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Posts Tagged ‘grief’

Right now some of me feels like I should just go climb into a hole, disappear, and never come out. I know that I shouldn’t feel that way, so I am resisting it, but it is there. I don’t even have a clue why I am feeling this way, although obviously it has something to do with everything that I have been stirring up lately.

Somehow, I just feel like I am bad. I am someone that no one in their right mind would want to love and take care of. That I should just give up, stop resisting, let myself die, and leave everyone in peace. And these feelings so obviously do not belong to my life now. They clearly are displaced then feelings. But knowing that only lets me keep from drowning in them, it doesn’t make them go away.

And then in another direction, I feel so done with myself over all of this. It seems like enough already. OK, I have realized how bad it was. OK, I can see what a bastard my grandfather was. OK, I have wallowed in self pity over not being protected by my mother. But nothing will change what happened. So get over it already, just move on. Just deal. Who the f##k really cares? Why should anyone care? It was all so long ago. I just feel so angry at myself. Why the h##l can’t I buck up and just get past it all? I hate how needy I am. If I haven’t gotten better after all of this time, then I am hopeless and it is time to give up on me.

And I wonder where all of this self hatred is coming from? I usually have more compassion for myself than this, but I feel like I am pitiful and people should only feel contempt towards me.

Mama Bear says, “It is difficult to do what you are doing and you must feel frustrated and angry at times with the situation but be as gentle as possible with yourself.” But I don’t feel at all gentle. I feel so angry that I want to rip myself to shreds. I’m tired of trying to be understanding of myself. I’m really tired of trying to have a positive attitude and do the right thing. Right now I just hate myself.

I can even see that all of this is “inappropriate.” But so much of me wants to be allowed to hate myself right now. Somehow it feels safer and easier than feeling compassion for myself.

Later Addition

And now it is a couple of hours later and much of the intensity has faded. In fact, I feel a bit embarrassed about this post, because I should have been more cognizant of how temporary of a state it was likely to be. I’m not yet capable of feeling terribly compassionate towards myself, but at least I no longer hate myself with a passion and wish that I could destroy myself.

It’s pretty obvious that I was triggered into this and I believe that it has something to do with some of what has come up over the last few days and starting to address it in a session. I’m not going to try to go into an analysis of what happened, because I don’t want to risk being drawn back into it or something else. Maybe I will later.

It never ceases to amaze me just how much it seems like the state that I am in is the new norm, when I am triggered like this. Fortunately, I have experienced thinking and feeling things that don’t really fit me enough times that I was able to keep some awareness that this was likely to be a temporary state; unfortunately, that awareness was tenuous this time and the feelings and thoughts in that state were extremely compelling.

As of right now, my self assignment for tomorrow is to remember how to be kind to and gentle with myself.

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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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I don’t know if other people go through the same cycle, but I definitely have a predictable pattern when I finally come to accept the reality of/let in something related to the abuse that is very painful.

First, I flounder around for days or weeks ahead of time, stumbling over The Issue, even if I can’t recognize it as such until later.  When it was accepting the reality that the abuse really happened, I couldn’t mistake that it was The Issue, because I just went round and round and round it.  This time, when The Issue was being forced to make choices, I can see more clearly in retrospect how I have been showing signs of needing to deal with that particular issue.

Second, I find myself being triggered more and more easily in session by things that previously had not been a problem.  In some ways, I think that my mind is pushing the issue at me, saying, “Pay attention,” until I finally break down and give it the attention that it deserves in session.

Then, there is a session that is extremely intense for me, but not necessarily in strongly emoting sort of way.  Sometimes it can seem to be almost quiet, but at some point there is a physical sensation of a click or a shift and I feel almost disoriented as a result.  I can tell that things are shifting around inside, but I can’t always tell exactly what is shifting or what it is shifting to.  At other times, it is entirely obvious.

And then over the next day, I become more and more aware of the pain and grief involved.  It feels like it weighs me down physically and I find it very hard to think through things and really concentrate on much.  I often experience echos of memory fragments that sometimes threaten to strengthen into full blown memories.  Sometimes the memories seem to be directly related to The Issue and other times they seem to simply be the result of my system being completely stirred up and they have no clear relationship with The Issue.

Eventually, the pain will fade and I will start to learn how to accommodate this new way of seeing things.

Right now, with the having to make choices issue, I find myself squarely in the pain and memory echo phase.  The one good thing is that I have been through the cycle enough times to have faith that even though I am in so much pain right now that it can seem hard to breathe, I know that this is a phase and it is time limited.  I don’t know if it will last 2 days or 2 weeks, but I do know that it pass.  I am also getting better at grounding all the time, so I am more likely to stop the memory echos in their tracks, rather than getting sucked into one and having it turn into an intense experience.

So, if you are new to all of this, please pay attention to what your personal pattern is.  Notice that no matter how intense the pain/terror/rage is, it always eases eventually.  You won’t be stuck in it forever, I promise.  The mind just doesn’t work that way.  The emotions have to ebb and flow.  You may come back to it many times, but you will always get a break eventually.

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It’s funny sometimes the things that hit you from the past that suddenly seem so unjust and sad.  In comparison to so many other things, they aren’t that big of a deal, but I have found they can be a sort of a visible sign of the hidden dynamics of my childhood.

This evening, I was feeling a sense of loss, and for some reason I started to think about the animals from my childhood and I suddenly recognized a pattern that I hadn’t fully seen before.  My parents don’t make a life long commitment to their animals.

Going back over my life, I know about 11 animals that they have had.  They kept one dog for the dog’s full life span.   I am 45.

First there was the German Shepherd that I have seen pictures of from when I was 3 or 4.  I seem to remember being told that they gave the dog to someone else, because she was “too much for them to handle.”

Then there was the pet store mutt that my mom let me buy when I was 9 or so and my dad was on deployment.  By the time he came back, the cute puppy was an ugly adolescent and he said that she needed to go.

Then they found April, our Dalmatian.  This is one purchase that I had nothing to do with, she just showed up one day.  She was bought for my father’s birthday, although she was definitely the family dog, not just his.  This dog they did keep for the next 14 years or so, until she died of old age.

Then there was a kitten, Cassie, who my mother got for me while my dad was on deployment.  My dad came home and was not at all pleased about the cat.  I kept on having stomach problems and based on the conclusion that I was allergic to the cat, they got rid of the cat.  The interesting thing is that I have successfully owned 4 cats as an adult.  Maybe I outgrew the allergy, maybe I was only allergic to that cat.  Maybe it was a handy excuse.

Then there was Sheba.  Sheba was the Collie that I bought with my babysitting money and made the commitment to do all care, training, etc..  She was completely my dog and I adored her.  She also was a bit of a stubborn dog and, as a 16 year old, I didn’t fully understand dog training, so her training came along slowly.  I bought Sheba while my dad was on deployment with his knowledge and supposed approval, however Sheba was not as well behaved as he expected when he came home 6 months later.  After a month or two, I was told that I would have to sell Sheba because I would be going off to college in a couple of years and it wasn’t fair for my mother to have to take care of my dog.  I did find a good family for her and Sheba did well, but it was terribly difficult for me to give her up.   Interestingly, I remember feeling more frozen inside about it than heartbroken.

After that was Rowdy, a full grown lab mix that my parents adopted a year or so later.  This dog lived up to his name, jumped up and broke my mother’s nose, and moved on after only a couple of months.

Thankfully, my parents managed to refrain from acquiring any more animals for the next 8 years or so, until after April died.

Then there was a series of dogs while I was estranged from my parents which included a terrier and 2 Dalmatians that I know of.  All of whom last for a couple of years at the most, because they “got to be too much.”  However, they decided that, “It would be easier to keep a dog once one of us is retired.”

My father retired and about 4 years ago they got a mixed breed named Molly who lasted a couple of years or so.  But my dad discovered that he was allergic to her, so she then needed to go.

About a year ago they got a labradoodle, because this combination is supposed to by hypoallergenic.  I can’t help but wonder how long Annie will stay with them.

I’m trying to figure out what I think about all of this.  First, it was a lot of loss for a child/adolescent who adored animals.  I really could have used any extra bit of love and consistency in my life.  This was lesson after lesson that what I came to love could not be relied upon to stay with me, but was likely to be taken away.

I saw my parents demonstrating that they were unable to make a real commitment to creatures that they should have made life long commitments to.  They treated these animals as if the animals were expendable.  But at the same time, I wasn’t allowed to see how they were acting as being problematic.  It was another example of the crazy making behavior that I wasn’t allowed to name for what it was.

Also, there is something here that is very troubling to me about my dad that I am having trouble identifying.  I think it has to do with the fact that over and over, the theme was that he decided that he didn’t want an animal for some reason and then that animal had to go.  The cost to the animal and me didn’t seem to enter into the equation.  I’m not sure where my mother stood- it’s like she gave up her voice in the matter.  She would bring the animal into the house, but then not fight to keep it there.

I know that I have a deeply ingrained message of, “Don’t be difficult.  Don’t cause problems.  Don’t make anyone angry.  If you do, you are likely to be abandoned.”  The pattern that I am talking about couldn’t be the sole “cause” of such a deeply ingrained message, but I think that it is a symptom of the dynamics that existed day in and day out that left me feeling deeply uncertain of my security with my parents.

Over the last couple of months, I have slowly come to accept that there are parts of me that believed that my father did not want me.  I have long recognized that he competed for my mother’s attention (although I couldn’t see it as such when I lived with them.)  It is clear that he wanted me out of the picture for extended periods of time; why else would I have been sent off to stay with Grandparents with acknowledged histories of physical and emotional abuse?  And it seems that deep inside, deeply buried where I never thought about it, I believed as a child that when it came down to it, he would rather that I was not a part of their lives.

I don’t know whether he did or not.  I know that he is proud of me and that he believes that he loves me.  But I also know that it isn’t a love that warms me, but instead feels like it traps me.

I see my husband with my daughter and I see a fierce love where he very much wants to be a part of her life.  I see a healthy love where they give to each other every day keeping their relationship alive and strong.  I see a love where he is willing to put her needs before his and where her welfare automatically enters the equation when we make life decisions.  I see a love where he finds joy in her joy.  Sometimes I envy my daughter her relationship with her father and the sorrow and pain that comes from the knowledge that I knew none of that with my father feels overwhelming.  I never, ever had the belief that there was even a chance that I was the most important thing in the world to my father.  Our daughter knows that she is the most important thing to her father- not the only important thing, but if he ever had to make the decision to save one of us, she is the one that he would save.  And that is the way that it should be.

There is so much about my relationship with my father that I do not understand.  There is so much pain there.  There is no trust.  There is immense grief.  There is fear.  And there is anger.  Eventually I will need to come to terms with it all.  Not today, not tomorrow, not next week.  The emotions are so intense where he is involved that it will be something that I take on a bit here and a bit there.  But I can do that.  Bit by bit, step by step, and eventually I will get there.  As Mama Bear has said, it isn’t a race, there is no rush.  This will still be there next month and I can take all of the time that I need.

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At the moment, I am just reeling under the impact of some additional perspective into my parents and my relationship with my parents that has come up in a period of about 24 hours.  It isn’t bad, in fact it is quite good because it reflects that some very important internal changes are going on right now.  But it is certainly disconcerting to literally feel dizzy because of shifts going on inside.

What it all boils down to is that I am finally really accepting that I both can and should trust in my own perceptions of things.  Sounds simple and obvious, doesn’t it?  For me, this is a profound change, particularly when it comes to my parents and it is shaking me to my roots.

I have spent 20 years trying to learn how to do this, in one form or another.  Sometimes I am largely successful, but even then, it isn’t based purely on my own perceptions, but my sharing them with others whom I trust and having them reflected back at me as being accurate.  It wasn’t really trusting my own take on things, but rather trusting others to be able to evaluate things correctly and reflect back to me where I was on target and off base.

For a long time, I would pretend to not understand as much as I understood, when it would have involved stating, “This is the way that I see things.”  This happened all the time in everyday life.  I rarely do that anymore, although it has shown up occasionally in times of extreme stress.

The place where I most profoundly distrust my take on things is in regards to my parents and my relationship with them.   I have said before that I have a complicated relationship with them.  They really are not bad people, but they are the products of their upbringing.  I grew up fully buying the story that they were fantastic parents.  All of my friends thought that they were wonderful.  My mother was always cheerful.  My dad was always charming, outgoing, and “fun.”  They were constantly active and on the go when my dad was home, although he was in the service, which could take him away for months at a time.  I was provided with everything that I needed and then some.  I was enabled to go to an excellent college, despite the financial strain it put on my parents.  I had everything to be grateful for and nothing to complain about, right?  I certainly believed that.

But looking back, I remember being sad and alone so much of the time.  As a teen, I believed that I had everything, but there was a hollowness inside.

And then after college graduation and marriage, all hell started to break loose in terms of body memories and flashbacks beginning to emerge.  It was all unbelievable.  Abuse had nothing to do with the image of family that my parents created.  When I told my mother that I believed that I had been sexually abused, her response was, “But we were so close.  I knew you so well and I would have known if something was happening.”  And that was the family myth, that we were so close that she almost had a psychic link with me.  It was like I was being told, “If I didn’t see it, then it couldn’t have happened.”

During that period, my parents never overtly said, “We know better than you.  You are wrong.  You can’t trust what you believe to be the truth, if it doesn’t match with how we see things.”  But it was such an underlying and completely pervasive message while I was growing up that it was in my bones and so I felt immense pressure to comply with their version of reality, which most certainly did not include abuse.  I did not have the strength to resist that pressure and take on healing from the abuse at the same time, so I cut off contact with them for years, although I did re-engage with them after the birth of my daughter.

Recently, Mama Bear asked me what it was like for me to not have contact with my mother all of those years.  My response was, “I don’t remember.”  I hate to say it, but I suspect that I don’t remember because it wasn’t any real hardship for me.  It just was.  And frankly, it was a relief to no longer feel so much pressure to believe that the sky was green and the grass was blue.

As I have talked with Mama Bear through the years about my parents and my relationship with them, I have been very aware that she hasn’t ever met them and her view is purely through me.  In the back of my mind, there was always the worry that one day she would meet them and go, “What’s the big deal?  They seem completely normal to me.”  I wasn’t worried that she wouldn’t see them clearly; I was worried that my perceptions of them was that off base.  I was worried that I was being “too sensitive” or “blowing things out of proportion” or “distorting everything” or “unable to see things clearly” or “indulging in my imagination.”  Even though I was painfully developing a new understanding of my parents and my relationship with them, I couldn’t fully trust that understanding, because it went against the image of my parents as the “perfect” parents.

I have worried about sharing many of my insights into my parents with my husband, because he has met them and I feared that he would scoff at me and say, “I just don’t see that!”

But over the last few months, as I have felt more able to share with Mama Bear things like fearing that everything that was off about my mother was all in my mind, she has been able to help me start to see that I can trust how I see the situation as being at the very least what the reality is for me and probably very close to what others would see as well.  As she said, “Your mother is not going to react perfectly, she already hasn’t, many times over.”

One of the most profound disconnects for me is between my mother’s belief that she knew me so well and was so close to me, and the devastatingly deep sense that I have of being completely and utterly alone with the abuse and in so many other ways while I was growing up.  Obviously my mother’s version is much more palatable than mine and it was what I would have told you if you had asked me in my early 20s or before.  My version was much too painful for me to own.  Now days I am slowly replacing that aloneness with the knowledge that in the here and now, I have many people who love and support me and who can bear to know that terrible things happened, that I was hurt very badly, and to be there to hold my hand or provide a shoulder for me to cry on when needed.  In the context of the very different reality of now, it becomes possible to own the oh so painful reality of then.

The clincher came for me today, though.  My mother had not known about the accident and was surprised at a reference to it in an e-mail, so I sent her something that was almost exactly what I posted on my blog the night of the accident.  It was completely honest about how the experience was frightening, could have been much more serious, and that I had an extreme reaction after the accident.  I was curious to see how she would respond.  Her reply had 3 sentences: The first was “Is there anything that we can do to help?”  (My mother is known for offering help when I am unlikely to accept it.)  The second was congratulations to my husband for something.  The third was asking me to give him a hug from her.  Nothing at all that was directly about the accident.  No, “That’s so terrible!” or “Thank, God you are alright!” or “I’m so sorry that you went through that!”  It isn’t that she isn’t caring, and I am pretty sure that she had some of those normal reactions, but she couldn’t reach out to me when faced with a situation that had been potentially life threatening.  And it became very clear that my mother is unable to deal with any difficult emotions and she so will ignore the situation.  Suddenly it becomes so much more believable that she couldn’t bear to see that there was something wrong with me when I was a child.  And it becomes crystal clear that her version of reality is severely edited, whether she is aware of it, or not.

So now I am reeling under the realization that I really can accept how I see and feel about things.  I shouldn’t second guess my perception of things when it does not agree with the family myth.  It probably isn’t 100% accurate, but it probably is as accurate as the next person’s perception would be.  The problem does not lie within me, it lies within my mother.

(I will write about my father later, because this is already much longer than I expected.)

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Learning to be

Much of the time these days, if I can get myself to sit still and let myself actually start to feel the emotions that are lurking under the surface, I get either grief/sorrow or anger.  Sometimes I even manage go back and forth between both.  And then there are the days when everything just goes to pieces and I am left struggling with memories and feeling like my world has been turned upside down again with the confusion and the pain.

Frankly, I’m tired of feeling this way, and I guess that I am angry that I am “still” hurting, angry, and grieving.  Of course my automatic reaction is to take it out on myself:  “If I just tried hard enough or in the right way, I would be all through this by now.”  “I shouldn’t still be feeling this way.”  “I shouldn’t have let my mind go to that thing that is now haunting me.”  “I hate myself for feeling like this.”  “What is wrong with me?  Will I be like this forever?”  “I can’t believe that I let things fall apart again!”

The problem is that none of these thoughts actually help the matter at all.  In fact, what they do accomplish is to make me feel more pain and keep me from helping myself or seeing the things that are hopeful.  This past week, in response to my saying something like this, Mama Bear responded, “You should not be feeling any differently than you feel.  What you need to be doing is bringing yourself back to the now on a regular basis.  Recognize the negative thoughts as your mind working overtime, using old negative messages.  Let them be and bring yourself back to now.  There is not a ‘supposed to be or feel.’”

What a relief to have someone I trust remind me that while what I am experiencing may be unpleasant, it isn’t wrong of me to be feeling what is there.  I don’t have to “get this right” and make the feelings all go away.  I feel this way not because there is something wrong with me, but because I had hurtful things happen and I am still trying to learn how to deal with them.  I am not failing because I still hurt.  In fact, I am succeeding because I keep on picking myself up and trying over and over.  Oddly enough, being told that it is OK to hurt like hell is freeing and reassuring.

Mama Bear has me reading about Mindfulness and she is trying to help me use it.  I have to admit that I find the experience frustrating.  Not because I think that it isn’t worthwhile or that it wouldn’t be a big help to me.  Not even because I am finding it hard to practice it.  But because I read about it or talk about it and it makes sense to me, but then as soon as I close the book or leave the session, I can’t remember anything but the most general sense of what I read or talked about.  And even that is like pushing through gauze to get to.  Some part of my mind is really resisting the idea of fully being in the moment and accepting my emotions, rather than trying to run from them.

All I can do it to keep on trying to be more in the now and having faith that through lots of repetition and lots of reminders from Mama Bear, I will slowly be able to move step by step closer to where I can be with my emotions, rather than feeling overwhelmed by them, panicking, and struggling.  I can already see hints that when I don’t struggle against the memories or emotions, they have less power over me and they may even “pass through me and keep on going.”

And hopefully, over time, the parts of me that are convinced that it is dangerous to fully feel will learn that relaxing the struggle actually helps to loosen the hold that the emotions and memories have on me.  Being in myself and fully of myself may be what helps to free me from feeling trapped by the past.

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