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Going Back to Go Forward (6)

by JustEliza on 19 December 2010

The first post I ever shared about my mental health echoes in me.

I didn't know then what I have a good idea of now: that my collective physical and mental health problems, complex personality changes, and emptiness were a result of a dissociative disorder. In fact, it wasn't until CandyCan joined the mental health blog that I started to wonder why my experiences were so similar. I didn't have DID. That's impossible.

And then my new therapist started almost immediately into transactional analysis. Integration this, Parent-Child that… psychological babble. Just semantics, really, to help us have a common language. That's all. Right?

She got frustrated when I couldn't answer her questions. Was I being resistant? I had answered honestly: I didn't know. Nothing caused it; No one told me my feelings didn't matter. But they did; she insisted.

I couldn't see it. Couldn't feel it. Why won't my therapist accept this?

And then she lucked out: I got triggered, and she finally pulled something emotional on her fishing line. But neither of us expected how painful my reaction would be, and I left, traumatised.

When I was finally alone, I cried to exhaustion, because I finally realised what my therapist wanted me to reveal and what I was trying so desperately to protect:



They say that people who have experienced abuse or neglect as a child spend a lot of effort trying to convince themselves and others that they are fine, that it was nothing, if they can even recall it in the first place.   I thought that was just dissociative amnesia, but now I realise dissociative disorders are more complex than that. I might have some cognitive memories of the abuse and neglect, but my emotional memories were sliced right out, until I could sit with a straight face and wonder "why am I so unwell?" My life was fine. My day was fine.

But really, I haven't been fine for a long time.

---

Therapy last week was different. For one, I was exhausted from the crisis at our previous meeting. I had experienced derealisation, depersonalisation, and a resulting 4-day migraine. I also realised that there was a lifetime of emotion tucked away somewhere inside me that I've never owned up to. To put it simply: I was terrified of me.

But I don't like not having the answers, so I took the most important question from the week before (what was I feeling) and investigated.

At first, I was angry at my therapist for expecting me to answer something I simply had no answers for. Then when my therapist asked me if I was angry with her, I was angry at myself. I battled between these two emotions (Anger at Therapist and Anger at Self) while I struggled to tell her. As I struggled to say it, I had to push through a growing Fear (directed at Self) in response to the Anger at Self. When I finally squeaked out a 'Yes', I panicked because the Anger at Self skyrocketed.

It felt like I was abusing myself. It felt just like I felt when I was being physically abused for the first time. Anger, fear, panic, and finally shame. Shame was the hardest emotion to name; it took me days to recognise it. And when I explained all of this to my therapist, she praised me animatedly...

…and then verified: I said the FIRST time? I paused. Yes, I guess I did say that. And I understood what she noted, unsaid: (1) there were other times I was abused and (2) I must have been dissociating by the time they occurred.

Sometime in the latter half of the session, my therapist pulled out the empty chair. I knew immediately what I would be asked to do and started shaking and crying. Panic. Fear. Something saying no, and something saying yes. "What do you want to say to her?" Her being the Child, of course, and me being the Parent.

I tried desperately to calm me down, the mess of emotions inside. Meanwhile my therapist didn't want a repeat of the week before, so she pulled out the stops trying to calm me down. We don't need to do this. Just say the word, and she'll put the chair back.  A moment, please. I raised my hand. "I just need a moment."

It just got worse. I looked at the chair. I needed to talk to my therapist, not myself. Barely in time, I bubbled out "I have nothing to say to her." The chair was pulled quickly back. And within seconds, everything inside went quiet. Blessed relief.

But let's take a step back, too. You see, while I was fighting myself, my therapist was trying (desperately?) to calm me down, letting something very interesting slip in the process. She asked me which part was present.

Like most of her questions at the time, I didn't reply.  And even in that moment, I thought she had made a mistake. My parts can't be present. They aren't those kind of parts.

She let me interrupt her. I wondered how I was going to admit it. So I didn't admit it. I simply told her what I knew:

"When we first moved, I became very depressed and missed my first home terribly. But most of all, I missed me. You see, ...I did everything I could to protect and preserve that part of me, until it was safe enough to be whole again.

But it never became safe."

Sound familiar? Here is what happened next:

"Sometime after the last move, I gathered together all the photographs of me (my parents were prolific) and split them into piles." I raised my right palm. "Me." I raised my left palm. "and Me." The tears started to flow.

"It was so easy to do. They were two different people." Sadness. Grief. "Why didn't anyone else notice? I wasn't me anymore." I looked forlorn. My voice cracked. "It was only supposed to be for a little while. I.."

"I didn't mean to not listen to her." I'm sorry. "I didn't know I wasn't listening."

"I just want to go back." I weeped. "I just want to be whole again."

My therapist had been quiet, not even writing notes. But I could read her reply all over her face. Pride.

For most of our sessions, I had been either overwhelmed with emotion or numb from dissociation, so this moment of fragile and honest grief manifesting so calmly stood out.  There was more unsaid in the silence before she spoke. It felt like she took my hand, but I know she didn't. She simply looked me in the eye and gave me hope.

A far cry from "Perhaps therapy isn't right for you."

I went home and pulled out the photos. I pulled out my writing. I posted here.

The evidence piled. But I wasn't convinced until this morning, as my husband drove us to the store. I was revisiting the empty chair situation in my head. Play by play. As an outsider. This wasn't out of ordinary; I always playback situations afterwards, chattering with myself about what it all meant, reprocessing every detail.

Oh, my god. I was chattering with myself.

There she was. There we were. There I was. This is how I did it. Isn't it? Decades of neglect and abuse.. this is how I survived. She took on the emotions, I took on the thoughts, and afterwards we got together and shared notes from a safer place. We soothed each other.

Immediately I remembered us, shaking alone in the woods in the middle of winter while everyone else enjoyed dinner inside. Aged 14. I remembered going to bed at 5 pm and talking the day over. Aged 12. I remembered my glands being so swollen I couldn't breathe. We barely got through the night. Aged 20. 

I guess Truth really is a Spectrum.

 

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Gary Williams said on 22 December 2010

I am just begining to realise who I am and that I need some help.  Reading your blog posts (not all of them yet!) have made me realise that maybe I'm not the only one with similar issues.  I am booking into my GP to ask for counselling.

I'm not advertising anything here, but I recently read a book called 'mapping the mind' by Rita Carter.  She explains how the brain works and relates it into everday real life stuff.  I would like to recommend this book to you as it may help you to understand a bit more about yourself.  Its just a thought.  Even if it doesn't help you I am sure you will find it fascinating.  It explains about brain patterns in people with 'problems'.

I think I may be a regular to this blog in the future.

Thanks for taking the time to blog about your inner feelings.

Best wishes

Gary.

 
dizzygirl said on 22 December 2010

hi JustEliza, i particularly liked your posting, it was lengthy, thought provoking, exceptional and i particularly liked your pics to go with it....your post helped me to think things.  as i feel ive also gone thro so many loops, hoops whatever with the resultant anger afterwards, not knowing how why etc and i liked the approach your therapist had with you, the honesty and directness.  i cant do the words, it has to be my words, as its my feelings, that trap me, the emotional and thought stages collide and its taken me 50 yrs to get to this point.  i know my self, my ego, my desires, more than anyone, but if no one is listening and the message you are hearing is you are no good, or a number of negative backing you tripping you waiting to ambush you at any point then no wonder little progress is made.  ive tried to find a therapist who is in a position to give me the time i need, which is to understand my emotions, my emotional state and to address the whys and then allow me to attach the thoughts to them.  i keep dipping in and out of therapist, support and or states, as i cant cope when im in "the room" or out of the room, the room being the therapy room.  yet as its taken me a long while to uncover this about my methods, yaddah yaddah....so im saying a big BIG thank you for your posting

best wishes

 
JustEliza said on 24 December 2010

Thank you for your thoughtful replies, Gary and dizzygirl.

Gary, I am glad you are approaching your GP for a referral to counselling. Taking that step was very, very difficult for me, maybe even more difficult than anything else I've experienced in therapy! I appreciate the book recommendation; it sounds like a fantastic book by the reviews.

dizzygirl, thank you for the compliment on my pictures. It was a difficult decision to share them here, but I felt they were a necessary part of my story.  I'm sorry that you've not yet found the therapist who works well with you. My current therapist is my third, and I know that her style wouldn't work for everyone. Last week she asked me to consider an EMDR therapy, and she had someone particular in mind, too. It's nice to know she was really thinking about what is best for me. This usually goes on behind the scenes of our therapy, where people are making management decisions on our behalf. In the future, I hope there is more engagement between mental health teams and service users regarding care coordination.

 
Gary Williams said on 2 January 2011

JustEliza,

You're more than welcome.  I saw my GP and have got a referral to see a psychologist.  It's strange Part of me feels like I've overcome the problem already, but then as I am typing this I feel like I need to grab hold of a psychologist right now.  I really want to 'get better' but don't know how it is possible.  I am still managing to hold together a work and family life too and it is getting difficult, but I work alone which is the best position for me right now.  I am expecting to become a lot worse before I get better as my inner memories and fears come to the surface, I don't know how to do this by myself, but have tried to look for answers, and have ended up getting emotionally burnt.

This blog is becoming a god send to me.

Regards,

Gary  

 
JustEliza said on 12 January 2011

Thanks for your comment, Gary. It's actually a good sign that you are recognising your vulnerability right now, as well as identifying resources to support you. A good therapist will also be able to recognise your vulnerability and strengths, and sessions should take place in a safe 'therapeutic window' to ensure you only cover as much as you can cope with at the moment.

I found the 'week after' therapy easier to deal with when I continued to process and explore my reactions to therapy through this blog and now also to my husband. It's very important to me to have that space and time to reflect, and I'm grateful for that I am supported in that way. Have you considered starting a blog?

Best wishes,

JustEliza

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