The end of an era

Hello blogosphere, it’s nice to see you again. It’s been waaaay tooooo long. 🙂

My mother has sold her house and  we (correction, I) have spent the last few weekends and fully the last five days packing, sorting, cleaning. To say I’m exhausted is a complete understatement. This does mean that she’s moving in with me, but more by default than by any grand design – at least on my part. Given the circumstances, I didn’t feel there was any alternative, and it’s kind of a nice thing in a way. But that’s not the point.

Anyway, today was the last day at her house. Forever. The end of an era. It was also the first day in I can’t remember how long that I haven’t been working my guts out while there. Mostly I was just sitting about waiting for the tradespeople to do their things. Wouldn’t you know it, I was overwhelmed by flashbacks. Just little ones, and not all of them yucky, but there they were, sneaking up on me again. Dammit.

Stupid flashbacks. They hit you when you need it least and, with me, usually when my coping skills and ability to self-soothe are buried beneath a pile of rubble. I remembered the times Mum and I would sit under the apple trees on a summer afternoon, the cool(ish) breeze blowing through the trees. I remembered some of the times I’d been sitting on the steps with the sun on my back and my father would say something like “look at your toes – they’re terrible” or “look at your stomach – when did you get so fat?” I remembered how I’d enjoyed sitting on the verandah watching the boats sailing in the bay. And the night the yacht that won line honours in a race came home, and we raced to the yacht club to enjoy the festivities. I remembered the times I’d felt trapped inside when the weather wasn’t good. And how the dog used to try to sneak in, out of the rain. Good and bad these things, but still messing with my head. I should have done a better job of anticipating this, but I’ve been just so busy I haven’t had time to pay attention to anything really. Some of you might think that’s an excuse. I guess it is, but not deliberately.

I found myself at the lemon tree, picking the last of the lemons. Lately I’ve started taking real pleasure in such seemingly small, ordinary, daily occurrences. I enjoyed the feeling of the lemons in my hand – slightly bumpy skin, warm from the sun – and the waxy leaves, and the slightly citrusy smell. I loved it. We stopped at one of the organic grocers on the way home. All I wanted to do was wander about for as long as I could enjoying the sights and smells of the produce. So fresh, beautiful colours, their scents tinged with a slight earthiness. (Unfortunately my mother just wanted to hurry and get home, so it wasn’t the sensory delight it could have been.) There’s something beautiful, refreshing and almost invigorating about it all. And grounding; definitely grounding. Since my last holiday I’ve been wanting this sort of experience with nature more and more. I even came home wanting to grow veggies and have chooks! (Most of the people who know me IRL are still laughing hysterically at the thought of me going anywhere near a garden!!)

I got home feeling entirely panic-struck, completely unsafe and wanting to self-injure. I’m not wholly back from my dance with the flashbacks. Still wobbly, despite a hard but ultimately helpful (I hope) session with PNT. Still feeling overwhelmed. So completely overwhelmed. I’d like to stay in bed tomorrow and hide from the world. Or lie on the couch and do not much. Or file my nails (something I haven’t found time to do in over a month). Or go to the park and just enjoy my surroundings. I just want to STOP!!!!!!

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The joys

*** WARNING: COULD TRIGGER ***

Oh, the joys of PTSD! Just when you think everything is going ok, something comes along and bites you on the a$$. Well, in the head, really.

I saw my therapist this week. I realised afterwards that I’d been holding on to a lot of stuff that didn’t start to come out until it was nearly time to leave. (Really? Bet that’s never happened before?!?!?!) Anyway, she told me she’s out of the office one day next week because she’s appearing in court against a man who raped his 3 year old child.

I didn’t realise this was a trigger, but it was. Who does that? I mean seriously, who does that? Who rapes a 3 year old child? And how can they sit in court and protest their innocence? That’s just so so wrong. That’s disgusting. That’s just… ugh.

I’m so not coping with that. Talk about triggery. Ugh.

I have absolutely no idea why this was such a big trigger for me. I wondered if there was some memory of my own surfacing, because I saw my bedroom in the old house. I can see the grey-green carpet and the orange-yellow curtains. I can feel the curly texture and see the wavy pattern of the carpet. And I started hearing things, or thinking I was hearing things, I’m not sure. I think it was my voice, or my voice in my head, I’m not sure of that either. I’ve never had an auditory experience like that before. It’s scary and freaky.

Here’s what it’s like when this happens.

It’s like the world slows down and speeds up all at the same time. Things start to spin wildly out of control inside. I’m flooded with emotions. I’m spinning uncontrollably but trying desperately to hang on to the present at the same time. Everything around me becomes more distant but larger than life, all at once. And if the trigger is really bad, like this one and the fishy one, I start feeling like a little kid again, even thinking like a little kid. It’s like I’m being transported through time and space. It’s weird and freaky and scary.

And then the inner critic starts up with her incessant criticism and sniping and negative talk. Ugh.

This happened a few days ago and I still don’t know why, damn it. And I had had such a good day too, when this happened. I’d felt pretty funky in the morning so I spent the day doing things I like – cooking, ironing, watching my favourite TV show on DVD. And then this. Days of this. Bleuch. I feel so broken when this still happens, and now I’ve slunk so low I don’t know how to get out of it.

I remember Back Up Therapist saying triggers and flashbacks are all the worse when you can’t figure out what they mean. Hell yea.

I’m still struggling to maintain a connection to the present. I’ve been quite dissociative for a couple of days. Flicking back and forth between the present and somewhere else, though I’m not even sure where. Derealised, depersonalised and forgetting things. I messaged my therapist earlier today but I had no idea what I said. I went to the supermarket and I have no recollection of what I bought, or why. I don’t like this one little bit.

The urge to SI has been stronger than it has been for months. I have French doors at the back of my house. I don’t want to go near them. I’m afraid I’ll put my hand through them. Or my head. Each time I smoke I want to stub the cigarette out on my leg. I’m too afraid to go near the back shed because that’s where the Stanley knife (box cutter) is. I went to the supermarket and all I wanted to buy was food that I know will make me sick.

I hate this trigger business. I hate the way it sneaks up on you. One minute everything is fine – the next, I’m “vortexing” out. I messaged my therapist earlier today to see if she could talk to me. I haven’t heard from her. Rationally I know she’s probably busy, but inner critic and inner child are going gang-busters with over analysis.

I’m so exhausted by all this. I’m not sure I can keep doing it.

Independence

This month’s Blog Carnival is about “independence” – thanks to Dr Kathleen of Treating Trauma for hosting.

When I was a little kid, my mother would tell me to “be independent” – “be strong,” she’d say, “be a survivor”. And so I did.

I learnt then that you had to be independent. It made you strong and helped you stay out of trouble. It meant other people couldn’t hurt you, though they did really. I thought being independent was a good thing. Of course, in some ways, it was. Being an adult, holding a job, paying the rent or the mortgage, keeping house… these are all hallmarks of independence in a social sense. And I mastered them all.

I kidded myself into believing that I was emotionally independent as well. I didn’t need anyone else – I’d learnt early on that relying on other people just meant you got hurt. Other people were definitely trouble (even though I’m sure there was some weird a$$ co-dependence with my mother going on, that I still don’t understand).

Of course, now that I’m in therapy I realise that being so independent wasn’t such a great thing after all. Being independent meant that I stood alone; I carried my secrets alone; and I fought the darkness alone.

In what sounds to me like a strange twist, therapy is helping me become less independent. Not in a needy way, but in a way that’s teaching me it’s ok to “need” other people. It’s ok to say you need other people; it’s ok to say you need a whole range of things. In fact, in can be enjoyable to need other people, and for them to need you. It makes you feel warm and loved and snuggly. It makes you feel special.

So what is the point of this ramble? Well, I think an important part of my healing is learning how to find the right balance with independence. Obviously in a practical sense – being able to support myself financially and make toast in the mornings are good things. But the healthy emotional independence is what I chase now. I’m not sure I’ve got it right yet, but I’m hopeful I’ll get there.

Rudeness

I’ve been replaying a moment from last week’s therapy session in my head, so thought may be it warranted writing down and exploring.

I mentioned to my therapist that I’d be visiting my parents over the weekend and, for whatever reason, she asked what we’d do.

Me: “Well, my mother will probably update me on all the neighbours, though I don’t really care. Then she’ll b!tch about my father – that’s guaranteed.”

The Wonder Therapist: “And your father? What will he be doing? Sitting in his chair?”

Me: “Yes, he’ll sit in his chair. If I’m *lucky* he won’t speak to me, otherwise he’ll say things like ‘I’m thirsty’ – which means get him a cup of tea. And by 11.30am he’ll be saying ‘I’m hungry – aren’t I getting anything to eat today?’ – which means hurry up and make lunch. Or if the TV is on, he’ll say ‘I can’t hear the television’ or ‘the television is too loud’ – which means turn it up/down. It’s always been like that.”

The Wonder Therapist (in a not-so-wonderful moment): Looking shocked, speechless.

I felt bad afterwards for inflicting my father’s hideousness on her, but in some ways I guess that’s what she’s there for.

And then I read Phoenix’s comment saying she was “psychically walloping your dad upside the head with a croquet mallet, pouring hot Earl Grey tea in his lap and ‘tasing’”.

I guess it didn’t really hit me until I saw my therapist’s face and read Phoenix’s comment that my father really is one of the rudest, most obnoxious people I know.

Quite apart from the heinous sh1t he inflicted on my mother and me all those years ago, he continues to be an emotionally abusive sh1thead as well.

How my mother can still live in the same house as him I will never understand, but I can’t take responsibility for that anymore.

I guess this is just another part of me realising his behaviour is wrong; was wrong; was always wrong. Just because I’m used to it doesn’t mean it’s any less obnoxious.

Oh, and by the way, in unrelated news – today I really can say “I kissed a boy and I liked it!” 😉

Triggers and healing

*** WARNING: COULD BE TRIGGERING. PLEASE TAKE CARE ***

Thanks everyone for your support over the last few days. I’m still feeling pretty low, but doing ok. I spent today listening to nice music, reading my book, and putting fresh, crisp sheets on the bed to make me feel good. I’m hoping this will all help to turn things around – it has at least passed time.

I was playing around on the computer last night and got triggered. I was playing some of the silly games on one of those social networking sites – you know the ones. Anyway, a friend made a stupid s*xual remark that just tipped me over the edge. The trigger was nasty, but I didn’t lose touch with reality like I sometimes do. I was unbelievably furious… but I was able to do some thinking afterwards.

I got to thinking about why my views of s*x are so screwed up. I’ve talked before about my past, so I’m not going to dredge that up again here. I did find a website, though, that talks about s*xual healing after s*xual abuse.

The site talks about the sorts of problems survivors might experience “in the bedroom”:

  • Avoiding or being afraid of sex
  • Approaching sex as an obligation
  • Experiencing negative feelings such as anger, disgust, or guilt with touch
  • Having difficulty becoming aroused or feeling sensation
  • Feeling emotionally distant or not present during sex
  • Experiencing intrusive or disturbing sexual thoughts and images
  • Engaging in compulsive or inappropriate sexual behaviours
  • Experiencing difficulty establishing or maintaining an intimate relationship
  • Experiencing vaginal pain or orgasmic difficulties
  • Experiencing erectile or ejaculatory difficulties

Yep, that’s me. Most of it, anyway. I am afraid of s*x. I associate it with all sorts of negative feelings. I often dissociate during s*x. The Evil Huntress comes out; I do whatever it is I think I *should* do; and I end up feeling worse than when I started.  

I’m not sure why a conversation on a social networking site would bring this all up, but it did. Actually it’s pretty obvious to me now – the comments I received made me feel vulnerable; made me feel like I didn’t have a choice. Just like all those years ago.

The same website lists a whole stack of attitudes towards s*x. It says that when s*x is abusive, we get messages like s*x is uncontrollable; it’s an obligation; it’s hurtful; it’s something *done* to us; it done for one person’s benefit only; it’s unsafe and it has no boundaries.

I identify with all of those things.

What I have trouble identifying with is the list of “healthy” attitudes to s*x – that it’s a choice; it’s pleasurable; it’s nurturing; it’s respectful; it’s mutual, and it’s intimate. The website says we have a right to experience s*x in this way. That seems so foreign. Cognitively I understand it; I just don’t identify with it. But I’d like to.

I guess that’s possibly why I’ve been so focussed on s*x with Nice Guy. I think that’s what he expects. I’m still learning that it might not be the sole focus of his existence and that he has thoughts, feelings, etc just like I do.

Nice Guy is gentle, respectful, caring. I’ve never experienced that before. I’d like to find a way to enjoy it – to learn to heal s*xually, I suppose, so that I can.

More work to do with the therapist, I suspect. And another gut-wrenching, squirm-inducing topic to do it over. Sigh.

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.