I found myself on the Trigger Train the other day and ended up in Struggle City again. It’s been a while since I went there – I’d almost forgotten what it’s like. As an online friend said, it’s like all the coping skills I’ve gained just went flying out the window. This (extremely long) blog post is my attempt to download what happened, and figure out where I went wrong.
Anyway, last week I was at work and had to look at some DVDs related to sexual assault/abuse for something I’m doing. The company I work for has done some work in this area, and I was looking at what we’d done. “Uh oh,” I hear you say. Yea, I should have seen those neon warnings flashing as well. I’d been doing so well; I thought I was strong enough. Apparently not. The DVDs show interviews with victim/survivors and within about a minute I’d lost it. Tears streaming down my face, shaking like a leaf, and frozen to the chair. I couldn’t even explain it. It was like the reaction came from something deep and untouched inside. It’s the second time I’ve frozen in a short time, and that in itself freaked me out. I mean, what if I’d really needed to escape, but couldn’t?
Once I’d thawed enough to move, I g00gled ways to cope with PTSD triggers, remembered the coping mechanisms, breathed, then went for a walk in the gardens near my office. That helped; or helped enough for me to do some work, even if I was pretty wiggy and ineffectual for the rest of the day.
I also texted my therapist, who has always encouraged me to do that if I need help. She was tied up, but suggested I contact the Back Up Therapist – another little technique of hers that has entered the fray recently. I didn’t feel comfortable doing that, and at that stage, thought I was ok.
I was still wiggy when I got home, and starting to feel a bit rejected by the Wonder Therapist. I had a long chat with one of my besties online. She did a great job of cheering me up and making me laugh, connecting me back to the real world. (If you’re reading, thank you!) I ate some dinner and watched something light on TV, feeling good that I’d been about to deal with a pretty awful day.
The next morning I felt pretty flat. I had to drive to my mother’s for the second time in a week, to pick up some stuff for her (she’s still in hospital) and to deal with her cat. She’s a lovely cat – at least to look at. She’s got a pretty little face and long silvery hair that unfortunately has become quite matted in Mum’s absence. The neighbours are doing a great job of feeding her, but not such a great job with the brushing. It’s hardly surprising – the cat practically takes your arm off if you try to brush her; even goes for Mum’s jugular sometimes, the little minx.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I’d spent half the week ringing vets and catteries trying to find a reliable groomer. Finally found one and arranged to drop the cat off yesterday morning.
Apparently the adult part of me was with it enough to drive, though the whole way there some other part of me (Little Kid Me?) was upset, in tears, and cowering in the corner.
The cat groomer is lovely. She’s kind of eccentric, but very warm and gentle. I warmed to her almost instantly. She certainly has a special something, because within about half an hour, Mum’s vicious little princess was crooning sweetly and looking quite at home (having yowled and hissed at me most of the way there). The Cat Lady said she couldn’t do the grooming in a couple of hours, and suggested I leave the cat with her for a week or two – which I did. I wouldn’t ordinarily just leave a cat anywhere, but I felt really comfortable with her. She obviously loves animals – has a few old strays of her own, a beautiful tank of marine fish (which she hand feeds), and is surrounded by a kind of Cat Disneyland, which even I wanted to play in!
I felt fine while I was with the Cat Lady, though once I hit the road, the wigginess started up again. I was freaking out about the sense that there were two of me – a Grown Up Me dealing with all the “practicalities” of the day; and a Little Kid Me who couldn’t cope with the practicalities or the emotions of it all, and just wanted to sit in the corner and colour in (literally).
I texted my therapist again – she’s often working weekends, and I thought may be she could squeeze me in. She sent me what I interpreted as a terse message saying she was having a day off and I should contact the Back Up, who was available.
Of course, Little Kid Me instantly felt rejected and abandoned, and thought the Wonder Therapist hated us. (Yea, I know that isn’t necessarily very rational, but that’s what we thought.) I managed to hold it together enough to get home and to the hospital to visit Mum. Mum was in a foul mood – she’d had some unexpected heart trouble the previous night and been transferred to the cardiac unit for monitoring. Of course “monitoring” means they interrupt you every few minutes, day and night, to check your stats. Not only that, but the cardiac unit is a bit of a dump compared to her other ward – and the nursing staff pretty terrible. Needless to say she wasn’t in a very good mood.
When I mentioned about the cat groomer, Mum flipped. And when I mentioned that I’d left the cat there, she practically hit the roof. I couldn’t believe it. Once again I just froze. I didn’t cry – not in front of my mother, hell no – but Little Kid Me was certainly crying on the inside. I’d spent the whole day trying to help Mum, trying to do the right thing for her cat, and I just got in trouble for it. I knew I shouldn’t have told her, but after the heart trouble she’d wanted me to spend the day in the hospital with her, but I couldn’t because I had Cat Lady teed up, so I told her, and initially she was understanding… but not after the fact.
Eventually I escaped the hospital … still traumatised by my mother, and the text message from my therapist, and wondering what I’d done to make them both hate me. I got home and burst into tears. I sent a text message to the Back Up Therapist, thinking at worst she would help short-circuit the hell inside; at best, she’d help me. I still haven’t heard back from her. So much for being available. And now Little Kid Me thinks she hates us too.
I have to say I felt pretty alone at that point, realising that there really is only me, that help isn’t there when you need it, blah blah blah. I decided I deserved some chocolate … and some more chocolate … and pretty soon found myself eating fries and ice cream and all sorts of crap … until I was sick. 😦 Clearly the healthier coping strategies had flown out the window after all.
I eventually got to sleep, with the help of some sleeping pills, and when I woke this morning, my first thought was “ugh, I don’t want to wake up. I don’t have to feel anything when I’m asleep.” I got through today’s hospital visit with the help of some more junk food to squash down my emotions around Mum. That worked, though it upset my tummy (probably a left over from last night) and now I have a massive headache 😦
And now I’m just exhausted. And scared to hell that my therapist won’t see me anymore. Scared that the Trigger Train will keep coming through for the rest of my life; that I will never be able to cope with it. But mostly scared my therapist will kick me to the curb and I’ll be left all alone, with no real way to deal with any of this.