Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Let Yourself Cry


It's been so long since I have been here. I don't know what to write about the situation in the world. I've felt like that's meant I couldn't write about anything else then, without coming across as a navel gazing bag.

Even writing that, I can hear my therapist commenting on my self judgement. I do that a lot. I am my worst critic. If you are familiar with the Enneagram, I am a One. I have even been critical of myself for being a One. ("Can't I be one of the nicer numbers?", I said to my spiritual director.

Here is a beautiful song about Ones. "No, I'm not saying perfect exists in this life but we'll only know for certain if we try."

I have tried so hard for so long. Since childhood I've believed that striving for perfection was the key to my safety. My head knows that perfectly imperfect is as close as I'm ever going to get. With time, I am hopeful that my heart will embrace that truth as well.

My therapist keeps reminding me that it is a process. Recently in a session she repeatedly said, "We know...."  When she does this she is reminding me of very true things in the process of healing. In a moment of push back I replied sarcastically, "Speak for yourself." We both laughed and then she pointed out that I keep coming back so there had to be some agreement, no?

I haven't come this far in dealing with my trauma to quit now. It's possibly the most courageous thing I've done in my life. I keep saying that because it keeps surprising me that I am willing to face this shit even though it feels scary and big. It is not getting easier. I've repeatedly told my therapist, in the middle of a session, that my instinct is to run. I often feel like I have a scream stuck in my throat. She described it this week as having lived my life with my foot on the gas pedal (urge to run) and on the brake (frozen) simultaneously. No wonder it has taken such a toll.

Several sessions ago I spent most of it keening loudly from deep within. The only person who has ever heard me cry like that is that nurse I had during my cancer journey. This time my back arched, too. So many tears. So much pain. So glad I was in the house alone. It went on and on for over half an hour.

If you only knew what a breakthrough that was. To cry unabashedly, letting emotional pain lodged deep in my core, out. It is a victory that I didn't shut my keening down. That I didn't swallow my tears. That I let them be seen and heard until I was done. When I opened my eyes and faced my therapist I could see that she had had tears as well.

Maybe I'm not a navel gazing bag after all. Maybe, I'm a brave, courageous woman, helping her battered inner child fight for her freedom. (So hard not to delete that last sentence as "Who do you think you are?" rattles around in my head.)


Friday, May 22, 2020

Welcome Here

I wasn't up to speed from the moment I woke up this morning. I managed to get up and to my work computer with 4 minutes to spare. Perhaps it's a bonus to be a rule follower at heart when you are sure your body cannot get out of bed. Turns out you can. And there's not even a gold star for the effort. Although there is a paycheck. I have to remember that part.

Some days I am fully engaged in my job. Some days not so much. It's been a busy week job wise and I am grateful for that as well. Grateful I am able to work from home in these weird times we are living in. I've gotten a whole lot of stuff done while my body and brain feel otherwise engaged.

The thing is I had therapy a week ago. It was intense. I haven't quite made my way back to normal since. I wasn't scheduled to see my therapist until next Friday but I got in touch this morning to see if I could bump up my appointment and thankfully there were a few earlier openings to choose from. Tuesday it is.

It's  hard to know if the funk I am in is from my last session. You know it's bad when your therapist thought you were referring to that rape and you were referring to this other one. It could have been another one or another..... Fucked if I know.

Or am I in a funk from being in isolation so much due to the pandemic? Dearest One and I are going out for groceries and appointments and that's about it. He tries to do most of it so I can stay home as much as possible. And while I am an introvert through and through, I am missing contact with other people. I normally work in an office with six other people. We chat a lot about our lives outside of work. I miss them and I don't. I keep telling them I miss seeing them but I don't miss being at the office.

Any time this week when I got still and tried to attend to that little person inside of me, I got teary.

And I've been fighting all week with that nasty inner voice that tells me that I should be done with this shit at my age.

At any rate it is Friday and I am glad.






Monday, May 04, 2020

Sitting With It.

TW - talk of sexual abuse.

There's a reason that the tiger in the picture is sweating it out. Hmm. I just took a closer look and realized she's sitting under a rain cloud. Oops.  I assumed that she was sweating or crying.

Not that I've had a lot of practice "sitting with it." Running in the opposite direction is much more comfortable. But I imagined that if I did, I'd be crying or sweating buckets.

So it meant something to me last week in therapy, when big, big feelings came up, I did not run away. The feelings were so big that it felt like I was standing directly under a tidal wave about to come crashing down on me.

In that moment I was emotionally right back into the trauma of being raped (the first time.) With guidance from my therapist and bravery on my part, I didn't run the other way. Out loud I said my usual, "I hate this."  "This fucking sucks."  comments. And I also took deep breaths and kept my eyes open and somehow stayed present while emotionally I was back in time 40 years.

I don't know how many times my therapist has shared with me that animals in the wild will shake or run and jump after they have been under threat.  And that in doing so they discharge the traumatic energy that would otherwise be stuck in their body after being pursued by a predator. Damn, how apt is that phrase. If you only knew.

And so I watched as 40 year old energy was dispersed from my body somehow with my permission and despite myself simultaneously.

I doubt I have ever been more hopeful in my life.
I'm truly know now that I am not a prisoner to my past.
At last.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Tears

I didn't know where the tears were coming from. They'd started at lunch time when Dearest One was sharing thoughts about his own counselling session earlier in the morning. Tears welled up and I couldn't stop them from spilling over. I have felt tender emotionally since the other day. Joy has not left completely. It's there under the surface when I think of the younger versions of myself being welcomed into my healing instead of trying to shut them out.  These tears felt like ones of gratitude and I welcomed them.

But then the tears did not stop when we finished up our lunch. I went up to my office and listened to a podcast (her latest one) while I finished up some work tasks. The interview hit close to home and I found myself with tears spilling over several times. At the end she talked about truth tellers. That hit a chord with me because that is my nickname in a group of women whom I meet with weekly to pray with and share in our journey as Christians. When I joined in with them I was told to pick a name for myself. A descriptor. The only thing that came to me was the name Truth Teller. So that is who I've been ever since.

Next I was browsing on social media and came across this video (you have to be logged into that big social media black hole to watch it) and cried some more.

And every time my mind circled back to my conversation with Dearest One, I cried.

Crying and I are not the best of friends. Of all the feelings I swallow with regularity, tears are at the top of the list. Sometimes during a therapy session my therapist will ask me if I just swallowed some feelings. She usually asks me that after I've swallowed hard with effort.

I decided that I was done with so much feeling. I plugged my phone in to charge, logged out of my work email and closed my office door.

I went down the stairs in search of Dearest One. As I reached the bottom step I thought to myself, "We should just get drunk." Well, hell. I haven't had a drink in over 32 years. This was noooot good.

When I found Dearest One I blurted out my thoughts. I told him I couldn't stop crying, that I didn't need him to fix anything, I just needed him to listen. His eyes got big when I told him I had had the thought that we should just get drunk. I told him my emotions must be overwhelming for me to think a drink would fix them. I still couldn't stop the tears from rolling down my face as I talked. Sometimes when you want to comfort and be there for someone there just are no right words that will help. I recognized that he wanted to and I also recognized that he couldn't give me what I needed in that moment.

So I called and left a message for my therapist. Late on a Friday afternoon. The only other time I have talked to her on the phone was when we had our initial intake phone call nearly three years ago, to see if she would accept me as a client. Since then our in between appointment communication has been via text messaging.

She called back and then spent an hour, after her last scheduled appointment of the day, putting a figurative arm around my shoulder and walking me off the edge of the cliff called overwhelm. Thank God. In the midst of it all I told her about this day and that. By the time our call ended I was much calmer and where there had been feelings of anxiety in my body, there was now some space. She helped me come up with a plan until I see her next week. The tears no longer overwhelmed me. A drink no longer a solution.

Thanks be to God.


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Welcoming The Little's

The day after our drive I woke early and lay in bed watching my thoughts. I wondered if this was my life now. At 57 I was taking care of and re-parenting my 4 year old self. Is this what I would do for the rest of my life? Care take the smaller versions of myself? The word pathetic rose to the surface. It was all I could do to stop it in its tracks. It's a word I've used to describe myself to my therapist more than once. Used it for feeling ashamed of being this many years old with so many smaller versions trapped inside and feeling like they run the show most of the time.

One of the big deals that came up recently in therapy has been about examining just how deeply could I receive the love and care that Dearest One extends to me. I can complain all I want about not being cared for, and about, but perhaps there is love and care being extended to me that I am not actively receiving. Well damn. Can't that be his fault?

I don't like owning my shit. I want Dearest One to not only own my hurt feelings but all the shit I say as a result, as well. But after that session I took some time and experimented taking my thumb and forefinger as if I was describing to someone how thick something was. How deep could I receive the love that was being offered to me, anyway? When my thumb and forefinger had come together until there was half an inch of space I thought, yep, that works. As I started to type my findings to my therapist I stopped. I tried measuring that space again. I lowered it until there was one quarter of an inch of space left. I kept it steady. My body settled. As I found my truth, tears started to well. Who knew something could feel so authentic. I erased my text and started over. One quarter of an inch, I typed. We talked about working on opening up and seeing how it felt to let it go a smidgen deeper.

This morning as I was trying not to stay stuck in thinking of myself as being pathetic, into my head came a picture of my four year old self. I was standing turned sideways to her when she came up to me, with all the smaller selves of mine trailing behind her. She tugged on my dress and asked " Do I matter?" There is no other phrase that could get my immediate attention than that one. It has been the cry of my heart for as long as I can remember.

I turned to her and imagined kissing her all over her face. I knew though that she would shrink from that so I knelt down, kissed her on the forehead and gathered her in my arms, reassuring her as I did so, that she did indeed matter. That I would do everything in my power to keep her safe and release her from the trauma that she'd held onto for so long. I promised that I would continue to show up for her and all the little's behind her.

As I released her and stood up she reached for my hand and I watched as the little's joined hands and took their place on the other side of me, the next biggest one reaching up for my hand on that side. We turned and walked down the road for a while before I stopped and gathered them all close in my arms. I promised them that I would show up and do the work no matter how hard it felt or how much I was tempted to quit when the going got tough. They deserved their freedom. And so did I.

I felt like their mother. Protective. Determined. Loving. Fierce in all the right ways.

These pictures were still fresh in my mind when joy came bubbling up to the surface.

Joy.  I was so surprised.

Me and the Little's welcome it to our journey.


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Encountering Potholes

I know by how fast he is driving that he hasn't seen the pothole we're about to hit and I grip the door
handle to soften the impact.

"Son of a bitch!" escapes his lips as his truck, an extension of himself, bounces up and then slams back down on the asphalt. He touches his brakes and glances in his rear view mirror to see if someone is following close behind him. If Dearest One could stop and scold the pothole for being there, he would. Then, he'd put a hand on the hood of his truck, and apologize for not seeing the it.

As the echo of expletives fades in the cab of the truck, I realize my hand is glued to the door handle. Anxiety, in the form of a thumping heart beat and a tightness that snakes its way up my chest and into my throat, gets my attention.

"Breathe,"  I tell myself, "You are safe." I am not four years old. No one is chasing me. I don't need to hide, flinch, or cover my face. I catch myself just before I start to purse lip breathe Instead I open my mouth wide and take a long, slow gasp in and then breathe out an audible aaaaaahhhh, through my mouth. I do this several times while Dearest One, minus his hearing aids today, drives on unaware.

How many times has this reaction played out in my body and mind while I was unable to notice it happening? It occurs to me to tell Dearest One what is going on. It will help me to reorient myself to the here and now. I take one last deep breath in and out and feel my now stiff fingers unfurl themselves from the door handle. I flex them slowly, like I'm counting by fives, to ease the pain.

"My anxiety went through the roof when you swore. I'm working hard at reassuring my four year old self that she is safe. That no harm will come to her. That she doesn't need to grip the door handle in fear. That you aren't dangerous."

He's caught off guard by my admission. Concern washes over his face. Regret does, too. I tell him I have always tensed up when he swears but this is the first time I am aware enough to feel it in my body; to let it rise to the surface, acknowledge it and let it flow on through.

I can tell he has not only heard me, but has absorbed what I've said, because he sits up straighter and pays more attention to the road in front of us. I doubt he will ever swear at hitting a pothole again.

People say "that was then, this is now" without the awareness that our bodies carry our trauma on a cellular level and no amount of pithy sayings will move it from the past to the present and on its way through to integration.  I used to believe I could think my way to emotional health. Turns out I need to feel my way there. Sometimes in the middle of doing just that I murmur "I hate this. "This sucks." "I want to curl up in a ball."  

The first time my therapist ever sat close to me, I gave a subtle flinch every time she moved her hands. She had to sit on them to stop waving them around as she talked. The first time she demonstrated how we would work together on somatic therapies we both felt my entire inner being back the fuck up when she moved her foot a mere 8 inches towards me.

That was nearly three years ago. Some days now I ask for a hug before I leave; a sign of the work we've done to build a trust relationship. Even so I've come to see that one of the effects of having developmental trauma is that I navigate the world with an undercurrent of  hyper vigilance in any encounter I have. My therapist has helped me see this is through no fault of my own. It just is. It won't always be this way.

These days we have our sessions via Zoom. Surprisingly, (or not) the extra distance that a screen provides has helped me relax even further and the sessions have delved deep into childhood trauma. It requires much trust to go there. During our recent work I felt paralyzed and momentarily couldn't move parts of my body.  I was back living in the trauma and moving would mean to risk being hurt. My breathing became as shallow as possible. My therapist watched as I shook my head ever so slightly in response to her request to try and bring my paralyzed hand up to comfort the spot on my face where I was having phantom pain from being hit as a child. "Impossible,"  I whispered.

Grief welled up in me for my younger self. In my mind I knelt down beside four year old me and cupped her face in my hands. I planted a kiss on her forehead, looked her in the eyes and told her she mattered. I let her know how sorry I was that there was no one to see her and acknowledge her pain. I promised to keep showing up for her, reminding her that she was no longer alone. Grief washed over my body and tears welled up. I whispered, "I feel sad for her." My therapist whispered back, "I do, too."




Sunday, February 02, 2020

Growth Happens

We've had a touch of warmer weather lately which has been a welcome relief after 10 days of -40C to -50C with windchill. Brrrr.

A great therapy session this week was a welcome relief as well. Sometimes I go and I leave feeling like it was a waste of both of our time. Sometimes I come away with awareness that things are shifting. Other times I don't realize change has been happening somewhere under the surface until I notice I'm processing the world around me in a slightly different way.

For reasons unknown to me, I have been able to keep my mouth shut more often lately when someone is telling me something, instead of trying to hang onto what I want to tell them in response. It's a humbling thing to realize the world functions just fine without my two cents worth. And I didn't all of a sudden decide I was going to listen more than I spoke. One day it popped into my head, while someone was speaking to me, that what I was thinking of in response to what they were telling me, was not the point of the conversation.  It's like seeing, on the periphery, a thought bubble float away.

Will I ever stop being surprised when I see a shift or change in myself?