Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

I feel as though I am balanced on a tightrope right now. Everything is so precarious that I can’t think about anything other than focusing on staying balanced. But that balance is artificial and I know that I am going to have to step off that tight rope from time to time.

That tightrope has me over two different states: one where I don’t believe that anything very bad at all happened with my dad. The other state believes that everything that I think might have happened, did happen. Sitting here, writing, I can connect with a third state: the me who can see that the truth most likely lies somewhere between the two extremes.

I have been here before. I hate being in this place. I hate this tug of war inside of me. So why do I come back here over and over?

I’ve finally realized that when I was a child, the only way that I had any “normal” was to not believe that anything bad had happened. If I could mostly live in a state where nothing bad had happened, then I could go to school and learn, have friends, do things with my mother, even be happy some of the time. I had some “normal” and that “normal” helped me to be in far better shape than I would have been without it. I had been looking at these current episodes of denial as being problem behaviors of mine or at the best ways that my mind is using to titrate taking in the reality of what happened, but now I can see that they are habits formed as a child, when they actually served an important and positive purpose. It’s no wonder that I am repeatedly drawn back to the denial over and over! Especially when I am overwhelmed and stressed. Fortunately, things have changed, and grounding in the here and now is a better way for me to find my “normal” these days, rather than denying my experience.

But the denial also helps to balance the pull to believe every single memory type thing that has come up. You see, I hesitate to believe that it all happened. Something inside of me resists believing that he actually did all of those things. But also I know that I am beyond furious at him and if there was a simple way to do it that didn’t hurt my mother, I would simply walk away from him right now. I know that parts of me hold extreme fear where he is concerned. I know that so much of me just hates him and wishes that he was dead. I know that when I talk or think about him, so much of the time I want to throw up. Those reactions are way too strong to be based on nothing, so there has to be some reason for me to have such strong feelings. The terror is stronger where my grandfather is concerned, but all of the other emotions are stronger with my father.

For several months I kept on trying to dig and dig, to see if I could figure out just what happened with him. That didn’t work. I got more and more hyperstimulated and more and more easily triggered into flashback states that may or may not have been accurate. Rather than clarifying what happened, I just got more and more confused. I want to be clear that the entire time, Mama Bear was trying to get me to not dig, but it was as if there was a divide and part of me understood and accepted that and another side of me was determined to just keep on digging.

Unfortunately, all of this means that I am left with all of these things in my mind that really might not have happened. What do I do with that? Especially because some things might have happened, so it isn’t as though I can just dismiss them all as products of an over stimulated, traumatized brain.

I feel as though I can’t figure out where to sit right now. Every place that I try has something spiky that pokes me when I try to settle there and I have to jump up and try another place, but that isn’t going to be comfortable either. It isn’t that nothing happened and it isn’t that everything happened. OK, so something happened, but what sort of something? Was it “just” bad in my mind because of what happened with my grandfather, or was it something that anyone would recognize as being bad? I wish that it didn’t matter so much to me, but it does. There is a particular room and a particular activity that keeps on coming to mind, but does it haunt me because I have thought about it too much, or do I think about it so much because it haunts me?

I have no idea when I will come to a place where I can settle sufficiently for me to be comfortable. Even if he did sexually abuse me, so much of me sees it as being impossible that it could have been a part of my life, I don’t know that I will ever be able to believe myself. I knew that my grandfather was outright cruel and enjoyed hurting people- that was openly acknowledged in the family. My dad was supposed to be the “good guy” of the family. The one who turned out all right and who all of the cousins could look up to.

I don’t know. All I know is that I am confused and angry and hurting. I know that I hate dealing with all of this. And I know that I have to find a way through this mess, even if it feels impossible at the moment, because I refuse to carry it with me for the rest of my life.


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picasso style portrait

Today has been a day of contrasts…

This morning was actually a very nice morning. I felt as “normal” and contented as I have felt in a long time and we went out to a local festival and had a charming, lovely time. For awhile all felt well with the world and I looked around at the other families and remembered that this is what life can feel like.

But by the time we got home, I was so exhausted, I couldn’t stay awake and fell into a deep sleep for a couple of hours. When I woke up, things were different for me.

I felt so bleeping sick and tired of dealing with everything related to the trauma. It felt like enough to make me just want to scream. Unfortunately, that also translated to being just as sick and tired of dealing with myself. I didn’t quite hate myself, but I was full of self contempt and couldn’t find a scrap of compassion. Everything that I thought about felt self indulgent, attention seeking, and pathetic.

Then I was reminded that Mama Bear has asked me to start reading “The Mindful Way through Depression” from the beginning again. So I read chapter one again. For the third time. Or maybe the fourth. And it made me think about the way that my negative self thoughts and emotions were reinforcing each other. I couldn’t make it all go away, but somehow just taking a bit of a step back and observing what I was doing helped me to disengage enough that I didn’t feel quite so horrible.

And then I was able to pull together dinner for my family and propose a fire outside and making s’mores. I actually found my way back to feeling a bit normal and able to enjoy being with the two people I love the most.

But by the time my daughter went to bed, I was a mixed up welter of emotions- anger, grief, confusion, resentment, shame, and who knows what else… I don’t seem to be able to think in a straight enough line to be able to really figure out exactly what any of those emotions are related to. It’s all just swirling around and around. And I’m back to being so very, very impatient with myself for not being able to handle all of this any better.

Maybe tomorrow will be a bit more clear.

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First of all, my apologies to those of you who commented on my last post. I really thought that I had responded to you, but I just realized that I hadn’t. Oops. In my defense, I have been sick and reeling a bit from the work that I am doing around my mother. I will respond, though… And please bear with me, if this post is disjointed- I am still sick and my brain definitely isn’t up to full speed.

On further reflection, I realized that it didn’t matter one bit whether what my intuition tells me happened with my mom leaving me in a crib when I would tantrum happened or not. What does matter here is that I am coming to accept that my mom was not the mom that I have always needed to see her as. She was flawed and had many deficits and because of those deficits, she acted in ways that hurt me. At the same time, while she probably acted out of anger or selfishness at times, I don’t think that she was malicious. I really do think that she strongly wanted to be a good mother to me.

But she had no exposure to what being a “good mother” would look like. She had no role model to teach her what being a good mother would look like. She had not received the mothering that she needed, so she didn’t have the emotional maturity to deal with the demands of being a mother. From what I have seen, it seems that she still doesn’t have the emotional capacity to stay with me when I try to talk with her about anything related to the abuse. Threatening emotions seem to cause her to flee, whether that is physically or emotionally. I certainly know that in myself, when my daughter has had a long tantrum and I haven’t been able to get her to listen to me, I start to experience a strong need to escape the tensions that being with her brings up. I, too, have a desire to run away, but I have learned that as threatening as the combination of our strong feelings seem to be, I can tolerate being with her. We can work it out. But I have the benefit of many years of therapy and a safe place to currently go and learn how to tolerate being with seemingly intolerable emotions. My mother didn’t have that.

There is something about seeing that my mom just plain couldn’t have known how to be the mother that I wanted to think that she was that is freeing to me. She didn’t know how to satisfy all of my needs or fully nurture the complete me. I don’t need to feel disloyal by saying that she failed; I’m just being realistic and saying that she couldn’t have succeeded. I suspect that a lot of the time she didn’t even know enough to recognize that she failed or else she was so emotionally defended that she couldn’t tolerate seeing that she had failed.

So, the outside me has developed more of an understanding about my mom. This is good, but it’s only the first step, and I can see that taking what I am coming to understand and putting it together with the inside/feeling me is not going to be an easy process. Yesterday, in my session, there was a point when I was visibly struggling with something. Mama Bear asked me what was happening and I protested, “I don’t know! I just don’t know!” She gently responded to me, “It’s OK to have a variety of feelings about your mom.” And I am a bit confused about the order of what happened next… I know felt a this intense child anger just seem to emerge out of a little spot in me and envelope me. I know that at some point I felt like something took me, shook me, and just switched the anger off, but I think that might have been an adult anger. I remember Mama Bear realizing that I had dissociated and telling me that I needed to pull myself forward, so that my adult was holding my child and I was feeling the anger in the present and not confused about whether I was in the past. All of this intensity was around feeling just a bit of the anger that I have for my mom! This is going to be a process that takes time.

However, last night I did notice a change that is promising. I don’t know when it happened, although I’m sure that it has been a gradual shift that probably started a couple of months ago; it certainly wasn’t an overnight transformation. I am used to “hearing” young parts calling for my mother to comfort them, when they are feeling distressed, but last night I realized that these same young parts were instead looking to me for comfort and support. This is a very good sign, because my mom can’t provide to my vulnerable parts what I need in order to heal and feel safe and secure, but I have some hope of doing so.

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Earlier today, I had a fantasy… In it, it was possible to fully split into two people. Not just in terms of a divided mind, but to divide into two equal bodies. One body would have a mind that would be completely unencumbered by my parents and could go off with my husband and daughter and have a life full of joy. The other body would stay and deal with the duties and obligations that keep me bound to my parents. That self might be miserable, but at least she would know that a large portion of me was off having a happy life. Looking back on that fantasy, I’m astonished to realize that I didn’t even consider where anything to do with my grandfather would go. I am feeling pretty miserable where my parents are concerned right now.

On Friday, I had a panic, because I had some information that indicated that there was a chance that my dad might be planning on an unannounced visit at my house. He lives 2,500 miles away, so I normally don’t worry about this at all, but when I found out that he was on the East Coast and about to take a 2 week drive across country, to get back to the West Coast, I got worried. He has a history of just showing up at people’s houses on these trips, with an hour’s forewarning or less. When I e-mailed back to my mom, asking her whether he was planning on stopping here and she didn’t respond, I panicked. I know that she wouldn’t outright lie about something like that, but she might avoid answering the question.

I wasn’t thinking straight, but I knew that I really didn’t want to talk with her on the phone. I haven’t talked with her in months. It took Mama Bear reminding me that I could text my mother for me to even consider that option, and by the next afternoon, I had received a reply saying that my dad was taking the southern route and wouldn’t be coming near where I live.

At first I just felt relief that I wouldn’t need to deal with him right now, but then I started to feel shame and embarrassment that I had over reacted and thought that he might be coming, when he actually wasn’t. I got other people worried on my behalf and asked Mama Bear to call me, because I wasn’t thinking clearly and needed help coming up with a plan. But a situation that I thought was a likely emergency turned out to not be an emergency at all. I was worried about nothing. I took small cues that might have meant something more serious and proceeded as if they did, until I was able to prove otherwise. I blew something way out of proportion. And it makes me wonder, how much have I done that with my parents?

Right now I am in the midst of trying to figure out my relationship with them, particularly with my father. And I know that the way that so many other people experience him is not how I experience him. Most people love him. My cousins think that he is fantastic. Neighbors are impressed by how helpful he can be. He can be incredibly generous at times to people. And I am so confused about him. I hold so much anger inside of me at him and so much pain and grief, but maybe it’s just the normal emotions stored up that were never expressed? I can’t remember feeling loved by him, but maybe that’s some fault in my not remembering? I would happily turn and walk the opposite direction from him and not look back, if there was a way that I could do it without hurting my mother, but maybe there just is something wrong with me? I mean, where is the loyalty that I should feel? I only feel guilt for not feeling and thinking the things that I should.

But it isn’t like I know of anything really terrible about him. I can’t point to any one thing and say, “That hurt me so much that I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” I feel trapped. But I don’t think that I do much feel trapped by him so much as I fear that as soon as I start to encounter any resistance from my mother, I will completely crumble. That’s where my fantasy comes in. I want for there to be a me that can go off and take care of my mother and “do the right thing” and I want for there to be a me that can actually go off and have a life and be the me that I want to be. Right now it doesn’t feel like I can reconcile the two.

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Today I did something in session that I have never been able to do before. Victories feel so hard won that they need to be celebrated! ­čÖé

In general, when I start to get too overwhelmed emotionally, I escape the intensity by going into denial. “None of this could have happened to me.” “It can’t have really been this bad.” “How can I think something like this? It’s crazy?!?” For a long time, I couldn’t even see that this process was happening until I was already entrenched in denial, and then I would have to slowly work my way out of it again. Two or three months ago, Mama Bear pointed out to me that the denial was in reaction to my being phobic of the intense emotions that arise around the abuse and my family relationships.

Once that was pointed out, I was able to start paying more attention to how I respond to strong feelings and in particular what I do when I start to feel overwhelmed. I have a lot of different ways of escaping the emotions… One method of distracting myself was to fall into denial about the abuse in general. Another method was to simply shut down and go numb. Yet another was to start to have flashes of memories. And then there was the ever popular escape of dissociation. All of these experiences are highly unpleasant and to be avoided in their own right, and yet somewhere inside, they were preferable to staying with those impossible feelings. Sometimes the mind does things that can cause a lot of pain in order to escape seemingly unendurable distress. While recognizing that I was playing a part in triggering memories and such was quite unpleasant, it also empowered me to help myself.

So, today I was in session and I can’t even remember what I was talking about, but I was feeling extremely intense grief and emotional pain. It was to the point where I would normally start to dissociate, usually by fleeing into a child state, and Mama Bear even asked me, “Are you still here with me?” I couldn’t speak, so I nodded my head, I was very much there; I was connected to all of that pain and to the me that normally holds it. But after a bit, it started to be too much. While I didn’t recognize that it had become too much, I did catch the first thoughts of denial, “There is no way that any of this could have happened to me! How could I think it at all?” I realized what I was doing and thought, “I really don’t want to go there. Let’s not go down that path, because it just causes too much stress and pain. My reacting with denial means that I have become overwhelmed and I need to turn the intensity down.” So I imagined taking a step or two back, and it worked! The intensity went down and the denial faded away.

If you had asked me at the beginning of the year if I could manage to catch and turn down the intensity all on my own, I would have looked at you as if you had two heads. I knew that it should be possible, but at that time my emotions could escalate so quickly that I couldn’t hope to catch what was going on in time, never mind control it myself. But what I did today was the product of months of Mama Bear pointing out to me when I was at the point of overwhelm and my stopping whatever we were doing, breathing, and grounding. And what do you know, I finally learned how to recognize that I was at the point of becoming overwhelmed and reduce the intensity all on my own. For your average person, it probably would be a trivial task, but for someone who learned to do anything in order to avoid the “dangerous” emotions, this was a real accomplishment.

So the next time I am working on something with Mama Bear for what seems like the 500th time, I need to remind myself, that’s how I learn and eventually it will pay off. And probably, when it works, it will come as a complete surprise, like it did today.

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since my last post. Over the last year or so, I have been beating myself bloody against a wall, trying to figure out what “really” did or did not happen when I was a child. Mama Bear keeps on telling me that the details don’t matter, because she sees how I am tormenting myself over whether what I seem to be remembering is “real” or not. And in principle, I agree that the most important thing is that I know and accept the basic outlines of what happened and work from there, but I just haven’t been able to let go of these memory type things.

Because there is so much confusion and so much of the abuse happened at such a young age, there is just so much room for things not being exactly what they seem to be in memories. The most important confusion is that there were a lot of personality characteristics that were similar between my father and grandfather (his father) and I had to have been so frightened that my father would do the same things to me that my grandfather did. Some parts of me seem to think that he did, while the vast majority of me doesn’t. I have experienced flashback type things that are so vivid and yet when talking about them with Mama Bear, she has told me that from what I am experiencing, it is unclear whether these things happened or they are memory type things born of my fears. As she said, “I used to think that vividness was an indicator of accuracy, as well, but the research just hasn’t shown that to be the case. I really wish that we could tell one way or the other, because I see how much it is driving you crazy, but from what you are telling me, we just can’t right now. Maybe we will be able to in the future, but we can’t right now. What we do know is that you do not trust your father and your relationship with him is very troubled and that is what we need to work from.”

So, Mama Bear is working to help me find some balance with these things that I don’t even know whether I should be calling memories or not.

A couple of weeks ago, something that looked like a memory came up and it was very distressing to me for a variety of reasons. I wrote to Mama Bear a bit about it in an e-mail and then I talked with her in the next session. It came up that there was something that I felt like I needed to tell her about it, but I didn’t feel like I could. “Why don’t you feel like you can tell me?” she asked. “Because I feel like I am both being told, ‘Don’t talk about the memories’ and ‘Do tell me about the memories’ and I don’t really know what’s OK!”

As we talked further, I realized that Mama Bear is trying to do an almost impossible task right now. She is trying to validate and accept what I am telling her in a way that allows me to feel heard and contained in my grief and pain. But she is also trying to rein me in and she has been subtly discouraging me from talking much at all about the memories. Inside, I had been thinking that she was doing this because she was tired of hearing about these horrible things or she didn’t believe me or she needed a break or she thought that if I stopped talking about it then it would go away or… But when we talked, I finally started to accept that it wasn’t any of those things, her actual reasons are quite different.

The primary reason is because when I start to talk about the memories, I tend to trigger myself and very often end up in a bad place and we spend much of the session trying to get me back to here and now, rather than doing other therapeutic work. That is destabilizing and hard on me, leaving me in a vulnerable state for days, and it wastes time and energy that could have been otherwise been more productively used.

Another reason is because she knows that I have a tendency to overly dwell on some of the memory type things that come up in an attempt to figure out whether they really happened, and so I run the risk of solidifying and entrenching them in my mind simply by paying so much attention to them. I may end up with something stuck in my mind that might have “dissolved” if left alone (a few things have), and most importantly, I may end up coming to the erroneous conclusion that something happened that didn’t. The only reason she cares about that is that these are high stakes matters. If I decide that my dad abused me and he didn’t, then I will have caused myself and my family a world of pain that could have been avoided. If I decide that a certain type of abuse happened with my grandfather that is extremely distressing to me and it didn’t actually, then I will have unnecessarily put myself through that pain.

It wasn’t until this past week that I fully appreciated just how nearly impossibly I have made this task for her. Not through any intent of mine, but just because that is how things were set up inside of me. I am extremely sensitive to any whiff of “don’t talk” “I don’t want to hear you” or “I don’t believe you” and will interpret even a hint of that to be a rejection and shut down. It may be that I just shut down in an area and don’t even realize it for weeks. But I also have proven to all too easily end up in a state where I end up having flashbacks or other memory type experiences on a frequent basis, if I am not actively working to keep things as calm, soothed, and contained inside as possible. Yep, I am not making Mama Bear’s job easy for her, but maybe now that I see this a bit more clearly, I can make things a bit easier for both of us.

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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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