At night, the monsters come out. Since my dentist appointment last week, I’ve been having dreams of disembodied hands. Creepy and unsettling. I wake up in a cold sweat, and don’t want to go back to sleep. So I stay up and read. Or listen to books on Audible. I’m acquiring a collection of un-listened to books that will rival my to be read stack of paper books. But that’s ok. Somethings to look forward to.
Am struggling with med compliance again. I’m tired of feeling flat and numb, and blame it on the Abilify. I’ve been reading up on it, and apparently it’s a common side effect. Right away she was concerned that I was still taking them. She was genuinely concerned that I would quit it cold turkey. Given my history, I would have to say that her questioning me is warranted. I started at 2mg, and now I’m up to 20. That’s a big dose. Especially since the last p-doc I saw stated that I don’t even have bi-polar. I understand that I might need a mood stabilizer, as anti-depressants alone never work properly. I do question, however, the need for an atypical anti-psychotic. At such a high dose. The last p-doc I saw was just a consult, but she said I could see her in a year if I wanted to discuss a med change. So I need to call the hospital and find out if I can make an appointment through them, or if I need to go through my doctor. My therapist is all about getting it done. I hem and hawed and will be doing it in the new year. I may bite the bullet and call this week, so it’s not hanging over my head. But I hate talking on the phone. I have real anxiety about it. So much so that even my therapist only contacts me via email. Even if it’s the day of an appointment, she knows I’m on my email, but if I don’t recognize the number, I won’t answer the phone. I’m so glad she’s willing to work with my limitations and foibles, without making them a focus or a big deal.
I have a feeling, since last week we didn’t really touch on anything big, as I’ve been pretty stable, we’re going to do some EMDR on Thursday. Just in time to do three weeks before she takes her two weeks off over Christmas. She is also planning on taking a week off in the middle of January. I’m just glad she’s not taking all three weeks off at the same time. Three weeks is a long time when you’re used to weekly sessions. She asked me how I’m feeling about the two weeks off. I replied, “Besides feeling abandoned?” Then I laughed and told her I was joking. “You’ll be holding seminars on how to yank your therapists chain.” I have mixed feelings about starting EMDR again. I’m scared of how it’s going to go now that I’m having visual flashbacks. My flashbacks have always been somatic, meaning feelings only. Recently, I’ve been having some pretty severe visuals. Not just feeling his hands around my neck, but seeing them. His cold, cold eyes. The collapse when I tried to stand up and he grabbed me by the neck and threw me back on the bed. Instead of just feelings of dread and sensations, I’m full on remembering. Which sucks.
I have my protocols. Babette Rothschild has saved my sleep. Her “8 Keys To Safe Trauma Recovery” has provided some very solid protocols on dealing with flashbacks and nightmares. So much so that I wrote them down for easy access at night. And I’ve passed them onto friends. They’ve been so helpful. I recommend that book to everyone I know with a trauma history that impacts their daily lives. Even if only sometimes.
Last week we talked about about how my therapist recommended I start reading about Poly Vagal Theory. That was quite the rabbit hole to send me down. I learned a lot about myself. About my emotional parts, about my dissociative states. My therapists have always expressed awe over the mind’s ability to save itself. I have always looked at is as a failure. Every time I dissociate, I associate it with failure. My failure to stay present. I have never been comfortable with my EPs. They make me feel crazy. But you can only hear so many professionals say that it is an incredible thing your body does to protect itself, before it starts sinking in. And that it wasn’t a choice. That seems to be the key that finally got hammered home. IT WASN’T A CHOICE. My body/mind connection were threatened, and the option that led to my survival was collapse, or fawn. One that isn’t talked about near enough. Everyone knows about fight or flight. But the other two pieces, freeze and collapse, not so much. And when it’s your father that has you pinned to the bed, beating you until you can’t breathe, you can’t run, you can’t fight. Freezing does no good, so you collapse. And it happens so often, that you start shutting down at the slightest threat. And then you start shutting down all the fucking time. Talking about the weather? Shut down. Having a shower? Shut down. Playing with your kids? Shut down. Having sex? Forget it. Fucking shut down. You learn to fake it, but those closest to you can tell something’s not right. Your kids ask why you keep staring off into space. As for sex, why bother? You feel desire, but it’s never really sated because you can’t stay present for the act. So you become hypo-sexual. Which is okay, because the meds you take for your depression and C-PTSD kill the libido anyways.
But back to this new approach I was talking about. A new way of looking at my self. Appreciating how hard survival was. From a young age. And then the abusive three year relationship at fifteen. The date rape three years ago. All of which contributed to my C-PTSD. And now I have an appreciation for just how hard my mind worked to keep me safe. And that I didn’t out and out split, I just have different facets that need care.
And I can do that now. Start to take care of myself.
You know it’s good when your therapist pinches the bridge of her nose and says, “Oh my God.” I didn’t think it warranted that kind of response, but then, what do I know. We were talking about early development, and how girls and boys get sexualized very young. “Who sexualized you?” I thought about it for a minute, and then told her how my dad was embarrassed by my developing body and made me wear baggy clothes. To which I got above reply, followed with, “He has a lot of problems”. I could only nod. Her reactions are usually not quite so abrupt: a sigh, a squeak, a gesture. But this must have really caught her off guard. I guess because my dad never sexually abused me. Mental, emotional, psychological, yes. Bare assed spankings with a belt, yes. But there was never a sexual overtone to it. It was about humiliation, not being sexualized. So it may have seemed out of character. But then, what IS in character for a narcissistic, over-bearing control freak?
Other than the odd flashback, I’ve been having a fairly good week. Maybe because I’m relying on my tranqs more, I don’t know. Which really isn’t good, but it is what it is. I mentioned it at the end of my session Thursday, to say, ‘Hey, I’ve noticed this. I’m not abusing them, but I’m using them more than I’m really comfortable with.’ So we’ll see if she brings it up next week.
Poly Vagal Theory is the next thing we’re discussing. How the Vagus nerve effects our affect and works with the sympathetic and para-sympathetic systems. I’ve just started reading about Stephen Porges, the father of the theory. Sounds fascinating so far.
As I slowly start to get more and more control over my dissociation, we explore more and more things. My therapist knows I’m a reader, and that I really enjoy reading about neuroscience. And anything that helps me understand my body’s response to all it’s traumas helps me heal my mind and conquer my C-PTSD. I am sure that re-commencing EMDR is just around the corner. Just as soon as I can stay more connected. Which is happening, incrementally. The process is so slow, and it’s easy to feel discouraged. But this time last year, I was dealing with repercussions of self-harming from the memories. This year, I made it through intact. Which, if I’m being honest with myself, is huge. Every time I get stuck on how slow the progress is, my therapist helps me see just how far I’ve come. I’ve always described it as a spiral staircase, where even when it feels like you’re going backward, you’re still going up.
I don’t know if things are settling down, or if I’m just getting used to it. It’s like that Simon and Garfunkel song, “Hello Darkness my old friend”. Or Gordon Lightfoot, “Sometimes I think it’s a shame/ When I get feeling better when I’m feeling no pain.” Or maybe I’m just numb to the pain. Either way, I still am fighting the urge to self harm. I had a cigarillo Friday, and another one Monday. As my friend comforted me, “Whatever it takes to get through this.” Three more weeks, if past experience tells me anything. I don’t think I can survive three more weeks. I saw my therapist on Thursday. Got into a disagreement about self harm. Of course, I lost, and have a fresh copy of my safety contract in my bag. My work this week is to update it, since it still has my ex girlfriend as an emergency contact, and we broke up in April.
How to update my safety contract when four out of five of us don’t want to be on it anymore. I remember when she first mentioned it. I ignored her the first time. The second time I said I’d consider it. The third time, I said to her that since she’s mentioned it three times, she must feel it’s important, so we signed one. Did I mention this was all on my first or second visit? She knows it’s a valuable, strong tool. And I’ve proven to her again and again that it works. Many times it’s the only thing that has kept me from self harming. This week, if I had the means in my room to do it, the contract wouldn’t have mattered. But the only thing I have in my room is an art x-acto knife, and they aren’t really very good at deep, clean lines. I have disposable razors in the bathroom, but the act of pulling it apart gives me too many opportunities to really think through what I’m doing and stop it. Or deliberately chose to go through with it at each step of the way. It’s different when you’re desperately searching for something and you find something you missed in your last sweep. But no such luck. I purged very carefully last time.
So I sit in my bed, my safe zone, and try to keep my hands loose, so the nails don’t dig into my palms, which seems to be the thing I do these days. Ugh. My mind and body conspire against my brain.
This time of year is so hard. I feel ready to throw in the towel, crawl into bed, and never come out. The siren song of the razor blades is strong and sweet, necessitating bringing my thoughts back to my safety contract over and over. My eyes are permanently on the verge of tears, watery and weepy. That one man can bring me to my knees in despair. That the memory of one man can bring me down, leave me curled on the floor, shattered and broken.
The memories come fast and thick. Leave me whirling in confusion as to where I am in time and place. The nausea and the disorientation. Rock is huge, always, these days. My mom is going for cancer surgery next week, so I have to hide how bad I’m feeling so she doesn’t worry. I’m not doing a very good job of it, but she isn’t getting the depth of my shadow self.
Shadow self. My being crawling to The Pit. The body tremors as I fight it. As I fight the flashbacks, the memories of violence done to my body; to my being. Knowing that I can’t let him win. But the body, the mind, wants to cave; to collapse in a puddle of blood and tears.
The days long, the nights longer. Soaked sheets as the body remembers the torment; wakes in a frozen panic. “Just move one finger, just a little bit,” encourages my therapist. So hard. So hard. But I do it. Then the next one. Defiance that he hasn’t completely broken me. My body comes back to me, sore and achy, but mine.
I wrote a little while ago about needing extensive dental work. My dentist pulled two broken teeth, and had made arrangements to pull 7 more. Then fillings, then partial dentures. Last week I went in to get two teeth pulled. He decided then to pull all seven. Plus three more. Two for the aesthetics when I get my partials. To have his hands in my mouth for that length of time was brutal. I was, however, able to stay mostly present, much to the surprise and delight of my therapist. “How did you accomplish this?” It seems weird but I managed by focussing on the tools in my mouth. It kept it real, that there was nothing sexual or abusive about what he was doing, despite the vey real trauma being done to my mouth. It helped me to focus on the fact that it was a medical procedure happening. And it helped keep me from dissociating. Now if she had asked about this week with the pain and my refusal to take pain killers if I can do without, the answer would have been very different. Which is fine, I’ll take my victories where I can, no matter how small they seem.
This week I finally got the stitches out and was upgraded to soft food from liquid and purees. I was already eating soft food. And not so soft foods. Just cutting things up very tiny and chewing very carefully. And now I sound like Sylvester the Cat from Looney Tunes. My kids are trying to be supportive, but it’s hard not to laugh. I get it. I laugh with them. My friends, well, half of them pretend nothing is different and the other half are total assholes. Which is about right. What is most surprising to me is the amount of pain the inside of my ears are in. The nerves are all so very inter-twined. No tinnitus, but just a dull ache in the very depths of my ear canal.
Because of the amount of wrenching, my neck has been very sore. My therapist recommended something called Salonpas. It’s a topical analgesic patch from Japan. Salicylate, menthol, and camphor, it warms your skin as it penetrates. And it smells very good. We are working at me feeling more connected with my body; that I do exist below the neck. Because of the amount of abuse I have endured, I have a hard time touching myself. I was very proud of myself this week that I have been able to put hand cream on my hands. But that’s not enough. I wake up in a tight ball every day, with my feet cramped from being balled up. So now, every night at bedtime, I need to rub hand cream onto my feet. I have no idea how I’m going to accomplish this. But I told her I’d give it my best shot. I also really need to get back into doing my meditation app every night with the body scan. Kind of help release it. And I really need to get back into Qi Gong again. So much more I could be doing for my mental and physical health, but no motivation whatsoever. I’m giving myself until my teeth are healed and I’m not in any more pain from them, and really getting into it.
I’m committing to my physical health as I have committed to my mental health.
I’m sitting here at my friends cafe, drinking a latte, feeling lost and bereft. I met with great friends on Tuesday, with whom I really feel connected. We all had shared an “A-ha” moment, comforted each other, supported each other. It was a beautiful thing. But tonight, I’m feeling particularly lost. Maybe it was the lack of therapy yesterday, or the fact that I have no plans this weekend, I don’t know. All I do know is that I’m feeling disconnected from people. This has never bothered me before, but it’s bothering me today. I was going to go to bed early, in hopes that tomorrow will be better. Instead, here I am, people watching at a board game cafe. I should be working on my writing, instead I’m whining about these weird feelings of discontent. It might be the weather, as it has been grey all day today and I haven’t been using my therapy light. Maybe I should be. Chase away the sleepy feeling I have been living with; maybe reset my circadian rhythm.
And every night brings me one day closer to D-Day, dental work day. I’m in a panic every night, and I’m missing my therapist terribly. There isn’t much she could do, it’s not like she could come to my dentist and hold my hand. Oh that would be wonderful, wouldn’t it.