick, because the other was so much worse.  I was completely manipulated by him and I was so young, I had no way of understanding that he was manipulating me.

I did not choose the abuse in any way.  No matter what he convinced me of, I did not choose the abuse.  The abuse did not happen because of anything that I did or said.  There is nothing that a child could do or say that would cause an adult to sexually abuse her; the adult only abuses a child because the adult decided to.  I remember an old therapist of mine telling me that a child could dance naked in front of an adult and the adult would bear sole responsibility for any decisions that he/she made.  A child cannot cause the abuse.  Period.

But I also think that parts of me may have held on to a sense of responsibility as a way of keeping some hope that I might be able to do something to change what was happening.  I seem to remember hoping that one day I would do whatever it was that he really wanted and then finally he would be satisfied and it would all stop.  I couldn’t figure out what he wanted and I desperately wanted to, because I wanted for him to get what he wanted out of me so things would stop happening.

The reality is that there was no way that I was ever going to be able to satisfy him.  Even now, I don’t fully understand what it was that he felt like he needed/wanted, but I am positive that there was no way that I would ever have been able to do something that would satisfy him for all time.  At least part of of what he needed was to have power over me and make me hurt in multiple ways and that would have been something that he would have come back for over and over, then the only way to stop the abuse was to get me away from him.  No matter what I tried to do while I was alone with him, it could never have prevented the abuse.

The only thing that I could have done was explicitly told my mother what was going on.  I do believe that if she had been confronted with something that she couldn’t pretend away, she would have dealt with it.  But I didn’t understand that then.  And I think that I was trained so early that it was impossible for me to tell that I will never fully understand how it happened.

There are a few things that I am sure that I remember from when I was older and some more that I seem to remember from when I was young. I know that he showed me a boiling cow’s tongue and told me that if I said anything, then he would cut out my tongue.  Later that evening he tried to force me to eat the tongue, but I chose to eat nothing rather than eat it.  That was the celebration dinner for my parents coming back from their 2 1/2 month long trip when I was 10.   It seems that there was something about cutting off other body parts, as well, but that is vague.

And I seem to remember a young belief that my mother had to have known that something so huge was happening.  That it was impossible for him to hurt me so much and for her to not know.  So she must know and she must either be unable to stop it or think that it wasn’t such a bad thing.

I want to wrap that child up in a blanket and hold her in my lap while I rock her.  What terrible options- either believe that I might be able to have some influence over the abuse and feel responsible or live with being totally and utterly powerless and helpless in the hands of such a terrible person.  I do know that a part of me is convinced that by making the choices that I did, I kept him from killing me.  I don’t think that he would have in reality, because it would have been impossible to hide, but I do believe that he carried in him a murderous rage and I had every reason to believe that I was in real danger of being killed.

He is the only one who made choices that dictated whether the abuse happened at all, whether it happened at every opportunity or rarely, and what sorts of things happened.  The sad reality is that all that I could do was to do whatever I had to in order to keep myself as intact as possible.

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Well, I seem to have lost my emotional anesthesia from being so sick.  The challenging feelings are back.  I noticed them some yesterday, but today turned into a very difficult day.

Over the last couple of months, I have been trying to do a better job of observing what is going on when I am hit by memories, largely in hopes that if I can be more mindful of what is going on and keep my feet on the ground, I will be less likely to be swept along by it and into the middle of a raging river.  An added benefit is that I am also starting to notice some patterns; I hope that the information might end up being useful when coordinating my care, but at the very least, it is helping me to feel a bit less out of control and helpless in the face of such unpleasant sensations and emotions.

Today, starting in the morning, I noticed that I was very sound and motion sensitive, somewhat light and smell sensitive, and feeling emotionally unstable.  These are signs for me that I have an impending migraine.  I did what I could to try to prevent it, but those symptoms just didn’t seem to be abating, although the headache didn’t showing signs of appearing, which was a bit odd, but I don’t always get the headache.  Then I was hit strongly by emotional memories and moderately by body memories.  Last month, I noted a couple of times when migraines and memories seemed to be linked, so when this happened, I had the thought, “It’s like I’m having some sort of brain storm.  I think that something is triggering both the migraine symptoms and the memories at the same time.  But nothing externally has happened today to memory wise trigger me, so I think that I need to look at this as something I just need to let run through/past me and do my best to not engage with it.”  I sat there rocking myself, crying for about 10 minutes and then it seemed to ease.

Today had a spring like warmth, and my daughter and dog were in the backyard, so I went to sit on the back porch.  Talking with my daughter, feeling the outside air, and running my hands through my dog’s fur helped me to ground myself somewhat.  But I haven’t been able to fully shake feeling vulnerable and uncertain all day.  On the other hand, each time I have felt myself starting to feels bits and flashes of body memories, I have stopped and paid attention to exactly what is going on with my body in that moment, and I haven’t gotten caught up in the memories, allowing them to progress into something more full blown, so things could be much worse.

I have a feeling that after our move, once we get the new health insurance figured out, I probably should start to look into this memory/migraine connection.  The mind is a complicated, weird thing.  Who knows how things are connected?  Maybe there is something biochemically going on sometimes that makes it much easier for me to be triggered?  We have already been trying to take into consideration factors such as hormonal fluctuations due to my being in my mid 40s and likely entering perimenopause, but maybe we need to take a deeper holistic look at how my body is affecting me emotionally?

Have other people taken a holistic approach?  I don’t necessarily mean alternative medicine, I am most interested in how other people have looked at how their entire health may influence their emotional functioning.  I think that we very often tend to forget just how intertwined it all is…

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Coping

It’s been interesting observing my instinctual drawing inward and shutting so much down these last couple of weeks, as I have been so ill and am trying to begin the prep for the move.  It’s like my mind has said, “There is only so much that I can deal with at one time and being sick with the flu and dealing with the move can’t be avoided, so everything else gets packed away.”

I guess that I could look at it as a bit of a holiday from dealing with the trauma!  😉  I was worried for awhile, because I had some of the most vivid flashbacks ever over Christmas, and I feared that the stress from the move was just going to increasingly activate the trauma reactions, but my mind seems to have figured out a way to deal with it.

Yesterday, I went to my session, and I was so very, very spacy the entire session.  It was like my mind was saying, “There is no way that I am going into any difficult emotions right now.  They are there.  They are strong.  And for right now, they are contained and they need to remain contained.”  So I had a very scattered session, feeling the whole time that I was missing doing something that I needed to do.  Finally, in the last 15 minutes, I realized that while I didn’t want to dive into the feelings and connect with them too much, I needed to just hold and sustain the parts of me inside who are containing those feelings for me right now.  I needed to acknowledge how parts of me are helping me out right now and to give them some gentle, loving care and assure them that once the move is complete, I will go back to dealing with the other issues.

I am sure that people who don’t dissociate have ways of putting things aside and compartmentalizing whatever can’t all be dealt with at the same time, but at the moment this does seem like a bit of a handy skill to have on hand because it does the job so thoroughly. It isn’t one to be used lightly, but in a period of extreme stress, when there is some heavy stuff waiting in the background to be dealt with, that is a time for me to take advantage of whatever coping skills I have.

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Over the last few weeks, I have experienced two intense episodes of self hatred, which have followed on the heels of two memory experiences.  These days I generally manage to be fairly gentle and understanding with myself, so these episodes were confusing as well as distressing for me.  “What in the world is going on?  Why am I doing this to myself?  I can tell that this is hurting me inside, so why can’t I stop it?”

I felt consumed in the need to think of myself as “disgusting,” “horrible,” “worthless,” and “trash.”  I wished that I could cut out and destroy all of my child parts and I felt rage at them for even existing.  I was certain that all of the abuse was my fault and it only happened because of some horrible thing inside of me

It felt like I was split and one side of me was helplessly watching as another side was heaping anger and hatred on the most vulnerable parts of me.  I knew that this was not my normal behavior and held on to that as a hope that I would be able to stop soon.  It was so consuming that it seemed that there had to be some reason for me to be going through this, but I couldn’t make sense of it at all.  The only thing that I could think of was that it felt safer for me to be that angry with myself than with my abusers, however I knew that wasn’t the answer, or at least not the primary answer.

But eventually I realized that in some odd way, it felt safer for me to hate myself than to not hate myself at that moment.  The reason I couldn’t stop myself was because it felt too scary for me to stop.  There really was some bit of reason to this seeming madness.

Finally, it dawned on me that hating myself let me distance myself from myself.  If I saw myself as being worthy of compassion, I wouldn’t be able to keep myself at a distance and then all of the pain, fear, and grief would come crashing in on me.  This was a coping mechanism that I developed as a child, so I could deal with an impossible situation.  If I was horrible and disgusting, then it made sense that no one would come and rescue me.  Believing that it was something about me that made the abuse inevitable gave me some sense of control in a situation where I really had no control what so ever.  If it was my fault, then I didn’t need to be angry with a mother who loved me, but was unable to see well enough to protect me.  And if I was a vile creature then of course I was all alone.

I felt like my heart was being ripped to pieces while Mama Bear helped me make sense of the whole blindingly painful mess.  And yet, somehow, coming to understand what was going on and feeling the pain that I had been trying to avoid let me accept that while I might have needed to believe those things at the time, I am strong enough to deal with the pain now.  I have people who love me around me and who will not abandon me while I am on this journey, no matter how much I hurt and how ugly the truth is.

As I was preparing to leave the session, Mama Bear asked me how I was feeling and I admitted that I felt very raw.  “What can help you get through the next few hours?”  “I need to keep on feeling that I am worth nurturing and protecting.”  Because I am worth it; all of me is worth it.  While it makes me cry that I didn’t get it when I most needed it as a child, at least in the here and now I most certainly can give it to myself and get it from others.

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