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Going Back to Go Forward (7)

by JustEliza on 24 December 2010

I now have a handle on this therapy business. Sure, it's about trauma, affect regulation, coping mechanisms, attachments… but mostly it's about owning up to me. Knowing me. Being me, without shame.

The labels, the theories, they are all metaphors in the end. Complex PTSD, Dissociative Disorder, Schizoid. Psychological theories say I have one ANP (apparently normal part) who controls my actions and oppresses the two EPs (emotional parts) that have split as a result of childhood abuse and neglect: one for bad feelings (EP-Sad) and one for good feelings (EP-Happy). That's a fair enough theoretical model. What's real, though, is my experience, my choices, me. So, enough of the theory.

Therapy extends beyond the hour with my Therapist.

The big unsolved question from the last session was 'where is my safe place' ? I sat in the chair, tears streaming down my face, staring vacantly, feeling lost. My eyes slowly and fearfully scanned the room. I looked inside. I imagined trees. I couldn't feel safe. Did I have a safe place?

She left the room. Relief sifted the shame away. I glanced at my phone. She returned.

"Distraction." My voice was quiet. I didn't look at her. "I usually rely on distraction."

We moved on. At the end of the session, she pointed out my pin, and I smiled, but not at the compliment. She was distracting me. And I, I was being me, in everyone else's heads but my own. Fair play.

But the work continues without her.

Today, while writing this blog entry, I found my safe place.

I'm grateful there are parts inside that are smarter than me: parts that unconsciously reach for familiarity and expression. Parts that find their own voice even if it isn't through my thoughts or my lips. Even if it is in ways that others don't expect or accept. Ways that I don't even expect or accept.

I'm also grateful that it's Christmas. Because my happiest part, my most fragile part, feels safest here. EP-Happy sings Christmas songs all year long (annoys my dear husband to no end) but it's only at Christmas that she can do it without judgment, inhibition or shame. It's safe to be her at Christmas, despite all of the sadness and grief that surfaces from EP-Sad, too.

But this story isn't really about Jingle Bells or presents under the tree or turkey dinner. It's not even about Christ's birth. It's about listening, connecting my parts together, and feeling safe.

It's safe to be me at Christmas, because it's safe to be Christian at Christmas. Silent Night. Away in the Manger. We Three Kings. The First Noel. No matter what I believe about God, the greatest sense of calm comes to me in the form of Christian music. When I was younger (and in much more pain), Christian music gave me a voice; it connected together my experiences and my feelings in a way that no one… nothing else... did.

I stopped listening to music because it was affecting my mental health, and that was a mistake. It helped to silence EP-Sad, but I also silenced EP-Happy in the process. I should have known better. In struggling to find EP-Happy at counselling several years ago, I realised listening to music was a clue. I wrote it on my board. And still didn't learn.

Since beginning therapy again this winter, I've started listening to more music. I also started eating more carbohydrates, so raise your glass for bad habits, eh? Except music, it wasn't all bad. And my body knew better than me. I started to preferentially play my Christian music. First Jars of Clay, then WOW mixes, then Christmas music, and then.. "My Will" came on while I was writing today, and it hit me.

"Complexity haunts me, for I am two men
Entrenched in a battle that I'll never win.
My discipline fails me, my knowledge it fools me
But you are my shelter, all the strength that I need."
-Sung by DC Talk

I was calm.

My safe place is listening to Christian music. Not a palm-lined paradise or army of pillows. Moreover, my safe place is where I feel whole: where EP-Sad and EP-Happy hold hands, which is a fanciful way of saying I allow myself to be happy and sad at the same time. I allow myself to be me. I am happy, sad, and grateful to have moments of brilliance like this from my ANP.

Merry Christmas.


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Candycan said on 27 December 2010

I enjoyed reading this and relate to a lot of it. It's good that you have been able to find your safe place. That's something I wasn't able to visualise in my session either. Sometimes no where seems to be safe.

I am exactly the same with the singing Christmas songs all year and I know what you mean about having parts that you can feel OK letting 'be' at Christmas.

JustEliza said on 30 December 2010

Thanks for your reply, Candycan. Lately I'm not sure if my safe place is really all that safe!

Mental Health blog said on 12 January 2011

I arrived at therapy eager and ready to share how much ground I covered during the weeks she was on holiday

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