Two months

It’s two months today since I lost my Mum. It’s a funny thing saying that you “lost” someone. Like you put them down somewhere and forgot where they were.

I know now that I will never “get over” this. I am forever changed. I know that the days become easier to bear, little by little. I am getting used to Mum’s absence. I no longer look for her on the couch when I get home, but the loss and the grief are always present. Like the other day I drove past a coffee shop, and though it was one I’d never seen before, it’s name was a word Mum and I used sometimes when we baked. It was another stabbing reminder that she’s gone.

The Back Up Therapist says at the moment it’s like I have a gaping wound, and everything like that coffee shop is like ripping the bandage off and reopening the wound. Again and again and again. Apparently one day I’ll rip the bandage off and the wound won’t be so raw and gaping. At the moment I can only hope so.

I try to pass the time. Even pass it healthily. The Back Up Therapist says that will make things easier in the long term. Thankfully, for once, my inner-self knows she’s right. So I eat (relatively) well, get regular exercise, don’t drink or take pills. And I feel those wretched feelings.

But I still miss Mum. For all her faults – and this blog recorded many – we had a close and enduring bond – better in the last few months of her life than for sometime before that. To say I miss her feels like such a ridiculous thing to say. There’s a huge hole in my life where she used to be and nothing – NOTHING – can fill it.

A friend said recently that the thought of losing her Mum is more than she can bear. I thought so, too, and yet somehow I have managed to survive the last two months. It seems incredible, but I have.

Mount Everest

The Wonder Therapist is on vacation so I’m seeing Back Up Therapist again. It’s been a totally crazy and often totally overwhelming week. I was talking to Back Up Therapist the other night, talking about everything that’s going on and how overwhelmed I’ve felt:

Me: “You’re looking at me like I’m a crazy person.”

Back Up Therapist: “Well, yes, kind of. You’re telling me you’ve got a mother with cancer, you’ve just put your father into a nursing home, you’ve got issues at work, and health issues of you’re own, and you wonder why you’re upset and feel overwhelmed? It’s like you’re climbing Mount Everest and complaining that it’s cold!

What did I do?

Week five of group last night. So far we’ve covered topics on disclosure, loss (of multiple things), trust (of self and of others) and, this week: relationships (family, friends, colleagues, partners).

I confessed to Back Up Therapist that I was pretty non-plussed about the relationship discussion, meaning I thought I could handle it.

Back Up Therapist said: “You know, that’s fantastic. When you first talked about the Group you were terrified of it. Now you’re saying you can deal with what will probably be a pretty tough topic. That’s great!”

Me: “Yea, I guess.”

Back Up Therapist: “No, it is great. And you’ve got something positive out of every session.”

Me: “Yea, I have. It’s been good. It’s a good group.”

Back Up Therapist: “You know, you have to take some credit for it being good. You’re helping make it good.”

Me: Staring blankly, not knowing what to say.

Back Up Therapist: “You have. You have helped made it a good space – for you and for the others. It’s not just because of the group leaders, or the other people, it’s also because of you.”

Me: Still staring blankly, still confused.

Anyway, that isn’t the point of this post. I guess I’ll think about that one coz I’m still confused.

Anyway, this week we talked about relationships – what makes a relationship “unhealthy” and what makes it “healthy”. We all seemed to know a lot about unhealthy relationships… much less about healthy ones, at least from our own experiences.

In the course of the Group it came to light that the Pregnant One and I have both worked for a certain child welfare organisation here.

This sent the Unstable One into a panic: “I can’t believe I didn’t know this. I’ve been sitting in this room with you two for weeks and didn’t know. I can’t do this anymore.”

And out she went, clearly very distressed, glaring at the Pregnant One and me like we were the devil incarnate. One of the group leaders went off to talk to her, leaving us to talk amongst ourselves for a while (the other group leader was already out talking to the Creative One who’d had some bad stuff happen during the day and was clearly upset about it.) Good start.

This created a lot of tension. The Pregnant One and I both felt like evil-doers (even though my rational brain knows we’re not). For a while I even thought that I should leave. The Unstable One eventually came back into the room, but for the rest of the night she wouldn’t talk to either of us; wouldn’t even look at us. When I said “good night” to her she just glared at me.

I’m still puzzled and confused. I’m swinging between feeling guilty that my work history, my former employer is so upsetting for her… and knowing that this really has nothing to do with me. I’m not sure what to do about it, if anything, or if there’s any way to resolve it. I don’t want the tensions to mess up the rest of our time in the Group.

Anyway, I just realised this is fairly boring blog post. Sorry about that, I just needed to clear my head of what happened last night.

Back up therapy recap

I don’t know what happened to Back Up Therapist between last year and this. Last year she was all happiness and light, helping to keep me strong and “up” while the Wonder Therapist was away. This year, she’s making me talk about all this hideous cr@p. It’s rough, and I don’t like it one bit.

We started off talking about The Group. Somehow Back Up Therapist latched on to a point about my mother and whether or not she knew about the hideous cr@p.

Back Up T said sometimes kids are absolutely sure the mothers knew, because they’d walked in or passed the room or something when the father was doing things he shouldn’t have been doing, but in actual fact the mother didn’t see anything at all, didn’t know anything was going on, and would have done something about it if they had.

Back Up T said that if my mother didn’t know, then it’s probably no wonder she keeps saying stuff to me like, “Aren’t you better yet?” and “Can’t you just move on?” because she really doesn’t understand what I’m trying to move on from. Sure, that makes sense.

Back Up T said it would be a shame for my mother to die and for me to never really know if she knew what was going on. She said that’s a big burden for me to carry, thinking my mother knew when she may not have. So it would be better for me to talk to my mother; to find out what she really knew, if anything. Umm, thanks, but no, I don’t think so.

Back Up T said there’s a big difference between my mother sacrificing me physically and emotionally… and knowingly sacrificing me physically, emotionally and sexually.

But you know what might sound kinda crazy? I don’t see any difference at all. At the end of the day she still sacrificed me. And I’m still not going to talk to her about it.

Processing the memories

Back Up Therapist says that triggers do your head in when you don’t know what they’re about. That’s true. I can’t make sense of this latest bout of flashbacks and, yes, it’s doing my head in. It’s frightening when images you don’t understand keep jumping into your head.

My father’s hands keep jumping into my head, along with the fish. I don’t know what the hands are doing. Not in this context, anyway.

I tried to do some colouring today to keep myself calm, but it didn’t work – I just got increasingly angst ridden about using the “wrong” colours. I also can’t talk to anyone at the moment, so instead I drew this:

Artistically I know it’s limited (I didn’t have the pens or pencils I wanted and I couldn’t make the ones I do have draw the image in my mind accurately – it’s at least 10 or 15 years since I drew anything), but it’s helped.

They are my father’s hands. They’re big, and rough. I still don’t know what they’re doing but there is blood from the fish. I’ve locked the hands in a cage so they can’t hurt me anymore.

A friend commented on the lack of a discernible thumb – that’s interesting, because in my mind’s eye there isn’t a thumb, just a hand. And fingers that I can see in great detail. As crazy as it sounds, I can even feel them.

I’ll probably still need to talk about this, but for now the hands are quieter and not tormenting me so much. They’re still there, just not as noisy. I’m safe, I guess, now that they’re locked away. May be now I can figure out why they’re there. And hopefully I can talk to the Back Up Therapist about it next week.

Headaches, triggers and flashbacks

I’ve had a headache for the last few days. It feels like someone has my head squeezed inside giant pliers or something. I thought I was getting another sinus infection, but I also got triggered quiet badly last week and have been triggery, freaky, flashbacky ever since. The Back Up Therapist says this could be the cause of the headache. Oh, great.

She said that triggers can get worse if you just continue to fight them, ignore them, squash them and don’t deal with them. She said it’s like someone who can’t go near the scene of a car accident where a loved one died. At first it’s just that part of the road, or the light pole with the flowers on them… then it’s all light poles with flowers… then it’s all light poles… You get the picture.

I had to go out for a work lunch last week. The big boss decided we’d go Japanese. This isn’t great for me because of my food intolerances, but that isn’t what got me. We ordered Bento boxes with lots of stuff in them. The chicken teriyaki and the vegetables tempura were nice, but they also came with fish – LOTS of fish: sushi fish, sashimi fish, fish in dumplings, fried up fish, fish just about every way you can think of doing it. As I’ve said before, fish is quite a trigger for me.

As soon as I saw the fish on the plate, and dangled in front of me in a colleague’s chopsticks, I started freaking out. Flashbacking all over the place. I started sweating and shaking all over. I had to keep shaking my head to stop myself from vortexing out completely.

Ever since then I’ve been all flashbacky. Just when I least expect it memories of the fish jump into my head. It’s possible that I have more memories surfacing as my father’s hands have featured strongly too, though they haven’t ever before. I’ve even been smelling fish when it’s nowhere to be seen. Even sitting in the Back Up Therapist’s office I was getting flashbacks just talking about this.

I’ve never freaked out like that about fish in a restaurant before. The Back Up Therapist says I need to do something about this. I need to talk about what happened, may be do something creative to lay the fish to rest. I’m not sure if I can, but if I don’t, she said this will just get worse.

The Back Up Therapist said that if I was a little kid we would do something creative to symbolise dealing with the fish – like drawing them, painting them, making them. Locking them up in a box. Burning them. Whatever. But, she also said, that the first step for me needs to be talking.

Ugh. I thought I was done with talking about all that sh*t. And why would new memories start to surface now?

On babies and bathwater

Back up therapist says we all have strengths – the coping mechanisms we’ve drawn on throughout our lives to get through a range of situations, good and bad.

She says that flogging any one of these strategies will get you into trouble. Not only does the strategy stop working for you, but you end up hating it. Often times you end up throwing the strategy away… and sometimes you end up in therapy to find other solutions to your problems.

But back up therapist says we need to be cautious of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

All of my coping strategies have served me in the past – and all can serve me now. I just need to hang on to the good bits, maintain balance, and be more deliberate about which strategy I use and when.

Back up therapist says the same thing about toxic families. Sure, they were toxic, but not everything they did was bad and I shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

She said I need to stop fighting the toxicity all the time. Identify what’s missing from my life because of it and address that, but also keep the good bits from my family. I struggle with the idea that my father’s given me anything positive, but here goes…

Let’s take my work ethic. Both my parents have a very strong work ethic: my mother of the protestant variety, and my father of the post-war immigrant variety. They’ve worked hard all their lives, and my mother still works hard now. This is a little extreme because my father thinks that if you’re not working, then you’re being lazy. No amount of relaxation is acceptable.

Back up therapist says this extreme is unhealthy. But the underlying work ethic is healthy. My parents have instilled this in me and it’s helped me get to this point in my life. So I should keep these good things but ditch the unhealthy aspects.

I understand her points about not throwing babies out with the bathwater, but have a little trouble identifying where the good stops and the toxic begins, in me as well as in my family.