Posts Tagged ‘grief’

Susan Stein Cascade

Susan Stein

The session today was, well, intense. It probably involved more tears than any other than I can remember. They just kept on dripping down my face. Usually when I cry in session, I’m curled up in a ball and it’s as if the sobs are being torn out of me. Today I just sat there and let the tears drip, sopping them up occasionally with a tissue.

I went into the session knowing that I needed to talk with Mama Bear about something and while we tried to talk about something else first, it went nowhere pretty quickly. I found myself so tangled up in feelings of grief and anger that I couldn’t think straight enough to answer Mama Bear’s question. After struggling to focus on the other topic and beating myself up about it a bit, I realized that I should accept the wisdom of my pre-session instinct and just go with what was presenting itself.

When I stopped fighting them, the emotions grew stronger and Mama Bear remarked, “You are obviously quite upset about something.”

I opened my mouth to try to tell her what I was thinking and feeling and I just burst into tears. I cried and I cried. I cried more freely than I can remember crying before. Eventually the crying would calm and I would try again to speak, however just thinking the words that I would speak stirred up the grief anew and I would dissolve into tears once more. She sat with me silently and let me cry and was always there to meet my eyes when I looked at her for contact and support. I don’t know how many times this happened, but we were more than half way through the session before I could finally gather myself enough to really look at Mama Bear and say, “You aren’t going to let me get away with not telling you what that was about, are you?”

“Do you mean, am I going to not talk, so you need to talk?”

“No.” I struggled to get out, “You aren’t going to let me pretend-” I stopped gasping in pain, because I realized what dynamic I was describing, and then continued,”-that nothing happened and just ignore it, are you?”

She shook her head. “No. I’m not. That’s like what happened when you were a child.”

I nodded in agreement and tried to breathe with the pain of that acknowledgement.

Then Mama Bear said something completely unexpected, “I’m still here. I’m still listening.” And with that, I started to cry even harder than I had been before. You see, she accidentally directly touched on what I was so upset about. I realized a day or two ago that I am angry and grief stricken about the fact that I don’t get to have a permanent relationship with Mama Bear. I have always been aware of the boundaries around the therapeutic relationship and the very good reasons that those boundaries exist, so I was surprised when I was hit by this upset. I felt like such a cliched client. But I also knew that the feelings were intense, they weren’t going to resolve without addressing them with her, and it didn’t really matter that I didn’t approve of them.

It was terribly embarrassing to admit this to Mama Bear, although I have learned that if I am embarrassed or ashamed about something, it helps for me to name it, rather than just struggling with the feelings. She asked me, “What do you mean by “A permanent relationship?” I sighed and said, “I don’t even know the answer to that!” “OK, so it’s just kind of a general thing then?” I agreed and then she asked me, “Do you know if anything triggered this in you? Did anything come up since I last saw you?”

I first answered, “No, I don’t think so.” But then something tickled at my mind. Over the last several days, my mind has been dipping into memories of a particular type of abuse and I have been slowly accepting the reality of the physical components of that type of abuse. It has been intense at times, sometimes to the point of actually feeling physically painful. I had to deal with what physically happened to me all by myself when I was a child. I can remember thinking last night, “I don’t want to be left all alone with this again!!!”

I told Mama Bear what I had remembered. We talked a bit about it and then she said, “I’m going to ask you a really crazy question. Do you think that there is any chance that the fear of losing me could keep you from getting better?”

I thought about it a bit and said, “I hope not.”

“I hope not, too. But there was some incredibly intense grief there.”

I don’t think that it is getting in the way right now. Things are changing so rapidly inside of me, I often feel as though I don’t know which way is up. I keep on expecting myself to have a difficulty with something because I always do, but it suddenly doesn’t seem to be an issue. I don’t trust these changes because they have been so swift and I keep on expecting to take 2 steps back, but at this point it would need to be about 30 steps back and I haven’t had a major reversal yet. On the other hand, I know that I felt like I was going in circles last Spring and I wonder if fearing losing Mama Bear was a dynamic at the time. Obviously, I don’t know how I will react in the future. I anticipate that a part of me will want to hold on to her, the question is whether the rest of me will be able to manage it well enough to keep it from becoming a problem. I think so, but I don’t know…

You might think that I have just caused problems for myself by allowing myself to create such a close bond with Mama Bear- I considered that myself earlier today- but I think that while there will be a cost of painful loss when we stop working with each other, the benefits to me are more than worth the cost. I will write about this more in my next post.

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Lisa Marie Sanders Time

Lisa Marie Sanders

“I am done! I am just so done with this! No more!!”

I’ve been hearing a voice in my head say this for the last couple of months, but I haven’t been sure just what it is that I’m so done with. Therapy has been painful and exceptionally challenging, so I wondered if it meant that I was done with doing therapy. Yes, it felt related, as though I just couldn’t bear to keep on doing what I’ve been doing into the foreseeable future, I was tired of feeling beaten up emotionally. So very done with feeling all of that pain in regards to my parents, but I noticed that the voice didn’t use the word “quit.” I dreaded the sessions as much as I needed them as a life line, but I knew that I had to go, quitting wasn’t an option.

So what was that voice talking about?

I think that I’m starting to understand. I am completely done with feeling stuck under certain obligations to my parents that have controlled me my whole life. I am done with letting the limitations caused by the trauma reactions keep me from doing things that I very much want to do- keep me from seeing people who I know will help to nurture my heart. I am done with feeling like I have to stay curled up in a tight ball and not dare to breathe. I am done with letting the days slip by and not letting myself really live them, because I am too afraid of the pain. I am done with not allowing myself to fully be me, whoever she might be. I am done with living by the old rules.

I am just so sick and tired of that life. I don’t want it. And I feel as though things are opening up inside and I am slowly seeing that I don’t have to live that life.

I don’t know where I’m headed and I find that frightening. But I also feel as though I might be on the edge of stepping off on to a wonderful journey.

“I refuse to live in a box. I won’t do it for anyone.” That is what it has felt like, isn’t it? Folding myself up into a pretzel and then being walled in by a box. No more.

I know that these things wax and wane and I’m not about to jump up and turn my entire life upside down with revolutionary changes. But, yes, I agree with that voice, I am so done. I’m particularly done with the bonds that have kept me feeling trapped in a tight place with so many of the emotions and memories of when I was a child. I’m no longer that child who had no choice other than to get through the best that she could. Now it’s time to do my best to free myself from what has kept me so tightly tied to that period of my life. It’s time to allow myself to move through the pain and start to fully live in the present with a marvelous husband and heart-breakingly wonderful daughter.

From the depth of the pain that I felt today, this will not be an easy process; I’m not fooling myself. But I can also see that something different happened while I was experiencing the pain today: I both allowed myself to honestly express and fully experience my emotions and I allowed myself to not only take in and really accept acts of kindness and support from Mama Bear, but I was able to take in her intent to deliberately care for and comfort me. Sitting here now, I realize that once it was all over, I felt cleaner and freer somehow, if exhausted.

I’ll do this somehow. I’ll need the support of those who love the full me, but I’m done with staying in this place.

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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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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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