Posts Tagged ‘support’

My daughter and I both made a mistake and she is paying for it.

For those who don’t know, I have a daughter. She is bright, sensitive, loving, curious, and emotionally mature for her age, but she still is a child. She admires the art that I do. This makes my art journaling particularly intriguing to her.

A week or two ago, she came up while I was prepping some pages for future work and asked if she could see my journal. I told her that I would show her some pages, but not others and it was very important for her to not look at my journal on her own, because there were many things in it that I did not think that it was a good idea to show her. She agreed, I showed her a few benign pages, and we went on.

This is where I made my mistake. Up until now, she always has been trustworthy about such things and she is amazingly good about keeping her word, so I didn’t even consider the need to put my journal out of her reach. Her mistake was that she succumbed to her curiosity and went looking in the art journal.

As she puts it, “I thought that you were just embarrassed for me to look at your art. I forgot that it was a journal.” She got way more than she expected. Night before last, she came into my room after she went to bed, in tears. When I asked what was wrong, she told me what she had done. It was already 10 pm at that point and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, so I just worked to calm her down and reassure her, so she would be able to go to sleep.

My reaction inside was, “Oh, shit!” though. I didn’t know how much of of the journal she had looked at or what she understood at that point. She clearly knew that I had been hurt very badly and that was frightening to her; she also needed to be reassured that she would not be hurt in the same way.

That was Thursday night and it now is Saturday night and we have talked about it 4 or 5 more times. Clearly she still is disturbed by what she has discovered. Nine is too young to deal well with the frightening truth that the people whom you love are vulnerable to being hurt badly. It’s too young to not be frightened badly by the realization that people will deliberately do great harm to others. It’s an age when a child still needs for the world to feel safe and predictable. Even she realizes that she is too young to deal with this well and she says that she wishes that she hadn’t looked. While she had been told before that I had been hurt and she knows that I am working with a therapist, seeing the intensity of the art and reading my uncensored words describing my struggles obviously made it all much more real to her.

The good news is that I have written very little that is descriptive of the abuse and either she didn’t see those pages or she didn’t understand what she read. Neither of us are ready to talk about the fact that I was sexually abused yet. She’s at the point developmentally where she reacts with disgust to any sort of reference to sexual activity. I don’t have a clue as to how to tell her without upsetting both her and my insides too badly.

The bad news is that she seems to be working her way towards asking who the “he” that hurt me is. One of the things that she did see was a piece on which I wrote, “I hate him so much.” I never express ‘hating’ someone around her, so she found that statement to be upsetting. Who hurt Mom so badly that she hates him? I don’t know how I am going to respond if/when she does ask. While she hasn’t seen my father in three years and she isn’t particularly fond of him, she does know him. How will it affect her to learn that her grandfather hurt her mother that badly? How will it affect her to realize that she has been around someone who has the capacity to hurt children? How will she react to the knowledge that her grandfather cannot be trusted?

And then there is the simple fact that I don’t feel ready to commit to telling her that my father hurt me. There is no explaining to her what a confusing state I am in right now, where most of me believes that certain things happened, but parts of me are convinced that the rest of me is delusional. She isn’t in a place where she can deal with that sort of ambiguity, but the idea of saying flat out that my dad hurt me feels too overwhelming to me.

If she asks me directly if I was writing about my dad, I will have to say, “yes,” but otherwise I don’t yet know how I would handle it.

I’m not sure what is best to do here. I know that she will eventually need to know, but what she already knows is making it hard for her to get to sleep at night.

What I am sure of is that this gives me one more thing to be angry at my dad about. His actions continue to hurt people, and while I can do my best to soften this blow, I can’t erase the basic facts and how learning about them will change my daughter’s view of the world.

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Irenic Glance 2 Artist Randall Cook

Irenic Glance 2
Artist Randall Cook

I’m just a bundle of sunshine these days… A lot of my current work was kick started by a crisis the last time that Mama Bear went out of town. I’m planning on writing about it, as I get more distance and it becomes less painful. The important point for this post is that I reached an intolerable level of pain. I felt completely abandoned and like I had to learn how to deal with everything on my own. I eventually reached the point where I could not think straight and a part kicked in to try to manage the chaos and pain. The way that this part tried to “help” was by controlling what I was thinking about by causing me great emotional distress, so much that I couldn’t think about anything else but what the part was throwing at me. It turned all of the abuse into being my fault and came up with elaborate reasons why this would so. It would go on and on, hammering at me, while I was curled up in a ball, crying. It felt so much rage at me, particularly the traumatized parts of me and it would be like this part would go on a rampage, trying to pulverize the young parts and erase their existence.

And then, perhaps worst of all, this part would start to think about suicide. I want to be very clear that you do not need to worry about whether I will try to kill myself. I won’t. I very, very strongly believe that no matter how much pain I am in, I have an obligation to my daughter to find a way to stick it out, because my killing myself would be so damaging to her. I refuse to pass on the abuse that way. Even if I go through a period of being a completely inadequate mother to my daughter because of what I am dealing with, she is better off with me being around and messed up than my being dead. I also don’t want to cause that sort of pain to my husband and I would like to think that I would hold out for his sake, but I am positive that I will for our daughter’s sake.

However, this time, things were so bad that I wished so much that my daughter and husband were not in my life, so I didn’t have them stopping me. They are the best things about my life and I wanted them gone, so that I could not exist and stop hurting so much. If there had been some way for me to just wipe myself off the face of the planet without harming anyone else, I think that I would have done it that week.

When Mama Bear came back, I just managed to drag myself into her office and she knew from the moment that she saw me that things were bad, even though when she left, we had hoped that this trip would be better than the others have been. Instead it had been far worse. I stumbled through sharing with her what had gone on in my head and straightening out things between the two of us and then I finally did something that I have never done before in the 22 years that I have known her. I talked with her about the suicidal thoughts and feelings that I had experienced. Yes, during those years she has known of other times when I felt suicidal and I have answered her safety questions, but (as far as I can remember) I have never actually been able to talk about what it is like for me. This time, I realized that I needed to not be alone with the pain and despair. I’ve been alone with it too much. From the other things that we had talked about, I had been newly reminded that Mama Bear was not my mother and she wouldn’t run from me because I was in so much pain.

To my surprise, it was a profoundly comforting experience. I was afraid that I would experience judgement or some level of anxiety on her part, but she remained completely calm and accepting of what I was telling her. She showed compassion and an understanding of how my thoughts and feelings were a reflection of the extremity of the pain and isolation that I had experienced. I didn’t really want to die and I certainly didn’t want to kill myself, I was just desperate to escape the pain. I think that she really got it at the point when I shared that even the thought that things could get better wasn’t enough for me this time, I didn’t care what I might be giving up, it just hurt too much to exist.

Talking with her helped a great deal; it didn’t make all of the thoughts and wishes go away, but they mostly went away and I knew that I didn’t need to be alone with them, if they started to get to be bad again. Frankly, it makes me feel safer and more secure to know that I have someone whom I can go to before things get to be that extreme. In fact, she wants for me to come to her well before they get to be that extreme, both because it will save me suffering and because it’s easier for her to help me well before I get to a crisis point.

I’m slowly learning that I don’t have to hide all of the worst parts.

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Walking Through Time X Sue Benner

Walking Through Time X
Sue Benner

I have spent the last few days in a haze of pain and fear. You see, during the previous session, while in a very young child state, I told Mama Bear about a type of abuse that my dad did to me when I was three. It was an important step for me to reveal that part of me to Mama Bear, never mind to name a type of abuse that I have never been able to say out loud. Unfortunately, it inevitably left me in a vulnerable state, even though Mama Bear did her best to try to enlist the help of my parts in keeping things contained until our next session.

Part of the problem was that I received word of my paternal grandmother’s death that evening, which completely unsettled me. There is no grief, only relief that she is dead, but it still was difficult news to receive, especially when I learned that my parents waited over 2 weeks to tell me. I’m sure that there is some message and power game in there from my dad, but I’m not playing along. Still, it just reinforced my understanding of how I constantly dealt with this sort of crap from my dad while I was growing up. I was so vulnerable to him in so many ways and so confused by how he treated me.

Unfortunately, I spent the next four days more or less in a blended state with this 3 year old part who was in a state of terror much of the time. There are some good things to be said about it, even though it was a thoroughly miserable experience. In the past, I simply would have been sucked into the child state and have been hardly aware of the here and now. This time, I was more than half way in the here and now, although I also was strongly experiencing the world as that frightened, small child. That dual awareness allowed me to retain some sense of safety most of the time. I also was able to “observe” what was going on with me in the child state and eventually realized that this part of me felt trapped and was desperate to cry out to someone, “Help me! Save me!”

In the past I would have simply have turned into a quivering mass of terrified child. I might have called Mama Bear in desperation (if I was capable of reaching out) or I may simply have gritted my teeth and rocked myself in my rocking chair until my next session. Instead, I managed to remain somewhat in the here and now, so I was able to function in my family life and I found a clue as to help this part of me. So progress. That’s good news!

So, my session this morning… I went in feeling that child part’s terror and little else, even though I was aware that it was a memory of terror, not actually my current emotion and as we exchanged our greetings and I settled, I realized that I was going to have to deal with the feeling.

Mama Bear knew from an email that this part of me was struggling to say something, but it kept on being lost in gibberish, so she started out with, “I would like to invite this part to tell us if there is something that we- both you and me working together- can do to help her feel safe enough to share what she wants to share. It isn’t a demand, this is an invitation, and only if she wants to.”

I sat there, thinking a bit about what she said, but mostly just trying to breathe and see if I could help to bring down the fear level a bit, so I could think more clearly. “There is so much fear there. It’s like there isn’t room for anything else at the moment and I won’t be able to get any work done until I can bring it down a bit.” I thought of all of the times that I had tried to push through such strong feelings of fear without much useful coming of it and realized that it was better to give myself a few more moments to take in the calm of the office and Mama Bear’s supportive presence and let those help to bring it to a tolerable level. And I slowly felt as though the fog lifted and I could think again.

We talked about comfort and how much this child part needed comfort. “What do you think might be comforting to her?” Mama Bear asked.

I sat there on the love seat, completely aware of the blanket that was draped over the arm. “She needs for someone to hold her.” And then in the child part, I grabbed the blanket and clutched it to me. After a second, the adult part of me took it and spread it over me, tucking it around me, allowing me in the child state to curl up against the pillows as if I was cuddling up against someone. It is an odd sensation soaking in the sense of being comforted, soothed, loved, and being held in compassion, when you know that you are the one that it providing those things to yourself. It sounds like it should be artificial, but wasn’t forced or planned in any way. Instead, it was a profoundly healing experience for me. I deeply went into the experience and at one point Mama Bear checked with me, “Are you dissociating? Or are you comforting?” I nodded when she said comforting, thinking to myself, “Of course I’m in a dissociative state! I’m experiencing the comfort as a young child!”

And then it was as though this figure that I imagined holding and comforting me gently touched me, “He hurt you here and here, didn’t he?” I first felt frightened, but because the touch came from an intense desire to heal, the young part relaxed and sighed in relief. Someone was finally talking about the fact that it physically hurt. Someone was saying the unsayable. It really is OK to talk about even the embarrassing and gross parts of what happened.

Soon after that, Mama Bear called me back to the room and asked me to talk about what happened as I was able to. I described what I experienced about being comforted, hesitated, and then told her about how I imagined the figure acknowledging that I was hurt physically.

She looked at me with so much compassion, “This is what you needed as a child, isn’t it?”

I nodded, “It’s exactly what I needed. I so very much needed for someone to hold and protect me! I needed to be able to say, ‘My Daddy is hurting me!’ But I couldn’t! I needed for someone to hear me!”

I paused, realized how I had felt Mama Bear there with me the whole time, and looked at her, “But you do hear me, don’t you?”

She smiled sadly, “Yes, and I’ve been hearing you for a long time.”

In the past, Mama Bear has provided comfort to me, which was healing and much needed. I am fortunate that Mama Bear is comfortable with touch and willing to use it with clients for whom it is appropriate. I am completely touch oriented and would have felt isolated without the option of holding her hand when I needed to. During my deepest crisis, there were sessions where that was the only thing linking me to the present. I know that I can ask her to come and sit near to me any time I need for her to, but I also know that I need to be able to provide some of that comfort to myself. Today, when she asked me what I needed, if the answer had been for one of us to move, so I was closer to her, that would have been fine and not unusual. She is there when I need her. Today I needed something more, though. I needed to hear myself well enough for me to find the compassion to deeply comfort myself. I needed to take down those barriers inside, at least for awhile.

And so I learn today- some things on a deeper level, others for the first time: I have a voice. I can be heard. I can be comforted. I can both comfort myself and ask for comfort. I don’t have to keep any secrets any more. At least with one person in the world, it’s safe to talk about everything that happened, whenever it seems right for me to talk about it. I can talk about the “icky stuff.” It helps so much to have someone who cares there with me- it helps to give me the courage, strength, and confidence to do what I haven’t been able to do before. I am no longer alone with what happened. Mama Bear believes me and she has believed me, even when I couldn’t believe myself. She hears what I say, even when I can’t bear to really hear it myself. Taking down the barriers inside opens me to emotions that are difficult to live with, but it also allows me to feel more whole. Slowly, bit by bit, I can learn to tolerate really hearing myself and knowing what my experience was.

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Martha Wolfe Hope prayer flag

Martha Wolfe
Hope prayer flag

In no particular order, 10 things that Mama Bear has said to me that were particularly helpful, and because I could have kept on going, there will be more at a later date.

1) He is dead. After I started working with Mama Bear again and I became more aware of just what some of my child parts were experiencing, I realized that deep down I didn’t believe that my grandfather really was dead and I was terrified that he could come after me again. We spent weeks talking about my attending his memorial service, the evidence that I had that he was dead, and why I was having trouble accepting it. I know that he was cremated and have seen the container that his ashes were collected in, so as I began to feel more secure I found myself having revenge fantasies about what I could do with his ashes. Slowly, more and more of me accepted that he probably was dead. The fear that he was so powerful that he could get me anywhere, at anytime ran so deep that I simply had to accept that the process of fully believing that he was dead and I am now safe from him would take however long it would take. I spent several months when a part would unexpectedly pipe up in session, “Is he really dead?” and we would have to take a few minutes to go over the evidence again, and then I would feel reassured enough to refocus on the original topic. Now I almost entirely believe that he really is dead, but sometimes I still slip.

2) Even if he wasn’t dead, you are a capable adult now and you know how to protect yourself. I was shocked the first time that she said this. I tended to think of him as so much more powerful and larger than me, but eventually I realized that Mama Bear was right. Not only am I three inches taller than he was, but I am physically more capable than he was. And as I thought about it, I realized that he tended to reserve his worst treatment for those who had the least ability to stand up against him. Or, as Mama Bear said, “He was a coward who preyed on a defenseless child.” But I am no longer that defenseless child that he was able to prey on. I have strength in myself. I have strength in allies. If my grandfather stood in front of me today, he might make a few cutting remarks, but he wouldn’t dare to do anything more.

3) It isn’t happening now. My flashbacks often have a very strong sense of “nowness” to them. Even though I can look around and see that I am here in this time and place and know all of that at a surface level, the part of me that is experiencing the flashback believes that the events are happening right now. Even after I manage to I pull back from other aspects of the flashback, I often am left feeling as though part of me is still stuck inside of it. So Mama Bear and I have emphasized the difference between here and now and there and then over and over and over. It all has helped a great deal, but sometimes I still am not able to pull myself into the here and now on my own, so hearing her say, “It isn’t happening now” is a tremendous relief to me. When I hear those words, I can grasp ahold of her reassurance that here and now really is reality, the flashback isn’t.

4) It’s nothing but a horror show. During a particularly harrowing period of frequent, intense flashbacks, Mama Bear said this to me. It seemed to fit, because, yes, the things that were happening in the flashbacks felt like they would do better in a horror show than in my mind. I was dealing with a particularly revolting set of memories and it helped so much to imagine taking it out of me and placing it on a screen, in a horror show. While I couldn’t entirely turn off the horror show until it had run its course, at least it was a bit more distant and tolerable. And most importantly, it no longer felt as though it was a part of me. It helped me to see that the memory was a memory, it was not me.

5) I see you. Hearing her say this while looking her in the eyes and really allowing myself to connect is both a terrible and wonderful experience. Terrible in the sense of painful and overwhelming because it goes to the core of so many attachment issues for me: feeling unseeable, that no one would want to really know me, that it could never be safe for the most vulnerable me to know and be known by someone… It was wonderful because it is what I have craved all of my life. First my mother wasn’t capable of providing it and none of the other adults in my life were remotely safe enough to connect with deeply, and then, when I was older, it was too late, I was too badly hurt to risk allowing myself to feel that fully seen. I am still in the midst of learning how to be fully in the room and allow myself to perceive that she is fully in the room with me. When we have had these connecting experiences, I both feel a physical jolt of pain and I cry tears of relief and hope. Slowly, step by step, I am allowing my full self to be in full relationship with her, and at the same time, bit by bit, I am doing the same thing in my other significant relationships.

6) You are going to be angry with me sometimes, that’s just what happens in relationships. Don’t worry, it takes a lot to ruffle me, and I’ve had clients get really angry at me. Just don’t try to throw me out the window. Mama Bear has been trying to encourage me to feel safe enough to feel angry with her for many years, and I’m finally at the point where I can hear what she is saying and believe her. I have been testing her bit by bit over the last year or so, at first just showing the tiniest bit of anger in an e-mail. Each time I tested her, she would reassure me again that it is OK for me to get angry with her and while what I had shown had been a big deal for me, it was no threat to our relationship at all. She would talk about how real people in real relationships get angry with each other sometimes, because everyone makes mistakes. At some point she would mess up and I would get really angry at her, but I didn’t have to worry about how she would react. She isn’t frightened by anger and her joke said to me that she wasn’t afraid that I would get so angry that I would lose control and do something terrible. I might be afraid that my anger would turn me into my grandfather, but she knew that it wouldn’t. Through her, eventually I learned to have faith that nothing could turn me into my grandfather.

7) You can’t get rid of me. I went through a period that was several months long where I kept on testing Mama Bear, even though I didn’t quite realize what I was doing at the time. I was terrified that if I really leaned on her as much as I needed to, then she would abandon me when I was most vulnerable. I knew that she wouldn’t intentionally betray me, but I was afraid that I would overwhelm her and drive her away. I was convinced that I would turn out to be “too” something for her- too much trouble, too demanding, too clingy, too needy, too hurt, too contaminated, too weird, too something… So we talked over and over about how she knows how to take care of herself and she can create boundaries, so she was confident that I was not going to be too much for her. I didn’t believe her. I would write long emails and end them with, “See, I’m too needy, aren’t I?” or some such thing. And when that didn’t work, sometimes I would turn around and say, “I don’t think that I can do this anymore. I just want to run.” Eventually she sat me down and just flat out said to me, “C., you can keep on trying, but you can’t get rid of me. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going to abandon you when you need me. And you’re going to have to work a lot harder than that to convince me to let you go.” It didn’t all sink in at once, and it took her repeating herself, but at that point I started to feel a bit of security that it was safe to rely on Mama Bear. Eventually, I realized that Mama Bear is far stronger and more capable of taking care of herself than my mother was- she really was telling me the truth and I could trust her to be there for me. She really was willing to provide the security that I needed then to feel held, contained, and secure. What I realize now is that the problem wasn’t that I was too needy, hurt, clingy, etc. when I was a child, the problem was that my mother didn’t have the resources to deal with helping a child who was being abused. It wasn’t my fault that I overwhelmed her and that she couldn’t hold me in my pain, the way that I needed for her to.

8) You don’t need to know exactly what happened. You just need to know your truth. Dissociation saved my mind by putting me in a different state during the abuse, but by doing that, my memories of the abuse were completely disrupted. There is an awful lot about what happened to me that is unclear. I have experienced many of the same body and emotional memories for decades, however there are other areas that continue to confuse much of me, even after decades. To make matters worse, when I experience flashbacks, I’m torn between wanting to believe myself and wanting for it all to be untrue, messing with any sense of what might or might not be real. Unfortunately, I also have had the driving need to know exactly what happened. Mama Bear and I have gone round and round with this: There is no knowing which details of the memories are true, but I have been able to build an over all picture of what my experience was like. I feel as though I have thrown myself against a wall time and again over this, but I finally get it. Part of the reason I was holding out for details was because I didn’t want to accept my truth. I realize now that it doesn’t need details for it to be a horrible truth, so horrible that I want to have a reason to hold back from owning it.

9) We know that you were abused. You don’t need to keep on proving it over and over. I don’t have a memory of trying to tell my mother about the abuse, but I act like I did and I feel as though I did and she just didn’t understand me. I think that is tied into why I have had this deep fear that Mama Bear doesn’t really believe me and I have been convinced that I will betray myself and stop believing myself. Inside, there are parts of me that have been convinced that “No one will really believe me. It’s impossible.” While I was completely unaware of it at the time, I felt the need to prove to myself and to Mama Bear over and over that I had been abused, and I pushed myself towards being triggered into flashbacks. It was an incredibly painful way to demonstrate that I had been abused, but it was effective. Somehow, Mama Bear caught on to what was going on, and she started to say to me, “We know that you were abused. You don’t need to keep on proving it over and over.” Wow. “We know that you were abused.” I finally realized that someone did believe me, really believe me. “You don’t need to keep on proving it over and over.” It sank in that she wasn’t going to stop believing me. Further, she noticed and cared about what this was doing to me.

10) I hear your pain/anger/grief and I am here with you. I have spent much of my life running from the intensity of my feelings, but that causes all sorts of problems for me. So I am currently working to allow myself to come together and fully feel my emotions in the context of my truth, but when that happens, it feels as though I am being filled with that emotion in a physically painful way. In fact, it feels unendurable, but I know that I need to find a way to endure it without dissociating, if I can. When Mama Bear sits there with me and says, “I hear how terribly deep your pain is and I am here with you,” it reminds me that she believes that I am strong enough to survive the pain, that it is safe for me to no longer be invisible and I don’t need to suffer in silence, that someone sees/hears how much pain that I am in, and that someone cares enough to stay with me. That sort of support makes a difference and sometimes it’s enough to allow me to remain with the emotions until they ebb on their own. It hasn’t happened often, but each time that it does happen, I learn a little more deeply that strong emotions may be unpleasant to experience, but I can survive them.

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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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As she handed me my weekly mint tea to go, Mama Bear asked, “Is there anything else that you want or need to say in the last couple of minutes, before you leave?”

I paused and then realized, “I think that I am angry with myself.”

“What are you angry about?”

“I am angry that I haven’t been able to figure all of this out and take care of it all.”

She gave me a look of deep compassion. “I think that I see what you are saying. I am going to ask you to take that and put it into a box and bring it back on Friday.”

“I will try.”

“I’m basically asking you to do the opposite of what you are angry with yourself about. You don’t need to do this all alone. You don’t need to figure it out by yourself. You have tried to do that for too long, but you now have people who want to be by your side as you deal with it.”

I looked into her eyes and tried to take that in, really take it in. Time and again over the last several months, we keep on coming back to this core concept: I am no longer alone and I can rely on others to be there for me.

It shows up when I am crying out my anger and pain and Mama Bear does something that shows me that she really is there, she really does see me, and she won’t look away, despite the intensity of emotion. Today she acknowledged the depth of my pain and grief and then asked me, “Am I helping to keep you warm?” I was puzzled, “What do you mean?” “The way that you take your daughter into your arms to warm her when she comes out of the ocean all chilled down. I’m not physically touching you, but in my heart, I am holding you.” It felt as though a jolt of electricity went through me and I started to sob because someone really was there with me, even though I tend to function from the belief that no one really sees me.

It also is reflected in my habit of not allowing myself to really see or experience some of the most difficult material while in a session, but instead waiting until 2 or 3 hours after the session. Then I often write it out in an e-mail and share it with her, but I’m still trying to deal with the hard stuff alone first and then telling what I have discovered/experienced.

So right now I am trying to absorb the idea that Mama Bear really wants for me to bring the most difficult stuff to her. It isn’t just that she is willing to tolerate that part of me, but rather that she knows that an important part of my healing involves my experiencing another person mirroring and accepting whatever emotions I am feeling. How long is it going to take for me to accept that she isn’t going to abandon me as soon as I rely on her and simply take something to her, rather than trying to deal with it as much as possible on my own first?

And, really, while I am using my relationship with Mama Bear to work these things out, it isn’t actually about learning that she will be there for me. It is about learning that there is anyone who will be there for me when I most need them. At my center, I still believe that the more that I need someone there for me, the more likely it is that I will be abandoned. I guess that this is part of the reason I try so hard to figure out as much as possible on my own first: if I take care of some of the issue myself first, then I take the edge off of my neediness, and therefore I am less likely to be abandoned.

And that is my relationship with my mother in a nutshell. I don’t take the painful stuff to her that she might feel threatened by, because I believe that she will fail me. I don’t trust her to care more about helping me than avoiding her own pain. Not because she would make an intentional decision to harm me, but because of her limitations that she isn’t even aware of. In fact, the more intense the need for her support and help, the less willing I am to risk asking her. To top it all off, I believe that my perceptions of things must be faulty, because I think that they clash with my mother’s perceptions. It is as if I can’t even have my own experience if I am in relationship with my mother.

So now my task is to allow myself to experience relationships differently. I have to find the courage to bit by bit rely on others to be there when I most desperately need them. Somehow, I have to figure out how to hold on to the belief that even if I don’t understand why I feel something, my deeply experienced emotions still are valid, even if they seem out of line to another person. I need to believe that others might actually want to be there to support me in the same way that I would want to be there to support them. I have to learn to integrate an understanding that I am worthy of support and love and that I am not something to be discarded.

Deep breath… I can do this… Right?

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Something interesting happened yesterday… I got confirmation that someone from outside the family was disturbed by a type of interaction between my dad and me at age 12.

Now, this actually is very limited information, however it’s big for me that someone has actually told me that my family didn’t appear perfect to them.

For some reason, today I decided to IM one of my two best friends from when I was 12. She found me via Facebook a few years back and we have been in very loose contact since. I haven’t been willing to ask questions of any of the 3 people who have found me on Facebook and who might have some information up to now, partly because I’m afraid of what they might say and partly because of possible complications. Well, today I was dealing with mini flashbacks involving the house that I lived in when I knew this friend and I finally was desperate enough to risk asking. I simply asked her if there was anything odd that she remembered my telling her when we knew each other.

Considering that I was asking her to remember 33 years back, I knew that I probably wasn’t going to get lots of bits and pieces of things that struck her as kind of odd, the way that I might if I was asking about last year. I was only going to get something that made a big impression on her.

Her response was that I did tell her about how my father tickled me and what I said made her uncomfortable. She doesn’t remember my telling her anything else. However, there was one time when she was over at my house, when she witnessed my dad tickling me and it made her really uncomfortable. She felt that the contact was “inappropriate” given that I was 12. She also said that it might just have been that she was paranoid as a 12 year old. Paranoid, or listening to her gut when everyone else was acting like nothing was wrong? You see, when my dad tickled me, he completely overwhelmed me physically and pinned me down, tickling me mercilessly while I squirmed and wiggled under him. I was helpless; I wouldn’t even be able to breathe because he was tickled me so thoroughly. At some point within the next couple of years, I developed the ability to cut off the response to being tickled and finally the tickling stopped. I know that it continued at least occasionally up for another year or two because I remember it happening on my parents’ bed in the next house that we lived in.

I don’t want to turn a little thing into something large, just because it’s the only external piece of information that I have from this time period. So I am trying hard to keep in mind that I think that what I can comfortably surmise from it is that my father had poor physical boundaries with me at least into early puberty. That supports both scenarios: 1) he did sexually abuse me, or 2) I was afraid that he would, which was made worse given that my grandfather had.

Re-reading the description that I wrote above about being tickled, I find it disturbing, myself. I also am not comfortable with the fact that the tickling continued on my parents’ bed past the onset of puberty. So I also don’t want to be dismissive of the information in over reaction. I can also see that my dad was using the tickling as a way to physically dominate me. I can think of multiple reasons that he might have wanted to do this, supporting either scenario. I can see that I am going to need to keep an open mind and work to find the right balance.

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