THE PAST CIRCLES ROUND AGAIN

Mom had her first round of chemo Wednesday. It was an incredibly long day. A doctors appointment and then three hours of infusion. It was very weird. I couldn’t concentrate, but was bored out of my tree. The incongruence of this made my therapist go hmmm. This is not a common phenomenon.

The reason it came up was Wednesday night I had a complete and total need to flee my house. I don’t know what happened, but I was laying in bed, looking for something to read. Stopped on “Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation” by Suzette Boon and others. “Don’t you think when you’ve been through something like you were with your mother, you should read something NOT trauma related?” “Ninety percent of my book shelf is trauma related.” “Then you need to expand your bookshelf.” So that happened. The other theories are that I’m empathic and picked up all the energy of people around me, the six people and their care-givers, all getting cancer related treatment, and it hit me when I finally had a chance to unwind.

Likely, though, it was a somatic flashback, harkening back to a time when I felt trapped. Only this time I wasn’t trapped. So I grabbed my bag and bugged out. But it wasn’t a thoughtful, I’m leaving because I can, it was a mindless flight. Which is not good. Fortunately, I had enough sense to go someplace safe, which was my friends cafe. Straight to the basement. Where I just typed up the last of my poetry. We had a mis-hap a few weeks ago, where I didn’t realize my poetry was only on the cloud, with links on my desktop. I deleted everything off the cloud, only to watch in horror as my files disappeared one by one. By the time I had finished that, I was feeling somewhat human again. It’s very frustrating how the past keeps circling round, often in unexpected and out of the blue ways.

Sitting with mom at the hospital was a very intense experience in a way. You’re sitting there, with people in very stages of cancer, at different points in their recovery. There were tears, there was laughter. For me, it was an uncomfortable reckoning, coming face to face with my own mortality. I have been suicidal many times, have attempted once. Suicidal ideation is a near constant companion. But this was different. The facing of a slow, painful demise. And everyone there is facing the same thing. The cancer centre has everyone in what they call pods. Six people to a pod, with a number of nurses in each one. Each person can bring one person with them. So twelve people, plus nurses. All cancer patients. All receiving treatment. A lot of energy in the air. A lot of energy. I hesitate to say it’s negative, because it certainly isn’t all negative, but it’s very charged.

I guess my system was over-charged and went off the rails on Wednesday, and then again on Thursday. Thursday wasn’t as bad, I had the presence of mind to email my therapist, and I made the decision not to run, but to stay put, to prove to my system that it was safe, there was no danger, that we didn’t have to leave. My friend helped me over text with some flashback protocols, and then I was able to ground myself by touching each book on my bookshelves and saying the author and title. I did it under my breath, but the act really helped me calm down.

Last night I went out with the girls, and then went home. I had a small feeling of panic, but was able to breathe through it. Things never last forever.

MED COMPLIANCE

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.

ON MY KNEES

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.

SOMATIC MEMORY

The past couple of days have been really really tough. Stuck between hyper and hypo arousal constantly shifting back and forth. Moments where I’m overwhelmed by fear and can’t breathe, and then moments where the slightest sound makes me jump. Even though my mind finds no connection between the here and now and this feeling of doom, I have a full blown fear reody response. My therapist did get back to me today, (YAY!) and she said it sounds like I’m having somatic flashbacks. I should have recognized this right away. What is a somatic flashback? It’s your body remembering, not your brain. “Memory is reminding you about the state of your being all those years in childhood and adolescence when you were in danger” is how my therapist worded it in her email to me today. I lived in fear growing up. Beatings from my father were a daily, consistent thing with him. The only thing that was. And I had a real rough session this week. Last week brought up a lot of history, how no one noticed the sad little me acting out and begging for attention. And this week brought more of that to the fore. And just like I did in adolescence, I’m living a double life of sorts here at home again. My parents don’t know about my cousin molesting me. They don’t know about the abusive relationship I was in at 15. They don’t know about my sexual assault three years ago. They don’t know I’m living with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder. They think my therapy is for my anxiety. I have to keep so much hidden, while living in the house where I grew up abused. They say you can’t heal in the environment that broke you, but I am. Granted, things are different now. I’m a grown woman with a voice. My body and being are different. It’s now 2019 and I am no longer in danger from anyone.

So I orient to the here and now. I’m in my room, the room I grew up in, focusing on what’s different. My bookcases, the books in those cases. My bed. The decorations on the wall. The flooring. The sheets on my bed. All things that are from the present. Nothing in my room remains from the past except my bear, Bettina, who has been with me since I was six months old. She has been the one constant in my life. I have been struggling with the desire to self harm this weekend. That, too, was a constant in my life for many years. It had its purpose then. But things are different now. I need to remember this with the very core of my being. All my emotional parts need to recognize that we are no longer trapped in trauma time. I have so many new coping tools and a great support network. Parts of me may be trapped in the past, but I have the strength, courage and determination to show them a better future.