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Posts Tagged ‘healing’

Drained

I have been so tired lately, even when I have gotten enough sleep. It’s as if there is nothing left over after I deal with what is going on internally and the bare basics of what to be done for my family. The house is a disaster and has been for almost two months. My daughter is bored, because ever since Winter Break, I have crashed for a nap soon after I pick her up after school. And that often is after I take a nap in the morning. I feel guilty, but I am running on empty.

I saw my psychiatrist today (who has experience working with dissociative disorders) and we spent some time talking about how I have been experiencing increased parts activity internally and trying to get a handle on the emergence of external parts activity. (By that I mean I’m experiencing parts being in control of my actions.) This is new for me and frankly rather freaky. It’s also somewhat alarming, because I’m not in control of the process and yesterday I found myself with a very underage part increasingly taking control, while I was driving. I begged for another 4 blocks to get home and did get us home safely, but it was a close call.

We talking about how I am managing, but I am feeling like I am in it to over my eyebrows and I feel like I have nothing left to do anything that isn’t absolutely necessary right then. I asked if a recent med change might be causing decreased energy levels and she was very sympathetic, but clear that my problem simply is that my brain is running at capacity trying to manage all of the parts, figure out internal communication, come up with some way to manage the parts starting to emerge into the world, after hiding away for so long, and deal with over the top intense emotions and memories.

She did hold out hope, though. As the communication improves, eventually I will either start to integrate parts and the load will decrease that way or I will find that parts can take on some tasks and the load can be shared. Honestly, I’m intimidated by the thought of the second option. It’s hard for me to imagine what that would be like, since my parts have always been ‘behind’ me (other than in sessions) up until now. I never thought that I would have to deal with them emerging into the world, but it’s starting to happen, so I really don’t know what will happen.

One benefit to my talk with the psychiatrist is that I stopped feeling so guilty about ‘getting so little done’. If I have nothing left, I have nothing left. Period. No feeling like I ‘should’ be doing more. As Dr. L said, first priority is safety. (No three year old driving the car.) Next is taking care of basic needs and for right now, that means dealing with what is going on internally for me. The house can wait. The house has to wait. I continue giving my daughter what I can, as often as I can, and even though it isn’t nearly what either of us would want and I am sure that I will hear about it 10 years from now, for now the reality is that it’s the best that I can do. My husband loses out the most, I’m afraid, but at least I can be mindful about the situation and try to do more hugs or sit next to him on the couch more often. If I stop beating myself up over not doing enough, then I can pay attention to doing the little things that are possible.

I do hope that I make it through this drained dry stage soon, though. This is the most extreme that it’s ever been for me. I need to have a bit of energy left over to get back to being able to do some more of that living again.

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Lisa Marie Sanders Time

Lisa Marie Sanders
Time

Continued from Breaking Down Denial

At first I thought that I could deal with the shock of losing the basis for those last holdouts of denial all on my own. Mama Bear is out of town for most of a week, so I did not have my second session of the week. I knew that I could e-mail her, but I didn’t know if she would have computer access while she was gone. I knew that I could text or even call her, if need be, but I resist doing that.

At first things were difficult, but manageable. Unfortunately, by the next day I had started to unravel under the stress. I experienced a memory that fills in a gap that I probably wasn’t really ready to experience. I started to feel young, lost, and alone. I tried telling some of my friends that I was in distress, which helped the adult me feel supported, but I couldn’t tell them the details and the younger parts still felt incredibly alone. Finally, I realized that the burden of what had come together all at once was too much for me to carry alone. If I didn’t let Mama Bear know what had happened and create a feeling of connection, I would keep on unraveling until I was in a full blown crisis. I don’t have to try to do this alone any more.

I sent Mama Bear a long series of texts, explaining that I was trying to avert a crisis by telling what had happened and asking for a hand clasp to create some connection. She responded with “a good firm hand clasp”, a reassurance that we would discuss what had happened, and checking to make sure that I didn’t need more from her at that point. It worked. It kept me from getting any more worked up and I started to calm.

That evening I finished an e-mail to Mama Bear, talking about what had happened, what it had brought up for me directly and then other things that had been triggered indirectly. It was a long and complicated e-mail with material for probably a good two months worth of therapy, if not more.

In her response to me, she said, “You have sent this to me and we will address this together.” Together. I know that she has said that we will work on things “together” in the past, but for some reason that word is deeply reassuring and calming to me right now. She knows what she is committing to and I have seen that she is not afraid to deal with what many people would quail before. If she says that we will deal with it together, I can trust that she will follow through and be there for me. I don’t have to be alone because I am afraid or ashamed anymore. What I fear and am shamed by doesn’t seem to phase her; she keeps on seeing me in front of her, not the ugliness that was done to me. Together. I have such a deep wound from having to deal all on my own, for all of those years, with what happened and the experience of dealing with it together with someone who cares for me is profoundly healing by itself. There is no shame in all of this being too much for me to deal with alone. No person should ever have to deal with such trauma without the support of others; we seem to be designed to need others when we are in distress. Right now, I can’t get out of my head what a relief it is to know that Mama Bear and I will deal with whatever we need to, together.

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I’m starting to try to puzzle through something and writing here often helps that process, so here goes with my thoughts and hopefully they will make sense to both me and you in the end.  🙂

Today, in session, I was triggered and I started to experience memories in the form of body sensations.  At the direction of Mama Bear, I first tried just breathing and then focusing back on our conversation which was about trying to help establish that I am not under threat the way that I feel like I am.  But that wasn’t enough and I fairly quickly spoke up, “I can’t focus on what we are talking about because I am being distracted by the memory sensations that are still plaguing me.”

“That’s good that you told me.  What does the part of you that is frightened want from you in order to feel safer?”

I paused, pulled the soft blanket on the couch over my lap and started to stroke it.  “To realize that those sensations aren’t happening right now, but I really am feeling the softness of the blanket that I am touching right now.”  I continued to stroke the blanket and really focused on what I was feeling at that moment through my hands.

“That’s good.  Keep on doing that.”

Touch may very well be the sense that I most naturally oriented towards.  It certainly is the sense that my memories seem to be most vivid in and it is the one that I generally find most effective for grounding.  It may be one of the reasons that dissociation was so important for me.  You can close your eyes to not see what is happening, but the only way that you can avoid the sensations is to dissociate.

As I sat there, with the blanket over my lap, and was able to move on with the session, I found myself running my hand over the blanket that covered my leg over and over again.  I spend a lot of time in my sessions either rubbing my arms or my legs, which I generally think of as one of the ways that I help to keep myself grounded in the face of emotionally challenging material.  I’m sure that is part of it, but today the thought occurred to me that the feel of stroking my leg through the blanket simply felt good, too.  I think that I was soothing myself by giving myself something pleasant to experience while also dealing with the chaos that kept on pushing at me from the inside.

But as quickly as I noticed that it felt good, I had to stop thinking about it, because the thought was incredibly threatening.  After the session, it occurred to me to wonder why should it feel so wrong to think about how something that I was doing felt good? Or more even worse that I might be doing something because it felt good to me. It felt like I had caught myself doing something bad/dirty, but what is bad about simple touch?  It feels like my reaction is a bit like how I would feel if I had been touching myself sexually, just a lot less strong.  But there was nothing sexual about the touch at all.  It was more like the way that I sometimes stroke my daughter’s arm or back when she is upset about something and needs contact.

So tonight I find myself going around and around in my head about the idea of touch and realizing that I naturally like touch.  I want that physical contact and comfort.  Many times it reaches me better than words do.  And not just when I am upset, but when I am feeling happy or like celebrating something, too.  I naturally want to be able to put an arm around a friend’s shoulders or give her a quick hug because I am happy for her, but up to now my traumatic reactions have hidden all of that from me.  I want that contact with the people I care about and feel safe with.  I want it very much.  I’ve spent my whole life putting out “don’t touch me” messages because I was taught to be afraid of touch, not because I naturally don’t like it.

This evening, I was triggered by something else and stuck in a frightened, young state.  Logistics first kept me from going to my husband for help grounding the way that I wanted to and then I was stuck in a bad state and unable to figure out how to reach out for help from him.  However, when he came to bed, I put my head on his chest and just concentrated on feeling him there, a loving and safe presence.  When I told him that being there with him helped me to feel more calm and safe than I had all evening, he began to gently rub my back, shoulders, and arms.  I allowed myself to simply feel what it felt like for him to touch me that way.  The part of me that often comes out in sexual situations started to be evoked, but I made myself really pay attention to how he was touching me and how I was experiencing it.  There was nothing sexual about it.  It was loving, warm, and connecting, but not sexual.  Yes, there was something similar to what I experience with him in sexual situations, but that is because our touch at those times also has these same basic qualities of loving, healthy touch but with sexuality added on top of it.

What an idea.  Touch can feel good without being sexual.  I think that it can feel very good, as scary as that is to say.  Just because something feels good doesn’t mean that it is dangerous, despite what I was taught as a child.  I was exposed to sexual contact way too young and I think that everything just got all muddled together in terms of touch, so now I am shocked to discover 40 years later that it is not just safe to have physical contact with certain people, but it’s natural to find that sort of contact pleasurable.  It isn’t forced sexual contact, in fact with most people it isn’t sexual at all, so it is safe for me to experience the pleasure that I find in it.

This is where I have a lot of work to do:  learning to accept that there is no shame in experiencing physical pleasure, that there is a difference between simple physical pleasure and sexual pleasure, and that the people that I would even consider having any physical contact with are not the type of people who would want to have forced sexual contact with me.  Part of me understands those concepts, but for the vast majority of me, they are foreign and frightening thoughts.

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Detail of quilt: Fauna Artists: Frances Alford, Kathy York, Vickie Hallmark, Julie John Upshaw and Judy Coates Perez (who did the chameleon) Full quilt can be seen at: http://aquamoonartquilts.blogspot.com/2007/10/3rd-times-charm-fauna-wins-2nd-place-at.html

Detail of quilt: Fauna
Artists: Frances Alford, Kathy York, Vickie Hallmark, Julie John Upshaw and Judy Coates Perez (who did the chameleon)
Full quilt can be seen at: http://aquamoonartquilts.blogspot.com/2007/10/3rd-times-charm-fauna-wins-2nd-place-at.html

Things are very different for me today than they were a week ago. I was in a bad place last Saturday and now I am in a better place than I was before I fell apart last week. I went into my session today and tried to explain to Mama Bear what felt different. I told her that I felt as though things are shifting and adjusting inside and could tell that I needed to be patient with my insides while this was happening. Her question was, “Why is now different? Don’t they deserve for you to be patient with them all of the time?” That took me aback. She is correct. All of me needs for me to be far more patient and compassionate than I normally am towards myself. I deserve to be treated gently and with love and respect. I need to treat myself the way that I hope that I would treat another person who has been through what I have been through.

Very often, I will struggle and struggle over something big and seem to make little or no progress for months, sometimes many months, and then suddenly things will suddenly come together in a way that allows for a huge shift all at once. Sometimes I will have some sense that a shift is coming, but generally I have no clue until I am trying to adjust to it. That is what has happened to me now. Suddenly I am able to look at the whole of what I experienced as a child and say, “Really terrible things happened to me. I am the person that those horrible things happened to and they hurt me badly, but I am also the person who is standing here right now. A strong adult who is dealing with some deep wounds but doing fairly well despite everything. I can be both.” Up until now, I have always had to be one or the other. I either experienced myself as the child who was being hurt or I experienced myself as the adult now. Sometimes I could experience myself in rapid succession as the hurt child and then the adult trying to help soothe the hurt child, but I still needed to think of the abuse as happening to that child part, rather than to me. I knew in my head that it happened to me, but always in a vague, distant way. I had to think of it as having happened to the child that I was or to the young body that grew into the body that I have now. For the last couple of days, things have been different and I can finally accept, “It happened to me. Past tense, happened, but it happened to me.”

I realize that I still am early in the process of making this transition and if directly faced with the emotions of a trauma memory, I think that I would immediately fall back into the habitual ways of dealing with it through dissociation. At the same time, I fully recognize that what I am experiencing right now is something big.

In fact, I see it as an important step on the journey towards integration. So far, the process of integrating is turning out to be something quite different from what I expected for it to be. I’m not doing anything with the goal of integrating in mind; I’m just working towards healing in the ways that feel most important to me and in the order that feels right. Instead, as I heal, I find that the separateness and barriers feel less necessary and they are dissolving bit by bit on their own. I know that I am early in the process and I am taking baby steps as I go, but I suspect that I will continue to experience further changes in the same way.

The mental image that I have is that I had this big house that was all cut up into these tiny rooms that were isolated from each other and the doors were locked. That house is changing over time. In some cases walls are being knocked down between rooms, in others doors are being created or enlarged between rooms. Some rooms didn’t even have any windows to start, so windows are now being added. There now is a common area that is growing as the walls are being knocked down. The common area it isn’t all open though, there still are places where things can be kept out of sight as need be, but there also is relatively free movement within that area. I don’t know how this is going to “look” over time. I may end up still needing to have some rooms that can be closed off from the rest of the house. I may need to just have alcoves. The point is that it is safe for my internal state to evolve now so it best suits the me in the now. I had to keep that house a dark warren of small rooms as a child, because at first my mind couldn’t have survived putting those experiences together and as I got older the only way that I could tolerate dealing with what was happening on my own was to keep the experiences separate. As a young adult, I started to put in doors between the rooms when I started my therapy work. As time went on, I was able to bring in more light and open things up somewhat in the “wing” that deals with my grandfather, but the wing that holds my experiences with my father remained as tightly closed up as I could make it. Now I am finally at the point where things have come together in a way that allows me to do massive renovations.

What a revelation… It really is safe for me to learn how to be the person that I need to be. I don’t have to be a chameleon in order to survive. It is safe for me to discover who I am and then to really be that person. It doesn’t feel safe yet, but I understand that it is safe, and in time it will come to feel safe.

How about you? Have you discovered that you are safe to be/do something that never felt safe before?

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