In which the flood gates open

I’ve been walking around in a daze for days. Weeks, actually, including while I was away. How is it that you can be with people 24/7 and yet still feel so isolated? So completely alone and empty inside?

My head is a muddled, jumbled mess. In many respects I feel like much of my progress over the last few months has evaporated. I’m not sure how this happened – was it spending too much time with my mother? Or not enough time alone? Or just too much time stuffing down every conceivable emotion while with my mother? Or … who knows?

I’m hoping that writing will help. I went to the gym earlier and treaded the treadmill for an hour, almost completely unaware of what I was doing. I think it worked, emotionally at least. As soon as I got in the car I burst into tears. I’m not sure why, I guess the proverbial flood gates just opened.

So here we are. I suspect this will be a rambling dump of things swirling about in my head. Apologies.

  • My mother: From the moment she arrived two weeks ago she started messing with my head and unwinding any shreds of confidence I had started to build. One of her first comments to me on arriving was “your bum is getting bigger again”. Sigh. In the time we were away she added to this happy moment saying I have to lose weight; that I shouldn’t eat nuts because they’re fattening; that I’ll never know what it’s like to be a mother; that I’m too old for a relationship; that a skirt I tried on was too short – or rather, needed to be longer to cover my legs because they’re too fat. She doesn’t mean any of this maliciously, but doesn’t understand the impact it has on me. My therapist said something like “God, if I asked your mother what she thought of anyone who said all that she’d probably realise just how awful it is.” Possibly, but it’s unlikely my therapist will ever get to ask her anything again because my mother flatly refused to go and see her. She even referred to my therapist as “that woman”. Sigh.
  • My therapist says that my father, my mother and I have a nice little malicious circle going on. My mother puts up with rudeness and nastiness from my father in the same way that I put up with it from my mother. That she uses my father as an excuse for not having a life in the same way that I have used my mother. I’m not quite ready to delve into this yet, so just throwing it out there.
  • Being triggered: I was triggered a couple of times while away. Especially by fish. Somehow my mother convinced me to try barramundi, which she says is beautiful and very unfishy to eat. Stupid, stupid me for agreeing to try it. I could smell it before it even came to the table and started freaking out and shaking and panicking and flashbacking and wanting to run away. Every morsel I put in my mouth made my throat close over and made me want to gag. Of course, I had to sit there like everything was fine. Pretend I’m normal and not a complete freak. Thankfully I had that old pattern down pat after spending so much time with my mother already.
  • I was also triggered by relationships. Specifically couples. Couples everywhere. Old and young. On the beach, by the pool, at the shops, on the boat, on the plane…. surrounded. Feeling like the only single person in a paired-up world. In many ways I long for a lasting and meaningful relationship. For the companionship. For knowing someone and someone knowing me. Connecting, even when you don’t speak. Even for holding hands. Trouble is, I’m too afraid to even admit I want this, let alone do anything to make it happen. I’m so afraid that everything I’ve always been told will be proven true – that I really am an ugly, nasty and horrible person and that no one will ever love me.
  • I also got mildly triggered by some friends, and listening to them talk about children and childhoods and our past.  I’ve known these people since … well, for a couple of decades or more though they don’t know about my past. I found it hard to sit there and listen to the memories of teenage years, of boys, of families, of … all sorts of things. I ran away to the kitchen where I could bury myself in preparing food without fear of freaking out.
  • The Body Image Thing: The hell of the body image continues. It was hard being away in a hot, summery environment where I was seemingly surrounded by models in bikinis 24 hours of the day. I did wear bathers/togs/swimmers (whatever you call them), though I felt hideous. And more hideous as time wore on because of my mother’s comments. Something odd happened when I got home, though – despite the mess in my head. I looked at my sun drenched toes and I thought, “hey, they’re not so bad.” I also looked at my eye in the mirror as I was putting the finishing touches on my makeup and thought, “that looks good.” Rationally I know these are good things. But they’re completely alien to me and with all the mess in my head I can’t accept or understand them.
  • The Weight Thing: This is still an issue as well. I’m still embarrassed to be seen. But one thing I realised while away is that gaining weight is a MASSIVE trigger for me. When I gain weight I think I don’t deserve to look nice, and “have to” buy whatever ugly potato sack fits. Somewhere in my crazy head I think fat is ugly and fat means you can’t look nice and fat also means you have to buy what you can because you might not find anything else that fits. So I buy whatever I can, which generally doesn’t suit me, or fit my personality. And then I feel worse.
  • Social Phobia: This is back with a vengeance. Somewhere over the last few months I’ve managed to come out of my shell enough to speak to people. Randomly, I mean. Like people in shops. Somehow that’s disappeared. A couple of friends from the past have been in touch with me via Facebook. People I lost touch with long ago. They’ve suggested catching up. Part of me wants to but the rest of me is too afraid. Of what I’m not exactly sure. Just too afraid. Afraid that they’ll judge me, I guess. All that stuff about me not being good enough has come right back again.
  • Pilates: I started back at Pilates just before I went away. My instructor is healing from PTSD as well, from what I’m not sure though I have some suspicions from clues she’s given. She somehow understands this thing. She even wants to talk more about it, outside Pilates. Part of me wants to. Part of me doesn’t. I don’t trust her (yet). And she carries a lot of anger, which is fine except I’ve been working hard on just accepting that what happened happened and not carrying that anger around anymore. I don’t want to get sucked into that again. And I don’t want to carry her anger. So I feel mean and horrible for not catching up with her this week. And weak and pathetic for not being able to say I can’t. And a bit angry at myself for being unable to have the kind of compassion I’d like to have for fellow survivors.
  • Abandonment: Somewhere in all this my fear of being abandoned by my therapist has come back as well. It’s always there, lurking in the background, but the last couple of months I’ve been able to convince myself of its irrationality. Not anymore. I hate this feeling because I know it’s stupid. I talked to my therapist and she did what she could to reassure me that she’s not going anywhere. The fear lessened, but still peaks. Or flip-flops between that and my terror at having to end therapy somewhere in the future.  We’ve had no conversations about ending (in fact, quite the opposite), but I’m still afraid. I know it has to end someday, and I used to think that when that time came I would be ready. Or more ready, at least. I’m far from being ready now, and I’m scared to death of the end. Part of me thinks I should quit now so I don’t have to deal with that. I feel hopeless and that therapy is pointless. Nothing will ever change, so why bother putting myself through the hell of therapy?

I have rambled. I’m just dumping. I haven’t really processed much of this. Just needed to break it down. I’m sorry.

15 thoughts on “In which the flood gates open

  1. {{Kerro}} –
    So sorry you are feeling this way. But dumping it out may help. In reading your posts, I see SO MANY positive things about you and about what you recognize about yourself. Vacations with family (even in the best of times) are very draining for many of us. At the moment, I answer my mother’s calls, but don’t extend myself. You will get back to where you were. You’ve already made great steps – writing, exercising :))


  2. (((Kerro))) please try to take it easy on yourself. You’ve had a rough few weeks through being exposed to the negativity (intentional or otherwise) of your mother, that takes a toll. Hopefully reconnecting with your therapist after the break caused by the holiday will help put things into perspective…

    There is no need to apologise for expressing the pain and confusion you’re feeling. That’s normal and healthy.

    Take care,

  3. Hi Kerro,
    I’m sorry you feel so much shame. I personally haven’t seen my mother in an entire year, and it feels great.

    I read something many years ago that I know from experience is true for me. The opposite of shame is self-love. What works for me when I finally figure out that shame is why I feel so horrible, then I tell myself I love myself and why, do nice things for myself, take a bath or do something self-nurturing. It really helps.

    Good and healing thoughts to you,

  4. Cyberspace is a good dumping ground… I wish things could have gone better with you mother. She is so insensitive and I wonder what crap she endured from her mother. They tend to pass it on. I agree with your T, next time ask your mother what she would think of someone who makes those comments. She’ll probably answer the question before she realizes you are talking about her. Tehehe 🙂

  5. Kerro,
    I’m glad you found so many pleasant things to still hold fast too (eyes and toes).
    Sorting it out online is a good start for purging all those toxins, now if you could only find an awesome outfit to celebrate your resilience…..Potato sacks be damned!

  6. @ OLJ – Thanks for your faith in me OLJ. It means a lot. I sometimes wish I could see what you see. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’m in therapy. Hugs to you too.

    @ Castorgirl – It does feel good to dump. Thank you for “listening”. Fingers crossed my therapist earns her money tomorrow. Hugs to you as well.

    @ Sword Dancer – I’m glad you can recognise the times you need self care. I still get so caught up in the shame and the hatred and can’t see it. One day, hopefully.

    @ Ivory – Thank you. Cyberspace is a good place to “purge the toxins”, as Phoenix said. That could be hilarious with my mother, I’ll have to work up the courage to try it.

    @ Phoenix – Thanks, I’ll work on banishing the potato sacks. I can’t promise anything because it’s all still too weird for me, but may be toes and eyes will be a good start.

  7. First off, I want to say that I don’t think your progress has evaporated at all. Six months ago, would you have come here to vent and be so open about what you were feeling and experiencing? That in and of itself is a huge leap … knowing you have a supportive community here who wants to know what’s going on with you, and being willing to air all that stuff so it doesn’t fester in your head quite so much.

    Big issues around defining wounds — which all of these things are — don’t go away in a few months, or a few years, or maybe even a lifetime. What they do is evolve, so they’re different (or sometimes even easier, in some ways) to deal with. For a while, sometimes they get harder, as you get closer to them; the process of getting closer feels like positive progress, and then you get close enough to really “feel” the issue in a way you haven’t before, and that feels negative because it overwhelms you again. But that is still positive progress, even though it doesn’t feel like it.

    Re: the abandonment … like all of us in our particular little blogging/therapy community, you are making incredibly effective use of therapy. You don’t see it about yourself any more than I see it about myself. But everyone who observes you can see it. I would not say this if I didn’t mean it. There are therapy bloggers I drop in on occasionally of whom I would *not* say this, and there are people I know in therapy who are, in my opinion, wasting their own time and their therapist’s time. You are a shining example of how to use therapy, and although like all of us, you will go through periods of thinking there’s no point and you’re making no progress, that is demonstrably untrue. Try reading some of your own posts from a few months back … I always find that to be a good barometer of how far I’ve come. And I really tend to forget, unless I look back.

    This really caught my attention, about the abandonment: I’m far from being ready now, and I’m scared to death of the end. What struck me about this is that it sounds quite a bit like an existential fear of death. I have an idea that sometimes, unrecognized mortality-fear is lurking underneath the most painful types of abandonment-fear. Although you hate the old f*cker’s guts, your dad’s (eventual) impending death may be on/in your mind in a way you’re not consciously aware of, raising your sensitivity to your own mortality and what it means, and your awareness of the fact that all things do end.

    Re: your Pilates teacher … not wanting to carry her anger is completely reasonable, and has nothing to do with your lacking compassion. You didn’t sign up for Pilates in order to start a therapy group with this woman you don’t know at all. It’s perfectly OK to draw a boundary with her, and tell her that at this point in your own healing process, you’re not ready to enter into a survivor-based personal relationship with her. You don’t owe this woman anything. Her being a survivor does not automatically make her a safe person or a good person for you to be around. So don’t feel badly about drawing a line, especially if your gut is telling you it’s not right to engage with her. If you have to, get a different Pilates teacher. But you have no obligation whatsoever to support someone who makes you uncomfortable in any way, or who doesn’t seem safe.

  8. Sorry K for my ramble, but I have to say it…your mom’s an ass and needs to take a look in the mirror. When your mom can claim perfection, then she can pass judgement and make cutting remarks. You say she doesn’t mean any of this maliciously, but if you were being heard, she wouldn’t make the comments because they hurt you. In hurting you are naturally withdrawing and feeling the inner critic rant. Just know that the progress you have made and continue to make is about you! You are an awesome person with lots to offer. I am proud to say you are my friend. Distance yourself from mom for a bit and get the boundaries back in check. Its hard…like David says…evolving. The same goes for your instructor. Don’t be afraid to establish that her anger in not your problem. You are not responsible for other peoples emotions. Not easy I know…As far as A, don’t worry! She’ll be there for you without judgement. Allow yourself to feel comfort in that! (((K)))

  9. Oh, Kerro. (((K)))

    I second what everybody has said here.

    I find it hard to fathom that someone who says things like what your mother said could possibly not know how hurtful they are to hear. I think her comments are so much more about her than about you, although I know that doesn’t make them hurt any less.

    Reading this entry, I really was struck by the things you are recognizing. You might not see it now, but I see it as proof of your progress, not an evaporation of it.

    This is definitely a time, now, to care for yourself and regroup. Self-soothe in the most healthy, comforting ways you can think of, and when things seem overwhelming or too painful, look in the mirror, close up, at your eye, or enjoy looking at your toes. And remember that everything between your toes and your head is just as special, because it’s all part of you. You deserve love, from yourself and from others.

  10. Hi Kerro,

    I’m sorry that you are going through all of this. For me the intention is not as important as the result: it hurts you, it triggers you, and it makes lots of other issues worse. You have already gotten so many truthful, accurate responses, so I can’t come up with something better. I will say that all the good comments you got about yourself are true. Good and healing thoughts to you.


  11. I’m just back from seeing my therapist (thank heavens), so thought I would respond while her rationality is still with me.

    @ David – the Wonder Therapist doesn’t think my progress has evaporated either, just taken a little blow. I’m still me. I’m still who I was before going away with my mother. She also agrees with you that I don’t need to be the Pilates Instructor’s new best friend or rescuer. Thank you both for helping me realise I can set boundaries without it being a bad thing.

    You’re right, six months ago I would not have come here to dump the mess in my head. Or I might have, but only once I’d figured some of it out.

    A question for you, now Mr Insightful 😉 : why don’t these wounds go away in a few months? They were supposed to magically disappear after one or two sessions of therapy. You’re right, I think therapy is getting harder. Not what I had thought would happen at all.

    I need to contemplate your existential question before responding. It’s too hard for my small brain tonight.

    I’m flattered you think I’m a “shining example of how to use therapy”. *Blushing*

    @ Strangename – Thank you. Mum… Dad… they are both the same. I could substitute my father’s name for my mother’s in your comment and have the same situation. Or Mum would, at least. This, I think, is the nice little malicious circle that my therapist referred to.

    @ lifeischange – Thanks hun. My mother spends so much time listening to cr@p like this from my father that I don’t think she realises how dysfunctional it really is. Wonder Therapist once said that the longer couples live together the more they become alike. Boy is that true.

    Care for myself? What the… ? Seriously, I’m just back from the Wonder Therapist and trying just to chill for a bit. That counts as self-care, right?

    @ Kate – Thank you.

  12. why don’t these wounds go away in a few months?

    I know your question is playful here, but there’s actually an answer that might be helpful. 🙂 Or may not be helpful, but might be perspective-granting. Here’s the awful truth — they never go away! Srsly. They don’t. Here’s what happens, though, with defining wounds. And I know this is true, from having seen it in the lives of people I’m honored to know who have done the same terrifying hard work you are doing, and come out on the other side.

    You arrive at the hospital unable to walk, and bleeding to death from your wound.

    Triage stops the worst of the bleeding, so you can live, but you have a huge infected scar and you’re still unable to walk.

    Then you and the doctor debride the wound, to get the infection out. This is horrible, and feels worse than bleeding to death. You know it’s OK, though, because you’re able to tolerate it, although it hurts like almighty hell.

    Around that same time, you notice you’re able to take a couple of steps.

    After enough time has passed, the cleaned-out wound heals over. You can still see the scar, and it aches in cold weather, and it hurts when someone accidentally bumps up against it. But it’s not bleeding, and it’s not infected. It’s just super-sensitive. You can walk pretty well now, but you get tired sooner than you think you should.

    … now, Kerro, if you’ve ever seen anyone recover from major surgery, or from a literal physical wound, you know that what I’ve described above is exactly accurate. Emotional wounding is no different. Have you noticed how long it takes people to recover from physical wounds? The really big ones? It often takes years, especially if there is damage to nerves. The scars never go away. The wound never completely heals. Emotional wounding works the same way … and it’s not reasonable to suppose that emotional wounding would be faster or easier to heal than a major physical wound.

    But in both cases, given time and care, they heal enough, so that they don’t interfere too much with daily life. And in both cases, the survivor of the wound has two major skills that he or she can use:

    1) Knowledge of how that wound happened, which can be invaluable in helping to prevent that wounding in others. You know how folks with bypass surgery are often the most compelling advocates for eating right and exercise? Emotional wound survivors are the same way — they’re amazing resources and beacons for people around them, and often provide information and intervention without even knowing they’re doing it.

    2) Bearing witness to the fact that healing is possible, for other people who are still in earlier stages of healing. You’ve been on both the receiving and the giving end of that gift, and it’s incredibly powerful. If we accept the truth that life-wounding is inevitable, that it’s part of being human, then it’s also true that witness-bearing is one of the noblest and best things that we, as the walking wounded, can do for one another. There is no such thing as pointless suffering, once you realize that your process can help someone else who is where you used to be.

    But you have to heal to the point of walking before you can do this; for the simple reason that if someone who has only one good leg tries to drag someone who is crawling, they’re both likely to collapse … which is why that Pilates instructor needs to stay in her own space, btw.

  13. Just remember something you have nothing to be ashamed of. You did nothing wrong. However it is healthy you are not holding on to it and letting it out. Someday those wounds will heal.

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