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 feel the breeze kiss my skin
As it gently blows
Yet I am not present
I smell the pungent aroma
Coming off the lake
Yet I am not here
I taste the raindrops
Warm on my tongue
Yet I remain absent
I know I am here
Aware of all I hear
Yet I am away
Shut off from the world
Not fully aware
I go through the motions
Like a machine
That have no meaning
I know my heart is racing
I feel the blood surging in my veins
The nails digging in my palms
The pain a sharp counterpoint
To my lack of being
An odd sensation
To see yourself
As you really are
Not the facade you front
Knowing it’s not a good thing
But not sure
I want to come back
To the pain
It’s a tricky thing, dissociating. Especially when you don’t recognize that it’s happening. One minute you’re listening to the conversation around you, and then you’re not. Someone says something to you, and you realize you have no idea what the conversation is anymore. Sure, this happens to everyone, once in a while. Everyone zones out. It’s the constancy that’s different. The constant hijacking of the brain, where you no longer know where you are, or, even, who you are. The black spaces where there is nothing. Not knowing how you got to where you’re going. Or why you’ve even gone there.
Then there are the triggers: a touch, a frangrance, some random piece of conversation and you’re transported back to a not so safe place. Staring off into space, in your own personal hell. This happened to me at therapy this week. We weren’t even talking about anything overtly triggery, and yet, there I was. Gone. And when I came back, my ability to talk was gone. I couldn’t even really grunt. My poor therapist. I couldn’t even write down what I was suffering. I could sort of draw stick figures, like a four year old. Trying to communicate how lost I felt was impossible. Fortunately, I had my art book with me, and could point out on my drawing of “The Pit” who I was (which she had already figured out), and where I was in relation to everyone else. Now comes the difficult part: how to tell her one of my emotional parts (EP) self-harmed. Not me, my skin is still intact. But my EP did. It’s a weird thing, to close your eyes to have a pep talk with yourself, and to see yourself with bleeding arms. Obviously, this was very distressing to me. But I had already gone over my session by forty minutes. I wasn’t about to bring that up. But I will this week. Young One self-harming and Angry Dude drinking and smoking. Sigh. Doing what I really want to be doing. It was so strong that Friday I even bought a pack of cigarettes. Gave them to Josh Friday night, and was really craving them Saturday morning. So I’m glad to have given them up.
It’s been a difficult couple of days. Completely lost it with my therapist yesterday. I had such an overwhelming somatic flashback that I couldn’t speak. For at least 30 minutes, if not longer. I know this is approximate, as my appointment was supposed to finish at 2:00 and I didn’t get out of there until 2:40. It was as though my young self hijacked my being and was so lost she couldn’t speak. Couldn’t articulate how lost and hurt and sad she was. I’m still struggling with my words over 24 hours later. And with connection. I feel completely detached from everything and everyone. I do feel some relief that the kids are at their dad’s this week, so I don’t have to fake feeling anything but numb.
This disconnect is disconcerting. Touch is nigh impossible to feel. And when I do feel it, it feels weird. As though there’s a barrier between my skin and the rest of the world. My homework this week is to stay present and connected: when I hug a friend, let myself feel the hug. To stop living from the neck up, as my therapist says. Easier said than done, my friend. Easier said than done.
My Feldenkrais practitioner, Fariya, taught me to gently rub my fingers in a corkscrew motion. This helps in grounding. Fingers are very ennervated, so they are very sensitive. But it feels… odd… to me. Touching myself in any way is foreign. I am an alien nation unto myself. Vera, my therapist, aims to change that. So much to work on, she says. Even after the trauma stuff is sorted out, there’s my borderline eating disorder, my gender/body issues, my self-hatred. As we work on the trauma, the other pieces will slowly fall into place, but I believe they are going to need to be addressed individually, once stability has been achieved. If. No, when. Positive thinking is a must. It’s so hard to, today. Today, I even went out and bought a pack of smokes. Something I haven’t done since Christmas.
Today feels like a day to stay in bed and wish for death to come upon me. Instead, I am out at my friend’s cafe, eating poutine. Reaching out. Keeping safe where I am loved. Not isolating. Which is all I want to do. Vera would be proud.
I had a major epiphany this weekend. Life-changing, send my world on it’s head epiphany. Fifteen year old me, trapped in an abusive relationship with a 32 year old man. Very abusive. At seventeen, when he removed my collar, he told me I was “too old. I have nothing left to teach you”. I’ve spent twenty-eight years feeling rejected, broken, not good enough. But then I had a thought, ‘what if I look at his uncollaring me as freeing me, instead of rejecting me’? Which opened up the flood gates. He always called me a Brat, which is a type of submissive in the BDSM community. Which, I have to admit, I am. Always have been, and likely always will be. Now here’s where things get crazy: what if he released me, not because he was feeling altruistic, but because he couldn’t break me. What if I broke him?
He could never beat the mouthy out. I always maintained that little spark of me. I remember the way his wife was: never spoke, never looked up, never complained. I don’t even remember her name. That is what he wanted from me. Complete odedience. My dad tried to beat that into me till I was eighteen. He didn’t fair any better.
I was sharing my new found outlook with my best friend, Jen. And her reply was priceless, “You broke a paedophile!” Which made me happier than it should have.
And on that note, good night.