Always waiting for the other shoe to drop…

An older post that I’d forgotten I wrote, but I think people will be able to relate to the traumatic experience I describe here.

Lucky Otters Haven

afraid-to-be-happy

I think I made a kind of breakthrough in my therapy session tonight. For years one of my problems has been this overwhelming fear that something bad will happen to one of my kids. (I don’t like to even say the D word because I irrationally believe if I say it, I’ll somehow make it happen, by putting it out into the universe or something).

Of course all parents worry about their adult kids, especially when they know they’re out there somewhere in cars, which we all know are dangerous hunks of metal capable of the most ghastly and gory deaths you can imagine and operated by countless idiots and drunks on the road who can’t drive. I think my apprehension about something bad happening to my adult children edges into OCD-type territory though, because of how overpowering and pervasive these thoughts are, intruding where and when they are not…

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What am I running from?

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I haven’t posted anything about my therapy on this blog for a long time.   The truth is that lately I’ve been losing interest in my therapy and haven’t even been wanting to go.   Since my sessions are never unpleasant or traumatic, I really don’t know why.  I know I’m not cured, though that thought occurred to me briefly.    Sometimes uncomfortable emotions come up in session, but I actually look forward to those, because it means we can work on them.  They’ve never been cause for me to want to run.

But recently, even while I’m in session, I keep talking about things that have nothing to do with therapy, or even with me.  My therapist correctly pointed out that he sensed I was avoiding something that’s coming up.

In our last session we began talking about an early childhood trauma involving my mother, when I was about 5 -7.  I skirted around the issue and told him I couldn’t give him details, but I was starting to get emotional.   It’s not something I’m able to talk about yet, even with my therapist.  Not even here.  It brings me too much shame even now, but I remember exactly what happened as clear as day.   He wants to explore this with me and I do too, but…I’m afraid to.   It’s too shameful.    But the avoidance started several weeks before this.

So I’ve been losing interest.  This week I felt too tired to go so I didn’t.  That hasn’t happened before.

I just had a dream that may shed some light on what’s going on, because the real reason is occluded even to me.

The dream involved a usual theme that occurs in many of my dreams. Somehow, in spite of my limited income, I had come into ownership of a vast house, so vast that I kept discovering rooms I never knew existed and had never seen before.  Exploring my new home was exciting, but in the back of my mind I knew I really couldn’t afford this house.

There were strangers in the house, as if it was some public place.    I walked through a doorway that opened out to a huge industrial kitchen with huge flat stainless steel cooktops lining an entire wall.  All these random people were cooking — bacon, eggs, steaks, you name it.    I turned to some stranger and told them I owned all this.   I told them that before, I had lived in a one bedroom apartment (my actual place has two bedrooms).  I admitted I wasn’t sure I could afford all this but that I would try.

One of the strangers I met was a very attractive man in his thirties.  (In my dreams I am always younger than my real age).    He seemed interested in me and kept following me around, trying to start a conversation.   I was interested but reticent, so I may have seemed disinterested, even though I wasn’t.   We found a room with tables that had numbers on them, as you might find in a restaurant.

The man invited me to sit down at one of the tables with him, Table #30.   Reluctantly, I did.  He was friendly and asked me many questions.  I was attracted and interested, but also afraid.   As I am in real life, I felt threatened by his interest in me.   But I was willing to get to know him better.  My attraction overrode my wariness.

I admitted to him I was afraid of relationships but that I’d be willing to give one a chance under the right circumstances.   He seemed understanding.

I got up for some reason that I can’t remember and then came back to Table 30.   He was gone.   A woman sitting at a nearby table told me she had seen him leave and drive away.  I was disappointed.  I wondered what I’d done.  I knew I’d never see him again.

I wanted to write this dream down before it fades from my memory, but I haven’t thought about what it could mean yet.    I’m going to mull it over today and if I figure it out, I’ll write another post later.  Right now my brain isn’t working and I just want to go back to bed for a few more hours.

“Why Therapy is Not Working” (Ryan Liberty)

I love this guy and his videos.  He has a fun, upbeat style.  Follow his channel on Youtube.

You can also follow his Emotional Trauma Support Group on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/ryanalysis

This is helpful to me right now.  Not that therapy isn’t working, but I feel stuck and powerless because of the political situation.   This has never happened to me before.

When your therapist rejects you.

No, my therapist hasn’t rejected me, but I think this is something that all of us in therapy sometimes worry about.

Lucky Otters Haven

Abandonmentsign

I just read a post from a blogger who describes how her therapist suddenly terminated her without warning.  She writes,

I spend pockets of time here and there throughout the days just wracking my brain trying to figure out what went so wrong. I replay our conversations in my head and try to decipher what this meant or why she said that. I try to figure out what the fuck I did wrong.

It’s devastating and crazymaking.  Unfortunately, being suddenly rejected by a mental health professional seems to be pretty common.   People who have never been in therapy sometimes have trouble understanding how devastating this can be.  We become extremely attached to our therapists through a process known as transference, especially when the therapy is of the psychodynamic type (as opposed to behavioral/cognitive methods like CBT).  The therapist acts as a surrogate parent and for a therapist…

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Becoming real.

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I haven’t been posting as much about my recovery or therapy on this blog as I used to, because it’s grown so big and I feel more comfortable posting such deeply personal stuff on my other blog, because it’s so much smaller and has far fewer readers than this one does.

But I’m making an exception today, because of how important I think this dream I had last night is.

My subconscious mind seems to be revealing the most to me lately through my dreams. Later I tell my therapist about them, and we interpret them together. Sometimes though, the meaning is obvious to me and lately it’s getting easier for me to figure these dreams out on my own.

In my last therapy session, I was asked what my real self is really like.   I wasn’t able to answer very well.  I felt like I had to make things up.  Chair Girl (my inner child, who I have “sit” in a chair in my therapist’s office, which is how she got her name) is so elusive, and only comes out intermittently.  I know she’s shy and has the potential to be very loving, but sometimes it’s hard for me to capture her essence, who SHE is.

Last night, I had another beautiful dream that answered this for me.

I owned a strange object.   It was a cat made out of black stone.   But it wasn’t actually black stone.   The person who gave it to me explained that this object had once been a real cat, who had been killed during a plane crash (but whose body somehow remained intact) and whose owner, a man from China, had the cat’s body cryogenically frozen and sealed, much like those services that do taxidermy on dead pets and send your pet back to you stuffed and fitted with glass eyes.  But this cat wasn’t stuffed and it didn’t have glass eyes.   It was hard as a rock, heavy, and shone like stone.   Its eyes were sealed shut, forever sleeping.

I loved the cat anyway, and felt sad over what had happened to it.  I  liked to just sit with it and pet it, even though it was no more than an object and could never respond or give back any love.  I sometimes wondered what he had been like, and I named him Max.

One day something very strange happened.  I knew Max had been dead for years.   But on this one day, while I was holding it in my arms, pretending it was a real cat, I heard a small mew.     I looked down and saw that Max was trying to open his eyes.    I almost dropped him in shock, but instead set him down gently on a chair and watched in amazement.   I wasn’t sure what to do.   This was scaring me.  But I was frozen in place.   I couldn’t stop watching.

Max began to transform.   His cold stone body became a beautiful coat of reddish brown tabby fur, and his eyes, now opened, turned from black to brilliant blue.   He started to breathe.  He looked up at me and meowed loudly.  It occurred to me he must be part Siamese, with those blue eyes and loud, raspy voice.

I asked him if he was hungry, and he immediately jumped down and walked regally toward the kitchen, as if he understood what I was asking him.  He kept looking back at me, meowing.  I happened to have some cat food and he ate as if he’d been starving.    My shock having worn off,  I felt love overflowing for this tiny animal.   I picked Max up and held him and listened to him purr contentedly.    He was so tiny but so beautiful and I realized that somehow, it was my love that had woken him up and transformed him back into a living, breathing, loving cat.

One of my favorite stories as a child was The Velveteen Rabbit, and I think it’s because of the universal truth in that story:  that being loved is how one becomes real.

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Max is the real me.  By learning self-love and self-empathy, she’s waking up and making herself known. She’s becoming real.

Clarity (or, through a glass, darkly).

August.

empty_chair

August is the month when most therapists go on vacation and trigger their patients’ abandonment issues.  In my case, it was the opposite, at least this week.  Last night when I’d normally be sitting in my therapist’s office, I was floating peacefully in the Gulf of Mexico, about to watch a gorgeous sunset and get a fist-bump from Spiderman.  I doubt my therapist is losing his shit over my absence, but I sure am looking forward to seeing him again this week.  In any case, this week of beach-therapy was just as good as real therapy (and a lot more fun) so I’m not complaining.

Breaking through and the emotional power of music.

This is what’s going on with me now.

Diving into the Inferno.

Guest Post #11: Life with Complex PTSD

Alexis Rose has a blog about Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) called A Tribe Untangled.  Her C-PTSD was brought about by a family tragedy (a terrible accident that befell her young daughter, something every loving parent fears with every fiber of their being) and it opened up a Pandora’s box of long repressed years of abuse and torture. Alexis Rose also has written a book, Untangled: A Story of Resilience, Courage and Triumph.

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From her Book information page:

Recalling her life, the author takes us on a journey of unimaginable abuse with continued explicit threats that eventually led to her being sent overseas on an impossible mission.  She repressed the memories of her past until a family tragedy forced her to face what her life had been. A history of abuse, torture, and threats to maintain her silence or be killed could no longer be denied.

This is the story of facing the truth and risking the consequences of breaking the silence. The author learns to accept the effects of the trauma that echo through her daily life as PTSD.

Through years of self-exploration, she learns to live her life fearlessly, with eyes wide open. Ultimately this book is about resilience; hope for victims who have suffered trauma and for the people who support them.

Alexis is an experienced speaker on the topics of living with courage and resilience in the face of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. She has also presented multiple interactive workshops titled, Using One’s Innate Creativity (writing and drawing) as a Tool for Healing and Personal Growth.

For more information about Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph, to request a book signing, or to ask Alexis to speak to your group or lead a workshop, email alexis@atribeuntangled.com.

Alexis has been kind enough to write a guest post for this blog, which when I read it brought me to tears because I could relate so much to so much of what she wrote.   She is one strong woman.  Here is her wonderful post.  Please follow her blog: https://atribeuntangled.com/

Life with Complex PTSD

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I was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder about eight years ago, after a family tragedy. My daughter was hit by a van at 30 miles an hour as she was crossing the street on her way to school.

The year following Aria’s accident I was busy with tending to her health, taking her to appointments, trying to work full time, and keep our house hold running as normal as possible. And at the same time, I kept having these experiences that were making me feel crazy. I had worked so hard to keep my life, my family and their world so protected that the instant Aria got hit, my controlled snow globe world came crashing down. In fact when my son and I were talking the day of the accident, he looked at me and innocently said, “things will never be the same again.”  Extremely prophetic words, that at the time myself nor my family had any idea what they would come to mean.

I was becoming anxious. I started losing time, I was called into meetings at work because my performance was terribly erratic. I was physically sick all the time, and kept having these bizarre memories leaving me feeling crazy.  I knew something was seriously wrong with me so I made a call to a psychologist who agreed to see me the next day.

When I started working with my first therapist, I was so anxious to tell her everything all at once so I could just feel better and get back to work. I didn’t understand that I was having flashbacks, or that I was living in a constant state of crisis. I was writing her letters from a dissociated state which made no sense to me when she would read them aloud. I would lock myself in my room for hours for fear that I was going to hurt myself and I didn’t want to be around my family.

My first therapist diagnosed me correctly but neglected to start my therapeutic process by teaching me any kind of safety or distress tolerance tools.  I was out of control, thinking I was losing my mind, feeling like I had failed my family, and spiraling down a very slippery slope. She did the best she could but was way over her head and within nine months of seeing her, I knew intuitively that I had to find another therapist. I have been working with my current therapist for seven years.

When I first started seeing my therapist I was dissociated most of the time. I was in crisis, I was anxious, confused, and convinced I was going crazy. After a couple of sessions, it became apparent to him that we had to get some safety plans in place. Once that was in place we could begin the process of working on and processing my trauma.

I (sort-of) started to come to terms with the idea that my erupting memories were in fact true. I was so overwhelmed by my memories and what we would process during session that I would remember, forget, remember, forget; until I started to turn a corner and forget how to forget. That’s when I found I could really start taking the baby-steps towards health.

Not only was my therapy about processing the memories, I also had to start accepting that there were some pretty intense effects of the trauma and that influenced how I saw and reacted to the world.  I knew I had some pretty deep-rooted trust issues. I also had large, thick, almost impenetrable walls holding back any feeling or emotions that I was willing to let the world see. I also began to understand that because of my trauma I had a pretty significant attachment issues, which for me, has been one of the hardest things to learn and accept. For some reason the attachment issue fed into my very low self-esteem and it’s something I still work on.

I also had to face down how my trauma effected my relationships with my family, friends, parenting style and career. In the midst of dealing and coping with the trauma, there were a lot of AHA moments, when I saw how my behavior and ways of coping with life, had been a direct result of my trauma and not because I was a bad person.

Eight years later and one of the biggest reasons I write is because my PTSD symptoms still have a pretty good choke-hold on me. As with many mental illnesses PTSD can be invisible on the outside. I had always been the master of wearing many masks, and deflecting any conversation away from me, all with a supportive smile for everyone else. But when I couldn’t hide my illness any longer my friends began to ask me, what does it feel like inside. I couldn’t really explain it, so I wrote a poem and shared it with my friends and family. I found that by writing I found a way to share with others and begin to understand what PTSD means for me, and find a way to cope with my fear that I would be plagued by the symptoms forever.

My symptoms include (not limited too) flashbacks, concentration issues, becoming overwhelmed and my brain shutting down, not being able to make choices, anxiety/depression, and sensitive to the triggers that start the whole shebang of symptoms. We use the term, triggers, triggers everywhere. The wind can blow a certain way, or fireworks, or a car back-firing, even the moon can bring on flashbacks.

Unfortunately, my symptoms have left me with the inability to work. I went from having a wonderful career with the fringe benefits that provided me with some comfort for the future and the ability to provide for my family. I’m only able to work about 2 hours a day…on a good day.

It seems as if my symptoms (depending on the time of year) can start a chain reaction, so I needed to learn to work within my deficits. This isn’t easy or comfortable for me and because I’m still pretty new at learning how to work within my symptoms, I can find myself becoming frustrated and angry at my PTSD! Actually most days, if I’m going to be honest I am VERY angry at my PTSD. But then I settle down and think about what I want for my life and try to rest and reset.

The inability to concentrate can be over-whelming for me. I know what I want to do, what I want my brain to do but I simply am unable to do it. Making choice at the grocery store, or a restaurant can be so uncomfortable that I will just simply lose my interest in eating and shut down. Sometimes as night approaches it feels overwhelming because I know that its highly likely that sometime during the night I will have nightmares. Even practicing good sleep hygiene listening to podcasts, all the tricks can’t stop the nightmares sometimes and it gets overwhelming. And sometimes I’m overwhelmed because I’m a survivor of trauma and have PTSD and that’s just the way it is, even though I wish it was different.

Writing gave me the courage I needed to address the pain I was feeling. I would write even when I thought I had nothing to write about. At first, I strictly used it for bilateral stimulation. I would write and send what I wrote off to my therapist. I started to find that I was able to write down what I couldn’t say aloud.  It provided distance from having to use my voice at first, but then I found it actually gave me a voice.

What I hope to convey as I move forward: Try to remember to notice those perfect moments. Celebrate each step on the path towards health, know that it is a long and never linear process, and that it really is just one foot in front of the other, you need to do a lot of resting, a lot of just sitting and metabolizing.  And even though healing can feel like be a lonely process, through a blogging community and other support systems, we realize that we are not alone.

I’ve been hurt, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been abandoned, but I wasn’t going to let the effects of what happened to me keep me from trying to have the life I wanted. I never lose sight of my goals. They are to live with my past, live in the truth, and recognize and relish in the feelings of internal contentment. Some days those goals seem as far away as the furthest star, and other days I can see them just through the clutter, almost there. I still need a lot of therapy to manage my symptoms, and I may need a lot of assistance for the day-to day grind, but I’m motivated to keep moving forward, spurred on by the hope for a better life. A life where I am living, not just surviving.

http://atribeuntangled.com