THE UNKNOWN

It’s finally caught up to me. My failure to nourish myself; to take care of myself. My doctor finally took notice of my extreme fatigue and sent me for a battery of blood work and an EKG. I don’t get to go over the results with him until the 9th, but I was able to get them online. Not looking too good. Red blood cells indicate there is inflammation somewhere, and liver enzymes indicate that is where it is. Been doing some reading on the potential outcomes of what that means. Anything from non-alcoholic fatty liver to liver cancer. Obviously. Everything on-line these days is cancer. But the fatty liver is a definite possibility. I eat a diet heavy in red meat and carbs, and very low in fruits and veggies. Most of what I’ve read indicates that the results can be changed by diet. So that is good. Also, my blood sugar count and A1C were high. Indicative of diabetes high. Now that being said, the inflamed liver could be causing artificially high results. So it’s a waiting game. I’m not changing anything major until I talk to my doctor and we figure out exactly what is going on. My therapist noted that I’m not beating myself up about it. I figure it is what it is. I can’t do anything about what I’ve done to my body, the only thing I can do going forward is take better care of it. Now if only I could apply this the trauma stuff.

This came just at a time when my therapist was really starting to address my disordered eating. I started writing down everything I eat, just to get a benchmark of where I’m at. And that benchmark is very poor. Very poor. One vegetable all week, and that was corn, the worst vegetable ever. My therapist asked me what my self care plan was for the week. I’ve already given up pop mostly, so now it’s time to had a few more greens to my diet. And drink more water. Coffee is not a water substitute. The caffeine negates the hydrating effects of the water. I jokingly said I was going to make a coffee using a Monster Energy drink instead of water. She jumped all over that and told me to stay very far away from them. Well, suggested very strongly. She no longer couches things gently. We’ve been working together too long for her to tiptoe around.

A BIT OF A WOW

Had an interesting weekend this week. Thursday, my therapist suggested I investigate something called Yoda Nidra. Found one my a woman, Jennifer Piercy, on DoYogaWithMe. Had the best sleep I’ve had in a very long time. So that was a cool start to the weekend.

Celebrated my poetry being published on Friday with some of my closest friends. Went to my buddies cafe after, ostensibly to do some writing. But inspiration is a fickle mistress, and so I started cleaning up old emails. By old I mean back from 2014 to the present. When I got to February of 2016, I opened one that was just titled WhatsApp chat. I didn’t recognize it, so I opened it. And there, in is full shirtless glory, was a selfie of the rapist, with the accompanying chat where I told him not to contact me anymore. Instant trigger. Immediately brought me back to that dark place, with his forearm on my throat, knocking me unconscious. I go home and create a nest out of my two king size comforters and five pillows. Freaked right out, I start grounding. Touching my books, reading their titles and authors (I keep a small pile of books beside my pillows). My therapist is always saying, “Do something different.” The purpose of this directive is to let yourself know that you are no longer in trauma time, that you can escape, that things are different right now. I struggle with this. My trauma responses are fairly hard-wired in my brain. It has taken many years of therapy so that my first response isn’t always to self-harm. Glad to say this weekend that wasn’t even an issue. So what did I do that was different? Put on my new found sleep friend, Ms Piercy, and guess what? I fell asleep before she was even finished. Woke up sometime late Saturday morning. Feeling fine.

So fine, that when I went to visit friends on Sunday, I had no residual effects. I was able to go to an antique market with them, without taking any tranqs. Which in itself is amazing. To do so after a trigger response, well, to quote my therapist, “It is a bit of wow isn’t it, Squirrel”.

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.

AWESOME NEWS!!!!

I’ve slowly, tentatively, been submitting my poetry to a few publications. After a couple of no responses, and one very nice, personalized rejection letter, I am going to be a published poet. Poetry Quarterly is publishing a poem I wrote called “Empyreal”. This is virtually unheard of. It usually takes hundreds of submissions and rejections before you get accepted. But it happened. I’m so stoked. After the last few months of things being generally, all around shitty, this is a much needed boost.

Things actually got a little too heady. My mom told me she’s proud of me, for the first time ever that I can remember. Then she told me to post it. So I did, and she publicly told me she’s proud of me. And my dad showed a bit of interest, which he never does, so I was totally overwhelmed with that.

I’ve still been struggling with being present ever since that horrendous dentist appointment which triggered me huge. To cope, I’ve been overdoing it on the benzos. I’m allowed two a day, twice daily, as needed. I’ve been taking double that, and mostly all at night, to help me sleep. Which is leaving me out of it the next day. Which adds to the dissociation. My therapist was like, “maybe you should talk to the doctor about reducing your tranquilizer usage”, and I had to tell her I wasn’t taking them as prescribed, so yeah, that stopped. Back to normal.

I had a very bad flashback, but I knew where I was, so it was more like a remembering than a full flashback, but I was in it and couldn’t get out of it. Absolutely was there, being gang raped again, and again, and again. Over stimulated, over tranqed, overwhelmed. So I cut myself. Just a small mark on the inside of my ankle, small enough that it looks like I scratched a spider bite, but large enough that I had to disclose to my therapist. Who responded kindly. I emailed her, again. Third time in three weeks. The first about wanting to do some scarification on my calf. The second, I had to share with her that my poem got accepted. She replied to that one, and reminded me of my contract, so that was her way of telling me that scarification is a no go. She also said it was a wow moment. Which it definitely was. Then I had to email her a third time, to say that I self-injured. She thanked me for letting her know, and had some upbuilding things to say. Needless to say, I had some trepidation when I saw her this week. I really don’t know why. She truly is the embodiment of compassion.

There was no processing this week, but lots of talking. Lots of her reinforcing that I made a choice, but it doesn’t invalidate all of my work. And we talked about the trafficking, and about how I was having a hard time staying present, and how I was so up and down, flying high and crashing low with no in between. I have to work hard at “applying the brakes”, staying in that window of tolerance. Not too high, not too low.

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.

YOU KNOW IT’S GOOD WHEN…

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.

YOUNG ONE

As most people who have done trauma work, my therapist and I do extensive parts of self work. I find this awkward and, at times, makes me feel crazy. Yet there is no denying the fact that I do, indeed, have different parts of self. The twins, Young One and Angry Dude, two sides of the same facet, one with the anger turned outward, and one with the anger turned inward. I had a bit of an epiphany regarding that this week, when I wrote Young One a letter. I don’t cry easily at all, but this brought tears to my eyes:

Young One. I know you’ve been neglected. More than neglected. Blamed. Held responsible. Mistakenly so. I can see that now. With all that was going on in our life, how could you ever have had the ability to say No?

I wasn’t your fault. Vera and I have talked a lot about being groomed.

GROOMED: PREPARE OR TRAIN (SOMEONE) FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR ACTIVITY

As far as dad was concerned, we were to be obedient and obey him without question. Lessons we didn’t learn easily and rebuffed at every opportunity. Oh but Young One, the fear of the consequences of disobedience was very real. It didn’t stop us, though, did it. Incorrigible. Defiant. Even when we knew it meant bruises coming our way. Not that it mattered. There were enough times the “discipline” wasn’t even understood.

DISCIPLINE: 1) THE PRACTICE OF TRAINING PEOPLE TO OBEY RULES OR A CODE OF CONDUCT OR BEHAVIOUR USING PUNISHMENT TO CORRECT DISOBEDIENCE.

Harsh, cruel discipline disguised as love. We never were very disciplined, were we? Do you remember a time we never feared dad’s wrath? Discipline, in and of itself, isn’t bad. We need discipline every day. It was the punishment, the abuse, that led to so much fear. The arbitrary rules, with the over the top consequences. Groomed to fear displeasing. Groomed to associate the lash with love. Oh Young One, did we ever stand a chance with Michael? How often were we “disciplined”, not even for breaking some rule or other, but simply because he didn’t like/was unhappy with our behaviour?

Conflict led to abuse-even if it was just a back hand across the face. Or, if not physical, than emotional and mental. Oh Young One, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to understand just how groomed and conditioned we were.

CONDITIONED: TRAIN OR ACCUSTOM (SOMEONE OR SOMETHING) TO BEHAVE IN A CERTAIN WAY OR ACCEPT CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES.

Conditioned to accept abuse as a consequence of conflict. Conditioned to accept abuse as a demonstration of love. Michael was the first. There was so much we could have done had we not been so conflict avoidant. Our first. Vera likened it to an emotional marriage. And the honeyed words after.

Oh Young One, so naive. So empty. Made us believe it was our fault. That we deserved it. That we wanted it. Natural consequences for coming home with his wife. One thing to disobey father, another to disobey this stranger, standing over us, naked and torn.

Oh Young One, we were so lost. So starved for affection. And Michael provided that. Brilliantly. The kind words with the abuse. A perfect fucking storm.

And the perfect rationale: DISCIPLINE = LOVE DISCIPLINE = ABUSE ERGO LOVE = ABUSE

Oh Young One. I finally understand. Today, as an adult, even in a safe environment where there is trust, NO is still not an option. If NO is not an option today, how the hell could it have been an option for us back then?

Young One, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for failing you and then blaming you. I’m trying to make it right.